Friday, August 24, 2018

Variations in Iron - By Jim Duggan

     Hoisting the Steel. Pumping Iron. Slinging the Iron. These are just a few of the expressions used to describe what we do ( and love): Lift weights. Many books, and countless articles have centered around the same sort of language.  One of my favorite Iron Game authors, Brooks Kubik, has used the word "Iron" in the title of many of his great books and articles.  And while we may consider ourselves to be "Iron Slingers," we hardly pay any attention to what we are actually slinging.  And, for good reason: Who cares? Just Lift!
     The very first set of weights I ever used was made of neither Steel nor Iron.  My first weights were plastic filled with sand.  Somehow, I just can't embrace the idea of "Pumping Plastic."  It wasn't until I joined Bruno's Health Club in July of 1983 that I quickly became aware of the beautiful sound of steel plates clanging as they were being lifted.  There was a lot of steel at Bruno's. YORK steel to be precise. And while I've been lifting weights for many years, I've tried as best as I could to stay true to York Barbell and the brand that has built strong men and women since 1932.  Naturally,  there are many brands available today.  Some good, many not so.  But, no matter what type of equipment you use, the important thing is to train hard and consistently, with an eye on poundage progression .
     I still have York weights at home, much of it vintage stuff from years ago.  Sometimes,  though, I will lift weights that aren't exactly weights in the conventional sense.  There are two items in particular that are not exactly what one would envision when you think of "working out."  One item has been around for a long time and has a rich history, though not in the sense of Physical Culture.  The other item is relatively new to the lifting scene, but is becoming increasingly more popular.
     I've been using anvils for a long time.  My first exposure to anvils as a training tool was through the pages of Muscular Development magazine back in the 1980s.  It was an article written by Dr. Ken Leistner about "unconventional power builders."  In the article, he described the various ways in which to use an anvil as a training tool.  Several years after the article, I had the good fortune to join Dr. Ken's Iron Island Gym.  One of the first things I noticed upon entering the gym was a large anvil sitting next to a rack of dumbbells.  I used the anvil, as well as the various I-beams, Sandbags, and other toys that the gym offered.  And over the years, I have used anvils to perform various movements.  Curls, Presses, Deadlifts are some exercises that can be easily done with an anvil.  They can also be used to provide resistance for a Headstrap when doing neck work.  There also grip specialists who use them for grip work by lifting them by the horn.  And, incidentally, some of the poundages these guys use are staggering.
     I have a total of nine anvils ranging in weight from 30Lbs, up to 205 Lbs.. If you use your imagination,  you can do any movement with an anvil that you can do with a barbell, with the exception of Squats.  While purchasing an anvil can be expensive, you can pretty much rest assured that it will last a lifetime.  We don't often see anvils breaking apart.  One thing that I've noticed when purchasing anvils is that they are often described as being made of "Cast Iron," or "Wrought Iron."  I realize that anvils are designed for Farriers and Blacksmiths, and these terms are important for what they are used for.  Admittedly,  metallurgy was never my strong suit.  But since my goal insofar as it relates to anvils is simply to lift them, I'll ask again: Who cares? Just Lift.
     Now the debate between Cast or Wrought Iron brings me to the other unconventional strength-training item that I have been using: Center Mass Bells (CMBs.) These are made from Ductile Iron. All you metallurgists can have a field day debating the pros and cons of each type of Iron. I'll just describe my experience with CMBs.
     I've been using CMBs for a couple of years now.  I purchased mine from Sorinex.  I have all the large sizes up to 100 Lbs, and I can tell you that these things are great!  They are an excellent training tool.  In fact, all of the equipment from Sorinex is excellent: Top-quality and built to last.  Try them and see for yourself.
     The CMBs can be used to duplicate exercises that can normally be done with Dumbbells.  Standing Presses, One-Arm Clean and Press, One-Arm Rows, Curls are just some examples of the wide range of movements that you can do with CMBs.  From the moment I tried them, I liked the feel of using a CMB as compared to kettlebells, which I never really cared for.  I realize that it's a personal preference and that there may be people who adamantly disagree with me.  Use what works for you.
     The actual workout that I've used is a variation of a popular workout utilizing two movements. It's an excellent way to get in a workout when you are pressed for time.  The two movements are:
One-Arm CMB Clean and Press
Anvil Curl
     The goal is to do 55 reps of each movement, via doing a superset of Presses and Curls for 10 total sets.  For the serious Lifters out there, don't panic at the mention of "supersets."  You will not be emulating some pumped up bodybuilder, rather, you will be combining two heavy movements with minimal rest.  The goal is to push yourself, not pump yourself up.
     Here's what it looks like:
One Arm CMB Clean and Press x 1 Rep supersetted with Anvil Curl x 10 Reps. 11 Reps Total.
Next set, do 2 reps of the CMB Press and 9 Anvil Curls. Again, 11 Reps Total.
Keep going until the last set of 10 Presses, and 1 Curl.
There should be minimal rest between sets. In fact, for the first five sets, try not to rest at all. After the fifth set, you can rest up to one minute between sets.  The workout should take no longer than fifteen minutes or so.  For those who want to really challenge yourselves, after you complete the workout, you can do it again in reverse.
     You can do this workout with different movements, or you can even utilize bodyweight exercises. I chose these movements because they are eady to perform, but physically demanding. And besides, the title of this article is "Variations in Iron," and while I had never considered the different types of Iron, I have always enjoyed lifting them.
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