Tuesday, March 8, 2011

For Love of the Bent Press II: The Two Hands Anyhow!

Did you know that the original Christmas Carolers were bums simply looking for a new, innovative way to beg for money? That's right, they were no different than those annoying bastards that clean your windshield for you without asking and get pissed when you don't give them money. They weren't a welcomed sight outside the windows of Victorian England. They weren't any more welcomed than the loosely termed "underground" strength training's "singing" about more holistic and comprehensive training outside the doors of the equally snotty Victorian-equivalent modern gym world today.

Ironically, we look back to the tail-end of the Victorian era for sources of training information. This was the dawn of weight training in the Western world. Most of us who read training manuals from that era know what most enduring image of strength is...

Arthur Saxon's Two-Hands Anyhow lift(herein known as THA). He set a record of doing a 448 lbs THA at a bodyweight of about 210 lbs. Back in 1900, this was probably the most common challenge to prove your strength. For those of you who don't know what this entailed, it was pretty simple: get as much weight in both hands overhead as possible. The most common way to do this was to bent press a barbell overhead. At the bottom of the bent press, the lifter would grab a kettlebell and curl, or clean, and press the kettlebell overhead, completing the THA. It's a crying-ass shame that this series of lifts got dumped in the trash can of history back in the 1930's, along with prohibition and corsets.

The latter were bad ideas from their inception. The bent press is as good as it ever was. I know because after I picked up my second kettlebell set-up from Ironmaster, I've been playing around with this more and more. It's so much fun because there really isn't anything else out there quite like it. It's all about slow, steady control the whole time that you perform it. Nothing can be rushed. Everything must be smooth. It's almost like ballet... with iron and sweat.
It's also murder on just about every muscle that you've got. This is definitely a full-body experience!

I just started doing this very recently so my level of expertise isn't any more grand than the 130 lbs of weight that I'm putting overhead. I started with a 75 lbs kettlebell (At the first draft of this article, I was using two KB's. Currently, I'm using a sandbag and kettlebell combination since I left one KB back in CA) cleaning it up to a rack position. Once I've done that, I bent press it, reaching down to grab a 55 lbs kettlebell waiting near my foot. That's really important: make sure you put the weight near the inside of your foot. You don't want to be searching around with that much weight above your head, unless you like testing your Lat-tension!

Low ceiling. Sucks!

Anyway, I've done both curling the second kettlebell and cleaning it before pressing overhead. I think that both have their advantages and disadvantages. Curling feels a little smoother with the first, heavier weight overhead, but it definitely is harder to get up to a racked position. It's far easier to clean it there but like I said, that makes it harder to control the big guy overhead! Experiment: do it both ways. Just for fun, I like to throw in a windmill action to put one of the weights down too.

I'd like it if someone, somewhere, would start throwing this back into a lifting competitions again. Some ideas are too good to forget in the sands of time. In the meantime, try this one out sometime. We may not be able to achieve Arthur Saxon-like poundages but there's still lots of good work to be had in this old lift.


Dray said...


The USAWA probably pulls it out once in a while.

The poundages used above in the anyhow are almost pussy for competition lifts though.

Justin_PS said...

Pretty neat, especially the Saxon drink! Nice touch!!!

Ever thought that the only reason the comp lifts are comp lifts isn't because they're hard but because they are easy enough to allow a lot of weight to be lifted?

Dray said...

Easy enough doesn't mean it's not still hard.

USAWA actually uses harness lifts though, and some guy hit over 3500 lb's with it.