Friday, December 30, 2016
Thursday, December 29, 2016
You can always rely on drunk men to come up with new ways to test their fitness.
“It was an idea that was started fifty-four years ago in a pub with a bit of banter between two men in the village who thought he was fitter than the other,” Duncan Smith tells BarBend in a thick Yorkshire accent. “One was a coal man and the other was a farmer. So they had a little wager between themselves. ‘Tell you what, get a big bag of coal on your back and I’ll have you race from the local pub up to the village green.’ And that’s where it started. Two drunk men having a bit of a banter.”
These humble, booze-soaked origins are what led to the World Coal Carrying Championships, an annual event that Smith holds every Easter Monday in the tiny village of Gawthorpe in northern England.
Sponsored by a local funeral director (and why not), the event has welcomed competitors from every corner of the planet, and Smith is expecting over two hundred competitors in 2017. Think you’re coal miner strong?
No Walk In the Park
The rules are simple: run a thousand meters with a sack of coal on your back. Men carry bags of 110 pounds and women 45 pounds, and it’s split into three divisions: men, women, and “veterans,” comprised of men over forty. Men stand to make 750 British pounds (USD919) and women 500 pounds (USD613) if they win, and that jumps to 1,000 pounds (USD1,225) or 625 pounds (USD765) if one manages to break the current record of four minutes and six seconds, or four minutes and twenty-five seconds for ladies.
Maybe you’ve been working on your work capacity, or maybe you’ve increased your loaded carry work, and you don’t think that sounds all that tough. That mentality is exactly what you need to completely fail at the course.
“It’s a sheer blast of exertion, you’ll never do anything as hard,” says John Hunter, a ten-time race champion who makes a hobby of running military-style endurance races around the country. “Gawthorpe is one of the fastest races out there. From the gun, you have to go flat out. People collapse, their legs go to jelly, they drop the bag and they just cannot pick it back up. Every year, I get nervous because you just don’t know what’s gonna happen. It’s such a shock to the system.”
John Hunter, in his lucky white compression shorts, accelerating to first on an uphill stretch.
Get Carried Away
Coal carrying has some similarities with the increasingly popular sport of rucking, which involves marching or running with a loaded backpack. It’s been studied a little more closely than the Gawthorpe coal carriers, and has been shown to burn up to three times more calories than a regular walk, improve hip and postural stability, increase work capacity, and boost injury resilience in a safer and more effective manner than your average jogging habit.
The obvious difference with coal carrying is that the weight isn’t held in place with secure straps – it’s an unstable sack that the runner holds in place by grabbing the corners by his or her shoulders. It’s really important to point out how much more difficult this makes the exercise. With the coal shifting around the bag and the body’s stabilizing muscles working that much harder to keep it from falling to the ground, the 110-pound bag feels far heavier than it sounds.
Not all coal bags make it to the finish line.
How to Train
Hunter spends a solid three months training for the Gawthorpe Coal Carrying Championship, working out six or seven days per week. Here’s what his training looks like.
Weighted Hill Sprints, 3x/week
With eighty pounds in a bag around his neck, Hunter runs a hill that’s five hundred meters from bottom to top and ascends at a one-to-four gradient, or about fourteen degrees. It takes him three minutes to reach the top, then he jogs back to the bottom and starts all over again, for five total runs.
Tire Drags, 2x/week
Hunter drags an eighty-pound tire with a chain for one and a half miles, broken into six sets of eight hundred meters. “It’s not massive, but I drag it on the beach at low tide,” he says. “So you’ve got a lot of resistance against the sand.”
Uphill Tire Flips, 1x/week
Now armed with a two hundred-pound “lorry tire,” Hunter heads back to the five hundred-meter hill and attacks. To reach the top, he needs to flip the tire about three hundred times, then he carries it back down. One round is enough.
Bodyweight Exercises, every day
Twenty to forty minutes of high-rep chin-ups, dips, push-ups, squats, and core work. Hunter considers this his cardio.
In the final three weeks of training, he’ll dial down the hill sprints and start running the actual, 1000-meter course. Three or four times a week he’ll complete a run with the full competition weight on his shoulders, but about once a week he’ll farmer’s walk the course with two 32-kilogram kettlebells in his hands. When his grip fails, he drops to the ground and does push-ups until it recovers.
He eats 4,000 calories a day. He is 52 years old.
Hunter cautions that a lot of athletes don’t train to tolerate a lactic acid buildup and that after the first five hundred meters, many runners seize up.
“The course also has a gradient start so you can’t get into a set pattern,” he says. “After a couple hundred meters it flattens, then it goes up again, so it plays tricks on your legs. It flattens off again toward the end, so people sprint to the finish and their legs give way. That happens to quite a few people at the top of that hill. I did it once and I was like Bambi, my legs just went out from under me. If I’d kept at a set pace, I’d have won it.”
Your Next Step
Ladies and gentleman: Think you can beat 1000 meters with 45 or 110 pounds on your back (respectively) in less than four and a half minutes? Then there might be hundreds of dollars with your name on it in waiting for you in merry old England.
The Gawthorpe Coal Carrying Championships are held every year on Easter Monday (that’s April 17 in 2017), the profits go toward providing social support and activities for the village’s elderly population, and the entry fee is just fifteen pounds for men under forty and ten pounds for women and “veterans”. You can sign up here – or you could always start your own tradition of coal carrying. Drunkenness optional.
Images courtesy of Duncan Smith and John Hunter.
The post Coal Miner Strong: How to Win the World Coal Carrying Championship appeared first on BarBend.
Wednesday, December 28, 2016
Tuesday, December 27, 2016
When we brought you the news of Stoneland earlier this month, Rogue Fitness’s second feature documentary about strength sports, it had no release date. So we were surprised and delighted when it was recently released in its entirety on YouTube and Facebook. And we’ve embedded it below so you can watch right here.
At first glance, Stoneland looks like a documentary about the Highland Games, Scotland’s world famous strength sports event that features caber tossing, stone throwing, the tug of war, and a Gaelic version of Mas wrestling, among other events.
A hammer throw depicted in stained glass. Image via Rogue Fitness on YouTube.
But Stoneland is both more restrained and more ambitious, wholly dedicated to the nation’s ancient art of stone lifting. There’s some focus on a Scottish version of Atlas stones and on clach neart, or the Stones of Strength, rocks of twenty to thirty pounds that are thrown for distance.
The real focus of the documentary, however, is on clach cuid fir: the Manhood Stones. For centuries, many villages would have a heavy stone in their centers that boys were expected to one day be able to lift as a rite of passage into manhood. The examination of Manhood Stones is the lens through which the film examines the notions of adulthood, responsibility, leadership, and tradition—it’s not just another movie about dudes lifting weights. (Not that there’s anything wrong with those, either.)
The film spends plenty of time on the why of stone lifting, but there’s also a narrative: James Garner wants to break the world record of holding the Dinnie Stones which, at 734.5 pounds, are Scotland’s heaviest Manhood Stones. (There are two stones, which are lifted in a fashion similar to a Jefferson deadlift.)
Images via Rogue Fitness on YouTube
Along the way, we learn about figureheads like Donald Dinnie, the man credited with revitalizing stone lifting culture in the 19th century, and we see interviews with noted historians of strength sports, including Scottish historian David P. Webster and the American academic Jan Todd, who is the only woman to have lifted the Dinnie Stones. (BarBend cites Jan Todd in some of our own articles — check out our piece on kettlebell history!)
At the time of writing, Stoneland has had over 1.5 million views across Rogue’s Facebook and YouTube accounts. You can watch it in its entirety below.
Hungry for more? Last year, Rogue released their first film about the traditional strength contests in Europe’s Basque region, which focuses on their own approach to and philosophy of stone lifting. We’ve embedded it here, too—why not enjoy a double feature?
Featured image via Rogue Fitness on YouTube.
The post Watch “Stoneland,” Rogue’s New Movie About Competitive Stone Lifting appeared first on BarBend.
Wondering why you don’t see more strength sports in Hollywood movies? We’ve scoured the web and spent many, many hours watching barbells clang and strongmen scream so you can know exactly what you want for your next movie night. Many of these deserve a much wider audience and you may not have heard of them – but they’re worth your time if you can find them.
A deep dive into the past and present of South Brooklyn Weightlifting Club, the documentary’s tagline – “In a Brooklyn gym, every day is heavy day” – underscores its focus on the personal and financial trials involved with running Brooklyn’s barbell Disneyland.
BarBend contributors Paulie and Rebecca Steinman take center stage, letting the camera film their successes and stinging disappointments in their quest to build New York’s best powerlifting gym. You could argue that Weight is a study in failure: failing lifts, failing businesses, failing homes. That’s what makes it such an unusual – and essential – sports movie. It’s not super accessible to non-lifters, but if powerlifting is your jam, you’ll enjoy it.
11) Pulling John
If you know arm wrestling, you know John Brzenk, who was named by the Guinness World Records as the greatest arm wrestler of all time. This documentary takes a common sports movie theme – when is it time for retirement? – and applies it to an uncommon sport, making for a film that’s both fresh and familiar.
We’ll be honest: the production value is very low. But the film has pathos and is cinematic in its own right, also following hungry young athletes who are dedicated to unseating the champion, culminating in an arm wrestling match for the ages.
Sure, it can be a little “inside baseball” at times and the production value isn’t great, but American Weightlifting represents an astounding achievement. It’s entirely the product of one man: Greg Everett, the head coach of Catalyst Athletics.
Everett set out to answer the question: why are Americans so much less interested in the sport of weightlifting than other countries? It explores the issues of drugs, budget, media exposure, and more, featuring interviews with some of the most notable trainers in the field. It probably won’t convert many non-fans, but if you’re a weightlifter, you’ll be happier than a pig in mud.
A surprisingly emotional documentary about the modern oldetime strongman, the film focuses on Chris “Wonder” Schoeck, a bar bending, penny folding strongman who struggles with anxiety both social and existential.
Why is he drawn to bending metal? How does he know if his motivations are healthy or not? Is he just using it to escape from deeper problems that he needs to reckon with? Bending Steel is a movie for people who want to see the human mind behind the superhuman muscle.
It’s only an hour long, but this BBC documentary from 2012 shines a spotlight on three female weightlifters who are vying to compete for Britain at the London Olympics.
The film gets points for highlighting female competitors who, while not absent from media coverage, are seldom the subject of documentaries. It does a commendable job of not only focusing on the ladies’ extraordinary strength, but their softer sides: struggling with diet, failure, and perceptions of femininity. (It’s worth it to see the origins of a young Zoe Bell as well.)
“Unless someone tells me to stop, or I die, I will be the world’s strongest man.”
Released in 2015 — before he became the first man to deadlift 500 kg — the movie about one of, if not the strongest lifters on the planet will likely only appeal to his fellow strength athletes, but they’ll absolutely love it. There’s not just a lot of lifting and a lot of eating; Hall discusses the hardships that come with pursuing such a lofty goal, including the toil it takes on his body and largely missing his son’s first two years of life due to his training. For a glimpse of what it truly takes to be the strongest on Earth, Eddie Strongman is an unflinching portrayal of true strength.
There are CrossFit® athletes, and then there’s Rich Froning. Hailed by the movie itself as a “legend” who “appear(s) once in a generation” à la Michael Jordan and Babe Ruth, this documentary follows Froning as he aims to win his fourth straight championship at the 2014 CrossFit Games.
CrossFit HQ has pumped out several documentaries, and a close runner up is 2008’s Every Second Counts, which is considerably less slick but an interesting peek at how far the sport has come. Froning has solid production value and, in focusing on one man’s rise instead of solely on the Games, delivers a human bent and some extraordinarily emotional scenes that are often missing from films like these.
Perhaps the most critically acclaimed documentary about strongman, the movie follows Stanley Pleskun, a.k.a. Stanless Steel, a man who can bend pennies with his fingers and put a nail through wood with just his hand.
Strongman revolves around how someone who considers himself the strongest man in the world deals with the everyday B.S. of human existence. He pays rent by collecting scrap metal and occasionally competing (for meager wages), and as he reaches middle age and struggles with his career and relationships, he has to ask himself what the next phase of his life looks like. It’s sad and poignant, and worth your time if you’re interested in the softer side of giant men.
An in-depth look at the World’s Strongest Man competition, this film is about the event itself and unearths footage from the 1970s all the way to the 2006 event, featuring interviews with the sport’s biggest players along the way.
Given the dynamic and undeniably cinematic displays of strength, like pulling planes, caber tossing, and even sumo wrestling, this documentary might be the most accessible on this list for folks who aren’t fans of strength sports – if they can stomach the injuries.
3) Pumping Iron
OK, bodybuilding isn’t a strength sport according to many folks. But no list of movies about people lifting weights would be complete without the perfection that is Pumping Iron, a documentary that chronicles the rivalry between future movie stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno as they compete for the 1975 Mr. Olympia title.
The two competitors couldn’t be more different: one brash and confident, one shy and gentle. But the movie successfully showcases their motivations and limitations, and those of the fledgling sport itself. It’s a work of art. See also its 2013 spiritual sequel, Generation Iron.
The seminal steroids documentary, the movie can be summarized just by the little asterisk in its title, a reference to the records of athletes on performance-enhancing drugs, which need to be postfixed by an asterisk.
The film is about tainted success, the flaws in the health supplement industry, and the contradictions between what we expect of athletes and demonizing what it takes for them to get there. The film smartly avoids demonizing steroids as a whole, and instead cuts through the negative hysteria surrounding them and examines the very flawed relationship between the public and the athletes they adore. It’s an absolute must for fans of the Olympics, Mr. Olympia, and everything in between.
1) Over the Top
“A winner never listens to the odds.”
Estranged son who needs winning back? Check. Controlling ex-father-in-law who needs to be put in his place? Check. The only solution? Becoming the best damn arm wrestler on Earth. Sylvester Stallone plays the awesomely-named Lincoln Hawk, a down-on-his-luck, underdog trucker competing for a $100,000 prize at the World Armwrestling Championship in 1987 Las Vegas.
Rife with pitch perfect 80s cheese and filled to the gills with real life arm wrestlers and strongmen (Hey, Rick Zumwalt!) Over the Top is a strength athlete’s perfect guilty pleasure. Except there’s no guilt. Because it’s the best movie ever.
The Giants of Iceland
At only twenty minutes long, this may not qualify as a movie per se, but VICE’s documentary about the strongman culture of Iceland, along with the considerable amount of time screentime dedicated to its native Hafthor Bjornsson, is a fantastic watch. Watch it right here.
Another shorter film, Rogue’s recent documentary about the Highland Games is a beautifully shot homage to traditional Scottish strongman events. It’s on YouTube in its entirety, embedded below.
Monday, December 26, 2016
Whey protein powder companies are a dime a dozen, but few deliberately target strength athletes. That’s where Earth Fed Muscle comes in, a new supplement company from the brains behind Garage Strength, a Pennsylvania-based strength facility. The company is owned and run by a competitive shotputter, amateur bodybuilder, and an Olympic weightlifter, and they sponsor over thirty strength athletes.
Earth Fed Muscle offers creatine, pre-workout, gelatin, ZMA, and five flavors of whey protein powder. I tried out their protein to see how it stacks up.
Right off the bat, I was confused. Everything about the branding, from the name to the caveman-centric logo, screamed “Paleo.” But the protein is obviously sourced from dairy and the cows aren’t even grass-fed.
Now, nutritionally speaking that’s not a bad thing. Whey is a really high quality protein and the health benefits of grass-fed dairy and beef mostly extend only to the fatty acids. Whey has next to no fat, so the focus on grass-fed whey powder has always been a little confusing.
All of that aside, there are only four ingredients: rBGH-free whey protein concentrate, organic and non-GMO stevia extract, and non-GMO sunflower lecithin. The fourth ingredient varies based on the flavor: organic cocoa for chocolate, organic vanilla for vanilla, freeze-dried banana powder for banana. Note the lack of artificial sweeteners; by whey(!) of example, Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard has nine ingredients and Muscletech’s Premium Gold has twenty, both including sucralose and neither including whatever comprises “natural and artificial flavors.”
I should point out that lots of ingredients isn’t necessarily bad. But if you would rather steer clear of foods with a zillion ingredients, this could be your protein.
I tried vanilla, chocolate, and banana, and each time I was surprised at how pleasant they tasted despite the absence of the sweeteners to which I’m so accustomed. I’m a guy who really likes artificially-sweetened protein powder. I literally own separate tubs of donut-flavored and white chocolate-flavored Gold Standard Whey. I mix them into everything. Sucralose is my favorite food group.
These tasted great. The mildest, of course, was vanilla. Next to ON’s vanilla ice cream flavor and their milder vanilla crème flavor, Earth Fed Muscle’s offering did little more than make my almond milk taste more like regular milk. Regular milk is sweet, creamy, and delicious. I am not complaining.
I’m not a big chocolate guy, but my concerns that the strictly cocoa- and stevia-based flavoring would be dull or bitter were unfounded. No one would call Earth Fed Muscle’s chocolate flavor mild, but I preferred it to the overwhelmingly chocolatey powders I’ve had in the past. (Think double chocolate brownie, triple chocolate fudge, quadruple chocolate malt, etc.) This tasted like chocolate milk. It’s precisely the kind of chocolate flavor I like.
I was not optimistic about the banana flavor; it’s a notoriously hard flavor to create in protein powder and it usually winds up tasting like Froot Loops. (Just ask the abandoned tub of Banana Cream Casein in my closet.)
Earth Fed Muscle’s banana flavor is five bucks (twelve percent) more expensive than the others, but it’s worth it: I was absolutely blown away by how good it was. This shake tasted like fresh banana bread in a glass. It was far and away my favorite.
The macros are on point: each serve is 128 calories with twenty-one grams of protein, six grams of carbs, and two grams of fat. Though a tiny bit high, it’s comparable to the best low-carb powders on the market: Gold Standard is usually twenty-four grams of protein and three grams of carbs per 120 calories, BioTrust is twenty-four grams of protein and eight grams of carbs for every 150 calories, MuscleTech’s Premium Gold is twenty-four grams of protein and four grams of carbs per 130-calorie serve.
In other words, the macros and results are competitive. There are no added bells and whistles like glutamine, creatine, or BCAA. But of course, whey already contains naturally occurring glutamine and all the essential amino acids anyway.
For your basic Vanilla flavor, Earth Fed Muscle is 40 dollars for 30 servings of 22 grams of protein, or six cents per gram. Compare that with BioTrust Low Carb’s fifteen cents per gram, PaleoPro’s beef and egg protein powder for eleven cents per gram, Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard’s three cents per gram, MuscleTech Premium Gold’s three cents per gram.
For where it sits on the scale of premium to average protein powder and given the simplicity of its ingredients, it’s relatively well-priced, though customers used to the standard GNC fare will probably baulk.
Rating Out of 5
It’s important to emphasize that the protein is only sweetened with stevia, but it’s almost addictively tasty. Most protein powders are so sweet, so artificially delicious, that it can wind up hard to drink a significant amount at once. Earth Fed Muscle tastes not bitter, and not sweet, but smooth. It’s easy to chug quickly and easy to sip. The macros make it easy to time. And the ingredients are refreshingly free from unpronounceable chemicals.
It’s much more expensive than the average whey, but cheaper than the high-end products their market typically resorts to when they want a simpler protein powder. It’s more high-end than middle of the road, but if that’s what you’re after, I definitely recommend Earth Fed Muscle.
Saturday, December 24, 2016
Friday, December 23, 2016
The holiday season can be a pitfall in one’s attempts to maintain their current fitness levels. Things like mom’s cooking, family meals, and delicious morsels offered around every corner…definitely make it difficult.
I’m not here to give you steps on how to avoid or limit yourself. I’m here to help you add steps, as in, provide some quick workouts to add physical steps, up your heart rate, and target multiple muscles. Although, a typical issue some can encounter is lack of equipment, so there has to be some creativity behind how you put work in.
Another issue is that for a lot of strength athletes – bodyweight movements aren’t terribly difficult – so your typical ’10 pushups’ just won’t do it. There has to creativity behind sets, reps, and movements to get the most bang for your buck. If you find yourself in a pinch while traveling this season, try the two workouts below.
1. The No Equipment Traveler – 20-25-min Total
The goal and focus of this particular circuit is to raise the heart rate and hit as many muscles as possible. Plyometric and strength based movements will be utilized throughout.
Complete as a circuit – 4x total.
- 10 Jumping Squats – Perform an air squat and as you stand back up explosively jump straight up. As you land cushion your landing with a flat foot and begin the next squat.
- 20 Jumping Lunges – Start in a lunge and explosively stand up while switching sides every rep. There will be 10 total lunges performed on each side.
- 20 Incline/Decline Pushups – Perform pushups on an elevated surface (look for something 1-2 feet in height), hit 10 pushups with your hands on the elevated surface (decline press), then reverse and put your feet on it with hands on the floor (incline press).
- 5 Handstand Pushups – Find a wall that you can safely kick up to and not damage (take your shoes off). If you have trouble performing full reps, do half reps and work on maintaining a good body line.
- 40 Mountain Climbers – Maintain a hollow body and work on bringing your knees high without letting the hips sag.
- 10 Superman Lifts With 1-second hold – Lie on belly with arms extended above head, you’re going to flex your back bringing your legs and arms slightly off the ground. Hold at the top for 1-second. IMPORTANT: The goal isn’t to extend until discomfort, it’s to barely bring the arms and legs off the ground. If you have back issues, skip this exercise.
2. The Pre-Cookie No Equipment Workout – 25-30 min Total
This circuit can be performed at anytime, not just before cookies. One way I always try to combat higher calorie/carb based foods and meals is by putting myself in a state that would benefit from glycogen replenishment. This rationale will be more beneficial for lifters who partake in regular workouts where glycogen is constantly being taxed.
Although, in reality, this short workout won’t decrease glycogen stores too terribly much – it’s better than nothing.
Like the workout above, there will be similar goals with the exercises. The only difference will be the addition of movements that put the muscle under more time-under-tension (TUT), which is my rationale for taxing muscle glycogen at a higher rate.
Complete as a circuit – 4x total.
- 15 (1 1/4) Squat Jump – Perform an air squat, but as you reach the bottom, you’re going to come up half way, then descend again. You’ll then fully stand up with an explosive jump and land flat footed cushioning yourself into the next rep.
- 12 (1 1/4) Pushup – Perform a normal pushup, but at the bottom, you’re going to come up halfway maintaining a strong pushup posture, and descend again before completing the rep.
- 30 Alternating Extended Side Planks – Start with an extended side plank, hold it for one second, then bring your extended arm down into a pushup position and push yourself up to opposite side. This is a great way to add a little dynamic movement to the side plank.
- 20 Jumping Lunges – Start in a lunge and explosively stand up while switching sides every rep. There will be 10 total lunges performed on each side.
- 15 Extended Arm Situps – Hook your feet under something secure and perform a normal situp. As you finish the situp extend your arms and reach for the sky (if you have something to hold for added resistance, this can create an added challenge).
- 10 Close-to-Wide Pushups – Start in a close grip pushup, perform a pushup, then finish with an explosive up and catch yourself in a wide grip pushup proceeding right into the next pushup.
**If the reps, sets, and time allotments are easy for you – add extra set or reps accordingly.
These are two no equipment workouts that can help you put work in while traveling, during the holiday season, and when you don’t have gym equipment. They include power, strength, and core building movements to help raise your heart rate.
The goal is to not limit yourself, but to be creative with how you proceed with your fitness goals while enjoying what life throws at you (aka mom’s cookies).
Feature image from @lisaheafnerphoto.
The post 2 No Equipment Workouts To Do While Traveling This Holiday Season appeared first on BarBend.
Rogue Fitness was founded in 2006 and has grown a substantial amount since their first production of lifting equipment. They’re based in Ohio and have over 500 employees. In 2016, USA Weightlifting signed a 4-year contract with Rogue Fitness committing them as their official weightlifting manufacturer.
For a lot of strength athletes Rogue Fitness is known for their high-quality lifting products. Their belts are one of those products that many use on a regular basis for multiple purposes. With friends who continually give Rogue lifting belts high regards, I was thrilled when we received the Rogue Ohio Lifting Belt. I know anything made by Rogue Fitness with the word “Ohio” means business.
I put the Rogue Ohio Lifting Belt through a variety of tests including, including the power clean, back squat, and deadlift, to test its stability, comfort, and versatility.
[Read my review of Rogue’s 4″ Nylon lifting belt here.]
The Rogue Ohio Lifting Belt is a thick leather belt that offered good stability through the variety of movements I tested it with. This belt has a good depth, and from Rogue’s site is said to be a little over 10mm thick. In every movement I tried, the belt didn’t allow any bending of the trunk from flexion or extension. When I pressed into the belt with my gut during the squat, there was no give whatsoever.
The squat was possibly my favorite lift to perform with this belt. In my test I held a few squats at full-depth to feel the rigidity of the belt on my waist. From what I experienced the belt held up great and my torso’s angle remained constant. Some cloth belts can bend and give way, this belt showed no signs of that. This is a good sign for athletes performing maximal lifts where a belt’s rigidity can be a factor in protecting health of the back/core.
One downfall to this belt, is that while it’s really secure, it did pinch a little in power movements. It’s a thick, single prong belt, so movements like catching a clean pinched my torso at the top of the belt. So yes, this belt provided awesome security, but it wasn’t the most versatile in the movements tested.
The comfort was one of my main concerns before starting this review. I’ve used multiple leather belts, both lever and single/double pronged style, and generally experience some pinching due to belt stiffness. Something that’s really cool and unique to this belt is the way it’s constructed. This belt is made using vegetable tanned leather, which was originally a method used by cowboys when producing leather.
Rogue’s site points out that when tanning leather with this method you’re left with a firm, durable, water-resistant belt with a rich-natural brown tone. The vegetable tanning process creates a leather that feels softer than your typical hardened leather. This was definitely evident during my tests. Even with the 10mm thickness, the belt bent a little and creased, which demonstrated that it had the ability to form around the torso well.
While this belt was surprisingly soft and forgiving on the skin, there was still a little pinch during power movements. If you’re someone who wants to avoid any type of pinching at all, then a leather belt may not be your best option. Also, for someone who needs a lightweight, versatile belt may have issues with the thick, heaviness the Rogue Ohio Leather Lifting Belt has.
As mentioned above, the material is what makes this belt unique. The vegetable tanning process provides the leather belt with a soft, yet firm feeling. You can visibly see the leather compress a little when squeezing at the sides of the belt. I thought this was a cool characteristic, especially when I documented how stable this softer leather held my torso during my lifts.
The perimeter of the belt is lined with heavy stitches too, which makes the leather feel as if it won’t fray quickly. Since this belt is handcrafted, Rogue also points out that thickness may vary a little pending on the belt. If you’re someone who is turned off by a little variance in their lifting equipment, then you may experience some discomfort knowing this aspect.
This belt felt very durable from the first use and showed few signs of early wear and tear. One thing to point out is that this belt will crease a little from the first use. Also, the first heavy sweat you experience in this belt, will subtly tint the coloring (if at all). Although, none of these were issues to the actual structure and comfort of the belt. If you’re someone who wants a perfectly clean belt, then you may be turned off by the immediate creasing.
In the terms of this belt’s build, I really liked the heavy stitching that surrounded both the front and back perimeter. This made the leather feel tight and sturdy, even when being bent a little bit. The single-prong buckle is also a thicker, heavy metal, which is a good sign for avoiding early buckle breaks.
The price for the Rogue Ohio Lifting Belt starts around $108.00, which is somewhat high for a leather belt. While this belt is made with Rogue Fitness’s vegetable tanning process, $108.00 could be pretty steep for the recreational lifter. Also, for someone who’s more interested in a functional, versatile belt, the price point could also be high.
On the flipside, this belt is thick and heavy, which means it’s going to last a while. Unlike cloth and velcro belts, this belt is designed to last a long duration of time. When taking this point into consideration, the price point may not be as high.
Rating 1-5 (5 being the highest)
The Rogue Ohio Lifting Belt is an excellent choice when a lifter’s concern is stability and durability. Rogue Fitness uses their vegetable tanning process which made this leather stand out from similar competitors on the market. Although, for the functional athlete who needs a light versatile belt, they may find issue with the heaviness that encompasses the Ohio belt. In addition, this belt will last a while, but there could be some issue with the price point.
All in all, this belt was surprisingly comfortable for a leather belt and could be a great option for a lifter when stability is a concern.
Far too often lifters and strength athletes gets referenced as “narcissistic,” “self-absorbed,” and even “selfish.” They’re seen as constantly working on themselves and putting so much effort into what most see as self-absorbed activities.
A lot of people outside this industry don’t realize that the behavior demonstrated by most athletes that’s often referenced as “narcissistic” is usually spurred by an extremely self-critical outlook of oneself. Even strength greats such as Arnold Schwarzenegger struggle with being overly critical with his self.
In the February issue of Cigar Aficionado, Schwarzenegger opens up about some personal things such as self esteem. Even in this day with so many accomplishments, Schwarzenegger still appears to struggle with personal image.
“When I look in the mirror, I throw up,” Schwarzenegger says. “And I was already so critical of myself, even when I was in top physical shape. I’d look in the mirror after I won one Mr. Olympia after another and think, ‘How did this pile of s— win?’ ”
This is all from an accomplished strength athlete that is arguably one of the most influential of our time. Often times strength athletes work so hard in the gym to fill missing voids, which Schwarzenegger also touches upon.
“I never saw perfection,” Schwarzenegger states, then adds. “There was always something lacking. I could always find a million things wrong with myself and that’s what got me back into the gym — because I started out with that mentality.”
This constant self-critical outlook can push athletes to be their greatest, but also can leave some serious damage on one’s view of themselves. Then Schwarzenegger talks confidence and dives into how he used the gym as a place to build it.
“I do lack confidence, but I do the reps and do them enough that the thing itself will be doable when it’s time,” Schwarzenegger discusses, before adding how the gym helped him cope. “When I was competing at bodybuilding, I did so many hours of reps — on the weights, practicing the poses — that when I got onstage, I was comfortable and confident. The more reps you do, the more you look smooth and convincing. The more you do it, the better you get. […] That’s how you gain confidence.”
Even greats such as Arnold Schwarzenegger struggled and still struggle with an issue that’s far too prevalent in strength athletes. Personally, I think every athlete struggles with self-criticism to an extent, but there are times when it can helpful and damaging.
With 2017 right around the corner, maybe it’s time to make a resolution and identify times when it’s okay to be and not be self-critical for personal growth.
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 Arnold Schwarzenegger Opens Up About His Self Esteem appeared first on BarBend.
Thursday, December 22, 2016
What Are Jerk Dips and Should You Do Them: Additional Insight by Kendrick Farris and Cara Heads Slaughter
For anyone who has or does jerks (either power or split), you can attest to the amount of time spent perfecting the dip and drive phases, which almost entirely affect the success of the jerk.
When teaching beginners, intermediates, and myself the jerk (yes, as the loads get higher, I often feel like I have to continue to “teach” myself, only the loads are heavier and heavier…), there are some exercises that I will build into jerk complexes and after main power and strength blocks to assist athletes who may need to address a specific fault.
The jerk dip, which can be done in complexes and/or by themselves, is a great exercise to teach vertical loading in the dip, absorption and eccentric control of heavy and supramaximal loads on the descent, and braking at the correct dip depth. By teaching athletes (and then strengthening the stability and control in the dip) how to correctly dip in the jerk, you will be able to maintain better posture, bar path, and improve overall overhead performance.
Why do Jerk Dips?
Jerk dips are an assistance exercise that can be help a liter achieve three things:
- Increase strength and control in the dip phase of jerk, which require an athlete to eccentrically absorb a load in the most upright and vertical position.
- Teach athletes to stay as upright as possible, not allowing the barbell and hips to drive forward in the dip of the jerk. The more vertical the bar path, the better.
- Help athletes learn the correct dip depth in the jerk. The ability to absorb and break in the dip of the jerk (while staying as vertical as possible) will allow an athlete to react and transfer vertical force into the barbell in the drive phase.
How to do Jerk Dips?
Listen up as Olympians Kendrick Farris and Cara Heads Slaughter discuss the jerk dip, and the difference between “textbook” and “real-life” reps.
Take a look at how to perform the partial jerk movements, thanks to Catalyst Athletics.
When to do Jerk Dips?
Jerk dips can be integrated in complexes (typically done with 70-100% 1RM loads) or by themselves, depending on the specific purpose of that training day. When trained in a complex, they are great at ingraining vertical bar path and dip depth, which can be helpful before power jerks and split jerks in beginners. It is important to note that when performed in complexes, especially prior to full jerk versions (power and split), jerk dips can create some leg fatigue, which will affect a lifter’s ability to handle heavier loads (as most fatigue does). This same “limitation” also makes the jerk dip a great way to increase dip mechanics and strength without overloading the entire jerk overhead position (say an athlete has soreness, fatigue, or even injury on the overhead position, assuming it is not the lumbar back).
Additionally, jerk dips can be done by themselves, as stand alone strengthening exercises used to assist in the overall development of the jerk (power or split). Coaches and athletes can program them after main power and strength work (squats and pulls) at moderate to even supramaximal loads (above an athlete’s 1RM) to develop greater strength, stability, and confidence in the jerk.
These Aren’t Just for Weightlifters!
While this move is inherently beneficial to all athletes that compete in a sport requiring an overhead jerking movement, this can also be highly beneficial to functional fitness athletes. In many functional fitness competitions, WODs, and events, athletes may be asked to handle moderate and even near/maximal loads overhead, making proper technique and preparedness key to the overall success of a lifter. The added benefit at overloading an eccentric movement can lead to increases in strength, confidence, and potentially overall performance.
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.
Featured Image: @mikejdewar on Instagram
The post What Are Jerk Dips and Should You Do Them: Additional Insight by Kendrick Farris and Cara Heads Slaughter appeared first on BarBend.
Wednesday, December 21, 2016
For the end of 2016, I reflect on the Strongman season and how rewarding it is to be part of sport that has brought confidence, strength, and happiness to so many people. To watch the women’s division become nearly as large as the men’s, with a new professional class providing real payouts, has been exciting. I got to travel the USA watching men and women from all walks of life test themselves on physical and mental challenges that help change them as people. It’s a fantastic honor to design programming for athletes who won their pro card and for my rookies who just loaded their first stone.
Through all this I share my observations and education with you, the reader. Hopefully my words have inspired or changed you, made you laugh or cry, solved a problem or created a new one.
My goal is to impact, in one way or another, the world of this sport. I long for it to mature and gain the recognition it deserves as one of the most difficult contests on the planet.
The author (far right) providing color commentary with Kyle Bixler (center) at the 2016 Arnold Classic.
My goal as a coach and educator is similar to that of the athlete; constant improvement. I strive to break new ground and develop new theories. What coach does not want to be the next Louie or Abadjiev? To have a resume built with the labors of champions is not only an achievement but an honor. To accomplish this, I spend much of my time on the direct development of my coaching skills. I would like to share with you some of the insights this work has revealed to me and how it can help you for the coming season.
I spend three to four hours each week in direct one on one conversation with a PhD of Sports Psychology discussing all aspects of human behavior and communication. Through this I have learned to become a better listener, enabling me to use that information to truly customize my programming and dialogue to fit each athlete I coach.
Each and every person I work with has a unique experience of this world and they may see things ever so slightly differently than I do. Understanding how this can affect how I speak with them has enabled me able to reach more people in a truly effective way.
I’m grateful that many I coach can be told directly what to do. This is wonderful because it is a time saver. Those students would fit well into the cold war era of Bulgarian training halls and will typically set record after record. On the flip side, there are a few that must learn by trial and error. They unknowingly have an issue with authority and will deviate from programming or goal setting.
The looser way of lifting best suits them; looser, unstructured sessions that satisfy the desire to train more than the goal to win. They can still be a champion, but must cut a new path. These are the athletes that will help me discover a new training system and possibly more effective ways to lift a weight.
The author (left) working with a translator on Russian text at the 2016 Arnold Classic
In 2017, I suggest that you examine your response to your coach (or mentor) and how easy you make it for them to help you. How good of an athlete are you for them? Are you just a source of revenue or do you strive to be a star on the team? Having the goal and will to win is not the same as following the process.
Besides working directly with an educator, much time is spent reading articles and books. I have a goal of 20 books a year, and most of them proved to be valuable tools that impacted my thought process and my outcome of many situations. Some books are fun to read while others are difficult due to their technical nature. I would like to recommend three titles that can offer anyone some excellent insight:
- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (Yuval Harari) An interesting perspective of time and culture: this book was designed to get you to ask questions about how you see the world and how we have come together as a society. It should get you thinking about what is really important to you, due to our small place in the world that has preceded us.
- Extreme Ownership (Jocko Willink). This combat tested SEAL lays out a plan for you to take control over every aspect of your life. Smart, and well thought out this book can help you become a better athlete and person.
- The NY Times article on the Biggest Loser. Not a book, but a wealth of knowledge on the human metabolism, extreme exercise, and absurd diets. Weight classed and open athletes should always consider their weight and health when competing. This eye opening look at your body’s attempts to foil your efforts is a must read.
Although I no longer compete, I still train. It’s lighter and safer, but I still perform the basic movements, attempting to find nuances I haven’t noticed previously. It can be hard to be a master of refinement when you attempt to lift in a competitive mode for decades. Take more video of your lifts, dissect them with honesty and store them. Compare them week to week, year to year and study your movement patterns. The time you spend on self analysis is never wasted.
I got to meet so many of you this past season, and a highlight of this year was having so many of you introduce yourselves to me and getting to know you on a personal level. Real people lift these weights, not gods or legends. To have a name with a face makes every article more real as I am writing directly to you. We all share a common interest, and through a more familiar community we can work together to increase involvement. Make new friends this year in the sport and bring it to others. They will thank you for it.
In closing, I would like to thank all of you. Without your time, energy and commitment there would be no athletes to train or no competitions to broadcast. We are all family in iron and need each other to challenge us in our attempts to become better. May 2017 bring you a safe and personal record filled season.
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 Strongman in Review: What 2016 Brought to the Sport (and a Personal Recap) appeared first on BarBend.
Tuesday, December 20, 2016
In the late 1970s/early 1980s, Blagoy Blagoev was one of Bulgaria’s — and the world’s — top weightlifters, helping his national team to an unprecedented era of dominance in strength sport. He was the 1980 Olympic Silver Medalist, three-time World Champion, and four-time European Champion, and he competed in both the 82.5kg and 90kg weight classes throughout his career.
Blagoev was originally the silver medalist at the 1976 Olympics but was disqualified after failing a doping test. (Bulgarian weightlifting’s success during that period is also one of the more controversial runs in the sport’s history.)
Blagoev is best known as a master technician in the snatch, and one of his most famous performances came at the 1982 World Cup. There, Blagoev snatched 195kg and clean & jerked 222.5kg at 90kg bodyweight.
Let’s put that in context. (Note that weight classes have been restructured more than once since Blagoev’s career.) Today’s standing World Record in the snatch for 94kg men is 188kg, held by three-time Olympic Champion Akakios Kakiasvilis — and that record has stood since November 1999.
Blagoev went a full 7 kilos heavier than the current longest-standing men’s World Record, and he did it at a bodyweight 4kg lower. Watch below to see the remarkable lift.
Blagoev’s competition bests in the lifts were a195.5 kg snatch and 228.5kg clean & jerk, both set the following year (1983).
After his retirement from weightlifting, Blagoev would go on to coach Australia’s Paralympic Powerlifting Team in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Featured image: Alexandre Hoffmann on YouTube
The post Weightlifting Throwback: Blagoy Blagoev Snatches 195kg at 90kg Bodyweight! appeared first on BarBend.
Rogue Fitness is known for a lot of things, and as of this year being the official manufacturer of USA Weightlifting is one of them. They were founded in 2006 and are based in American out of Ohio. Over the last 10 years Rogue has grown to over 500 employees and become a well-known name in most gym settings.
One piece of lifting equipment that Rogue makes that has become a staple in a lot of gyms across the world is their weightlifting belts. They make a variety of belts, which accommodate strength athletes from multiples sports. A friend of mine has had the Rogue 4” Nylon Weightlifting Belt for a little over a year and has continuously given it positive remarks. So when we got our hands on one to review, I was curious if we would say the same.
I put the Rogue 4” Nylon Weightlifting Belt through a variety of tests including the power clean, back squat, and deadlift, to test its stability, comfort, and versatility.
The Rogue 4” Nylon belt was pretty stable throughout the movements I tested it with. It’s a standard nylon, cloth based belt, so it has the ability to wrap and form around the body very well. When I tested the power clean, the belt didn’t bend if my core flexed or went forward. I made sure to test this, because some nylon based belts can lose their ability to hold you stable with a bending trunk.
During the deadlift I made sure to over exaggerate the force I put into my extension during my lockout. Personally, I experienced the belt held up well with force of my back extension and kept my trunk stable. In addition to testing this belt’s ability to hold the trunk upright, I did a few back squats with pauses at the bottom with a relaxed core. There was no sign of a forward lean due to the belt giving way.
One problem I could see lifters experiencing with this belt is a need for maximum stability. For the powerlifter low-bar squatting or performing a maximal effort deadlift, this belt may not be the ideal choice. Nylon, cloth based belts aren’t the most stable, so if maximum trunk compression is the goal, then this may not be the belt for you.
The sizing for this belt ran true to Rogue’s sizing chart. I fluctuate between a 30-32 inch waist depending on the season, and currently I’m sitting at a 31 inch waist. Their medium is for a 32-37 inch waist, so we went on the bigger size for my waist. Even with the one inch difference this medium fit snug and tight, but I think I could fit in a small as well if I initially went with the smaller size. Rogue Fitness urges you check your waist with their sizing chart before purchasing a belt, which I would completely agree with.
I was pleasantly surprised when using this belt. I have a smaller waist and a common problem I typically experience is a little pinching of nylon due to overlapping of the belt ends. This belt had ample space at each end so the sides could overlap and be pulled extremely tight. Even with the belt pulled very tight, it remained comfortable on my waist. Rogue also uses a long velcro strap so no matter how tight the belt needed to be it fit well. Plus, there wasn’t a super long strap dangling behind me, which can become a problem in some belts.
While the belt is comfortable and formed around my waist very well, the thickness was somewhat of a turnoff for me. The belt itself is a little skinnier than other nylon belts I’ve tried, which could cause a problem for stability and security down the road. While I didn’t experience this, I’m curious to see if once this belt becomes broken in over a long duration of time – if the comfort could transform into a turnoff due to lack of stability.
The material of this belt is your standard nylon, cloth based texture. Rogue Fitness did a very good job of making the nylon soft and comfortable on the skin. This softness allowed the belt to wrap around every part of the waist well, whether it was high or low positioned, which I liked. The velcro strap is 2” wide, which gave it ample space to strap in with. In addition, there a metal buckle, which I liked for the reason of holding the velcro strap tight without fear or snapping.
There is solid stitching around the whole perimeter of the belt. This gave the nylon texture a secure, compact feeling. One problem I could see arising with progressive wear and tear is possible stretching in the nylon. With heavy use over an extended amount of time, I would like to see how this belt holds up to frequent training sessions with multiple re-straps. Velcro does have a lifespan and will lose its grip over an extended amount of time.
As mentioned above, a friend of mine has used this belt for over a year and has experienced little issue with durability. From my experience, the nylon felt compact and secure, which was a good sign for longevity. Also, the metal buckle was a good sign for lack of snapping at the strap.
In regards to the velcro’s durability, my concern would be the use of this belt in chalky or dirty gym settings. I could see an issue with the velcro holding tight if chalk covered both sides.
The price for the Rogue 4″ Nylon Weightlifting Belt starts around $18.99, which is fair. This is a simple nylon, cloth based belt, so there is a lifespan on the velcro. This won’t be the belt that lasts you multiple years or your lifting lifespan. Although, taking that into account when compared to other nylon-based belts on the market, the $18.99 is definitely competitive. In addition, this product is made by Rogue Fitness, who has built a reputation for making high-quality products.
Rating 1-5 (5 being the highest)
The Rogue 4″ Nylon Weightlifting Belt was your standard, versatile nylon-based belt. This belt offered pretty good stability through a variety of strength and power movements. Also, the belt was comfortable and fit around the trunk very well, whether its position was higher or lower. One thing to keep in mind when using this nylon-based belt is that velcro does have a lifespan, and wear and tear may be an issue down the road.
For the lifter looking for a versatile belt to use for a variety of movements – such as a WOD – that is fairly priced, then the Rogue 4″ Nylon Weightlifting Belt may be a good fit.
At BarBend, we’ve been on a quest to find the best of the best in lifting straps. There are so many on the market it can be a daunting experience for a strength athlete trying to find their perfect strap.
What we continue to find through our multiple sweaty gym sessions is that different straps offer different benefits. A lot of what makes a strap so great is heavily dependent on an individual’s goals, wants, and needs.
When push comes to pull (pun intended), we’re strength athletes at the end of the day, just like you. We’re building a continuous list that not only finds the best straps, but highlights the best straps for different situations. Thus far, we’ve reviewed nearly a dozen straps ranging from all different styles, designs, and companies. These are our favorite so far:
- Most Secure: Giant’s Pro Figure of 8
- Most Versatile: Attitude Nation Single-Loop Strap
- Most Durable: IronMind Strong Enough Strap
- Best For Recreational Lifting: Harbinger Cotton Padded Strap
Whether you’re an Olympic weightlifting, a strongman competitor, powerlifter, or just a normal gym rat – this is your definitive best straps list.
Why Lifting Straps?
Lifting straps can be used for a variety of reasons in strength training by multiple types of athletes. The main reason for using a strap is to support grip. A strap enables an athlete to hold more weight than their normal grip can handle.
For a weightlifter, a strap is often used when performing heavier pulls and snatches. Powerlifters will usually utilize straps when they’re working to overload their muscles and nervous system, or for accessory work when their grip may be fatigued. Strongman style training will utilize straps in a similar manner to powerlifting. The end goals are usually to strengthen and overload the body when grip is fatigued.
Whether you’re a serious athlete or recreational lifter, straps can be a great tool to utilize in a well-thought out program. They’re a lifting accessory that doesn’t require a ton of gym bag space and can come in handy when work is present, but grip is not.
Three Main Types of Straps
There are three common types of straps and they include: Single-loop, Lasso single-loop, and figure 8. Each has different attributes that will benefit a strength athlete in different scenarios.
This strap is somewhat a jack of all trades, and you’ll typically see this strap in Globo gyms and in bodybuilding style training. This strap is highly versatile in its abilities, meaning it can be used for deadlifting, along with lifts like pull-ups and lat pull-downs. This style strap is great for newer lifters who want good bar security and are looking to perform maximal lifts.
The lasso strap is easy to use and comes in a ton of varieties to accommodate a lifter’s wants and needs. For example, if a lifter wants comfort, then the Harbinger Padded Cotton Strap would be a good fit. For a leather feel and preference, the Schiek Leather Strap would be a great fit. If a lifter desires a simple, minimalist option, then the Rogue Ohio Strap could be a good fit.
This strap, like the lasso, can be used for all styles of lifting. It’s a versatile option and is the easiest to strap in with. Although, it’s worth noting this style of strap offers the least amount of bar security. Those with weaker grips may experience some problems using this style strap.
While this strap is the least secure, it’s often considered the best for Olympic lifting. This is the best strap when you need a quick release in lifting – like in the snatch and clean & jerk. Straps like the Attitude Nation Single-Loop strap were designed by Olympic lifter Jon North for Olympic lifters.
This style strap is the least versatile, but most secure. The most well-known figure 8 strap is the Giant’s Pro Figure of 8. This strap is ideal when performing maximal pulling lifts such as the deadlift and other strongman type pulling.
This style strap doesn’t have a quick release, so it’s never recommend for power movements or occasions when dumping the bar may be required. These straps are often heavily made with a lot of material, as they’re designed for holding maximal loads.
Multiple Types of Material
There are multiple types of strap material. The most common three are cotton, leather, and nylon. Each strap material will have a different feeling to it. In most cases, material comes down to personal preference. Some materials will be harsher on the wrists as well, so for those with sensitive skin, material can be a big factor. A strap that uses a simple cotton like the Rogue Ohio Lifting Strap may be a little tougher on the wrist until they’re broken in.
In addition, every material will offer different benefits and attributes to your lifting. For example, if you need a strong strap, something like the IronMind Strong Enough Lifting Strap is made of 100% nylon and is designed to support heavy strongman lifting.
Cotton is the most commonly used form of material in a lifting strap. This material absorbs sweat best out of the three, and the thicker the cotton, the better the sweat absorption. Most cotton straps require a few lifts to break in, and through all of our strap reviews, the average cotton strap takes about 3-4 good sweaty gym sessions to break in.
Softer cottons like in the GoFit Cotton Lifting Strap took a little less time to break in, and this strap takes about 2-3 lifts to feel comfortable. It’s worth noting that the softer the material – while comfortable on the wrist – the more the strap seemed to stretch with heavy lifts.
In some cotton straps there’s added padding for comfort like the Harbinger Padded Cotton Lifting Straps. The added foam pad is utilized to take stress off the top of the wrist during heavy lifts. We found the added pad made a strap instantly more comfortable, but took away from some of the sweat absorption other cotton straps offer.
Nylon is another common form of strap material. This material generally offers a smooth feeling on the wrist, but still produces a little chafing when breaking in a strap. We noted that most nylon straps took about 4-5 workouts to truly break in.
Like cotton, there were different styles of nylon, some harsher on the skin than others. The Attitude Nation Pink Lasso Strap was a tougher Nylon, so the initial breaking in took a little longer than a softer style.
This style strap isn’t ideal for absorbing sweat; in fact, in our tests a majority of the nylon straps moved on the wrists when getting progressively more sweaty. Someone using this style strap for a WOD or any other style of high intensity training with lots of reps may experience difficulty with maintaining an optimal strap placement.
Most nylon straps are made for heavy lifting, as this material is generally stronger than standard cotton and leather. Nylon is less prone to stretching when force is applied to it, and outdoor equipment will often contain nylon because of its strength and durability. Some straps are made with nylon specifically for heavier lifting, such as strongman training, like the IronMind Strong Enough Lifting Strap.
This type of material is the least common of the three and is usually used due to personal preference. The feeling of leather on the skin is much different than the above two. Like cotton and nylon, leather comes in multiple forms and some are tougher on the skin than others. A softer leather, or what’s used in the Schiek Leather Lifting Strap takes less time to break in. The Schiek strap takes about 2-3 workouts to feel comfortable on the wrist.
When it comes to sweat, leather doesn’t absorb moisture well. In the middle of a sweaty workout, the leather straps we tried actually moved on the wrist and had to be tightened multiple times. One cool thing about leather is how it maintains shape when heavy loads are placed on it – it snaps back and barely shows stress.
Which Strap Is Most Secure?
The Giant’s Pro Figure of 8 strap is the most secure strap. Different lifting straps come with different levels of bar security; the Figure of 8 strap is generally only good for deadlifts and strongman-style pulling and cannot be used for Olympic weightlifting movements.
To test security we perform multiple tests to assess a strap’s ability to keep a barbell secure. Both fast and slow tempo movements are used and we watch how close the bar stays in contact with the body, even when grip begins to fail.
The power clean and snatch are our exercises of choice when testing fast tempo movements. When it comes to slower tempo movements, the barbell deadlift and row are our preferred exercises. In regards to bar security, there are straps made specifically for certain lifts and this was clearly evident when it came to pure security tests.
The Giant’s Pro Figure of 8 Lifting Strap is the best choice for pure bar security. This strap is designed specifically for deadlifting and strongman type pulling. In fact, Eddie Hall used these straps when performing his 500kg deadlift in June of 2016. With a double wrist wrap, you can physically let go of the bar and these straps won’t budge.
IronMind’s Strong-Enough Lifting Strap is also a great option when it comes to bar security. This strap is designed for strongman AND recreational style lifting, and was actually the 2010 World’s Strongest Man competition strap of choice. This strap is made of 100% nylon and has double stitching to ensure a secure bar.
The Schiek Leather Lifting Strap is another secure option worth a mention. The leather wraps around knurling really well and holds the bar securely, even when grip was beginning to fail. In addition, since the leather didn’t stretch, you can wrap the bar as close as you want with ease.
Which Strap Is Most Versatile?
The most versatile strap we’ve tested is the Attitude Nation Single-Loop Lifting Strap. A strap’s versatility is a big deal for a lifter who’s performing dynamic workouts.
In a lot of cases lifters need a strap for both power and strength movements. A versatile strap supports a seamless transition between exercises, while also keeping a lifter safe. A strap like the Giant’s Pro Figure of 8 isn’t versatile and can actually put a lifter’s safety in danger if not used correctly.
We test straps through a battery of power and strength movements and look for a few signs that deem a strap versatile. First, we look for the ease of use, we test how easy a strap is to remove and secure to a bar. Second, we look at straps and how they effect movement mechanics, a versatile won’t inhibit proper movement.
The most versatile strap we’ve tested, as mentioned above, was the Attitude Nation Single-Loop Lifting Strap. This strap doesn’t fully wrap around the wrist, which makes it easy to use when transitioning between lifts. Since the strap doesn’t fully wrap the wrist, it also offers a quick release to dump movements like snatches and cleans. Whether it was a strength or power movement, this strap held the bar tight and didn’t inhibit movement mechanics.
The Harbinger Cotton Padded Lifting Strap is another versatile option. While it’s a lasso strap and doesn’t have the quick release option like the single-loop; it’s relatively easy to unstrap and strap into lifts. Also, the added pad makes it easy to use and feel comfortable on the wrist with multiple exercises. It didn’t cause movement mechanics to suffer either.
The Rogue Ohio Lifting Strap is also a good fit when it comes to versatility. This strap like the Harbinger model is a lasso style, but without the pad. The lack of pad made this a great simple, minimalist strap that had no extra frills to get in the way of you and lifts. It supported proper movement mechanics and was relatively easy to unstrap and strap in with.
Which Strap Is Most Durable?
The IronMind Strong Enough Strap displayed the best signs of durability. Straps come in a variety of prices. Factors that influence price depend on the brand, design, and material, which often correlate to durability.
When testing straps we looked for multiple aspects that would resemble early wear and tear. Things like material fraying, a strap stretching, and even ripping under heavy pressure were all analyzed and accounted for.
IronMind’s Strong Enough Lifting Strap is made of nylon and has double stitching. Nylon is stronger than cotton and leather. IronMind specifically makes this strap for strongman style training. They also utilize double stitching on the loop, which most lasso straps don’t have. The double stitching and Nylon in their straps is inspired by a cotton strap that they witnessed rip during a strongman competition.
The Attitude Nation Pink Lifting Strap was also a durable nylon option. The edge is merrowed to prevent fraying and ripping as well. Something to point out though that we noticed was the durability of the logo. Every Attitude Nation logo is hand stitched, and we did see early wear and tear of this. Although, the strap held up great, so if the logo doesn’t bother you, then the Attitude Nation strap is a great pick for durability.
The Giant’s Pro Figure of 8 is a cotton strap, but is also a durable strap. This strap is designed specifically for deadlifting and heavy pulls. At the intersection when the straps cross over to create an eight, you can see extra stitching to ensure durability. In addition, this strap is made of a heavy canvas cotton, which is the cotton used most often in outdoor equipment.
Best Strap For Weightlifting
The Attitude Nation Single-Loop strap is our pick as the best option for weightlifting. This strap has the quick release feature, which is preferred for dumping the bar when a movement may not go perfectly. When catching a bar at the bottom of the snatch (or clean, though fewer lifters use straps for those) and failing, a quick release is the safest option for a lifter. Also, movements like the snatch require a fast release when a bar is overhead and balance is lost.
Lasso styled straps can be used for weightlifting too, although they don’t release as quickly. Of the lasso straps, the cotton straps released quicker than leather. The Harbinger, Rogue, and GoFit Cotton straps are are all suitable options. We recommend only using lasso straps for weightlifting when single-loop are either unavailable or you’re working with a weight that won’t require dumping.
Best Strap For Powerlifting
The Giant’s Pro Figure of 8 is the best strap for powerlifting (ONLY deadlifting) if you’re going for maximal security and weight. This strap holds the bar closest and is the most secure. When it comes to powerlifting specifically, we looked for a strap that held the bar best during pulling movements. In some deadlift style training, a lifter works to overload the back muscles with straps to prep the nervous system. The Figure of 8 strap allows you to keep the bar secure in a majority of pulling movements, with the most ease on grip.
IronMind’s Strong Enough Lifting Strap is also a great choice for powerlifting. This strap is nylon and will hold up to heavy pulling weight very well. The nylon didn’t stretch at all when put under pressure and the bar remained close without having to squeeze or re-work a grip.
Best Strap For Strongman
While it’s hard to make a definitive call in this category, we have to go with the IronMind Strong Enough Lifting Strap. There’s something about the length and nylon that create a great sense of security. In addition, this strap is versatile, so it will be useful in multiple strongman style events.
The Attitude Nation Pink Lifting Strap is also a great pick for women and those with smaller wrists. This strap is a little shorter in length, but offers versatile nylon, much like the IronMind strap. The stitching is also well-done on this strap, so there won’t be early ripping from heavy stress.
Best Strap For Deadlifting
The Giant’s Pro Figure of 8 steals the show when it comes to using a strap for deadlifts specifically. At stated above, this strap is designed specifically for deadlifting and strongman style pulling. The strap is made with heavy layered canvas cotton, along with double stitching throughout to handle heavy weight.
What really proves this strap as the ultimate deadlift strap is the double-looping around the wrist. This design allows you to feel incredibly secure to the bar and gives no chance of slippage due to grip. You can physically let go of the bar and still remain tied to your lift, and this is what makes the Figure of 8 our favorite choice for deadlifting.
Best Strap For Bodybuilding and Recreational Lifting
In a lot of cases strength athletes need a simple, easy strap to use for a variety of movements. The Harbinger Cotton Padded Lifting Strap is a great fit for the lifter who needs a strap for routine use in the weight room. It provides versatility and can be used with both barbells and dumbbells. Also, the added cotton pad provides comfort, so whether you’re lifting slow or fast, the wrist’s skin doesn’t get torn up.
The Rogue Ohio Lifting Strap is also a great pick for bodybuilders and recreational lifters. This strap offers a minimalist versatile lasso design. It’s a great pick for lifters who bring straps to the gym with them, for “just in case,” instances. Whether you’re using them frequently or every once in a while, this simple strap is super portable and effective.
The Schiek Leather Lifting Straps feels great on the wrists and is a good fit for bodybuilders. These straps are promoted by Jay Cutler on their package and it’s easy to understand why. They’re a softer leather so they feel great, held weight securely, and are versatile. In addition, some bodybuilding style training doesn’t require a ton of sweat, which is good for this type of material with strap.
Best Strap For Value and Pricing
The GoFit Cotton Lifting Strap is the best strap for your money. The pricing for this lasso style strap starts around $4.99 and is the best priced strap we reviewed. This strap held up well and is a good fit for the recreational lifter. Also, this strap would serve well for those who are lifting on a budget.
The Harbinger Cotton Padded Lifting Strap is also a fairly price strap. The pricing for this strap starts around $8.99, which is very fair since it has an added cotton pad. It’s a versatile lasso styled strap that held up well in both power and strength oriented movements.
With so many styles of strap on the market, finding the perfect fit can be a complex task. The best way to start when selecting your perfect strap is to consider your training styles, goals, and personal preferences. Also, factors such as bar security, value, and versatility can be accounted for in pursuit of your perfect lifting strap.