15 Year Journey

by Thom Van Vleck

Thom Van Vleck hitting 620lbs on the "Anderson Squat" at the Old Time Strong Man Championships at the JWC Training Hall

I have accumulated a lot of equipment in my gym over the years.  Most everything has a story behind it and since I’m a “story teller” here is the “story” behind the bar used at the OTSM Championships on October 16, 2011.  It is an oversized bar that weighs in at 50lbs.  It was custom made for World Champion Powerlifter John Ware, who was at one time my training partner.  John’s greatest feat, in my opinion, was beating Bill Kazmaier’s “unbeatable” World Record Total.  John did a 985lb squat the day he beat that record.  With the oversized bar he hit 1000lbs in a contest that allowed him to use the bar.  It is very stiff and longer than a regulation bar, allowing John to not be bound up when under it.  I know some might consider him using a “special” bar to get an official 1000lb squat questionable, just like I know many would question his chemical methods and I won’t make apologies for either one here.  Just know he was my friend, he never offered anything to me, helped me immensely in my training, donated to the JWC his time and much equipment, and paid the ultimate price for being a champion on those terms when he passed away several years ago.

So, that being said, I knew he left a lot of equipment to Truman State University where he was the head football coach for many years.  This bar was a part of that inheritance so to speak.  It was kept where the football players lifted and used for many years.  Back when I trained with John we would have these big Friday Squat workouts.  Several of the linemen would be involved and heavy weights would be lifted.  It was around this time, 15 years ago, I hit a 600lb squat with that bar.  That’s the most I have ever squatted to parallel.  That would have never happened without the training atmosphere present during those years.  I went from a 365lb squat to 600 during that time.  When John left, the bar kind of disappeared.  I had no idea whatever happened to it until this summer.  It turned up, rusted and neglected, and basically thrown away and replaced by slick, new chrome bars that I’m sure appealed to the younger lifters at the college who had no idea what a jewel this bar is.  Their loss was my gain and I refurbished this bar and nursed it back to health!  As I cleaned the rust off, I could recall countless workouts and countless lifters, World Champion powerlifters, several NFL bound players, and even a future Professional “rassler”, Glenn Jacobs AKA “Kane” of WWE fame.

So, when it came time to do the Anderson Squat at the OTSM I reached over to grab a bar from my “Olympic Bar gun rack” where I store the 15 or so bars I own and my eyes fell on John’s old bar.  I had not thought about using it, I had another very good, stiff squat bar…..but it just seemed fitting.  I was very please when I hit the 620lb squat some 15 years after hitting the 600 on the same exact bar.  I also know that John would be very pleased that bar was used in that type of meet.  That bar has undoubtedly seen a lot of lifting, and as long as I have it, it will continue to see a lot of lifting!  The story has not ended.

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