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Friday, March 22, 2013

Nat Arem, the guy behind Hookgrip

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About a year ago, you may have noticed a page pop up on Facebook posting photos of lifters.  You might have also noticed that something was different.... This site called Hookgrip was posting weightlifting photos not seen elsewhere on the internet-- of big stars like Klokov and Ilin... Then, photos of non-international meets started popping-up.

In effect, Hookgrip is fast becoming an excellent resource for competition photos and even sequences of high level athletes.  Being a weightlifter, it's natural to wonder who's behind Hookgrip and why?

Nat Arem:
Hookgrip was started by Nat Arem. Nat describes himself as someone who loves weightlifting but is more interested in being strong than a great weightlifter. In 2010, Nat found weightlifting through a Crossfit in the Cayman Islands. He mentioned he heard weightlifting was good for him, so he wanted to try it. Later, he would move to Las Vegas and train with John Broz.

Nat, now, lives in Philadelphia where he trains at a CrossFit; again, more focused on improving his Crossfit total- squat, deadlift, standing press- than being a weightlifter.  Nat is an entrepreneur who  develops websites with affiliate marketing ( Note, Hookgrip is not his primary source of income).  Along those lines, he strikes me as a very analytical, sensing, person; certainly, someone who would be excellent with coding.

Here's some Q&A with Nat:

Gwen: Why take weightlifting photos and post them on HookGrip?
Nat: I do it because I like it. If people like it, then great. I do not care if other people like Hookgrip.

Gwen: Really, you don't care if people don't like Hookgrip?
Nat: I do it because I like it.  I care if people don't like the photos, then I would want to know why.  Otherwise, I don't care if people like Hookgrip.

Nat Arem with US lifter Donny Shankle
Gwen: That shows you have a lot of self confidence, and I admire that.  How did you decide to create a site like Hookgrip?
Nat: ... Think of something that you're passionate about and what's missing in that field and go do that.

Gwen: Why do you love weightlifting?
Nat: That's a good question. ... Because there is not that much luck involved. People can brag about being a good basketball player, but its hard to tell if they really are good or bad. It's subjective. In weightlifting, it's pretty easy to rank people. For example, a bad lifter can't snatch more than 75% of their bodyweight.

Gwen: Wow, that's a loaded answer. What do you think about superheavyweights. The person that comes to mind is Holley Mangold and the controversy that surrounded her? (at the 2012 Olympic Trials, Mangold snatched 68% of her bodyweight and made the US Olympic Team.)

Nat: A 56kg guy doing 3 times his bodyweight is impressive. But, you can't dismiss a 94kg lifter for not doing triple bodyweight. The amount of weight a 94kg lifter lifts is impressive.

We then side bar on the epic battle of Chisigev versus Steiner at the 2008 Olympics, where Steiner, who weighed more than Chisigev, just edged out Chisigev for the Gold.  To paraphrase, Nat believes that super heavy weights are a different case. That Chisigev knew the rules of the game when he competed against Steiner, that he could increase his bodyweight.

Gwen: Well, what about our female supers and the controversial articles on Mangold?  Do you think there's an optimum bodyweight? Hripsime Khurshudyan, Tatiana Kashirina, Jang Mi Ran have all been very successful weighing between 87 and 110kgs. Even Lulu Zhou snatches 16 kg over bodyweight?  There are many studies that show too much bodyfat hurts explosiveness.

Nat: Yes, I think there is an optimum. I think that Mangold's weight actually hurts her performance because she can't hit the positions that she needs to hit.

It's fair to criticize USAW who put the Olympic qualification rules in place. It is not fair to criticize Holley Mangold who was playing by USAW's rules.
Side note, Nat has excellent recall of weightlifting stats, truly someone who pays attention to his subject matter in a rational, analytical way.

Gwen: What do you think of US weightlifting?
Nat: I assume that it would be naive for me to believe that other nations are not on drugs. I hold US, Canada, and the UK on a different level.

Other interesting facts about Nat and hookgrip:
- He decides which competitions to go to based on which lifters will be there and if he has photos of them already.
- Cost is also a driver. In 2012, it was cheaper by >50% to go to Guatemala for the joint Pan Ams and Junior World Championships than to Collegiates in Shreveport.
- He has around $20,000 worth of camera equipment and has a formulaic process down for making sequences (I find sequences take for ever to make...maybe he can make a macro...)
- His goal was not to sell weightlifting photos. Seemingly by accident, people ask him for posters and photos of their boyfriend's or themselves lifting
- He hopes to one day make Hookgrip into a "real website" that is a resource for weightlifting
- It appears that many of his likes on facebook are from CrossFitters

Overall, I admire that Nat is not afraid to be open and honest about his opinions on weightlifting. I admire that he follows a passion, whether the weightlifting world supports it or not.

Check out Hookgrip on facebook or online at: https://www.facebook.com/hookgripdotcom or www.hookgrip.com




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