On 4/18/15, at the New York Grip Throwdown in Carmel, NY, I finally hit a lifetime Competition PR on the IronMind Double Overhand Axle Deadlift Axle Deadlift with 400 and 408 pounds.
This is the best lift I’ve had in competition since 2007, when I first lifted 396lbs.
It felt great to finally complete these lifts, and the fact that there was absolutely no doubt in either one of them puts even more icing on the cake, brotherrrr.
Jedd Johnson – 400lb IronMind Axle Deadlift
Jedd Johnson – 408lb IronMind Axle Deadlift
It’s been a long-time coming, and I’m pumped to be able to share this with you.
Keep hitting it hard in your workouts. It’s all gonna pay off.
All the best in your training.
Learn the Basics of Strongman Training with the Introduction to Strongman DVD
As I have said many times in the past, despite my huge hands, for whatever reason, Thick Bar, the type of grip training done on round bars in an open hand position, are one of my nemeses in Grip.
Because Thick Bar was a weakness for me, over the years I began training it less and less, which really just becomes a vicious cycle because when you suck at something, and you don’t work on it, it is only going to make you suck at it worse.
You need to train on it more in order to figure out what is the best way for you, yourself to train on it. Through experimentation, trial and error, and tracking your progress, you can then hope to find tactics that work best for you.
For a long time, I wasn’t doing any of that. I was just training Thick Bar when I had to – when it was coming up in the next contest, and then after that contest I wouldn’t do any of it. Bad idea if you’re looking for progress.
This isn’t just about Grip Training – the same can be said for any other lift, or style of training, really. For instance, if your Squat sucks, and you hate it, then chances are you are going to be tempted to bag it. Maybe you put your squat day on Friday and then invent reasons to miss your Friday workouts so you don’t have to deal with the struggle.
Or maybe the thing that you suck at is Overhead Press. Maybe you’ve never been a good presser because of poor shoulder mobility, or your thoracic area is tight, or your triceps lack lockout strength. Whatever the “reason” you have in your head, they really only amount to excuses if you don’t address them. Eh, I’ll just work bench today and skip overhead…
I came to realize several months ago that if I didn’t start shifting some of my emphasis and efforts to Thick Bar, I was going to continue to be blown away on these events. I first came to this realization in doing one of my Coaching Call Recordings for my guys and gals at TheGripAuthority.com, and with that I began looking at my program.
I soon realized that I was doing a whole lot of things I was good at and not nearly enough of the things I was not good at. My weeks were very heavy with Pinch and very light on Thick Bar, with a healthy sprinkle of everything else thrown in.
So, one day I decided it was time to Change My Paradigm. For years, my main emphasis had been Pinch, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because it has a great deal of benefit to other aspects of hand strength, but I was doing Pinch at the expense of all my other training.
A Paradigm Shift is essentially a change in your way of thinking, or in this case, a change in the way I was approaching my training. It was time to make some HUGE CHANGES in my training.
What I would like to do right now is invite you to challenge your own paradigms, especially around any particular goals you might have but have been (up until now) incapable of attaining. Set up something that is totally different from what you have been doing — I mean totally different – and go after it.
For me, for years, I chased 400-lbs on an IronMind Axle, and did nothing but get worse because what I continually did over and over and over just wasn’t working. After I had a paradigm shift, I was finally able to deadlift 400+ on the axle.
My First 400-lb Axle Deadlift
However, what I would also like to mention is that there is another part to this. Although I am telling you to make a BIG CHANGE in your training, once you set up a new approach to your training, don’t keep modifying it all the time. Set something up and go for it for at least 4 to 6 six weeks.
When you set a track for a goal, you can’t just keep bouncing back and forth and switching stuff up all the time. You need to decide what you are going to try and then stick to it. That is the only way to know whether what you designed in the first place worked or not. How can you lay out a program and know if it worked if you keep switching every two weeks, continually moving away from the program? You can’t.
In February, I finally hit over 400 on the Axle and it could have been just as easy to stop the program that I laid out for myself and do something different, or go back to just maxing out all the time, but I didn’t. I kept going with it, the only changes I made being to dial back on the volume of thick bar per session when my hands were feeling over-worked.
Sticking with the movements that I decided would be beneficial over the course of the first three months this year has been awesome, as I have continued to build on two separate PR systems on the Axle which I have found to be mutually beneficial, including my 1 Rep Max on the Double Overhand Axle, which I recently got for 423-lbs and have since topped again.
423-lbs on the Axle – New Program Continues to Work
After freezing at 396-lbs and over the course of 4 years and eventually even watching my numbers drop, it feels great to now be consistently working above 400-lbs, and coming ever so close to tripling near 400-lbs on many occasions.
So again, I challenge you to take a look within yourself at the goals that you want to achieve but are not achieving, and ask – Is it time for a paradigm shift? If so, make the change now.
Challenge Your Paradigms, and then Stick With Your Program
Incidentally, my entire Thick Bar Program is fully outlined at TheGripAuthority.com. I’d love to see you there.
All the best in your training.
As I have said before, I am dedicated to bringing you the best information to help you with your strength training.
If I do something in my training like reach a new milestone, I can’t wait to come back here and not just tell you about it but also how I was able to get it.
Much of my success is based around experimentation in my own training.
This is primarily because not a lot of people do the kind of training that I do: Grip Training, Strongman Training/Odd Object Training. And if they do, they usually don’t have a website.
Recently, it became time to put my thinking and experimenting hat on again. I sat down and really thought about how to bring up my Thick Bar Grip Strength.
With Mighty Mitts being an almost entirely Thick Bar contest, and with it being my Achilles heel of Grip, I knew I had to attack it hard, but go about it the right way to stay healthy. I came up with a new experiment to try, and so far it has seemed to be paying off for me BIG TIME, especially in the Axle Double Overhand Deadlift.
This is a lift that plagued me for years. Reaching the 400-lb Plateau started out tough, and just got harder, as I outlined in this info-packed post: First 400-lb Axle Deadlift.
The other day, although I wasn’t quite able to get a real nice pause at the top, I was able to pull 413-lbs to the lockout position.
I have done the same Thick Bar Workout twice a week for the last 5 weeks, not counting this current week, because I am de-loading. Each workout starts with my Primary Lift which is either Axle or Inch Dumbbell, and then I have three Auxiliary Lifts that I do for Thick Bar as well.
This combination has been so productive, I outlined the entire structure for my guys and gals at TheGripAuthority during February. Click the banner below to join today and check out what I have been doing.
All the best in your training.
IronMind Axle Axle Deadlift
The IronMind Axle is the thick bar implement sold by IronMind Enterprises. It is just under 2-inches in diameter. The Deadlift on the IronMind Axle was an event in contests quite frequently up until 2011.
Past Training History with the Axle
My memory is a bit foggy as to the Exact years but I am going to try to pin them down. I believe it was 2008 when I set my all-time high-water mark in the Axle Deadlift with (I think) 396-lbs. So close to 400-lbs, yet so far away, and I just kept drifting further from that point. In 2009, I lifted 394 at the beginning of the year and then at the end of the year could only manage the high 380’s.
I was slowly but surely getting worse and worse at this lift for no good reason whatsoever.
As I mentioned, the lift took a back-seat to other events through much of 2010 and 2011, at least in the contests I attended.
Then, out of nowhere, something crazy happened. I lifted 408-lbs on the IronMind Axle, and uploaded the video last week.
IronMind Axle 408-lbs
As you can see, the weight shot up off the ground and got past my knees and once I felt that, I knew it was all over. Knee height is usually like my point-of-no-return, in that if I can get it to my knees, I can usually finish the repetition.
A lot of people over the years have watched me struggle with thick bar lifting in contests, despite my large hands, so when they saw me accomplish this mark, many asked me what I changed in order to be able to accomplish this.
Progress on the Axle
Here are some of the things I have been doing to which I credit my Axle Deadlift progress.
Thick Bar Training Frequency
With my selection for the Mighty Mitts competition at the Arnold Classic this year, I knew I would have to face the incredible Sorinex Monster Bar, which is a 500-lb Axle with globe-like heads. Due to my lower back injuries, I have not done a great deal of deadlifts from the floor in the last 6 months, so i knew I had to start doing some more.
I chose to work with the sumo deadlift style because I find although I can lift less weight this way, it seems to be better for my back. I also chose it for its shorter lift stroke and its emphasis on the hips, which I am weak on.
I am also continuing my steadfast work on the Inch Dumbbell. My progress in that has been continuous, although never fast enough for my liking. Regardless, my confidence is growing as I continue to work hard on it.
The Big Change
Many of you are aware that I hold a record in the Two Hands Pinch in Grip Sport. You also know that I chased that damn record for nearly 5 years before finally attaining it. In order to get it, I had to change my way of thinking and the way I trained for it…
Looking back on my historical thick bar training, especially my Axle training, there was a common recurring thread: load on the weight, do a single, load on more weight, do a single, add more weight and fail and keep on trying for a single, all the while failing in the upper weights.
Probably no less than 50 times over the last 5 years I have followed that same pattern where all I did was add a few pounds to the Axle per attempt, do a single and then add some more and try another single. While on one hand, you could probably count the number of times in the lat 5 years that I worked lower intensities for more reps and different tempos.
Insanity, as they say, is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. So why should I continue doing the same stuff I had always done and all of a sudden expect my numbers to go up? I decided I would no longer work any singles. All my work sets would be done with the objective of hitting triples and my PR’s would be based around them, ONLY.
I started this new approach to the Axle on 12/31/11 and by the first week in February, I had already broken the 400-lb barrier.
This of course, is not all I have been doing.
Specialized Thick Bar Auxiliary Work
I knew that if I wanted to see progress in my Thick Bar Training, that I needed to mold it to look more like what I was doing for Two Hands Pinch. With that, I chose some auxiliary thick bar work that would mimic the auxiliary work that I have done routinely for the last couple of years in my Two Hands Pinch training.
Now, as much as I would love to put this all down here on this site, I am not going to. In order to see what all I have been doing, to get this recent explosion in thick bar strength, you need to join me at my Grip Training Instructional site, TheGripAuthority.com.
The entry that I am working on there at the TGA site involves exactly what I have been doing. I filmed an entire workout – plus I show you exactly how to set up everything. Here is what is included:
- Axle Work Sets: You will see every work set that I do, as I nearly set yet another PR! Plus I explain exactly why I choose the loading that I do, technique, and tracking too.
- Auxiliary Lift 1: In this portion, I show a slight modification I use on the axle, modifying the lift slightly to make it more difficult
- Auxiliary Lift 2: This is a pre-exhaustion technique I have been using to strengthen the thumb in order to reinforce the open hand position of the axle deadlift.
- Auxiliary Lift 3: I show an awesome piece of home made grip equipment that goes further in strengthening the hand specifically for thick bar lifts such as the axle and the Inch Dumbbell.
This has all worked very well for me, and I can’t wait to get it out there for my TGA subscribers to see how it works for them as well.
I’d love to work with you too. I’ve worked with lots of people over the years and I strive to help them all with their particular goals. Join TGA today for just $7 and you can see for yourself.
See you at TGA.
Click below to join The Grip Authority
It’s no mystery that I obviously love Grip Training. I do it every single day I train as long as I am injury free (and sometimes I still do it anyway if I am hurt, I just do something else).
My love for developing Grip Strength spilled into a love for competing at Grip Strength in 2003 and my obsession is showing no sign of slowing down any time soon.
Now, even if you do not love Grip Training yourself, you have to agree that having a strong Grip is an advantage, whether you obsess over grip training like me or not.
Advantages of a Strong Grip
Stronger, Heavier Lifts
With stronger hands and a better grip you can lift more weight in pulling and rowing exercises, you can handle more weight in pushing movements like the bench press, and you can control more weight in lifts the squat. Stronger Hands = Bigger Lifts
Better Endurance / More Reps / Better Progress
You are limited in many case by the number of reps you can perform in an exercise. Imagine how much your progress would grow if you could do more reps in all lifts? One aspect that holds people back is their grip. Their grip fails or slips and they end up losing reps and cutting sets short. This is a bad equation only made worse by using the dreaded 6-letter word STRAPS.
Better Performance in Sports
Many sports depend on having strong hands and wrists: Baseball, Wrestling, Football, Rugby, Tennis – even soccer performance is increased by having strong thumbs for passing the ball back into play. With weak hands, you take a back seat to others on the court, field and mat.
Stronger Resiliency Against Injuries
If you do consistent work for the hands, wrists and forearms you build up strength and become resilient against injuries. You can take more bumps at a high intensity level and continue to play at a high level. If an injury does take place, the stronger athletes bounces back quicker. Unfortunately, the thumb is often neglected, which results in the incapacity to return to play which is something I will be covering later on this week.
These are just a handful of the benefits from having a Strong Grip, but I have found in my recent travels that some people are confused about what it takes to develop a strong grip.
Grip Training Myths
I believe in Bigfoot, but not in the following myths…
Grip Training Myth #1 – You Need a Ton of Grippers
First off, you do not need two dozen grippers in order to develop a strong grip. Having a bunch of them is a hell of a lot of fun if you want to have the ability to make small jumps in gripper strength increases, and it is a must if you plan to compete (unless you have the Vulcan Gripper), but if you are looking to just build massive grip strength for the advantages listed above, a couple of Grippers will do you just fine.
Grip Training Myth #2 – You Need a Huge Variety of Griplements
Next, you do not need a bunch of Griplements (specialized Grip Training Implements) to build a strong grip. Even though I have more Griplements than you can shake a stick at, and continue to look for opportunities to buy and build grip training equipment to expand my collection, you can by with a just a handful for variety.
Grip Training Myth #3 – Grip Training Takes a Lot of Time
Finally, you don’t even have to add time to your workout in order to develop a monster grip. You can simply replace some of the things you are already doing with more grip-intensive pieces of equipment.
And that is what I want to show you today – How to Implement Grip Training without Adding Extra Time to Your Workout. In order to do this, we will use a couple of simple Grip Training Concepts…
Grip Training Concepts
Grip Training Concept #1 – Evolution of the Movement
One of the principles in the Diesel Method is to go beyond the normal limitations of a movement and evolve it into something more challenging in order to increase the demands and as a result make you stronger and a better athlete.
There are many ways to do this, but one such way in order to bring about a more Grip Strength intensive training effect is by modifying the equipment used.
In the example below, instead of using normal equipment such as Powerlifting and Olympic bars, we will use Sandbags and Axles, which require a much more open-handed position and make the lifts more difficult to perform and more demanding on the hands, thus increasing Grip Strength.
Grip Training Concept #2 – Integration
Integration means that instead of just working the Grip in isolation, such as with Grippers or by pinching Block Weights to develop grip strength, we will be working much of the body all at the same time with the hands still being targeted heavily.
One way to accomplish Grip Training Integration inexpensively and effectively is with a Sandbag.
Benefits of Sandbag Training
The Sandbag is an excellent piece of training equipment. Specific models are sold on-line, such as the Ultimate Sandbag (you can get one here through my link: Ultimate Sandbags), or you can make your own sandbag from a duffel bag like I did years ago.
Aside from being versatile (sandbags last a long time), they also enable you to train with speed and explosion, and they work the grip.
- Speed and Explosion – You can throw Sandbags around without mercy. This enables you to develop serious power and strength. Performing Cleans and shouldering movements with the sandbag also trains triple extension, a powerful movement pattern involving the ankles, knees and hips, which is found in many sports and is often trained with the Olympic lifts.
- Grip Strength – Depending on where you grip the sandbag, you can bring about different levels of Grip and Forearm Strength. For instance if you grip it with an open hand like a bear hug or monkey grip, you will work your fingers, thumbs, wrists and forearms all the way up to the elbow. This is the best way to go about it for the Grip Training effect. You can grip the handles if you wnt to, but in my estimation, that takes a lot away from the benefits of the lift.
- Metabolic Effects – Because Sandbag Training involves so much musculature you ended up torching a lot of calories and hitting your conditioning as well. Since it is so much fun, you don’t mind breathing so hard you burn your throat or the aching of the glutes because you know you are throwing around serious weight like it is a rag doll.
Benefits of Axle Training
The Axle is really nothing more than a long thick bar. Axles are sold at many on-line locations. The prices can be scary at first, often in the hundreds of dollars, but they come specialized with collar fittings and sometimes knurling. These additional features make them more expensive.
You can actually make your own out of just a pipe and it will get the job done. Joe Hashey and I show everyone how to make the most awesome Axle ever known to man in our Home Made Strength DVD as well.
What’s great about Axles is the fact that anything you can do with a barbell you can do with an Axle, you just can’t do as much weight or as many reps because the thicker grip tests your hand strength more.
Implementing Grip with Little Special Equipment and Zero Extra Time
One of the things I have been doing more of lately is back-to-back sets of lifts. It allows me to get more work done in a shorter period of time so I can spend more time working on Grip.
I told you I was obsessed.
Below is a video clip where I perform Sandbag Shouldering with Bent Over Axle Rows in a back-to-back fashion.
For this set, I performed 4 shoulders to each side followed by 8 reps in the Bent Over Row. The set itself is not that long, but the cardio demands far exceed normal set, plus you get the benefit of direct grip strength and forearm work while working the rest of the body as well.
Subscribe and Comment on the Video Here: Sandbags and Axle for Grip Strength
If you are wondering about the rest of the workout, this combination was actually Part II. Part I was Pull-ups and Pull-aparts and Part III was Side Rows and Face Pulls. I would have liked to have done Deadlifts first or at least somewhere in the workout, but testing for it wasn’t going well, so I switched on the fly.
I also did a bunch of Thick Bar Work after all of this and got several good singles in the Double Inch Dumbbell Deadlift, which i got on video but have not edited yet. Hopefully I can get to that soon.
I hope this article has been helpful in pointing you in some directions you can in order to implement grip strength training. A lot of the information out there leads one to believe you have to all this stuff with a bunch of excess equipment and spend a lot of time doing it in order to develop a grip that would scare the likes of Fritz Von Erich, but that just isn’t the case.
If you have any questions, please let me know by leaving a comment below.
All the best in your training,
Discover EVERYTHING You Need to Know about Gripper Training
with my Definitive Gripper Training DVD, CRUSH: Total Gripper Domination.
Tags: axle, grip strength, grip training, hand strength, sandbag
Posted in athletic strength training lift odd objects, grip hand forearm training for sports, grip strength, how to improve fitness and conditioning, how to improve grip strength, strongman training for athletes, strongman training log stone tire farmer | 18 Comments »
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