Sunday, 24 August 2008

Bob Lipinski - August's interview

Q: Hi Bob, thanks for being our inaugural interviewee. Can I start by asking you to tell us a little about yourself, where you’re from, how old, etc.

Pic above: Bob practises what he preaches.

No problem Steve! Appreciate the honor. I'm 32 years old, and I have lived in Michigan my whole life. I've been in Traverse City for the last 6 years or so. I'm married with a 2 year old son. After going to school for several years, I finally settled on becoming a nurse, which I have been doing for the last 5 years.

Q: Pretty much everyone who involves themselves over and above being a competitor and some of them too, has been on the lifting platform or in the arena at some point. Have you lifted in any other strength sport and if so to what level?

Besides many of the usual highschool sports, I have competed in bench press competitions for the last 10 years. I have done reasonably well, making the USA top 100 in three weight classes. I figured this isn't too bad since I have been steroid free and many others on the list ahead of me aren't.

Q: As Grip World Magazine is aimed at all things grip - what does grip mean to you? What’s its place in training and so on?

I started grip training because of a back injury. For some reason, I thought I had a strong grip so I ordered a few of the Ironmind grippers. That's where it started, and as I struggled off and on to rehabilitate my back, grip would come and go from my training. About 6 years ago or so, I decided that my back wouldn't ever be good enough to deadlift in competition, so I started much more seriously on the grip stuff. Now I take it as seriously as the rest of my training, and it only fades into the background the last month or so before a bench competition.

For most guys, they don't need to take it as seriously, but I believe most any strength athlete could get alot of benefits with maybe a half hour twice a week of serious grip training. Not only will it help pulls, but strong forearms make pressing feel much more stable also.

Q: Of all of the feats, guys and gals doing them and so on what stands out in your mind. Feel free to name names or lifts and records.

I can say the first feat that stuck out in my mind was Dave Thorton doing a blob medley at a Michigan contest- Everyone else was struggling, then Dave went through the lineup and did a high pull on each weight with ease. Jedd with the medley at the Michigan contest this year was pretty good too- I put together a medley I thought would stump everybody, then Jedd starts out high pulling the inch. Ryan Klein setting the last 1" vbar record was also pretty cool.

Chad Woodall and David Horne stand out as well, just so many records and wins between them. The British guys in general, (you included!) have a level of competitiveness that I still think the guys in the states could learn from. I think Nick McKinless is the most unheralded guy in the grip game. He is a great all arounder and could likely beat anyone in the world on a given day, but you don't see him mentioned much.

Finally, I love the bending videos of Don Larkin, with a 60d nail and 80d spike. Given when those feats were performed, I think it would be hard to find a man in the world at that time who could do what he did. Also, the intensity is just unreal.

Steve: that's very kind. I also think the comments about the Brits is true. Hermann Korte described both Sam and myself as 'intense' and I know David Horne is. Jim Wylie, a few years back, was as bad/good. Nick? Nick on a good day is world class.

Pic: Bob does a double hammer lever to head. Looks heavy.

Q: How did you become involved in putting on grip competitions and more? I’m referring to your records list and website as well as the motivation.

It started with Rick Walker's grip competition a few years back. He held one, then I think the GGC was announced. I figured what the heck, I could probably do it too. Then Brian Carlton contacted me, and we made our best run at getting all the grip stuff organized. It didn't work then, but I figured if I kept up a records list, a list of contest results, and kept the upcoming contest section current, someday it might be of use. It looks like we are getting there now. Part of what keeps me going is that I really love this grip stuff, and if I stay active it would let me have a say in how the sport develops. I don't want it to be a mess like powerlifting is today.

Q: Where would you like to see what we all do go in the next 5 and 10 years?

I would like to see a consistent national championship in the US, and with some luck, a consistent world championship. One unified organization,with a sustainable sets of rules so that this thing can keep going after all of us are gone.

Whenever I have a big goal, I try to set a series of accomplishable goals. Right now, I am reaching out to prospective promoters and trying to help with rules and such so that the sport is active all over the country. The biggest and most important thing to me in the very near future is too keep interest in the National Championships high, and help create a viable qualification process. I want this to be a sport where it is a competition and the winner is important. Right now, powerlifting is the counterexample- Many of the most recognizable names in powerlifting aren't championship winners, but someone who sets an "all time world record" in a local meet. The big championships have lost alot of recognition, and getting a big lift in a tiny local venue, with often suspect judging and unreasonably favorable conditions is more important.

Q: Before we sign of have your say – if there’s anything you’d like to add be it a message to the guys or what-have-you here’s your chance!

For the guys that are competing and promoting, keep up the good work! If you want to compete but haven't, do it- You won't regret it. The motivation and learning experience is worth it. Thanks for the interview Steve!

A pleasure Bob. Now who will we have lined up next? :D

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

European Grip Championships 2008

Report by Steve Gardener
This years promoter was once again Hermann Korte of Choice of Champions gym in Haltern am See, Germany. Let me start by saying what a gym! You can feel the Westside Barbell inspiration here even though it's bigger, cleaner and tidier. Two proper power racks, assorted bars inc at least 2 super squat bars and 2 Texas power bars, a box squat set up, a massive duty bench press bench with lifting chains ready to go, what looked like 20+ kettle bells and a great deal more. With everyone in position at the appointed starting time of 1pm we were able to get under way.

Photo right: Johan is closely watched by Burkhard during his gripper attempts

Using calibrated grippers and a parallel set as judged by our referee the standard this year was high. Sam Solomi won this event with a very 'handy' (ahem) two hand tally of 7.08 made up of a combined 3.54 with each hand. New man on the block (in his very first competition of ANY kind) Gabriel Sum took second with 6.9 (3.25 and 3.65) and THREE athletes tied with 6.68 (all 3 getting 3.54 and 3.14) for 3rd (Martin Ressel, Johan Albrektsson and Florian Kellersmann).

Sam later commented to me that the standard across the board was, in his opinion, the highest in any gripper event. I tallied the scores and all ten competing athletes averaged 6.56 or 3.28 per hand. I'm not sure if Sam is correct but that's one hell of an average.
2 hand pinch
Using the now more or less standard Euro set numbers here seemed down across the board. It seemed, from talking briefly to the lads, that most use a wide set compared to yours truly and this was true of the referee, Burkhard Macht, whose equipment we were using. Thus the little chalk it held to grip onto was within 2-inches or so of the rim and so my bigger hands were touching bare steel much of the time. Gabriel Sum has a youtube video of him pulling 110-kilos on a wooden block set up and I've pulled close to 106-kilos on our well used and chalk encrusted kit at the Whey Gym here in Gloucester and did 97-kilos for 12 x 1 before leaving.

Image left: Sam pulling a big weight on the 2 hand pinch

However, this also meant all of the athletes were in the same boat. With my top weight on the day just about making it at 95-kilos, Gabriel's was 90.2 placing him in 4th! In between was a good performance by Matti Heiskanen with 92.5 and Sam in 3rd with 91.7-kilos.
Ironminds Apollon's Axle - double over hand deadlift
I've said in my log how awful my performance had been on this some three months ago. Like Matti and Johan I have partially prolapsed discs in my back. Indeed Matti was the worse, injury wise, of all three of us old war horses. On this and other events he was very slow to lock out and it was as far from show boating as can be. Genuinely in pain he wins my 'man of the match' award here.

Picture from Choice of Champions site shows Steve Gardener with the top weight (I like it because my forearm looks massive!).

I'm also sure I saw some lifters take more in warm ups then less for their openers but was hard at it trying to pull ahead at this point so didn't make any notes. With the lowest lifter getting a respectable 145-kilos and the top three seperated by a mere 10-kilos (160, 165 and 170) it was much closer than it felt at the time. Both during this and one or two other events a combination of missed lifts and some misunderstanding on the risiing bar principle (Hermann dealing with Spanish, Finnish, Swedish, German AND English speaking athletes) meant some retook weights on events as well as others coming in with lower weights. However, unlike the complete re-setting required with the pinch the loaders did a fine and timely job of keeping things moving.

I took first with 170-kilos having no discomfort once on the platform and in the zone feeling I could have hit a little more (just today managing a ragged 180-kilos). My hands felt good for more and the sumo style and practise allowed me to do what was required. Jose Jara was close behind with 165-kilos and Martin with 160-kilos.

One hand deadlift
Using one of the excellent (balance, spin and knurl all top notch) Texas Power Bars I've no idea how good or bad the others did compared to personal bests but both in recent training I'd been all over the place and had, back in early 2007, done much more (right handed 160 for 3 x 1 in the gym and 150-kilos against Theo on the platform). Winning with 135-kilos right and 115-kilos left was therefore fortunate. That almost all lost at least one attempt due to the tight but proper reffing by Burkhard (usually one end not quite making knee height) combined perhaps with the quality of the bar may have helped keep the numbers down. My choice of best form etc on this event was Stefan Folke. On all his succesful attempts I was able to watch I saw a great set up and approach and the bar balanced throughout. If it was too hevay it did not move at all, but if he could do it it was done extremely well. A fine example.

Ironminds Rolling Thunder - Thumbless
Using an 'illegal' (not allowed under current IM rules) thumbless grip this was the final event of the day. With the time approaching a little after 7pm or so as we started I am sure there was more than one tired athlete sitting around the gym hoping it would be over soon. Nevertheless it was time for a few more big efforts to see if you might change your score and move up from the medals and into cup territory. I, for one, did not slack up at all with Hermann commenting on his site that I 'never lost focus'.

I was also very fortunate that I was able to sit out much of the event. By the time I stepped onto the platform most had used up at least three attempts. Indeed second placed Stefan ended up with 85 R and 82.5 L for his 4th attempts and I OPENED with 80-kilos for both hands. I then did 85, 90 and 95 (plus the set up) with my left and 90, 100 and missed at 110-kilos with my right. That, again, my form had started to drop shortly before the event from over training and that I was right about where I had been prior to the British championships shows that the 4 days rest leading up to Saturday 16th had done it's trick.

It also meant I had done enough throughout the 7+ hours we lifted to get ahead and stay there. Tired faces all around while Hermann tallied and checked the results had some shine put back in them when Hermann produced a fine bottle of German beer for all of us to quench our thirsts with.

1. Steve Gardener 492,4%
2. Gabriel Sum 470,5%
3. Martin Ressel 461,0%
4. Sam Solomi 448,9%
5. Florian Kellersmann 438,6%
6. Johan Albrektsson 432,0%
7. Matti Heiskanen 431,0%
8. Stefan Falke 419,4%
9. Jose Jara 419,2%
10. Jorge González 410,7%

For a bargain 5 Euro entry fee all places from 4th downwards recieved a medal and the top three a trophy. That and an ice cold beer... can't complain.

Photo Left: Steve with his 1st place trophy

NB: Results subject to confirmation and update as there may be errors in the tallying up.

August product review - THE VULCAN GRIPPER

David Horne creator
Where does one start when talking about the Vulcan Grippers Creator David Horne? The man was described as a 'Grip Legend' almost as soon as he started posting on the then fledgling Gripboard ( That he has won competition after competition, has god only knows how many records and, together with myself, is the driving force behind the BHSA here in the UK only begins to skim the surface of his involvement in our chosen hobby.

He's always been thinking hard of how to use standard exercise equipment and at the same time has modified and even created the odd item over the years. More recently, however, he's started producing items on a more commercial basis.

The vulcan gripper
One such item is his Vulcan Gripper (see photos from his world of grip shop right -

Based on the ever popular torsion spring style grippers you can see from the photos that the various notches up the sides of the loading pins allow you to select, by movement of the spring, different levels of tension. Using one of the charts on David's site you'll see you can start at level one and should you be good enough continue onwards to (I think) 22+.

Unlike most grippers, regardless of just how many you own, one of the better features this style of gripper allows is the addition of small amounts of tension via adding standard rubber bands. I personally find adding 3 - 4 post office bands is enough to take me from one step to the next.

David has a guide and information on the use of the gripper, especially for certification purposes (level 7 and above requiring video etc), on his site here:

From a purely personal point of view, having brought one of these for myself, I have to say I highly recommend it. That's not a 'he just sent me one as a sample and I love freebies' view but one I have given months ago on various sites.

The handles take chalk well enough if you use it often, the feel of it in use is almost (say 95%) like using a stanadard torsion spring gripper and as a training tool it's served me very well. My biggest problem was that I kept losing my rubber bands... with the gripper? None.

Mobster rating

Highly recommended 10/10

Our first editorial

Starting with this baby here in late August I hope to present a monthly round up of all things Grip related. For the uninitiated 'grip' means grippers, pinch, thin and thick bar lifts and more. Where needed a little side bar will explain what the hell were doing but most of the time it'll be pics, videos, news and reviews.

As with any online magazine there will be two things... teething problems and your input required.

I'll do what I can as a passionate nut job but as with any sport the more you guys and gals add to this venture the better it will be. I'm not looking for training logs but please email me with submissions and articles. I'll jazz them up with the help of any web design whizz kids we have among us and together we will do our best to present an interesting face to the world.

August features

  • The European Grip Championships
  • Product reviews
  • Ideas to improve the game
  • And more

Future issues to include

  • Competition results
  • Product reviews
  • Interviews with grip strength athletes, promoters and fans
  • Latest record updates
  • Links to grip sites of interest
  • Training tips from the Elite

So it's one more rep on a crush gripper and into ass kicking mode.


Steve 'Mobster' Gardener