This week we're discussing these wonderful pieces of equipment - if you're ready to get serious about your grip work, join us for Training With Grippers II.
See you there.
This week we're returning to a personal favourite, the world of hand grippers. What to get, what to do and so on. And if you've got any specific questions on your own gripper work, fire them in. We'll get through as many as we can.
Helping us explore this fascinating topic is none other than certified Mash Monster, Strongman and Personal Trainer Matt Hunt. Fantastic.
This week we're looking at Arm Training overall. What's involved, how it helps, and how to make sure it works for you. And if you've got any specific questions on your own arm training, fire them in. We'll get through as many as we can.
Helping us explore this fascinating topic is none other than Olympic athlete, personal trainer and nutritionist Maik Wiedenbach. Fantastic.
As a standalone grip session, or a part of other exercises. Good fun.
When it comes to recovery work though, I'm always in two minds as to what to do. Should the hands be treated separately, and if so, how? What sorts of techniques are available?
Helping us get a handle on things is Strongman, Mash Monster and Personal Trainer Matt Hunt. Fantastic.
Stabilization is EXTREMELY important when attempting to tear cards; if you do not have a solid grip on the deck, cards will start slipping and just attempting to get a nice tear started will be close to impossible. "What can I do to counter act this?!" you ask... well I have some exercise suggestions that will improve not only your stabilization but also your crushing strength:
Crimp grip around the worlds are an incredible way to build not only stability but also endurance, crushing strength, and wrist strength. Position two five pound plates or two ten pound plates together (depending on your current strength levels, you might have to start off with the two fives to gauge) and place only your four fingers overtop of the combined plates in a sort of steering wheel set up. The image above shows the grip set up...
The Gymchats are a mix of discussion and interview; looking at a different training-related topic each week. To take part, just add a question or comment to the main discussion thread (and the thread is announced in the newsletter, the forums and on Google+ itself - wherever you are, you'll see it).
NB : if you're a professional trainer, coach or athlete - and would like to share your experience with the fantastic audience here - I'd love to hear from you. Just post a comment below, or contact me privately.
For those who are new to these conversations, a quick definition : the Gymchats are weekly discussions (currently held on Google+) on a variety of fitness-related topics. Everything from nutrition to competition; if it relates to training, we'll be talking about it.
To give you an idea of what these look like, the most recent Gymchats have been listed below :
This week we're taking a look at this enigmatic activity, and finding out just what I'm missing out on. How to train for it and how it helps with other forms of
your training (and overall condition). Fantastic.
Gymchat 144 - Training at Home
Conversation on Wed Nov 16, 9pm EDT (1am UTC)
This week we're returning to our conversation on Training at Home - equipment & space required, sharing progress and getting feedback. The many ways to make the most of what's available. Fantastic.
Gymchat 143 - Strength Training Over 40
Raymond Ho, interviewed by Kirk Fontaine
Conversation on Wed Nov 9, 9pm EST (2am GMT)
This week we'll be returning to our discussion, looking at the nutritional, recovery, injury and equipment considerations related to training at this age. Everything that will help make sure you're stronger, healthier and in generally better condition in your 40s (and onward) than you are/were in your 20s.
Gymchat 142 - Fitness & Autism
Eric Chessen, interviewed by Kirk Fontaine
Conversation on Wed Nov 2, 9pm EST (2am GMT)
This week we'll be returning to our discussion on training approaches, focusing on the many aspects of fitness other than the lifting itself. What's your current diet like, and do you take any supplements? What sort of music do you listen to whilst training, or do you prefer to lift in silence? Other than getting a good nights' sleep, how do you recover after a heavy session?
This week we're continuing our discussion on Hand Strength, focusing on the Grip Training side of things. What it is, why it's important and how to go about it. Fantastic.
Gymchat 138 - Hand Strength
Conversation on Wed Oct 5, 9pm EDT (1am UTC)
This week we're taking an in-depth look at all aspects of Hand Strength. What it is, why it's important and how to train for it. Fantastic.
Gymchat 137 - Grip, Clubs & Health
Conversation on Wed Sep 28, 9pm EDT (1am UTC)
This week we're taking a look at this superb partnership, particularly when it comes to using equipment such as clubs. Beautiful things.
Recently a very strong and more importantly very promising and dedicated client of mine was going to take a holiday weekend in Las Vegas. She was not happy to be missing training. Nor was she actually interested in Vegas. She is someone who wants to train as frequently as possible and since I had watched some interviews with John Broz and read a bit on his site, I suggested she pay a visit to his gym.
Little did I know that she would follow through with my suggestion. And little did I know how spending two days with Broz would change her and profoundly influence how I coach my athletes.
From what I garnered from my client (I will call her G.), as soon as she stepped to the platform Broz knew that her challenges were going to be psychological and not physical. He had a heart-to-heart talk with her about her aspirations and insisted that she decide upon lifetime goals as soon as possible. Apparently he demands this of all his athletes and made no exception for someone whom he would only be seeing for a day or two. In the time we had worked together G. had always been very timid when approaching the bar. She possessed little confidence in her abilities to perform the required task. Yet, as the bar got heavier, she without exception pulled performances out of herself that I and bystanders in the gym found no less than ferocious and astonishing. Without digressing too much Broz made an estimation of what she needed within minutes of making her acquaintance and proceeded to provide her with some tools to rectify it. He then took her far out of her comfort zone and got her to pull a deadlift PR of something in the order of twenty pounds. I am sure it wasn't pretty but it served as a kind of limit experience and showed her what she is capable of.
When G. returned and related her experiences I immediately began to compare my own more conservative and protective practices as a coach to what Broz was doing. I grasped how good at psychology Broz was and realized that, though I have very good reasons for being more conservative in my own approach, it was time for me to start pushing out at the edges a little harder and see what would come of it. For me as a coach the Broz experience served as a lesson in how we must pay as much attention to mental development as physical. I feel that though Broz is getting more exposure of late for his approach to programming we must not overlook how his approach and the "Bulgarian" approach more broadly both requires and develops a very courageous attitude towards ones training.
Alongside a shift in attitude, G.'s visit to Average Broz Gym is also having a large impact on how I have been training my athletes. This influence I am calling The Bulgarianization Experiment. I consider it an "experiment" because I am both enthusiastic and skeptical. Skeptical because so many of my influences and mentors advocate heavy training no more than two or three times weekly and because of the claims that daily (or several times daily) squatting and training to a maximum only works with those of a very high genetic suitability and with the use of anabolics and other PEDs. Enthusiastic because Bulgarian-inspired training seems to be working for many of the top weightlifting clubs in the US, and these clubs are subjected to very rigorous drug-testing. This approach to training is refreshing compared to the three-days weekly regimes most popular amongst strength coaches in North America. Bulgarian lifters are exciting to watch and have been inordinately successful on the international stage. I doubt that the drugs they had access to were better than that of their competitors. Finally I have a number of athletes who wish to train near daily. Training in a Bulgarian-influenced style has allowed me to give them serious hard training as often as they are able to come into the gym. I have been able to dispense with upper/lower splits and excessive accessory exercises which I never really felt convinced by in the first place. Indeed it is both possible and useful to squat everyday.
I have been using Bulgarian Training-Lite and Bulgarian influences with three types of athletes.
I think I've discovered a new word for Webster's Dictionary: GripWalking. My word processor doesn't like it. Well for a number of years carrying small (or large) weights for distance has been used by strength enthusiasts. The "Farmers Walk" is a familiar strongman (300+ lbs) exercise, although I have heard of carrying a "Fat Man" Blob (end of a 100 lb Roundhead 50+ lbs) about 91 feet. As hunter-gatherers 50,000 yrs ago we certainly carried spears and rocks as weapons, so we're made to do this.
That's a bit much for my term GripWalking. I'm talking about < 15 lbs in one hand at a time, switching hands, and walking a couple of miles. Small dumbbells <5 lbs have been used to walk with, although they are held in the usual fashion not requiring a persistent grip effort.
The most common form is to carry 1 or 2 lbs in each hand, not much for gripping. If you bump up the weight (5 to 10 lbs), use a round object that requires grip effort, now you're talking about GripWalking. I've started this after training with many grip tools: hand crushers up to 250#, Blobs, plates sideways, and balls 3" to 5". Various GripWalking objects are seen in this photo:
The steel ball bearings are what I use but are somewhat pricey. They are also used for massage of sore muscles. I started with a 3.5" ball bearing @ 6.4 lbs and have worked up to a 4" @ 9.5 lbs. I have a 5" @ 18.5 lbs, but can't hold it long enough, establishing my limits for GripWalking. Here's what I do normally:
I got married and had two children - a son & daughter - in the 70's. I always impressed upon them the importance of weight training as the fastest way to keep in shape and boost your morale. In the 80's & 90's I returned now and then to weights even visiting York Barbell and meeting Bob Hoffman before he passed away. My son started weight training and played varsity football. He still lifts. My daughter also uses weights and kettlebells. My influence worked!
Okay, not really that long. I had always been a pretty skinny, weak chump for my younger years, but come freshman year of high school I decided to do something about it.
I had goofed around with weights a couple years prior to get stronger for ice hockey, but it wasn't until that one fateful year that the bug had officially bit me. It wasn't until - believe it or not - I went on the internet, and for whatever reason did a search for weight lifting (I don't remember the exact term), but I started looking around at what came up and stumbled across a forum dedicated to strength and bodybuilding. It was here that I discovered how strong the Average Joe actually could be, without pharmaceutical assistance. I was benching about 135lbs at the time, and these guys were benching 315+ for countless reps. I started looking for ways to achieve this great strength, and well the rest is history.
Ever since then I've been hitting the heavy squats, deadlifts, benches, rows, overhead presses, all the movements that anyone should be doing in their quest to become abnormally strong.
Everything was going great (for the most part), but then my love for the game basically tripled when I discovered the awesomeness of strongman. Lifting big ass rocks like a caveman, walking with 800lbs on your back, moving tires the smart way (flipping them, rather than rolling them), all gave me the biggest rush imaginable, along with a fresh new incredibly fun variation of the traditional barbell squat.
There have been some superb articles in that time (my favourites are listed below), as well as training logs, product reviews, forum discussions and of course the twitterchats. It's really been (and continues to be) an incredible ride.
Before we dive in to the list itself, a quick word on the content : while it's quality stuff, there's a lot of it. Feel free to pick out your favourites, bookmark them, add them to Instapaper/Evernote/Pinboard; Stumble them and share them with your friends. Dive in.
While they're meant to give you that razor's edge of strength, if you don't have a barbell then they are still a fantastic overall strength building tool that you can train with. It's much better to lift only odd objects and still get pretty damn strong than to do nothing.
Using these monsters will work the hell out of your body's stabilizing muscles, the ones you never knew you even had. You're working them much harder in completely different ways from how a barbell ever could because it's so perfectly balanced, and they don't work the all-important stabilizers.
Your stabilizers do just that, they stabilize. They contract isometrically to support your body under a load. This is why manual laborers can be so strong, because they work the heck out of their muscles and stabilizers the way barbells can't. An opposing lineman in the sport of football isn't going to push against you in a perfectly balanced fashion like a barbell will; they're going to be fighting you in all different directions. Lifting odd objects will give you advantage over any Joe who only lifts barbells, no matter who you are.
To round out your training, in addition to barbells you must train with odd objects, such as rocks, sandbags and kegs. These are very awkward objects to train with, so your body will adapt as so. Use of them will also help to improve your grip strength tremendously.
Lifting a barbell isn't nearly the same thing as trying to shoulder a 200lb sandbag or pressing a beer keg that's half filled with water. They're unbalanced objects that shift around, fighting you every step of the way. Almost as if it were alive. You have to do so by sheer power and control, because there isn't any comfortable way of balancing with each object, because you have to do that yourself. They'll keep shifting around, making themselves nearly impossible to control. If you can't clean and press that sandbag, then you can't do it. There is no bouncing or cheating, just pure grit and determination. Odd objects are a terrific solution on how one can go about building farm boy, pig wrastlin' strength that allows you to move damn near anything you want.
Now when I first read about the NSD Powerballs and their promises of everything from joint rehab to building powerful hands and wrist I was a little skeptical. I mean really? As a Professional Armwrestler I found it hard to believe that I was going to feel anything more then a little Sunday afternoon forearm pump, but like many non-mainstream sports athletes I'm game to give almost anything a try if it means sports improvement. So I bought a couple NSD Powerballs and here are my reviews.
I started out with the 250Hz Powerball with the speed counter. The 250Hz is a plastic lightweight gyro that is easy to start with the starter cord or thumb start (once I saw a "how to" video on YouTube). Happy to say the forearm pump was fast and my hands & wrists got a really good workout after just a couple sets. The speed meter (to measure your rpm) attached on top made the workout a lot of fun because I kept on trying to top my high RPM score (some addiction there lol). The 250 Hz is the kind of powerball you can use a lot and almost everyday as it gives you the perfect low impact workout. At $40 it's a bargain for the kind of workout you'll get again and again.
Next up is the 350Hz lightweight metal powerball, aka "The Raptor". The raptor shows up in a beautiful protective case, extra parts, and some fun goodies. The Raptor reminds me of the movie Jurassic Park when the old guy says "nothing but the best" because it's amazing. Gold plated, computer balanced so it runs smooth and is the fastest Gyro on the planet. (The world record is 20,090 rpms by Akis Kritsinelis). Even with my years of hand and wrist training just hitting 15k was a mega workout, burning up my forearms in minutes. At $190 the Raptor is a little pricey so it may not be your first NSD choice but after trying some of the other products you'll be putting the Raptor on your Christmas list.
In this half of a two-part series, I'm going to look at some simple ways to build yourself a sandbag using cheap supplies and an afternoon of labor. Part two of the series will discuss training philosophy, technique and program design.
Sand is still the classic option for filling a bag, and it is easy to find when you need more. The trade off is clean up, which can be a hassle if the bag breaks. You will need a large volume of sand to make a very heavy bag, but that's not a big deal. When I built my home-made sandbag, all I did was go down to the beach and swipe some. Didn't spend a dime.