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Tag Archives: USAWA

  • Deadlifts or Pulls

    Have you ever gone to a Push-Pull Meet?

    John Terry Deadlifting 460 Pounds
    John Terry in York Barbell Standard Barbell Set Advertisement Deadlifting 460 Pounds. His official world record of 600 pounds was set at a bodyweight of 132 pounds.

    I think they are a great concept. Here is where you can laugh at your author. When I was fresh and new to the competitive lifting world, I heard about a push-pull meet and started training for it. Fortunately, there was a powerlifter in the gym with an inquisitive mind. Logically, he asked what I was doing and why I had modified my fairly typical Olympic lifting routine. I was now doing lots of heavy push presses, power jerks and clean pulls. With a big laugh, he informed me what a push-pull meet is.

    Of course, the Powerlifters of the world know exactly what I’m talking about, but that may not be the case for Olympic weightlifters, bodybuilders, strongman competitors and many other lifters. If you fall into that non-powerlifter category, it’s a clever name for a two lift meet with a deadlift and a bench press competition.

    So now we get into the controversy. Which one is better, the deadlift or the pull? Clearly, the deadlift is better if you are training for a powerlifting competition and pulls are a training lift for the Olympic lifters of the world, but strictly speaking, unnecessary. They are not essential for Olympic lifters because the competition lifts are the clean & jerk and the snatch, not a pull – clean or snatch variety. The argument for training heavy deadlifts is certainly an old one. Hermann Goerner certainly set explosive lift world records, while doing amazing deadlifts in a wide variety of styles. On the other end of the size spectrum is John Terry, who I believe is really the lifter to look at with this discussion.

    John Terry is what I call the first modern American competitive lifter. He was highly successful in the Association of Bar Bell Men competitions, setting several world records, including a world record in the 2 hand deadlift. Using the modern alternate grip style, he lifted a confirmed 600 pounds* at a bodyweight of 132 pounds. Terry also set a world record snatch of 200 pounds, split style, at the same weight class.

    The argument for deadlifting is for overloading. With proper technique, you can lift more absolute weight with the deadlift that with a clean pull. The problem with deadlifting is that it closely resembles a pull, but is clearly a different movement. If your goal is to do a completed explosive lift, then the pulling with back and leg angles of the deadlifter will mess you up. The answer to that controversy was an easy one for Terry, already having the world record in the deadlift, he limited his training to a concentration on the three Olympic lifts, especially the 2 Hand Snatch.

    The modern solution was provided by York Barbell, in the form of the Power Rack. By doing partial movements and Isometrics, the Olympic lifters could overload in the proper positions, without doing deadlifts. Of course, powerlifters can do the same with their deadlifting. John Terry did not have the luxury of a power rack, as they weren’t invented until around 1960, at which point Terry had been out of the sport for twenty years.

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

    *I’ve seen claims by Bob Hoffman of Terry doing 615, but have not been able to find any other confirmation of that. Hoffman frequently spoke of gym lifts in articles, which were not legitimized in a competition format. The photo for this article shows Terry in a Strength & Health ad from 1942 for a standard size 310 set, with an additional pair of 75s, for a 460 deadlift. Many famous deadlifters have advocated the use of standard size bars and plates for practice, including David Shaw.

  • Learn One Lift

    Dumbbell Clean & Jerk
    Strongman: Strength Magazine 1926 - Dumbbell Clean & Jerk

    Yes. Learn one lift.

    Here is the hardest part about working out. I hear it from other people too. It's not just me. You need to get into the gym in order to work out. Learning one lift will solve that problem.

    Once you are in the gym, you will do something. Learning one lift is a great incentive. I am talking about really learning everything you can about that lift.

    Almost everyone needs a higher level of fitness. This concept works. Those of you who do NOT think that you would be healthier and a better athlete, if you were in better shape, just quit reading right now. Maybe you are that particular type of D-bag who genuinely believes that you are as good as it gets. Good for you, but I don't want to talk to you. In fact, I don't even want you reading my newsletter. This Atomic Athletic Bomb Proof Bulletin is for the rest of us.

    Truly, I have found it to be the very best advice I can give when someone needs that necessary inspiration to walk into the gym. Getting into the gym really is the hardest part of working out. I deal with it too. I also have 10,000 distractions which can pull me off course.

    Engage the mind and the body will follow.
    Now, I am not saying that you need to pick one lift and that is all you do. This is how you make things interesting. You engage the mind and the body will follow. A couple years ago, I chose the One Hand Dumbbell Swing as my lift. I started doing that lift because I found it to be very useful as a training lift, when I was trying to break a record in the One Hand Barbell Deadlift. After breaking the American Record in the that lift, I moved on to the One Hand Dumbbell Swing, because I enjoyed it and I found it intriguing. I had been inspired to go after that deadlift record by Andrew Durniat, who had blown away the World Record at one of my Atomic Athletic Great Black Swamp Olde Time Strongman Picnics.* So you can see the progression of interest, one thing lead to another.

    Norbert Schemansky told me that for the 1948 Olympics he only did the three Olympic lifts in his training. That earned him a silver medal. Norb is a perfectionist. He did those lifts with the idea that his technique on each one would be perfect. I'm sure silver drove him crazy. After those Olympics, he started doing other lifts that he felt would improve his weaknesses in the three Olympic lifts. For example, at some point he added bench presses to his training routine, in order to improve his standing press. Using that concept, he ultimately took gold, breaking world records in all three lifts and the total, as well as much, much more.

    In weightlifting, there are divisions, such as age group and weight class. If that is not enough, especially in the sport of powerlifting, there are many different organizations, each with slightly different rules. You also don't need to ever compete, if that's not your thing. Yet, you will find that when you set your mind to becoming the very best, most knowledgeable person at that one lift, no matter how unusual it is, then your desire to get into the gym and learn as much as possible will transform your entire perspective and desire to train.

    I haven't had a chance to officially go after that One Hand Dumbbell Swing record. Life keeps getting in the way. However, the last time I looked at that record, it didn't seem like I would have much problem breaking it, when I do get the chance. In the mean time, I keep working at raising my ability in the lift. As I challenge myself with my one rep max, my poundage keeps going up in the gym.

    I hope you take this advice and find your lift.

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

    *Fortunately, Durniat and I are in completely different weight classes and age groups, because he did almost twice the lift I did.

  • Add 50 Lbs To Your 1 Hand Deadlift

    I know. This sounds like one of those Joe Weedy-man ads that is too good to

    Finger Lift Ring
    Finger Lift Ring: Open Middle Finger

    be true. All I am going to do is tell you how I did it. It was amazingly simple.

    I decided that improving my One Hand Barbell Deadlift would improve all my other lifts. You see, if your grip is your weak point, it can throw off all the other body position angles in full body lifts. I could also aim for an American Record, by adding about 50 pounds. Thus I had a goal and an underlying reason for that goal.

    First, I looked at my current grip training. I was doing a lot of thick grip work and explosive lifting with Olympic bar sized handles. My regular 2 hand deadlift, clean grip pulls and trap bar deadlifting were all at least a hundred pounds over that record with training weights, so I knew it had to be a hand, wrist or forearm issue. I then looked up similar lifts in the USAWA Rule Book. I had never done any finger lifting, but many of the old time strongmen did.

    I simply added finger lifting to the end of my regular workouts, but I didn't go for max weight. The theory was that I had to build up the strength of a lot of very small muscles, ligaments and tendons. I would do only 1 set per finger or group of fingers, as I decided to lift with the ring finger and pinky finger as a single unit, because of the tendon and bone configuration in the hand. I used the exact body position and range of motion for the One Hand Barbell Deadlift. Equipment was simply the Finger Ring Weight Handle with the Olympic Loading Pin I sell.

    Finger Lift Grip Positions

    I soon found that there were essentially three different grip positions. I only did the finger lifting every other workout, but switched grips each time. The weight I used was as much as I could do during that workout for a minimum of ten reps. There was a lot of trial and error. If my limit for a particular grip and finger was only the ring, clevis and loading pin that day, so be it. Believe me, for the Open Pinky/Ring Finger position, there were days that the weight was so ridiculously light it seemed a complete waste of time, but I stuck to the program.

    3 Finger Lift Grips: Open, Hook and Lateral Pinch

    I also added the One Hand Barbell Deadlift into my routine every time I trained. I did only 2 Sets of Triples and periodized the lift with my other training, peaking a month before the contest and again on contest day. I gave myself five months to see how well I would do. It worked out so well, I still can't believe it.

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

  • Throwing Down a Pint

    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:

    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:

    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.”

  • 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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.”

  • 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.









    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".









    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.








    Step 4: Stand Up

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


  • 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:

    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:

    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.

  • Bull Moose Thick Bar Training

    Thick bar training is really becoming popular. Check out the photo of the Bull Moose Thick Bar we are selling, then check out this great little workout.

    Here is a very simple workout, but fantastic workout for your entire body, that will also fry your forearms and grip. All you need is a thick bar and plates, preferably they should be bumper plates.


    Warm-up with a little jogging and/or Indian Club swinging

    George Zottman: Grip Specialist
    George Zottman: Grip Specialist with his Thick Bar Equipment

    Thick Bar Hang Cleans 5 sets of 5

    Thick Bar Power Clean & Press 5 sets of 5

    Thick Bar High Pulls 3 sets of 3 (You should really be feel this in your forearms by now.)

    Thick Bar Deadlifts 5 sets of 2

    Thick Barbell Curls 3 sets of 10

    Roman Chair Sit-ups 5 sets of 10

    Stretch, especially the hands, wrists and forearms
    This will be sound very strange, but start your first hang cleans with just the empty bar. Add weight with every set and don't remove any weight until you get to the curls. You will have to make small jumps in weight as you are doing 18 sets. When you get to the deadlifts, use a conventional grip and you will be maxing out on that last set. It will really help to have a thick bar that rotates when you are doing the Olympic type movements.
    Here is the photo of our new Thick Grip Bar that will make you feel strong as a Bull Moose!
    All the best,

    Roger LaPointe

    "Today is a good day to lift."

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