Sunday, October 25, 2015

Stones and Anvils - Jim Duggan

     The New York area has been experiencing unusually warm weather for the last few days.  Because of this, and especially since cold weather is just around the corner, I decided to take advantage of the favorable temperatures and take my workout outside.  Now just to prove that I am not adverse to training outside under less than ideal conditions, some of my most memorable workouts have been in brutally cold  or extremely hot weather.  In years past, when I was training with Drew Israel, we'd train outside, regardless of the weather.  The first time I did a twenty-rep Deadlift workout was a week before Christmas one year.  The temperature was in the teens, with a nice gusty wind.  My biggest concern was not completing the reps, but having my hands freeze to the bar ( something that Drew said had happened to him once!).

     Enough cold talk.  For now, anyway.  This article is about an enjoyable workout under pleasant weather conditions.  The sun was out, the temperature was in the low seventies.  What better way to say good-bye to the nice weather than with an afternoon of lifting granite stones?  Throw in a little anvil work, and you've got the makings of an enjoyable day of training. My plan was to challenge myself with the stones to gauge my progress, and to see how whether the stones would come up easily or not.  I began by doing a couple of warm-ups with my smallest stone ( 145 Lbs.)  Then I did a single each with the 180, 220, and 260. Each time I would pick up the stone, then lift it to my shoulder.  I simply wanted to get an idea what my strength level was, then I began the actual training.

     The workout itself was a variation of a "pyramid rep scheme." 
          145 x 5
          180 x 3
          220 x 2
     Anvil Curl 115 x 10
     Headstrap  115 x 20

     After I did the two reps with the 220 Lb. stone, I would do a set of curls with the anvil.  The anvil I used weighs 100 Lbs., in addition I wrapped a heavy chain around the anvil bringing the weight up to 115 Lbs..  I did ten reps, then I attached my Ironmind Headstrap to the anvil and did twenty reps.  I then rested five minutes before beginning the cycle again.  I repeated this four times.  By the time I wa finished I was feeling pretty beat up.   But I think most people reading this will attest to the fact that a hard workout- whether it be twenty-rep squats, high-rep deadlifts,- will leave you with a feeling of accomplishment.  This is a simple, yet brutally effective workout. Three movements.  It's not something that might be advertised in the muscle comics.  This type of training probably won't give you a pump.  It won't make you "jacked," whatever  "jacked" means.  But it will build real strength.  Strength that will carry over to other areas of your training. 

     A few interesting observations:  As much as I tried to arrange the stones close to each other in order to perform the reps with as little rest as possible, it is very important to take a few seconds to make sure that there is no chance of slipping or tripping.  I must confess that I am not exactly balletic under the most favorable conditions.  Now throw in some uneven terrain ( heavy stones will create small craters when they are dropped) and you can see why maintaining balance is very important.  Also, I never use tacky, gauntlets, or other "aids."  Yes, lifting large granite shperes will tear up your forearms.  But torn skin, and a little pain are small prices to pay for getting stronger.  To quote Friedrich Nietzche, "That which does not kill us makes us stronger."

     One final note, is that up until the other day, I hadn't done my stones in over six weeks.  However, they felt good and I had no problems getting them on my shoulder.  I felt fresh and strong.  I attribute this to the concentrated back work that I have been doing for the last four months.  When I say back work I do NOT mean endless sets of Lat Pulldowns or Seated Cable Rows.  I was doing Stiff-Leg Deadlifts, Good Mornings, and One-Arm Dumbbell Rows.  I worked the Good Mornings particularly hard.  I remember reading about Bruce Randall and the massive poundages he used in the movement, so I really tried to push the weights.  I eventually got to the point where I did 335 x 6 reps.  I didn't train the Good Mornings heavy every week.  In fact, I settled on a heavy/light program which saw me going heavy one week, then the other week I would perform one all-out set of thirty reps.  I was able to build up to 235 x 30 about a month ago.  I firmly believe that this concentrated work was a big factor in giving me the strength to lift the stones with authority.  If only most trainees would incorporate heavy pulling movements, as part of a total body program, they would build impressive strength, make themselves less susceptible to injury, and increase their muscle mass. 

     With the cold weather coming, I will still attempt to keep up with my stone lifting.  For those of us residing in the North, we really have no choice.  But I don't think I would swap my training conditions with the snow birds, even if I could.  At least, not yet.

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