Sunday, August 11, 2013

Let's Make a New Rule: If you're going to curl, you'd better press too

There can be little doubt and disagreement that the bicep curl long ago denegreated into the vainest weight training movement in existence.  We've been subjected to a 40 year assault on our eyes where wave after wave of Arnold wannabes re-reading recycled Muscle and Fitness trash articles on how to make huge biceps using god knows how many flavors of curls.  Modern living has only made matters worse by deluging the internets with cell phone self pictures of every Jersey Shore wannabe flexing their biceps on Facebook wall photos. 

Something has to give here.

The answer to this madness, like so may other answers in matters of strength, is to simply look farther back than Arnold, back before gay men got the idea to masquerade as artistic photographers to the bodybuilding world in droves.  Stop when you get back to the 1920's to a guy named Hermann Goerner.  Goerner is one of rare strongmen who was roundly respected by nearly every major figure in the fledgling weight training world of his time.  Finding information (especially reliable information) about the strongmen and weightlifters of those days is tricky.   You almost always find one calling the other a phony.  That didn't seem to exist in regard to the big man with the Htiler Moustache.  Just about anyone who had contact with him considered him to be the strongest man that ever lived. 

He was one of the few strength luminaries not named Doug Heburn who can be excused for an upper-body strength training emphasis.  World War I took its toll on Goerner's body, leaving him with one eye and legs full of metal shards for the rest of his life.  By most accounts, his lift of choice was a combination of biceps curl and press work.  Ususally starting out with 55 lbs kettlebells and moving up incrementally until he got to the 110 lbs ones, he'd swing them overhead, lower them to the shoulder, press them overhead, lower them down, curl them and repeat (he varied between single and double kettlebell work but it almost always was the same basic action:  swing, press, curl).   I haven't implemented the swinging work into my training but I've come to appreciate the curl-press combination immensely. 

...Wait a second!  Swing a 110 lbs kettlebell OVERHEAD? 

In addition to being proof that kettlebell lifting isn't what it used to be, it's also a great way to get some serious upper body work.  If it worked for Goerner, it'll work for you!  This is the way that curling should be done:  with pressing work.  The weight training world is finally beginning to pull it's collective head out of its ass when it comes to neglecting pressing.   Back 110 years ago, if you weren't pressing, or at least putting weight overhead somehow, you just weren't strong.  

How did this press not hurt like a motherfucker?  Perhaps even Russian pot bellies are stronger than American ones!
This movement mixture can be upgraded further by combing another golden oldie with a recent pressing movement that the Russians actually got right.  If you dare say that you got bored with Hermann Goerner's pet lifting, I've got this to slap your stupid ass into eating those heretical words:  Combine Zottman Curls with Sots pressing. 

In other words, do a supinating curl of the weight(s), drop into a deep squat, then press the weight(s )overhead.  Then, stand up and do it all over again.  I use this one when I'm at home, working in my low-ceiling basement with dumbbbells.  Were I to standing press with those, I'd put the weights through the ceiling.  Out of anger, the thought has crossed my mind. 

How to implement these into a workout is totally up to you.  I enjoy pre-written programs about as much as I enjoy the Jersey Shore but I'll share a few ideas anyway.  I normally like to do these in a pyramid set, increasing the weight I press and curl as I decrease the reps.   Then, decrease the weight and increase the reps.  I've also used them as a finisher but if I find out that you're using tiny weights for high reps to tone, well...

Either way, this is a great, old school set of movements that should become more popular and taken more seriously than it is.  I recently found out somewhere that Bert Assirati was a fan of this curl-press movement as well.  Frankly, if two of the biggest, most powerful men to walk Europe in the 1920's were doing this, I think that's more than enough justification for you to do them as well. 

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