Being a coach within the strength game, I’m always out trying pick up more information.
A few weeks back, I had the chance of being introduced to Logan Christopher of LegendaryStrength.com.
If you missed the interview I did with Logan, you can see it HERE.
In short, Logan is a very interesting fellow with a TON of awesome strength knowledge.
We got to talking about all sorts of different things in regards to strength training with a lot of the info being very NEW to me.
One of the things Logan is known for is his involvement with Old Time Strongman Feat’s of Strength. I’ve seen videos and have read old articles and stories about Old Time Strongman training and such, but never went to much further then that with it.
Either way, like I said I’m always out learning more.
With this blog post, I’m happy to bring to you a guest blog from Logan on the WHAT and HOW on Feats of Strength.
Pretty cool stuff.
I’ll let Logan take it away from here…
A feat of strength is different from an exercise. While they can be the same movement, it’s more in how they’re done. Feats of strength are usually an exhibition of strength, rather than something that is done to build strength.
What this means is that anything can basically qualify as a feat of strength. The bench press or snatch can be a feat if it’s taken to a certain level and done to “showcase” the strength you have.
Usually though feats of strength refer to uncommon exercises. Some of these involve the destruction of common items. I can’t say for sure what it is, but there is something very satisfying about destroying something with just your two hands that most people cannot do. Here are a few examples.
This is one of the classics. It is commonly accepted that the entrance into the “strongman club” is when you can bend a 60D (the D is read as “penny”) nail. Of course, no one starts at this level nor is this the highest level of bending. Like with any of strength endeavor they key is progression and building up over time.
There are several different styles of bending and it also depends on what you’re bending. I mentioned nails, but you can build up to bending all many of objects including but not limited to spikes, horseshoes, wrenches, even rolling up frying pans. To do any of these requires great wrist strength.
Another classic that is at some point in the future likely to disappear unfortunately is phonebook tearing. I’m willing to bet there’s no more than 20 years left of having phonebooks around if that long, with smart phones and the internet. And I don’t plan on ripping my iPhone in half anytime soon.
With phonebooks there is a technique that can be done called “popping” the phonebook. This by itself doesn’t take much strength to do. Instead, here is the “grip and Rip” method of tearing phonebooks as you’ll see in this video.
Decks of cards are great for more than playing with. When you can tear a pack of high quality cards in half you know you’re pretty strong. This uses some similar strength as a phonebook but is quite different in some ways too. Both use a modified pinch and there are several different styles which you can tear in.
You’ll notice the rubber band around these cards is there merely to keep them together once they’ve been torn. I hang onto my “firsts” like this one, the first time I tore a deck of Bicycle cards, which are sort of the Gold Standard when it comes to card tearing.
Grip Centered Feats of Strength
As you can see most of these feats of strength are centered around the hands. In today’s day and age few people in any gym do any real hand, grip and wrist work beyond maybe a few wrist curls in commercial gyms. You may get some hand strength as side benefits with something like thick handled kettlebells or rope climbing, but still there is much more than can be done. You can work with heavy grippers, thick grips, the pinch grip, single finger lifting and much more. All of this will build a stronger grip that will serve as your foundation if you decide to move into doing feats of strength.
Here is one more move that can serve as a great training exercise or a feat of strength, that is sledgehammer levering. There are several forms of this the one you can watch in the video below involves lowering the sledgehammer to the nose and back. This is a 12 lb. sledge which is quite a weight with the leverage involved. I would recommend starting with 6 lbs.
Something that was common back in the days of the Old Time Strongmen is that they would lift barbells and would challenge any of the local people to do the same. In many cases these barbells were certainly heavy, but not so heavy that some people wouldn’t be able to lift them. However, they had thick handles, which if you’ve never tried thick handled barbell lifting you’d be in for quite a surprise as to how much harder it is. As the hands are the weak part for most people these barbells wouldn’t budge.
The same is true in all the feats shown here. You may have all the necessary strength you need in your body to do these feats but if you can’t transmit that force through your hands then nothing will move.
Whole Body Feats of Strength
Of course not all feats of strength are centered around the hands. As mentioned before they can really be anything. Here’s a couple other exercises, chances are, you haven’t seen before unless you’ve been introduced into this world.
Two Hands Anyhow
In the two hands anyhow you lift a number of weights overhead with both hands “any how” you can. Usually this is two weights but sometimes it is more. Just how far can you take this? Very far, as these lifts of two of the strongest men of the past show, Arthur Saxon and Hermann Goerner.
Arthur Saxon was the master of the bent press, an old-time lift seldom seen today. He put a barbell weighing 336 pounds up with just his right arm then lifted a 112 pound ring weight with his other.
At Dresden on 25th July, 1920, Görner lifted the enormous weight of 430 lb. (a little more than 195 kilos) overhead in the Two Hands ‘Anyhow’ style, performing the feats with four kettleweights in the following manner. He first of all swung with the right hand two kettleweights, one weighing 110¼ lb. and the other 99¼ lb. Still holding the bells overhead, he then bent down and picked up with the left hand a third kettleweight weighing 110¼ lb. (50 kilos), which he then swung to arms length and transferred to the thumb of the right hand. Then, still holding the three kettleweights overhead in his right hand, he lowered his body carefully and with the left hand picked up the fourth kettleweight, which he slowly swung to arms length. The combined weight then held overhead for the referee’s court was, as has been stated, no less than 430 English lb. or more than 195 kilos. This was a truly stupendous feat of strength…No man in the world has ever lifted more weight in the shape of Kettle-weights in the ‘Anyhow’ style than Hermann Görner.
Another common feat of strength involves not lifting, but supporting weight. There are many styles of doing this. One that I enjoy doing and have had lots of success with involves the wrestler’s bridge. This by itself is a great exercise for neck strength and spine health. However, I’ve taken it to a very far level. Here I am briefly supporting a total of over 600 lbs. in this position. I do not recommend trying this one out without a lot of work leading up to it
How to include these in a workout
A common question regarding feats of strength is whether it’s all technique or strength is involved. The truth is it is both. Just like in a bench press or snatch there is both strength and technique. To be really good you need both. The same holds true of all feats. Of course in your training you can work both the technique and strength aspects at the same time.
To add feats like these to your training will depend on your goals. My best advice is to pick one or two feats at a time and work them until you achieve a decent level of success. Like all strength training these feats can be scaled to suit your level regardless of where you begin. Grip work is great to add to the end of any workout. This can be an easy exercise like a two hand plate pinch or working on one of the feats above. Do a few sets and you’ll be amazed at how far you can go in a short amount of time.
The Performance Aspect
A big part of feats of strength is that they are performance based. Most exercise is competition based from Crossfit to Powerlifting, even Grip Sport or Kettlebells. Of course, there is also kettlebell juggling which is performance based too and a great feat of strength. In my book its all good. Competing is fun. So it putting on a show. Often times they go together. After all many of the oldtime strongmen put on shows but also competed against each other doing various feats of strength and lifting.
You don’t have to ever perform if you don’t want to but once you do this for a few people you begin to get a name for yourself as the strongman (or woman too, as there are a few strong women out there tearing and bending as well). So if you’re looking for a great party trick or two, nothing really beats these feats. As the old saying goes, “Everyove loves a strongman.”
Just be careful. Once you’re bitten by the strongman bug there really isn’t any turning back. 🙂
Logan Christopher has been called a physical culture renaissance man as he is accomplished in a wide range of strength skills. He is one of the best kettlebell jugglers in the US. He’s a performing strongman, one of his most famous feats was pulling an antique firetruck by his hair. Logan also spends a lot of time working on bodyweight exercises, hand balancing and other acrobatic skills. In addition, he’s spent the last several years going deep into mental training to find out what it takes to really excel and tactics that can help people instantly improve their exercises.
Pretty awesome stuff from my man Logan. I definitely give Logan the 110% H.A.M. Stamp of APPROVAL.
Logan has definitely turned me on to some NEW stuff that you’ll be seeing more of in the near future 😉
Keep Living and Training Aggressive!
PS – For more INSANE info, check out his series on Feats of Strength for more impressive and innovative STRENGTH info.