Leonard Schwartz Takes A Dragan Radovic Challenge


In the video below you can see people participating in the “Dragan Challenge”.  Dragan Radovic is well known for a particular strength endurance feat … the alternating one arm curl and press which he calls the “vertical lift”. He’s famous for challenging not only individuals but whole teams to do more of these lifts than he can. To date, he has never been beaten even by 10 people!

So how will a 70 year old man hold up to the challenge?

As he describes in his book (left), he came to two conclusions over time. First was the importance of the free squat as a lower body exercise. He may do 1000 or more per day as a foundation for any other exercise. Much later he came to a conclusion very similar to Dr. Leonard Schwartz. “Why can’t the arms be used to drive endurance exercise like the legs?” The title “Fitness 4×4” comes from his desire to harness both arms and legs for total fitness like a four wheel drive vehicle. Fans of Leonard Schwartz will have heard that before. The main difference is that Schwartz wanted the arms and legs moving together at the same time. That factor is not part of the “Challenge” though it can be seen in the “Hour of Power” workout Radovic also developed.

One day when he tried to attend his own son’s fitness class, it was so crowded that he had to stand outside on the weight room floor. At loose ends, he picked up two dumbbells and decided to see how many alternating curls and presses he could do. He kept pumping. His son recalls that he wondered when his father would stop. As he was leading the class he would see his father through the glass continuing to pump out the reps. As the class went on and his father was continuing his “workout” the son’s amazement grew. Thus the “Dragan Challenge” was born. Performing the high repetition alternate curl and press – with the squat at other times of the day – became the staple of his basic routine.

From the video below you’ll see that some would say the “Vertical Lift” is not done in very good “form”. As Radovic describes it in his book some movement from the waist and back is encouraged (but not the legs). This causes the vertical lift to engage many other muscles especially the “core”. From the book cover (left) it’s obvious that Radovic has a well developed set of abdominals which he attributes as much to his “Vertical Lift” as anything else.

Dr. Schwartz is known for quantifying the value of his exercise. Dragan is as well. He teaches his readers to evaluate their own progress and maintenance on objective grounds. For Radovic that means knowing the height from hip to overhead each weight is lifted (or the distance one stands up when squatting) times the weight lifted.  In Dragan’s approach, the formula weight x inches x repetitions = units worked. While the “challenges” are based on raw repetitions…. For judging one’s progress or fitness, Dragan suggests to always consider the “units” worked. More units, in general, means better endurance. As seen in the video below, heart rate monitoring plays an important role for the challenge participants as such monitoring plays for HeavyHands practitioners.

While Dr. Schwartz never got on stage to compete in the Dragan Challenge as far as anyone knows, he was conversant with the Fitness 4 x 4 philosophy! In a posted email exchange with a reader about other exercise instructors including Dragan.

He knew that for the “challenge”, Dragan used comparatively heavy weights compared to normal “HeavyHands” protocols – 35 lbs versus the normal 1lb to 3lb weights most people used and the approximately 10lb weights he used frequently. He considered Dragan’s writing a spur – a “challenge” if you will – to his own thinking about HeavyHands.

In doing some of his own testing, Dr. Schwartz realized that his approach could be quantified in the same way as Dragan’s and put in respectable performances. Of course Dr. Schwartz could not be convinced to simply stand and do arm exercise so that hurt his performance in the “challenge”!

Schwartz writes:

Reading Dragan’s book, of course, made me want to do a heavy Heavyhands workout. I did 10 minutes with ten pound weights high pumping (level 3.5 at 100 steps a minute) on a step. Using Dragan’s units of measurements (10lbs x 42in x 1000reps) equals 420,000 units.
Even by his high standards, that is some pretty high energy work, and that calculation does not include the leg work of stepping Though I freely admit that I could not keep it up for 30 minutes, it clearly puts Heavyhands in the same range as his exercises.

It is really just simple math. The combination of heavy weights and range of motion creates a tremendous workload. There is no substitute for that, and to reach a level of super-fitness probably requires a good dose of that work. However, I also ran with 3lb weights(level 2, 7.5 mph)the other day and also got a very good, hard workout. That flexibility of workout keeps me committed to HH.

Schwartz went on to say that while he was impressed with Dragan’s work, he felt the novice would more likely pick up a 1lb HeavyHand and begin exercise than start by preparing for the Dragan Challenge. In other words, he felt his approach was more accessible to the average person.

Schwartz was a kind and openminded man who respected other fitness systems and studied them for what might be learned. He saw much that he appreciated in Dragan’s “Fitness 4×4” approach and used it to evaluate his own HeavyHands approach for validity. He defended his approach to exercise while not disparaging Dragan’s, and thanked Dragan for the challenge to his thinking!

11 thoughts on “Leonard Schwartz Takes A Dragan Radovic Challenge”

  1. Hi Chuck,

    Many thanks for this post. I had never heard of Fitness 4×4 before or the Hour of Power (HOP). It’s great! The Youtube videos are also very interesting, especially the interviews with Dragan Sr.’s son Rajko. The HOP workout looks a lot like my own Heavyhands workouts. Thanks too for all the other great information.


    1. Dear Graeme,

      I really appreciate your faithful readership and encouragement on the blog as you read and “like” the pages. Thank you for commenting today! Sometime you’ll have to share with our readers more about your experience and workouts!

      1. Glad you like it I’ve been trying to create the site to help me keep exercising. I believe it works really well with all the bodyweight and dynamic tension exercises we are familiar with it

    2. see Dr Nick $1,000 vertical lift Delgado Challenge, competed on same team with Dragan Arnold Classic TEAM USA March 2016

  2. Yes, I’m trying to get into that group… thanks for your help to make that possible. Hopefully Yahoo will resolve that issue so that more folks can join. I’ve been trying to get in for over a year I think.

Comments are closed.