Originally Published in Hardgainer No.19, July, 1992.
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The One-Hand Get-Up
by Tony Rose (1992)
A great favorite of the old-time strongmen, the one-hand get-up, was featured in many an impromptu test of mighty strength. Practiced in the early days of this century in the gyms of Paris, Austria, Germany, Copenhagen and right across Europe, many mighty men tested their strength with this vintage lift.
I used this lift for many years to keep my abdominal corset hard and firm. In my opinion, it's far better to do three or four get-ups with alternate hands than spend valuable gym time doing countless situps. When using it, I always one-hand cleaned the weight to the shoulder first, then side-pressed it overhead.
Although George Hackenschmidt used this lift, and talked to me about it, it was through another source that I discovered its great value, and started to use it.
When I was 17 years old and running my gym in Sefton Park, Liverpool, my photographs were appearing in "Health and Strength" and "Superman" magazines. In those days there were regular physique contests, or posing contests as many were known, and I was a frequent entrant.
At that time I was taking one of my many postal courses and one of them contained advice on how to use the one-hand get-up.
Stupidly, I ignored it.
In desperation over my midsection lagging behind the rest of my physique, I wrote off for a book by Barton Horvath. It was called "Abdominal Power."
Horvath had a superb physique. Arms, neck and calves all 17", a near-46" chest and 25" thighs at a height of 5'8", and above all a classic midsection. At the time he and Tony Sansone were my favorite American weight-men.
No doubt you've guessed it. The number one exercise in the course was the one-hand get-up. Barton really went to town on its virtues.
Tired of letters from posing judges - Mr. D. Johnson (editor of Health and Strength), George Walsh and other hierarchy of the period - telling me that if only I could obtain the mid-section of the French stars I would be a cover man. I threw myself into Barton Horvath's course.
Well, things like the war, five years in the army and six years of very little decent food put me back a bit. However, in 1947, six years on, I at least started to make front covers and inside covers of the bodybuilding press. It was the one-hand get-up that did it.
Here's a detailed description of my way of doing this great exercise. The only rule for this lift states that the weight shall be held above the head at all times during the lift with the arm locked.
Start with a light weight, say a 20-pound dumbbell, just to get the feel of the discipline. Build up the weight later. With your right hand, clean and press the weight to arm's length overhead. Use good style at all times. Now, look up at the dumbbell in your right hand, step back and slightly to one side some 10-12" with the left foot. Then, reaching towards the floor with the fingers of the left hand, slowly and carefully bend the legs until the left hand touches the floor. While doing this, allow the body to lean over to the left until it's supported by the flat of the left hand on the floor, with the arm kept straight. Keeping your eyes on the weight, start to move your left leg forward and allow the knee to slide to the floor.
You'll now be sitting sideways with the left thigh and buttock flat on the floor, supported by your left arm. The dumbbell is kept held above the head, of course with the right arm locked. Now, sink down onto the forearm of the supporting left arm, and very slowly, using the abdominals to control the descent, allow yourself to uncoil into a supine position, straightening the right leg. Take four deep breaths and try to relax with the bell held above your head with straight arm.
Now for the hard part. Roll over to the left and draw up the left leg, at the same time raising the body to a position supported by the left hand and elbow. Straighten the left arm and use the very slightly bent right leg to balance yourself. Now e have arrived at the most difficult part of the lift.
Allow the balance of the overhead weight to lean towards the feet and slightly forward, getting into a position of being on the left knee with some 12" behind the bent front leg. Push with the left hand and, getting decent balance, lift the rear knee from the floor. You're now in the position of a split squat. Keep your balance and carefully raise up to the standing position with the weight still at arm's length above the head. Bring the feet together, hold for a count of two and the lift is complete.
Now try with the left hand.
Throughout the exercise, try not to hold your breath. Use the dumbbell [or keetlebell] to help you sit up and obtain positive balance, and don't forget to use a very light weight to start with.
When you're practicing this feat, just let your mind dwell for a moment on the far off days of 1903 and the fabulous lifter Emile Deriaz, and his amazing 189-pound one-hand get-up at an old gym in Paris. That was some evening in Paris.
Enjoy Your Lifting!