Saturday, October 18, 2008

Broad Shoulders - Chapter Five

The author hoisting 1600 pounds in the hip lift. In the background is shown Warren Lincoln Travis who demonstrated his strength for 25 years at Coney Island, challenging the world to duplicate his feats. This world's largest dumbell now reposes in front of the gym at the Strength and Health center of the world in York. Travis told Bob Hoffman that he was the second man in all his years at Coney Island who managed to lift this great weight.

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Feats of Shoulder Strength

When you have developed a powerful pair of shoulders you can have a lot of fun with your training mates, your friends, visitors to your home, business associates of the men you who work with you at the foundry, mine of factory, by indulging in impromptu contests to determine who excels in feats of shoulder strength and dexterity. Furthermore, the practice of these stunts, of feats, will further strengthen and develop the shoulders so that they will take on an even superior appearance.

Spreading the Shoulders
Competition in this feat, spreading of the shoulders, will determine who has the longest reach, of course those who are taller, and who have longer arms will excel the men of shorter stature, but you should find men, your equal in height, and then as you develop broader shoulders you will in time stretch them, the practice of this shoulder spreading or stretching will still further spread the shoulders by fully stretching the attachments, ligaments and muscles of the shoulders so that in time you will develop a bit more of the shoulder breadth you are seeking.

In making this test, you stand with your back to a wall, it will be better if you stand so that the fingers of one hand will touch the corner of the wall. With your arms stretched out at shoulder height, with the tips of the fingers of one arm touching the corner, you stretch as far as you can and mark the joint of greatest extension. The one who stretched the farthest wins. While it is normal for the stretch at shoulder height to equal the height of the body, some men have a spread which is inches broader than their height. John Terry, who won the U. S. championship in the 132 pound class five times, who established a world’s record in two hands snatching in the world’s championships of 1938 at Vienna, of 215 pounds, also hold’s the world’s record at 610 pounds in the dead weight lift, has exceptionally long arms and broad shoulders which give him a spread in this position, ten inches more than his height.

The most commonly practiced tests of shoulder strength are the muscling out of weights. This feat has been described in another chapter of this book so we will only state here that the tests usually are performed in three manners. Muscling out or holding a weight to the side at arm’s length with one arm, holding two weights one to each side, and holding one out to the front. The movements can be varied by performing this test with the palms up and with the knuckles up at other times. The hold out with two weights will be in the form of a crucifix, and is performed with dumbells, the hold out in front could be performed with dumbells but usually the barbell is the testing medium in that position.

Don’t forget to practice writing on wall with a weight suspended from the finger. While the best performers find 56 pounds to be a record if performed correctly, by cheating a bit, some advanced weight men have managed to perform this feat with 75 or 80 pounds. The weight should be supported from the little finger either by a thin handled ring weight, by a finger lifting device made especially for the purpose or by a cloth or rope which in turn is fastened to the handle of a dumbell. With the correct style the weight hangs suspended from the finger, the upper arm is held straight out from the shoulder, the forearm, nearly perpendicular. Naturally it would not be fair for a man whose name is Herman Radzilowski to compete in name writing with a man whose name is Sam Low, so to make the test fair a standard name such as John Doe should be used. Those who cheat a bit with this strength test will lay the weight on the forearm, so that the strain is removed from the finger and less leverage is exerted. Needless to say, to make the test a fair one all must use the same type of weight and the same method of performance.

Two feats that I will not describe at length, if interested you can practice learn the method of performance, are bar bending and kettle bell juggling. In this latter feat, kettle bells or dumbells are swung or tossed in a variety of ways to other men who stand in a circle. In Germany this has always been a popular strength test and teams of Jungerlen tossers put on exhibitions at gatherings. It is a good shoulder developer for most of the tosses are made with the arm at least comparatively straight and the shoulder does most of the work.

Barbell juggling is another stunt that was usually a part of the acts of old time strong men. While not seen much today, occasionally Siegmund Klein who is a master of the art, juggles at one of the strength shows in which he is taking part. Throwing the barbell into the air in the variety of manners employed and catching it across the back or in the hollows of the elbows, while being spectacular, also results in better, broader shoulders. The most common feat is to snatch a light barbell into the air, letting it go when it reaches arm’s length as it comes down, catching it in the bend of the arms at the elbows. The arms are extended in front of you to make the catch and the knees bent to ease the force of the contact. While juggling is usually done with a light barbell, I have often seen John Grimek catch a very heavy weight, 300 pounds or more, as he drops it from overhead. Be sure that you learn to catch the bell on the forearms a few inches below the exact hollow of the arm, then let it slide down into the hollow. If you don’t, there is a possibility that you will bruise the tendons in the crook of the arm.

If you are strong enough and have sufficient dexterity, you can learn to turn a light barbell as a drum major does with his baton. Some of the strongest have learned to perform a manual of arms with a man.
A gun weighs nine pounds, so you can be sure that a man who performs a manual of arms with another man of a weight of at least a hundred pounds is a very strong man. Professor Attila, the famous old time strongman who is credited with bringing Eugen Sandow to fame, with the creation of some of the famous lifts and feats of strength, in addition to being Sieg Klein’s father-in-law, was the first to perform this manual of arms with a human weight. Tony Massimo, who appeared on the stage for many years performing strength feats and balancing, a man whom many believed to be the most muscular man in the world a score of years ago, made a practice of this feat. No doubt considerable of his great strength and truly “Farnese Hercules” type of physique resulted from the practice of this human lifting.

The common test of broom lifting is practiced throughout the world and is a good test of shoulder strength. An ordinary household broom is laid upon the floor. Then you grasp the end of the broom so that the little finger of the hand is encircling the end of the broom. You get down on one knee with the knuckles resting upon the floor. The test is to lift the broom all at one time, keeping it in a horizontal position so that the far or sweeping end will come off the floor as the hand does and not sag from its own weight. In order to perform this feat you must have considerable strength in your hand, wrist, forearm and shoulder. If you are competing with advanced weight men you will need a weight of some sort to lay on the broom. An ordinary brick will do, but a barbell plate is better for then you will know exactly what weight you use from time to time.

Another simple feat is the wall push with arms. Place your hands at shoulder width and slightly lower than shoulder height against the wall. Bend the arms slightly lower than shoulder height against the wall. Bend the arms slightly, then give a vigorous push to send your body up to a standing position. When you succeed in pushing yourself to the standing position move your feet farther from the wall. Keep moving back until you fail to come up. This stunt is great for the arms and shoulders. If you have a friend who likes stunts, try this out on him.

The string lift is one that can be easily practiced, does not require special equipment and is a fine test of finger and shoulder strength. Obtain a piece of string five or six feet long, any thickness of string will do, but the thicker the string the easier the feat becomes, the thinner the string the greater the test of finger strength, but as we are concerning ourselves chiefly with shoulder strength, rather than with finger strength, you should have a string large enough to permit sufficient grip to lift a fairly heavy weight. Fasten one end of the string to a small barbell plate to make the first of the series of tests. While the best men should lift at least a fifty pound plate in this style, you may find 20 or 25 pounds sufficient in the beginning. Now take your position at arm’s length from the weight, grasp the string so that when it is taut, the hand extended at shoulder height, the non lifting hand extended away from the body, the thumb should be up, the clenched fingers facing forward. The string runs through the hand and is not wrapped around the fingers for then you would have only a form of performing the one hand hold out. The secret of success with this stunt is your ability to squeeze the string hard enough to support the weight and then to have sufficient shoulder strength to lift the weight. If you are one who exercises with weights only to develop your muscles and you do not perform hard work in earning your living, you had better be careful in challenging the farmer, or a man who does hard work. The “horny hand of toil” will much easier grasp the string than will a softer hand, and although you might have stronger shoulders, if the string slips too soon, you are beaten.

The feats we have been describing require unusual shoulder strength. Here is a stunt that requires endurance of the shoulder muscles. Merely the holding out of the hand straight from the shoulder for as long a time as possible. Five minutes with an empty hand is good, the more weight is used, the shorter will be the period during which the hand is held out. A certain amount of shaking is permitted as the test becomes more severe but when the time comes that the competitor is leaning to the side and his arm is dropping that is the time to count the period that has elapsed since he started the feat.

Holding a pin is an even more difficult test. It would seem that the inconsequential weight of a pin would not make any different in a time trial at holding the arm straight out from the shoulder but as the extension of the time causes the hand to shake, the difficulty is to keep the pin from falling from the hand. You can fool your friends and have some fun with them if you will thrust the pin through the skin of the fingers. Do this when no one is looking, and you will have pleasure watching the puzzled expressions on the faces of your friends as you beat them all at this simple stunt.

While the shock of the forward fall is taken up mostly with the arms, the shoulders are also brought into forceful action. To start this feat you stand erect with the feet together. Keep the body and the legs straight and lean forward slowly on the toes until you lose your balance entirely. During the first part of the fall your arms and hands should be at the sides but as you fall closer to the floor, quickly bring the hands in front of you and catch yourself upon them. If you wait too long to bring your hands to the front you will not be able to stop the force of your fall. The arms should be about straight when you first touch them to the floor. Raising the body from the floor with the legs straight and the arms straight, as they are thrust out in front of the head, is a good test of bodily strength as well as arm and shoulder strength. The test is to raise the body in this position. The better performers can raise the body with a heavy barbell plate upon their backs.

Shoulder leaping is a little known trick which requires considerable skill and balance, a lot of bodily exertion, particularly of the shoulders. Lie flat upon the floor, back down, raise the legs up and overhead, placing the hands back of the waist and the bent elbows on the floor just as you would if you were to practice the inverted bicycle ride. Bend the legs at the knees, thrust them smartly upward and slightly forward, this will cause the body to jump a little and if you make each kick short, vigorous and slightly forward, you will move forward a little at a time, as you learn to jump with your shoulders you will add additional impetus to the movement and go forward at an even more rapid rate. The downward push of the shoulders, even the head and the elbows, will aid in your jumps while in this position.

There are many forms of wrestling, wrist wrestling, Cumberland style wrestling, simply standing toe to toe grasping hands and attempting to pull or twist the other from his position, all of which require great shoulder strength if one is to be a skilled performer, but we will offer still another type of wrestling which could be called shoulder wrestling. The contestants face each other about arm’s length apart. Each places his hands on the other’s shoulders, just inside the arms, one pair of arms will of necessity be on top, the other on the bottom. The combatants try to push each other off their feet by pushing backward, pulling forward or thrusting to either side. The one loses who is forced off his feet.

Our next stunt is called shoulder butting. Mark a large circle of the floor with chalk or on the ground if this feat is being attempted on the outside. A ring with a diameter of twelve feet will be about right. Two combatants get in the ring and, putting their hands behind their bodies, at a signal, they commence butting each other with the right shoulder. Each man tries to bump the other out of the ring and if he succeeds, he is the winner. It is a foul if any part of the body except the shoulder is butted. This bull like shoulder butting is rough and vigorous, good for wind, and develops the strength of the entire body as well as the shoulders, which must inflict and withstand the impact of the butting.

The flag as performed by advanced strength athletes is a good developer as well as a fine test of strength. You stand facing a strong, well anchored pole, you leap slightly upward and sliding one hand up, the other down, the arms will be straight at the elbow and your body will be thrust out direct from the pole and supported in this rigid or flag like position. Great shoulder strength, as well as all around bodily strength, is developed through the practice of this feat. The very best men hold this position for 30 or 40 seconds, others have managed to rock the body so that they slowly climb the pole and still others amplify the resistance by wearing a pair of iron boots.

One of the most common of all strength feats, one that is often practiced as one of a series of parlor games or tests is to lift a chair by the legs. You will be the center of admiring attention if through regular training you have built considerable strength and development and the ability to excel others at feats such as are contained in this chapter. And if you do not have strength and muscle, if you are one of those mentioned in an earlier chapter who must depend on the tailor to make your shoulders look even a little manly, you will be afraid to show how lacking in development you are, show how weak you are, you must stand back and be a wall flower. The man who takes part with considerable skill in all the evening’s activities has the most fun, creates favorable attention, in the future is invited to other parties, and is the center of admiring groups particularly of the fair sex. So it behooves any young or old man to develop some strength and muscle and then learn to do something with that strength and development so that he can not only make a reputation for himself as a strong, well built, super man type of fellow, bit put in his bit to advance this fine strength game which means so much for the future of our nation and the rest of the world.

To lift a chair by the leg, it should stand of all four legs, you should approach it from the front, get on the floor so that our body rests on one knee, if you are lifting with the right hand, get on the right knee, reach out and grasp the leg of the chair as close to the floor as you can. The lifting hand must be so low on the leg of the chair that it also touches the floor. The forearm is near or resting on the floor also. To perform this test successfully, all four legs of the chair must leave the floor at the same time and as the chair is raised to shoulder height standing, the chair must be kept in a level position. You can not raise the front legs before the others, permitting the back legs to sag downward.

The various types of pull overs have long been considered to be excellent for shoulder and chest developing. We will now offer a test of shoulder strength known as the standing pullover. While this is primarily a test of shoulder strength, certain bodily strength, particularly strength in the abdominal muscles, is required too. Two contestants of about equal strength stand back to back, one of them should have a strong stick, a broom stick, or the bar of a barbell will do; this should be extended to arm’s length overhead, both men should grasp it so that the pairs of hands should be close together and about shoulder width apart. When the starting signal is given, both men should attempt to bring their arms forward without bending their arms. Both may stand with one foot slightly in advance of the other and the object of the test is to pull one’s opponent over your head until you lift him off his feet.

The alligator or crocodile walk is a stunt that is easy to perform if the feet are kept on the ground and very difficult to perform if a balance on the hands is maintained throughout. To start, you get down on the hands and toes as you do to perform the floor dip. Bend the arms, dipping until are all the way down with the chest barely clearing the floor. With the elbows extended well out in this bent over fashion, walk forward stepping with each hand and dragging the hands behind you. The extended shoulders and bent arm walking gives a good imitation of an alligator or crocodile walking and you’ll feel from the fatigue experienced in the shoulder muscles that it will do much to advance their development, too. When it is performed in a very difficult manner it is done with the feet raised, the elbows closer to the body and a swinging back and forth of the entire body, not unlike the performance of one arm planches as the body moves forward. Great muscular strength and balancing skill are required in this form of walking.

A similar movement is the crippled dog walk. This is started in the floor dip position, the arms are kept straight and you advance forward dragging the legs. If you want to make it more realistic howl like a hurt dog and the audience will usually howl too, with laughter.

The man with good deltoids will be the winner in the test of stick twisting. Obtain a stout stick, about three feet long. Each of the contestants should face each other with their hands on the stick about shoulder width apart. The arms should be kept straight throughout, the feet remain as nearly as possible in place. The object of this test is to endeavor to pull or twist the stick from your opponent’s grasp. The one who relinquishes his grasp with one or both hands loses. A slightly longer pole is required for the test known as pole pushing. The end of the pole should be held under the right arm as the contestants face each other. The right hand grasps the pole a little forward of the chest, and the left hand should grip it a bit in advance of the right hand. Each man pushes hard on the pole trying to make the other back up, the winner is he who forces the other back for the greater distance.

In straight arm wrestling the contestants stand facing each other with the arms extended straight forward. The thumbs are up. One pair of hands is inside the other. The owner of the outside pair of hands endeavors to force the inside pair together until they touch, the owner of the inside pair resists the movement and tries to push the other pair of hands apart. The position should be reversed in subsequent tests for the inside pair of hands is usually at a disadvantage in leverage, having only the deltoids to aid them in forcing the others apart, while outside hands have the pectorals to aid them and they are working in a position where the average man will have more strength.

There are many other tests in which strong shoulders are the difference between success and defeat, too numerous to fully describe in a book of moderate size such as this one. Tearing a phone book in half, iron coiling or twisting, one and two arm pull over, nail driving with the hands, the broom lift with two fingers, the oarsman’s tug of war, clapping hands in the dip, holding men or two horses with the hands, the one arm chin, bursting milk bottles with the hands, iron rod bending with the hands, the elbow push, the mop dip, scale lifting, etc. However with the tests we have more fully described ad these latter suggestions you should master sufficient feats to not only demonstrate the superior strength of your shoulder muscles but to constantly increase the strength and development of the part of your anatomy about which we are discussing.

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