Friday, August 3, 2018

A Birthday Tradition - By Jim Duggan

     For the past fifteen years or so, it has been something of a tradition for me to celebrate my birthday by challenging myself with the lifting of heavy objects.  Anvils, Stones, Tires, Barbells, and Dumbbells.  It didn't matter what tools were available, just so long as I challenged myself.  There are many definitions of "tradition," but the best one I can think of is "a longstanding custom or practice." And while fifteen years can hardly be considered to be a long time, it is significant enough so that I always look forward to my annual birthday challenge.
     This year, on July 20, upon waking up , the first thing I did was the "Magnificent Seven" exercises.  For those who are unfamiliar with the Magnificent Seven, I urge you to check out "Combat Abs," by Matt Furey.  It is loaded with functional exercises that will help you achieve a powerful, and functional mid-section. And while there are hundreds of exercises in the book, the seven movements that constitute the Magnificent Seven are supposed to be done on a daily basis.  I try my best to perform them every day, as much as my work schedule will allow, anyway.  The exercises are simple to do, require no equipment, and take less than twenty minutes to complete.  And they help energize you at the beginning of the day.  Even though the Magnificent Seven are not part of the Birthday Challenge, I like doing them, and I wanted to make sure that I include them, birthday or not.
     The main part of this year's challenge would be made up of two main movements:
1) Repetition Clean and Press with 75 Lb. Dumbbells
2) 180 Lb. Atlas Stone, Lift to shoulder for 55 Reps
     I have developed a renewed interest in lifting heavy Dumbbells. I've always enjoyed heavy dumbbell training whether it be DB Deadlifts, Rows, Cleans, etc.. They are an excellent way to develop great strength. It's been only recently that I've dedicated myself to working hard on DB Pressing.
     In my last article, I mentioned the Sig Klein Dumbbell Challenge.  Basically, it consists of cleaning and pressing two 75 Lb. DBs for twelve reps.   Clean the DBs, and then press them overhead in strict fashion.  Then lower the DBs, and repeat for twelve strict repetitions. No cheating, no leg drive, no back arch, no pause between reps.  It sounds relatively easy, until you begin to do it.  I tried to to establish a rhythm and concentrate on breathing so that I would not be "gassed" halfway through the set. I'll admit it was tough, especially after the eighth or ninth rep. I had actually entertained thoughts of doing more than twelve reps, but I was happy to be able to do the twelve in strict form and then live to press another day.  Needless to say, I was breathing pretty heavy after the DBs, but now it was on to the Stones.
     I've always been a fan of stone lifting, and have included them in each of my birthday challenges. There's just something about lifting a heavy, granite sphere off the ground and on to the shoulder.  Not withstanding the fact that the rough granite tears the skin of your forearms, and leaves bruises on your shoulders, there is quite a feeling of accomplishment after a demanding stone workout. And lifting a 180 Lb. Stone for 55 Reps is certainly demanding. I chose the number 55 because it was my 54th birthday, and added an extra rep for good luck.  It was also an homage to one of my favorite strength athletes, Jon Kolb, who wore number 55 for the Steelers during his stellar thirteen year career.
     After a few warm-up reps, I was going to tackle the Stone in sets of 8-10 reps.  I would do a set, go inside and do a set on my York Krusher as a form of active rest, if you will.  Then I would rest a minute, then go outside and continue.  For some reason, the reps seemed smoother as I went along, and I seemed to have plenty of energy. Maybe it was because the weather was not excessively hot, maybe I was in a groove.  Whatever it was, I was able to complete 55 reps without feeling too much worse for the wear.  Except for the previously mentioned "rock burns," I felt pretty good.
     Like I mentioned, I included my York Krusher as a tribute to the York Barbell Company.  It was meant as active rest, but I also wanted to do a little something for my upper body.
     After the Stone Lifting, my next goal was to use my 193 Lb. Sewer Grates and hold them for time.  I purchased these about ten years ago. They are basically heavy sewer grates with a handle welded to the top.  Each one weighs in at 193 Lbs. They are excellent for Farmer's Walks, Shrugs, or just holding them for time.  My goal was to hold them for a minute.  It was tough, especially since my hands were sore from the Stones, but I was able to hold them for one minute and four seconds.
     The final thing that I did, a lifting coda if you will, was to bend a horeshoe.  My friend Steve Weiner recently taught me how to bend horeshoes, and I have really enjoyed going through the learning process while bending them.  So much so that I recently ordered a large box of horeshoes to improve my technique.  Even though my technique is still crude, and I was fatigued, I was able to bend one into a nice "S" and hopefully establish a new tradition. Thanks, Steve.
     All in all, I was happy with how everything went.  I want to continue to lift heavy Dumbbells, increase my hold time on the Sewer Grates, as well as improve my horeshoe bending. So I guess I have something to look forward to next year as I approach the speed limit!
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