Home Made Equipment

by Thom Van Vleck

Wayne Jackson using a home made Bench Press

In the early days of the Jackson Weightlifting Club there was a lot of  Home Made equipment.  My grandfather said that back in the 20’s, when he and his friends decided to lift weights they had “NO HOPE” of being able to afford real weights so they got scrap iron for the bars and poured cement in buckets to make weights.  They also lifted whatever was handy!  When my Uncles started lifting in the late 50’s, there was more equipment available, but they had the same old problem of being broke!  So they made a lot of their own stuff and got by just fine.  In the photo I’ve included with this story you will see my Uncle Wayne doing “press grip tricep presses” (basically, using the same grip he used for the Olympic Press and keeping his elbows in) on a bench that one of the JWC members made.   If you look closely, the leg on the far left is actually split and it looks like it’s ready to blow!!!!

I recall when I first started training, about 1977, they were tearing a house down nearby.  We went down and Wayne pulled out some old boards that weighed a ton (probably native oak).  We pulled what seemed like hundreds of nails out and then my grandfather Dalton took to making an Incline for Presses.  I’m pretty sure Evel Knievel could have used that thing to jump the Grand Canyon, it was that solid!!!  I also recall getting a splinter or two using that thing and learning that if you do inclines with the uprights in front of you and you can’t lock out the bar….you will be trapped!  Another thing that my Uncle’s made that I still have is a set of squat stands.  The base is a truck wheel and the upright is a truck drive shaft.  The “U joint” makes a nice, natural rest for the bar.   When I first started in the Highland Games, I made a lot of homemade equipment.

I’m sure we all have stories like that.  I have many more, too.  But that’s not my point today.  It’s about desire.  I recall my grandfather telling a story about how when he was a kid there was a man that had a really fast horse and he treated the horse like gold, pampering it, giving it all the best grain, stalls, equipment and most importantly hired someone to train the horse.  He then raced it against another horse that had none of these things but did have an owner that worked hands on with the horse.  The day of the race, the horse that knew his owner and the owner’s desire to win, won over the horse who’s owner was a stranger to him.  The message I got was that desire was the most important ingredient to winning.

I recall one day back in the 70’s a guy begged me to come and train at the old JWC.  He showed up and it was winter and there was no heat in our gym.  It was also dirty and full of home made equipment.  I could tell he was put off by it all.  He never came back and that was no great surprise to me.  If he had the desire, he would have put up with what he had to in order to achieve his goal.

Today, I have a pretty nice gym.  I have some pretty expensive equipment.  But I still lift off those old squat stands from time to time to remember that story.  To remember that if I have don’t have desire, all the fancy equipment in the world won’t save me when (as my Granddad used to say) “the shoe leather meets the road”.   A little adversity is a good thing!

The Pullover and Push Part 1 – The Rules

USAWA President and the 2010 National Meet Director Denny Habecker likes the Pullover and Push, and he is including it in this year's National Championship.

by Al Myers

The Pullover and Push is one of my favorite All-Round exercises and it is going to be contested at this year’s USAWA National Championships. I thought it would be a good idea to cover some of the basics of this exercise, starting with the rules.

Rules for the Pullover and Push

The lifter will lie on his/her back on the platform with the bar placed on the platform above the lifter’s head.  Padding, such as a towel or mat, may be placed under the lifter’s body and elbows. The bar is gripped with the palms of the hands facing up and with the bar at arms’ length prior to the start of the lift.  Width of hand spacing and feet placement is optional. The lift begins at the lifter’s discretion. The lifter is allowed multiple rolls with the bar on the platform to gain momentum to the bar. Hands must remain on the bar throughout the lift. The lifter will then pull the bar over and onto the chest or upper abdomen resulting in the upper arms resting on the platform. The bar must not be rolled once on the chest. The bar or plates must not make contact with the platform once the bar leaves the platform or it will result in disqualification. The lifter is allowed to move or lift the feet and hips during the pullover. Once the bar is on the chest or abdomen, the lifter may move the feet close to the hips, and raise the hips to create a bridging or belly toss to propel the bar to arms’ length. This is done at the lifter’s discretion. The lifter is allowed feet and hip movement during the push. The lifter may press the bar instead of pushing the bar if desired.  Once the push has begun, the bar must not be lowered in any manner. Only one attempt at the push is allowed. The bar must lock out with even extension. Once the arms are straight, the lifter must lower the hips to the platform and straighten the legs to a flat position on the platform. The arms must remain straight during this time.   When the lifter and bar are motionless, an official will give a command to lower the bar. The lift ends when the bar is returned to the platform under control. It is acceptable to drop the bar behind the head in the return to the platform as long as the lifter maintains hand contact with the bar.

How I do the Arthur Lift

Chad Ullom and his 258# Arthur Lift at the 2010 Arthur Saxon Pentathlon

By Chad Ullom

The Arthur lift starts off with a hack lift. I usually try and pop the weight up over my hips and drop under it and catch it ideally right on my belt. At this point, I bend over and work it into a good position where I know it won’t fall off. At this point, I reposition my hands to an underneath position and move them out to the collars. I try and pop the weight up my back, so I push up with my hips and pull the bar up toward my shoulders. It usually takes about 4 times to get it up high enough that I can get it onto my shoulders and ready for the jerk. Take your time and make sure the bar is centered and get your hands placed where you want them. I make sure that I’m ready for the jerk, drive hard up with my legs and hips and push through to lock out it out.

Barbells Up, Dumbbells Down Part 3 – The Nuts and Bolts

by John McKean

Sort of a surprise for any who have read my previous articles expounding the use of heavy single-rep lifts, but dumbbell strength training is best done is sets of 3-6 reps. At least a triple seems necessary to develop coordination and groove, absolutely essential to successful dumbbell work. In many gym experiments I’ve discovered I could take a particular poundage and do three good but fairly taxing reps with the dumbbell, then go but 5 pounds heavier only to find the stubborn ‘bells just wouldn’t budge an inch. Friends related exactly the same experience. So, if a “gym limit” can usually be pumped for 3-4 reps instead of only one, you might as well shoot for this number.

Singles can be attempted on widely spaced occasions – you need something to shoot for. But with dumbbells there’s a lot more control factors against you, and conditions won’t always be regulated as with a barbell. Your mood, drive, groove, coordination, incentive, and a well-rested, ready body has to be exactly in tune for that new dumbbell record. Plus, as any experienced dumbbell aficionado will tell you, it’s all too easy to mentally burn out on the short bars if you attempt too many maxes too frequently. Sad to report, misses with even previous marks occur a lot. Seems you must lose a little occasionally before your body allows you to advance. But take heart. When you do hit a new limit you’ll discover a unique exhilaration, ‘cause the dumbbells will let you know that you’ve really worked for and deserve it.

Many of us find that our top dumbbell weights are most easily achieved when done for a single set of 3-5 reps performed directly following a short session of singles with a similar barbell move. For instance, we work a standard barbell press for 70% x 1, 80% x 1, 90% x 1, then finish – almost a “backdown set” – with a dumbbell press for, say a set of 4 reps. Since the dumbbell move is tougher and always lighter than its big brother barbell exercise, the body, and especially the mind, are better prepared (tricked) for dumbbell intensity when backing down to it instead of progressively building up in sets. It’s just so important to allow that first dumbbell rep to go smoothly and seem fairly light. Following that, reps 2, 3, 4 and, maybe 5, almost always flow easily. But there’s no second chance if the first one sticks.

A few barbell-up, dumbbell-down combos you may wish to try include snatches/swings, barbell hack squats/dumbbell deadlifts, push presses/one arm jerks, cheat curls/incline dumbbell curls, power cleans/dumbbell pullups, etc. Again, not that dumbbell lifts can’t be trained by themselves – some, such as all-rounds torturous two-hands anyhow, can’t be trained any other way. It’s just that quicker advances in poundages and better quality training come when the dumbbell lifts are combined with heavy single barbell movements. Just remember the formula of 4 sets of 1 with the barbell, 1 set of 4 with the dumbbell.

Progression can best be summed up this way – don’t be in too much of a hurry. Keep plugging at that set of 3-5 reps with a consistent poundage, workout after workout, until it starts to feel light and easy. Then just nudge the dumbbells up by 5 pounds the next session. Some may prefer to gradually raise reps, starting at 4 and eventually achieving 7 with a given weight before upping the poundage and starting over at 3 or 4. Regardless of which progression you prefer, always be a bit cautious during that next workout with the weight jump – attack it, because that addition of a mere 5 pounds per hand may prove far heavier than you expect. Smaller weight increases with loading dumbbells can be achieved by off-loading, or adding a single plate to only one side of the bell.