Happy summer! Got something special to kick off the blog's return to activity--an interview with '19kamau79', Timo Lauttamus.
Unless you follow grip sports very closely you probably haven't heard of him, but you may have seen at least one of his videos on youtube. Timo has a ridiculous level of pound for pound strength and all-around athleticism. He can do strict one arm chin-ups not only with added weight but using some extremely challenging grips; heavy deadlifts with one arm, or on a thick bar, or with only one finger on each hand; and heavy pinch lifting. He isn't limited to pulling and gripping power, though--he can also do full splits and heavy 'van damme lifts', weighted pistols, and strict one-arm one-leg pushups with ease. Very impressive for a guy who's over 6 feet tall and weighs north of 200 pounds.
Curious about his training history and thoughts on strength, I asked to interview him and Timo graciously accepted. (Note: this was done in several segments over the course of a few weeks. I've edited it to more of a Q&A style but it reads a bit funny as it wasn't actually done one question at a time.)
AD: Should I just call you 'Kamau' or would you prefer something else?
TL: My real name is Timo Lauttamus, Kamau is just my tribal name from Kenya, I`m married with Kikuyu tribe lady.
AD: According to the internet, Kamau means 'quiet warrior'--that is super badass, my friend. Is the translation correct?
TL: My wife couldn`t translate name of Kamau, perhaps history of that name is very long.
AD: starting the training questions, how old are you, how tall and how heavy? And when did you start training (how long ago) and how did you get started? When did you start specializing with more grip work and heavy chins?
TL: Okay, Borned Jan 1979, so I`m 35yo and 6´1" tall and mostly 200-220lbs.
I was active child, I had couple of active friends at my childhood as well. We used to climb in trees and always small contest as how fast or how high.
One of my friend had older cousin as natural bodybuilder, he just came to visit parents of my friend and brought some old home made barbells, discs and dumbbells to us. I was only 10yo at the moment and was impressed to see that man with good frame 220lbs body. That was my first touch to weight training, but children have many things to do, I was training only year and stopped, same thing happened when I was 14yo (trained weights one year again and stopped) I tried Tae Kwon Do when I was 16yo, then after year and half decided to include some strength training, after two weeks I stopped TaeKwonDo and I`m still on my way. First I was training as natural bodybuilder up to age of 23 years, after that I wanted to focus to heavy chins, but lost my job and became extreme manual worker for years, I only had chance to keep my strength level, 2007 became rapidly shifted factory worker for years again, during those years (2009) started grip training, and finally 2011 I had chance to get my current job, and start focusing to heavy chins and one arm chin ups.
AD: you stopped tae kwon do after two weeks... did you continue flexibility training after that? How did you train for those full splits?
TL: I meant after one and half years of Tae Kwon Do, I included strength training which made me to stop TaeKwonDo in following two weeks. I will continue my flexibility training till the end, stiff lower body is disturbing also strength training, A LOT. I've been training full splits with static 30-60 seconds holds, not much dynamic work after leaving Tae Kwon Do.
AD: What sort of manual labor work, and would you say it helped develop your strength (especially grip strength?)
TL: Manual labor work as packing heavy logs with my bare hands, biggest ones used to be 450lbs each (nearly 40feet tall), moving them one head of time with great technique, but strength was very much involved. Log packing is all kind of lifts during the day with massive workload. What I realized after starting grip training, it was fact my recovering process is much faster than most of us. So, manual labor work gives great foundation for grip training, but nothing can beat natural talent.
AD: Do you think that all the time spent log packing helped with your natural recovery abilities and work capacity even more?
TL: Definitely yes, log packing has been changing my natural recovering.
AD: As a natural bodybuilder, did you compete, and what sort of numbers were you putting up in the gym at the time?
TL: I didn`t compete in Natural Bodybuilding, we didn`t have that class those days, at present time in Finland is that class, called Classic Bodybuilding. Gym numbers as 1x340lbs bench, 1x495lbs deadlift, ATG squat 3x375lbs, ATG front squat 1x350lbs and weighted chins 7 reps +110lbs @ 220lbs.
AD: Did you follow a 'bodypart' bodybuilding split when doing that gym training, and what sort of workouts (high volume, high intensity)?
TL: My training split used to look like:
Mon: Upper body pressing muscle groups (high intensity)
Tue: Upper body pulling muscle groups (high volume)
Wed: Lower body (high intensity)
Fri: Upper body pressing muscle groups (high volume)
Sat:Upper body pulling muscle groups (high intensity)
Various reps as 1-18 and rapidly changing variations during all those years, I believed to get stronger = to get bigger.
AD: What are your best lifts now and how did they compare to when you were doing just normal gym training? How do you feel now compared to then (stronger/weaker in or out of the gym, more or less athletic)?
TL:Focusing is the key, I can`t bench 340lbs at the moment, but I couldn`t do my recent lifts at my past.
Here is the best ones of 2013:
Weighted chin up +206lbs
OAC with middle finger @ 204lbs, using standard size 28mm bar
OAC +23lbs using hooked towel grip
One arm straddle style deadlift 440lbs
....Slightly lower bodyweight makes me more athletic.
AD: you've emphasized the genetics/natural talent angle. What are some examples of things you've seen untrained people do?
TL: There is this cool, native, Estonian giant:
I have met him couple of times, he doesn`t train, he`s just coming to show off for trained persons how to do it. He`s 200cm / 6`7" and 110-120kg / 245-265lbs, having quite impressive general strength with long levers and without training, but grip is brutal, video is only example for bigger audience, with specific grip lifts he can do shit MUCH harder than this. He shocked me at our first meeting:
165lbs farmer weight (1 inch attached handle) timehold with one middle finger 50 seconds without chalk
165lbs farmer weight, hopped with one PINKY!! after hearing benefits of chalk (most impressive grip lift I've ever seen)
Two 165lbs farmer weights with one hand = 330lbs double handle farmer, held it for 1min. 17sec.
That`s natural talent.
One young man shocked me at gym:
2 inches vertical bar lift 210lbs at BW of 148lbs and at age of 14!!! That`s natural talent.
I know only two men in our village who will beat that, and one of them is myself. I bet out there is endless amount of stories about natural talent, but this is two which I always remember.
So, this is example about genetic advantages, even lifts on the video are extremely hard to reach without any gifts, even impossible for some of us.
AD: Those are indeed some crazy lifts, yours as well as those others. I don't believe I've heard of someone as heavy as you doing a one-finger OAC on a bar rather than a loop or strap.
You must live among superhumans... if you have read the article series 'finnish deadlift secrets' it talks a lot about genetics and natural 'base' strength, you and your fellows definitely prove that!
TL: Actually you picked my hardest feat as example (OAC on the bar with middle finger), loop, ring or comfortable strap makes it much easier, most of heavy dudes are not going for these, personally i never thought it`s impossible for +200lbs, and i believe out there is guys much more gifted than myself, question is where is the limits of human kind?
Yes, we have lot of gifted deadlifters in Finland, Veli Kumpuniemi was the one of kind, Finnish logger became everlasting IPF 82,5kg class WR holder with massive 357,5kg deadlift (weight classes has changed), LOT of gifts involved.
AD: Yeah I've read about Veli. Very strong lifter. I like Ano Turtiainen too and there is a very cool video of Ismo Lappi on youtube as well.
Turtiainen hacklifting 360kg for a triple
Ismo lappi pulling 340kg @ 75kg (single ply?)
Now getting into the questions about your current training: Do you have a regular routine or do you just go by feel?
TL: At the moment I go by feel at gym, running and hiking are a bit more planned.
AD: how often do you do heavy chinups and do you have a specific routine for those?
TL: Just three times in a week (basic training) at the moment, but used frequency training method at last winter, 4-5 times in a week with rising amount for the three weeks, after that one lighter week and strength test at end of the week, that method is not for the beginners!!
AD: any elbow or shoulder prehab work, to stay healthy and uninjured?TL: My prehab work is only daily shoulder stretches, that`s all.
[Note: that's insane. It takes a lot of prehab work for me to keep my shoulders and elbows healthy and strong while doing regular, heavy pullup or OAC work, and I am only ~63kg...]
AD: I saw some pistols and medium weight front squat videos, is leg training more of an afterthought now for you and why is that; just personal interest or is there another reason?
TL: Focusing for heavy chin ups and OACs includes only lighter lower body work, if I will take deadlift goal I will drop amount of chin ups and focus more for lower body, focusing for all doesn`t give time enough for recovery.
AD: Your own deadlift goals are all grip-focused now, correct?
TL: My own deadlifts goals are basically finger deadlifts (one finger per each hand) and one arm deadlifts.
AD: what exactly do your hiking goals entail and how are you training for them?
TL: My first hiking goal is Kilimanjaro, after that I`m planning to go for couple of East African peaks (lower but more technical). At the moment I do only hiking itself, fast walking, jogging and interval running on the track, Kilimanjaro is not technical. Next goals requires also climbing skills, been starting already bouldering which is easiest and safest way to learn climbing techniques.
AD: And now for the grip questions... There is very little carryover between different grip events (pinch, finger lift, hook, crush, etc.) but from each category, which one has the most carryover to the others of the same category? So for example, in your experience is the blob or the plate better for general pinching strength, and finger pullups or finger DL better for finger lifting.
TL: I don`t see much carry over between grip events, there is good pinchers without good support grip, and other ways as well, still I would think massive pinch grip (comparing support grip) gives more carry over to the other events. General pinch strength should be trained with various grip widths from narrow to thick blobs, there is not one particular width more general than the others. I would say finger pull ups are purely strength involved, finger deadlifts are slightly more technical but still great training method for stronger fingers.
AD: How would you advise someone just beginning grip training for the first time, to get started?TL: Beginner without tools could try two hand plate pinch holds, one arm overhand grip deadlift sets, bar hangs starting with both hands, then with four, three, two and one finger per each hand. Axle deadlift with overhand grip is great (if possible), vertical bar lifts or rope climbing is great (if possible). Amount of holds and reps are more important than maximal effort at every week, biggest mistake in grip training is maxing out weekly, strength test is not progression, progressive training is progression. Grip should be trained 3-7 times in a week (individual differences).
AD: When you yourself are specializing on general grip feats, how is your training laid out?
TL: Specializing one event means focusing for that, example when I had pinch lift goals, I was pinching 4-5 times in a week and training support grip and finger lifts only once in a week. At the moment support grip (as hook) and finger deadlifts are on the work list, I train them often as possible (skin issues involved) and pinching only once in a week. Bouldering is very general grip training as well, doing that often as possible at the moment, basically too many things to do for middle aged man with daily slowing recovery!
AD: Anything else you would like to add? Stories, advice, clearing up misconceptions...?
TL: Stories about hardest grip feat I`ve ever heard, it`s coming out from climbing circle, few climbers (at 150lbs) has done one arm pull up with fingertip of the middle finger using less than one inch ledge, THE FEAT is totally insane!!
How long it takes to develop that kind of finger strength??
Answer is way more than lifetime for billions of us, same as to become under 10 seconds runner of 100m, basically never.
Only very gifted athletes are doing hardest feats in the world, that`s simple fact.
When it comes to advice, all of us (gifted or not) are able do good and solid progress for sure. It`s important to set your own goals and keep training for them with knowing it`s more than possible you will never be one of bests, but you can do YOUR best.
....Wise words from Timo Lauttamus. Thanks for taking the time to do the interview, Timo! Readers, be sure to subscribe to his youtube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/user/19Kamau79
And stay tuned for some more great blog articles this summer.