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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Birthday Challenge - By Jim Duggan

I have always been a huge admirer of many of the legendary figures of the Iron Game. Men like John Grimek, Bob Hoffman, Jack LaLanne, Herman Goerner, Norbert Schemansky, and Bruno Sammartino to name just a few. I was fortunate in that the first commercial gym at which I trained, Bruno's Health Club, was dedicated to the premise of no nonsense, drug-free training. And, as I have written numerous times, the only equipment used was from York Barbell. And, even though I only trained at Bruno's for about five years, my appreciation for the idea of old time Physical Culture has only grown over the years. The stature of the legends that I listed above has only risen in the intervening years.

I remember reading about some of Bob Hoffman's strength-feasts, which usually coincided with his birthday. I also vividly recall some of Jack LaLanne's birthday feats, especially in his later years. In recent years, I have tried to honor the memory of Bob and Jack by trying various challenges on my birthday. This year's birthday was no different, except for the fact that I was turning fifty. A milestone. The big 5-0! Big deal. You see, age means almost nothing to me. I feel no differently now than I did ten years ago, when I turned forty. It was no big deal then, and it's no big deal now. I truly believe that age is only a number. Even when it comes to working out. Whether you are twenty, thirty, or fifty, there is only one way to train, and that is all-out. And, if you are familiar with the stories of the gentlemen that I mentioned at the beginning if this article, you will know that a little thing like getting older can not deter you from doing great things.

I wanted to make this birthday challenge special. I wanted to do several movements, combining an exercise I do regularly, a movement a do a little less often, and something that I rarely do. I came up with the following: Stone lifting-lifting a 180 Lb. granite stone to my shoulder. One-Arm Dumbbell Press with a 88 Lb. thick-handled dumbbell. And Anvil Curl using a 100 Lb. anvil. The idea was simple, starting with the granite stone, I would do five reps, then go immediately to the thick-handled dumbbell for five reps with each hand, then go straight to the anvil for five reps of curls. After the curls, I would rest about a minute then begin again for a total of ten sets. 50 reps of each ( yes it sounds trite, 50 reps on my 50th birthday, but it was the best I could come up with!)

Lifting stones is something I enjoy doing. I try to do various size stones every week or two during the warm weather months. Today, it felt easy at first. Maybe because I'm used to using heavier stones. I'm not sure, but, in any event, the stone was going up easy at first. Even the dumbbell presses went well. I use one if my shot loaded Dumbbells that I purchased years ago. I have it loaded with BBs to a weight of 88 Lbs.. I do the presses in strict fashion- no cheating, bending, or leg drive ( just like John Grimek always advocated.) the anvil was almost too easy at first, so I adjusted the reps. Instead of five reps of curls, I did ten. Incidentally, I almost never do curls. I couldn't tell you the last time I did curls in the gym ( I realize that this would sound blasphemous to a typical toner in a commercial gym, but I really do find them to be a drag.) Anyway, as the sets progressed, I felt strong until about the fifth set or so. After that, it became work. Especially the presses. It was not too hot outside, thankfully, so the heat did not play a factor in my workout. By about the eighth set, I was really fighting on the stone, and the presses. The curls went easy ( of all things, the one movement I never do was proving to be the easiest.) The final two sets were very hard work, as I tried to keep up the pace. My hands were particularly fatigued, especially having to clean a dumbbell with a 2-1/2" handle. But I was determined to keep my form strict. By the end of the last set, I felt exhausted, but oddly euphoric. I even decided to add one extra set of stone lifts, just for good luck. So my totals were as follows:

180 Lb. Granite Stone - 55 reps total

88 Lb. Thick DB - 50 reps

100 Lb. Anvil Curl - 100 reps

Not a bad workout. And, by the way, it took me a little less than ninety minutes to complete the whole thing. And aside from some soreness, and some nice abrasions on my forearms (courtesy of the granite stone), I seem to be no worse for the wear. And while none of us can stop the clock from ticking, there is no reason why we can't continue to train hard.