by John McKean
Before we started dating, my future wife, Marilyn, told me I couldn’t touch her with a 10′ pole. So I got an 11′ pole – it musta worked as we’ll be married for 45 years this September!
Seriously, the long pole has figured its way into my training regimen ever since I studied and practiced Chinese long pole FORMS over 20 years ago in Wing Chun Kung Fu. In addition to use as a self defense tactic, this leverage form of resistance has been terrific for both cardio training, when done for a sufficient length of time, and is fantastic for a warmup to an all-round lifting program. A long pole’s smooth flow and circular motions, when done in precise martial arts patterns, really activates and awakens every muscle of the body.
However, while playing around with training tools this past winter, it occurred to me that the long pole, with one of Al’s homemade “Dumbbell Walk Handles” slid down and positioned on one end would yield a lot more resistance from the pole’s other far side. This would yield a heavier, rep oriented, leverage-weighted exercise, that maybe wouldn’t require a half hour of work, for use as a pre workout warmup. I recalled how my old friend, the late Dr. Len Schwartz, in his original “Heavyhands” text had advocated a digging type movement with the small dumbbells that he employed for aerobic training. Dr. Len was very high on all the benefits of his shoveling motion, but couldn’t convince many to attempt it, as this particular exercise seemed awkward to maneuver with 2 dumbbells. Later, however, as Schwartz formulated awesome “Longstrength” programs – which were much shorter duration than standard aerobic sessions, with slightly heavier fitness movements – shoveling fit right in. He even devised a screw-in 6″ dumbbell connector which welded two dumbbells into one solid unit.
Now my LONG lever “shovel” makes this exercise quite a bit more hardy than did Dr. Schwartz’ tool. With added barbell plates and collars it can be loaded heavy enough, if desired, to produce an actual one rep maximum lift ! Yet I still keep it unloaded as pictured here to go through wide arc front circles, back circles, and realistic over the head shoveling. Hitting both left and right sides, I find that about 35 reps for these 6 maneuvers instills a robust feeling that just begs the ole bod to attack some serious heavy barbell work!
Of course, there is plenty of room for much further exploration, and many other digging style exercises to be discovered. From my initial experimentation I can assure that besides a superb warmup, my forearms, biceps, and obliques are becoming seriously toned from this fun activity! Even Marilyn must see the positive benefits – I’m now allowed a mere 7′ pole around her and for workouts!