Elizabeth Horne [nee Talbot]
Interview with Elizabeth Talbot (This interview was featured in Iron Grip magazine Vol 4 # 3, Feb 2005, and has been updated in areas)
By David Horne
Where were you born and when?
Stoke-on-Trent hospital, on the 10th of December 1983.
What is your height and usual bodyweight?
5’8” and around 14 stone (196 lb).
What is the length of your hand from fingertip to wrist?
When did you start training?
When I was ten years old. My brother and I were involved in a judo exhibition at the local sports centre, and during the break we went for a wander around. We found the gym, where my brother (two years my senior) decided he would like to start pumping up his muscles at the manly age of 12, so I joined in to keep him company. We started off going once a week, then when he discovered girls and going out, I carried on training by myself and had upped the stakes to twice a week by the time I started high school.
When did you start competing?
As soon as I was allowed to enter! I had to wait until I was 12 before I could participate in the all-round contests that I started on.
What strength sports have you participated in?
All-round weightlifting, grip events, strongwoman
Which feats and records are you most proud of?
My most treasured trophy is the one I was awarded for winning an armwrestling contest for the first time.It took some time to get it, and the hard work I put in to win it made it all the more special. I’ve always been told how good I am at the grip events, but I find it harder to be proud of these as such: when there are no women to compete against, it makes the victories a little hollow. I tend to grade how well I’m doing by comparing my achievements against those of the men I train with, so it always keeps my feet firmly on the ground. When I managed a 160k deadlift in competition I was immensely pleased with myself (deadlifts are a weak point for me), and promptly came home to start training on them harder than ever. I think I’d injured my back within a fortnight and was off heavy lifting for about ten months! For the record, some of my better grip lifts are as follows (courtesy of David):
Two hands pinch lift at European
Grip Championships 2004, 70kg
Lifts done in grip contests
One Hand Pinch Lift 22k age 12, 3/2/96 British Champs
Two Hands Pinch Lift 60k age 13, 26/7/97 British Champs
One Hand Vertical Bar Lift (with hook grip) 113k age 13, 26/7/97 British Champs
One Hand Pinch Lift 35k age 14, 4/7/98 British Champs
Two Hands Pinch Lift 70k age 18, 3/8/02 British Champs
One Hand Vertical Bar Lift (with hook grip) 135.5k age 18, 3/8/02 British Champs
Table Top Wrist Curl 170k age 18, 3/8/02 British Champs
Inverted hold of CoC #2 gripper for 14 secs age 18, 3/8/02 British Champs
One Hand Dinnie Ring Lift 140k age 19, 2/8/03 British Champs
One Hand Deadlift 2” barbell (No hook grip) 65k age 19, 2/8/03 British Champs
Closed a Super Master gripper (rated 2.39) age 20, 14/8/04 European Champs
One Hand Vertical Bar Lift (No hook grip) 112.5k age 20, 14/8/04 European Champs
One Hand Lift (No hook grip) 200k [both right and left hand] age 20, 14/8/04 European Champs
Bend a 190k rated Challenge Bar age 20, 14/8/04 European Champs
Lifts done in training
Two Hands Pinch Lift 70k age 14, 27/2/98
Middle Fingers Hacklift 110k age 14, 5/5/98
Table Top Wrist Curl 145k age 14, 16/6/98
Deadlift 2” barbell (overhand grip) 115k age 14, 16/6/98
One Hand Lift (No hook grip) 160k for 12 secs hold age 15, 19/10/99
Two Hands Pinch Lift 80k
One Hand Pinch Lift 42.5k
CoC #2 gripper x 11 reps
Pinch lifted 2 x 15k discs, and passed them back and forth.
CoC #3 gripper closed to ¼” 19/9/03
Which exercises do you most enjoy training on?
I’ve always enjoyed high volume training, especially on events such as squats and deadlifts where I struggle technically at heavier weights. I like thick bar wrist curls (we used to do them on a decline, which was fun), and sometimes we’ve had training sessions based around the idea of friendly competition, which always appeals to me as a highly competitive person. I’m just like everyone else in that I really enjoy training on events that I’m good at, but I also appreciate that the most important things to train are your weak points. I’ve always liked things that push me really hard: I remember one dark wet evening when I was persuaded to do some crazy holds with weights in both hands, which I was too stubborn to put down when I’d had enough. I ended up passing out because the weight had crushed all the air out of me and I couldn’t breathe! I’ve done something similar on rapid sets of continuous curls as well: 20 reverse curls followed by 20 strict curls with my back against a wall at a weight that was really too heavy and I ended up having to be caught on my way to the floor!
What have been some of your most productive training routines?
Like I said, I really enjoyed a routine we did that was quite competitive. We would split into teams (usually of 3) in the gym, and take an exercise per team for 15 minutes, and between the team we had to do as many reps as we could with the weight in the set time. Then we’d swap exercises with the other team and do the same again, adding up the scores at the end. It really pushes you knowing that you are part of a team and that your extra 5 reps when you’re exhausted might make the difference between winning and losing. As I recall, the only thing we won was pride (or an accusation of cheating), but it was fun anyway. It also brought on my squats and benching massively, because it was possibly the only time I’ve really pushed myself hard on exercises that I’ve never much liked. I’ve never found that single rep training for a heavy lift has been very productive for me. I can’t start training on singles for a competition until eight weeks out at the most if I want to peak on time. I think I was spoiled when I started training because my programme would be changed for me every six weeks so that I didn’t lose interest. Now when everybody else’s routine runs for sixteen weeks, I find myself hitting a wall and getting bored at around ten weeks, so the last six are rarely productive.
Can you tell me about your armwrestling career?
I started armwrestling after I’d already been involved in strength sports for a few years. Pretty much the only training we got on the table was at competitions, so we were fairly inexperienced technically and in terms of stamina for quite a while. There also weren’t many female competitors to begin with: one of the first competitions I turned up to I ended up being the only person in my class and walking away with a trophy for nothing (needless to say I don’t still have that trophy)! Anyway, this meant that I had only attended four or five local and national contests by the time I flew off to the Worlds in Poland in 2001, and came a reasonably respectable third in the superheavy class. I’ve been concentrating on studying and all-round strength since then, and have only just come back onto the armwrestling scene. I’ll be taking this year out of competitions and then starting back in around January next year.
Who particularly impresses you, and in what areas?
I’m always amazed and impressed by the women who can squat and deadlift massive poundages (like Becca Swanson), and by everyone who can do things I can’t do! If someone tells me they have run a long-distance race my chin will drop with awe (I couldn’t even walk one). As far as grip is concerned, it may be biased, but I would rate David Horne as probably the best all-rounder in the world, especially considering the length and success of his career. I have seen him train consistently and with incredible determination for many years, and I know for a fact that his training is one of the reasons he wakes up every day. I would say that Pat Povilaitis is the best and truest steel bender around, and I have a lot of respect for the likes of Dennis Rogers and Steve McGranahan who try to give something back to the world with their strength.
What do you consider to be the greatest feats of grip strength?
Ooh, a tough one. I saw a clip the other day of Steve McGranahan tearing ten packs of cards in thirty seconds whilst holding the packs in his mouth: that was pretty impressive. I honestly can’t say with accuracy which feats I think are the best, because there are so many and I’m bound to miss some out. I think it’s shame in a way that there are so many people now transcending the old boundaries of brilliance (such as bending the Ironmind red nail, and closing the CoC #4), because if too many people do these things, then they can’t truly be called brilliant any more. It’s great that the sport is progressing, but I think we should see things differently after all this time: after all, standards in every sport improve all the time, and with a sport as young as grip, it’s bound to happen at a rate of knots. As far as truly great modern feats: I would say that Mark Henry’s domination of the Inch dumbbell is incredible, and unsurpassable for the foreseeable future.
What is your opinion on what events should be included in grip contests, and why?
I would say that a pinch lift, wrist event, crushing event and supporting event are imperative. You will notice that I exclude a thick bar event: this is because I think they are all very well for people with large hands (I am one, so it’s not any kind of favouritism), and a thick bar contest by itself would be very worthy. However, I think that to include an event that actually goes as far as to exclude certain competitors from the points simply on the basis of their hand size is unfair. And it is true to say that there are smaller-handed people who are capable of pulling reasonable points in these thick bar events. However, these people are those who tend to be exceptional at every other event (so a competent all-rounder) and logic dictates that they should not be losing out to other, more average competitors in an all-round competition who beat them just because of a genetic endowment. I consider wrist events to be incredibly important, and cannot understand it when I hear that people neglect them as ‘not really being about grip.’ Likewise, a competition should test both hands. When I offer a gripper to somebody to do a set with his left hand, and he says ‘Oh, I only train my right,’ I can’t decide whether to shrug in amazement or give him a good telling off for being so lazy.
Outside of grip, what are your favourite lifts and why?
Being vain, I like arm and shoulder work, mainly because I have been given incredibly broad shoulders to begin with, and seeing as people are bound to notice them, I’d rather they looked okay. I would love to be able to deadlift well, and even though it’s a long way from being my favourite lift, I’m determined to get to a respectable 200kg single before I’m over the hill. I enjoy strongman style events very much. Loading has always been one of my favourite love/hate exercises, as has car pulling. We used to pull a car in a harness up a 1-in-4 gradient with speed bumps and it nearly killed me. I also really liked the Conan’s Wheel when I trained for it and did it in competition. Again, I have to admit that most of these ‘favourites’ are events that I’m reasonably good at. Even though no number of threats from P. E. teachers at school would induce me to run around a track for a lesson, I’m more than happy to run around a muddy field carrying a hockey stick, or better still, heavy weights.
Which area of your grip do you consider to be the strongest?
My pinch isn’t bad, though it always lets me down in competition for some reason (on the day, I can never manage what I know I’m capable of). I would probably say my wrists are my strongest point. It’s really quite close though: when my pain threshold’s at its highest, I have been known to do reasonably well at supporting events, such as the one hand lift and vertical bar. I would have said that my crushing strength was perhaps my weakest, but I know it’s because I’m gauging myself against a gym full of #3 closers. I like to think I’m a fair all-rounder really.
Do you believe that with a certain amount of training, you could ever accomplish the following feats: Thomas Inch dumbbell deadlift; 50lb Blob one hand lift; pinch lift with one hand two 20kg discs; close a CoC #3 under the old rules; tear a pack of cards?
Okay, I’ll go through the list. Inch dumbbell: yes. I have hopped it around off a pad, and I’m pretty sure with some training I could get a full deadlift (I do intend to give it a go someday). Blob: never. I can manage it with both hands and then release one hand and just about lower it to the floor under control. I’m certain I’ll never get a one-handed deadlift with it: it’s too wide and my pinch strength just isn’t up to it. Pinching two 20kg discs: I’d like to think so. I can easily manage two 15kg discs and pass them from hand to hand. Like the Inch, I’ve hopped the two 20s around but not quite broken them fully from the floor. My one hand pinch is around that weight anyway, so I’m hopeful about that one. Close #3: hopeful again. I’ve got it down to a ¼” from a normal set. I’ll never manage it no-set, but I think that if I put the training in I’d get it (whether I do or not is another matter: I find gripper training is only good for closing grippers, and I like my training to have a more useful basis than that). Tear a pack of cards: very unlikely. I can manage a phone book or two, but that’s where it ends. I’ve seen better athletes than I struggle with the cards. My party pieces will have to stay at the phone-book-tearing, nail-bending, bottle-cap-crushing stage. [Last year she managed to tear packs of cards under the tuition of American strongman Steve McGranahan]
Which strongmen/women would you most like to meet and why?
I’d like to meet Arnold Schwarznegger mainly so that I can say I’ve met him. As for real strongmen, if I could go back in time I’d meet Mac Batchelor, just to find someone who would appreciate my scars from crushing bottle-caps between my fingers in front of unappreciative audiences at parties. I’m not entirely sure I’d like to meet Louis Uni, because he strikes me as having been an arrogant, lazy individual, but his strength was incredible and perhaps I could have given him a kick so he worked harder and we could have witnessed his true potential. I’d love to have met the beautiful, talented and powerful Vulcana, and many other strongwomen who truly are inspirational. As for living strongmen, among others, I’d be honoured to shake hands with Bill Kazmaier and Hugo Girard, both of whom strike me as very genuine men. I am particularly touched by Bill Kazmaier’s drive for excellence and his insane desire to be the best. I have met up with many of the great modern strongwomen already, and am grateful that I have had that opportunity. I’m hoping that in the next few years we will be able to come and tour the American round of grip contests for a few months, and meet many of the new and old faces who are making this sport what it is.
Have you got any goals that you still want to achieve?
Many! Now I have had a beautiful daughter this year, got married, I am ready to get back into strength sports again. [Updated Dec 2006]
Any words of advice for our readers?
I’m not entirely sure I’m qualified to give advice. Whilst I would love to live by the philosophy of training entirely for one’s own personal satisfaction, and being content with beating your own records and further yourself, it would dishonest of me to say that I do. However, despite being highly competitive, and being content only with beating other people (mercenary that I am), I do recognise that the most important element of any training routine is to further yourself in some way, whether the result of that be beating yourself or someone else. As far as training is concerned, the most significant advice I can give is that whatever your aims, you absolutely must recognise your weak points. So many people have trouble with this: especially men, it seems, who don’t like to admit weakness of any kind. Clichéed it may be, but you are only as strong as your weakest link. And certainly the most important thing to remember about any sport, is that it is only that. While you may live it and breathe it, it should only serve to make you happy, and that is what you should strive for.
Books written by Elizabeth Horne [nee Talbot]
Iron Grip Magazine. Editor with Horne, David. Vol 1 #1 - Vol 4 #3. Total of 15 magazines. Pilliwinks Publications, Stafford, Dec 2000-Feb 2005.
Strength Prov'd. Thomas Topham, Strongman of Islington. With Horne, David. pp.33. Pilliwinks Publications, Stafford, 2001.
Articles by Elizabeth Horne [nee Talbot]
From Iron Grip magazine
Vol. 1, No. 4 / September 2001. Competing in a Skirt – by Elizabeth Talbot.
Vol. 2, No. 1 / January 2002. This Time Last Year – by Elizabeth Talbot.
A Gripping Show… A Tearing Success – by Elizabeth Talbot.
Vol. 2, No. 3 / July 2002. The History of the Régnier Dynamometer by David Horne and Elizabeth Talbot.
Vol. 3, No.2 / April 2003. Hermann Goerner in Britain by Elizabeth Talbot and David Horne.
Vol. 3, No. 3 / July 2003. Apollon in Britain by Elizabeth Talbot and David Horne.
Vol. 3, No. 4 / October 2003. Strongmen Commemorated ed. Elizabeth Talbot.
Vol. 4, No. 3 / February 2005 Last issue. Interview with David Horne by Elizabeth Talbot.
Articles concerning Elizabeth Horne [nee Talbot]
From Hardgainer magazine
Issue 57, Vol. 10 No.3 / Nov-Dec 1998. A Celebration of Two Female Weightlifters by David Horne.
From Milo magazine
Vol. 9 No.1 / June 2001. Letters and photos of Elizabeth Horne [nee Talbot] and David Horne gripper certification at the OHF dinner.
From B & K Sports magazine (Swedish)
No.10 / 2001. Varldens Starkaste Kvinna [3 page article on World’s Strongest Woman qualifier contest at Callander, 4 photos of Elizabeth and text].
No.11 / 2002. No Disco by Arne Persson [2002 British Grip Champs, photos and text].
From Musclemag International magazine
November, 2004. The 13th Annual OHF Hall of Fame Awards by David Gentle [Photo of David Horne and I].
From Iron Grip magazine
Vol. 4, No. 3 / February 2005 Last issue. Interview with Elizabeth Talbot by David Horne.
From Health & Strength magazine
Vol. 135, No. 4 / October 2009. Arm Wrestling World Challenge by David Horne.