Monday, August 4, 2008

The Rectangular Fix/Back Hand Curl - Charles A. Smith

Paul Anderson squatting with 605 at the '63 Mr. World Contest.
Catchers are John Davis and Pete George

The Rectangular Fix
by Charles A. Smith

Weak creatures like you and I find it hard to grasp the power of some men – not only in all round display of strength, but in particular feats for which Nature has admirably equipped them. When you and I get down and make our feeble 300 pound bench press, 140 pound curl or 500 pound deadlift, we little realize what small stuff it is compared to the actual power and the possible potentials of the Giants of Muscular Force backstage of the Theater of Might. How would you feel if you saw young Marvin Eder bench press first, 400 pounds, and then 410? You’d be mighty impressed! But just imagine your feelings if an entirely unknown athlete stepped right up and with no warmup and no PREVIOUS PRACTICE in the lift duplicated the feat of Eder. Would you believe your eyes or would you start to check up the weights on the bar to see if some hadn’t been slipped off? Well – I saw that actually happen.

Or suppose some big powerful guy held out his arm from the shoulder at full length and then hung a 45-pound International plate from his pinkie. Think that doesn’t take power? Try it some time. Or let’s say you saw the same man make a FULL deep knee bend with 550 pounds and hardly any warming up, press 365 pounds with just a bit of back bend, curl 205 pounds and perform a crucifix that shattered all previous records. Would you believe your senses or would you think you were dreaming? Over 30 members of the Val including yours truly witnessed those feats!

What I am trying to drive at is that compared to some men, you and I are weak, brother – just plain weak. You don’t have to take orthodox feats of strength either. Think of Jack Walsh, who can rest a 500-pound barbell across the top of his head – or Mac Batchelor who has a simply tremendous power of finger and hand. Mac can bend a beer bottle cap between thumb and finger – with a dime in the cap just to make it a little more difficult. Think of the power it took for Hans Steinke to stand with a railroad rail across his shoulders, with men hanging on it, bouncing about on it until it bent. Imagine the strength of tendon that enabled Goerner to deadlift over 600 pounds with one hand – or the imperviousness to pain that was Charles Vansittarts as he tore a tennis ball in half, and held a billiard cue between each finger with only the tips to crush the digits, with the cues held full length.

They say there’s a man in Ohio who can tear a quarter in half. They tell of a strongman who chewed a nail in two with his teeth in front of Sig Klein. There’s a wrestling strongman who allows others of his fraternity to beat him with one-inch steel rods, three feet in length, until they bend. All over this world there are big, powerful men, unknown – never heard of – displaying their powers for only a few friends. At times I have met some of these men. I have seen their astonishing strength evidenced. The nonchalant way they went about showing what they could do was amazing. There was the Roman Ring artist weighing just over 162 pounds. He could make two perfect curls with 165 pounds. There was the little London Italian, Luigi di George, scaling all of 110 pounds – never trained, scorned barbells, ridiculed bodybuilders. Just for fun, the boys stuck 300 pounds across his shoulders expecting Lou to sink slowly to earth and remain anchored there. Imagine their astonishment – and mine – when di George made a perfect FULL deep knee bend with the weight. There we were, thinking ourselves real Big Deal lifters because we could make ten reps in the deep squat with 200 pounds, and along comes a tiny five-foot lad and makes a poundage with ease, what we couldn’t then use once. It’s very sobering.

In my wanderings over this earth, I have come across many men who had strength of muscle above the ordinary. To me it seemed that not only were their bodies strong, but that there was also a single tenacity of purpose. In some qualities they may have been weak, but when it came to strength feats, whatever they undertook, their output of energy was complete and the will to DO always there. A firm jaw – a powerful grip and a decisive carriage was the mark of Nature’s bounty on all of them – especially the grip. There was that firmness and force behind their handshakes that stamped them as men of action and bodily power. It was the brand of the Strong Man. Maybe I’m wrong, but certain mental qualities seem to walk hand-in-hand with certain feats of strength. For instance – the Rectangular Fix – or as we call it in this country – the Backhand Curl. All these “born strong” athletes could raise quite respectable poundages in this lift. It was just as if their inherited power dovetailed with the particular feats that required gripping power and determination. All of the leverage lifts are like this. The deltoid raises, the pectoral lifts and the situps. Johnny Davis is said to have made three clean reps with 150 pounds in the back hand curl. Al Berger can “fix” 175 pounds and has been said to have made 190. Both these strength athletes fall into the category of naturally powerful men.

There isn’t much doubt in my mind as to the effectiveness of the back hand curl – in building up strong, powerful hands and forearms. It is included in some schedules as a “biceps” exercise. While it does activate the biceps to some extent, it can hardly be called the best movement for building the upper arm. But if DOES develop extremely strong hands and forearms. Most men who practice the lift for any considerable amount of time experience a pleasant increase in the tearing, ripping powers. Taking packs of cards asunder and tearing telephone directories comes much easier to the outstanding performer on the back hand curl.

Considerable confusion exists in the country as to what exactly IS a back hand curl. Actually, there isn’t any such lift – OFFICIALLY. But there IS a lift known as the Rectangular Fix. for this lift, I will give the rules below. In the back hand curl, the lifter takes the weight to the shoulders with the knuckles of the hand facing him as the bar travels UP. It is harder to make harder to make a rectangular fix, in my opinion because of certain requirements of position. The back hand curl could be looked on as the “bodybuilding version” of the rectangular fix, which is, of course, the ACTUAL lift, the competition requirement, the feat in which records are broken and created. Here are the rules.

The barbell grasped with both hands (knuckles to the front) shall hang at arm’s length across the lifter’s front, from which position it shall be raised forward steadily until the forearms are at right angles to the upper arms. Throughout the lift the trunk must not be inclined backwards, forwards or sideways, the shoulders must be dept quite level, the legs straight, the upper arms stationary. The SLIGHTEST deviation from this position shall be counted as cause for disqualification.

Although a count is not insisted upon at the commencement of this lift, a pause must be observed and the lift must not be continued from the momentum gained by lifting the bar into the commencing position.

Assistance Exercises for the Rectangular Fix

There is only one way to improve any particular lift and that is to practice it. Yes, I know, I’ve said that before, yet I get hundreds of queries asking me if there isn’t some secret way of increasing a record, say on the deadlift – press – curl – or any of the recognized feats of strength throughout the world. The plain, simple fact is that THERE ARE NO SECRETS! As the song goes, everything’s been done before. One might come across a novel form of training, but if you care to spend the time in research, you will find that something similar, a reasonable facsimile thereof has always been in the books. The only secrets in weight training are HARD work, INTENSE application to the task in hand and DETERMINATION. There are a few reliable people who can claim to put “secrets” in front of the average lifter. These “secrets” are those the research workers of our sport have unearthed from the training schedules of yesteryear. They are “secret” in the sense that they are not common knowledge or else have been kept for exclusive use by the selfish few.

Exercise One – Zottman Curl

Over twenty years ago, the weight training world witness one of its most memorable events – the publication of Alan Calvert’s book Super Strength. In that book the super forearm and upper arm exercise of a strong man - George Zottman – was given. Take a dumbell in the hand. Stand firmly with the legs well braced and the feet slightly apart. as you stand upright, the knuckles should be turned out and one end of the dumbell should be touching the thighs. Start to curl the weight ACROSS the front of the body and UP. As son as the weight reaches chin height continue with the curl OUT and away from the body and then down to the starting position. The weight and forearm describe a complete circle. After performing one set with each arm, start another set, this time starting the motion u and away from the body, to the chin and then down across the body to starting position – a complete reverse of the first set. Start off with a poundage you can comfortably handle for 8 reps, 2 sets each arm and work up to 3 sets of 12 reps each arm before increasing the weight.

Exercise Two – Lying Back Hand Curl

Lie down on your back, Rest a barbell across the upper thighs or hips. The plates should be small ones so that they DO NOT touch the ground. Hold the upper arms close against the sides and DON’T move them during the exercises. Grasp the bar with a knuckles-up shoulder width grip. From this starting position, raise the bar over in a complete semi-circle to the chest. Return to the hips and repeat. Important points here are – small plates so the bar is clear of the floor – keep upper arms STILL at all times. Raise the weight to the chest and RAISE it up and over to the thighs or hips again. Start off with a weight you can handle EASILY for 10 reps, 2 sets. Work up to 2 sets of 15 reps before increasing the weight of the bar.

Exercise Three – Seated Back Hand Curl

In an article a few months ago, the assistance exercises for the two hand curl were published. Many lifters have written me expressing satisfaction at their results from the seated barbell curl. Here is the reverse of that exercise, designed to aid your back hand curl. Seat yourself on a bench with the barbell resting in the bend of the hips. Take a shoulder width knuckles-up grip. Keep the upper arms STILL throughout this exercise. From the commencing position, raise the bar to the chin and then lower it AS SLOWLY AS POSSIBLE resisting all the way. Take a weight you can handle for 7 comfortable reps, 3 sets and work up to 3 sets of 12 reps.

Exercise Four – Hand Over Hand Barbell Raise

Here is a novel exercise – one that to the best of my knowledge has never before been published in any weight lifting magazine. a little attention to detail is essential before the movement is mastered. Take a six foot bar. Load it up ONE END ONLY. Stand on a bench or box and grasp the bar ONE HAND OVER THE OTHER. The upper arms do not move. The bar should be grasped at WAIST level. From this position raise the bar with the upper hand, letting it slide through the other hand. As soon as your working hand is close to chin height, STOP and then start to raise the bar with the LOWER hand until your fist touches your TOP hand, allowing the bar to slide through the top hand as it did through the bottom. Keep repeating this movement until the hands touch the plates at the bottom of the bar, then lower the weight SLOWLY, resisting it all the way down. In other words, it is a simple matter of raising the bar hand-over-hand – rope climbing in reverse. Start off with a weight you have to go all out with to make 5 reps, 3 sets. Work up to 3 sets of 10 reps before increasing the weight. Altho this movement sounds complicated, it is in reality a fairly simple movement and one especially productive of results in the way of gripping strength.

Exercise Five – Eccentric Back Hand Curl

One of the greatest exercising discoveries was made during the war. Utilizing the eccentric action of the muscle – BRAKING the weight against gravity – physiotherapists found that where no muscular force could be exerted when the muscles functioned against resistance in a concentric manner – that is when origin approached insertion – the poundage could be RESISTED when the muscles worked eccentrically – where the muscle lengthened or acted as a brake. Here is a very effective movement utilizing that eccentric principle. Swing a barbell up to the shoulders. The hands should be shoulder width, knuckles-up grip and the upper arms SHOULD NOT move. The body MUST NOT bend back but must be kept upright. From this position, lower the weight SLOWLY to a position where the forearms are at right angles with the upper arms. Hold there for a slow count of two, then raise to the shoulders and repeat. This is a tough exercise. Start off with a weight you can handle EASILY for 10 reps. Work up to 15 reps for a single set before increasing the exercising poundage.

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