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The Road To The #3


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I was hungry (ok more than hungry) to close a #3 and become a COC back before I certified in 2001. Through the internet I was able to become friends with Steve Weiner. He was very hungry (to say the least) to do the same. I also was able to contact Wade Gillingham and Jim Ferry who had certified the year before I did. In fact, I ended up writing an article for MILO shortly after probing all of these guys for how they trained. The KTA program was also influenced (and RRBT!) by these early conversations as well. They were all done via email.

I have gotten permission to share those old emails here in this thread in the history sub-forum. Thanks to the guys for allowing this to be shared.

I will start with the first post tonight. :)

Wade, Jim, and Steve all certified in 2000.

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Bearcat 74

Awesome, should be good reading.

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Email Steve Weiner to Bill Piche, July 1, 1999


Sorry it has taken me so long to respond. At least I know there is somebody
as fanatical about closing the #3 gripper as I am. To answer your question
about how Joe Kinney came up with the 75 pound figure is this: he told me
that a friend of his who was able to close the #2 at first sight used his
secret weapon machine, and was able to close the #3 when he was able to hold
75 lbs. absolutely pinned shut on his secret weapon. For some reason his
picture has not appeared in MILO yet, but he tells me it's true, and I'll
take his word for it, since he struck me as a real honest guy when we spoke.
From the machine he sold me, I would consider this a pretty accurate measure
of where you need to be. Your machine may be scaled a bit differently than
the one that I bought from him, because you are almost at that poundage
level. You aren't wrapping your thumb under the movement bar when doing
negatives, are you? You're probably not, but in case you are, you will be
defeating the purpose of the exercise. As for how much poundage Joe used,
he told me that when he started using the secret weapon, he was able to
close the #3 already, and started at 100 pounds. When he worked up to the
#4, he told me he was using in the area of 200 something pounds, but was not
able to pin the handles shut. He told me that the weight would drag his
fingers down pretty fast, but he felt that he got something out of it. He
did emphasize, however, that I should concentrate on the last few fractions
of an inch of the movement if I want to develop the strength to close the
#3, beacause it's the last 1/2" of the movement that stops most people.
Just for the hell of it, I have tried to close #4 as far as possible, and
closed it 1.5" out of the 3" range of motion. Of course I was not able to
cheat it shut either! For this reason alone, I do not do negatives with it,
as I am concentrating solely on the last bit of the range of motion, and
beyond. Joe could not emphasize the point of going beyond the range enough
during our conversation. Have you tried closing the #2 with 3 fingers, or
the #1 with 2 fingers? If you haven't, try it, and let me know how you did.
I've been successful myself at these "stunts"( done after a regular grip
workout to avoid injury), and you should be able to do it too, since it
sounds like your strength level is similar to mine. Have you tried doing
any negatives with the #3, and if you have, have you had any success holding
the handles totally shut? I have not had any success with any of my
attempts to do this, and it is pretty frustrating, since it is relatively
easy to cheat the #3 shut, but really hard to hold shut that last eighth of
an inch. The rolling thunder is something else, isn't it? I have had RT
for about six months, but started regular work on it only 3 weeks ago. I
have successfully lifted 170 lbs. so far with either hand (weight of loading
pin not included), and want 200 in a bad way by the end of the year. A
little over a pound increase per week will get me to my goal!! I read in
the recent MILO that the world record lift with the RT is 265 lbs.!! Pretty
damn incredible if you ask me. Anyway, drop me a line when you get a


Email from Bill Piche to Steve Weiner, July 8, 1999


How's it going? How's the grip workouts going?

I have skipped one grip workout this week to see what the effect will
be on Sat. I have a feeling it will be positive.

I still can't get over how sore I still get even when I was doing twice
per week and just started again on the SW.


Steve's Response:


It's going okay. Training has been good, too. I spoke to Joe Kinney last
Friday for about a half hour. He got me all psyched up. He told me to
concentrate on adding weight, so you force your body to trigger a "grow
stronger or die" response. Once you start using the secret weapon on a
regular basis, the soreness should subside as your hands get used to it.
Last Friday I worked out at Iron Island. Have you ever heard of it? Well,
after my workout, I went to play with some of the "toys" they keep in the
lot out back. One of them is a 306 pound anchor chain which consists if six
51 lb. links. This is hooked up to a harness, and the object is to drag it
until you drop. Dragging this monster over a dirt and pabble surface is
sheer murder. Do you subscibe to MILO? If you do, Dr. Ken Leistner wrote
an article in the March, 1999 edition about this device, along with a
picture. After the chain drag, it was off to flip the 500 lb. tractor tire.
What made this tire so tough to fli[ was the fact that it has no treads, so
you have to dig your fingers under the bottom of the tire to start the lift.
Two sets of 5-6 flips did me in. I then went home, tired fingers and all,
and lashed into a workout on the secret weapon. Needless to say, I was
quite sore from this workout, but am more determined than ever to mash that
Look forward to hearing from you soon.


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Email from Steve Weiner to Bill Piche, July 10, 1999

Hope your workout goes well today. I had a good one last night, and I am
paying for it today!! Ah... sweet soreness!! Only a fellow 20 year veteran
would appreciate post workout soreness. I, too have been lifting for a
similar length of time, but I'm even "greener" than you when it comes to
grip training, as I've only been doing this type of stuff for a year. I
attribute alot of my grip strength to the fact that over my 20 years of
training I very rarely used straps. The only exercise I used to use them on
were deadlifts. After I read Dinosaur Training, which I'm sure you've
probably read, I decided to try deadlifting without straps. Lo and behold,
my grip was more than sufficient enough to hold the weight. I've done a 540
deadlift with no grip problems at all, and have done an 855 deadlift
lockout(moved the bar about 4"), without any grip problems. I have also
done a 505 deadlift using a 2" thick bar with no problem. I'm sure you've
heard of Richard Sorin. If you haven't, he was the first guy to close the
#3. Anyway, there was a picture of him in an old issue of MILO that shows
him doing a deadlift lockout with 1301 lbs. This is NOT a misprint!! I'd
hate to shake hands with this guy! To answer your other questions, I am
from the New York area, am 6'2", and usually weigh in the neighborhood of
240. Do you live near any well known gyms? Look forward to hearing from
you. Pile on the weight!!! Go get that #3!!!! We will defeat it!!!


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Bearcat 74

The good old days. Is this ez-board days or even before that? There are probably very few ez-board guys left.

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John McCarter

There's good stuff in here! I will be looking forward to what's coming next.

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Thursday, July 22, 1999 3:25 PM

Hey Steve,

How are things going? I was on vacation for a week. Went home and
trained in my parents basement just like when I started. I had not
done plate pinch grips and ended up with a new PR of 72.5. I use 2 of
the fat lipped tens and add weight with a belt through the middle. I
had not done these since going back to the Secret Weapon. I was
shocked actually. I think part of the large gain was due to more
friction on the outside of the 10's.

The vacation set me back on consistent use of the SW, but I am getting
back in the saddle again this weekend.


August 7, 1999


Sorry I took so long to respond, as I have been working monstrous amounts of
time as of late. However, this has been a good thing, because it forced me
to consolidate my grip training time. This has been a good thing, because
it has allowed me more recovery time. Anyway, last night, I came within
3/16" of closing #3 with my right hand, and 7/16" with my left. I can get
these precise measurements, because I have pieces of wood of specific
thicknesses laying around my home gym to gauge my progress. My "winning"
training program is pretty brief, but has seemed to start me on the road to
progress again. The way that it felt when I almost shut that darned #3 was
great! I exploded into the movement, and it really felt like I was going to
get it. So close, but I WILL get it soon. My grip routine is now the
following, performed twice a week at the end of my workouts: #1-2warmup
sets of 5 reps, #2-2 warmup sets of 1 rep, #3 1 attempt, Secret Weapon-3-4
sets of holds. That is it!! Brief, but brutal. The warmup sets are
performed as explosively as possible, to get my hands ready for what's to
come. Well, it's nice weather here, and I'm off to the beach. Look forward
to hearing about your progress.

PS After I close the #3, my next goal is to pinch grip a pair of 45's.
Personal best so far is 2 35's with 10 lbs. additional via an adjustable
dumbell put through the holes of the 35's for a total of 80 lbs. Like you,
I have not worked these in awhilw, but will give them some attention once my
picture gets into MILO. I EXPECT to see yours there too!!

Sent: Monday, August 09, 1999 8:04 AM

All right! Way to go man!


I am still plugging away. I actually have not tried to close the #3
for about a month or so. The SW is actually allowing me to recover
better. I think the neg's with the #4 were overtraining me and not
building in the most important part. I am now doing the SW twice a
week as well.

I emailed Dr. Strossen about two finger humb pinches and what was "good".
He is going to ask some of his mutant gripmasters about it.

I've also got someone working on a prototype grip device that could be
invaluable. We shall see. I will let you know when and if that happens
since I get to be the tester. :)



You've got me really curious. What aspect of the grip will this new machine
work? Crushing strength, I assume, or pinch strength?


Sent: Tuesday, August 10, 1999 8:11 AM


What wou say if someone could come up with a way to easily do cheats on
the COC's? That is, get them to the final closed position (handles
touching) without busting a gut.

Including the #4...

Specificity DOES come into play with the grippers as you know. That's
why, unless you can fully close the grippers (in our case the 4) for
cheats, those as an exercise run short after a short while. Thanks to
your data as well as my experience, I got off of doing those as the
main focus. BUT, what if we could work that last 1/4 to 1/2 inch using
the #4 doing cheats and actually get it to the handle touch position
for each rep? You can't get better than using an actual gripper for

Work beyond the range with the SW AND also work the last 1/2-3/4 inch
from the handle touch position with a #4.

It's not an easy problem to solve. It may not even be possible..but we
won't know unless we try!

More SW tonight! Hey, where are you at now on the SW?


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Here's some pics of a Warren Tetting #2 I got from Bill for the museum that Bill says was instrumental in his Road to the #3!

Hope you enjoy these pics of a rare gripper!

BTW, I rated this gripper and it came out at 114 lbs.


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August 10, 1999

This sounds very interesting, as no energy would be wasted on closing these
little monsters. I am using 61.25 on the SW as of tonight. I did not do as
well tonight on the #3 with my right hand. I got it to 1/4" with the right,
but my left improved slightly to 3/8". I really do not consider the loss of
1/16" from one workout to another a loss of progress, as on Tuesdays, I do
deadlifts, and hit a new PR of 550. So, my grip is alittle bit sapped by
the time I get to my COC/SW workout. Coming within 1/4" or less on a
consistent basis is grest improvement over a few months ago. The #3 has an
almost spongy feel to it now. It is strange, but that is why I feel like
I'm breaking through the remaining barrier that lies ahead of me. I am very
confident that I will do better on Friday, as I do no exercises that will
tire the grip. I'll keep you posted. Let me know how your progress is
going once you get back into the swing of things.


Sent: Friday, August 20, 1999 1:25 PM


Did you read where there are now 25 COC's? Whoa! Last count from MILO
was 18. I wonder what gives?

I believe that was your post on OLD School?

I'm training tomorrow and really looking forward to it as usual.

On your SW, do both your middle fingers touch your palm? The reason I
asked is I purposely tried to err on the tighter side when shaving the
metal handle.



I read that too, and yes, it was I who posted that message. I spoke to
Randy Strossen one time about the recent growth of the COC list. He
believes that there is just more of an interest in this thing than there was
a couple of years ago. It made sense to me, as you and I will soon make
this list, and I never even heard of a COC gripper until 1998 when I first
read Dinosaur Training. To answer your final question, Just my middle
finger touches my palm, but not my ring finger, although it comes very
close. I have not progressed any more on the grippers for the last couple
of weeks, but I'm a persistent S.O.B., and I will improve. Typing is a bit
awkward, as I just finished my grip workout a few minutes ago. Have a good
workout tomorrow!


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Sent: Monday, August 30, 1999 9:33 PM


How is the training going!? I am still plugging along. Slow but sure.
The #4 actually felt spongy when I did my one attempt at a close and
then neg. At the top part of course. ;)

I am not picking up a #3 and trying it until I can mash it. I don't
want to get into the mind games and go 1/16 at a time. Get
discouraged, get pumped, get discouraged, etc. So, I decided to go
PAST it in a sense. I now try to do the #3, but with two fingers!
Yup. And with a cheat, it no longer kills my two fingers! I have only
been trying it for two workouts now...I'll let you know. I don't want
to get into the damn mind game thing and want to CRUSH the thing. No
question on the close. We shall see. :)

I am still focusing on the SW of course...


September 2, 1999:

I think not playing mind games for every 1/16" is probably a good idea, as sometimes the

mere misplacement of the gripper in your hand can rob you of a few fractions
of an inch of movement. I am still plugging away as you are, but I am
trying something a bit different. Since my grip workouts were always at the
end of my workout, which usually involves some sort of pulling movement, my
hands would not be as fresh as if I did my grip workout first, or on a
different day entirely. I now am seperating my grip workouts onto Monday
and Thursdays, and my regular lifting sessions will be on Tuesdays and
Fridays. I am actually trying this at the suggestion of Joe Kinney, as he
suggested this the last time we spoke. I'll see how this works for a couple
of months. Whatever it takes, I will find a way to succeed. I do like your
two finger idea. How close in can you hold the #3 handles on negatives with
your two fingers? These sound pretty brutal. You can't be doing too many
of these, can you? How far away can you get the #4? I have actually gotten
the handles less than 1.25" away with either hand. You are probably around
that area, too I would guess. Damn it, Bill, we had both better be in that
next MILO catalog!! Maybe we will be the first Captains of Crush of the
year 2000. I look forward to hearing about your progress.


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Sent: Sunday, September 05, 1999 8:42 PM

Hey Steve,

Did you see someone supposedly closed the #4? Dave Brown? Never heard
of him and he isn't listed for the #3. Or should it be Ken Brown?

I did the #3 again -- giving it a ride with two fingers at the very end
of my workout again. About 1.25 to 1.5 inches. Hurt more than last
time for some reason. Could have been position as it is somewhat
awkward with the fingers on the very end.

Overall it was a good workout for grip. For my squat and dead, it
sucked. I irritated my lower back last week. I have a trick lower
back from years of crappy form in the squat and deadlift (former
competitive powerlifer). I had to cruise through this workout as it
was bugging me and that means "back off" or get injured now.

On the SW, I am going to try and up the weight on the SW consistently
and see how high I can get without it breaking my fingers off. HAH!

Oh yeah. I emailed Dr. Strossen about the error in the catalog and what
Joe Kinney recommends. Did you catch that. It says Joe recommends the
next gripper up over what you can already close. That's wrong of
course. It's the next gripper up over what you are TRYING to
close..your goal. I haven't heard back from him yet.


Sent Sept 6, 1999:


I saw that, too. My first thought that it had to be Ken Brown, too, but
from the description of the guy, it sounds as he is much larger than Ken
Brown. Either Ken Brown has gotten bigger, or this is a different guy.
They said this guy is a Highland games athlete, as well. What's interesting
about this, is that I e-mailed Steve Pulcinella(I'm sure you have heard of
him), and asked him why he's not a certified C.O.C. He said that closing #3
doesn't mean too much to him, and that he knows several people on the
Highlands game circuit who can close #3, but aren't on the list. He also
said that he knows a guy who can close a #3 simultaneously with both hands.
I'm wondering if this is the guy. If I find out any more, I'll let you


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It's actually quite fun to read this, so thanks for sharing! :)

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Read through everything posted so far. Great read. Thanks for posting Bill.

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Jedd Johnson

Didn't read much, but I can't wait to. I have had a few conversations with Steve Weiner as well, plus I have made him submit to the Figure 4 Napalm Lock, so once I am done with my yard Sale, I will be diving into this.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Sept 6, 1999:

What board did you get this post from? I can't seem to find it on Old
School. For some reason if it is on Primordial, I'm out of luck, since my
computer can't handle the graphics.

-----Original Message-----
From: Bill Piche [mailto:hardtraining@yahoo.com]
Sent: Monday, September 06, 1999 2:14 PM
To: Weiner, Stacey
Subject: Two New COC's!

Almost like you predicted it from talking to Steve P!
TWO New Captains of Crush! These guys are a far cry from Joe Kinney in
size. More like MONSTERS!


Posted by Kit "Old Dude" Sonesen, Sacramento, CA, USA, Earth on Monday,
6 September 1999, at 1:52 p.m.

Yesterday at the World Heavy Athletics Championships at the Pleasanton
fairgrounds, two new Captains of Crush were identified by Dale Harder,
author of the Strength and Speed Ratings book which is something on the
order of a Guiness Book of World Records for athletics.

Dave Brown (6'4", 365lbs) and Jeff Bains (6'6", 290-300lbs) both closed
the IronMind #3 gripper in front of witnesses. Dale reports Dave closed
the #3 easily and Jeff did so but with a bit more effort. In both
cases, the handles were closed beyond any shadow of a
doubt...closed...end of story.

No reports on the IronMind #4 so the assumption is that neither man was
able to completely close it. Joe Kinney remains the only man on the
planet to have closed #4.

Sent: Sunday, September 26, 1999 9:53 AM


How's it going! How's the experiment going? Did you
try the higher rep stuff? And, how about the grip
training only?

I am still avoiding trying to close the #3 with my
right hand until I can LOCK 75 in the SW. :)

My thumb strength continues to improve the best which
is weird. I am doing the Titan Telegraph with 45 and
doing a hold with it. Done at the end of the workout.


It's going okay, thanks. I have only been doing the high volume stuff for
two weeks now, so it's too early to really tell how I am doing with it. The
one note of encouragement, though, is that my first attempt with # 3 in 3
weeks went to less than 1/4", for the first time in quite awhile. This felt
good, and I am once again optimistic, because for a couple of weeks my
progress started to slide backwards. One thing I have added to my grip
training starting this week is the use of block weights, like John
Brookfield mentions in his book. I started by getting a 50 pound York
dumbbell, and sawed the ends off. This was a good workout itself, as it
took about 45 minutes to complete the task. I did block tosses and cleans
with the blocks. My forearms feel fried! Brookfield gives these implements
very high praise in his book, as well as when I spoke with him. I am
confident that I have found a winning formula to help me break through my
plateau. By the way, 45 pounds is pretty impressive on TTK. Was this with
two hands, I assume? I saw your letter in MILO. After people see your name
on the COC list, they'll be able to say, "I know that name sounds familiar."
Have you tried block weights? If you haven't, you should. Not only are
they effective, they are fun. Anyway, to sum it up, the first week I did a
total of 35 reps per hand with # 2, in sets of 4-5. As soon as reps lose
their explosiveness, I stop. The second week, I did 50 reps in sets of 4-5.
I will continue to add 10-15 reps per week depending on feel. I have
corresponded with Kevin Fulton, and he detailed his COC training for me. He
was stuck at 1/2" away before starting the high volume stuff, so being less
than 1/4" myself at the start of this program really psyches me up. Kevin
seems like a really nice guy. The training on the COC is done once per
week, so there is plenty of recuperation time, which is key. I'll keep you
posted. Please let me know when you can hold the SW with 75 pounds, and let
me know how this correlates to # 3. Get psyched!! We are going to do it!!


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