Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Eric Milfield interview

For the third interview with characters from the Grip World can I introduce Eric Milfield.

Q: Hi Eric, Can I start by asking you to introduce yourself, where you’re from, how old, etc?

My wife, Sandy, and our three children have called Fort Worth, Texas home for the last seven of my forty years.

Photo: Eric in the Pikes.

Q: You’re well known in the grip world. Have you competed in other strength sports and to what level?
From the time I was fourteen until my late twenties I was an active drug-free powerlifter until a pectoral tear prompted me to limit my competitive outings to deadlift meets. Although I've competed in seven different weight classes I was most competitive in the 82.5 kilogram class, where I posted bests of 235k, 142.5k (raw), and 280k.

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?

Although grip is certainly a functional aspect of training for myriad sports, for me it's simply a fun and engaging passion I couldn't put down if I tried. With so many different disciplines and variations of disciplines, grip is incapable of boring. So, naturally, I train grip for the sake of grip. I love that progress is possible for an indefinite period of time, even for those advanced in years. My training is very goal oriented, with a focus on certifications and contest preparation. That's what I find to be fun. I thrive on always striving to get better.

Q: people are, and if they are not they should be, aware of you looking after some of the grip records list. What would you like to see happen, vis associations and so on with events etc?

Photo: Eric lifting heavy on the Euro pinch

Yes, I do keep "The Nailman's Top 20" bending lists for three different lengths of bar on the Gripboard, as well as the "Top 50 Euro Pinch" list. Statistics and records have always fascinated me, and keeping these lists has been enjoyable. I would very much like to see grip continue to grow in popularity world wide, and as it does so, perhaps other nations can join with the British in creating legitimate organizations. Ultimately, I'd love to see an international organization hosting a true annual world championship. I think that with grip being a relatively obscure sport unity is imperative, especially in our current state of infancy. Any degree of splintering could sink the whole ship. As a whole, I'm positive about the future of grip. Most every person I've had the pleasure of meeting in our unique sport has proven to be of honest character and good intentions. The wide array of grip events is a huge plus for the sport. And although I support the standardization of events for contest, having a wide selection of events from which to choose keeps the sport interesting, not unlike the sport of strongman.

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 - be they grip or from other Iron Game arenas?
I think Chad Woodall might be the toughest guy to beat right now in a well rounded contest of standard events, but the depth of grip talent is such that at least a dozen gripsters could have a shot of taking any contest. More than a few athletes could could lay claim to being the strongest at individual events, save bending. Gary Hunt, aka "Gazza", has established himself as untouchable when it comes to the unbraced bending of anything steel.

Q: what aspirations in grip do you have for the future? You can talk about them from a purely personal point of view or from the sport as a whole.
My short term goals include a competitive Euro Pinch of 230 pounds, a parallel set close of a #3.5 gripper, and pinching my two heavy 45 pound plates with each hand. I try avoid thinking too much about very long term goals. I've already touched a little on what I'd like for our sport, but I could add that more exposure and recognition would be good thing for grip. But if we gain all of these things and lose the camaraderie it would be a a real shame. The tight knit sense of community with all of the gripsters is very appealing to me. We have a great thing going. Let's all do our part to keep it this way as we continue to grow and develop.

Photo: Eric in hard training. Note ear ring seems to be a bent nail!!

Q: Before we sign off 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!
I could run out room attempting to list all the guys who have supported and inspired me over the years, but I'll mention a few names in no particular order: Greg Amidon, John Beatty, Jedd Johnson, John Eaton, Paul Knight, David Horne, Casey Emery, Greg Griffin, Weldon Stoggsdill, Chris Caffery, Aaron Corcorran, Clay Edgin, Mike Hadland, John McEneany, Jason Williams... there must be three times this number, so I'll apologize for all those whose names escaped me, and for the inevitable misspellings. And thank you, Steve, for giving me this opportunity to share a few thoughts, and for all you have done for our sport over the years.

My pleasure. SG

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Who is in your grip top ten?

While laying in my half warm bath this morning (that damned boiler!!) I wondered who people would pick for their top ten? Not from the grip giants of the past but from our current batch. I can be, when required, quite analytical and so I'd start with the three standards and work from there.

Form for competitions must help. If a guy wins grippers again and again in spite of not actually setting any gripper type records in competition perhaps he's doing enough to win rather than going all out. It has been known for guys who have youtube videos, garage and gyms lifts of amazing levels to fail when on the platform. Using myself as an example and although not an exact comparison I didn't loose gripper events for several year in the UK but only placed in Europe and the US during the same time frame. We might look at records on lifts not used but for which a standard has been set - V-Bar is the obvious one. The less obvious one would be traditional grip Rolling Thunder. Perhaps we need to include bending or some form of wrist test.

There are also a group who amaze and inspire their grip fans. Gary 'Gazza' Hunt is a mad borderline crazy bender of steel but I can't recall him competing. Dave Morton and Clay Edgin, deep setters both, are seen as great gripper guys but again have not competed for quite a while. While still semi-involved (via postings and other strength activities) and so still active grip has not quite the focus it once did for them. I know that I'm not the only one with a photo of Clay's No 4 CoC close up on my gym wall to motivate me. Joe Kinney might also be included in that group and there will be others.

I've avoided discussion of what form has been used for some events quite deliberately (someone who TNS's what another 20mm sets for example). This is why it is easier to pick from those that have competed. While some rules have been adjusted over the past 4-5 years the standard by which we might measure and so pick our top ten has not been too dramaticaly changed to make it difficult to make comparisons.

I asked for the members of the largest grip related site on the web, www.gripboard.com to give me their top ten. I had to filter out a huge number of guys who'd barely seen, if at all, the platform in grip competitions. Big names like Wade Gillingham, Mark Henry and Mark Felix were dropped because they've never competed. Less well-known outside of grip but also dropped for the same reason was Laine Snook, Joe Kinney and Richard Sorin. All three are more than capable of doing very well but have not stepped forward just yet. They also did not get the votes.

Those that slipped off of the top ten, for one reason or another, included outstanding competitors such as Steve McGranahan, Paul Knight and Dave Thorton. Each one has proved themselves in the heat of competition but lost out base only on not being chosen by those asked to contribute. Another day more time to vote and they'd have been included.

Here's the top ten as it stood today (26th Sept 08):

1. David Horne - 10 votes
2. Steve Gardener - 10
3. Chad Woodhall 9
4. Martin Arildson 7
5. Jedd Johnson 7
6. Nick McKinless 6
7. Aaron Corcorran 6
8. Andrew Duriant 5
9. Tommy Heslep 5

The last three all got the same votes so I'll give them equal status of the 10th spot. Plus the votes came from many sources. It might be argued that it's been a year of two since David Morton chalked up so he copuld have been dropped but what the hell. As above some voted for guys who've never competed and others, like Tommy Heslep, seemed to have stopped competing. But this is how people voted so...

10. Ryan Klein 4
10. David Morton 4
10. Josh Dale 4

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Ever seen three Inch dumbbells and a Millennium in one place before?

I thought not. Duncan Williams (Dunkster) has been adding photos to my Whey companies facebook page and posted a photo I'd not seen before. Check this out.

To the left is my Millennium Dumbbell. At the back the 44lb Blob and then sitting pretty in the centre are three Inch replicas. One we still have (belonging to Nick McKinless) and the others... One might be Duncs but I'm damned if I know who the other belongs too.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Bob 'Odin' Sundin writes about his experience at the GGC 2008

Used with permission
photo of Bob (L) and John (R)

We got a great deal on a flight and John Eaton invited us to stay with his family, so we decided to leave early. From the beginning, we felt like we were part of the family and were treated just like family. On Thursday after we arrived, I noticed that grip toys abounded in the Eaton household, I first saw an Inch Dumbbell and Euro-pinch in the garage. Much to my wife's astonishment (and my delight) Blobs, chalk and grippers were sitting in plain sight in the living room and bending stock sat in a cup by the computer where most people keep pens handy. I felt like an addict as my stomach churned while I attempted to refrain from trying all the different toys. Of course, we both succumbed to temptation and started pulling his 50 lb. Blob and Josh Dale's infamous SLICK50 (fatman) Blob, which is the only one I've ever lifted by putting my hand on the flat edge at John's suggestion (after a few partial lifts and drops); even when I pulled it well over my knee it squirted out on the way down, living up to its name. I was happy the Blobs went up well, as I was a bit rusty on them and wanted to make sure my hands wouldn't be "stupid" on Saturday.

In retrospect; I probably cost myself 10-20 lbs. on the Euro by playing with the Blobs, but also likely helped my medley performance, so it was probably a wash.John tried to show me how to set grippers, but this will likely be a long-term project starting with choked grippers because I only try grippers every few months and seem more comfortable with a very minimal set; almost a no-set style. I didn't expend too much energy here, my lack of coordination with trying to establish the proper wrist position and other-hand assistance for a proper MM set would be humorous if not for the progress it is costing me.

Next, John showed me how to reverse bend, another area I hadn't trained. John said "here, bend this, it'll be easy for you". John told me how to stand and apply the force, making it seem very simple. I blasted into the nail and quickly twisted it into a U-shape as John said "enough, enough, you only need 40 degrees! Bob, you just reverse bent a Blue nail". He then showed me his style as he bent a G5 without any visible effort and said in a friendly but commanding tone "it's easy, now you do it". I felt the nail give, but also felt something start to go in my upper back, so I stopped after putting a kink in the G5. The prescience of John and Chris Rice really blew me away here as both had told me I was good for a blue or possibly a G5 reverse bend, how could they have known that with such precision? After John's wife fed us a great supper, we did some contrast baths to try to undo some of the damage from our earlier efforts and it seemed to help quite a bit.

On Friday, we ran some errands and did some preparation for the contest with our medley items, etc. Chris and Nick arrived later in the day and brought a power rack (hopefully John will be forced to train now). We spent quite a bit of time talking and doing what gripsters always do, comparing hand characteristics. One interesting thing we noticed was that we varied as far as how much our thumbs could rotate counter-clockwise in order to provide favourable opposition to the fingers in pinching (Chris was by far the most limited).

Saturday, GGC Contest Day
On Saturday we left in plenty of time to make it early to the contest. I visualized what I would do on each event and attempted to remain calm and focused. We arrived in plenty of time to hear the rules and help out as needed, etc. It appeared to be the martial arts area of a large fitness center, and was very spacious with an extremely high ceiling. Unfortunately, I felt rather flat emotionally and almost as if I was watching myself rather than actually competing during much of the contest. I believe this was largely due to the early start time, as I never train in the morning and it felt strange to apply force through my hands for some reason, almost like my mind and hands had a "disconnect".

The events started with grippers, and I over-thought and missed my first attempt with the 2.5. After a lot of fumbling and some tips from Smitty, I easily smashed it shut on my next attempt before missing on the stiff #3. The highlight of the gripper event was watching Andrew Durniat black out but land in a fairly coordinated fashion after a near miss with a CCS of the 3.5 gripper. I was quite concerned and wondering if I'd need to start CPR when he came to after about 10 seconds. That clinched him for the "Diesel Award" in my mind, as I've never squeezed that hard yet. I was satisfied here.

photo shows Bob just missing the 186

I do a lot of pinching in my workouts, but not much specific Euro work as I don't have collars for my device that will hold everything tight yet. I did know from experimentation that I seem to be stronger at 54 mm. than other widths I've tried so far. My best lift at Gripmas was 170, so I opened at 176 and easily got it, thinking that 180+ was within reach. Unfortunately, I cut both thumb webs on a very close miss with 187 and frantically superglued them back together, but missed all but my opener. Pretty disappointed with this. Jedd and Chad dominated here; Brent Barbe has really improved in this event.

I'd been doing DO DL with the oly bar every couple weeks since Gripmas, so I felt confident that I would improve from my 303 performance there (I believe Gripmas used 100 lb plates and the setup was a bit higher and therefore easier). I opened with 313, and it felt good. Next I tried 323 (1.9x BW) and got it, but felt the bar roll just a little bit in my hands. Finally, I went for 333 twice and just missed locking it out the first time and reached close to knee height the second time. With more overall body strength, this would have been done.Looking over the Gripmas records, I noticed that nearly everyone did ~ 10-20 lbs. worse with this setup (Eaton was about the same), so I was satisfied with my 20 lb. improvement, just wished I'd have gotten the 333 and been a little more competitive with the biggest guys.

Photo of Bob's 333lb effort

I may be a bit too deliberate for my wife's liking here, but did ok, pulling the regular Blobs at least. I beat Eaton here, which was a fluke due to him wearing himself out on his object, very unexpected. Brilliant concept here by Jedd, bring your own object(s), but lift yours first.

Reverse Bending:
Disappointed here as I lost a lot of points and dropped my overall placing to last despite not losing any other events to a couple of competitors. The easiest stock available was a G5; I'd thought maybe a Blue would be the "easiest" for reverse bending. I was counting on some coaching by Eaton during the event, but all of us were required to go simultaneously, apparently due to time constraints. Despite my best efforts, I was unable to get more than a good kink in the G5, but not enough to merit measuring.

Finished last, but earned the "Diesel Award" for competitiveness, intensity and sportsmanship as voted anonymously by the other competitors. This was a great honor, and took solace in my award as I licked my wounds after my thorough beating. I am glad that I have this experience under my belt (didn't see any point in waiting until I was "ready", as that day may have never arrived), and hope to make a better showing in the future after some focus on reverse bending and grippers. After the contest we went to Jedd's for some great food and fun. I was too spent to do much but pull a few Blob lifts and watch the others play.

John and I played "gripper horse", mostly no-sets with the #2 and trying to close his "easy" choked 3.5 in between raucous laughter and groaning in pain. My 74 lb. (but strong and very healthy) wife did well, crushing the Trainer in a choker and was a hair away without one after John taught her the technique. It was hard to leave for both of us, as we felt like part of the family, were given undeserved "VIP" treatment and had a wonderful time.

Another great report and Grip World Magazine thanks Bob for both his writing efforts and photo contribution. If you've got something you think the grip world would like send it in!

Thursday, 11 September 2008

I'm waiting... are you? Get involved! September 2008 Editorial

It remains to be seen if some will get on board and participate with submissions to what I am hoping many will see as a service to all things grip. Right now, having asked a few, I am waiting on confirmation that I'll get a 'I was there' type of submission report on the event and subsequent activities which took place at the GGC 2008.

What applies to that subject applies to pretty much everything. There will always be those that watch from the sidelines and those that are, as it were, on the field of play. One of my targets in live is to do what I can to both get involved myself and to encourage others to do the same.

Away from this blog/magazine that means coaching, promoting, refereeing and so on. Not just, as I do, in grip and playing a small part in the field of 'Strongman' here in the UK but by being a gym instructor, a health trainer and so on. Some of you will already do so. But why not more? Don't leave it to the Bob's, Jedd's and Smitty's of this world to host sites with helpful info - submit some yourself!

Many of you have quite a wealth of untapped knowledge, others are full of ideas on how things might be done and still more have questions yet here at the desk I do not hear the sound of letters dropping onto my door mat, emails 'pinging' into my inbox or see post after post on grip strength related sites offering some real in sights.

Do NOT sit on the side lines become involved. Share ideas, post competition reports and so on. Handwriting awful? Can't edit for toffee? Just send it in and let me do the rest.
Finally don't let time be an excuse. I've seen this in emailed replies and I think 'err I've just seen you posting away for hours on some site, you took time to reply to the email, but the few minutes (10-15) that could have been used to do 200 or so words... pish.
No excuses - get submitting!

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Chad Woodall interview

Chad (L) with gracious host Florian during Chad's visit.

Q: Hi Chad. Can I start by asking you to introduce yourself, where you’re from, how old, etc?
My name is Chad Woodall and I am from Athens, Georgia. I am 34 years of age and I am married to my wonderful wife Vonda and I have three step sons (Eddie, Eric, Alec) and one little girl Marley. I’ve worked at a Wellness Center as the Fitness Coordinator for the past 10 years.

Q: You’re well known in the grip world as a top level guy in that arena but have you competed in other strength sports to a similar level?
I started out in Bench Press competitions in 1996. I competed in 5 BP comps and placed 1st in 3, and then a 4th and a 5th. I then started competing in North American Strongman in 2003. I was the overall heavy weight winner in my first strongman competition…the Music City Showdown in Tennessee. I also set a new farmer’s walk national record in that show and it is still standing today. I competed in NAS Strongman Nationals that year and finished 5th in my weight class and 17th overall among the heavy weights. I also competed this past season in my home states Georgia’s Strongest Man and I came in 2nd place overall in the HW class. I then started competing in the Grip Arena in 2005 and my first contest was the Global Grip Challenge where I placed 3rd. I told myself then that this is the sport for me and I loved the competitiveness of the athletes. I’ve worked real hard over the last few years to improve on that 3rd place finish at the 2005 GGC and I have been lucky enough to win all my grip comps since that competition. I have been the US Champ for the past three years and all my hard work has paid off for me greatly.

At one time or another I have held or currently hold these grip records:
* Dynamometer WR – right hand
* 1” Vertical Bar WR – right hand* 2 hand Pinch WR* 2” Vertical Bar WR – right hand
* European Hand Gripper Record – right 3.81 / Left 3.60 ratings
* NAS Farmer’s Walk National Record – 240 per hand / 160ft. course

Image: Chad with his 385lb V bar lift

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?
At this point in my life I get enjoyment in training grip. It gives me an outlet on a stressful day and I am highly motivated to improve in grip so that it will help me be more successful in grip competitions. I train total body ALWAYS and I train grip at least 4 to 5 days a week. If I have to miss a workout…it will be something besides grip.

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 - be they grip or from other Iron Game arenas.
I would have to say men like Richard Sorin here in the US to be the first Captains of Crush and introducing the BLOB to the arena. Richard has done some impressive feats with the BLOB over the years and other feats with York 45 hubs, Anvils, and anything wide one hand pinch wise.

I have always been a fan of Bill Kazmier and John Brzenk as they dominated their sports respectively for years and their mental approach was off the charts. What stands out about these two: John Brzenk arm wrestling 100 men in one day and winning all but one I think? Also, Bill Kazmier winning the Worlds Strongest Man “3” years in a row…is very incredible.

Image: Chad at Richard Sorin's Sorinex compound.

Q: You are one of the few Americans that have traveled to compete. Tell us what that was like? Was there stuff you liked, disliked, would have changed and so on.
I traveled to Germany in 2007 in hopes to compete against David Horne…well known grip legend in England. He instead competed and won his 10th British Championship and I cannot blame him for that.

I competed in the Munsterland Grip Challenge and up against a VERY tough field of competitors like Florian Kellersman, Theo, Jim Wylie, and Franky H. There were 6 events and I placed 1st in 4 events and 2nd in 2 events and that was good enough to give me the overall win…but this was a hard fight the entire 10 hour competition. The one thing that stands out in my mind that I liked the most was the hospitality shown to me by ALL the competitors and especially Florian for taking me and my family all around the beautiful country of Germany, and letting me stay in his home. That makes for a trip that I will never forget.

I have to add that Florian and his partner also looked after Sam and I very well too. Steve

Q: Other than the records you currently hold what aspirations in grip do you have for the future? You can talk about them from a purely personal point of view or from the sport as a whole.
I hope grip friends do not take this the wrong way…but I would like to be known as one of the best of all time in the grip sport and as someone who displayed a drive and determination to improve each day and to push others to do their best. I would also like the opportunity before he retires to compete against David Horne…and hopefully this will happen in the 2009 Champion of Champions. He is a great proven champion and I would like to know how I stack up against him in the grip arena.

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!
I would like to encourage each athlete involved in the grip world to help keep the sport moving forward…because this is a great sport and I have met a lot of life long friends along the way.

Stay Strong, Chad Woodall

Monday, 1 September 2008

PDA founder passes away

John Szimanski, supporter of the gripboard and creator of some amazing strength tools has passed away unexpectedly. As soon as we have more info we will pass it on. Our thoughts go out to his family.