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Arnold Classic Write-up Part I

I just returned from my trip to the Arnold Classic, in Columbus, Ohio. We have been going for years and this year the trip was as great as ever. The Arnold Classic weekend is packed full of strength sport action, including strongman and powerlifting as well as many grip challenges at various expo center booths. However, this year I had my sights set on the biggest Arnold grip challenge of them all – the GNC Grip Gauntlet.

The Grip Gauntlet, sponsored by GNC, is run by Wade, Karl, and Brad Gillingham. If you have not heard of these guys, you need to look them up because all three are tremendous strength athletes, and Wade is one of the best in the U.S. where Grip strength is concerned. The Gauntlet is not a grip contest, per se, but rather a grip challenge. The gauntlet has had many forms, but this year it was the most challenging to date. This year, the gauntlet included closing an IronMind #3 Captains of Crush gripper, lifting the 50-lb Blob, and lifting the IronMind Rolling Thunder deadlift handle loaded to 207 pounds. It was stipulated that if an athlete completed all three of the challenges, they would receive a $100 gift card to GNC.

In the past I have completed all three of the challenges twice, but those times were a lighter version where only the #2.5 Captains of Crush gripper had to be closed and only 187 pounds had to be lifted on the Rolling Thunder deadlift handle. Going in, I knew that the 207-lb Rolling Thunder would be the biggest challenge for me because IronMind recently put out a new version of the handle that is somewhat more free-spinning than the older version. To prepare for this challenge, I have been training on a super slick and smoothly rotating deadlift handle that we got from John Mannino years ago with ball bearings and slick steel.

I made two trips to the Gauntlet, but I first went at about 11 AM on Friday morning. After limbering my hands up a bit, I got in line to take my shot. When I got on the platform, the first thing I went for was the blob. Wade’s blob is painted with what he calls stove paint. This paint is very slick and when combined with the greasy oils on the hands of the people who try the blob, it gets even more difficult to lift. My first squeeze on it, it popped out of my hand after pulling it just an inch or two off the platform. I reapplied chalk on the mid area of my thumb and was able to pull it easily to lockout with my right hand, and then I transferred it to my left hand and set it back onto the platform. Next, I went for the #3 gripper. I set it to parallel, paused it and shut it as Brad looked on. The only thing left to do was attempt the Rolling Thunder.

I purposely left the Rolling Thunder for last because I wanted to give my hands ample time to warm up. My hands felt good by this time so I wiped the majority of the chalk off my hands. I have always preferred to lift the Rolling Thunder with very little chalk because I feel that I get a better grip on the surface of the RT this way. I am normally stronger on the RT and other thick bar events with my left hand, plus I had done the #3 right handed, so I attacked the RT with my left hand first. My early pulls on it ended up being my best and I broke it a couple inches off the platform, but I was unable to pull it any higher than that. Even on an old seasoned handle, 207 pounds is a good pull for me, so I knew that it was going to be tough with the new handle. I was happy to get it somewhat off the ground anyhow!

At that point, it was time to talk shop with Wade for a bit. I rarely get the chance to chat with Wade, so I made sure to get some time with him while I was on the platform. Wade is a great and strong guy, and I look forward to one day competing with him if he so desires. Wade made a post of his account of the weekend’s events at the Gauntlet on his website Jackals Gym. Check it out here.

After the gauntlet, it was time to get something to eat, so the hometown boys (Sean Dockery, Nick and Stew Rosendaul, and Chris Rice) took me to the North Market which featured foods from Poland, Mexico and many other countries of the world all inside one large building. Needless to say, we don’t have any places like that in Bradford County, PA.

After lunch, I got a call from Paul Knight saying he was about to arrive in town, so we made our way to Goodale Park for some grip feats. There I would try to go for a new world record in the Double Blob Farmer’s Carry…

There are plenty more events to cover from my trip to Columbus. To find out the rest of this story, you need to check back later in the week.


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