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From The Desk Of Clarence Bass

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Power Hooks and Powerpins: Terrific Little Lifting Tools

(We have been told that Powerpins is no longer in business)

Because of a long-standing problem with my left shoulder, I have a hard time getting into position for any kind of dumbbell press, especially inclines. I have to keep the dumbbells lighter than Iíd like or have someone hand me the dumbbell on the left side. I usually train alone and rarely have anyone to spot me, so this has severely limited the effectiveness of my dumbbell training. Consequently, when I spotted an ad for Power Hooks in Powerlifting USA, I knew right away that they might be just what I need. I immediately picked up the phone and ordered a pair Ė and I have not been disappointed.

Power Hooks, The Dumbbell Helper

The design is beautifully simple. Power Hooks can be used on any bench which holds a barbell in pressing position. They are hook-on cradles that fit on the bar and hold the dumbbells in pressing position (see photo). They work on any rack which allows you to raise the bar about eight inches above normal height. You can also use an adjustable squat rack and position your bench (incline or flat) under the dumbbells.

 This photo, taken by Carol in our gym, shows a pair of dumbbells in position for the incline press. It appears that the dumbbells are suspended in mid-air, but look closely and youíll see the Power Hooks doing their job.

Made with special steel alloy that adjusts to hold its tension, Power Hooks are designed to fit like they are welded onto your dumbbell bars. You pound the spring clamp on and it adjusts to keep a tight fit. It is recommended that you press the dumbbells with the hooks in place. That means, of course, if you have fixed-weight dumbbells youíll need a hook for each dumbbell.

The manufacturers admit that itís hard to put them on. I had to pound like hell to get the Power Hooks on my dumbbell handles, which are probably a little larger in circumference than most. When I eventually got them on, they would not stay in place. (I probably should have ordered extra-large Power Hooks, which are also available.)

The installation instructions say for safety reasons you donít want the hooks to come off when you lift. But mine come off when I raise the dumbbells to start pressing. I prefer it that way, because I only need one pair of Power Hooks. I just hang the hooks on the bar, and put on any size dumbbell I need. I have to put the dumbbells down, and then put them back on the hooks for each set. This suits me fine, because I almost never do a second set with the same weight anyway.

Power Hooks are designed to stay in place on the dumbbells when you lift. As you can see in this photo, my Power Hooks come off; they remain hanging on the Olympic bar when I press. As explained, I like it that way.

I only use Power Hooks for inclines, but they will also work for regular dumbbell bench presses and shoulder presses (and probably other exercises as well). They have been a real boon to my training, allowing me to comfortably use heavier dumbbells, without spotters Ė for safety reasons, the manufacturers recommend spotters Ė and without hurting my bad shoulder.

If Power Hooks sound like something you can use, the exclusive distributor is Country Power & Health in Waianae, Hawaii. When I bought mine, the price was $39.95 plus $5.75 shipping & handling. To order by credit card or get more information, call toll-free 1-808-696-1979. (In case you are wondering, I have no financial interest in this product or in Powerpins.)

Power Hooks Update: Leo at Country Power & Health, the inventor of Power Hooks, saw our article and wrote to thank us for what we said about his product. He noted the comment that I probably should have ordered the extra large size -- and sent me a free set of XL Power Hooks, "so you can get the full advantage of this product."

Thanks Leo. I love your product and hope you sell a bunch.

Power Hooks Second Update: Power Hooks just got better! Country Power Inc. has introduced the "New Gym-Approved Power Hooks." They sell for $49.95 plus $5.75 S & H.

The new version fits all dumbbell handles, big and small, and can be installed and removed in seconds. Thereís no more pounding the hooks in place. The new hooks comes with a thin bar connecting the hooks at the bottom and a leather strip, which wraps around the bar and the dumbbell handle, holding the hooks in place (see photo). You simply place the dumbbell on the hooks, wrap the leather strip around tightly, grip the handle and lift. The new hooks can easily be switched from one dumbbell to another.


 This photo shows the leather strip hanging down, and then wrapped around the dumbbell handle.

Thereís also another option, which I like. Wear gloves, and the new hooks can be used without the leather strips. The gloves hold the hooks in place, without causing discomfort. They also make it easier to change the dumbbells.

With the original Power Hooks, contrary to instructions from the manufacturer, I have been lifting the dumbbells out of the cradles (see photo in the original article above). This works OK most of the time, but occasionally one or both hooks refuse to come off and get in the way; the dangling hooks can also gouge your hands.

As the manufacturer suggested all along, the new version allows me to comfortably and easily lift with the Power Hooks in place (see photo). This takes a little practice, because you have to position the hooks so they donít hit the support bar as you lift. If youíre not careful the hooks slant back toward the bar and get in the way. Gripping the dumbbells firmly and lifting off with the hooks slanted slightly forward solves that problem. When you finish the set, simply let the dumbbells ride backward and lower the hooks over the support bar. It works fine once you get the hang of it. The manufacturer suggestions practicing with light dumbbells until you develop the proper technique. Thatís a good idea.

                        

Look closely and you can see the Power Hooks in place on the dumbbells. The photo on the right shows me using gloves, which makes the leather strips unnecessary. Wearing gloves is convenient and feels good; I believe I like this method best.

My thanks to Leo for sending along a complimentary set of the new hooks. They are a vast improvement over the older model and well worth the additional $10. Congratulations to Country Power on the upgrade.

To order, call Country Power Inc. at (808) 696Ė1979.

Powerpins Automate Drop Sets
 

(We have been told that Powerpins is no longer in business)

I have less experience with Powerpins, but Iíve used them enough to know that they perform their function quite well. Powerpins make it easier to do drop or descending sets on selectorized weight machines; they automate the technique, allowing you to lower the weight with almost no delay. Allen Whipps, the inventor and owner of Powerpins, Inc. in Jenison, Michigan, asked me to try his product. I did, and I like it.

As explained in my first book Ripped  (see our products page), the purpose of descending sets is to exhaust the muscle beyond normal set failure. The technique is similar to forced reps, were you have a training partner help you do several more reps then you could on your own. You "force" a few more reps with the help of a partner. The effect is to lighten the weight just enough to allow you to continue. With the descending set, you achieve much the same effect by using a succession of lighter weights. Itís like doing one long set, adjusting the load as your muscles fatigue.

For example, start with a weight that allows you to do about four or five reps, and then drop down to a lighter weight and continue until you canít do any more reps, and then reduce the weight again and so on. When I use this method, I generally do three or four drop sets for a total of about 15 total reps. I donít do more reps, because I want muscular exhaustion, not general fatigue, to be the limiting factor. Someone whose main goal is muscular endurance may prefer to do more drops and more total reps.

The descending set is a good way to increase intensity, because dropping the weight allows you to keep the muscle almost fully loaded the entire time. Unlike normal sets were the hard reps come only at the end, the descending set makes every rep near maximum. Itís an effective technique, if you donít overdue a good thing and end up overtrained.

Powerpins make the weight drops effortless and almost instantaneous, without any help from a training partner. The literature that comes with the product says Powerpins turns your weight stack into "any intelligent robot, [a] training partner completely under your control." Hereís how it works.

If your starting weight is 100 pounds, with drops to 80, 60 and 50, insert Powerpins at 100, 80 and 60, and the regular weight-machine pin at 50. Start lifting and when you canít do another rep with 100, set the weight down and first pin will pop out Ė I donít understand exactly how it works, but it does. When youíve repped-out with 80, set the weight down again to make the next pin pop out and so on until you complete the final set with 50 pounds. It works like a charm.

 Hereís what a Powerpin looks like. It's precision designed and manufactured.

 This photo shows four Powerpins inserted in a weight stack, along with the regular pin on top. (Both photos courtesy of Powerpins)

The only problem Iíve had is with weight stacks which have extra large pin holes; the Powerpins pop out when they arenít supposed to and generally get all screwed up in the weight stack. On machines with small, well-defined holes, however, they work exactly as advertised. They really do make descending sets easier and more effective.

I asked Allen Whipps if he had any suggestions for weight stacks with big holes (usually older machines). He says thatís a problem he discovered after manufacturing, and he doesnít have a solution yet. He tells me that Icarus brand machines have large pin holes which cause Powerpins to malfunction Ė and some other brands may as well. Heís thinking about the problem, but doesnít have a fix at this time.

For a full-motion demonstration of the product in action, visit their Website at www.powerpins.com. DO NOT ORDER, however, without making direct contact with Mr. Whipps--because we have been told that he is no longer in business.

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