How to Train With Old Time Barbells

Old-time strongman Abe Boshes built a magnificent physique with a variety of old-school exercises.

Hail to the Dinosaurs!

Two quick notes and then we'll talk iron.

1. John Grimek Tee Shirts

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3. Training With Old Time Barbells

As I mentioned yesterday, old time barbells
were not mass produced.

They were one of a kind pieces made by
local foundries.

They came in all different shapes and

And many of them were solid pieces of iron -
meaning that they were not adjustable.

So how do you train with that kind of

John Grimek gained close to 80 pounds in his first couple of years of training - by using a basic Milo barbell and dumbbell set. He used many different exercises, and a variety of different set/rep systems during his early days. 

I asked that question, and many of you

There were two primary suggestions.

1. Use chains to add weight.

That's a good idea, except the old time
barbells ended with a globe on each -
with no bar extending past the globe -
so there was no place to hang a chain
at each end.

So chains wouldn't have worked.

2. Increase Reps, Not Weight.

That's the obvious strategy - but it
doesn't work very well if you have
two or three barbells with big weight
jumps from one to the other.

If you have a 42 pound barbell, a 91
pound barbell and a 147 pound barbell,
it's going to be very tough to advance
from one to the other no matter how
many reps you do with the lighter
barbell. The jumps are just too big.

3. So what's the answer?

I think it's this:

You figure out everything you can do
with each different barbell or dumbbell
(or ring-weight or kettlebell or anything
else) that's available to you.

You include both two hand and single
hand exercises.

You do weightlifting movements with
one or two hands.

When Arthur Saxon and his brothers began training on their parents' farm in Germany, they learned how to perform a wide variety of different exercises in order to get the most out of their limited equipment.

You use over grips, under grips and
reverse grips.

You do one legged and two legged

You do back squats, front squats,
overhead squats and hack squats.

You do flat-footed squats and squats
on your toes.

You do straddle lifts.

You do one arm overhead squats.

You do deadlifts and rowing.

You do presses, push presses and jerks,
using both one hand and two hands.

You do presses - and clean and press -
and clean, squat, press combos.

You do curls and reverse curls.

World and Olympic champion John Davis got his start by doing dips, pull-ups, handstands, handstand pushups and gymnastics work on the equipment at a local park.

And you also do leverage movements
such as the crucifix - the rectangular
fix - the barbell front raise - lateral
raises, and many more.

You do exercises where you carry the
weights - such as the farmer's walk.

You see how long you can hold the
weight in a given position.

You do exercises that allow you to use
two or more pieces of equipment at the
same time - such as a combination barbell
lift with one hand and dumbbell lift with
the other hand.

You supplement your barbell training
with bodyweight exercises, gymnastics,
handstands, handstand push-ups, chins,
pull-ups, dips, jumping and sprinting.

You use different rep counts for different
exercises - and do more reps for the easier
exercises and fewer reps for the harder

Arthur Saxon using an early type of plate loading barbell. Note how short the bar is!

In other words, you become very creative.

You learn many different lifts and many
different exercises.

You become good at heavy single rep
lifts - and you also become good at
doubles, triples, fives, sets of 10, and
sets of 20, 40 or 50 reps for leg work.

In short, you become a very well-rounded

And frankly, that's a pretty good way to
train - and a pretty good result!

As always, thanks for reading and have
a great day. if you train today, make it
a good one!

Yours in strength,

Brooks Kubik

P.S. For more about old time strongmen
and how they trained, grab these books:

Dinosaur Dumbbell Training

Strength, Muscle and Power

Dinosaur Training: Lost Secrets of Strength and Development

P.S. 2. Thought for the Day:

"Necessity is the mother of invention - and a
guide to many fun and effective
exercises and

- Brooks Kubik


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