In 1896, amateur strength specialist Franz Föttinger of Vienna performed a remarkable feat. He had two large wooden blocks attached to each other with a cord. The lower block also had some additional weights attached to it. On the top of the upper block, an ordinary needle was stuck; less than an inch of needle projected above the wood. Grasping the needle with his thumb and forefinger only, Föttinger managed to lift 28-1/2 pounds in the above manner. Föttinger was 59 years of age at the time and reported that he had been working on this feat for over five years.
One of the classic classic grip feats was to pick up a York Deep-Dish 45 Pound barbell plate just by the hub, something weightlifting and bodybuilding champ Steve Stanko could do with ease, even with an added 10 pounds. Steve’s best on this feat was with over 90 pounds!
Al Berger was a great strength athlete and classic bodybuilder during the 1940’s. Berger was a very good bodybuilder but was most well-known for his ability to perform incredible feats of strength while “pinch gripping” rafters in his basement. He could do 12 pinch-grip chins on rafters 30-inches apart, 6 with an additional 10-pounds and 1 with an incredible 43 additional pounds. In addition to his pinch-gripping feats, Berger could perform a reverse curl with 165 pounds.
Ok, so you can rip a deck of cards … but can you rip a deck of cards while wearing oven mitts like Dennis Rogers? …And not only can Dennis Rogers do this, he makes it look easy.
“I’ve got more strength in one finger than you have in your whole body!” For most people, such a statement would be mere hyperbole, but in the case of Doug Hepburn it was obviously true. One of Doug Hepburn’s favorite feats was to muscle out a 45-pound plate hanging from his pinky finger — an amazing display of shoulder and grip strength. As evident here, Hepburn could do this with either hand.
The great martial artist Bruce Lee was a big proponent of physical training and with good reason. He understood… he “got it” … which is why he also made it a point to train his grip. Building stronger fingers, wrists, hands and forearms is obviously very important in combat settings. Here’s Master Bruce doing pushups on only his thumbs in between takes while filming Game of Death – an incredible feat. Can anyone today do this?
Jack Walsh performing a 1-finger snatch with 115 pounds. When was the last time you ever heard of anyone performing this lift? Jack is clearly pretty sure of himself, notice there’s no collars on the bar.
One of the most effective exercises for developing grip and forearm strength can be done with a simple barbell plate. Just grab it by the lip and attempt to curl it — no swinging, slow and controlled all the way up and all the way down. You’re fairly strong if you can do a 25 lb. plate … really strong if you can do a 35 pounder under the same conditions … and if you can do this with a 45 lb plate, you’d be one of the strongest of all time. The steep strength curve from the leverage involved can impose quite a challenge — even when using a very light plate. You can also “cheat” the plate to the top position and then lower it under control to add a new wrinkle. You can progress incrementally by attaching smaller weights and then increasing or decreasing the leverage based on where they are positioned on the plate. You can expect some pretty sore wrists the morning after. Try it!