Tag: Powerlifting

The History of the Cambered Bar

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Cambered bars, that is bars with a slight or pronounced bend, are one of the more niche elements of the gym floor. While many of us will be familiar with the EZ Bar, undoubtedly the most popular form of cambered bars, far fewer will have used Safety Squat, Buffalo or straight Cambered Bars as part of our routines. Somewhat unluckily for me, a recent shoulder problem has forced me to use safety bar squats as part of my routine.

Normally the preserve, at least in my mind, of the powerlifting community, the Safety Bar squat has allowed me to continue training my legs at a time when the traditional squat set up of pining the shoulders back is nothing short of agony. Aside from facilitating my obsessive need to squat, the Safety Bar provides the subject for today’s post. Who invented these bars? What advantages do they provide and how can we effectively use them? These are just some of the questions dealt with in today’s post.

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Bill Kazmaier, ‘Bench Pressing Style And Technicalities’, Bill Kazmaier and the Bench Press (1981), 4-6

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The basic concept of lying on a bench and taking a bar from arm’s length to the chest and back is a very simple one. However, bench pressing with maximum efficiency and power is an extremely exacting art relying on many major and minor principles and utilizing the coordination of the many muscles involved. While there is no one universal style that is perfect for every lifter-hand spacing, d<;gree of arch and foot placement being the most individual variables, there are other aspects that should be applied by all lifters. In this section I would like to consider all these intrinsic aspects of bench pressing technique as correct form is an important feature in increasing bench pressing ability and accompanied muscle growth.

Dr. Mel Siff, A Short History of Strength and Conditioning (Dolfzine, 2003)

Strength training has always been synonymous with the so-called “Iron Game,” a broad generic term that includes the competitive lifting of heavy objects by “strongmen/women” during the last century or so. Feats of lifting strength, however, have appeared throughout the history of most nations, but it has only been in very recent times that training to produce strength has become a scientific discipline.


Mel C Siff Ph.D.
This science did not arise overnight, but is the culminating point of thousands of years of trial-and-error methods of training.

The earliest reference to formal strength training occurs in Chinese texts dating as far back as 3600BC when emperors made their subjects exercise daily (Webster, 1976). During the Chou dynasty (1122-249BC) potential soldiers had to pass weight-lifting tests before being allowed to enter the armed forces.

Frederick C. Hatfield, ‘Dr. Deadlift’, Powerlifting USA, Vol 10 No 4. Novemeber/1986

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It’s a little known fact that the eruption of Mr. St. Helens, and the continuing subterranean growls in the area, are purely mythic.  What really happened up there in the land of perpetual rain and majestic mountains was that Doyle Kenady took a heavier than normal deadlift workout.  It’s not a coincidence that those after-rumblings ceased on a certain day in April of this year.

Anthony Ditillo, ‘The Single and Double Progression Method’, The Development of Physical Strength (Wm F. Hinbern, 1982).

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Image Source.

When beginning a book on physical training, I feel it is only natural to begin with the most basic concept used in any barbell endeavor. We all use this training aid in one form or another and its use makes possible the goals of which our dreams are made.

By single and double progression I mean the basic way we arrange our sets and repetitions with a given weight, which will enable us to do so many things in our training, that its usefulness cannot and should not be overlooked when discussing barbell training, in general.

All trainees use this method for keeping track of their progress as well as preventing injury and over-training. In fact, I would go as far as to say that most of today’s problems concerning progress with the weights stem from a mistaken notion of the use of this single, double and even triple progression system and all it pertains to.

Doug Hepburn, ‘The Challenge’ (c. 1999)

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The below text is something I’m rather excited about. Earlier this month, I stumbled across Doug Hepburn’s website from the late 1990s and early 2000s. Hepburn was one of the strongest men of the mid twentieth century, famed for his seemingly inhuman feats of strength.

You can imagine, then the joy I felt when I began reading Doug’s articles on his now defunct website (I’ve included the source at the bottom and would encourage you to check it out!).

I don’t want to give away too much but Hepburn’s ‘Challenge’ was a shot fired at modern lifters to match the feats of strength of gear fear lifters. I’ve published it in its entirety below (including the ALL CAPS text). It’s provocative but shows Doug’s love and promotion of pure strength. Enjoy!

W. A. Pullum, ‘Great Strenth’, How to Use A Barbell (London, 1932), 21-24.

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To gain great strength one needs to consider the factors that unite to produce it. For until this is done one cannot be sure upon what lines to work.

The things that make for outstanding physical strength are great vital force, a high degree of nervous energy, and superlative quality of muscular tissue. Contrary to the belief that still persists in some quarters, the mere quantity of muscle that a person possesses is not a decisive factor. And at the beginning the student of this section would do well to understand that clearly.

The History of Resistance Bands

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A recent spate of travel has made access to heavy weights a near impossibility. Hotel and College gyms with dumbbells up to 30 kilos and in some cases, with not a barbell in sight have forced me to be inventive with my training. In the past such occurrences would have caused me a great inconvenience but thanks to the advice of a friend, I finally capitulated and bought a set of resistance bands.

Admittedly I’d been sceptical. Resistance bands for me, conjure up images up Charles Atlas-esque resistance training that although promising much, could not compete with actual weights. Nevertheless, my head has been turned, and although not a fully fledged convert to resistance training, I can’t deny how useful they’ve been recently. My very unexotic travels have however spurred my interest in the equipment. So in today’s post we’re going to examine the history of resistance bands. Where they came from, who popularised them and some useful tips on how to use them should you be stuck on your own travels.

Fred Hatfield, ‘I May Know Diddly, But I Know Squat!’ (2001)

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The passing of Dr. Fred Hatfield in 2017 saw the passing of one of the lifting community’s most prolific coaches. Known as ‘Dr. Squat’ thanks to his own immense strength, Hatfield also helped to popularise scientific forms of training. The above article, written sometime before 2001 is perhaps the most comprehensive guide I’ve come across dealing with different types of squatting. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as me!

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.