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Tag Archives: old time strongman

  • Throwing Down a Pint

    joe-marino-bodybuilder
    Carry On, Joe Marino - Joe has always promoted the idea of camaraderie in strength sports, especially through the AOBS.

    As you can imagine, I'm not a big drinker, but that was great fun. I've been working so long and hard on the Atomic Athletic web site that my social, camaraderie oriented side of life has been lacking. I almost titled this Bomb Proof Bulletin “Extending the Conversation”, which would have been descriptive, but didn't have the punchy flavor I wanted, but you get the idea.

    Just Did It
    You see, like any other sport, you can only “do” strength sports for so long. I'm also not talking about age here. We have Masters athletics for those of us who want to compete in age group sports. I'm talking about being a spectator. It's the art of watching the game with buddies. Most of us at the Pub had done some sort of coaching and recruiting for the Open Curling we have, thanks to the advertising power of the the Olympics being on television. By Friday, we were done for the week. It was time to relax and talk about the sport. Tell some jokes. You get the idea.

    Last week, I met with my buddy, Dr. Bob Suchyta, at his bar, Doc's Sports Retreat. Dr. Bob is the guy who got me into Olympic style Weightlifting. Believe me, he was a much better lifter than I have ever been, having been trained by Norbert Schemansky, at the Astro Club. We had a blast talking about lifting and checking out all of his sports memorabilia. His place is a modern sports bar that shows off a collection that includes pieces from Gordy Howe, other Red Wings, Lions, Tigers, Pistons and of course, weightlifters. There is at least an entire case of memorabilia just about Norbert Schemansky, but other lifters, strongmen and bodybuilders are represented as well.

    Click this link if you want to check out Doc's Sports Retreat: http://www.docssportretreat.com/

    Both Vic Boff and Joe Marino drummed the concepts of camaraderie and fellowship into my head. They are essential for any sport. In case you didn't know, the AOBS (Association of Oldetime Barbell & Strongmen, which Vic founded) started as an informal get-together to celebrate Sig Klein's birthday. Make sure to get together with your lifting buddies. If they have all disappeared, find new ones. Make sure to add in some young guys, or even “old guys” who are new to the sport.

    Vic Boff Collection: http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/vic-boff-collection-2-books-dvd.html

    Continue to check out the Atomic Athletic BLOG for more. I add bits & pieces to it, that are not long enough for a Bulletin.   Of course, not all the Bulletins make it to the BLOG.  They really are different entities.

    Atomic Athletic Great Black Swamp Olde Time Strongman Picnic Collage
    Atomic Athletic Great Black Swamp Olde Time Strongman Picnic Collage

    All the best,
    Roger LaPointe
    “Today is a good day to lift.”

  • Before Bench Presses

    john-grimek-pullover-mb1
    John Grimek Straight Arm Pullover

    What do you bench?

    How many times have you heard that question? I hate that question. I have a torn right rotator cuff and bench presses really aggravate that injury. So, on the rare occasion that I do a bench press, I never go over 225. The amazing thing is that people THINK I can bench press a lot, because they think I look like a guy that can bench a lot.

    http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/traditional-training-legendary-strength.html

    Here is my secret... and it is not bodybuilding, unless you are thinking of bodybuilding from 80 years ago. In fact, it wasn't until some time in the 1950s that lifters started doing flat “press-ups” on a bench. Yet, without bench presses, lifters had huge shoulders, triceps, brachialis, and pectoral muscles. The secret is that you have to look back to the time when John Grimek built up his physique.

    http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/gym-art-charts/classic-training-hall-wall-chart-set.html

    I am going to give you three exercises, that need to be added into your barbell routine, as well as one really great “Chest” workout.

    Straight Arm Barbell Pullovers

    The photo at the top is a photo of John Grimek, from when he worked for Mark Berry, estimated to have been taken in 1934. John is doing my favorite upper body exercise, the straight arm pullover. I did hundreds of these as a teenager, on the swim team. In fact, I did them with a Milo Barbell that looked very similar to the one Grimek used in that shot, which I think is somewhat key to that exercise. Don't worry, you don't have to buy a whole new barbell, just use smaller plates, so that the bar starts closer to the ground. Use something like 25 pound, or even 10 pound plates. It will extend your range of motion. Yes, it is harder to perform and you won't be able to use as much weight, but the benefits will be worth it with this alternate variation.

    Before Bench Presses Workout

    Stretch & Warm-up with Indian Clubs and/or Speed Bag Work
    Clean & Standing Barbell Push 5 x 5
    Clean & Front Squat 5 x 5
    Straight Arm Pullover 3 x 10
    Dumbbell (or Kettlebell) Crucifix Hold 3 x 3
    Dips 3 x 10
    Stretch

    If it is nice outside add in half a dozen 100 yard sprints. You will be shocked at how well they work in with this routine. In high school, I would do this routine in the morning and then head off to the pool for morning swim, which was only 45 minutes, but felt great.

    All the best,

    Roger LaPointe

    "Today is a good day to lift."

  • Garage Gym Accessory Wall

    power-shack-grip-board
    Carmen Caputo's Grip & Accessory Board

    Carmen Caputo's Power Shack Gym really is one of the best garage gyms out there. This is the second Atomic Athletic Bomb Proof Bulletin based on his place. It is a true unattached pole barn type 2-car + size garage, that is exclusively a gym. Carmen and his buddies completely finished it off, with heat. I can really appreciate that right now, as it's -5 F as I write this.

    The photo shows The Power Shack accessory corner, highlighted by the peg board. Hanging on the bottom are real antique Whitely spring type strand pulling units, with all the original Whitely accessory parts. He has them set up with 1-5 springs, just like a pro-style dumbbell or kettlebell rack. You also see an original cloth webbing York head harness and York wrist roller, together with some home made loading pins.

    http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/atomic-athletic-firestorm-wrist-roller.html

    Carmen and I had a great talk about the wrist rollers. We are both really into the wrist roller movement and concept. Carmen actually has two of those originals, but he stripped the paint off the one shown in the picture and poly coated it. I also have an original red painted one that I will show in a wrist roller article that is coming down the pike. Carmen's wrist roller advice is to, “...put a longer rope on your wrist roller, when it comes time to replace it. If you have a longer rope, you will find a way to use it. It's the basic simple details that the old strength guys were into, and that made all the difference. The longer rope is murder on your hands. Once you unroll it, you have to roll it back up before you can put it away.”

    In the floor rack you can see a variety of bars. He has an original Gaspari Bar, a 6 foot standard barbell, a 6 foot Olympic bar, a regular Olympic curl bar, an Olympic Super Curl Bar and an Olympic Hammer Curl Bar. He also has quite a pile of standard size plates.

    Rounding out the collection is a Power Twister, an Iron Man Super Gripper and a variety of rubber rings. The left wall also shows his framed original York Powerlifting Chart #2 (Bench Press). The other wall has his lat machine attachments (like the triceps rope), with the lat machine in the foreground. That padding is not the original naugahyde, but that cool late-60s glitter black that you may have seen on boat or motorcycle seats. He has re-upholstered everything in to match.

    All the best,
    Roger LaPointe
    'Today is a good day to lift.”

  • Check out Carmen's Gym

    carmen-caputos-york-kettlebells
    Carmen Caputo's Gym: Photo 1
    (Photo by Carmen Caputo with Permission)

    Check out what Carmen Caputo has put together! Seriously, put on your 7 year old kid attitude, with big excited eyes. We are going to take a walk back in time, to the days when afternoons were long and sunny. This is one of those days when opening this plain garage door seems somewhat slightly more interesting than kicking stones in an alley, then suddenly your whole life is changed.

    Carmen's gym really exists and he has been an Atomic Athlete since before I was born. He has been seriously weightlifting and collecting equipment since 1960, with most of it originally coming from Peary Rader and York Barbell. For the past several years, he has been adding in some Atomic Athletic pieces, supplemented by collectibles that have come from me, eBay and other random sources.

    The photo shows his “Kettlebell Rack”. Where he has put together classic kettlebells built with kettlebell handles and all York standard size plates, bars and collars. He has pairs of them in 10 pound increments from 20 – 60 pounds*, which he occasionally modifies for mid-range increments. You can also see his collection of Iron Boots. Not all of his pieces were acquired new, but you can see how everything is now in pristine shape and order, ready for the next workout. Carmen follows the rule he was taught in the Marines, “If you take care of your gear, it will take care of you.”

    Kettlebell Handles: http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/kettlebell-handles-pair.html

    Now, take a gander at the gym art. Those instructional wall charts are originals. He has framed classic posters and other art all over the gym. I have a bunch of great shots that I will be showing in the next few weeks. Keep an eye out for it. Everything is solid, basic and high quality.

    To quote Carmen, “Only in America could the grandchild of immigrants be able to acquire something like this. We are truly blessed.” You may not remember when you were first introduced to weights, but it would be great if we could all be so fortunate as to find a place like this to start from.

    All the best,
    Roger LaPointe
    “Today is a good day to lift.”

    *Not all of Carmen's kettlebells are shown in this photo.

  • Iron Boot Strap Special

    Intermediate Strength Iron Boot Strap (Set of 4)
    Intermediate Strength Iron Boot Straps

    I know that a lot of our readers are big fans of Iron Boot training. Many of you even have antique Iron Boots. In fact, the next few bulletins are going to be highlighting antique equipment that is regularly in use.

    http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/intermediate-strength-iron-boot-straps.html

    If you are familiar with the straps that used to come with the various antique Iron Boots, then you know they were virtually worthless. In fact, it is my opinion that Iron Boots declined in popularity because the various manufacturers had those terrible straps. Put on some decent straps and your Iron Boots become really outstanding training tools. Iron Boots really are dumbbells for your feet!

    Right now is a great time, if you are looking to upgrade your Iron Boot Straps. Today, we are introducing our NEW Atomic Athletic Intermediate Strength Iron Boot Straps!

    For a Limited Time, we are giving BOTH Free Shipping and a discount on the NEW Intermediate Iron Boot Straps. Additionally, because of the increase in popularity of our Iron Boots, we are also able to lower the price of our Heavy Duty Iron Boots straps! I don’t know how long we can do that as well, but we are going to try it.

    Here is the link for the Heavy Duty Iron Boot Strap Sets:
    http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/heavy-duty-iron-boot-straps.html

    Here is the link for the NEW Intermediate Strength Iron Boot Strap Sets:
    http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/intermediate-strength-iron-boot-straps.html

    All the best,
    Roger LaPointe
    “Today is a good day to lift.”

  • Garage Gym Leg Extensions & Leg Curls

    York-flex-bench-iron-boots-leg-extension
    Roger LaPointe performing Iron Boot Leg Extensions on a York Flex Bench

    Some people look for reasons not to go into the gym.  They find reasons to call an exercise dangerous.  When I first got into the fitness industry, it was Olympic weightlifting, followed by Behind the Neck Presses.  Now the pendulum has swung the other way.  For several years it has been leg extensions getting a bad rap.  Oh well.  I still do them.

    Let's face it, I love leg work.  It's simple and basic.  One exercise that I feel is very important, if you want strong, powerful legs, is the humble leg extension.  If you can find a machine that fits you, machines can be fine.  I have one that I love, but most of them don't fit me.  What does fit are my Iron Boots.  There are a million exercises that I can do with Iron Boots.  They really are dumbbells for the feet.  Unfortunately, to get some exercises right, you actually need some extra equipment, like a bench or seat of some sort.

    Garage gym guys take note.  The York Barbell Flex bench is a great one to

    Roger LaPointe doing Leg Curls with Iron Boots on a York Barbell Flex Bench
    Iron Boot Leg Curl on York Barbell Flex Bench

    pair up with Iron Boots.  Amazingly, it was sitting right in front of me for about fifteen years, since I worked at York.  They even used me as a "short, but real lifter" model for that piece, when it was originally being designed.  The current version has a few more positions than it used to have.  The one you need for BOTH Iron Boot Leg Extensions and Iron Boot Leg Curls is that butt pad adjustment.  That pad also has a wide, rolled edge.  That is very important for both exercises.

    Check out these Leg Extension and Leg Curl photos.  You don't need tons of weight, but getting the right angles and support IS KEY.  That York Barbell Flex Bench paired up with Iron Boots is an economical, efficient tool for your garage gym.  Like or hate Leg Extensions they work.  This pairing will remove two more excuses.

    All the best,

    Roger LaPointe

    "Today is a good day to lift."

  • Old Time Strongman Pierre Gasnier's Stage Dumbbell

    Circus Dumbbell Lift Old Time Strongman Pierre Gasnier

    236 Livres is a lot of weight. The massive dumbbell has those numbers painted on the side, so it must be true.

    Claiming to be the “Strongest Man in the World” and also going by “French Hercules”, Pierre Gasnier was one of the true classic strongman performers. Today, we have very little information on Gasnier beyond the photos of him with his awesome stage dumbbell, but there is enough to inspire some great workouts and discussions around the dart board.

    http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/iron-game-legacy-time-capsule.html

    Leo Gaudreau has a nice three page section on Gasnier, in his “Anvils, Horseshoes and Cannons: The History of Strongmen Vol. II” and I have some additional material scattered about. Here is a little background. Gasnier was a touring strongman of great enough note to be part of the Barnum and Bailey Circus as early as 1898, with whom he did several multi-year tours. Having read about However, at just under 5'3” tall and with his weight varying from about 136 to possibly over 165 pounds, he may have been the strongest man in the world, at his bodyweight, but his actual claim is a little far fetched.

    Strongman Pierre Gasnier's Stage Dumbbell

    At Atomic Athletic I have been asked to make a number of really cool custom pieces, Gasnier's Strongman Dumbbell is not one of them. It is a complicated piece, ideally suited for Gasnier's body. Believe me that globe dumbbell looks like one of the coolest pieces of circus strength history I have ever seen, but it would be no more than a discussion piece in the best of gyms. It is also the very model of what a performance vaudeville stage dumbbell would be.

    http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/limited-edition-brass-thick-dumbbell-handle.html

    Gasnier's Strongman Dumbbell Facts

    1. Handle Diameter: 2” and NOT Rotating
    2. Hollow, Shot Loadable Cast Iron Heads
    3. Unique Short Handle Length
    4. 4 Foot Total Length

    Essentially, this dumbbell had a handle design that would only allow it to be lifted by one hand, yet with the diameter combined with the weight, that would eliminate almost any strongman of the time. Earle Leiderman, who knew Gasnier, said, “He had an unusually LARGE head – a size fit for one who weighed well over two hundred pounds, and with such a head, it is natural that his photos make his arms, etc. look smaller.” In fact, if you look at his photos, he also had extremely large looking hands, a necessity for lifting larger handled equipment.

    http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/dumbbells/shot-loadable-dumbbells.html

    As for the weight of the dumbbell. Hmmmm. As a young man, Gasnier's personal goal was to lift double bodyweight overhead with one hand, which may be the origin of the 236 Livres mark. 236 Livres is an older French measurement that is actually considered a demi-kilogram, or half kilo, which would be 1.1 pounds, for a total of 260 pounds. Sebastian Miller, the strongman from Munich, witnessed Gasnier's performance with the barbell/dumbbell in 1899 with Anspek and Cyclops, where he did lift it overhead with one hand. Miller also one-hand lifted it to his knees several times, as a test of the poundage and supposedly remarked, “Yes, this is heavy.” However, both Gaudreau and Mike Drummond, writing in Strength Magazine (Sept. 1928), had strong suspicions that the dumbbell was unloaded when he performed for the above photo and probably on stage. Even empty, the cast iron heads, thick handle and other parts would have added up to some serious poundage.

    Regardless of the suspicions of his detractors, Gasnier was an accomplished one arm lifter. Harvard's Professor Sargent wrote that Gasnier, “...lifting and placing at arm's length above the head, with one hand, a dumbbell, the largest and heaviest in the gymnasium, weighing over 200 pounds...” We do not know his technique, based on this description, but he was clearly a strong guy.

    While your goals may not be as lofty as Gasnier's, I hope this article inspires you to choose a specialty lift as your challenge.

    http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/traditional-training-legendary-strength.html

    The links you see in this article are for training equipment and educational materials that should help you with your grip strength training and one hand lifting of both barbells and dumbbells.

    All the best,
    Roger LaPointe
    “Today is a good day to lift.”

  • Manhandling Dumbbells

    strength mag bent press-A-w-text-logo Bent Press: Manhandling Dumbbells

    Let me tell you about one of the least graceful, ugly and horribly inefficient lifts you will ever perform. Before I get to that, I must also say that if you want to get truly real world strong, then you MUST be doing this lift.

    I call it Manhandling a Dumbbell. Technically, I guess you would call it a 2 Hand Single Dumbbell Clean. As you can see in the photo above, this lift was commonly done for the purpose of a “2 Hands Anyhow Lift” with either “2 Dumbbells” or a “Dumbbell & Kettlebell”. The key is that the heavier of the two items would be a dumbbell. Unlike a barbell, that could be cleaned or leveraged into the one hand, how do get the dumbbell into the bent press or jerk position? The rules actually allowed you to use just about any method to get it to the shoulder.

    The amount of weight that can be shouldered this way is quite significant. It is also fantastic to train this movement, because, like in stone lifting, you will find your weak points very quickly. I do have some tips, based primarily on the techniques I have learned from the “One Hand Dumbbell Swing”.

    Allen Collars for Barbells & Dumbbells Allen Collars for Barbells & Dumbbells

    “Manhandling a Dumbbell” Techniques

    1. Start the dumbbell on the floor, on end. Use as small a collar as possible without any extra bar end sticking out beyond the collar. I will use Allen Collars, just like when I set up a barbell to be leveraged.
    2. Don't bother with a hook grip, because you can wrap your other hand around the hand that is actually holding the dumbbell.
    3. For maximum control, the hand that actually grasps the dumbbell handle needs to be the one you will end with, as you will release the other hand as the dumbbell reaches the shoulder.

    “Manhandling a Dumbbell” Additional Tips

    -Don't bother using thick handles with this lift. This is not a grip training exercise, but one where you want to use as much weight as you can handle.
    -5 Sets of 2 Reps will be maximally productive.
    -Backweighting the dumbbell is fine, but make sure to practice backweighting techniques, as it can easily get away from you and become squirlly.
    -I like using larger plates. I sell a lot of our Long Dumbbell Bars for guys to really load up heavy. The reason I use that bar is NOT because of the large number of 10 Pound Standard Size Plates I can load up, but because I can determine where on the bar I am going to actually grab it. It is more important to have the dumbbell on end with an essentially flat end on the ground than it is to have it perfectly center balanced.

    Enjoy your manhandling exercise and be ready to find your weak points. I know that I have found myself doing a lot more ab work, one hand deadlifting, and dumbbell curls after adding this lift to my routine.

    All the best,
    Roger LaPointe
    “Today is a good day to lift.”

  • Abdominal Exercises with a Slant Board

    Building a powerful midsection is essential serious lifting. It also makes you look good. Choose your

    Rudolph Liska: Slant Board Abdominal Work with Weights
    Rudolph Liska: Slant Board Abdominal Work with Weights

    reason, you need to do it.

    Check out Rudolph Liska, as shown in Mark Berry's book “Physical Improvement Vol. 2”, from 1930. Berry was the Olympic coach in 1932. Remember, this was a time when the Great Depression was in full swing. Weightlifting wasn't a new thing, but you certainly did not find a gym on every corner. These guys also didn't take steroids. They simply had not been invented yet.

    Liska is attacking the abs from both directions. Note, he has added weight. If you want to build bulging muscles, what do you do? You train like a bodybuilder with lighter weights and higher reps. Look at modern competitive bodybuilders, especially in the off season. Now, while forgetting about the Super Heavy Weight Class, look at competitive weightlifters. Those guys don't have big guts. In fact, their “cores” or midsections are tight and powerful. So, maybe it is time for you to pick up some weights for working your abs.

    In the top photo, Liska is doing a standard sit-up with a barbell behind his head. He is not holding a plate on his chest. This makes for maximum chest expansion and range of motion with the abdominals. The first part of the exercise is pulling the barbell off the board. Make sure to use the abs to do this, not the arms or lats. The abdominals are groups of small muscles, so you should try to work them as such and in sequence throughout the range of motion. With a modern adjustable sit-up board you can modify the resistance and the muscle group emphasis merely by changing that angle.

    The second photo is a sit-up board leg raise. I don't advise you to hold a plate with your feet. While, in the original photo, it looks like the plate is tied to his feet, Iron Boots would be a much safer and more effective tool for this exercise. They will also allow you to do an isolateral version, ie. Alternating Leg Raise, with adjustable weight.

    Here is a great home grade ab bench for doing any of these movements.
    http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/adjustable-sit-up-board-york-fts.html

    With any of these exercises, the classic 5 sets of 5 reps are a great way to go. As you can see in the photos, Liska had outstanding abs, serratus and oblique muscles.

    All the best,
    Roger LaPointe
    “Today is a good day to lift.”

  • Black Friday Specials

    Throughout the month of November we will be adding various specials.  We are not doing anything

    SPECIAL: Kettlebell & Iron Boot Boxed Set SPECIAL: Kettlebell & Iron Boot Boxed Set

    just for Black Friday.  However, most of our Specials will be of limited supply, so when they sell out, they are gone and will be pulled from the site!

    Here are 2 great Specials:

    Iron Boot & Kettlebell Boxed Set: http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/kettlebell-iron-boot-boxed-set.html

    Bob Hoffman & York Barbell Holiday Special: http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/holiday-special-featuring-bob-hoffman-york-barbell.html

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