Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Grip Training -- The Editor, S & H (1939)


Good Grief, he goes on and on about business blather, the wondrous quality of a firm handshake and other monotonous crap aimed at the 15 year olds of 1939 here. I'll just skip ahead to the actual grip stuff . . .

"I would like to have a more muscular pair of hands, hands that look strong and are stronger than they look. Do you know some good gripping exercises, Jim?" 

"Yes, I know some. In fact the exercises one can practice to develop the hands, wrists and forearms are almost endless. I'll describe a few. You must have tried some of them, although some may be entirely new to you. In any event if you will specialize for six to twelve weeks on the exercises I tell you of, you are sure to improve your forearms and have a better developed pair of stronger hands.

"It is possible to classify the various exercises for the hands and I believe it would be beneficial for you to include each in its own category. I will list them as: 

The Bending and Breaking Group
Tearing Group
Pinching Group
Gripping Group.

While there is a marked difference among the above, there is of course some overlapping. However, it will demonstrate its value as I describe the various exercises; moreover it will provide the means whereby the exercise enthusiast may select a different group for each exercise period of the week, and thus reach the muscles in a diversified manner.

"In the first division, the BENDING AND BREAKING group, one will immediately realize the necessity of strong, tough hands, both of which can be accomplished in a few weeks time. Probably more than in any other of the groups, the shoulders, chest and back muscles will come in for a large share of the benefits of the exercises in question. The very nature of the exercises of this section cause the muscles of the upper body to pull and push and twist in most any direction. 

"It is for this reason that this first group, bending and breaking, should be considered of great importance and practiced at least once a week. One thing you should learn is that the BEST exercises are those which bring into play the largest group of muscles at one time. An advanced barbell man learns this lesson from experience. 

"You should procure some scrap iron and some Jack chains. They'll not only help you become strong, but through their use you'll develop a reputation as a real strong man. You'll be asked to give demonstrations at banquets, social gatherings and business meetings. [Ah, the 1930's.] You will surprise your business associates who don't know that Jack Burnett has been taking iron pills for some time.     

You should obtain a piece of strap iron six to eight feet in length. Depending on your present strength you can start with iron varying in width from 1 to 2.5", and the thickness that experiment finds you are capable of handling. 

While you are at the hardware store selecting the strap iron, also obtain some spikes of various sizes. You will quickly learn to bend them too. 

And some Jack chain. This is made in several sizes. You can start with the smallest, the second size is material used on your head strap. There are at least three larger sizes you can learn to break. When I took a run over to the York strength show of 1937 I noted that Bob Hoffman used these four sizes in breaking chains with his hands and with his chest expansion.

"After you have used the strap iron you need not discard it for you can obtain additional exercise by straightening it to use again. The procedure of exercising with strap iron is simplicity itself. First bend one end at right angles. 4 to 6 inches will be sufficient. It's better to make this initial bend in a vice. Then place one foot on the bend in order to hold it firmly to the floor, and placing the left forearm against the iron, start bending the top half of the bar over by pushing it hard with the right hand. With a little practice you can learn to make some fancy scroll work in time. Don't forget to practice bending the iron over both arms to assure yourself of equal development. 

"As a strength demonstration, heavier bars may be bent by placing them on your head or in your mouth and have assistants hang on both ends to bend them down. Of course, you should wrap a handkerchief around the bar to protect your teeth. Otherwise you may be faced with a large dental bill."

Ba dump bum. 

"In bending spikes it's usually customary to bend them slightly over the leg just above the knee, then apply your strength as is done with the Giant Crusher Grip, bending them until the ends nearly touch. With a light enough spike, you can learn to make the entire bend with your hands. It requires practice, during which a certain amount of knack is developed and of course strength Bending spikes is always quite impressive. 

"There is another feat which is startling to the spectator and splendid from a developing standpoint -- driving spikes through a board. Start first with a soft, straight-grained, one inch board, sharpen the spikes with a file, wrap a handkerchief carefully around the head end of the spike, extend the other between the second and third fingers; the head of the spike is of course held against the palm of the hand; clench the first, and then strike a hard pushing blow to begin. In a comparatively short time you will acquire the ability to drive a spike repeatedly through a board. 

"I have seen men perform spike bending, driving a spike through a board, bending irons into scroll work, etc., who could only clean and jerk 145 pounds, so it is evident that most anyone can learn to perform these feats with practice. 

"Chain breaking is most impressive when broken across the chest. A leather belt is worn to which has been riveted a piece of angle iron with a slit in it. The chain is held between these irons, then with a tremendous expanding of the chest the chain is broken asunder. It's really impressive. When one considers that the lungs are a soft, spongy tissue and must become strong enough to push out the bones with such force that they break a powerful chain, it is remarkable. 

Eddie Polo stated that he broke two ribs the first time he tried chain breaking with one of the small sizes of Jack chains. And when I saw three larger sizes of chains broken at the York show, it made me wonder just how strong flesh, blood and tissue can be made to be. But we were discussing building the hands. 

"One of the best ways to break a chain is to fasten it to a ring in a heavy board, stand on the board, then loop it around the dumbbell or barbell bar for instance. The chain should be just long enough that the bar is slightly above the knees. Before preparing to lift, twist the chain once; this  should place one link in a position to break before the rest. Chain breaking is difficult if this is not done for five or six links many stretch simultaneously. 

In breaking the chain with the hands it must also be twisted, then it is grasped with the left hand uppermost, the right at the other end of the chain, the left hand resists, the right applies the pressure. 

While I saw Bob Hoffman break the first three sizes of chains with his chest without a twist, a twist was necessary on the heaviest Jack chain. For when several links give at the same time, they are large enough that the chest expansion can not make the final break. The belt cuts into the flesh a certain amount, no matter how hard it may be, so endeavor to twist the chain so that the strain will be placed on a single link.

"While you are at the hardware store ordering the spikes, chains and the wrought iron, see if you can purchase an old fashioned iron poker. If it is made of steel it can be made to snap and there is no danger of a flying part hitting a spectator [unless you want it to?]. So be sure that you obtain wrought iron. You can bend this in the same style as the spike, across your knee. And by constant practice you can bend it over your leg with a single blow. Grasp the handle part of the poker and lift it overhead, bend the left leg and then bring the poker down forcibly over the fleshy part of the thigh. Commence with a light soft iron rod and then as the muscles toughen work up to a heavier one. 

"You can make your start as a strap iron, iron bar and spike bender, by training with the Giant Crusher Grip, the grip and wrist developer, or an Iron Shoe. These devices have a direct effect upon the muscles which would be developed by the bending of iron bars; furthermore, there is no replacing or straightening as from time to time when using strap iron.

"A rather impressive way of demonstrating your strength is the tearing of playing cards in halves, quarters and eighths, the latter being the most difficult, I assure you, even for the strongest handed person. I have heard of tearing cards into eighths but it has never been my pleasure to see it legitimately demonstrated. I say legitimately demonstrated because there are various types of paper playing cards, the very cheapest kind being quite easy for a strong handed man to tear. Moreover, it is the practice of some so-called strong men to bake their cards in the oven thus thoroughly drying out the paper which destroys its fiber sufficiently to almost cause the cards to fall apart. 

Large catalogues and phone books prove accessible material for the practice of tearing. The companies who put out these books no doubt would appreciate it a great deal if you would use last year's books."

Ba-dump bump.

"With each successive pack of cards or phone book you tear you will learn some new tricks which will add to the smoothness of the tearing operation. There are, to be sure, certain details to be observed, which when put into practice, will aid you in the demonstration of tearing. 

"With either cards or catalogues, it is absolutely necessary that a good stiff edge be maintained. And once the tear is started turn on the pressure in order that the tear will carry completely through. If you are not strong enough tear them apart while in normal position, you can slip them somewhat so that you will be tearing a few of them at a time until the full tear is under way. 

The manner of gripping the cards is rather simple, a reversed grip is being used. Place the hands over each end of the deck in a reversed position, grip the cards firmly with the fingers and the thumb, and  being sure that you have a  stiff edge on the cards, twist them apart. It requires strong hands to tear one deck of cards, but men have torn two or three decks at one time.

"I don't believe I will suggest that you try the bending and breaking of coins for the reason that, so far as the U.S. coins are concerned, it is not possible to rend them apart with the hands alone. Even if it were possible, our dear old Uncle Sam would strenuously [ba-dump bum] discourage the practice. Seriously now, I can't get no respect tryin' to jam bent quarters into a vending machine and believe it would be a big order to accomplish the task of bending a half dollar. It might be possible with a thin dime. Try fastening a half dollar in a vise and using only the thumb or the heel of the hand as the means of breaking the coin. You will see how difficult it is.

"There are men who have claimed to have broken horseshoes. But I am convinced the shoe must be very badly worn, before it can be bent. Or must be treated so that it is not steel, but is comparable to soft iron. Try bending one some day and I believe you will join me in doubting that any man can bend a fairly new horseshoe. 

"The pinching powers are most easily developed by carrying the largest plates of your barbell by pinching them between thumb and fingers. 
Okay then! 

Practice dropping them by releasing your grip and catching them again. Don't miss, for the people downstairs might complain and you'll have to tear off their ears with your mighty grip. Sounds like a fine hobby! Be the first kid on your block to tear off everyone else's ears. Grown up now, drinking beer on the balcony and admiring your private ear collection that no one knows about. Who, duh, done it? Pinned under glass, human butterflies, tasty with a little hot sauce or dried and smoked with Navy Cut, players. 

You will find that it will take but little of this kind of tiresome non-humor of the negative sort, no, find that it will take but little of this kind of exercise to tire your hands, forearms and funny bone and that of course means that good results will be obtained from the exercise. This movement will be fatiguing, especially if you are advanced to the point of using heavy plates. When you are capable of handling smooth 50-pound plates in this style, you can be assured that you have an unusual grip.

    Richard Sorin

"When you reach the point where you can carry a couple of 75-pound plates round by means of the pinch grip, then we will say that you are near the top of the Iron Man profession.

"If you desire you can easily make yourself a progressive Pinch Grip developer. Secure a piece of 2 x 4 about 18" long. Drill two holes in it through which you can pass two strong cords to suspend a dumbbell which you can load to the proper weight for the gripping exercise. Any shape can be used this way. A board to pinch grip, different sizes of balls, again with progressive weight hanging, a big flathead screwdriver with weight hanging from the handle that you attempt to pinch the head of and lift off the ground, anything, any size, texture or shape, there's no limits to what you can have fun with when it comes to grip. We're not talking just two Oly lifts here or three powerlifts. No limits. Little-finger hook-lift a sack of dead cats after you feed 'em your neighbor-ear collection. Where'd I put that dang photo. Here we see Doug Hepburn holding out with only the little finger of his right hand  a sack of obese from overeating neighbor-ears cats. Coulda swore I had that photo here somewhere. 

Yes, you can use pretty much anything on Earth, er, earth for grip training fun. 

Onanists take note.  

Ba-dump bum.   

"But Jim, you've given me some good exercises, all of which with the exception of dropping and carrying barbell plates require special apparatus. It seems to me that they are more in the nature of exhibitions than developers. Aren't there simple means of developing the grip which can be practiced without special equipment?" 

"You mean the ears?" 


"Well then, yes there are ways, Jack, but the exercises I have already given you have great development value in addition to the reputation they will give you as strength performer. They will help you develop a super grip, such as few men possess.  

Dead lifting in both the overhand and reversed grip style is a sure way of securing Herculean gripping powers. Especially when very heavy poundages are used. You have a 310 pound set, not so heavy for a man as big as you. But you can in the course of an evening's program arrange your exercises so that your hands will have much more work to do. In the half knee bend, the rise on toes, the straddle hop, it's the usual thing to hold the weight on your shoulders. Try holding it in your hands for these movements and you'll feel that your hands have worked hard. 

With the regular dead lift, the Jefferson, front and back curl, rowing motion, and  repetition snatches especially, your hands and forearms will obtain a wonderful workout. 

You can invest in a few various sized pipes (PVC) to slide over your bar bell and dumbbells between the collars, which will greatly increase the effort of lifting and strengthen your grip. 


"Almost without exception you will notice that leading lifters have large muscular forearms that appear big from all angles. This is the direct result of having handled heavy weights in their training. Those among them who practice dead hang snatches and cleans have remarkably developed forearms and hands. 'Dead hangs' are practiced by the Egyptians for numerous counts (reps) each exercise period and if you will take the trouble to look through your back issues you will see for yourself that all of them possess enviable arms. 

Get a grip with one hand lifts, hooked or not. 

"Yes, the Egyptians credit dead hang cleans and snatches with the resulting development they obtain with having a great deal to do with bringing out these world champs and world's record holders. Even if you are not the least bit interested in competitive weightlifting, repetitions in the dead hang style will provide you with a wealth of development and your strength will soar in spite of you. 

"The practice of squeezing two rubber balls is a positive means of adding to the muscular bulk of the forearms and should be included in one's training routine.  

I once knew a man who had three miles to walk to work each morning, and three miles home in the evening. He practiced gripping the balls as he walked [with a hand in each pocket], or two rubber balls, a ball of newspaper, or even a tin tobacco box [which you can get cancer from touching]. And as a result he developed the most outstanding hand and wrist development I have ever seen. His clenched fist reminded you more of a 16 pound iron shot than anything human. 

He would work once with the right hand and when it was tired with the left. Squeezing with the right hand he clenched his fist every time his right foot struck the ground, relaxing as the left touched and continuing this movement throughout. 

I knew of another fellow who, each evening after everyone had finished with the evening paper, would open it up and after taking one or two sheets at a time begin at one corner and by manipulating his fingers gradually crumple the entire sheets in his hand. From this one exercise he developed marvelous forearms, increasing them from 11.25 to 13.75 inches over a period of but a few months. 

"Floor dipping with the fingers, with one finger or one thumb as the best performers can do, or actual hand balancing on the fingers, is sure to result in a most amazing development of the hands and forearms. 

"Rope climbing, tug of war, walking on your hands or those of others, chinning from various sized horizontal bars, with two or more fingers and even one if you get good, are a few other exercises the ambitious body builder can practice.    

"The performance of the exercises I have suggested, some each exercise period will eventually lead to truly impressive forearms, strong hands and wrists with power to spare for any occasion."

Enjoy Your Lifting!   


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