Friday, February 11, 2011

Some Strength Trainers That Move me

I'm one of those crazies that actually likes American airports. Yes, they're glorified cattle stockyards with overpriced, bad food and worse coffee but they offer endless opportunities to people watch. For avid people watchers, there's just no shortage of highly interesting individuals in an airport. It can, and has, kept me occupied for hours.

The same can be said about our little subculture. There are some unique characters in the culture of the perpetually strength-starved persons. So, in no particular order, I decided to throw out there some of the guys in the history (and present) of physical culture that I find as interesting as they are motivating.

John Grimek
There are but a few people out there who pick up stuff to get strong and no matter what they pick up, they excel at it. It's almost as though they have a limitless control over their body. It's natural to think that they're genetically blessed. They may well be but that can't explain how they seem to do really well at everything that they try strength related. What kind of drive and ambition they must harbor in their mind is equally amazing and mind-boggling to me. John Grimek seemed to be just that kind of man. It almost seemed like he could do anything!

Even back in Grimek's day, there was already some very distinct separation between the weightlifters and the bodybuilders. You were either good at one or the other. I'm sure it helped just a tad that Bob Hoffman controlled a lot of the events that Grimek competed in. Sure,it's possible a man can control judging, he can't control the awe that someone like Grimek inspires.

He could build the big shapely awe-inspiring muscles that could win Olympic lifting contests. He could bulk up to 250 lbs and drop back down to 195 lbs if he pleased. He could eat 2 lbs Hersheys chocolate bars without getting fat. He squatted 400 lbs for 20 reps well into his sunset years. He pressed the 270 lbs "Cyr" Dumbbell in his younger years.
Maybe this man had limits to what he could do. It sure didn't seem so. It seems like if Grimek wanted to do it, he eventually did!

Steve Justa
My buddy Chip Conrad said it best in his book, "Lift with your Head": strength training is pretty funny, if you think about it. There we all are, lifting big heavy stuff, only to put it down and pick it up again while wearing dumpy-looking clothes, making contorted faces in a puddle of our own sweat. All the while, we're throwing around words like jerk, snatch and rack.


When it's not funny, it's downright crazy. Our primal minds are designed to avoid stress, pain and fatigue. It thinks that these are cues of imminent death. Instead of heeding the call to stop doing them, or not even doing them in the first place, we push onward anyway. Most of the time, this stuff could hurt or kill us, if we're not careful. Still we do it anyway. It's part of the process of getting strong.

Put in that light, it shouldn't be a surprise that people like Steve Justa exist. Silly and crazy aren't strong enough descriptions for this guy. Look at his Youtube channel! You'd swear that he must have walked out of a Rob Zombie movie and came to life (credit to Wild Gorillaman for that line). He might be a Grade a whack-job but, for our purposes, who fucking cares! He's every bit as strong as he his eccentric! Get past his bizarre music videos and you'll see him doing some equally crazy lifts! Embrace the bizarre when you're training, because the whole process is nuts, in it's own cute way. Few embody and prove that better than Steve Justa.

Vince Gironda
Given how I've evolved in a non-bodybuilding direction with strength training, away from barbells and machines, and in a somewhat-free form manner, I find it kind of odd that I'm caught up in the post-mortem fanfare that surrounds Vince Gironda. Still, I find him pretty interesting and highly motivational.

I have to say that some of the best information that I found about how to eat to gain mass was stuff that I gleaned here and there that he either wrote or said. I still think he's among the best source about how to eat to get big out there. He hated steroids and by the standards of today, he didn't use a lot of supplements (although that whole dessicated liver fetish of his was kind of gross).

It doesn't take much reading about the man to figure out that he had a major attitude and no tolerance for things not being done the right way. Which, incidentally, he would say is his way. In spite of being that hard-nosed about how to train, I find his raw pugnacious drive extremely motivating. That highly driven approach can move mountains and make up for possible and/or perceived lack of genetic perfection.

Plus, he pulled off what I consider to be the most insanely bad-ass chin-up feat I've ever heard of: a single-arm chin-up while holding a 45 lbs dumbbell! Somewhat off the topic, but ever notice how unique their footware is too? In our present day, too many people suffer under the illusion that we've got to wear some sort of highly specialized shoe in order to get in shape. Here I've collected some of the luminaries of the iron-tugging world and there isn't a swoosh to be seen on any of their feet! I like it!


Gubernatrix said...

Nice round up, I love reading about these guys!

Elijah said...

Don't know if you've heard of them/him. There are a few groups of guys around New York City committed to bodyweight only exercises, thought you might want to see these:

Hannibal for King:

Calisthenics Kingz:

jason said...

please don't roll your eyes right away, but have you read about the originator of pilates? its weird to think how pilates is now considered for the females but was started by an ex boxer