Thursday, 20 November 2008

Q & A with Tommy Heslep

Tommy Heslep is, it must be said, one of the lighter freaks in our sport. Under 200lbs, under six feet tall and yet, for all intents and purposes, as strong a grip strength athlete as anyone. Making no excuses he remains one of, if not the best, under 200lbs strength athletes in the grip world. Here's the Grip World Magazine interview with Tommy:
Photo: Tommy pinching 2 45lb plates with two fingers and a thumb.

Q: Hi Tommy, Can I start by asking you to introduce yourself, where you’re from, how old, etc?
Hey whats up. My name is Tommy Heslep. I'm from Front Royal,Va. USA I'm 34 years old & weigh about 175lbs. My wife Mary Jo had our twin boys on June 8th 2008. Thomas Edward Heslep III & Micah Edward Heslep.

Q: You’re well known in the grip world. Have you competed in other strength sports and to what level?
I had no interest in sports when I was younger. I did do what was called "Freestyle" or BMX tricks on a bike.

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 had no idea about grip strength untill 1995 when I saw Dennis Rogers perform. He blew me away! b"4" see'n Dennis I couldnt believe that a person his size could have so much strength. I found out that with a little training I could do things guys twice my size couldnt do.

As if to prove that point here he is with two planes.

Q: As per my comment at the head of this interview you stand out as outstanding because you’re are under 200lbs and under six feet tall in a world of 300 lb and six feet plus strength athletes. With so many bemoaning their lack of stature, hand size, bone structure and so on what is it that makes you, as a lightweight etc, different? A lack of accepting limitations??
When it comes to strength, NEVER SET LIMITS! Most people stop at the ceiling when it come to their thinking. Mine keeps on going. They say "The Sky's the limit". Why stop there? Keep on going.

Q: What would you like to see happen, via associations and so on with events etc?
So far everything is going ok, I guess. Maybe some more unusual events.

Q: do you have any more plans for grip strength, feats and or competitions?
Right now I'm try'n to come up with new feats or new twists on the classics
Q: You’re well known for your faith and religious beliefs. What part does it play in training in general and more specifically in getting you ready for some of the feats you’ve done?
My relationship with God is #1 in my life. He sent his only son to die "4" me, the least I can do is live my life "4" him. I give God all the credit "4" my strength. It's just like any gift. You have to practice to get better. I wasnt born this strong,I had to work my butt off to get where I'm at today. Ive had some setbacks & injuries & lost a lot of strength. I'll get it back & then some!

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?
Just about everybody on the Grip board is doing something worldclass. Chris Rider is becoming a legend. You with the #4. Liz Talbot-Horne makes most guys look like little boy

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!
Train smart.All things are possible with God.
And to finish here's a great backdrop for any event.
Check out Tommy's website for photos, video and to book him for events:

Monday, 10 November 2008

The annual BHSA event report.

Having managed to set up the BHSA with David Horne towards the end of 2007 one of our aims was to establish more events and gatherings. As well as a greater standardisation of lifts and equipments literally having something happening almost every month was important to us.

One of the ideas was similar to how the Peter Horne memorial day was previously run. You'd turn up, having told the guys what events you wanted to in advance, then do as few or as many of the other lifts as you wanted. With the Peter Horne day now an actual competition the Annual get-together became a 'bring what you got' day. And again as per previous gatherings here, in the US and in other parts of the world one of the best parts of the gatherings has been the meal and BS'ing which took place after.

With all that in mind we set the 8th of November as our lift and eat day. The venue was my Whey Consortium gym here in Gloucester and we put out the message to our members to see what they wanted to do. I personally was keen on doing what I could on the pinch, seeing where I was on the one hand thumbless deadlift (as per Laine Snook's suggestion) and perhaps (if my back allowed it) some double overhand thick bar deadlift.

Come the day and yours truly was fretting, as per, as to whether or not anyone was actually coming. In spite of delays by the torrential rain we managed to get Stew Killick and Kath, Laine Snook and Donna, Paul Savage and Paul Wood from the BHSA membership. Also in attendance throughout the day was Laurence and Harry Shahlaei and other Whey Gym regulars.

No BHSA records here. Paul Savage, myself and Paul Woods all had some fun. I may (subject to checking video) have right hand closed a 4.01 gripper but not CCS nor 20mm. Paul W got a PB on the Vulcan (Paul S's) at level 10 but again not CCS etc. Paul missed his attempts. I also was about 3mm off on closing a BBE left handed (no CCS/20mm just a personal thing). For whatever reason we all seemed off on this. Annoying. All lifts were done on a PB basis only hence no CCS/20mm

Myself, Loz and H all paid the price of 2HP x 20 x 1 on Tuesday. Every single one of us tore skin, nice blobs of blood etc etc. Best attempt was 106.7-kilos which I missed. Stew did some lifts to 90+ kilos Although I had the frame to lift to (bar blocks etc) the loading bar is bent and no one was close to any records.

Laine did a nice 2 hand deadlift with Paul's 30-kilo blobs (with ease I might add), also a one hand clean (subject to checking video) with one of the same 30-kilo blobs (from 60-kilo York Legacy dumbbells). I think Paul did a clean and press with the 20-kilo (HGT replica blob) by the face.

One hand deadlift (Ivanko O' bar) thumbless.
Laine and I, after some token work from Loz, I pulled a 125-kilo right handed lift (BHSA record) and then Laine, using his left, pulled 135-kilos. All plates were Ivanko competition plates so calibrated etc.

I did 1.05.31 hold on the baby Inch (about 20 seconds in I pulled it high, caught it and reapplied my grip before it hit the ground so as to hold it better). I did this (as did Stew) by half deadlifting it then holding it in the air so we did not rest it against our thighs) and Stew did about 30 or so. Mine was more or less double the old record - nice. I also did a Inch in each hand deadlift (standing up then throwing them down), Laine just missed (3 attempts) going all the way on a double Millennium (228 and 234lbs) deadlift. I picked up right handed each and every thick handled bell (from 126?? to 234lbs). I also tried to mimic Laine's Inch in the left and Millennium in the right (but no could do). Paul also did some work with the lighter bells but I think missed the full Inch. I also cleaned the baby with either hand (just touching it with the free hand both times to get it that last inch onto the shoulder). Bells were a combo of our HGT 'baby' Inch, HGT Inch and my Millennium and the rest from the Holle brothers (so nice 'n' sharp between handled and globes).

D/O A/A deadlift
Loz, Stew, Laine and myself all had some fun here. Everyone did at least 140 I think (not sure on Stew) Loz dropped out at 180 after getting that successfully (with his thumb as chewed up from mine from the pinch and having done a PB of 155kg on our medium 'log'). Laine, baring in mind he does not fully stand erect due to his back injury and myself both did 190-kilos/418lbs which I am told is a British record. For some 30 or so seconds I had the record with him then he pulled 200-kilos to go to the top of the list. Of all the stuff I'd hoped to be crazy on the Pinch but did my best work here instead. C'est la vie. All plates were Ivanko competition plates so calibrated etc. Bar was an 15-kilo IM A/A

Bar bending
I did not see all bar bending but did a very easy (10-secs) D/O to 40-degrees 7 x 1/4-inch CRS. Ditto a G5 (silver?? and possibly outside of 30 secs) but some 7-inch x 1/4inch square CRS was monstrous and all I could do was kink it.

Post, post lifting
I'm sure I missed a bunch so see what the others say later.Paul W, Laine and Donna, Stew and Cath and myself all enjoyed some nice food and a drink or 2 at the Angel Chef (all u can eat for £5.50!!) with yours truly talking/eating 2 main courses and some pud. Laine very kindly paid for us all!! Cheers again Laine. I'm sure Laine, Donna and Paul 'enjoyed' my sense of 'where's the place again' although we still arrived dead on time ha ha having done a mini-tour of the area on the other side of Gloucester Docks. I know it's around there somewhere he he. I know we're all gonna ache in the morning because carrying a plate of food back made my hands cramp up. I think everyone enjoyed themselves in spite of my mother hen clucking around to keep things moving along.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Jedd Johnson interview

Photo: Jedd (L) and Smitty (R)

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

Steve, thanks for the chance to be interviewed on your site. My name is Jedd Johnson. I started the website,, with my training partner, Jim Smith several years ago. We started out mainly hosting videos of strength feats, but we have grown the site to include many other sections and points of emphasis in an effort to cover as many areas of strength and conditioning as possible.

Q: You’re well known in the grip world. Have you competed in other strength sports and to what level?

I started in Grip and Strongman in 2003. I competed in Strongman until August 2006. I won many of the Strongman events I competed in. I was twice Maryland’s Strongest Man and once Massachusetts Strongest Man. I love the competition, and would still be at it to this day but a few lower back injuries have somewhat handcuffed me, so I decided after my last comp in 2006 to focus mainly on Grip competitions. Now, I am dedicated much more time to my website and in organizing the United States Grip Championships structure.

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?

Grip is very important. I do quite a bit of speaking at strength and conditioning seminars, and often the topic of conversation is incorporating grip strength protocols in the athletic routine. In my experience, at the university level, grip strength training is often limited to wrist rollers and wrist curls. This just doesn’t cut it, as I am sure you know. So I focus on increasing awareness about what types of grip strength exist and how to work them into the routine. No doubt about it, I think athletes who are putting an emphasis on training their grip are going to have an advantage on the court, field and mat.

Q:What would you like to see happen, via associations and so on with events etc?

I would like to see the awareness of the sport of grip and hand strength increase. I think grip strength is an excellent way to get youth interested in fitness again. The great thing about grip is that you can be great at it, even if you are not extremely huge! I’ve met many slim athletes at Grip contests that you wouldn’t think were so strong upon seeing them, but really impress you in the competition.

Photo: Jedd pinching.

Q: tell us a little about what you, Smitty and the gang at the Diesel Crew - how you got started, what you're doing, plans for the future etc.

Smitty and I met at a chiropractic rehab facility in 1997, when I was in high school and he just got out of college. I went to college in ’98 and was looking to start hitting the weights seriously after my first semester so I could get a starting spot in the pitching rotation at Mansfield University of PA. We trained in the winter and I went back to school. By the summer of 1999, we were full time training partners and began studying a lot of the strength and conditioning techniques that we were seeing at clinics we were attending. We started Powerlifting, then found out about Olympic lift, then got into Strongman, and finally found our way to Grip Strength, Feats of Strength, and Kettlebells. It’s been great learning all of these disciplines and meeting all of the people we have met in the last 10 years or so. We have seen a lot of training partners come and go over the years. Some moved away, some lost interest, others we’re not quite sure – they just disappeared, but two have stuck with it for years with us – Eli Thomas and Brad Martin. Eli’s 24 or so now and has surpassed me in many of the full body lifts. Also, he out-crushes me, but rarely trains grip. Brad is about 20 now and probably has the smallest hands to ever lift the blob. He has gotten back into Grip and will be competing with me in December at Chris Rice’s Gripmas Carol.

Q: you're seen by many as an intense competitor (I've seen this for myself) - what gets you going, how do you get in the zone?

It’s certainly much easier to get into the zone when you are not actually organizing the contest! Focus is important for sure. I like competing against people who take it serious, like I do. I get annoyed when people are cracking jokes or gabbing during a competition.

In order to get into the zone, I like to imagine myself mutilating the implement. In the pinch, I try and stare a hole through it. I sometimes envision myself tearing the plates apart. Sometimes I shut my eyes and imagine someone breaking into my house and attacking my family. Other times, I bark and growl. At Nationals, I focused so hard on the lift that I salivatedand drooled all over the platform.

Photo: Jedd card tearing
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?

There’s a ton of stuff out there, but the only thing I think about anymore is Chad Woodall. He is the only guy who has consistently finished ahead of me over the last few years. I have split decisions with many guys, but Woodall has consistently gotten the best of me. He’s the only guy I think about any more. He is the best in the US. I think he could have beat Rob Vigeant and Clay Edgin at their pinnacles.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.

In 2009, my sole aim is winning Nationals, as far as accomplishments are concerned. That is the only thing I care about.

As far as the sport, I want to continue to progress the organization of grip in the U.S.

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’d like to take a moment and ask everyone to check out our site at We work hard to provide the best information we can on all things related to strength and conditioning. I also write for and usually provide one or two original grip strength article a month there. For info on the United States Hand Strength league, please check out And as always, I am always open to discussing training via email. You can reach me at