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Tag Archives: old time strongman

  • 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

  • The Bent Press: How to Leverage a Barbell

    Before you can do the classic old time strongman barbell lift called the Bent Press, you have to get it to your shoulder.  There are several ways this can be done, but the Leveraging the Barbell will move the most weight.

    4 Shot Sequence Photos of Barbell Leveraging

    Step 1: Lift Barbell On End

    It is best, if you don't have a classic globe type barbell, to put your plates all the way to the end of the bar.  You can use an Olympic barbell, but be prepared to jam it up permanently.  In the photos, I am using an antique standard size barbell with our Allen Collars on the ends.

    barbell-leverage-sequence-a

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Step 2: Find The Center

    Gravity is your friend here.  Find the center point, with palm facing your, like in a curl.  Let the barbell rock to the shouldered position as you drop into your squat.  The longer your barbell the easier this movement is.  Don't forget, your humble model is only 5'3".  Even I find a 7 foot barbell easier.  These are some great collars to use as inside collars.  With the plates all the way to the end, you effectively add "bar length".

    barbell-leverage-sequence-b

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Step 3: Drop and Squat

    After dropping under the bar, you simply stand up out of the squat.  It can be very helpful to use your shoulder to steady the bar.  This is something you can't really do with a barbell or kettlebell, simply because you don't have the bar length.

    barbell-leverage-sequence-c

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Step 4: Stand Up

    From this position, you are ready to do your bent press.

    barbell-leverage-sequence-d

  • 1932 Atlanta Police Department Gym

    Caption: “Here we see the barbell section of the Atlanta Police Department gym, under the personal, efficient, directorship of Edward Rosendahl, standing on the extreme right.  No wonder the Atlanta police force are strongly erect and vigorously alert.  They are an example which the police departments of other cities could copy with pride.  Instructor Rosendahl is the enthusiastic, aggressive type that accomplishes great things in body building training.  He also conducts two other schools in the city of Atlanta, Ga.”

    Equipment List: Based on Close Examination of Photo

    Old Time Strongman Gym Atlanta Police Department Gym: Circa 1932

    Adjustable Barbells
    Adjustable Dumbbells
    Adjustable Kettlebell Handles (Milo Bar Bell 1908 Tri-Plex Type): York improved on this design about 10 years later and we sell that type now. They are extremely versatile and are the preferred type to use for the competition type crucifix hold, found here: http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/kettlebell-handles-pair.html

    Globe Kettlebells (Milo Bar Bell Duplex Type)
    “Pro-Style” Barbells: Various Weights
    “Olympic” Plates – In a Rack
    Block Weights (I have some antique Toledo brand for sale here: http://atomicathletic.com/store/index.php/antique-toledo-block-weight-50-pounds.html

    Parallel Bars
    Wooden Seats/Benches
    Spring Steel “Crushers”
    Strands (Spring Type Chest Expanders)
    Barbells Racks
    Dumbbell Racks
    Plate Racks
    Tons of Plates
    Photos of Boxers, Wrestlers & other Strength Athletes

    Keep checking back, as I am doing an analysis of the equipment with related links, with the actual caption.

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

  • Brodie's Saloon & the Kennedy Lift

         "Steve Brodie, the man who took a chance, he jumped off the Brooklyn

    Chain Bar Heavy Lift Strongman Hip Lift with Train Wheels

    Bridge(so they say) had a saloon on the Bowery back in 1892 with a gym in the rear. This was not unusual. A lot of barrooms supported gyms. The author (York Barbell's Gord Venables) visited the Turnverein in Union City, New Jersey, in 1960 and it was back of the bar in a Swiss Restaurant.

         Bill Kennedy, a New York carpenter, performed nightly at Brodie's Saloon, lifting 1500 pounds in the straddle deadlift with handle and chain. The lifting feat became popular among strongmen of that era and it now bears his name - The Kennedy Lift." (Strength & Health, “Incredible Feats of Strength”, Venables, Oct-Nov 1974, p. 59

    Atomic Tip: Using the Hand & Thigh Bar with the Chain Lift Bar for a Kennedy Lift will allow you to go much heavier than a Jefferson Lift (barbell Straddle Deadlift), as you can “set” the bar in the partial movement. While you certainly can use bumper plates, cast iron 100's are far more dense. Make sure you use accurate ones, or at least weigh them so you can get the weight right from one end of the bar to the other. Obviously, you want the chain lift bar to have a balanced load, without loose wobbly collars.

  • Grandpa Jackson

    Have you ever been given a tremendous gift by a dead person? I was 5 or 6 years old when my Great Grandpa C. O. Jackson died. I don't really remember ever meeting him, but I feel like I know him. I know him through the 1919 Milo Triplex Barbell Set that sits in my dad's basement.

    Milo Barbell Tri-Plex Kettlebells
    Milo Tri-Plex Kettlebells circa 1909

    THE MILO Barbell Tri-Plex
    The Milo Triplex is a very unusual set, that included a long dumbbell handle, wooden shovel handle style kettlebell handles, a barbell bar and the weights. As a kid, I first thought of them as Dad's weights. As I grew older they became “The strongman barbell”, because of the cool circus strongman style globe heads. Then they became my secret weapon.

    I used that secret weapon to become a good high school athlete, even though I was usually the shortest kid on the field. I wanted to do curls, but the first exercise my Dad taught me was the first one Grandpa Jackson taught him, squats. He also taught me the deadlift, upright row, press (and the power clean for getting it to the shoulder), and most importantly, the Jefferson Lift. I later learned some exercises with kettlebells: the crucifix hold and the kettlebell snatch. Eventually, he taught me swings with the kettlebells and a variety of dumbbell lifts.

    Along the way I also learned about Grandpa Jackson. I learned about how he got his middle name, which is the same as mine. The details of his life were revealed to me like the fine carpentry that made up his profession. He became a colorful individual, instead of just a name listed on some genealogical chart.

    Grandpa Jackson's barbell still works today, thirty years after I started lifting it. It was a top of the line piece of equipment and meant to last.I am sure Grandpa Jackson used some disposable things, but that is not the way I think of him. He was never wealthy, just a working class guy. Yet, exercise was important enough to him that he bought a quality barbell set. Here are some examples of quality pieces that should last for generations.

    Some other classic pieces of equipment Grandpa Jackson might have used:

    Plate Loading Kettlebell Handles
    Plate Loading Kettlebell Handles
    Atomic Athletic Iron Boots: Loaded & Unloaded
    Atomic Athletic Iron Boots: Loaded & Unloaded

    While the Kettlebell Handles that Alan Calvert designed for the Milo Triplex were really just for that specific MILO set, the handles had that spark of ingenuity which Bob Hoffman and Joe Weider would later seize.  I have no idea who originally came up with the "current" design of plate loading kettlebell handles we sell, but I have seen ads for them going back into the 1940s.  I suspect that it was the Good Barbell Company.

    As for Iron Boots, the first instance of "iron boot type" training, that I have found, comes from an old photo of Sig Klein where he is holding a dumbbell with his feet.  However, I know that Bob Hoffman owned the original patent in the 1930s.  They were an immediate hit and every barbell company had their own design, as soon as the patent expired.

    I could end this blog in a cheesy fashion by saying that we are remembered by the possessions we leave behind, but it is really much more than that. The import stuff is intangible.

    Today, that circus strongman barbell and secret weapon is inspiration. If that 1919 Milo Triplex Barbell Set had not been sitting in our basement, you wouldn't be reading this blog right now.

    All the best,

    Roger LaPointe

    "Today is a good day to lift."

  • East Meets West in Strength Training

    Shaolin Monks
    Roger and Shi Guolin discuss stone padlock training during a recent visit.

    I have been lifting weights for over 20 years and have been involved in one way or another with a number of sports: Olympic weighttlifting, Powerlifting, All-Round Weightlifting, Highland Games, Strongman and a variety of other sports, and I am still finding more new and exciting training methods each time I work out.

    My recent meeting with the Shaolin Monks really got me fired up for stone padlock training. The Monks showed me complex methods of strength training that blew my mind. They even showed me basic, foundation exercises that were super cool. Since then, I have been getting outstanding results in my training with stone locks. Most notably, my upper body and shoulders have never felt stronger and my forearms are reaching new levels of strength and definition with each new workout.

    After working on several of the movements the Monks showed me, suddenly I had an epiphany; something I had always wanted to try but could not previously understand. Several years ago, I read about a special training method of German Strongman Herman Goerner called “Die Kette” (the chain).

    goerner Meet Goerner

    Before I get into exactly what "The Chain" is, here is some background information on Herman Goerner for those of you who may not be familiar with him.

    He was born in Haenichen, Germany and lived from 1891-1956. He stood around 6’ tall and his weight varied from 220 in 1920 all the way up to 260 lbs during the 1930's. Goerner was one of the last great professional strongmen of the 20th century. He was particularly well known for his phenomenal hand strength and his deadlifting ability. Goerner could do a one-arm barbell clean with 297.62 lbs, a strict barbell curl with 220.46 pounds, a one hand snatch with 264.55 lbs. and a two-arm snatch with his arms crossed with 231 lbs. Also among his many outstanding lifts was a one arm deadlift of 727 ½ pounds.

    Goerner was a true physical culturalist and he employed many different training techniques to build and maintain his tremendous power. His gym in South Africa was stocked with all types of weights including globe barbells, block weights, dumbbells and kettlebells. He also had an area to practice boxing, wrestling and gymnastics.

    In his biography “Goerner the Mighty” by Edgar Mueller there was a section on how he trained.

    As I mentioned earlier, one of Goerner's favorite techniques was called “Die Kette”(the chain) and he loved to do it using kettlebells. He could do this since his gym had many different sizes of each. He began with lighter kettlebells. and did a variety of movements then moved onto the next size and performed many of the same movements. As he moved down the rack the exercises changed and adapted as the weights got heavier. Sometimes he only did one circuit, sometimes he did several.

    I thought since I have three different sizes of stone locks to use, that this would be a perfect opportunity to give “Die Kette” a try, but I would modify it with complexes, in the manner of the Shaolin Monks.

    I began with the 10 pound stone padlocks. First, I started out with some callisthenic exercises to warm up a bit. I held the locks and did some arm circles and various types of swings. I varied the speed of these movements and my shoulders were already fried. Then I did a variety of lateral raises. My shoulders were screaming by this time as were my forearms. I finished up with some wrist curls and reverse wrist curls.

    justin10pl_d See a real Kung Fu master at work

    Then I immediately grabbed the pair of the 25 lb. stone locks and began overhead pressing. First as strictly as possible then as many push presses as I could. Keep in mind that I had to “stay tight” and grip the padlock tightly the whole time to be able to complete the presses. I then started what you might call curling. Due to the unique shape and leverages of the stone padlocks, all the
    stress was on my fingers and wrists and forearms. I did horizontal curls and then hammer curls and my forearms felt like they were about to explode, since
    they were so gorged with blood.

    I was huffing like a boiler at this point, but now it was time for the big
    boys. The 45 lb. padlocks were up next. I did cheat hammer curls until I
    couldn’t feel my arms. I ended the workout with a farmers walk with these up
    and down a hill near my house.

    The whole workout took maybe 30 minutes and my body was utterly destroyed. The
    next day I was so sore that I could hardly move but I was happy knowing that my
    training was working.

    Atomic Athletic will be coming out with more detailed stone lock training
    programs in the future, including traditional movements as well as many we have
    come up with on our own. Check back often and don’t miss our workout reports
    and periodic updates in the Bomb Proof Bulletin.

    Here are some other tools to help in getting strong from the East and the West:
    Shaolin Muscle Tendon Change Classic DVD

    The Art of Hojo Undo: Power Training

    Stone Padlock Training DVD - the tools aren't any good if you don't know how to use 'em. This is an Atomic Athletic Exclusive

    30 Pound Stone Ball - East collides with West in this Atomic Athletic exclusive granite ball. Use for strongman training or kung fu... the choice is yours. We include the instructional wall charts for FREE.

    Live Strong!

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