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An Everyday Musclehead

A old photo Frank Zane found recently

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I don’t mind if time flies (I like the wind in my hair), provided I’m present and awake. It’s when a day is lost and the week is a thin memory that my hold on living becomes white-knuckled. Where have all those eloquent men and women gone who fussed so and cautioned us that life is short? In an effort to get a sound hold on things -- here and now -- let us discuss grip training for the everyday musclehead.

Speaking of which, aren’t you glad you’re a musclehead and willing to admit it? There was a time when we weren’t looked up to with such shining esteem, when we were easily singled out and mocked or tangled in a witless joke. Today, as we do calf raises off the curb at an intersection waiting for the light to change or seated ab crunches at our work desk in the late morning, folks observe us with respect and admiration. It’s like they know we know something they don’t…and wish they did.

Women, a strong grip is attractive, fashionable and charming. Wouldn’t you rather have powerful hands over a dozen long-stem roses, a sequined party dress with a plunging neckline or very red lipstick?

Men, with a tough grasp you can deadlift without straps, curl, clean and row without hesitation, and further your might and mass with less struggle.

We are able to pick up things from the earth’s surface with more ease and willingness. Strong hands control; they have authority; they speak out boldly and are useful in fending off ill-mannered and foul-mouthed louts.

Forearms, like calves, have always represented to me as a bodypart of their own. I trained them early on and in conjunction with my biceps and triceps and, untaught, recognized them as integral in building might. I’ve previously outlined a number of original forearm and wrist training programs, and they remain the same today, with appropriate creative variation.

I also spent many years doing heavy dumbbell pulling in shrugs and rows, barbell rows and deads. My hands are somewhat limited in their fingertip grasp due to nerve impingement that one might expect after years of less-than-tame treatment. (Note: Be nice to your hands and other beloved bodyparts.) Therefore, my attention toward specialty work has taken a different path in recent years.

And through all that, I’ve got an audience of more than one and at the same time sit in the audience of many: Accountability.

We’ve become eager for answers and solutions to all sorts of stuff: Inquisitiveness.

What I once accepted as a limitation I now paw over and wring out till it can be furthered: Determination.

It all keeps me busy.

My life-long tendency to volume train (cuz it works so well) and my desire to manage some relatively heavy weight usually had me employ an ascending-weight, descending- rep scheme. Secret note: The mix of load and reps is very effective for muscular system response, training awareness and motivation. Coupling my focus on griping power as well as the targeted muscle group, I’ve always been willing to assert grip overload. Some people refuse to tolerate the strain to the hand and wrist, but I came to recognize its value, understand it and encourage it.

The dumbbell shoulder shrug, for example, is particularly appealing, and I approach it differently than most. The basic exercise requires strong hands to build strong traps and the associated muscles unless one uses straps. I opt to go barehanded explicitly to involve the hands. This approach is reflected in the manner in which I attend the job. I confront the dumbbells before me with deep breathing and meticulous hand placement. The balance must be correct to assure proper weight distribution; the fingers and palms and wrists must be positioned with care to determine the most positive advantage. Once I discovered how difficult chalk is to clean off black rubber gym floor, I learned to use batter’s rosin to assist in the task... C-clamps, Miracle Glue, cables and ropes.

Ventilating breaths of air accompany the final grasps and tugs as the perfect grip is secured and the focus on all fronts is negotiated. The dumbbells strain for the floor as I stand erect and identify the chaos of resistance. The reps are sought without doubt; the explosive upward concentric movement taunts the hands as they war with inertia, mass and poundage. The lower back is rigid and solid; the trapezius flaring and the bis play dead while the hands hold on.

They hold on because you and I insist they hold on, and they’re getting practice and special attention. We won’t let go and the traps continue to mound, the erectors burn and the breathing grows loud. The fingers are awaiting the signal to yield, unravel and relax in a scream of pain. The grip has the feeling of submission and last year you might have let go cuz you thought it was time. Not today.

The hands are the foremost warriors in the battle and have more fight than an army. One more rep and another till the work is done and they hold on.

Nothin’ to it, Bombers.

Cap’n Dave


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