Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Battle for Grip Supremacy - By Dan Cenidoza

Originally posted on NaturalStrength.com on September 13, 2003

The line up was incredible, hardy handshakes all around. Men from all over gathered in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to participate in what would be turn out to be a historical event in the strongman specialty division of grip sports. The prize table was loaded with everything from swords, to equipment, to autographed books and sat out front of a garage full of various shaped iron. The sun gleamed through the trees making for an incredible 75 degree Saturday afternoon in the country. The mood was set.

Besides rec. league lacrosse and games of pick-up basketball, this was my first competition. I was more anxious than nervous but with the adrenaline flowing like it was, I couldn't tell the difference. Going into the contest I knew I had little chance of winning and that was proven to me the night before when the Inch Replica was toyed with by several of the guys and nearly pressed overhead. My goal was to place in the top six.

12:00 sharp the first event begins... grippers.

To get an idea of the caliber of this contest, 9 out of the 12 competitors closed a #3 Captains of Crush gripper or higher! Awesome. Four of these men mashed the Beef Builder Elite gripper but first place went to Tommy Heslep with his tie breaking hold of 8.87 seconds. Second place was awarded to Dave Morton with 6.37 seconds, third to Rob "monkey paws" W. Vigeant with 5.42 seconds and fourth place to big Steve McGranahan. Fifth place was shared by "Napalm" Jedd Johnson and Rob "midget hands" F. Vigeant for their big efforts on the widest, hardest #3 gripper I've ever laid eyes on. Rick Walker and I both closed a single stamped #3 to bring us to the tie breaking hold with him mashing for 11.52 seconds and me barely edging him out with 13.90 seconds. (Think all #3 grippers are made the same... think again, there was a world of difference between the two that were contested.) Eighth place went to John Mannino with a PDA 387 close, ninth place shared by Canadian Jonathan McMillian and James "smitty" Smith with their filed #2 close. Tenth place went to "little big man" 16 year old Tommy Wilkins who was a hair shy of closing the #2.

10 minute rest period and on to the two-hand pinch.

At this point my adrenaline had leveled off and I felt relatively calm and focused. I was confident in my pinching strength and I knew, or I thought, I would place well. That was until big John called out 200 pounds for his first attempt! We had been talking a few minutes before and he said he'd be going for 300. I didn't believe he could do it, no way! Though he seemed confident enough, he missed his first attempt. I felt sorry for him since he wouldn't be able to lower his weight and it looked as if he was doomed for last place but it was a relief to know that he was human after all. So much for that, he pulled it on his second attempt but made too big of a jump to 227 and was done.

As for me, I played it safe. I was strategic with my attempts. I took modest jumps as I approached my previous best and slowly inched by it as I compared my weights to the other competitors. I wanted to do 1.25 pounds more than anyone I may have tied with, or lost to if I wasn't careful. I made my way to 192 pounds, 12 pounds higher than my best in training. We had two minutes for each attempt, I pinched and I pulled. It was not to be. I tried again... nothing. I remembered in training that I found I could do more when I focused my eyes as well as my attention on my hands. Up it went. I topped out at 192 with the crease of my thumb chaffed and hurting. 197 was not to be. I placed fifth behind Monkey Paws (212), Big Steve and Tommy (207), Midget hands (198.25), John and Napalm (197). Rick and Dave (177) shared 7th, Jonathan (172) at 8th, the little big man (132) at 9th and smitty (127) bringing us in at 10th.

10 minutes rest until thick dumbbell deadlifts.

By now I was dragging ass. It wasn't that I was fatigued, but the pinching had lasted what seemed like forever. Some of the guys had about 7 attempts before bowing out. The adrenaline had came and went and I was in withdrawal. A cup of green tea did me good before the next event. Maybe a little too good. I was rearing to go now. I had tried the bell out the night before and the handle felt smaller than the one I had been using in training. I guesstimated my handle at 2.5 inches of duct tape wrapping, this one felt like 2.3 but Rick assured us it was 2.5 inches in diameter. The handle definitely wasn't as slick as the duct tape, I figured I would do really good this time around.

I started modestly at 110. Cake, didn't even need chalk. Same thing with 120 and 130, which was my previous best in training. 140 went up just as easy and I confidently called for 150 for my next attempt. Big difference, big mistake. I let myself get a little too cocky, a little too confident and I just couldn't get that bell up. I gave it everything I had and I lost a nice chunk of skin off my thumb in the process. I placed 8th. Rob W. pulled 180, Big Steve got 165, Dave at 160, Jedd with 157.5, Tommy at 155, John had 150, Rick with 147.5, Rob F. shared 8th place with me at 140, Jonathan got 130, James 120 and little big man topped out at 90.

Things were not looking good for me at this point. The next event was nail bending, not my forte. Where most of the events big hands are an advantage, in nail bending you lose leverage. I knew I wouldn't place well in this event, I hadn't been training properly and I just plain suck at bending!

10 minutes rest and on we go.

I started off with the easiest nail available, the Ironmind white nail. Yes, it was easy. The green was a walk in the park as well. Next in line was the yellow nail, which I've never got past 30 degrees in training. Today was different, I gave it all I had it yielded to my will. You might not think a half an inch would make a big difference but the 6.5-inch yellow stopped me dead in my tracks. I gave it all I had and I was pretty sure I injured my wrists in the process. As I awaited my next attempt, I paid close attention to the style the other competitors were using to bend. I had never seen the technique that the others were using but everyone seemed to be using it. With the nail held high and strait up, they were using the strength of their opposite lat to pull the nail down away from themselves as they rotated their palm down. It made sense and when I tried it the 6.5-inch yellow that defeated me moments before, this time it gave.

For my next attempt all I had wanted to do was move up another place. Jed had failed at a 6.25 and I figured if I could "U" that one I'd edge him out. For a full two minutes I summoned every bit of intensity I could muster. Veins were popping, I was sweating profusely and screaming with effort and agony from the nail digging into my hands. The end result, 30 degrees maybe. Didn't matter much anyway because Jedd went on to bend 5.75" blue... and that only earned him eighth place! There was some serious bending going on! Big Steve put a hurtin' on the red nail, about 115 degrees! Rob F. bent a 4.5 blue, Tommy a 4.75", Rob W. got 90 degrees on the same, John made a "U" out of a 5 incher just barely beating Dave and Rick by a few degrees. Smitty, who has never successfully bent a nail before, slammed a 6 inch yellow nail and a blue nail! True, they're exactly the same, but the fact remains, he did it twice! Incredible! I was awarded 10th place with Jonathan taking 11th with a yellow and little big man taking 12th with a 4.5" green!

The final event was the farmers hold for time, 310 an arm and I was in eighth place, things were not looking good for me. I didn't worry, I was confident. I only had a few sessions to train the hold, but I felt I had accomplished much in my preparations. I needed to come in first... I was going to come in first! As everyone warmed up I paced back and forth asking the Lord to give me strength. I took a pull or two off the ground to prepare myself... I was so pumped! Rick had told us all he planned on winning this event and that he was shooting for 2 minutes. He saw me pacing and asked what I was going for. I told him 2:05. We chuckled for a second and I went back to my pacing.

During this time 7 guys had went before me. Big Steve held the lead with 37.40 seconds barely beating out Rob W. by .04 of a second!! This actually made the difference of first and second place overall! Tommy H. held for 5.10 seconds, and Rob F. who doesn't even train anything but his grip got 26.16 seconds! Dave held 28.00 seconds his first time touching this much weight barely losing to Jedd with 28.20. John had it for 26.16 seconds and I was up! I was so ready!!!

Approaching the weight I noticed that my fiancée wasn't around. I paced a little longer but I was starting to hold things up. I asked Jedd to find her for me, I didn't want her miss my last performance, which would turn out to be my best, and she confirmed later that she would have been upset if she missed it. Her and Jedd came around the corner and I stepped to the platform.

The weight was rested on cinder blocks so I didn't have far to pull. I was given the option of having it handed to me but I neglected. I asked the timekeeper to give me the time at 30 seconds and every 10 afterwards. I had high hopes on this one. I started my pull and began my hold. The weight felt good. I positioned myself in the hunchback and calmly held on. I don't remember all that went through my mind in what seemed like an eternity, all I recall is thinking WIN! Thirty seconds went by like nothing and then all of a sudden, it got heavy... real heavy. I began to strain. I felt my face contort and my neck begin to bulge. My eyes were shaking when the timekeeper finally called 40 seconds. I had to go longer! Everyone was cheering and yelling, yet everything seemed so quiet. My hands hurt and my arms felt like they were beginning to rip off. I managed another 3.06 seconds before I finally gave. What a relief it was putting that weight down and realizing that I had taken the lead. It was great, and I thanked God.

Next up was Rick, this was to be his event and though I wanted him to do well, I surely didn't want him to beat me. I walked back and forth in the outskirts as I was catching my breath. I heard the timekeeper call out 30 seconds, he still looked strong. I took my eyes away for a moment when I heard the weight come crashing to the ground. Total time: 38.58 seconds... I had retained the lead and beat Rick by 5 seconds! I was so happy! I glanced over the scorecard to see where that put me and I was one point away for being tied for 6th place with Jedd.

By this time Jonathan was well into his hold. He had been one that doubted his ability on this event but was going on strong! I realized if he placed above Jedd that would bump him down a point, tying us for sixth place! I ran over and started screaming at him to hold! I don't think he needed my encouragement because he stood there smiling, shaking his head up and down, grunting "yeah" with a cherry colored face. Would you believe it, the Canadian wonder, who at first was unsure of himself held on to 620 pounds for 32.94 seconds, eh! That was good enough to rob Jedd of a point!

After smitty and the little big man totaled 3.10 seconds and the event was finally over, I still paced back and forth, as pumped and as excited as ever. The night was not over, not even close. Rick had cash prizes for anyone who could deadlift the blob or clean and press the inch. The same held for a #4 close or a "U" of the red nail. I had little chance of any except for the blob and even though I had lifted it the night before, today's events proved to be take enough out of me to make all efforts futile.

Everyone moved to the garage for the awards. The keg was tapped and the pig stuffed with sour kraut and kielbasa slowly began to vanish. Final standings were:

1st place: Steve McGranahan with 23 points 2nd place: Robert W. Vigeant with 22 points. 3rd place: Tommy Heslep with 17 points 4th place: Dave Morton with 11 points 5th Place: Robert F. Vigeant with 11 points 6th place: Dan Cenidoza with 9 points 7th place: Jedd Johnson with 9 points 8th place: Rick Walker with 6 points 9th place: John Mannino with 6 points 10th place: Jonathan McMillan with 2 points 11th place: James Smith 0 points 12th place: Tommy Wilkins 0 points

We hung out in the garage until past midnight doing various feats of strength. I'm not sure if I had more fun competing or playing around in the garage. Big Steve broke wrenches and horseshoes and bent 100 penny nails into various shapes. 'Monkey Paws' did one handed chins while holding a 37.5lb blob by the face! Midget hands jumped from a bench and caught the rafters for some chins. Guys were lifting 120lb anvils by the horn, two at a time. Sledge hammers were levered and 4 inch thickbars were toyed with overhead. It was the perfect ending for a perfect day. Thanks to all those who were a part of it!

Physical Culture Books.com
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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Something to Remember - By Tom Edwards

Originally posted on NaturalStrength.com on January 1, 2004

With so much written-material available, both in print and over the net, on range of motion, locking-out, holding each rep at the top if pressing, pausing between reps, and changing exercises to make them harder, amongst other things, you would think they are topics worth discussing in exhausting detail. The truth is, they are not.

Once you can master safe training, and work hard at each set so that you can effectively train each muscle group, without taking liberties, and pain-free, you can train that way for years. One does not need to concentrate on locking out at the top of a dumbbell shoulder press if that causes the individual harm. One hardly needs to squad at a level below what is comfortable, and to do so in order to make the exercise harder, is foolish and silly. If you can squat effectively by going down to parallel, and are able to progress by continuing that stance, in complete safety, why change things? Neither should you concentrate overly on pausing for any longer than a couple of seconds in between reps unless this is your consistent training style. Getting bigger and stronger in the vital exercises means getting everything consistent, and progressing in much the same way you did as a beginner.

Introducing a cable fly just to pump the chest muscles after your bench presses will only waste time and cut into your recovery. I know, as I have done it, and so have many fellow trainees. With so much incorrect and even dangerous training advice abound in the glossy magazines, it isn't easy to keep focus on what really is important when you step into the gym. The very few things that are not important to you in 2004 where the very same things that were not of any use to you at all in 2003, 2002 or any year before that. That's why when I hear of fellow gym trainees talk of advancing in the New Year by changing and chopping exercises, introducing new techniques, new supplements, more training days, trying new machines, and so on, it leads me to believe that by the time 2004 comes to and end, they'll be as frustrated and weak in their training as they are now. In hindsight, I don't think I have learned anything new in 2003 with regards how to train effectively. What I have observed is that despite claims of any advances from the mainstream training hoopla with regards new supplementation, better training methods and new exercises, the hype-free, infrequent and progressive way is best. Few exercises, worked as intensely as is humanly possible, alongside plenty of rest and good food in between, is best.

Get your priorities right in 2004 by making this the best year yet for improving your physique and getting bigger and stronger muscles, and a healthier heart. This means sticking to the big compound exercises that are hard to do, eating well and frequently, resting just as well, whilst delivering what is required in the gym. You may not need to change any exercise the entire year, as long as you are consistent and safe with your form and can progress with it, which of course is always possible. More than anything, enjoy your training and remember what a great privilege it is to be able to work hard, for your results. Exercise, health and strength is a passion that comes from within.

Physical Culture Books.com
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Friday, August 17, 2012

USA TODAY Column: Victor Conte says Melky Cabrera far from alone

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Victor Conte: "As much as half" of MLB using PEDs - By Dayn Perry - Baseball Blogger

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Like many trainees, I began strength training in the 'conventional' manner, recieving all or most of my instruction through the media hype magazines. I was very niaive to say the least and made some serious training errors like multiple exercises, poor form and silly 'no-carb' diets. I have trained with abbreviated methods now for over a year. I train less but harder, sleep more and eat a lot more good food instead of too many needless supplements. As a result I 'GROW MORE'.

However I feel far and away my biggest mistake was not training the Deadlift seriously and progressively. Previously I had convinced myself the exercise wasn't for me because it hurt my back and knees where i have slight limitations. In fact the honest truth was that I was using poor form and the exercise was just too damn hard! I wanted an excuse! After careful observation of my body and progression and lengthy study of hardgainer texts and 'NaturalStrength.com' related materials I began to seriously train the Deadlift. After four months of serious application and hard work (using now correct form) I have progressed in both size and strength. I can confidently state that in order to progress in muscle and might one must use (health permitting) the major lower body exercises. Avoiding these exercises is pitiful if you are not restricted by health issues. My 'weak mindedness' kept me trapped in a weak body. I use the 'Trap Bar' deadlift due to genuine structural limitations. The exercise is by no means 'easier' as it incorporates the same musculature of both the squat and deadlift simultaneously and I think it is excellent. Currently I train upper body (weighted Dips, OverHead barbell press, chins) on wednesday and lower body (TrapBar deadlift,a partial modified straddle lift and crunches) on Saturdays. I do 2x8 reps each and add the 'breathing pull-over' after deadlifts. My long term goals by the age of 25 are Deadlift 400 lbs x 1, Dip + 100 lbs x 6, Bench 300 lbs x 1 and Overhead press bodyweight x 1. I am a way off but averaging 0.5kg closer per week or two.

Important Reminder

Always use impeccably good form and correct technique. If deadlifting for the first time, use only the bar until you master the technique, then add weight slowly. Here is a brief outline of good form: 1. Back straight, arms straight, feet shoulder-width apart facing forward. 2. Keeping the shoulders back, breathe in and bend at the knees first followed by the hips (feel the weight through the heels). 3. Shrug the shoulders vertically against the bar, squeeze slowly off the ground pushing with the legs (through the heels) and pulling with the back. 4. While ascending, keep the shoulders pulled back, breathe out and imagine pushing your heels through the floor.

NOTE: Keep the back flat throughout - not arched or rounded. For more in-depth information on deadlifting form, check-out 'The Insider's Tell All Handbook on Weight Training Technique' by Stuart McRobert at CS Publishing. Better still, get instruction from a professional strength coach or expert.

Physical Culture Books.com
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Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Parallel Bar Dip - By Alfred Page

The Dip is a hugely productive exercise. As an upper-body exercise and in particular a 'chest' exercise, it is often overlooked in program design in favour of the more common 'Bench Press'. The Bench Press is a productive exercise, but a fixation can often develop. This is usually geared around the infamous question- ''How much do you Bench?''. Trainees can then become obssessed about increasing their poundages, disregarding good form, (so they can answer and gain more respect.) When were you last asked- ''How much can you Dip?''. The Dip is performed on parallel bars, by holding the body upright on locked arms (feet suspended in the air), then lowering and raising the body by bending at the elbows. It incorporates a wide range of musculature including the pectorals, triceps, deltoids and, unlike the Bench, requires a good deal of back strength aswell. Like Chins, the Dip is not simply a 'bodyweight' exercise. It should be performed progressively. In this fashion, a belt with a length a chain-link attatched is used. The chain-link is fed through the centre of weight plates and is then hung around the waist, hanging between the legs. This provides additional resistance to the trainee's body-weight.

Rates of Progression

To begin with, if you cannot perform repetitions using only bodyweight, then perform negatives. Work up until you can perform 2-3 sets of 8+ reps, using bodyweight and in good form. Then add small increments as often as possible. Set goals of bodyweight+10lbs, then +15lbs, 20lbs and so on. Marvin Eder was a lengendary strength trainee during the 1950's and 60's. In 1953, 200lbs bodyweight, he was credited with a 435lbs Dip. Thats a total of 635lbs! Eder was not genetically typical and these poundages are unrealistic for most trainees. Still, if you progress to bodyweight+100lbs, you will be astounded with the gains you make. For genetically typical trainees a really outstanding achievement would be bodyweight+'150lbs'. If you have stagnated with the bench press or never seriously trained the Dip before, then add it to you're current program as a chest exercise. It truely is an excellent exercise. Just look at the muscular development of Gymnasts who perform work or compete on the Parallel bars or Pommel Horse. These athletes spend hours training in a position similar to the Dip. Although any exercise done in poor form is potentially harmful, with the Dip you have the added safety incentive of not being underneath a loaded barbell, as you would in the Bench or Overhead Press.

Summary of correct Form:

1. Choose bars which are approximately 22" apart. Depending on preferance or size etc you may prefer slightly wider bars. 2. Position yourself on bars with arms locked out and 'knuckles out' grip. 3. Bend the legs. Keep the elbows in the same plain as the wrists. Inhale. 4.Keep the chest out and the shoulders pulled back. 5. Lower to a comfortable position. Distribute stress over all of the involved musculature. DO NOT overstretch. 6. Press up and exhale. 7. Pause at the top on locked arms, do not let the shoulders slump. Repeat. Caution! Do not over stretch or descend too far into the bottom position. This will wreak havov on the joints, shoulder external rotators and solar plexus. Never descend on a deflated chest and always remember to keep elbows in the same plain as the wrists- NOT flared out to the sides. If you currently suffer from shoulder problems or have in the past, consult a physician or knowledgable strength coach before performing the dip. Reminder As with all exercises- correct form and technique should always take priority over poundages. If an exercise isn't done in good form it doesn't matter how much weight you use. Dipping with only bodyweight in good form, is far more impressive than dipping with additional poundage but descending only 3" and with flared elbows!

Physical Culture Books.com
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What inroad are you traveling? - By Ron Sowers

Originally posted on NaturalStrength.com on March 25, 2004

I would like to discuss some issues, issues that when considered might very well explain points such as strength and size gains, and their relationships.

The title "What inroad are you traveling?" is in reference to WHICH of the body's systems are being stressed during a workout or even a particular set during a workout.

We know from the G.A.S. theory, that our bodies adapt to the stress applied to them, and they adapt in a specific manner. If we train for endurance, the systems in the body that are stressed during that training will supercompensate and we will benefit by those increases in the form of more endurance. We also know that if we train for strength, the systems that are involved in strength will supercompenstate and we will benefit by those increases in the form of more strength. What I want to speak of, are more specific parts of our training.

Training to failure -Was it really muscular failure?

We speak of "muscular failure" all the time. But if we really analyze some of our sets that are taken to failure, we will notice that is wasn't the muscles that were the weak link. It's very hard to perform deadlifts to "muscular failure". Cardio failure... yes, volitional failure... yes, but to continue the exercise until the muscles have failed is almost, if not completely, impossible. It's easy to do a one arm dumbbell curl to failure, our cardiovascular system can easily handle the effort, as can our CNS. Thus we are able to push the exercise until the biceps fail.However, when performing one of the big compound exercises, such as deadlifts or even squats, it's more likely that WE failed, as in our mind or CNS, or even our cardiorespitory systems, rather than the muscles.

What does this mean then?

Going back to the G.A.S. model, we can logically say that the systems stressed the most, will be the ones stimulated the most. So these systems will be the ones that will supercompensate the most. (given proper recovery measures)


This could explain strength without size: If one is adding reps to their squats and is not adding size, obviously the strength of the muscle fibers was not the weak link. Something else must have been. It could be that the CNS is not adapted to putting out that level of effort. A big exercise takes a lot of output in the form of neural transmitters and electrical current from the nervous system. It may have to adapt to increase it's output. Our cardio might be the lacking system, in which case, it will have to increase. I think this is very important! Knowing that the systems that are stressed the most, must also be stimulated the most, we can logically extrapolate that IF we are increasing in strength, and not size, then SOMETHING beside the muscle fibers MUST be what is increasing! Also, this could also explain strength before size: If a different system, other than the muscle fibers is the weak link, then this system would have to increase to a level where the muscles themselves would now be the weak link, then and ONLY then could we expect to see hypertrophic gains. When this other system, whether it be the mind (learning to train hard and bear the pain), the CNS (being able to actually fire the muscles intensely enough) or the cardio (being fit enough to endure the metabolic by-products) has finally adapted enough, then the entire individual is now capable of putting enough stress on the muscles that they must now supercompensate.

Specific training requirements.

We also must consider that HOW we train can also determine which system is receiving the most inroad or stress. If one trains with very low reps, explosive output, all the mainstays of power lifting, the system receiving the most stress will be the CNS and PNS. The weak link, so to speak, will be how many fibers and how quickly those fibers can be recruited.

On the other side of the coin, if we train with super high reps, the cardio systems will be the ones stressed the most as the length of the set will be determined by how efficient the body is at clearing waste products and restoring energy substrates.

Now also, even though one system is the most stressed, that does not mean other systems are not stressed at all. As we know, even training with low reps or super high reps, the muscles do get SOME stimulation, they are just not the one stressed the most, or in the best way for hypertrophy.

What can we do?

1) We need to train in a known way that causes the muscles to be the weak link. They must endure the most torture (so to speak) rather than the nervous system or the cardio systems.

2) We also might HAVE TO endure the time it takes for these other systems to come up to par, so that we CAN train our muscles hard enough to illicite an adaptation.

3) And, (this one we all know too well) We need to supply the muscles with proper substrates and rest.

Physical Culture Books.com
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