A blog about Grip Strength, Dinosaur Training, Feats of Strength, Stonelifting, Kettlebell Training, Strength and Conditioning for Martial Arts, and the Paleo Diet.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Donald Dinnie, Paul Trappen, and All Strength Disciplines You Should Know

DONALD DINNIE (1837-1916) was the first man to lift the legendary Dinnie Stones (obvious, they are named after him).

But did you know that he was also unbeatable in almost all of the track and field disciplines, in wrestling, and was Scottish Highland Games Champion for 21 consecutive years?


I recently had a discussion with colleagues and my family about what the German word Schwerathletik ('heavy athletics') meant. It is little used these days, but used to be an umbrella term for the classic sports (Olympic?) which, in one way or another, emphasize strength or the use of heavy objects, as opposed to the track and field disciplines - in German Leichtathletik ('light athletics') - which emphasize endurance, speed, the pure handling of the own bodyweight, or light objects (like the javelin). Lists of the disciplines which fall under Schwerathletik vary, but weightlifting, shot put, hammer throwing, and wrestling are included in most of them.

This reminded me of a list I myself compiled a couple of years ago, when I tried to think of feats I could include in my shows and skills I should be familiar with in case anyone should challenge my knowledge of strength sports. Because, as you can image, it happens quite often that someone comes up to me after my show and says something like, "Nice show. But I used to live in a town where there lived a shot putter. Those guys are the strongest men all-round. Do you know anything about it?" Some come up to me and say, "Can you also tear phone books?" Oh, and you wouldn't believe how many ask, "How much do you bench press?"

At that time I basically did a brainstorm of what recognized sports deal with strength, or what disciplines are generally accepted as requiring great strength by the broad population. Here is what I came up with, a sort of 'All Strength Disciplines' list:
  • Powerlifting
  • Modern Strongman Competitions
  • Hand Balancing
  • Olympic Weightlifting
  • Grip Strength
  • Oldtime Strongman Feats
  • Body Weight Exercises
  • Stone Lifting
  • The Shot Put
A second thought I had when compiling this list, was that I should try training each one of those disciplines at one time or another. I wanted to become familiar with all of them, in order to be prepared for the many occasions when someone tests my knowledge of, or challenges my proficiency, in any of them.

During the last few weeks I thought about this list several times.

The most recent occasions I thought about it were the discussions with my colleagues and family about the term Schwerathletik.

So I decided to review the list again to make it more complete. I added the following disciplines:
  • Wrestling (or other forms of grappling)
  • Scottish Highland Games
  • Hammer Throwing
  • Arm Wrestling
  • Wrist Strength
Those shouldn't be missing.

But I haven't told you yet at what other occasion I thought about this list during the last few weeks:

The first occasion was when someone from my audience came up to me after my show and asked me whether I had ever heard of his great-uncle, the German oldtime strongman Paul Trappen. I hadn't, but I did a bit of research on him:

Although his name is little known today, PAUL TRAPPEN (1887-1857) apparently was a force to be reckoned with at his time. A butcher in real life, this man had incredible all-round strength - and a sense of humour, it seems: With a harness lift of two oxen (2064kg) he out-lifted the at that time recognized 'world champion' John GrĂ¼n from Luxembourg easily. Later he repeatedly outdid the reigning Olympic gold medalists in the pentathlon in unofficial competitions. A local farmer's boy with unlimited natural power who didn't give a hang about titles and glamour.

Very sympathetic.

But let's sum up in which disciplines Paul Trappen succeeded:
  • He was German weightlifting champion
  • He was a regional wrestling champion
  • He set records in various oldtime strongman disciplines, including the harness lift and the bent press
  • He outdid Olympic gold medalists in the penthatlon, which at that time probably included the long jump, javelin throw, 200 metres race, discus throw, and a 1500 metres race
  • At age 50 he set a senior world record in powerlifting

You see in what direction this is going. The old-timers were all-rounders. Many of them were open to, trained, and succeeded in more than just one dull discipline.

On to DONALD DINNIE. I mentioned it above:
  • He was an unbeatable Scottish Highland games champion for more than two decades
  • He was an international wrestling champion
  • He excelled in track and field disciplines like the sprint, hurdles, long and high jump, pole vault, and obviously all the other disciplines which overlap with the Highland games disciplines
  • He lifted and carried the Dinnie Stones

I think this is the MOST IMPORTANT idea behind my list: if you want to call yourself a strong man, you should be strong in more than just one way.

As you know, I used to be a competitive powerlifter for years. Now I compete only sporadically and for fun. But whenever I go to a powerlifting meet these days, everyone I know from 'the old days' encourages me to get into it again, to get myself new equipment, to compete more often again, etc. True, I could probably improve my records by a few pounds in the powerlifting disciplines if I really tried.

But to tell you the truth, I have hardly any ambition to do so, especially when I look at my list. There are so many strength disciplines which are new and fresh to me, which I haven't mastered yet, and which I simply can't wait to try.

Stone lifting? Cavemen did it thousands of years before the barbell was invented. Wrestling? The ultimate test of functional strength. Hammer levering? Separates the underwear models from the real men. Scottish Highland Games? The thought of it alone makes my heart jump.

Here is the complete list again. Pick yourself a few disciplines in which you want to excel. And then go out and try them. You don't have to be world champion in all of them. But remember that life is too short to restrict yourself to three movements. Here's a world of challenges:
  • Powerlifting (including squat, bench press, and deadlift)
  • Modern Strongman Competitions (including the log lift, keg lifting, tire flipping, the farmer's walk, Atlas stones, truck pulling and the yoke)
  • Hand Balancing
  • Olympic Weightlifting (including the clean & jerk and the snatch)
  • Grip Strength (including the crushing grip, thick bar lifts, and the pinch grip)
  • Oldtime Strongman Feats (including teeth strength, iron bending, the bent press, phone book tearing, card tearing, the back-/ harness-/ and hip lift, and breaking chains)
  • Body Weight Exercises (including push-ups, pull-ups, bodyweight squats and handstand push-ups for reps, but also one-arm push-ups and one-arm pull-ups)
  • Stone Lifting (including natural stones, the Alpine Steinheben, Atlas stones, but also the Scottish lifting stones like the Dinnie stones, the Inver stone, etc.
  • The classic throwing events (including the shot put and hammer throwing)
  • Wrestling (or some other form of grappling)
  • Scottish Highland Games
  • Arm Wrestling
  • Wrist Strength (including nail bending and hammer levering)
The way I do it, I pick about two new disciplines every year and make them a priority for a while. Just to see how far I can get. It refreshes your training, offers new impulses and the challenge is just great fun. After that year I can go out and say: Done. What's next?

Last year it was Modern Strongman disciplines and grip strength for me (I stuck with grip strength). This year it is grappling and stone lifting.


PS: If you want to get into SERIOUS GRIP STRENGTH training this year, here is a resource for you: Grip Strength.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Home-made Thumb Strength Telegraph Key

Here's ainspiration to build your own telegraph key-style thumb strength machine and save a lot of money:

Make do with whatever scrap metal (and/or wood) you have lying around...

You will probably have to do a bit of welding, but only a minimum was necessary for my model. Maybe you will find a way without any welding at all?

The rest was screws and bolts.

And a bit of spray paint to make it look better and more resistant against rust.

There you go! Lots of money saved.