Originally Published in Hardgainer #18 (May 1992)
Hardgainer 2.0 is out now -
"One Arm Lifts for Muscularity" here:
"The One-Hand Deadlift" by Tony Rose:
Illustration Courtesy of Oldtime Strongman
If the bent press is the "King of Lifts" as many old-time strongmen and physical culturists thought, then how did these experts rate the Two Hands Anyhow?
Well, to quote one, Tom Inch, at one time Britain's strongest man, world record holder and physical culture expert, "It is the hardest and most gruelling lift you can possibly indulge in."
Those were his written words to me back in the early 1940s. Tom himself could hoist up over 275 pounds using dumbbells. His world record with barbell and ringweight was 356.5 pounds using dumbbells. At that time his weight was 210 at a height of 5'10". He could, of course, bent press over 300 pounds.
Inch performing a 276 pound Two Dumbbell Anyhow Lift.
W.A. Pullum referee.
"Thomas Inch on Strength" - here:
Another of Inch's feats was to pull out a 30-strand cable set (expander), holding a 56-pound weight in each little finger, plus a 168-pound man hanging on each arm. Like that other bent press enthusiast, Bob Hoffman, he was much in favor of using cables and did so to a very advanced age.
There are two types of lift known as the Two Hands Anyhow. First, with barbell and ringweight (or dumbbell) and second, with two dumbbells.
Before we start getting into the performance of this lift, let me tell you a little more of what some of the old-timers lifted. Kurt Saxon, of the Saxon Trio, was very good at this lift and recorded a two hands anyhow lift of 387 pounds with barbell and ringweight.
William A. (Bill) Pullum in his early days (1914) was outstanding in the two hands anyhow. At a bodyweight of under 126 pounds, Pullum could lift 258 pounds with barbell and kettlebell. The barbell was four pounds short of 200 pounds and the lighter bell was 62 pounds. He cleaned the barbell with two hands, transferred it to one hand, then bent down and swung in the lighter bell. Bear in mind, however, that this man could one hand swing a weight 6-8 pounds over his bodyweight, so the lighter bell was never a problem. In 1915 he created the world record two hands anyhow of 272 pounds at 122 pounds bodyweight. In the two hands anyhow with dumbbells, Pullum's 1915 record was 244 pounds.
Tom Inch always advised a slow, steady and controlled performance of this lift. In his postal instructions he was very helpful. Even in his later years he always encouraged young lifters keen on the vintage lifts.
Here's some great film footage of Thomas Inch demonstrating a Two Dumbbell Two Hands Anyhow in his later years. It's a wild lift! Check out the knee kick to assist in bringing up the lighter bell:
The best way to learn the two hands anyhow is to teach yourself how to change over to one hand a heavy weight you've raised above your head with a two hands clean and jerk. Make sure the center of the bar is marked. It may take a couple of hand moves to do. Never, ever, take your eye off the weight. I recommend a great deal of practice on this exercise.
With the two hands anyhow with barbell and ring weight, I found the easiest way for me was to clean and jerk the barbell, change it over to one hand once it was over my head, then, putting a slight forward hang to the barbell, slide my hand down to my thigh and pick up and press the lighter weight.
Often, if I wished to bent press the bell overhead, I got it to my shoulder by standing the bell on end, having first marked the exact center of the bar with tape. Then, I would half squat with a straight back and grip the bar in the center with my left hand. With my right I would grasp the lower inside collar. Next, I would bend my neck against the bar, just above my left knuckle, and using the neck and right arm I would rock the bell onto my shoulder, thereafter bent pressing. I then picked up the lighter weight with a curl or a swing, steadying that at my shoulder, and then pressing it to complete the lift.
Take a leaf out of Saxon's book and never rush this lift. When the heavier weight is at your shoulder, get your breathing under control and proceed slowly and with great care. Always have catchers to assist you when performing this lift.
Endurance, balance and NERVE play a part, as well as great strength. Regular practice of this lift will build you enormous strength in the abdominal obliques and erector spinae. Plus, of course, tremendous deltoid power and development.
This is certainly not a lift for the wasp-waisted, flat-chested lat spreaders, though it's what they need. How do you think Sandow would have looked without those superb obliques and etched abdominals? Those old-time strongmen didn't spend hours and hours doing situps on a Roman chair or twists with a broomstick. They lifted heavier and heavier weights at every opportunity. After all, it was their living. All the time they were being challenged by the strongest men in the towns visited by their shows.
These strongmen I talk of had enormous gripping power. Inch was so strong in the grip department he held the world record on the rectangular fix. This is really a (reverse) half curl to a right angle with an overhand grip, done slowly with no jerking or swaying of the body, then held for two seconds. He lifted 144 pounds and even defeated Arthur Saxon in this lift.
"Train Your Grip" by Thomas Inch, here:
A little suggestion from the Hardgainer point of view: Measure your waist before indulging in bent pressing and two hands anyhow lifting. Note the fat deposits. Measure again in three months. Your waist will be perhaps an inch and a half bigger, but the fat will have been cut down. You will have a strong muscular corset and lower back, and your bodyweight will have gone up. You will both look and feel amazingly powerful.
Enjoy Your Lifting!