Tag: Powerlifting

The History of the Face Pull

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I grew up in the age of rotator cuff injuries. Whether or not the danger was as real as people believed, it didn’t matter. I, like many others, spent the first five years of training involved a series of mind numbingly boring shoulder exercises as part of our warm up. Taking light dumbbells, we would wave at one another in a variety of stilted poses and directions. Slowly but surely our coach’s obsession with shoulder injuries lessened but I still remain convinced that a shoulder injury was just one sloppy set away. Some time ago, I was told that the face pull was the answer to my fears.

The face pull has existed in a variety of forms over the past century but in my developmental stage of training, the exercise gained a remarkably important stature. We were told that, done correctly, this exercise would add mass to our backs, ensure we remained injury free and keep us standing upright, which admittedly is a tall task of any teenager.

In homage to an exercise which has taken up hours of my time, today’s post looks at the face pull. We’re going to examine its origins and, perhaps more importantly, how it came to be popularised among the lifting populace. Aside from the prowler, it is probably fair to argue that the face pull was one of the first real exercises to benefit from a mass internet exposure.

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Bob Whelan, ‘Common Sense Periodization’, Hard Gainer, July-August (1999), 21-24.

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Periodization means “to divide into periods,” when defined by most dictionaries. That’s also the way that I view this term as it applies to strength training. I’m a big believer that some form of change in a routine every three or four months or so is as good mentally as it is physically. In addition to this, as noted in some previous articles, I like to have a day or two each month when I mix things up a little bit. The change keeps enthusiasm high, helps you through sticking points, bolsters your motivation, and re- energizes your training.

I want to be very clear on one thing. When I use the word “periodization”—I actually call it “common sense periodization”—I’m not advocating the orthodox definition used by the NSCA and some other organizations. I find that definition illogical. I don’t believe in a “hypertrophy phase” as being separate from a “strength-building” phase. There are also other aspects of the orthodox definition that I don’t agree with, but rather than get into all of that I’d rather just focus on my definition.

The History of Kaatsu Training

“Wrap a band around your bicep until it begins to go numb, then pump out 30 reps with a light weight… Trust me, the pump is worth it.”

These are not the words of an enlightened man but rather my first experience of Kaatsu or Blood Restriction Training. Brought to my attention by a training partner whose grasp of science is not always the strongest, Kaatsu training has grown in popularity over the last decade. While my friend’s description may seem appropriate at first glance, there is quite a lot more to this training system than first meets the eye.

With this in mind today’s post seeks to answer three simple questions: what is Kaatsu training? How was it created? And, perhaps most importantly, should you try it?

John Kuc, ‘A Guide to Thigh Development’ (1984)

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When I did the original outline for this article I tried to think of an appealing title. Many trainees do no leg work at all, and those that do usually do not do enough. I thought an appealing title might entice some of them into including leg work in their training programs. I later decided that an honest evaluation of the pros and cons of leg work would be the best enticement.

I won’t try to deceive anyone; leg work done properly can really be tough. There are no easy leg exercises, and to be effective you really have to go all out. This is one factor against leg work. The fact that your legs are normally covered is the second factor. Most individuals prefer to work the muscles that are seen by everyone. Also, some leg exercises require a relatively heavy weight to be effective. Heavy poundages seem to create a mental barrier for some individuals. Combine all these factors and you can see why leg work could be ignored.

Bill Starr, ‘Sex and the Barbell’, Defying Gravity How To Win At Weightlifting (New York, 1981), p. 24.

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I once wrote a piece for the “Behind the Scenes” section in Strength & Health magazine dealing with the subject of sex before competition. I thought that I was quite obviously tongue-in-cheeking the presentation and made the comment that lifters would do well to lay off sex during the final week before a meet. As it turned out, I was not obvious enough as I received numerous letters and a few phone calls from irritated wives. It seemed that many lifters took my advise as gospel and denied their ladies any sexual gratification in the week prior to the contest. I have often suspected that many of these lifters merely used my words as an ex-cuse and most likely were doing a bit of hankey-pankey on the side at my expense.

Ding Lifting in Ancient China

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Today’s short post comes primarily from Nigel B. Crowther’s wonderful chapter on Ancient Chinese sport and physical education. Looking primarily at Chinese physical cultures, Crowther found that weightlifting, archery, weight throwing, tug of war, boxing and a host of other activities were practiced by Chinese men. Of interest to us today, was the use of Ding’s as feats of strength.

Arthur Saxon, ‘What It Feels Like to Lift 350 Pounds with One Hand’, The Development of Physical Power (London, 1905), 23-24.

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I HAVE often been asked what it feels like to press 350 pounds with one hand, and perhaps to my readers the different sensations experienced will be interesting. In the first place, immediately I start to press the weight away from the shoulder I become perfectly oblivious to everything except the weight that I am lifting. The spectators are obliterated from my mind by the effort of intense concentration which is necessary to enable me to press the weight. I immediately engage myself in a terrific struggle in which the weight and I are competitors, and only one can win, either the weight must be lifted or else I fail. This concentration is, of course, one of the secrets of success in lifting, as I have explained in another part of my book. It enables me to bring forward the last ounce of pushing power, and for the time being to exert strength beyond that normally possessed.

The (Somewhat Complete) History of the Deadlift!

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Having previously looked at the history of the squat, bench press and even the smith machine, it seemed about time that we did a history of the deadlift. We’ve been putting this one off for quite a while, even looking at the Romanian Deadlift en lieu of the actual thing.

The stumbling block in approaching the history of the deadlift is the amount of smoke and mirrors surrounding one of the most popular exercises in the Iron Game. Someone writes something in a training book or blog and suddenly it becomes part of the popular lore. Actual research is a lot harder to come by. Nevertheless, it’s clear that deadlifts and variations on the deadlift have been around since time began. Man and woman kind has seemingly always displayed an insatiable desire to pick heavy things up from the ground.

For the sake of my sanity and timekeeping however, we’ll begin in with the eighteenth-century when a variation of the deadlift, of heavy lifting, briefly took England by storm.