Random thoughts on strength training @$HOME

Thursday, July 2, 2009

#15 Love is...

knowing that little presents make him smile :-)

Monday, June 29, 2009

#14 Interview with Gabriel Sum

The first time I saw Gabriel Sum was about six weeks ago on youtube.com while searching for feats of grip strength. At the age of only 22, Gabriel is hunting for international titles and making his way to the international elite of grip strength athletes - at least I'm pretty sure he will make it.

He's the reigning champion of the german grip championship 2008/2009, runner-up of the european grip championship 2008, the winner of the Hahnenbacher Grip challenge 2009 and a certified Captain of Crush #3 ,#3.5 and RB330N.

If you've never heard of him, check out his channel and you will know why I was thrilled as he agreed to be interviewed. Perhaps you will be suprised too when you hear that he's a student of music.

The interview was done via E-Mail in german and I translated it into english as good as possible.

Have fun!

Marc: What is your first memory regarding grip strength training? How did you get involved with it and how long do you practice it?

Gabriel: My first experience with grip strenght was a video on youtube.com with Magnus Samuelsson called "world stongest arms". There I've seen the Ironmind Gripper for the first time. It fascinated me instantly. I googled and came across the website of Hermann Korte. There I bought the CoC #1 which I could close straightaway. Shortly after, I bougth CoC #2 which I could close straigthaway too and so I was gripped by grip strenght fever. I practice regularly and seriously since Septmeber 2007. Before that it was more playing around without a system until I realised that you can do grip strenght exercises as a sport. In addition, the "potato scene" from the Jack London movie "The Sea-Wolf" always impressed me.

Marc: What motivates you to practice regularly?

Gabriel: I'm aware that I am "genetically gifted" for having strong hands. That fuels my ambition. My goal is to close the CoC #4, at least from the deep set. I know it's feasible and I know I can do it if I keep on training. Another point is that grip strenght training is so varied like no other kind of training so it never gets boring.

Marc: How does your current training schedule look like?

Gabriel: I don't have a definite training schedule. Between my training days there are always at least 4 days of rest. In my opinion the main exercises are gripper, pinch and fatbar. Amongst those, grippers rank first. Like I said, I train intuitively instead of following a plan. A rough pattern can be recognised: I train deep sets and wide sets in equal measure, because both are very important. I alternate them on the single training days, start with heavy work / low reps and progress to lighter work with more reps.

Marc: How do you avoid injuries? Looking back,what mistakes have you done in training?

I often got injured when I started training because I did too much, especially as I started with Fatbar and Pinch. My hands got no chance to fully recover. I worked out with hands still sore, that really set me back in my training with grippers. I realised this problem rather late and found my "rythm" in late 2008. To be fully recovered is really important if you want to avoid injuries and make progress. Don't train your hands two days in a row, at least don't do it actively on the second day. Add some good nutrition and lots of sleep to your schedule.

Marc: Did you have a Mentor?

Axel Hoffmann, the german seller of the Robert Baraban products and a really good grip strength athlete, showed me how to set a gripper right and gave me lots of good tips. I really appreciate what he has done for me. Additionally, I got lots of good advice by members of the gripboard forum and users of youtube.com. I'd like to use this opportunity to thank all those guys.

Marc: Do you work out at home, in a commercial gym or in some kind of club? What's the advantage of your choice?

During the week I work out at home. On the weekends I work out at the home of my workout buddy. There we can focus on training without getting distracted like it often happens when you work out in a commercial gym. Especially when training grip I think it's very important not to get distracted while doing those short full-bore reps. Working out with a buddy can be a great advantage because you can push each other more as if you were alone.

What are your current feats and which feats are you working on?


  • not in contest: RB330 90 kg = 3.82 (deep set)
  • in contest: CoC #3.5 rating 3.75
  • Rolling Thunder: 97.5 kg
  • Appolon's Axle: 172.5 kg
  • Europinch: 101 kg
  • Pinchblock: 110 kg
My long term goal is - of course like with most other guys - closing the CoC #4, at least from a deep set.

Marc: What would you recommend to beginners?

Gabriel: Don't overdo it. Your hands need to adapt to the stress. Start with light weights and high-rep work to build a solid basis of strength and avoid injuries. Grippers are perfect for this. I recommend not to use Fatbar when you are a beginner. Get enough rest. Don't train through the pain!

Marc: Do you work out with kettlebells?

No, but I'm interested in them. Right now I don't have enough space left.

Marc: There's a fan community rising around your youtube channel. Do you use youtube for finding sponsors?

No, and to be honest I never thought of this - until now.

Marc: Please name three songs that can always be found on your playlist while working out.

While working out I don't listen to music most of the time. But I found for me that listening to aggressive music sometimes boosts my efforts. When I'm listening to music, then most of the time it's heavy metal stuff - especially Children Of Bodom.

Marc: Besides strength training, what are your hobbies?

I like making music, beeing with my girlfriend, riding a bike, playing volleyball and swimming.

Marc: What contests do you want to join in the near future?

There's a grip meeting at Hermann Korte october 2009 which I'd like to join. And of course the german and european grip championship 2010.

What novel would you read a second time? What specialised book?

Reading is not really one of my hobbies. But I like Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck very much. A specialised book I like reading again is Captains of Crush Grippers: What They Are and How to Close Them.

What makes you happy?

Gabriel: My girlfriend makes me happy.

Thanks again Gabriel for taking the time to answer my questions!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

#13 Interview with German Grip Champion Gabriel Sum coming soon

I'm thrilled to say that I had the opportunity to interview Gabriel Sum, the reigning champ of the German Grip Championship 2008 and 2009. I'll translate the interview as fast as possible and share it here.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

#12 Changes In My Workout Routine

Had a tough week and at least one more is comming up. Besides working late and getting up in the middle of the night to work even more (on-call duty) and cut my sleep I burned both hands today in a stupid accident in the kitchen. I hope this will get better fast, otherwise I can't grip any kind of bar until it heals. Don't cry for me argentina, or something and now to the point of this post.

I started my current routine about two months ago (only two months! feels like a year). Everything looked good on the paper:

Mon: 3*5 Squat, 3*5 Bench Press, 3 * Pull Up / Chin Up Failure
Wed: 3*5 Squat, 3*5 Press, 1*5 Deadlift
Fri: 3*5 Squat, 3*5 Bench Press, 3 * Pull Up / Chin Up Failure

The pressing exercises alternate each week. I still think this is a great beginner routine - for a healthy athlete which I'm not right now.

Problems I'm struggeling with:

  • hamstrings tight like a Monster Mini Band
  • lower back rounds crazy in back squats below parallel (either because of the mentioned tightness or a freakish long spine)
  • stretching the hamstrings hurts my right ITB like hell, especially lifting my left leg hurts bad on the right side
  • all pressing exercises give my shoulders a hard time, no matter how much I focus on light weight and technique
  • increasing Pull Up strenght seems to be very slow if you only can do two or three in one set to failure

Whew, glad you made it to this point. Now to my ideas how to solve the problems:
  • start using the foam rollers every day combined with dynamic flexibility drills (best I start now, eh?)
  • replace low bar back squats with front squats (need to buy straps soon)
  • replace pressing exercises with pushups (doens't seem to work, still pain and stiffness)
  • starting a Pull Up routine on my free days (e.g. like this )
  • perhaps see someone who will look at my shoulder and spine again
What about you, how do you motivate yourself when things are not going well?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

#11 Grip Strength - Breaking Folding Rules

Grip strength is something strange. Most men can't hide their fascination when they see feats of grip strength the first time. Like Josh Hanagarne puts it here , there’s an element of showmanship to it. Most people would never believe that I can tear telephone books (it doesn't look fancy yet and it only works sometimes with books less than 1000 pages, but hey, it works!). They think it can only by done by people that look like they can do it. I just love underdogs.

There's a whole grip world out there, with own competitions, books and unlimited challenges.

Here are some I found for myself:
  • tear telephone books, catalogues, used paper and stuff like this
  • tear apples in half
  • breaking walnuts by pressing them against each other
I just started exploring this world and built a DIY Wrist Roller for training, will blog that soon.

Last week I told my father about that interest and what feats are out there. We never spoke about this in 30 years when he said: "I could break folding rules with bare hands when I was younger". There was no doubt he could I thought. Today we spoke again about it and I showed him some feats on youtube. He even put his glasses on, so he really was interested. After seeing some vids of folding pans he wanted to give it a try and I recorded it with the mobile phone. He's 56 and has never trained grip strength, but he works as a craftsman since he was 14 and does so when he comes home from work and on the weekends.

I can't do it right now. What about you? Can you do it?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

#10 DIY: Deadlifting blocks

The largest plates (20 kg) for my barbell are about 35 cm diameter. That's about 4 cm less space between the bottom of the bar and the floor compared to a standard olympic bar. This can cause problems, especially when you are not very flexible. People usually suggest to put the bar on plates, i don't have enough plates for that.

I found my solution in the hardware store. It's very simple and cheap. Every block consists of three bricks, I used those in the picture.

Then I wrapped the bricks with duct tape:

That's it!

Every brick cost 15 cent, so that's 45 cent for one block. The duct tape ist the most expensive part, but you will probably spend only about 1 Euro per block altogether.

  • match the heigth of an olympic bar
  • protect the floor when the weight comes down to fast
  • stable, can be carried around because of the duct tape
  • can be used for other excersises ( e.g. Deadlifts from box, where you stand on the block)
  • very cheap

Monday, April 27, 2009

#9 Short Update

  1. Ordered a Jumpstretch Band yesterday to increase my Pull Up strength
  2. Deadlifts are getting heavy and I'm only at 50 kg at a bodyweight of 68/69 kg
  3. Getting some spacing problems in my workout room (= room for everything else)
  4. Need to find some blocks for deadlifting
  5. Started soft tissue work with the DIY Foam Rollers, seems to help my ITB issue a lot
  6. Thinking about getting a longer barbell (~2 m)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

#8 Off-Topic: Made my first picture for failblog.org

I like failblog.org very much, so I sent them a picture of my Power Rack yesterday. You can find it here. Enjoy ;-)

#7 Short Update

  1. bought my first pair of 20 kg barbell plates, each for 36 Euro
  2. this motivated me to increase my workload on deadlifts by 10 kg in one workout, so I'm slowly heading against deadlifting my own bodyweight (sumo style)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

#6 Review: Whey protein powder by EAS

Today I received my second delivery of the vanilla flavoured EAS whey protein powder. I got the recommendation from The New Rules of Lifting: Six Basic Moves for Maximum Muscle (actually Lou recommends EAS Myoplex, not Myopro) and gave it a try because I heard there are lots of powders out there that taste like crap.

I never used whey powder before and this one really tastes great. It's also easily soluble. Inside there is a scoop included, pretty handy because people usually don't have such things in germany.

I recommend you give it a try if you haven't already found your brand. You can buy it here: EAS 100% Whey, Vanilla 2 lb

As a suprise, the delivery contained a UltraProtein Bar:

Maybe I'll review the bar sometime, if I survive the whopping 42 grams of protein :-)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

#5 HowTo: Build a Foam Roller

For my version of the foam rollers you need:

  • waste pipe
  • insulation for water pipes with same diameter as the waste pipe
  • duct tape

(note: the waste pipe is only smaller because I had no other one left for the HowTo)

Start putting the pipe into the insulation. This will work even if the diameter is the same because the foam is strechable. As you progress, it will get harder because of the friction. Some sunflower oil could help here, i just slammed the pipe to the ground while holding the foam.

When you are done, it looks like this:

The foam I used has some sort of cutting, like this:

To prevent ripping the foam I sealed the cutting with duct tape.

When you are done, the DIY foam roller is very robust, it does not bend at all when I step up:

Here is another one with a bigger diameter for doing thoracic extensions:

I used a bigger waste pipe with a mat we had left to protect the glas of an aquarium where it stands on the table. You can measure the perimeter with a measuring tape or calculate it. Then you cut the mat and adhere it to the waste pipe with duct tape. I recommend you use a little more mat than you measured or calculated so you completely cover the pipe.

Have fun!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

#4 The mysteries of nutrition

Yesterday I listened to this conversation at the supermarket:

Cutsomer: What's this meat?
Employee: It's Omega-3 meat.
Customer: ?
Employee: That means it contains 50 % less fats from animals.
Customer: ?
Emplyee: It's also healthier.
Cusomer: I take it.

For most people, me included, nutrition seems to be one big mystery. I always thought of myself to be a "hardgainer", until I learned that's just another word for "undereater". As I read more books about strength training, something new came to my mind. Since not been eating 6 times a day, that must have been the secret reason why I was not progressing and the only true constant in resistance training.

Last week I found this post at jcdfitness.com. So there is a debate about the frequency? Well that's just great, I was not very happy with my plastic things to carry little portions of food around all day and using the microwave at 10 a.m at work to make some oatmeal.

Speaking of nutrition, here are some stats since I began training four weeks ago:

BW: 65.8 kg
BF: 12.5 %

BW: 68.3 kg
BF: 14.5 %

Thursday, April 16, 2009

#3 My current training routine

In 1998 I became a gym member for the first time. Unbelievable for me now, but the gym didn't even have a barbell. Only fancy machines and spinning classes. So I started the standard 3*15 whole body routine and stayed with that for about three months. I never put more weight on, but had some little newbie gains.

Because the progress stopped so fast, i stopped training at all. Several years later I became a gym member again, in a gym with free weights and a squat stand. Without any plan or any idea what to do, I made my first squat ever with 60 kg (~132 lbs) - at a bodyweight of 56 kg (~123 lbs). This must have looked hilarious - three partial reps. I did not squat again for 5 years.

After those years I joined another gym, one with free weights - just to start the 3*12 routine with machines. Doh!! As soon as I progressed to the free weights (they were in a seperate room in the basement(!)) I had to face a new problem: other gym members. Some muscleheads may think it is funny when skinny guys get their workout by unloading the barbells which had been used by the muscleheads before. Others think it's appropriate to do some fake reps of dumbbell chest presses and then drop the dumbbells to the floor to show everyone in the room how heavy the are.

Fast forward to now. Four weeks ago I started a very basic routine at home which I hope is what I was searching for all the time: the beginner program taken from Practical Programming for Strength Training
by Mark Rippetoe. It takes the big compound movements and adds pull-ups. That's it.

I try to update some data (weight, stats etc) soon to see if the routine is working for me. Feel free to follow my progress at http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=pWQE3D_zUkrqkiJPC_W2URw

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

#2 DIY: T-Bar Handle for doing swings

I saw this idea at rosstraining.com and built one myself, the parts cost about 20 Euro (~26 $). Today I embedded some swings with light weight into my warmup routine today, still not sure if it fits my needs, though it was fun to build it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

#1 DIY: Homemade Foam Rollers

Today I made my first homemade foam roller. Making the foam roller myself was caused by the fact that you cannot buy them in germany. The only similar things are called "Pilates Roller" and are pretty expensive (40 Euro, about 53 $), I also don't know if they can be used for soft tissue work. Amazon.com does not ship these things to europe.

So I went to the hardware store and bought a pvc pipe (1 m length, about 40 inch) for 96 cent (1.30 $) and a piece of foam that is made for isolating water pipes (1.50 Euro, 2 $). Putting both things together was pretty exhausting because I had to slam the pipe to the floor for about 5 minutes (the foam was not made for the measurements of the pipe). After that I secured the seam of the foam with some duct tape.

The pipe is only 40 mm (1.6 inch) in diameter, but with the foam around it, it seems to be enough for my first experiences with foam rolling, especially when you compare the 53$+ shipping costs to the 3 $ for the DIY.