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Tag Archives: old time strongman

  • 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!

  • Iron Boots: Dumbbells for Your Feet

    Iron Boots: Dumbbells For Your Feet!

    by Roger LaPointe

    Iron Boots are one of the oldest tools for leg development in the world of real strength training. At Atomic Athletic I have loved Iron Boot work since the first time I used my original set of
    York Health Shoes. If you want to get yourself a set right away, just hit this link .

    Iron Boots, one of the best leg developing tools of all time. • Functional Training For Your Feet 
    The days of pure isolation of single muscle groups are over. Unless you are a bodybuilder, then you need to work multiple muscles in conjunction with each other. This is what an athlete does while playing a sport. Training your legs is no different than training any other part of your body in that respect.• Iron Boots are more than just for the feet 
    Think about where you place the Iron Boot. It goes on the bottom of the foot. That means you can work the ankle, calf, quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, glutes, low back, stomach and all those small muscles that tie into those groups. If you get creative with a dip station or chinning bar, you really have a great tool in the Iron Boot.

    • Are antique Iron Boots still OK? 
    They can be. There were a lot of different designs out there, and some were better than others.

    • If I found an old pair, what would be the first thing to check out? 
    Make sure the straps are still good. Historyically, most companies sold really second rate straps. Additionally, if it is old, you could be dealing with wear and tear that came from use, and things like dry rot.

    You certainly don't want to have a weight come crashing down because your 60 year old straps did not hold. You should check your straps every time you use them. Just like you were out shoe laces, you can wear out Iron Boot straps. Atomic Athletic has great heavy duty replacement straps that are 30 inches long and use a spring loaded steel presure buckle derived from military aircraft tiedowns. Good stuff.

    • The secret to using Iron Boots is efficient exercise choices. 
    "I have been doing research on Iron Boot training since 1997, when I had to rehab a torn meniscus in my right knee. While, at one time, every American barbell company had their own version of the iron boot, or health shoe, there was suprisingly little information on how to use them. That is, until I really got into my research." Roger LaPointe. Because they were so common, eveyone from physical therapists and athletic trainers to competitive bodybuilders had their own pet exercise with the Iron Boots.
    "It was up to me to put it all together, and find the best of the best," said Roger. "I don't believe in doing a million little exercises that will take up your entire day, which you could easily do with the Iron Boots. I believe in efficience and intensity. For example, if you are training for soccer as a goalie, and you can do a lying leg curl with a machine or a hanging leg curl with the Iron Boots, it's a pretty easy decision for me. You do the Hanging Leg Curl that will work your grip, hamstrings, and ankles. Additionally, you get the glute and low back work combined with stretching and decompressing the spine. You would get very similar tendon, ligament and muscle control out of a lying leg curl with the Iron Boots, putting it in a better category than the machine, but you would get none of those extra benefits. Work them all together and then get back out on the field!"

    • Iron Boot training has a long history for both men AND women. 
    Lisa has been working with the Iron Boots for general fitness work . You can see in the following two photos, which were taken in sequence, that the Crunch & Thrusthas been working for her. She is actually using an antique pair that was made by Weider specifically for women. Based on the old advertisements we have seen, we estimate that these are from the late 1950's. An exercise like this would be fantastic for swimmers, divers, gymnasts and martial artists. Of course, it would be great for anyone interested in working the abdominal muscles, quads, hip flexors and ankles.• What are some of those old advertisements? 
    Further on in this article, you will see a variety of Iron Boot and/or Health Shoe advertisements. The oldest I have found came from Strength & Health magazine, which was published by the York Barbell Company.
    Lisa works out with Antique Weider Iron Boots.

    • What publications are available for learning how to use Iron Boots? 
    The oldest book that I know of, which is still availble, was written by Vic Boff. He was a real advocate of Iron Boot training, and included it in his Vic Boff's Bodybuilder's Bible for Men & Women. If you don't know about Vic, he founded the Association of Oldetime Barbell and Strongmen.

    • More Iron Boot exercises are available exclusively from Atomic Athletic.

    Atomic Athletic's Lisa working her abs with some classic Iron Boots. In addition to the written Leg Development Course , which comes with the Iron Boots, we have the Leg Development DVD & Written Course Combo. Of course, that set contains more than just Iron Boot exercises, but it is all classic lower body work. Really, it is all just training with a barbell and the iron boots. Very basic stuff that can be done with basic equipment or expanded on with a power rack and basic bench.• Have you included Iron Boot work in some of the more comprehensive courses?

    Certainly. The concept that I keep adding onto is my Train Like A Strongman series. It is really an attempt at bringing all these seemingly disparate concepts into one coherant whole.

    • What is the most recent addition to the Train Like A Strongman series, and does it also use the Iron Boot training?

    That would be the Train Like A Strongman DVD Volume 2. I do touch on a little bit of ankle work in that DVD. However, we also have the Ankle Stability Kit. As the name implies, it gets into a lot more than just Iron Boot work, but that is certainly part of it.

    • What is your favorite old time course for Iron Boot work?
    That would have to be the York Leg Development Course that featured John Grimek. However, Kim Wood gave me a wall chart course of Seig Klein that uses "Klein Bells". They were some modified dumbbells, and certainly not actual iron boots, but he does do some exercises with the bells held onto his feet. You can see where things were going with that course.• Traveling strength tools.

    The traveling strongman is a subject I have studied since I first got into the fitness industry with the York Barbell Company. I did a variety of shows to help promote York products. Some people have called it a strongman act, which, I guess it was, in the broad sense of the word. Each one was different, and I did more weightlifting than feats, like bending and that sort of thing.

    Original York Barbell Advertisement from the 1930's, on Iron Boots for Women or girls.

    I have also had to travel quite a bit for sales purposes. I have traveled by car, truck and plane. Each one has had its positive and negative points. The iron boots are a great training tool if you are traveling by car or truck. You can do an entire lower body workout with them.

    This York ad with Iron Boots was on many back covers of Strength & Health in the 1930's. • An Iron Boot only travel workout
    Stretch
    Seated Leg Extension 2 Sets of 20 Reps
    Standing Leg Curl 2 Sets of 20 Reps
    Free Hand Squats 3 Sets of 50 Reps
    Bicycles 1 Set of 10 Slow Reps
    Fold Over Extensions 1 Set of 5 Slow Reps
    Push Ups 3 Sets of 30 Reps
    Seated Cruch & Thrust 2 Sets of 10 RepsThis group of exercises is heavy on the low back work and stomach work. When traveling, we all get tight low backs. You must combat this with stretching and weighted stretches are a really fantastic way to work some often neglected areas.

    • Old advertisements and sets
    These old advertisements are great. You can see that things really have not changed much. What has changed is that you can hardly find Iron Boots any place except Atomic Athletic. The big corporations would really rather sell you 10 machines at $2000 each. Well, those machines are great for a gym. They are not really practical for the individual at home. It is also necessary in a set to have all the parts interchangable. With our new Iron Boots, the Dumbbell Bars work with the new Kettlebell handles, and, amazingly, function as dumbbell bars by themselves.

    • Illustrations and photos, we try to keep things retro cool for your education too!So much of the history of strength training is in the old magazines and books, and it is part of the real iron game culture. If we can keep the old methods of training alive along with the culture, so much the better. My buddy Bill Hinbern and I have had a long running discussion about the direction of the physical culture world. We have seen too much of the big business world getting into it and not enough real lifting. It is amazing that there are more people with gym memberships today than at any point in history. At the same time there are more overweight people than ever before. With a tool like the iron boot, if you miss your trip to the gym, you can still get a complete full body workout at home. You don't even need a basement or garage gym. I have done it in hotel rooms, and even the tailgate of my truck while camping. That is versatility. A fantastic illustration of leg curls with Iron Boots, from a support.

    • Dumbbells for your feet.
    Iron Boots really are dumbbells for your feet. Besides being used independently, they are even plate loadable! This means you can adjust the weight to some quite high levels. Ironically, the fact that they are independent of each other makes them so you don't need nearly so much weight as you would with most machines, like a leg extension unit, for example.

    Click this Link to get your Iron Boots!

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