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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Anvils and CMBs: A New Twist On Old Exercises - By Jim Duggan

Anyone who has trained for any length of time knows that there are certain exercises that must be included in any meaningful training program. For instance, anybody wishing to gain size and strength would be foolish not to include plenty of Squats, Bench Presses, and some sort of heavy pulling movement. Certain basic exercises should be performed from the onset of anyone's training regimen, and these movements have to be performed throughout his/her lifting career. Every aspiring bodybuilder needs to perform many sets of Squats. You will simply not build size or mass without doing them. If you want to develop your shoulders, you need to press. You can do all the lateral raises you want, but for sheer size, overhead presses must be a staple in your exercise routine. Likewise, if you want to build a thick, muscular back, some form of pulling must be done from the very onset. Deadlifts, Bent-Over Rowing, High-Pulls are the key movements for building size. You can do cable rows until the cows come home, and you will not build a strong, well-developed lower back.

As much as most experienced trainees appreciate the basic exercises, and the fact that so many of us have been doing them for so long indicate a strong appreciation for them, there are the inevitable times when we sometimes become bored, or even stale from performing on such a continual basis. Let's face it, we are all human. Constantly performing set after set of the same movements will test even the most enthusiastic of lifters. And while there are remedies for the boredom that occurs, like varying the rep schemes, or changing the frequency with which the movement is performed, it still boils down to doing the same thing. One thing that has helped me over the years is to perform the same exercises, but with different modalities. Bench Presses can be performed with a thick bar, log bar, or specially shaped bar that changes the hand positioning. Deadlifts can be done with a trap-bar, or hex-bar. Overhead presses can be done with a thick bar, or log bar, or even sand bags. If you've read Dinosaur Training by Brooks Kubik, you can find many excellent ways to build strength using barrels, beams, and sand bags and other interesting items. When I trained at Dr. Ken's Iron Island Gym there were many "toys" to play with in terms of building strength. Heavy I-Beams with welded handles, torpedoes with handles, specialty bars of varying weights and thicknesses. There was absolutely no way to ever get bored at that gym, and the fact that I had some of the best workouts of my life are proof of that.

There was one particular item that caught my eye the very first time I entered Iron Island. In one corner of the gym, sitting on a steel stand, was an anvil. It wasn't especially large- around fifty pounds or so- but it stood out. Upon seeing it for the first time, I remembered an article that Dr. Ken had written for Muscular Development magazine where he described using anvils as an unorthodox tool for building incredible strength. Curls, presses, in addition to using mallets to pound the anvil until your forearms felt like they were going to fall off, were easily done with an anvil. Little did I know at the time I read the article, that I would have the pleasure of using the very anvil that Dr. Ken had written about. Of course, back then, obtaining an anvil was not an easy thing to do. Ebay, Craigslist and the like were not in existence. If you wanted to get your hands on an anvil, you would have to locate a farrier supply store. Unfortunately, farriers are not often found in suburban shopping malls. But, in today's world of technology, anvils and such are simply a click away ( maybe several clicks, and a considerable amount of money.) Anyway, they are readily available if you are willing to look. I must admit, until I read that Muscular Development article about anvil-lifting, my only exposure to anvils was from watching Wiley Coyote trying to drop them on the Road Runner in the old Warner Bros. cartoons. But I quickly developed an appreciation for the benefits that be gained from using an anvil. And, I am proud to say, that over the years I have used anvils in my training from time to time. Today, I am the proud owner of three anvils of different sizes.

There are several ways to train with an anvil, but the movements I use them for are curls and neck work. Curls are fairly straight-forward. Grasp the anvil with an underhand grip, and curl the anvil the same way you would a barbell. A little cheating is permitted. And I mean just that. A little. Do not swing your entire body just to complete the reps. Depending on the size of the anvil, your hand spacing may be different from what you would normally use for barbell curls. Don't worry. Just work into it slowly, and don't try to do too much at once. If you develop your strength to the point where the reps are getting too easy, you can simply wrap a chain around the anvil to provide additional resistance.

Another way that I like to use anvils is to use them to train my neck. Training and strengthening my neck has become a challenge for me. While I have always had an awareness for the importance of neck work, in the past six months or so, I have devoted an increasing amount of time and effort to training this crucial bodypart. And the hard work has paid off. I'm using heavier weights for my neck exercises, and my shirts are increasingly difficult to button at the top. As far as using the anvil for neck work, I would simply wrap a chain around my anvil and hook it to my neck harness. I would train it in one of two ways. The first way would be to simply do several sets of 10-20 reps. I would never try to use a weight that I couldn't do for at least ten reps. The second- and more interesting- way I used my anvil for neck training was to include it in the "Deck of Cards" Workout. I described this in a previous article. The Headstrap was one of four exercises performed as part of this workout. I tried to move through the workout as quickly as possible, yet I am always aware of maintaining proper form. While there are other ways to use an anvil, these two movements- Curls and Neck work- are my two favorites.

Another tool that has made my workouts more interesting are Center Mass Bells ( CMB ). They seem to have been around for only a short time, and there are two companies that sell them. At least that I am aware of. I purchased mine about a year ago from Sorinex Exercise Equipment. I originally purchased two sizes: 50 and 60 Lbs.. I later purchased larger ones ( 70, 90, 100). I can honestly say that I love training with these things. They provide a somewhat different feel than regular dumbbells. I have heard them described as a cross between dumbbells and kettlebells. I can't really verify that statement. I never developed an interest in using kettlebells. Even when they were all the rage about ten years ago, I never got into using them. But the CMBs are a different story. I like the feel of them, and they are effective in several exercise movements. I will usually do one of several movements with them. My favorite exercise with the CMBs is to do dumbbell presses with them. Many times I will vary the movement and do alternate dumbbell presses. I like the parallel grip that the CMBs allow you to use. The biggest challenge is sometimes making sure that your hands are centered on the handles, otherwise they will rub against the edges. Another great movement to do is to perform hammer curls with them. Again, they are similar to dumbbellls yet at the same time, they allow a slight difference in how the exercise feels. I think that using them in this manner will develop great strength in your arms as well as your forearms. The last way to use the CMBs is to use the heavier ones for dumbbell rowing. This is another movement that I will sometimes incorporate into the "Deck of Cards" workout routine. I haven't used them for this often, but I have found that you can vary your hand position while using CMBs. Using a dumbbell, you're pretty much limited in how you hold the weight. With the CMBs, you can rotate your hand position thereby increasing the effectiveness of the movement.

There are any number of movements you can perform with the CMBs, and the only thing limiting you is your imagination. Or, if you don't have any imagination, go to Youtube and look up CMB workouts and you will find plenty of ways to get a great workout. Most of the movements are variations of the basic exercises. Some are unique to the individual piece of equipment. Anvils and Center Mass Bells have been a great addition to my training arsenal. I enjoy using them, and, in addition to my stones, I look forward to using them even more.