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The Great Isochain Health Lift

The Great ISOCHAIN Health Lift - By John McKean

Rob McKean resumes his Hand and Thigh training, years after setting a world record on the lift with 800 pounds when he was just 12 years old! That record still stands, but Rob feels his best effort on this "Health Lift" will come in the near future, thanks to Isochain workouts! Notice the total body tension offered by this movement.

"Weakest and smallest kid on campus," laughed the burly Harvard upper classman, in describing the spindly individual scurrying past. The remark certainly stung and embarrassed the tiny young man, who was eventually to become Dr. George Barker Windship, famous Boston physician, exceedingly popular lecturer, AND world's strongest man! Never heard of him? Well, could be because the heyday of Doc Windship's strongman career was during the 1850s!

Deciding immediately to research and discover whatever was available to develop his frail body, young George began mild gymnastic exercises and other forms of physical activity available at the Harvard gym. He found some success for achieving limited muscular gains, yet his medical studies and serious reading on anatomy led him to the pursuit of HEAVY lifting for total body strength.

Specifically, Dr. Windship soon stumbled upon some type of carnival contraption that measured one's pulling force, so he ran home and built a similar device out of heavy rope, a high stand, a wooden bar, and a big barrel full of rocks. Today, in All-Round lifting meets we call this a "Hand and Thigh" lift (tho rocks & ropes have been updated to steel chains, sturdy bars, and 100 # barbell plates).

Dr. Windship always remained light-framed and never reached a bodyweight of over 147 pounds—yet did a Hand and Thigh lift with 1,207 pounds! Despite many challenges and plenty of demonstrations during his physical culture lectures, no one in the world ,then, could remotely match his pulling prowess.

Eventually, from the doctor's hearty recommendation many others began doing this extremely heavy lift, all eventually referring to it as the "Health Lift." The powerful MD even built a large gym next door to his medical office, advising patients that they'd be much better off doing the Health Lift several times per week than visiting him in his treatment room! His "prescription" was merely to do about 4 progressively built-up singles each workout.

The brevity and exuberant feel of hefting big poundages became so popular that many other Health Lift gyms sprung up throughout the Northeast. Only the cumbersome, archaic equipment, which prohibited home use, caused this system to go out of fashion.

Too bad that Dr. Windship didn't have an Isochain! Perhaps due to the Isochain's very recent introduction, many do not yet realize that the Hand and Thigh is the ideal HEAVY lift to do with the unit. In fact, without need for tons of weight plates nor time-consuming set-ups and positioning, any trainee can perform Isochain Hand and Thighs in his living room (as we do in the McKean household).

OK, so how exactly is the Isochain Hand and Thigh performed? Understand that this maneuver has always been intended as a high-starting, short-range deadlift. So one simply positions the bar at midthigh, squats down a very brief way, secures the carabiner at the appropriate link, and grabs on with an overhand grip.

Some will immediately question, why not a standard deadlifting crossgrip? Actually, the most powerful grip for a Hand and Thigh allows the fingers to be trapped—locked, in fact—between the bar and one's thighs. Then the Isochain lifter merely tries to lean back & stand up for 6 seconds of pure isometric "joy"!

It might be noted that the unit's heavy duty spring softens the pull for an "alive" feeling, unlike the barbell version where serious, "digging in" impact causes nasty thigh bruises. (Been there, done that; ouch!)

Recently Dragon Door's John Du Cane and I were discussing the bone density-building factor of possible heavy lifts with the Isochain. The Hand & Thigh gives the "best bang for the buck" allowing the utmost weight possible for an Isochain leg lift.

Modern USAWA record holders ( though using a barbell which—due to momentum, stretch reflex, etc.—permits higher poundages than more convenient digital read-outs on the Isochain), are often specialists in this lift and are all thickly developed; big boned guys like the late Howard Prechtel (1050 pounds at 65 years of age), chain lifting afficionado Steve Schmidt (1400 pounds at 100K bodyweight), massive Eric Todd (1510 at 115K), and the then-young Jeff Ciavattone (1210 pounds at 16 years of age &95K bwt).

Many prospective Isochain trainees are bound to soon fall in love with the truly total body isometric that a Hand and Thigh offers. I've a feeling that once the newly forming Isochain crowd discovers this modern day "health lift" that we're going to enter a whole new world of thigh-driven super athletes!

John McKean has won multiple local, state, national powerlifting titles, Masters Olympic national titles, and national and world all-round titles during the past 50 years. He has written extensively for all major strength magazines starting with Strength & Health under John Grimek and was featured in Dr. Len Schwartz's famous book Heavyhands Walking. A certified instructor in flex band training and American Combatives, Mr. McKean offers his consulting services at memck487@aol.com
 

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