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Monday, August 1, 2016

Anvil and Stone - By Jim Duggan

Over the years, I have tried to challenge myself each year on my birthday. I remember reading about the legendary feats of Jack LaLanne, and also Bob Hoffman. They would each celebrate their birthday in a meaningful way. And for anybody who follows the ideals of Strength, Health, and Physical Culture, "meaningful" is a cheerful euphemism for working out brutally hard. And while I would never consider towing a flotilla of 70 rowboats during a mile-long swim with my hands shackled, I do try to come up with meaningful. And challenging.

One of my favorite ways of challenging myself is with Stones. Atlas stones have been a staple in Strongman Contests for many years. My first close encounter with stone-lifting was at the AOBS Reunion Dinner of 1999. It was there, at the old Downtown Athletic Club, that Steve Jeck put on an impressive display of stone-lifting. After the dinner, but before heading to Peter Luger's with Bob Whelan and Drew Israel ( yes, we went to dinner AFTER the dinner!) I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with Mr. Jeck. It was then that I was inspired to get my hands on some granite atlas stones. To make a long story short, about a month or so later, a nice, brand new 220 Lb. Granite Sphere was delivered to my house. Over the years I have added to my collection to the point where I now am the proud owner of five spheres. They range in weight from 145 Lbs. to 300 Lbs. Each one has a specific use. The lighter stones are usually used for rep work, while the heavier ones are meant for maximal attempts. But even when my workout calls for a series of heavy singles with the heavier stones, the smaller ones serve a useful purpose for warming up. 

As far as Anvils are concerned, my collection is limited to two. For now. I have a 100 Lb., and a 165 Lb. Anvil. I was first introduced to anvil-lifting by Dr. Ken. I remember reading an article in an old issue of Muscular Development. Like all of his articles, it was well-written and contained a lot of quality training information. A few years later, I had the good fortune to meet Dr. Ken and join the Iron Island Gym. And, tucked away in a corner of the gym, was one of his anvils. That was the first time I had ever actually seen an anvil up-close and personal. Prior to joining Iron Island, the only anvils I had ever seen was on the old Warner Bros. cartoons when Wiley Coyote was trying to drop them on the Road Runner. There is no desert on Long Island where I live, so the Road Runner can breathe easily. I won't be trying to drop one on him. But I do like to use my anvils as a workout tool from time to time. Cartoons aside, I do remember reading somewhere that the anvil can be accurately described as the American manhood stone. Perhaps we don't have a history of stones like they do in Europe. But we definitely have a history with anvils. Incidentally, I would love to get a few more anvils, but they are quite expensive.

Anyway, getting to the workout. I had wanted to rep out with the 180 Lb. Stone for a while. My previous best was 80 reps, done over the course of 90 minutes or so. For my birthday, my goal was to hit 100 reps. The movement itself is quite simple: Lift the stone from the ground and shoulder it. Of course, actually doing it 100 times is something else entirely. My plan was to break it down over many sets. I would do anywhere from 5 to 12 reps with the Stone. I would then go inside and perform 15 Hindu Push-ups. I would then go to the 100 Lb. Anvil and, using my Neck Harness, do a set of 12-15 reps. After the neck work, I would rest about minute, then continue. So the workout itself looked like this:

180 Stone x 100 Reps
100 Lb. Anvil x 100 Reps
Hindu Push-Ups x 100 Reps

Upon beginning the workout, I was surprised that I was lifting the stone pretty easily. One of the problems I encounter is that when I drop the stone to the ground, it does roll around from time to time. The combination of hard ground, and spherical stone being dropped from shoulder height will cause the stone to roll around a bit. Of course, if the ground is soft, there will be the inevitable craters. Not good for the footing. There is also the issue of dirt and sweat. I did have to wipe off my forearms at regular intervals. The weather was hot and humid, but it didn't really affect me. I did try to keep hydrated. Of course I did not use a belt, gauntlets, or tacky. And, yes, my forearms took a beating  ( as they usually do when I do high-rep stone workouts.) I was very happy that I was able to maintain a good rhythm and strong pace throughout the workout. I was able to complete the entire workout in less than two hours. Afterward, I was completely sore, as one could imagine. 

While not everybody might have access to stones, we all are capable of challenging ourselves. Whether it be lifting weights, shouldering stones, running long distances, or swimming a mile with your hands shackled while towing 70 rowboats, we all have the potential to better ourselves. And while I may not be a Spring chicken at 52 years old, I am proud to say that I haven't let myself become old. Nor have I lost the desire to challenge myself.
BODY • MIND • SPIRIT