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Getting A Grip On Things

Mike Gittleson was the Director of Strength & Conditioning at the University of Michigan for 30 years and was a part of 15 Football Championships in that time. He explains that you do not understand strength training until you understand the value of training the grip.

By July 2nd of the same year at the end of his grace period, Linder was given a second chance and passed with seven pull-ups. He avoided demotion and became a Naval officer serving on the U.S.S. Constellation.

Linder spent four years of the rigors of the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, yet wasn’t allowed to graduate until he could pass his pull-up test.  As a former strength coach and Veteran, I say…. “rightfully so.”

For me, flunking ‘Physics’ or ‘Physical’ is the same thing.

As a Coach, I was fortunate to go to 12 Rose Bowls. On each trip to Southern California I made sure I took my wife to the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles.

We would stroll down to Hollywood and Vine, and I would, once again, be surprised in finding and showing her Jack LaLanne’s star embedded in the sidewalk. Of course, she had zero interest in Jack, but loved the walk,and the anticipation of my astonishment when his star was located. She knew the ensuing story of Jack LaLanne’s life and always politely listened, as if it was being told for the first time.  My wife knew strength coaches love repetition.

Jack Lalanne wrote numerous fitness books and  had the longest running fitness program in the history of TV. He owned over 200 health clubs and  invented the Smith Machine. But what JackLaLanne was really known for, was his amazing exhibitions of fitness.

It was always thought that no prisoner could escape from the United States Penitentiary Alcatraz, in San Francisco Bay. The currents were too strong and there were sharks.  In 1963, J. Campbell BookBruce wrote the book, Escape from Alcatraz. The book supported this belief. His best seller led to the 1979 feature film bearing the same name ‘Escape from Alcatraz’. People flocked to the movie. Could the prisoners do the impossible?

Jack Lalanne set the record straight, transfixing the movie goers, by swimming from the island penitentiary across San Francisco Bay. He was handcuffed, towing several 1000 pound boats. As if swimming in frigged water wasn’t enough exercise.

As a young man, I watched Jack LaLanne do 100 chins followed by 100 push-ups until he got to 1000 of each. Jack made exercise look so effortless. I learned you can become extremely proficient at what many deem difficult.

Think about this, the Guinness World Record for chin-ups was set Guy Schott of Santa Rosa, California. He did 604 in an hour and it was at the age of 42.  Recently  Jason Petzold from Millington, Michigan, southeast of Saginaw, set a World Record of 50 chins in one minute.

If you want to see variations of chins and what people are capable of, check out the Chin-up Master on YouTube.

When I coached athletes who struggled with chins, I had them do negative-only movements of 8 reps at an 8 count. They would lower themselves at an 8 second count (halfway down in 4 seconds) and quickly climb or be assisted to the starting position following each timed decent. When an athlete could do 8 beautiful reps at an 8 count,they could usually perform at least one good chin. Then we would add weight around their waist and try to get 8 reps at an 8 count with an additional 5 pounds.

Jarrod Bunch out of Ashtabula, Ohio, a big 250 pound fullback and 1st round draft pick of the NFL, did 8 reps at an 8 count with 220 pounds around his waist before leaving college. I would have to say, this must be some sort of record, at least in my gym.

Other things I liked athletes to work towards in chinning was a 90 second negative chin– halfway down in 45 seconds.  Once this was accomplished, the athlete began working on up in 30 seconds (halfway in 15 seconds) pause, and immediately followed by lowering in 60 seconds. Tough stuff.

I thought I knew a lot about improving the chin-up until I got extremely interested in training the grip. Once I started increasing the hand strength of the athletes, the chin strength sky rocketed. We were becoming Jack LaLannes.

Grip MachineGrip Machine

Pendulum Gripper

As you begin to really delve into the grip and understand  how to develop powerful hands, negative training will become a must. Negative training brings your grip strength to a unique level. That is why Tyler Hobson put the foot pedal on the Pendulum Gripper. He made the machine for those who wanted to bend nails, bend frying pans, explode full pop cans or just make sure tackles on the field.

Grip MachineGrip Machine

On May 23rd, 1985, an article  appeared in the Saint Petersburg Times.  It said that Midshipman Ray Linder, 22 years of age, of Los Angeles, would miss President Reagan’s Commencement address, as he could only do five chin-ups – one short of a physical education requirement of the Naval Academy. The Naval Academy Board voted to deny him a diploma and the commission of Ensign, but also voted to give him time to complete the test because of a previous injury.


Getting Ahead of Extension

The tricep brachii is a single muscular unit with three distinct heads: the medial, the lateral and long heads. It functions as a powerful extensor of the upper extremity. Each head has a different fatigue rate and each head becomes...

Livonia Franklin High School
2024 CSCCa

A morning workout on the Pendulum Rack System at the College Strength and Conditioning Show in Fort Worth, Texas. The strength coaches are Staying Strong. The Pendulum Rack System