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For those who saw the 1986 film “Back To School” starring the late Rodney Dangerfield, there is a line that became a catch-all for many things in our house among the children, and something I heard repeated on the street for a very long time; “Shakespere for everyone!” I could entitle this “Dumbbells for everyone!” because many powerlifters miss the boat when it comes to fully utilizing dumbbells in their training. If I may be allowed to digress, I should note that Dangerfield was a Long Island guy, very much a local when he was starting his career or more accurately, that should be clarified to read when he was re-starting his career. Those who are long time readers of my articles in Powerlifting USA, MILO, Iron Man, Muscle And Fitness, Strength And Health, STRONG, and Muscular Development magazines, The Steel Tip Newsletter that Kathy and I published in the mid-1980′s, as well as numerous internet articles, know that my father was an iron worker, a fact I have always been very proud of. That he taught me the basic skills of his trade so that I could cut and weld and eventually build my own training equipment was a huge bonus.
I could make the obvious joke and point out the knee jerk reaction of many in the strength community who said, “Yeah, Dr. Ken wrote about dumbbells from a lot of self knowledge, he is a dumbbell because of his adversity to kettlebells!” To me that would have been funny but allow me to be brief and clear. There is nothing “wrong” or incorrect about doing any training with kettlebells but it is not an efficient tool and for some applications not a safe tool relative to the use of a dumbbell. Again, I will relate to the fact, and it certainly is an undeniable fact, especially for those of us old enough to have lived through the so-called “Golden Age Of Training” of the mid-1950’s to late ‘60’s, that you just never saw a kettlebell unless it was stored in an elderly former lifter’s basement, or stuck in a corner at the local YMCA. I can recall reading some of the 1961 and 1962 Weider magazines when he was selling “kettlebell handles” that could be attached to one’s adjustable dumbbell bar.
In a world of specialization during an era of specialization, one of the lost aspects of effective training for powerlifters has come from the demise of dumbbell work. There are those like Louie Simmons who combine many new, innovative approaches to training with “old school” techniques and equipment and Louie specifically incorporates some dumbbell work into his programs. Most do not and for those lifters who are so specialized that they take an “Eastern European Olympic Weightlifting Approach” to powerlifting, doing only the three lifts or some variation of them, they may never use a dumbbell in any training program. For the powerlifters of the 1960’s when the sport was first organized, dumbbells were a staple of many training routines as both adjunctive and “major” exercises. As our previous installments in this series discussed the quality, differences, construction, and most other aspects of the barbells used in training and competition, a few descriptive words are warranted for the oft-forgotten and recently maligned dumbbells. Allow me please to first raise the hackles of numerous readers and many more self-appointed experts who have, in the past fifteen years, touted the praises of kettlebells.
I was pleasantly surprised with the rather heavy response to the TITAN/ELEIKO Part Twenty Eight article of September, 2010. Before continuing the saga of Lee Moran’s 1,003 pound squat at the 1984 Senior National Championships, I would like to expand upon the concept of “coaching and handling” as quite a few of the younger lifters were a bit lost relative to my comments in last month’s installment. I admittedly have been removed from the powerlifting contest arena since 1998. I have continued to train some competitive lifters but have not attended any contests since the five annual meets that we ran for many years at our Iron Island Gym, the last of which was in 1998. I can’t comment upon the quality of meets or actual coaching procedures that now pass for “standard” but I have seen men and women train very hard for many consecutive months, plan their opening attempts, yet then be unable to finish the meet successfully because a planned lift was missed, there was a delay in the competition, or an opponent had done much better than expected. In my day, and I made a passing comment about this in last month’s article, the Senior National Championships was for many of the classes, the equivalent of the World Championships.
One of the long standing debates running through the powerlifting community was noted in a Powerlifting USA Magazine monthly column of mine many, many years ago. I discussed the use of what I termed “an abbreviated routine,” one that consisted of limited exercises and volume. On one side of what has at times been a contentious argument, are those that believe that abbreviated routines will only work for a drug free lifter. The reasoning is that without drugs, one cannot “stand” a great deal of very hard, stimulating work and will be unable to efficiently recover workout to workout or week to week throughout the course of a pre-contest preparation cycle or long term training cycle to receive much benefit. A drug free lifter will only, some think, be able to benefit from a limited amount of hard, heavy lifting.
Anyone who has participated in the sport of powerlifting knows that there is but one publication that represents the sport of powerlifting, and it is POWERLIFTING USA. In the past few months PLUSA, like this series on the TITAN SUPPORT SYSTEMS web site, has featured historical articles. In addition to the usual selection of fine training related materials, there is information about the original Westside Barbell Club. Certainly, when the modern era lifter hears “Westside,” they immediately visualize Louie Simmons and his stable of incredible lifters and all of their national and world records. I would imagine that the Reverse Hyper Machine and other innovative training devices and techniques that Louie is so well known for would also quickly come to mind.
It may seem a bit unusual to begin a monthly column that is dedicated to my perspective on the history of becoming stronger and the sport of powerlifting with notice of a bodybuilder, but I wanted to mark the passing of Dennis Tinerino. I have made it clear that at least until powerlifting became an “official” sport with sanctioned competitions, most Olympic weightlifters, powerlifters, and bodybuilders had numerous similarities in their training. I believe that the old-fashioned explanation given to the uninformed during the early to mid-1960’s will very much emphasize my point. “Everyone” who trained did the overhead press as their primary pressing movement and it was considered to be the most important upper body exercise.
I had what I truly believe was the honor of providing a monthly column for Powerlifting USA Magazine every month for approximately twenty-three years. During that period of time, especially in the magazine’s formative years, I often provided two, three, or more features in each issue. Needless to say, under the stewardship of Mike Lambert and relative to my comments about Mike and the magazine in past TITAN/ELEIKO columns, PLUSA eventually became, and remains, the primary source of information about all aspects of the sport.
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