13 May 2010

Step Right Up! Test Your Retard Strength With the Fast Curl and Press

Recently, one of my online detractors hilariously complimented me while attempting to denigrate my methodology.  When asked what he thought of me, personally (since he's seen me a couple of times in the gym), he stated that: "but for the most part the way he trains would be good for a side show at the circus. he is basically all show no go."  Yes, I know- it makes no fucking sense.  If I was fit for a circus sideshow, I'd be at the very least all "go".  In any event, it got me to thinking about one of my recent favorite lifts:  the reverse grip clean and press, also known as the fast curl and press.

I first read about this lift in an article about John Grimek.  In "THE WEIGHTLIFTING EXPLOITS OF JOHN C. GRIMEK" by John D. Fair, Fair describes a weightlifting competition between Grimek and a Swedish stevedore/fisherman in San Francisco during a western exhibition tour in 1940.  The stevedore's name was Karl Norberg, and he decided that although Grimek was roundly considered the strongest man on Earth at that point, he would challenge Grimek to a strength competition.  To get his stevedore job, Norberg "reached down and picked up two-100 pound bags of sugar," according to a 1965 account by Vern Weaver, "and proceeded to press them overhead several times with ridiculous ease".... during the job interview.  Norberg was the consummate fucking badass, by the way, and was photographed benching 380 when he was 69, and reportedly benched 300 well into his 80s.  When Grimek came to town, here's what happened:

"John Grimek tells me the naturally strongest man he ever met was in San Francisco. Two months ago Grimek was giving an exhibition at the Golden Gate City's Central Y. He announced that he was about to press 270 pounds. While getting set for his attempt there was a commotion in the audience. Several fellows shouted out that they had a man with them who could press more than Grimek. Grimek asked the man to come up to the stage. He was a little reluctant at first but the man's friends urged him to have it out with our "Mr. America."

He was Karl Norberg, a 48 year old fisherman, and a very rugged individual. Grimek agreed to go first and press 240, which he did with absurd ease. Norberg took the 240 but with his hands in the palms out position, like in a regular curl! With very slight effort he fast curled the 240 to his chest! (At this point his palms would be facing in.) He continental pressed this poundage. There was a deafening applause and some of the crowd shouted for Grimek to try a press in that fashion. Without hesitating Grimek made a fast regular curl with the 240 and military pressed it! More deafening applause. Norberg asked for 250. The exhibition that Grimek was to give was turning into a contest. Norberg curled and continental pressed 250. Then 260! Grimek took his next attempt with 270 pounds which he likewise curled and military pressed. Norberg told John that 255 was the most he had ever lifted but he wanted to try that 270. Grimek says that it was incredible the ease with which he fast curled 270 to his shoulders but in pressing it he had great difficulty, there was considerable back-bending, leg bending and jerking but he made it.

John then took 280 which he curled and pressed to terrific applause. The audience shouted for the fisherman to take a turn, his friends wanted him to retire in view of his age, but Norberg was enjoying the contest and got set for a try at 280. He made a wonderful try but failed to curl the weight."

After reading this story, I (naturally) had to try this lift.  I figured that it suits me, given the fact that I employ a hell of a lot of retard strength and not much skill in quick lifts, and discovered that it's a great way to change the angles on a push/pull lift to make it appreciably different from other lifts, and further develop my retard strength, making me more suitable for circus sideshows, impromptu public tests of strength, and increasing my overall bad motherfucker quotient.

I was not disappointed.  The lift has recently improved my wrist flexibility dramatically, and given me something fun to do when I just feel like manhandling the fuck out of a loaded barbell.

The form?  You've got to be fucking kidding me.  Grab the bar and put the fucking thing overhead.  I use my regular clean grip width, but take a curl grip.  I then grip and rip, with no dip under the bar, to get the bar to my chest, and push press it overhead.  Behold the exercise in motion, and the raw power that caused me to rip my shorts on my warmup set, haha:

Next time you're in the gym and want to do something a little different, give this evil bitch a try.   It'll definitely carry over into your BTN strength, give you a little extra bicep work (which may be one reason my arms are filling out a bit more recently), and are generally fucking ridiculous.


  1. Good post. I knew Norberg a little (met him half a dozen times in the gym), and had heard a bit about his contest with Grimek. In the late 50s he worked out sometimes with Pat Casey (the first to bench 600). One thing I know for sure is that on his 60th birthday he benched 400 for several reps, 4 or 5 I think. And 350 on his 70th birthday. A brute. And only two or three REALLY strong guys ever beat him in arm wrestling, and that was when Norberg was elderly!

  2. Awesome, I'll give that a shot tonight.

    I was going to clean anyway so why not.

  3. nice post...

    are there any forums you post on regularly?

    how many plates was that, i couldnt see clearly?

    how are the squats going... wheres your back squat at?

  4. Hahaha, you ripped your pants.

  5. Great. As people don't already think I'm out of my fucking mind in the gym, you go and show me this exercise, which I must try tomorrow. Fuck you Jamie, and thanks very much.

  6. I bet that was one cool old man.

    There aren't any forums on which I post regularly. It's pretty much down to the occasional visit to the cnp site and arthur's hall.

    It was two plates.

    I back squatted 605 deep for a couple of singles the other day, then walked out with 635 and almost broke my ankle because of the shit platform I was on, so I quit squatting and moved on. Today, I did 18 singles with 925 in the quarter squat, and then a few singles with 635 on front squat partials. Seems wto be coming along well.

  7. Man that poster is loaded with phallic shapes and balls. Jesus.

  8. Hahahaha. I hadn't made that connection, and wondered what the fuck was with all of the cannonballs. Very odd.

  9. A few years ago, a fellow strongman competitor named Vince Eagan told me that tese are an excellent excercise for the log press. I dismissed it since my log press was already better than his anyhow, but maybe there is something to them.

  10. Just stumbled across this, and couldn't resist. On his 80th birthday Karl was photographed for the newspaper with me standing in the palm of his hand, arm stretched out. I was nine at the time, so I didn't weigh that much, but the photo session took like ten minutes and he just kept holding his kid-loaded arm out! Impressive...
    //Bertil Norberg

  11. Lol you are fucking funny in that video. Ripping your cargo shorts and listening to that nasty head banger music in your ear buds, and dropping metal weights on the floor making a bunch of racket.

  12. Heard a couple of stories about Norberg from Jim Schmitz, in whose gym Karl trained.

    When Norberg was an old man (70's I think) at a casino somewhere, some young guy tried to pick his pocket, only to find his forearm caught by one hand. Norberg proceeded to shake the guy about, shouting that he "shouldn't steal from old people," and in the process, broke the guy's forearm.

    Jim also told about one time when Schwarznegger came by the gym, being up in Northern California for some exhibition or other. Since it was known that he'd be coming in for a workout, a bunch of people turned out, including Norberg, wearing a suit. Arnold arrived, started shaking a few hands, then stopped and asked, "Is that Karl Norberg?" Upon confirmation, he rushed over, shook Karl's hand, and explained that he was a big fan of Karl's, going on to invite Norberg to the exhibition. Apparently, at the exhibition, he asked Norberg up on stage, introduced him to the crowd, and began rattling off a list of feats Norberg had done - from memory no less.