Hermann Görner (pictured) was a famous German strongman of the 1920’s era, and has been attributed many feats of strength such as deadlifting over 700lbs with one hand, deadlifting over 500lbs with only the index and middle fingers on each hand, and even leg pressing a plank with 24 men sitting on it totaling well over 4000lbs! His bodyweight was also around 260lbs. Now considering this was a time when steroids were unheard of, those accolades are nothing short of astounding!
Görner once said that in his opinion the fundamental tests of a man’s strength were:
1) How much he can lift off the floor.
2) How much he can hold and carry.
3) How much he can press over his head.
Well this got me thinking about my own training, and after flicking through a couple of old training journals i noticed that over the course of the last year i had unwittingly incorporated more and more of these types of movements, and got huge results in my overall strength and muscular development! The mystery as to why my lifts had increased so quickly over that year hit me in the face like a cast iron dumbell.
This article is pretty short and sweet, but if you’re looking for a simple way to increase your strength without completely ditching your current training program or just want to try something new (or old, depending how you look at it) this is a no-bull, uncomplicated way to build a little of the old school strength that made men like Görner legendary.
What i want you to do is include an exercise for each of Görner’s “tests” somewhere in your program, you can do this in two ways: either do one of these exercises per session, or add an extra day to your program and do them all at once. It’s up to you. Now there are two lifts for each of the areas i talked about above – start with the first group of exercises for 3 months, then add the other group for 3 months (so you’ll be doing three extra exercises for the first half of the program, and six extra exercises for the second half).
1. Lifting Weight:
Group A) Deadlifts -
Okay, so what exactly is inventive about the deadlift? You’re probably already doing them (hopefully!). This exercise is one of the best overall mass and strength builders you’ll ever do, i put them here just to highlight that fact and kick your ass into putting more effort into them. Do them off the floor if you’re not already – if you don’t have the flexibility to get down that far, stack some plates or planks at both ends of the bar and slowly try to make those piles smaller. Start off with your shoulders over the bar, and focus on keeping your back flat throughout. Drive forward with your hips, bring your shoulders back, push your chest out and tighten your glutes and quads at the lockout. Pause, lower the bar in a controlled manner, and start again.
Group B) One Handed Deadlifts -
This is a fantastic exercise for coordination and grip strength. It has all the benefits of a regular deadlift, and then some! If you can use your bodyweight on this exercise you’re well on your way to building amazing strength! For the most part perform these just as you would for regular deadlifts, but grasp the bar near the middle with one hand and brace against your opposing knee with the other. Take extra care in keeping your shoulder nice and tight in it’s socket by drawing your shoulder blades together. It might take you a while to balance the bar correctly, but its well worth the effort. Alternate hands each set.
2. Carrying Weight:
Group A) Farmer’s Walks -
Farmer’s walks are not only a staple grip strength exercise, but will also work wonders for your core, traps, and overall strength (and they feel like cardio to me, at least). The sheer amount of muscles, tendons, and ligaments that will be called into play to stabilize as you walk around with a heavy weight is incredible! Its really no wonder why this is such an overall strength builder. Simply grab two dumbells, kettlebells, or farmer’s walk handles if you’re lucky enough to have them. Stand yourself upright with a straight back as you would during a deadlift and start to walk – push your chest out and draw your shoulders back and keep them like that throughout the set, and keep your core tight to stabilize your trunk. Remember to breathe!
Group B) Shoulder Carry -
The shoulder carry is a very challenging lift and may require some specialized equipment to perform it safely, but its also a great test of total body strength, core stability, and coordination! In terms of form, most of this exercise is the same as the farmer’s walk. Get some sort of a weight on one shoulder, steady it with both hands, and keeping your chest out, shoulders back, and core as tight as possible – walk with it. Easy right? Just try it before you answer that. The weight you use can be literally anything – a heavy sandbag is a great choice, a stone or rock, a heavy jug or barrel of water, a wooden lintel, or even a barbell (gasp!). Be creative, but always have a spotter on hand in case you get into trouble. Alternate sides each set.
3. Pressing Weight:
Group A) Military Press -
Okay, so just like the deadlifts you probably do these already. If you don’t, you should. And by military press i mean just that – not seated shoulder press, not push press or jerks. Military press means standing up, using full range of motion pressing the bar from your upper chest to full overhead lock-out, and a slow controlled tempo. Many of the old strongmen used to actually move the bar around their faces their form was so strict – no leaning back! Perform these presses with your feet together, in a very strict style, and protect your lower back by keeping your glutes and core tight. Oh, and leave your ego at the door when selecting your training poundages. Seriously.
Group B) Single Arm Overhead Press -
This is my all time favourite exercise, second to none. Instead of pressing with a barbell, you’ll now be pressing a single dumbell with one hand – this might not seem like a huge point, but if your core stability isn’t up to scratch it might look more like a side-bend than a press! Do these one arm presses in the same strict style you used for the military press, with your feet together, taken through a full range of motion. Take special care on keeping your core and glutes tight, and be even more conservative with your poundages at first. As a side note, not only will this build solid pressing strength but you’ll also build deltoids like basketballs! Do both arms each set one after the other.
For each exercise do three to four sets if you’re adding them to your own sessions separately, or four to five sets if you’re doing them all as a single workout. For the lifts and presses do 5 reps, and for the walks and carries do 40-50 meters.
Try to add a little weight or distance every single time you perform them and by the end of the sixth month you should have seen some serious strength gains, and some big size gains if you’re eating for it. After that, just stick with your three favourite exercises (only one from each area, mind you) and keep working hard. Görner was always doing different things in his training, and so should you – be inventive, think up brand new ways to test your body and give it 100% of your effort. You might be surprised at your results.
getlifting.info » An Old-School Approach to Phenomenal Strength