The Holy Trinity of the gym floor is undoubtedly: the dumbbells, the barbells and the machines. We’ve become so accustomed to this trifecta that we forget that the body can be trained in a variety of ways, with a variety of weights.
In today’s post we look at workout equipment from the yesteryear’s of muscle building. Such equipment built the physiques of Sandow, Hackenschmidt and countless others so why not try them out?
- Heavy Indian Clubs
According to Indian Mythology, heavy clubs were first used by the Gods and warriors in the epic Mahabharata (roughly 5000 years ago). Since then the clubs, known as gadas or jori have played an integral role in training of Indian wrestlers.
Take Gama the Great (1878 – 1960) pictured above. During his decades long career, Gama would perform thousands of squats, Hindu push ups and club swings without fail. Combined with a ferocious appetite the Clubs helped Gama become one of the greatest wrestlers in the 20th century. Nowadays Indian wrestlers swing upwards of 20 kilograms in each hand.
Needless to say, they provide a great shoulder workout. If you’re interested in learning more about the Clubs, Paul Taras Wolkowinski’s website has some great free resources.
2. Globe Dumbbells and Barbells
During the heyday of Sandow and co, globe barbells and dumbbells were the equipment of choice. Indeed whenever the strongmen of the past are pictured, its usually lifting, holding or beside one of these relics.
The beauty of shot loaded dumbbells and barbells, depending on your opinion, is their instability. It was incredibly difficult to evenly spread weight across these free weights, meaning that not only were they heavy, they were a great test of balance.
If you’re lucky enough to come across a set like this you’ll have to adjust your lifting expectations.
3. Thick Grip Bars
In 1906, strongman Thomas Inch revealed his infamous Inch Dumbbell, pictured above, to the world . Weighing in at 172lbs, the dumbbell grip had the thickness of a soda can, making the prospect of lifting this dumbbell quite slim. Indeed, Inch claimed to be the only man capable of lifting it overhead and for the better part of his career, he was right.
Nowadays imitations of the dumbbell have made their way into strongman competitions but that doesn’t mean the general lifting public shouldn’t give try their hand at it. One company Fat Gripz sells grips that can be attached to dumbbells or barbells.
A word to wise, trip grip work makes everything heavier.
4. Heavy Kettle bells
Kettle bells may seem an odd choice given they can be found in gyms across the world. The question is though, how many of those bells are truly heavy? Because in the past, Kettle Bell training was no easy feat.
Hermann Goerner, one of the strongest men in 20th century Germany used to do kettle bells swings with bells weighing over 50 kilos in each hand. Whilst he was renowned for his strength with the Bells, it’s not unheard of for strongmen from the early 20th century to have swung Bells weighing between 35 and 45 kilos with ease.
Kind of puts those colourful kettle bells in your gym to shame doesn’t it?
5. Nautilus Pullover
Admittedly a more recent piece of equipment than the others but a good one nonetheless.
First sold in during the heyday of the 1970s, the Nautilus pullover was hugely effective in targeting both the the lats and the long head of the triceps. The beauty and selling point of this machine was that it allowed you to bring your Lats to complete failure, a training method favoured by Arthur Jones, the machine’s inventor. Jones, no stranger to marketing, was so impressed with his creation that he called the Pullover the ‘upper body squat’.
For the next two decades the Pullover was used by a litany of bodybuilding champions, including Mr Olympia Dorian Yates. Sadly for whatever reason, it has disappeared from the gym floor.