Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Eagle Scout Health Fair

The local Boy Scout troop invited me to set up a booth at their health fair this past weekend. It was held at a nearby church, not an overly big venue but I was happy to do it anyway. There were probably another 17-18 exhibitors ranging from massage therapy to martial arts. I decided to hold a kettlebell lifting contest and give away t-shirts, stickers and wristbands as prizes.

Besides one older gentlemen, the Scouts were the only ones to participate in the contest... and let me tell you, those kids cleaned me out! The rules were simple: press the kettlebell overhead as many times as possible and 50 reps won you a t-shirt. Everybody who tried got a sticker. They were allowed one hand switch and could push press or jerk the bell (no way I was going to try and explain the jerk to them though). I think most of the troop left with a Be-More Training shirt on. It was nice to see them excited about kettlebell lifting.

I put on a couple demonstrations as well. First I did a 150 rep jerk set with the 24kg... 75 reps per hand. After I had a while to catch my breath I showed them my "card trick" where I turn 1 deck of cards into 2. They were all pretty impressed with that. I also bent a couple nails and turned them on to the Captains of Crush grippers as well as a few other grip toys. The grip feats had the entire room surrounding my booth, exhibitors and attendees alike.

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I would be shifting my training focus to something other than strongman competitions, well that's what I was referring to, is the performing side of strongman.

Showcasing my talents for those kids reminded me just how fun it is putting on strength shows. It's a different environment than when you are competing. When doing a strongman show, you are an entertainer, a performer. The opportunity to inspire people is much greater in this arena. You are not competing against anyone, not even really competing against yourself, you are just showing someone this cool thing you can do. Like a magic trick, only harder to do. :)

So that's what my training has been looking like lately. I'm back into grip training with a purpose (other than the obvious, stronger hands)!

Anyway, I hit a quick grip workout this morning and this is what it looked like...

Inch Dumbbell attempts - this consists of many failed attempts, some 2 hand pick ups released and held with one hand, and several holds with 1 finger on the bell to stop the rotation

Pony thumb trainer - 2 sets of as many reps as possible with each hand (note to self: left hand is considerably stronger on this exercise)

Grippers - 2 sets of 5 with a filed #2

Grade 5 bolt attempt - I've bent one of these before, a long time ago, but it was not to be today. I gave it all I had, off and on for a good 10 minutes. All I can say is that I got some good wrist isometrics from it.

One more set of Pony thumb trainer immediately followed by Inch DB rows with straps. The rows are as much for back strength as they are for breaking the mental barrier of lifting the Inch with one hand. I believe actually seeing myself lift it, with straps or otherwise, will eventually help me lift it. (Incidentally, I had a dream that I lifted it just last night. Go figure.)

Formulator wrist curls, 15lbs x 11.5 reps (the .5 means a failed attempt)

Portable wrist roller - 60 seconds

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Finger Extension

I've been tinkering with ways to train finger extension for about 8 years now. I've come up with several methods and even a few product ideas that I thought showed some potential.

Pictured to the right is a design I came up with in 2001. It's an idea I had in an effort to try to train finger extension. Try to look at the concept instead of my artistic capabilities. :)

Finger extension is all but forgotten about when it comes to training the hands. Think about everything we do in daily life that involves gripping, squeezing, holding, carrying, etc. - all finger flexion movements. Never do we have to open our hand against resistance.

Muscular balance is important in all parts of the body and the hands are no different. Finger extension is often the missing link even in serious grip training. Your grip can only be so strong if your extension is weak. Opposing muscle groups are often the limiting factor in any lift. Few people realize this or take it seriously.

There is the old method of opening and closing your hand inside a bucket of sand, or opening your hand on the inside of a jar. Company's like Iron Mind have developed products like the Outer Loops™ and Expand-Your-Hand Bands™ to assist in your finger extension efforts. Then of course, there is good old manual resistance - finger tip to finger tip.

I just recently learned of this device (or "grip toy" as I call them) where you can train finger extension and finger flexion with the same piece of equipment without any kind of adjustment whatsoever. It's called the Handmaster Plus™

This is a great invention! I thought that this was the best thing since sliced bread and hand grippers. I thought so highly of this product that it basically put my idea of producing something similar out of my head. Somebody had thought of a better design and put it on the market already!

But let me back up and say that I haven't actually used this product yet. I've been meaning to order one but I just haven't gotten around to it. The funny thing is, I probably won't now that I've stumbled onto something better.

Like almost everything else in the fitness industry, there is usually a very simple exercise that beats out all of the gimmicks and fancy equipment. There is usually one basic exercise, performed with one basic piece of equipment, that will develop a muscle or a movement better than anything else. I found that exercise and that piece of equipment...

Thera-Band® Exercise Bands

Like I said - simple equipment for a basic exercise. You can get a piece of Thera-Band from any physical therapist's office. All you need is about 24". Just wrap it around your fist and extend your fingers against it. For more resistance, pull the band tighter. You can also change the angle in which you hold the band to focus on a specific position of the hand/fingers. Use it for wrist extension (an equally important and perhaps just as neglected movement of the lower arm), dynamic thumb exercises and even finger abduction (spreading of the fingers). The possibilities are as vast as your imagination!

I like to train these movements with the Thera-Band with high reps - 20 or more. That's entirely personal perference though. You can pull the band so tight that you can barely eek out a 1RM if you want. Though I have found that the hands respond better to high repetitions. Call it targeting the slow twitch fibers, muscle pump or whatever you like, it just seems you get a better workout.

I'm not staking claim to be the first one who ever thought of using a Thera-Band to do these exercises, it just kinda dawned on me one day and I figured I would write about it. If you know of any other unique exercises performed with a Thera-Band, please post them up. I'd also be interested in hearing how you train finger extension and other rare hand/finger movements.