Wednesday, November 30, 2016

United news and transfers Valencia rejected €2 millions

Hyundai Shell World Rally Team travels down under

Solberg wins Loheac RX in front of sell-out crowd

Skipper again boosted for first England goal after win

Rally Australia (WRC): multiples of five

Celebrating 25 years since Rally Australia’s first WRC inclusion

Pedal power sees Amy complete world toughest cycle challenge

M-Sport Hits 250 At Happy Hunting Ground

VIDEO: Neil Simpson impresses at Barum Czech Rally Zlín

Albatec Racing Geared-Up For World RX Of France in Europe

5 Underappreciated Benefits of Lifting Weights

All Dates, Cities Announced for 2017 USA Weightlifting American Open Series

In a post on the Team USA website today, USA Weightlifting announced the third and final city to host an American Open Series event in 2017. From the release:

“Michigan holds a special place in our sport’s history,” USA Weightlifting CEO Phil Andrews said. “We look forward to a great meet, thanks to our partnership with the West Michigan Sports Commission.”

The event is also the last chance for athletes to qualify for the 2017 International Weightlifting Federation Weightlifting World Championships in Anaheim, California. The 2017 Worlds Squad will be announced at the conclusion of the event.

We now know the dates and cities for all events in the new competition series (below), according to USA Weightlifting’s website.


Image by Rachel Kramer, licensed under CC BY 2.0

American Open Series 1

March 16-19, 2017
Reno, NV

American Open Series 2

July 28-31, 2017
Miami, FL

American Open Series 3

September 8-10, 2017
Grand Rapids, Michigan

American Open Finals

December 7 – 10, 2017
Anaheim, California

2017 will be the first year to use the new points system for the American Open Series, which we’ve described in more detail here.

Qualifying totals for the 2017 American Open Series are also now available here. (Hint: They’re probably a lot more accessible than you think.)

A few more details about the new competition series:

  • The American Open will henceforth be referred to as the “American Open Finals” to reflect its place as the culmination of a season-long competition series. Points will be earned across all four Series events, and Champions will be awarded at the Finals.
  • Each event in the Series will allow lifters the chance to set American Records and earn Rankings and Stipend eligibility.
  • Championships will be awarded across Team, Adult/Junior, Youth, and Masters categories.
  • All top three finishers in their weight categories at each Series event will automatically qualify for the American Open Finals, which will be held at the end of 2017.

Do you plan on participating in the American Open Series? Let us know in the comments below!

The post All Dates, Cities Announced for 2017 USA Weightlifting American Open Series appeared first on BarBend.

Mark Bell and Silent Mike Teach Us How To Bench Efficiently

Mark Bell, Silent Mike, and the Super Training Team continue to pump out great content, figuratively and literally.

The most recent video they shared was a 35-minute clip called, “The Definitive Guide to Bench Press Like a Beast.” This video was awesome. It was descriptive and informative, plus it provided practical cues for lifters to start using ASAP.

Although…the video is 35-minutes long, and while I highly suggest watching all of it, time isn’t always on our side. So to save you some time – I summed up a few of the key talking points from the video.

1. Comfort Within The Uncomfortable (:50)

Bell begins by discussing developing habits that become routine when putting ourselves in an uncomfortable position, i.e., the bench press. From your mental preparation, getting into position, and to the chalk you put on – everything should become routine.

A structured routine will then allow you to focus on the lift without wasted prep thought.

2. Positioning (2:40)

Silent Mike discusses how he positions himself on the bench and how to decide if you should bench with a wider or narrower grip. A few of the key setup points Silent Mike discusses in his routine that could be used for everyone’s include…

  • Eyes under bar and head positioning at the top of the bench.
  • Use the power rings to ensure the same grip every time and to adjust for your arm width.
  • Upper back tightness (squeeze through the whole press), this provides the body a platform to bench off of and creates stability.
  • Knees below hips, lock the legs in (driving heels to ground) and actively squeezing the butt to push energy to the upper body.

3. Bar Path (6:05)

Bar paths can vary, but for the majority of us, the bar will make contact with the lower chest/bottom of the sternum. Elbows should be slightly flared making the elbows remain under the bar or slightly in front it.

Bell tip: Pull the weight out of the rack, don’t lift it. Ideally, have someone provide a lift off for you, this keeps the back tight – plus you don’t have to lift off in a meet, so why do it in training?

3.5. Breathing (8:00)

A controversial topic, but breathing into the chest and belly can both be okay for the bench press. Judge this off of personal preference, and how the bar tracks on your body. Bell points out at Super Training they wear belts to avoid hyperextension of the back.

4. Mark Bell Sets Up (11:45)

Mark Bell takes you through his set up methods and key points he likes to focus on. He talks about how everyone has their own means of getting hyped up before the lift. Also, he gives a great cue and this is – think about bending the bar on the eccentric (downward motion) and absorbing the force before performing the concentric (upward motion).

5. Differences in Bar Path (15:00)

At this point in the video there’s the discussion of differences in bar paths from athlete and athlete. All of the logistics of pressing, along with examples are included by both Silent Mike and Bell.

6. Head Positioning (23:00)

The head positioning you use should be dictated by your press, most people feel comfort leaving their head on the bench.

Bell expresses that he lifts his head when he benches because it enhances his ability to pause and move weight. Find what’s most comfortable for you.

7. Arch (25:00)

Our body’s anthropometrics and  how we get positioned for the bench will create a natural arch – excessive arch can actually inhibit pressing for some.

8. Single Most Effective Exercise for Bench Pressing (28:00)

Bench pressing. For increased bench strength vary reps, sets, modalities, loading methods, and positions.

9. Examples of Bench Pressing Accessory Movements (29:25)

The rest of the video discusses methods for increasing bench through changing training methods. Plus, how to train for a sticking point, and much more.

“Leave no stone unturned with your training.”

Feature image from Supertraining06 YouTube page. 

The post Mark Bell and Silent Mike Teach Us How To Bench Efficiently appeared first on BarBend.

Isometrics Are Your Secret Weapon for Heavier Lifts

How I Became One Of Meg Squat’s Strong Strong Friends

4 Reasons Why Every Lifter Can Benefit from Unilateral Training

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Here’s How (and Why) You Can Donate to USA Weightlifting on #GivingTuesday

It’s #GivingTuesday across the internet, and in the American strength sports community, there are a few causes getting a lot of attention. One very near and dear to our hearts involves one of our favorite sports: Weightlifting.

Today, fans, members, and anyone else who wants to help support the growth of American weightlifting can donate to USA Weightlifting by visiting their portal HERE. All donations are tax-deductible.

USA Weightlifting CEO has a message specifically for BarBend readers who are considering making a donation:

Sure, USA Weightlifting has increased its direct athlete support by 900% in this last quad, but receives no government funding so we rely on Americans to send Team USA to the Worlds and the Olympic Games. This is a great day to donate and remember that’s deductible on your taxes!

And BarBend readers: This is a great way to support the sport you love following, participating in, and cheering for!

It’s important to note that USA Weightlifting as an organization, and the Olympic & Paralympic Movement in the United States, is one of the few internationally not funded by Government funds. The organization is reliant on tax-deductible donations to help keep operations going.

Curious what exactly donated money will go to? Here’s some insight from Andrews:

The money donated to USA Weightlifting goes to pay for our extensive Direct Athlete Support payment program (approximately $500,000 per year directly to USA Weightlifting athletes to pay for their training and competition expenses), expenses for Team USA to compete on the international stage and other services to our athletes across the year.

It doesn’t take much to have a huge impact on the sport’s growth in America. Consider donating HERE.

The post Here’s How (and Why) You Can Donate to USA Weightlifting on #GivingTuesday appeared first on BarBend.

Woodchopping Is the Best Strength Workout You’ve Never Tried

John Cena Shows Off His Weightlifting Skills By Hitting a 304 lb Snatch

When you think of John Cena, what’s the first thought that comes to mind?

I’m going to guess it’s probably professional wrestler or actor. What about Olympic weightlifter?

That’s right: John Cena is not only a great performer, but he’s a strong, powerful guy. In the video below, he snatches 304 lbs with pretty good form. Far from Olympic caliber, but impressive speed and mobility for a guy who many think of as a muscle-bound character in the ring.

On top of snatching, Cena can also clean with decent form. Another video shared on Cena’s YouTube page showcases him hitting a 150kg (330 lb) clean.

For reference, Cena stands at 6’1” and 240 lbs (109kg) and is 39 years old. 

If we look at the videos below and compare them to other strength athletes, we see Cena is pretty competitive from a powerlifting standpoint for what his weight class would be.

If he took the time to program and train for, let’s say a local powerlifting competition, I think he would definitely be competitive. Maybe not at a national – and definitely not a world record breaking – level, but perhaps in the top-tier for a local or regional meet. So let’s take it to the numbers.

If Cena weighed in at 240 lbs, he would compete in either the 242 lb (110kg) or 220 lb (100kg) weight class (if he cut down). The top elite totals for both of these classes in the open raw category at your typical local/regional meet range from 1,600-1,900. 

In a video shared by Mark Bell’s YouTube channel about a year ago, Cena performs a 611 lb back squat with good depth.

Another video shared last year in response to the NFL combine bench press results, shows what Cena can do with a press. Cena tweeted out a video of him benching 460 lbs. While there was no pause and it wouldn’t qualify in a meet, the speed was great. Looking at the weight and speed, I would guess Cena could hit a bench with a pause over 400 lbs. 

In regards to deadlift, while there hasn’t been any recent videos posted of a deadlift max. There was a video shared four years ago, that highlights Cena performing a 638 lb conventional deadlift.

Hypothetically, if Cena started prepping for a powerlifting comp and could hit a 620 lb squat, 430 lb bench, and 650 lb deadlift, that would put him at a 1,700 lb total. That’s competitive in an open raw local meet in both weight categories.

Obviously, the odds of Cena actually prepping and doing a powerlifting (or even weightlifting) meet are small, but it’s fun to wonder – what if he did?

Feature image from Supertraining06 YouTube page. 

The post John Cena Shows Off His Weightlifting Skills By Hitting a 304 lb Snatch appeared first on BarBend.

How to Maximize Effectiveness When Strength Training Solo

Let’s assume that you are serious about improving as an athlete, are fully invested in learning to become better, but either cannot afford a coach, can only afford programming/online coaching, or do not live near enough one with whom you can work regularly. You are eager to learn and hungry to improve.

You may assume that you are already self coaching. You train alone, after all. And maybe you are! But maybe you are also resting longer than you need to, going on mental autopilot through your sets and just “feeling things out.” Things aren’t improving very quickly, and while you have a solid program, you don’t feel focused and driven in your workouts. You may not be doing anything wrong, but that doesn’t mean you are making the most of your training.

How do you determine what’s best for you?


It starts with learning to observe yourself in whatever ways you can. There are some relatively simple steps you can take to make sure you are maximizing your training, and taking full responsibility for your training and progress (which you should be doing even if you do have a coach!). There is no one “Right way” to train, but there are many tactics you can utilize to enhance your performance, and learning to self-monitor, to observe yourself as objectively as possible, will challenge you mentally and will ultimately make you a better athlete.

1. Check Yourself Out

Record yourself on video from different angles. If you have longer rests (3 to 5 minutes), then you have time to film yourself and quickly review your set. If you are actively working on a specific movement (faster elbows in your clean, fast lockout, etc), you can stop and see if you actually did what you think you were doing. Some people have incredible body awareness, but even very advanced athletes need an extra pair of eyes at times.

If the most advanced in the world need form checks, what makes you think you don’t? If you don’t have time (because you are taking short rests), watch the video later and incorporate whatever notes you take into your next session. If you are working on correcting a bad habit, then odds are the bad habit feels “natural and right,” and why you need to be able to visually check that you are correcting it. It can be difficult to go from “analytical brain” when reviewing the video to “athlete” brain and putting the correction into action, but this will help you develop focus and discipline that will positively impact your lifts.

2. Make Friends

If you have lifting partners or even just people you are somewhat friendly with at the gym, ask them to be your temporary coach and your “extra eyes.” If you do this, scale the request to the level of your observer, and give them very specific instructions. If you are working on keeping your knees out and screwing your feet into the floor during your squat, but you don’t tell your friend what part of your body to watch, they will probably won’t be able to help as much as either of you want. Ask them to watch your knees. Ask them to say “screw your feet!” when you hit depth.

People are usually willing to help out, they just might be hesitant if they aren’t confident they can help you. Be specific, tell them what you need, and say thank you. Help them help you, and you’ll feel satisfied with your effort. And return the favor when asked!

3. K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple, Stupid

Maybe you have three things you really need to work on in your clean, and you are trying to do them all at once, every set. Pick one, and put all of your attention into executing it. The brain can only interpret and incorporate one new cue at a time typically, so if you’re working on engaging your lats more during your deadlift, just do that.

Don’t say in your head “break the bar, squeeze the lats, screw my feet into the floor, big breath…” it is too much and you will overwhelm yourself, and probably not perform any of the cues very effectively.  


Pick one thing. Do it. If you’re working on multiple cues (as we often are), vary it set to set. Lats on one set, bracing on the next. Zero in on that cue, put all your focus on it –  this should be challenging enough on its own. Sharpening your focus cue to cue and set to set will also sharpen your mental discipline and keep your attention where it needs to be: on your lift. Keep it simple, stupid.

4. Who Are You Talking to? Minding Your Inner Dialogue

This is deserving of its own article, book, dissertation, website, Instagram, Snapchat story, and on and on, but essentially what I want to highlight is the practice of mindfulness regarding your own thoughts. The ability to observe one’s own inner dialogue is a life skill that can help you in many ways, but in training it can specifically help you identify helpful  negative or positive thought patterns that affect your lifts.

Do you find that every time you clean the log and get it in the rack position you think “God this is heavy?” Is that affecting your lift? What if you clean it and think “This feels good”? It might not make a difference. But maybe it will. And you won’t know until you start actively participating in your inner dialogue during your workouts.

Becoming conscious of of how you talk to yourself can be a lifelong process. Getting to know ourselves and examining how we cope with competition, training, nutrition, and all of our habits is a lifelong process. Notice how you narrate it – only then can you can you make changes.

Coaching yourself is very difficult in many ways. You are trying to keep track of your form, your cues, your inner dialogue, manage your rests, push through your hard sets, focus in a loud gym, hype yourself in a quiet gym, be mindful of your fellow lifters, stay hydrated/nourished, stay on task, keep the negative thoughts at bay, cultivate focused and positive thoughts, clear your mind entirely, and any number of other factors.

It is a lot, and there is a skill to be mastered in all of these things. But this is part of what makes serious training for the amateur or advanced strength athlete rewarding – we are committed to pushing our own limitations and actively cultivating discipline, power, and focus. It can be really difficult on your own sometimes, but there are many ways to manage self-coaching and I believe it is a crucial skill to develop that will have immeasurable positive carryover to your competitive performance and your life as a whole.

The post How to Maximize Effectiveness When Strength Training Solo appeared first on BarBend.

On Injuries, Recovery, and the Fight Ahead: CrossFit Games Hopeful Kristine Andali

5 Strength and Positioning Exercises to Improve the First Pull

Monday, November 28, 2016

Eddie Hall Squats 759 lbs For 6 Reps With No Belt or Sleeves

Are You Strong? Building Strength Standards Across Five Key Movements

When you see it you certainly know it, yet defining just what counts as strong is surprisingly tricky. When I first started lifting, I was pretty sure I knew what it meant to be strong. To me it was being able to pull the then seemingly elusive double bodyweight deadlift.

All it took for me to realize just how far off the mark I was however was to leave the safe confines of my local gym and enter my first strongman competition. I got thoroughly beaten on every event that fateful day.

In the following years my perception of strength has shifted dramatically. Moving to a competitive strongman/CrossFit® gym and working with multiple World’s Strongest Man competitors has opened my eyes to what is possible, and as you would expect, irreversibly skewed my perception of strength.


It’s difficult to look at the guy benching two plates with envy when you’re spending your days with record breakers.

When we are talking about something as subjective as strength, we are all as influenced by our experiences as anyone would be. Gymnasts will favor flawless execution of bodyweight movements over the deadlift, whereas the Olympic lifters will push the clean & jerk as the greatest test. In reality, though, no one movement can truly test strength; instead, we need a combination of lifts.

The following five lifts test the entire body, can be done with various techniques/styles, and all (except the last) encourage the use of very heavy weights. One last thing: claiming a lift that you got 3 years ago won’t cut it here; use numbers that you have hit in the past few months.

The Levels

When running novice and beginner strongman competitions a few years ago, I came upon a problem, how do you decide who competes at what level? Moving away from the more common approach of basing it off previous competitions, I opted to go entirely on strength. Creating a list that has over the years transformed into the lifts below.

*Please note these are male standards; if you would like a female equivalent leave a comment at the bottom of the article!

Almost Strong – Compared to the general populace you’re in great shape and your lifts most likely place you firmly in the top five percent of the population at large. This level should be achievable within the first year of training.

Strong – You are now strong. These numbers would hold you in good stead at intermediate level competitions. Compared to the average Joe, you are superhuman.

Damn Strong – You are atop Mount Olympus, a god among mere mortals. Okay I’m exaggerating but in reality you are now stronger than most even dream of being. More than that though, you’re a well rounded strength athlete, not just a one trick pony. If you aren’t currently competing, you very much should be.


The first on our list — and rightly so. You can bounce a bench press or shave a few inches off a squat, but you just can’t cheat a deadlift. If you can take the bar from the floor and lock it out, you’ve deadlifted it regardless of what you had to do to get it there (strongman rules).


Not only is the deadlift beautifully simple, but there is something so primally satisfying about picking something heavy up off the floor. A true max straight bar deadlift pushes your entire body to it’s limit in a way that few other lifts can.

As said earlier, anything (safe) goes with this one, suits, straps and the occasional hitch are all ok as long as you lock out.

Weight Relative Strength
Almost Strong 200kg 2 x Bodyweight
Strong 250kg 2.5 x Bodyweight
Damn Strong 300kg 3 x Bodyweight

Floor to Overhead

There’s a reason that the Olympic Games test the strength of lifters with two ground to overhead lifts. Everyone has a weak link somewhere in their body, and a surefire way to expose it is to take a heavy weight and lift it overhead.


Again, we are keeping the rules as simple as possible, start with the bar on the floor and finish with it locked out overhead. How you get it from A to B is your decision, whichever technique allows you to safely lift the most weight, this could be a snatch, a continental & and press, and everything in between.

Weight Relative Strength
Almost Strong 100kg 1 x Bodyweight
Strong 120kg 1.2 x Bodyweight
Damn Strong 160kg 1.6 x Bodyweight


Bringing up strength without talking about the squat is paramount to heresy. I mean, is there any better test of lower body strength than the back squat? Glutes, hamstrings, quads, lower back, and even calves all have to be firing for you to successfully hit a heavy squat, not to mention your upper body, too.

More than just the muscular strain that the movement puts on your body, squatting heavy requires a certain type of mental toughness that the other lifts don’t. Loading up a bar till it bends, walking it out and then lowering yourself into the hole, not sure if you’ll be able to stand back up again takes a special kind of crazy.

My standards on this are again very straight forward: as long you go below parallel and stand back up without any help, you get the rep. If you squat high bar, low bar, in a suit or raw it doesn’t matter here.  

Standard Weight Relative Strength
Almost Strong 160kg 1.6 x Bodyweight
Strong 220kg 2.2 x Bodyweight
Damn Strong 300kg 3 x Bodyweight

Bench Press

In this age of functional strength, the bench press isn’t as popular as it once was, but this doesn’t mean that the bodybuilders staple doesn’t deserve a place on our list. Mistaken as just a chest and tricep movement, a well executed bench press requires strength and tension throughout your body.


Unlike the strict rulings of powerlifting, I’m a little bit more lenient when it comes to the bench press. Take the bar from locked and lower it to you chest, press it until locked out. That simple, you don’t need to pause but avoid bouncing the bar off your chest, it’s just asking for trouble. Sleeves and straps are allowed but leave the shirt at home.

Weight Relative Strength
Almost Strong 100kg 1 x Bodyweight
Strong 140kg 1.4 x Bodyweight
Damn Strong 180kg 1.8 x Bodyweight


The only bodyweight movement on the list and with good reason. Bodyweight squats are easy, press ups are more often cheated on, sit ups test mental toughness more than core strength. The pull up however is simple enough to learn but gets hard real quick.

Hang from a bar with a double overhand grip, pull yourself up with minimal momentum until your chin is over the bar, lower yourself to the starting position and repeat.

Almost Strong 10
Strong 15
Damn Strong 25

Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

The post Are You Strong? Building Strength Standards Across Five Key Movements appeared first on BarBend.

16 Year Old Harrison Maurus Clean & Jerks 400 lbs

Aleksey Ni Steps Down As Head Coach of Kazakhstan’s National Weightlifting Team

According to outlet, longtime Kazakhstani National Coach Aleksey Ni is stepping down as head of his country’s weightlifting team. Ni officially stepped down on November 25th.

Aleksey Ni

Aleksey Ni

Ni has been Kazakhstan’s highest ranking weightlifting coach since 1994, and during that time, he’s overseen the national team’s growth into a true powerhouse on the world stage. In the past decade especially, Kazakhstan has been among the world’s best nation’s for both men’s and women’s weightlifting, winning numerous World and Olympic Championships across a variety of weight classes.

However, recent doping suspensions now leave the nation’s lifters facing a one-year ban from international competition among other sanctions for individual athletes.

The country’s lifters have also been implicated in numerous doping violations following reanalysis of samples from the Beijing and London Olympic Games. Two-time Olympic Champion Ilya Ilyin — one of the most popular and famous athletes in Kazakhstan’s sporting history — has recently announced his retirement from competition after the IOC ordered him to return his medals; the IOC has so far stripped Kazakhstani lifters of seven Olympic medals from 2008 and 2012.

In a statement given to Vesti (translated), Ni took responsibility for what’s happened to the team:

I was the head coach at the two Olympic Games, so I am responsible for what happened to my team.

A full bio for Ni can be found on the Kazakhstani Federation’s website here.

Featured image: Kazakhstan’s Weightlifting Federation on Facebook

The post Aleksey Ni Steps Down As Head Coach of Kazakhstan’s National Weightlifting Team appeared first on BarBend.

Harbinger Cotton Padded Lifting Strap Review

Harbinger was founded in 1988 by an inventor named David McCrane, who at the time teamed up with 8-time Mr. Olympia, Lee Haney. Initially, these two worked together to create lifting wrist assists and gloves to enhance a lifter’s performance. Since, Harbinger has became a well-known name inside a lot of gyms, now creating a wide variety of lift aids such as weightlifting belts, straps, gloves, assists, and much more. 

The Harbinger Padded Cotton Lifting Strap is a single loop lifting strap. This cotton padded strap is different than normal cotton straps due to the added pad for comfort. Most cotton straps take time to break in, which usually involves a couple sweaty gym sessions. Excited to see how the added pad felt compared to normal cotton straps, I put them through a variety of tests a normal lifter would use them for, these included the deadlift, row, clean, and snatch.


Right off the bat, I could tell these were different than your standard cotton strap. Often times cotton straps need a few workouts to break in, and this usually entails a week or two of sweaty gym sessions. If you’ve never used a cotton lifting strap, a typical cotton strap can cause a little chafing of the wrist due to the brand new cotton rubbing on sensitive skin. The cotton pad in the Harbinger’s provided a comfortable feeling from the first use.


Much like normal cotton straps, the Harbinger’s absorbed sweat well. A fear I had before using these straps was the cotton pad deflecting sweat instead of absorbing, but I found no issue with lack of absorption.

One issue I did find, however, was the cotton strap moving a little bit as I got progressively more heavy in my movements. This could be an issue when it comes to bar security when performing close to maximal lifts with straps.



In comparison to normal single loop straps I’ve tried, the Harbingers were your standard single loop strap. The cotton is durable and has heavy duty stitching to support lack of ripping from lifting. The cotton pad itself is Harbinger’s Neotek technology and is constructed to be durable, while comfortable.

On top of the Neotek cotton pad, the straps have merrowed end tabs. This is unique to this strap; some straps don’t specifically merrow the ends, which can lead to fraying. The merrowed ends provide an increased durable feeling and should help prevent early fraying of the cotton overtime.


A possible issue I could see arise is the wear and tear of the cotton pad within the strap. If someone is performing a lot of dynamic, power oriented movements, they may find the pad come loose or possibly rip off. While I didn’t experience this, it’s an issue I could see happening with a lot of heavy strap use.


The material is a heavy duty cotton, but doesn’t feel rough on the skin, which was a nice surprise. From the first use, there was no feeling of stiffness in the cotton and the pad wrapped around the wrist well. As stated above, the pad itself is Harbingers’ Neotek technology, which offered enough pad to comfort the wrist, but not enough where you couldn’t feel the strap on the wrist.

Like stated above, the only issue I could see arising with this strap is the cotton pad becoming worn on one strap or both. If the pad came undone or wore out on one side, it could cause an imbalanced feeling.



The sizing of this strap could be taken as a really great thing, but also a potential downside. If you’re someone who likes the feel of strap on the bar, you’ll like this Harbinger wrist strap. The strap is 1 ½ inches thick to allow enough strap to fully grip the bar with strap. In addition, the strap is made extra long to allow a lifter to wrap the strap around a bar multiple times.

On the flip side, if you’re someone who doesn’t want a lot of extra strap and still wants the bar feeling, then you may shy away from this strap. While this strap can be great for a newer lifter because it provides ample material to assist with lifts, it can turn off someone who wants a no frill, small strap.


For what it’s worth, the Harbinger Padded Cotton Lifting Strap has a great price: a little under ten dollars at $8.99. I thought this was a great price for a durable strap that promises extra length, plus a cotton pad for comfort. When compared to most single loop straps, this strap sides on the lower end of pricing. This makes it a great pick for anyone who wants a reliable, standard single loop, name brand strap.


The single loop straps are known for their ability to be used in a versatile manner to assist a lifter throughout multiple lifts. These Harbinger straps performed well through slow tempo and power oriented movements. They weren’t the most secure straps I’ve tried, but they held the bar securely in all of my tests. There was only one issue I could foresee with the bar security in power movements with these straps, and that’s the cotton pad becoming worn or tearing.


Rating 1-5 (5 being best)

Feeling: 4

Durability: 4

Material: 4

Pricing: 4

Sizing: 3.8

Final Word

All in all, the Harbinger Padded Cotton Lifting Strap was a solid standard single loop strap. I enjoyed their feeling from my first use and they’re fairly priced when compared to other straps on the market. While I didn’t personally experience this, I could foresee the cotton pad itself potentially having wear and tear issues. Apart from that issue, these straps felt secure through all of the movements I tested them with and absorbed sweat well.

If you’re someone who wants a standard single loop strap for a fair price, then I would recommend giving the Harbinger Cotton Padded Lifting Strap a try.

The post Harbinger Cotton Padded Lifting Strap Review appeared first on BarBend.

Weightlifter Profiles: Nikolay Varbanov of Canada, 69kg

In any sport, it is rare to find high level talent that directly spans generations in the same family. In America, we can relate to the Vardanian family, where in recent years Norik Vardanian has set new American records and was a 2012 Olympian representing the country of Armenia. His father, Yurik Vardanian, was a seven-time World Champion and 1980 Olympic Champion for the USSR.

By comparison, Canada also has a weightlifting legend who is nurturing his son into a dominant athlete. Just outside of Toronto is where Nikolay Varbanov lives; he is the son of three-time World Champion and 1988 Olympic Bronze medalist Alexander Varbanov of Bulgaria.


Alexander (left) and Nikolay (right) Varbanov

Nikolay, or “Niki” to his friends and family, was born in Shumen, Bulgaria, and is fluent in that country’s language. Over the last few years, the Varbanov family has been hosting a summer training camp in their native country. Including the Varbanov family, instructors and special guests have included Olympic Champions Yanko Rusev and Ivan Ivanov and three-time World Champion Zlatan Vanev.

In my opinion, it is experiences like these that complement a great weightlifting environment that the Varbanov’s are facilitating in greater Toronto. Nikolay, along with younger athletes such as Boady Santavy, will be leading the Canadian Olympic men’s team towards multiple spots in Tokyo 2020 and beyond.

I caught up with the Varbanov Family on Saturday, November 5th, right after Nikolay won his weight class and put on an impressive display of weightlifting at the Ontario Fall Classic in Mississauga, Ontario.  

Nikolay Varbanov (Varbanov School of Weightlifting, 69KG)

Hometown: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Education: Currently a senior in High School. Plans to attend college next year and wants o go to Medical School.

Athletic Accomplishments:

  • 2016 Silver Medalist, Canadian Senior National Championships
  • 3X Junior National Champion

How long have you been lifting? How did you get started?

“I have been lifting for five years. My dad was a weightlifter – I was born into it.”

Hobbies / Activities outside of weightlifting: “I like to play other sports; wrestling, soccer and football. I also coach Olympic Weightlifting at the Academy of Lions – where out gym is.”

Goals for Fall Classic and the rest of 2016? “My goals for today were 120KG in the snatch and 155KG in the CJ”.

Authors Note: Varbanov’s 123KG snatch in the 69KG category was a new senior Ontario Provincial Record, along with his total of 273KG (601lb). He has previously clean & jerked 155KG which is the current Ontario senior level in that lift.

Goals for 2017 and beyond? “I want to total 300KG by the 2017 Senior National Championships this summer, 135KG in the snatch and 165KG in the clean and jerk. I want to qualify for the Junior World Team and place in the top three overall.”

Who is your biggest competition? “Myself – weightlifting is such a mental sport, I just have to keep working and I will be successful.”

Who is your favorite weightlifter to watch? “I enjoy watching myself lift weights so I can improve my lifting. I like watching lifters from the old days such as [Bulgarian World Champion and Olympic Bronze medalist] Stefan Botev.”

Author’s Note: The Varbanov’s have secret training videos at their home of greats from the past. I was impressed that they have been converted into DVDs and are not still on VHS tapes.

Training PRs?

Snatch: 125KG (275lb)

Clean & Jerk: 155KG (341lb)

Jerk: 150KG (330lb)

Back Squat: 215KG (473lb)

Front Squat: 185KG (407lb)

Number of training sessions/week (how often do you go heavy (90% +)? “5-6 sessions per week, only once per day. I go heavy in 3 or 4 of those training sessions.”

What does your diet consist of? (Special foods, nutritional plans, etc.) “I eat primarily homemade food, cooked by my mom. Some of it is traditional Bulgarian food; but my main goal now is to fill into a solid 69KG athlete.”

How has the culture of weightlifting changed in Canada over the last several years?  “There’s a lot more interest in the sport, overall it has grown by a large percentage. People are learning about the lifts thanks to CrossFit and that’s great to see.”


How has your dad’s past success affected you as an athlete today? “My life goal is a 216KG (475lb) clean & jerk. My dad’s best lift in competition was 215KG (473lb), so that drives me. My dad motivates me a lot, he pushed me and is the reason I got into weightlifting. There is no pressure, he helps me a lot especially with the mental stability aspect of the sport and training.”

Author’s Note: Given the opportunity; I asked his father, Alexander Varbanov, the same question regarding his training PRs. It would not be fair to compare 17 year of Nikolay to 24 year old Alexander. However I asked this question out of my respect for the man, the history of the sport and my enjoyment weightlifting. He prefaced his answer with “It was a different world, different time and place.”

In 1986 as a 75KG athlete, the elder Varbanov accomplished:

Snatch: 176KG (387lb)

Clean : 225KG (495lb)

Jerk: They never did the jerk by itself, only clean and jerks.

Back Squat: 300KG (660lb)

Front Squat: 280KG (616lb)


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The Anderson Squat: How, When, and Why It Should Be In Your Training

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Russian Weightlifting Federation Elects New President

In an article released this week on the website of the Russian Weightlifting Federation (RWF), Maxim Agapitov has been elected as the new permanent President of the Russian Weightlifting Federation. He will be succeeding Sergei Syrtsov, who resigned in September after taking criticism and blame for a large number of doping offenses involving the country’s weightlifters. Syrtsov had been in charge since 2010.

Agapitov has filled the role of acting RWF President since September of this year. He stood for election against Mikhail Stepanyants, the first Vice President of the Russian Curling Federation. Agapitov received 43 votes from the 68 voting delegates.


Maxim Agapitov; photo courtesy Eleiko

Agapitov has his work cut out for him within a Federation still reeling from multiple doping offenses, allegations, and a total ban from competition at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

His first order of business will be resolving doping issues. Russian weightlifters were prohibited from competing at the Summer Olympics following publication of the McLaren Report, as well as the advice of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and re-analysis of Beijing 2008 and London 2012 samples, along with four failed drug tests from the 2015 World Championships.  

In July, the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) said that the “integrity of the weightlifting sport has been seriously damaged on multiple times and levels by the Russians, therefore an appropriate sanction was applied in order to preserve the status of the sport“.

Re-analysis of the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games produced positive findings of banned substances for 9 Russian athletes. These athletes have since been provisionally suspended, and in some instances, their results forfeited and have already been ordered to return their medals.

Agapitov himself is a former elite level athlete for the Russian Federation. His accomplishments include winning the 1997 World Championship in the 91KG category. Since 2000, he has served as General Manager of the Russian division for Eleiko Sport, LLC .

Featured image:

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Friday, November 25, 2016

10 Simple Plank Variations for a Stronger Core

Too many people go about core strength the wrong way. They sit at a computer all day, hunched over in flexion, then head to the gym to put themselves in more flexion through countless sit-ups and crunches.

For folks lifting barbells off the ground and over their heads, good hip and core stability is more important than core flexion.

That’s why planks are never going out of style. When done right, they don’t just improve midline stability, they strengthen the glutes and quads, target the rectus abdominus (which can improve jumping power), improve posture, reduce back pain, and increase balance.

These aren’t the only core exercises you should have in your rotation, but for their sheer versatility and do-anywhere-ness, it’s worth fitting a solid plank sesh into your rest days. (And if you’ve already mastered them, send this to your more unstable friends.)


1) The Incline Plank

The incline plank, like an incline push-up, is an easier version of the standard kind. It requires a little less stability and puts more emphasis on the middle muscles of the abs.


2) The Decline Plank

This version places a little more stress on the lower abs than the rest of the six-pack. Since these muscles are often neglected, and since the decline puts more stress on the shoulders, this “beginner” exercise can wind up surprisingly hard to maintain. Swap the bench for an exercise ball to step things up a notch.


3) The RKC Plank

The RKC plank looks like your regular plank, but the trick is to push the forearms hard into the ground, squeeze the glutes hard, and create tension throughout the entire body.img_8105 It cranks the humble plank up to eleven.


4) The Side Plank

The go-to bodyweight move for your obliques, the side plank helps to improve lateral stability and gives some fullness to the outer ridges of your six-pack. Stack the legs on top of each other and make things more difficult by lifting your top leg or holding a weight.


5) The Weighted Plank

We call this the plank plus. For the sake of safety and to target the most desirable muscles, try to put the weight directly over your core.


6) The Bird Dog

Simply lifting two limbs off the ground is a terrific way to amp up your plank. It’s much better at challenging your balance, kinesthic awareness, coordination, and low back. For extra difficulty, try bringing your knee and elbow together or performing the exercise with straight arms.


7) The Extended Plank

Start the plank on your hands and slowly walk them out in front of you as you get closer and closer to the floor. Make absolutely sure your back stays straight and your hips don’t sag.


8) The X Plank

Moving your base away from your core forces your muscles to work harder to stabilize the body. If you’re daring, you can combine this with the extended plank, moving back and forth between the positions.


9) The Fingertip Plank

Hand strength is arguably the most important kind of functional strength. It can result in everything from easier deadlifts to finally opening that damn pickle jar. The fingertip plank will help you in this goal, just remember that you don’t really want to be all the way on the tips of your fingers, but rather on the pads of your fingers with the tips slightly bent back.


10) The Suspension Trainer/Ring Plank

Our pick for the most difficult on this list: Loop your hands inside the handles of a suspension trainer (or a couple of rings, as shown above) and feel the burn. This variation instantly throws the body into a wildly unstable position and ratchets up the difficulty of the movement. For an easier version, loop the feet inside the handles instead. For even more instability, try a side plank with one hand balancing in the handle.

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