Sad News from the Strength Journal

(I just received the Strength Journal, published by Bill Clark, and learned of the death of two all-round weightlifters. The following is from the Strength Journal).

by Bill Clark

Word comes to us well after the fact that Cleveland’s Bob Cox has died. I have no obituary to pass along to the membership. If anyone has such, please get it to me. Bob was an active lifter until knee replacement put him on the sidelines. He was 84 years old and a major contributor to the Journal. He was a training partner with Fred Kwast, Howard Prechtel, and many other Cleveland lifters dating back to World War II.

Kevin Heavner, who still holds the Mansfield Lift record, died recently at age 52. He lived in Columbia, trained in his garage, and dropped out of Olympic competition years ago. He was an excellent Olympic lifter with a chance to be a national class competitor, but chose to lift for fun. He lived no more than five minutes from Clark’s Gym and occasionally dropped by to check if anyone had broken his Mansfield record, but chose to train at home. Death was sudden. He seemed to be in excellent health. Some of his weights have been donated to our gym. Kevin was one of those folks about whom Ring Lardner once wrote – “The World of Men Who Might Have Been” – but he was happy with his place in life and in lifting.


by Al Myers

The date for the USAWA Team Nationals is approaching fast (Next Weekend -Sunday, September 20th, 2009). Team lifting is when two individuals (the Team) perform a lift together. The USAWA provides divisions for 2-Man, 2-Person, and 2-Woman Teams. A 2-person team is a team made up of a male and a female. All of these divisions are contested at the National Team Championships.

My training partner Chad Ullom (to left) and myself training the 2-Man Zercher Lift in preparation for the 2007 Team Nationals. We ended up lifting 705 pounds at Nationals.

Rules for Team Lifts (taken from the USAWA Rulebook)

“Any approved lift may be done as a Team Lift, provided it is done according to the rules of the individual lift. Team Lifts consist of two lifters performing a lift together. This may consist of male-male, female-female, or female-male teams. The combination of lifters may be of any age or weight. The weight class the Team will be in will be that of the heaviest lifter and the age class that of the youngest lifter. An exception is if a Junior lifter is teamed with an Open or Master lifter, in which the age class will be the class of the older lifter. “

Team lifting is very challenging because factors come into play that when lifting on a bar by yourself you don’t experience. The timing of the lift with your partner has to be the same or imbalances occur. It helps if both lifters are of the same height and body type so the bar is at the same height during and at the finish of the lift. Flexibility becomes more of a factor because of the limited space a bar provides when two lifters have a hold of it!! Lifting styles also come into play. For example – when doing a clean, one lifter can’t squat clean the bar while the other power cleans it!! Another factor you don’t think of until you actually do Team Lifting is trust. A missed lift can be catastrophic in team lifting because one person may be successfully completing the lift when this happens and unaware that one side of the bar is dropping fast!!! You have to know each others capabilities and be able to TRUST that your lifting partner won’t let you down.

But at the same time, Team Lifting provides a great challenge. In some lifts you can actually lift more together than the sum of each of your individual lifts. Chad and I found this out a couple of years ago when the Team One Arm Deadlift was contested at Team Nationals. We had an idea of what we thought we could do together based on each of our individual One Arm Deadlifts – but forgot a big difference that was going to occur when we were both gripping the bar. That difference was we were able to create an “alternate grip” on the bar by facing away from each other, thus helping in blocking the “bar roll” that occurs in any one arm deadlift. We ended up lifting more together than the sum of our “Bests” at the time.

There is still time to enter the USAWA Team Nationals.

John Grimek and the One Arm Dumbbell Swing

by Al Myers

John Grimek performing an One Arm Dumbbell Swing.

I can’t finish the story on the One Arm Dumbbell Swing without mentioning John Grimek.  As most All-Rounders know, John Grimek has had a tremendous influence on the USAWA.  He is one of the very few USAWA Hall of Fame members who didn’t earn his way into the USAWA Hall of Fame by competing in USAWA competitions.  He got nominated and inducted with the first USAWA Hall of Fame Class in 1993 because of the way he trained, how he promoted odd lifting (or all-round lifting as it is known today), and the great respect all-round lifters have for him.

Most lifters know John Grimek the bodybuilder.  After all, he is the only man to ever win two AAU Mr. America titles (1940 and 1941).  He had the “perfect physique” and was way ahead of his time in bodybuilding. He also won the Mr. Universe title in 1948 and the Mr. USA title in 1949.

Most lifters know John Grimek the weightlifter. After all, he was a National Weightlifting Champion and member of the famous Olympic Weightlifting Team that competed in Berlin in 1936.

But I argue he was foremost an All-Round Weightlifter!!!  His training program consisted, as he put it, of using “1001 exercises” to not only increase muscle size and strength, but flexibility and athleticism as well. He excelled at one arm lifts like the bent press, one arm snatch, side press, and the one arm dumbbell swing.  He even did support lifts like the Harness Lift and Hip Lift. He was also a great gymnast – and often did handstand pushups with ease.  But this is not intended to be an autobiography of John Grimek – I don’t have enough space for that -  instead just an article showing his great ability in the One Arm Dumbbell Swing. I was hoping that I could find proof that John Grimek had done a Swing that would have put him into the Top Ten of All-Time.  I have read that he did swings with over 200 pounds in training – but I couldn’t substantiate them.   An article by one of his training partners, Gord Venables in 1943,  stated that he and Grimek had both done 175 pounds in the One Arm Dumbbell Swing in training.

I ran across this old YouTube Video showing John Grimek doing some lifting and posing at a weightlifting picnic at York around the year 1940.  The quality of the video is not the best – but it clearly shows what a great lifter and performer John Grimek was!!

John Grimek died on November 20th, 1998.

Top Ten ALL-TIME One Arm Dumbbell Swing

by Al Myers

It is a difficult task to try to come up with an All-Time Top Ten list for any lift, and the One Arm Dumbbell Swing is even more difficult than others. I used many resources in formulating this list and want to state that I have tried my best to make this list as accurate as possible but I know that the list is not perfect.  Several factors made this research difficult.  Were the lifts official or unofficial?  Was a dumbbell used or a Kettlebell used?  Was the lift actually an One Arm Swing or was it an One Arm Dumbbell Snatch?  I want to thank everyone on the Iron History Forum for helping me with this project -  their knowledge on lifting history far exceeds mine!!!


Rank Pounds         Lifter                                                           Date
1. 220
Hermann Goerner  (Germany)
2. 219
Charles Rigoulot  (France)
3. 202
Maurice Deriaz  (Switzerland)
4. 199
Jean Francois LeBreton  (France)
5. 198
Ernest Cadine  (France)
6. 194
Emile Deriaz  (Switzerland)
7. 190
Ron Walker  (England)
8. 187
Arthur Saxon (Germany)
9. 178
Stan Kratkowski  (United States)
10. 176
Gabriel Lassortesse (France)

As you can see from this list – all the top ten lifts of ALL-TIME in the One Arm Dumbbell Swing happened before the year 1937.  The swing is definitely a “forgotten lift”.  As I said the other day, one arm lifts were often contested in lifting competitions in the early 1900’s.  Today, the only opportunity to do an One Arm lift is in an All-Round weightlifting competition.  And given the large number of All-Round lifts – the chance to do an One Arm Swing in competition does not come around that often.  It takes extra time to load a swing dumbbell during competition which leads Meet Directors in not selecting the One Arm Dumbbell swing for a competition lift.

Steve Angell, in an IAWA competition, did an One Arm Swing with 165 pounds.  Rick Meldon, weighing only 160 pounds, did an One Arm Swing with 172 pounds in an IAWA event – the highest over bodyweight One Arm Swing ever in competition!!!

History of the One Arm Dumbbell Swing

by Al Myers

Chad Ullom has the Top One Arm Dumbbell Swing ever done in the USAWA with a lift of 143 pounds. This was accomplished at the 2007 IAWA World Championships in New Zealand.

The One Arm (or one-hand as it was originally known as) Dumbbell Swing has been contested in weightlifting competitions as far back as the late 1800’s.  In the early days, One Arm Swings were often done with Kettlebells. The USAWA rules only allow the use of dumbbells today.

There were originally two basic styles of One Arm Swings – the Classic French Style and the British Style.  The French Style was the technique used first in the late 1800’s to early 1930’s, whereas the British Style became more popular after 1920.  The differences between the two styles are significant. The French Style used equally loaded, balanced dumbbells and when swung overhead used a straight arm throughout. The British Style allowed the use of “Backhang” and the bending of the lifting arm.

Backhang is allowed by the USAWA Rules when doing Swings. What is Backhang? Backhang is the unequal loading of a dumbbell where more weight is put on the back end of the dumbbell prior to the lift. The USAWA rules allow backhang up to 10 kilograms or 22 pounds.  Several of the old time strongmen would use backhang up to 40 pounds!! Once you master the technique using  Backhang, it is possible to lift more in the One Arm Swing than with an equally loaded dumbbell.

Single-handed Dumbbell Swing

by Arthur Saxon

Arthur Saxon perfoming a One Arm Dumbbell Swing

The muscles called into play are practically the same here as in the one-handed snatch , but the bell must be placed on end between the feet as shown in illustration. Keep the head down, then, with a perfectly straight arm, pull up, using a combination of muscular efforts and concentration as described in the snatch lift. Lean back and watch the dumbbell with your eyes, and when it is at a suitable height suddenly dip beneath same and twist your wrist violently, so that you may place a straight arm beneath the bell.

Credit: The Development of Physical Power by Arthur Saxon

The One Arm Dumbbell Swing

by Al Myers

My training partner Chad Ullom and I just spent a training session training the One Arm Dumbbell Swing. This is a lift not well understood today, but at one time was a very popular lift among old time strongmen. One arm lifts were once trained as much as two arm lifts – but not anymore. The USAWA rules for the One Arm Dumbell Swing are quite simple – but certain things must be done for a Dumbbell Swing to be “legal”. These include:

- once the dumbbell leaves the platform it must be in continual motion until lockout

- the rod of the dumbbell must maintain a 90 degree angle to the body

- the non-lifting hand must not touch the lifting arm or dumbbell

- the arm must be straight in receiving the dumbbell overhead – in other words – NO PRESS OUT

- the lift ends on command once the feet are in line and the dumbbell is in control overhead

Al Myers with a 145 pound Dumbbell Swing.

There are two styles that are used the most when doing an One Arm Dumbbell Swing. I use the more traditional style of “swinging” the dumbbell between my legs once to gain momentum to propel it overhead. Chad uses a “snatch style” where he takes it from the floor overhead in one motion and drops under the dumbbell when he catches it overhead. This is difficult in the sense that the hand is turned different than a Dumbbell Snatch. The USAWA Rules allow the lifting arm to bend during the lift and the feet to move.

Top Ten All-Time USAWA One Arm Dumbbell Swings

1. 143 Pounds Chad Ullom
140 Pounds Mike McBride
140 Pounds Frank Ciavattone
4. 121 Pounds Al Myers
5. 120 Pounds Ed Schock
120 Pounds Jim Goviannini
120 Pounds Abe Smith
120 Pounds Robert English
9. 115 Pounds Scott Schmidt
115 Pounds Jason Weigle

Coming SoonThe Top Ten One Arm Dumbbell Swings of All-Time.

Will any of these USAWA lifters make the list?

Strength Through Variety (Part 4)

(The following is part of an interesting article written by All-Rounder John McKean several years ago. John has won many All-Round National and World Championships in his weight class, and has written articles for Muscular Development, Hardgainer, Strength and Health, Ironman, Powerlifting USA, and MILO – webmaster)

by John McKean

John McKean performing a 2-Bar Deadlift.

Can I entice you to try a short, intense, very stimulating all-round training schedule which capitalizes on these dynamic singular efforts? My training partner, Art Montini, has devised a unique circuit-like routine that is as exciting as it is challenging. Art schedules four or five exercises per session, each done for but 4 singles. Ordering the various lifts from lightest to heaviest, he does a first round of one exercise after the other with all of them at approximately 77% (based on their heaviest poundage for that day, not all-time bests – we still cycle the intensity to an upcoming contest). Art then does a second round with 85% for each lift, then a round with 92½ %, and a final rotation with 100% efforts. Montini claims a special mental “freshness” while powerfully bouncing from lift to lift and says the recuperation between rounds yields superior readiness for maximum attempts.

Following is a sample strength rotation schedule based on my current training for upcoming all-round competitions. I begin with a highly specialized, “heavy hands” total-body aerobic warmup (15-20 minutes) which thoroughly prepares my body to hit big poundages immediately. Note that the movements are ordered from lightest to heaviest.

John McKean perfoming an One Arm Deadlift.

Round 1: one lift/rep with 77½ % of that day’s maximum.

Round 2: 85%

Round 3: 92½ %

Round 4: 100%

Tuesday – Push Press, Steinborn, Neck Lift, Straddle Lift

Thursday – One-Arm Swing, Pullover & Push, Dumbell Squat, Zercher, Hand & Thigh

Saturday – Power Snatch, Dumbell Press, Pullover & Press, One-Arm Deadlift, Hip Lift

Each day’s session works every inch of the body, but any particular lift is only done once per week. One can freely substitute any power, Olympic or major bodybuilding movement, as long as attention is devoted toward involving the total musculature. Of course, workouts can be reduced if desired to two per week and with fewer exercises.

Strength Through Variety (Part 3)

(Webmaster comment: The following is part of an interesting article written by All-Rounder John McKean several years ago. John has won many All-Round National and World Championships in his weight class, and has written articles for Muscular Development, Hardgainer, Strength and Health, Ironman, Powerlifting USA, and MILO)

by John McKean

John McKean squatting 530 pounds for a Pennsylvania State Record in 1980. This was done at the Great Lakes Championships in Erie, Pennsylvania in the 148# weight class. John's best competition squat was 555 pounds - before the age of super squat suits!!

“All you need in life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure!” stated beloved storyteller Mark Twain. In his famous tongue-in-cheek manner, Twain may have unwittingly provided one of the biggest truths in strength training. For if, as lifters, we envision great success with a highly personalized, unique training pattern, and let our enthusiasm run rampant in its employment, we usually achieve stellar results. Yet, often such a self-styled program is never attempted if those ever-present “experts” are consulted.

Looking back, I suppose my own powerlifting career, which peaked about twenty years ago, could definitely be described as “ignorant yet confident”. Due to a particular fondness for squatting, I naively assumed that some serious specialization on this lift, sustained drive to excel, and very concentrated effort in the gym would allow me to outdo most competitors. Emphasizing mostly brutal, ever-heavier single attempts in training, I actually did manage to establish many local and state records, topping out at 530- and 550-pound bests in the lightweight and middleweight divisions. Heck, it was no real surprise to discover from magazine polls back then that my lifts were even listed among the top ten in the nation for several years. Only later did the shocking truth reveal itself – with my light bone structure (6” wrists), overly long thigh bones, use of neither drugs or supportive gear, and unsophisticated training methods, there was “no possibility” of becoming even mediocre in this event. Man, was I fortunate that nobody told me until it was too late.

My history has provided firsthand education of the absolute value of using a limited program of extremely heavy singles in order to approach one’s maximum power potential. When constantly knocking heads with tiptop poundages, many physical disadvantages can be placed on the back burner. Yet in modern strength literature, noted “authorities” constantly belittle the value of “ones”. Where, I’ve often wondered, did these hardheads come up with the ridiculous “testing strength vs. training for strength” theory which is used so frequently to knock the use of near-limit singles? In actual application, I’ve never seen just such a short, intelligent program fail anybody.

Perhaps many of us master competitors lucked out by starting our training in an age when strength was king – all major bodybuilding and weightlifting moves were keyed toward low-rep, heavy poundages. In the “good old days” we maxed out on everything all the time – and loved it. Our Iron Game heroes, now legends in the sport, regularly utilized short, basic programs which always culminated in several heavy singles. Interestingly, when the renowned Bulgarian national weightlifting team was asked how they developed their “revolutionary” training concept of singling out on all lifts every session, they replied, “from studying the old system of the Americans which we read about in the magazines of the fifties and sixties.”

So, with the advent of modern all-round competition, many of us enthusiastic older trainees already had a tried and true system which easily enabled as many as twenty lifts per week to be worked. Yep, those blessed singles allowed us to spread our energy around while still training with super intensity. Only now, with all-round’s vast array of maneuvers (over 150 lifts which can be contested), we find ourselves using fewer singles per move but making better gains in total body power than ever before, despite our ages being in the forties, fifties and sixties.

A real mental key to deploying a “singles” training schedule is simply to eliminate that word in favor of “a lift”. A near-max lift is certainly about as intense as effort as can be done, yet that low, low number still bothers some. Too many strength trainees today have been constantly brainwashed to the “more is better” concept, even within the context of a set. But, after all, what is a set of, say, eight reps? Simply seven warmups finalized by one tough rep (though with a sub-par poundage compared to a truly heavy single). Why not conserve time and energy by doing a lift with perhaps 40% more weight in the first place?

Strength Through Variety (Part 2)

(Webmaster comment: The following is part of an interesting article written by All-Rounder John McKean several years ago. John has won many All-Round National and World Championships in his weight class, and has written articles for Muscular Development, Hardgainer, Strength and Health, Ironman, Powerlifting USA, and MILO)

by John McKean

John McKean demonstrating the Jefferson Lift, which is also known as the Straddle Deadlift.

A brief look at weightlifting’s history will quickly show that many of the above-mentioned lifts were the basis of meets during the 1900-1930 era. Rare was it when an early contest didn’t feature a one-arm snatch, dumbell swing, or the amazing bent-press (yes, it’s once again being given its due – number 48 on our all-round list). Extensive record lists on about 50 events were kept in the US and Great Britain prior to 1940, with other informal local listings recorded in both countries during the sixties and seventies.

When serious interest once again picked up, officials from the two lands met in 1987 to write a constitution and promote the new-to-many concept of all-round competition. When these modern day founding fathers established the up to date rules and regulations, they insisted on pure body dynamics to do the lifting – no super suits or supportive gear, no wraps, and absolutely no drugs.

About now, I’m certain many will question the feasibility of training limit poundages on 10-20 big lifts at a time. Doesn’t this go against the grain of current advice to avoid long routines? No. In fact, the real beauty of our all-round sessions is that we’re actually forced to restrict quality training time on each individual lift to an absolute minimum. The necessity of these ultra-abbreviated strength routines has taught us how to reach maximum intensity for handling true top weights more often than ever before.

Although there’s a wide range of effective schedules used by our present crop of all-rounders, and highly specialized methods for handling some of our more unique lifts, here’s a sample training procedure used by 12 of us at the Ambridge VFW Barbell Club, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Essentially, we’ve achieved phenomenal progress over the past five years by doing single repetitions on each of about 6 exercises per workout. We switch lifts every day of our three weekly sessions so that a total of 18 moves are given a short, high-intensity burst once a week. After a special non-weight warmup (more on this later) we do just 3 singles per exercise, best characterized as heavy, heavier, and heaviest. The last attempt is usually fairly close to a limit. And, because this quick, brutal style of training seems to fuel our mental competitive aggression, we always feel motivated to try to up that poundage each week.

Sure, this is heavy stuff. Yet in all our collective time with all-round training, none of us has ever felt even slightly burned out, suffered serious injury, or even felt overly tired from a workout (contests are something else, however). It seems when gains keep coming as rapidly as they have, lifts are always being rotated, and workouts are over before we have a chance of even getting mentally fatigued, our sport always stays fresh, exciting, and ever challenging. After all, how hard can it be to perform a workout of only 18 reps? (Better wait to answer till you actually experience this unique form of intensity and variety).

Most all-round movements are complex by nature and work the entire body at once. Each exercise serves as a supplement to the others, so there’s absolutely no need to waste extra time on assistance exercises. This is also a big reason why we get away with training any particular lift but once a week; all muscle groups are pushed totally each training day, no matter what combination of exercises is employed. After all, why should we bother with, say, the highly overrated and widely overused bench press – very one dimensional when compared to the whole-body functioning of all-round’s dynamic pullover and push.

How well does all-round training serve the average person? Let me offer two rather extreme examples. On a novice level would be my 13-year old son Robbie. Beginning when he was 10, Robbie found immediate pleasure over his rapid strength gains. Thanks to the wide variety of moves and abbreviated training (yes, I put him on heavy singles immediately, despite dire warnings I’ve read by “experts”), he never experienced much muscle soreness nor ever any boredom with his quick workouts. In three years he has gained fifty pounds of muscle (puberty helped), tripled his strength, and has established fifty world records in the pre-teen division.

Recently, while on the way to winning his third consecutive title at 1992’s national championship in Boston, this 165-pound “little boy” performed a show-stopping hand and thigh (short range deadlift). I’ve never seen another youngster of this age who could match Rob’s grip strength to do a 250-pound one-arm deadlift, or the neck power to equal his 300-pound head harness lift. But early in his training, Robbie perceptively put me straight on what this sport is all about. Telling him to follow me downstairs to begin “exercising” one day, he firmly replied, “Dad, I don’t exercise, I lift.”

On the other end of the spectrum is longtime powerlifting and weightlifting competitor, 65-year old Art Montini. As is the case with all of us master lifters, Art discovered that no form of training or competition is as much fun as all-round lifting. Montini never misses one of these exciting workouts and seems to heft new personal bests each time he sets foot in a gym. Who says you stop gaining beyond 35? Art’s name is all over the current record book and he’s never failed to win the outstanding master award at any of our national meets. Seeing the agile oldster deftly upend a 300-pound barbell, twist and stoop to shoulder it then easily squat in the complicated Steinborn lift, or perform his mind-boggling 1,800-pound hip lift would convince anyone that Art drinks gallons daily from the fountain of youth.

Strength Through Variety (Part 1)

(Webmasters comment: The following is part of an interesting article written by All-Rounder John McKean several years ago. John has won many All-Round National and World Championships in his weight class, and has written articles for Muscular Development, Hardgainer, Strength and Health, Ironman, Powerlifting USA, and MILO)

by John McKean

John McKean demonstrating the Pullover and Push with a thick handle, old style barbell. The Pullover and Push was done by old time strongmen before the days of the Bench Press.

Competition can certainly bring out the beast in you. An almost fanatical drive to excel, improve, and outdo the other guy always yields an unmatched training intensity. Yet even the most diehard lifter occasionally finds himself bored stiff with the same old squat, bench press, snatch or jerk, workout after workout. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to find the incentive to add this competitive fire to shoot for maximum poundages on a lot of movements rather than just a few? How would you like the challenge offered by a huge variety of exercises which can instill tremendous total body power?

Well . . . welcome to the wonderful world of all-round weightlifting.

Simply put, all-round weightlifting consists of almost anything but the powerlifts or two Olympic lifts. In our IAWA (International All-Round Weightlifting Association) meets we perform many recognizable events such as dumbell and barbell presses, strict and cheat curls, hack lifts, leg presses, pullovers, weighted situps, etc. Also contested are forerunners of modern weightlifting which include one-arm snatches, one-arm clean and jerks, push presses, continental cleans and snatches, and jerks behind the neck. Early powerlifting forms are represented by the straddle lift, lying pullover and push, front squat, stiff-legged deadlift, and Steinborn maneuver. And a few ultra-heavy harness events, favored by old-time professional strongmen, are employed via the hip lift, hand and thigh, and back lift.

Lest any potential all-round trainee be intimidated by this awesome variety, let me be quick to explain that never are our listed 150-plus lifts all included in one contest. Generally, for a major contest, 8-10 of the more popular lifts are done over two days. For instance, the 1992 US National meet held in Boston, Massachusetts, featured the neck lift, Jefferson, continental snatch, press behind neck, pullover and push, Zercher, Steinborn, hip lift, hand and thigh, and one-hand deadlift. Local meets usually offer 3-5 movements or are “record days” where a competitor can select his own choice of lifts for record purposes. A few times, however, zealous promoters have posted lists of 15-20 lifts for grueling two-day affairs – believe me, a total body-numbing experience.

Ben Edwards

by Al Myers

Ben Edwards performing a One Handed Thumbless Grip Deadlift of 230 pounds at the 2009 Dino Gym Record Day. Ben's best One handed Thumbless Grip Deadlift is 250 pounds, which is one of the best in the USAWA Record List.

Ben Edwards, the winner of the latest Quiz of the Week, has announced he intends to host an USAWA grip competition. There has not been a grip competition in the USAWA since Kevin Fulton hosted the annual Super Grip Challenges.  Ben has been a “grip specialist” and has competed in numerous grip competitions over the past several years.  He also holds several grip records in the USAWA. He has expanded his lifting to training all the all-round lifts and competed in this past year’s National Championships.  Ben intends to enter more all-round meets in the future.  The USAWA needs more energetic, young lifters like Ben Edwards!!!!

Top 5 All-Time One-Handed Thumbless Grip Deadlifts in the USAWA

1.  266 pounds   Mike McBride
2.  254 pounds   Tom Ryan
3.  250 pounds   Ben Edwards
4.  230 pounds   Al Myers
5.  225 pounds   Matt Graham

Ben Edward’s wins Quiz of Week

by Al Myers

The winner of this week’s quiz is  Ben Edwards, of Lawrence, Kansas.  He correctly identified the two USAWA lifters that have  lifted the Dinnie Stones as Frank Ciavattone, of Walpole Massachusetts,  and Kevin Fulton of Litchfield, Nebraska.

Frank Ciavattone lifting both Dinnie Stones in September, 1996

The Dinnie Stones are still located near their original place in front of the Potarch Hotel -  which is next to the Potarch Bridge that the River Dee runs under. They are located close to Aberdeen, Scotland.  They were originally weighed at 435 pounds and 340 pounds (for a total weight of 775#), but since have been reweighed by Gordon Dinnie in 1998 at 413 pounds and 321 pounds (a total weight of 734 pounds).

Kevin Fulton lifting both Dinnie Stones in October, 2001.

Donald Dinnie is said to have picked up both of these stones (at the same time) and walked the width of the Potarch Bridge – a distance close to 17 feet!!!

For a complete listing of those of have lifted the Dinnie Stones – Click Here

Roger Davis Lifts the Dinnie Stones

by Al Myers

Roger Davis lifting both Dinnie Stones at the same time!!

Congratulations to Roger Davis for finally reaching his longtime goal of lifting the Dinnie Stones. Roger is an all-round weight lifter from England who has competed in several IAWA World Championships, and has won many Championships. He is 39 years old and weighs only around 80 kilograms – which makes this feat all the more impressive!!

The Dinnie Stones are located just outside of Aberdeen, Scotland at the Bridge of Potarch. They were originally used as anchors for the bridge during the construction of the bridge. While helping his father repair the bridge in 1860, Donald Dinnie lifted both of these stones and carried them across the bridge, a distance of over 15 feet.

Roger commented, “It was a great feeling when I finally lifted the stones, especially as clan Chieftain David Webster as well as a large crowd of spectators witnessed it.” He added, “The lifting of the Dinnie Stones really has filled me with a positive attitude.”

I’m looking forward to seeing Roger this coming October in Lebanon at this year’s IAWA World Championships so I can hear first-hand his story about his amazing accomplishment of lifting the Dinnie Stones – a claim not many can make.

Congratulations to David Beversdorf!!!!

by Al Myers

David Beversdorf, of Clark’s Championship Gym, just recently bench pressed 630 pounds at a powerlifting meet that was part of the Missouri State Fair. This was done on August 16th, in Sedalia, Missouri. The meet was sanctioned by SLP. David is a 43 year old neurologist on the staff at the University of Missouri Hospital and Medical Center. David has been training at Clark’s Gym for about a year.

David Beversdorf, of Clark's Gym, benching 630 pounds. Notice Clark's Gym members James Foster (to left) and Joe Garcia (to right) spotting.

I met David at Clark’s Gym this past spring at the Deanna Springs Memorial. A few months earlier David had broken Steve Schmidt’s ALL TIME USAWA record in the Roman Chair Bench Press with a lift of 215 pounds at a Clark’s Gym Record Day.

More about George Jowett

George Jowett lifting his legendary 168 anvil by the horn.

by Al Myers

I mentioned George Jowett yesterday in my training article about anvils. George Jowett was more that just an anvil lifter – it’s just that his most famous lifting feat involved using his legendary 168 pound anvil. It is reported that in the late 1920’s at a strength show in Philadelphia, he grabbed his 168 pound anvil by the horn, and in one motion did a swing with it and caught it at his shoulder and proceeded to press it over head with one arm!!! It is one thing to be able to pick up a heavy anvil one handed – but to clean it one handed is almost beyond belief!! George Jowett possessed huge forearms – measured at times over 16 inches.

George Jowett was born in England, and as a child was critically injured when he fell against a fireplace. This accident left him crippled. When he was 8 years old his parents were told by the doctors that it was unlikely that he would live to be 15, and if he did, would probably never walk again. He proved them wrong – not only did he walk again but went on to become one of the premier strength athletes of the early 1900’s.

Jowett started out in gymnastics and achieved many awards in his teens. He then became a boxer and won world titles as a lightweight boxer. At the age of 19, he moved to Canada and started weightlifting. Weighing just 176 pounds, George did a clean and jerk with 340 pounds!! He was also very good at the one arm swing – his best being 210 pounds. He then became a competitive bodybuilder and is considered by many to be the Father of American Bodybuilding.

By the early 1920’s, George moved to Philadelphia and founded the Jowett Institute for Physical Culture. He started a mail order business selling muscle courses that lifters would subscribe to. Each course was laid out for the entire month and each month George would send out the next month’s course! This was very profitable for him and it grew into a big business. He was very successful as a writer and has written many weightlifting courses and books. His book in 1925, “The World’s Weight Lifting Rules and Records”, was the foundation for the rules used for the all-round lifts in the USAWA today.

Training with Thom “THE ANVIL” Van Vleck

by Al Myers

Anvil Collection - 110# unknown, 152# Peter Wright, 190# Peter Wright

Last week I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon training at my gym with Thom “THE ANVIL” Van Vleck. We spent the entire workout training with anvils only!! I have a collection of three anvils, weighing 110, 152, and 190 pounds. You would be surprised how difficult you can make an anvil workout. Thom knows many ways how to use anvils for training. Training with anvils was very popular with old time strongmen. George Jowett, famous strongman and writer, lifted a 168 pound anvil by the horn with only one hand!!

Thom pressing my 110# anvil with one hand only!!!!

Thom is a very popular writer for MILO, and has written many articles over the past several years. One of his earliest articles was about how it was a right of passage into the JWC (Jackson Weightlifting Club) to be able to lift Grandpa Jackson’s anvil overhead!! This anvil has been passed down through the generations of the JWC, and Thom has it as a center piece in his gym today. It weighs somewhere between 150 and 200 pounds. When you enter the JWC (Thom’s gym) – be prepared to be challenged by Grandpa Jackson’s anvil!!!

The workout started out with doing some snatches, swings and French Presses with my 110# anvil. Lifting anvils is not the same as lifting barbells – an anvil is just a huge chunk of iron that is hard to grab and hold on to!!! But then, it is an exhilarating feeling to be able to master lifting such an awkward object. We are fortunate today that we have bars with roller sleeves that contain fine ball bearings, and plates that are milled perfectly, to provide upmost balance and control when lifting weights. The old time strongmen did not have this type of equipment, but made the most of what they had and still made amazing strength gains.

I managed lifting the 110# anvil, but then Thom showed me up by lifting the 110# anvil and the 152# anvil at the same time!! Now you see why he is known as Thom the Anvil??

We then progressed to doing clean and presses with the 152 pound anvil. We started out doing strict presses and finished by doing push presses with it. It is difficult to keep an anvil from “getting out in front of you” when pressing it overhead and to maintain the lockout. But the more reps we did with it the better both of us got. I then took on the 190# anvil and cleaned and pressed it several times. After this we did some one handed lifting with the anvils by gripping them by the horn – “Jowett style”. You really feel this in the forearm muscles. I have done alot of Vertical Bar lifting with a 2″ bar – but the horn of an anvil has a taper to it that makes it way more difficult!!

The next exercise we did was loading and deloading the three anvils onto platforms. This is a full body exercise. We did several “runs” of these until our backs starting cramping!! At this point I thought we would call it a workout but Thom had more in mind! We finished this 3 hour workout by carrying the 190# anvil down and back my 100 foot course (200 feet total) several times with the anvil cradled in our arms. This tested my cardiovascular endurance and left me in a heap of sweat and breathing like a race horse. Now – THAT is what you can call an ALL-ROUND workout and we didn’t even touch a barbell or dumbbell!!!

The Turkish Get Up

"It is a splendid exercise and showy feat to lie down and regain upright position holding a dumbbell overhead" - Thomas Inch

I recently received an email from Brian Brown, of Dubuque, Iowa asking the question – Why is the Turkish Get Up not an USAWA lift? Well – my answer was IT SHOULD BE!!!! This was a very popular lift among old-time strongmen. It was a favorite of such greats as Arthur Saxon, George Hackenschmidt, and Sig Klein. Thanks to Brian for providing this writeup about the Turkish Get Up.

The Turkish Get Up by Brian Brown

The Turkish Get Up is a great old-time strongman exercise in addition to being a great shoulder rehab, core building, and flexibility enhancing exercise. It also works all the muscles of the body, so it’s a great exercise to have in your arsenal in case you’re short of time for a workout.

In truth I don’t know what’s Turkish about the Get Up. I do know that you can do a Get Up with two hands or one hand. Typically the Turkish Get Up refers to the one-hand version of the Get Up. And you can use any kind of resistance you like, whether it be a dumbbell, kettlebell, barbell, sandbag, or your kid. I’ve tried it with my kids — it’s a great circus trick and they like it too!

To perform the Turkish Get Up, lie on your back with the weight overhead in one hand. While keeping your elbow locked and the weight overhead you ‘get up’ to a standing position. For competition purposes, this would be the end of the movement. But for training purposes, it’s more challenging if you then reverse the movement until you are lying back on the floor. Then you repeat for the other arm.

The basic sequence of the Turkish Get Up is as follows, to begin the movement, crunch your abs and obliques while moving the dumbbell slowly forward, then push off the floor with your free arm. If you can make it to the sitting position, you are pretty much home free! Then bring your leg opposite the weight underneath your body so that you are in a lunge position, then stand up with the weight.

There is another method whereby after you are in the sitting position, you get in the deep (seriously deep!) overhead squat position and stand up from there. But this is much more difficult than the ‘lunging’ method and requires quite a bit more flexibility and as such, less weight can be used.

Jeff Martone commented that the Turkish Get Up helped to rehab his bad shoulder. I’ve found this to be the case also. I had a delicate right shoulder from too much bench pressing and shot putting when I was in high school. When I discovered the Turkish Get Up a few years ago my shoulder problems disappeared. Also I have a friend with chronic back problems and he said that his back problems diminished remarkably after including the Turkish Get Up in his program. There is something unique to this movement in that the shoulders and hips seem to rotate around the axis underneath the weight, providing beneficial full range of motion.

I recommend sticking with low repetitions with this movement, unless you’re using it for a warm-up. Even with low reps, the Turkish Get Up can provide quite a metabolism boost. In the following video sequence I’m breaking my PR in the Turkish Get Up using 86.25 pounds (not bad for 6′2″, 188 lbs, and 36 years, if I don’t say so myself). Notice that I’m under the load for roughly 55 seconds. How many of these ’singles’ do you think I could handle in a workout? I can almost get around a 400m track in that amount of time!

A nice, challenging, simple workout is to do the Turkish Get Up as described above, but to insert an overhead squat once you are in the standing position, then continue with the Turkish Get Up by reversing the movement to the floor, and repeating with the other arm. You could also insert a press once you are in the standing position. I also like to superset Turkish Get Ups with a heavy lower body movement like squats since I use dumbbells for the Turkish Get Up and my bar is free for another movement.

What type of resistance you prefer is up to you. Based upon my experience, a barbell is easier than a dumbbell due to the additional balance provided by the length of the bar. And a kettlebell is easier than a dumbbell because the kettlebell rides a bit lower on the arm. For me, it’s easier to get the dumbbell into position compared to a barbell or a kettlebell.

It is said that back in the day, weightlifters had to Turkish Get Up 100 pounds before they were allowed to learn the Olympic lifts. This exercise is also supposed to be a staple of cage-fighters. 100 pounds is my goal, but I’ll leave the cage fighting to the pros!

Dale Friesz – the “Miracle Man”

by Al Myers

605# Neck Lift by Dale Friesz

A Hall of Fame Biography is now available for Dale Friesz. Dale is truly an amazing individual who is an inspiration to everyone who meets him. Dale has overcome many very serious medical issues to resume not just lifting, but competition lifting!!! Dale just recently spent 9 days in the hospital for treatment of a leg infection – but I fully expect to see him lifting at this year’s World Championships in October. Whenever I have an ache or pain when I’m working out and I feel like complaining about it – I think of Dale, who has every excuse not to train but keeps at it relentlessly – and then I realize that my aches and pains aren’t all that bad!! You can always count on seeing Dale at every year’s National Championships. He is one of the charter members of the USAWA.

The King’s Stone

by Al Myers

Attempting to lift the 7000 pound Naha Stone

Just recently I was on vacation in Hawaii and had a chance to try my hand (or back!) at lifting the Naha Stone, which is located in front of the Public Library in Hilo, on the big Island of Hawaii.

The story behind the Naha Stone is a very interesting one. According to legend, King Kamehameha not only lifted this huge volcanic rock but stood it on end and flipped it over!! King Kamehameha was the first Hawaiian King to unite all the Hawaiian Islands under a single ruler. The legend goes that early in time a kahuna (or holy man) prophesied that a very strong warrior would eventually lift this stone, and upon doing so, would become a great King and Ruler over all the Hawaiian Islands. King Kamehameha was a very big man, standing over 7 feet tall and weighing over 400 pounds.

Naha Stone

I gave the Naha Stone all I could and at one point thought I heard it cracking the ground, but that was just my back. I guess I am not destined to be the next King of Hawaii!!

Update on the Middle Fingers Deadlift

by Al Myers

Since I have put up the list of the top Middle Fingers Deadlifts of All-Time, I have been informed of two more making the list. Steve Gardner, the IAWA President, and his son John Gardner have both lifted 330 pounds in the Middle Fingers Deadlift!!!  This is the updated list.

Top List for the Middle Fingers Deadlift

1. 411 pounds by John McLoughlin.  Done at the German-American Athletic
Club in New York City in 1954.
2. 403 Pounds by David Horne.
3. 400 Pounds by Kevin Fulton.  Done at the 1994 Super Grip Challenge.
4. 345 Pounds by Sam Cox.  Done at the Dino Gym in Abilene, Kansas
in 2009.
5. 340 Pounds by Chuck Cookson.  Done at the Dino Gym in Abilene, Kansas
in 2009.
6. 330 Pounds by Steve Sherwood.  Done at the 1992 British Grip
330 Pounds by Steve Gardner.
330 Pounds by John Gardner.
9. 309 Pounds by Bill DiCioccio Sr.  Done at the 1994 Gold Cup.

Denny Habecker

by Al Myers

Denny Habecker performing a Hack Lift.

A Hall of Fame Biography is now available for Denny Habecker. Denny is the current USAWA President and has been the biggest USAWA meet promoter for the past several years. He is the meet director for this year’s IAWA World Championships, which is going to be held in Lebanon, Pennsylvania on October 3rd and 4th, 2009.  Denny puts on top quality meets and this is one you don’t want to miss!!!

History of the Goerner Deadlift Dozen

by Dale Friesz

Dale Friesz, who holds the unofficial title as Historian of the USAWA, provided me with this chart of the past winners of the Goerner Deadlift Dozen. It not only includes the winners each year, but also the winner’s total and adjusted point totals. As you can see from this chart, Dale has the distinction of being the winner in the very first Goerner Meet. The lifts contested in the Goerner Deadlift Dozen are as follows:

Deadlift – Heels Together
Hack Lift
Jefferson Lift
2 Bar Deadlift
Right Hand Deadlift
Left Hand Deadlift
Right Hand Deadlift – Thumbless
Left Hand Deadlift – Thumbless
Index Fingers Deadlift
Middle Fingers Deadlift
Ring Fingers Deadlift
Little Fingers Deadlift
Reeves Deadlift

1995 Dale Friesz, Virginia
53 183 2800 3028.09
1996 Rex Monahan, Colorado
72 186 2742.5 3396.58
1997 Rex Monahan, Colorado
73 198.25 2685 3229.48
1998 Rex Monahan, Colorado
74 197.25 2615 3176.52
1999 Kevin Fulton, Nebraska
39 260.5 4195 3257.42
2000 Kevin Fulton, Nebraska
40 260 4200 3301.12
2001 Seth Holcomb, Nebraska
16 192 3340 3359.51
2002 Al Myers, Kansas
36 272 4020 3058.42
2003 Bill Clark, Missouri
71 237 2765 2996.41
2004 Mike McBride, Missouri
27 225 4025 3372.15
2005 Mike McBride, Missouri
28 229 2755 2231.83
2006 Al Myers, Kansas
40 251 4020 3214.90
2007 Cancelled Due to Ice
2008 Al Myers, Kansas
42 248 4325 3547.00

POINTS – formula adjusted for age and bodyweight

Discussion of the Age Adjustment

by Al Myers

At the recent USAWA National Meeting, a topic was brought up that created a lot of discussion. It was not brought up by anyone as a motion, only as a point of discussion. No official action was taken and no vote was taken by the membership. It involved the IAWA study into the age allowance, or as what the USAWA refers to – the age adjustment. Last year at the IAWA Meeting, this topic was brought up and a committee was formed to investigate it. The committee has done a study of three lifts and the decrease in performance of these three lifts with age. The summary of this can be viewed here – Study of Age Percentage Allowance. As of now, IAWA uses the same age adjustment percentages as the USAWA which is one percent per year starting at 40 years of age.

IAWA(UK) uses a somewhat different age correction where a lifter gains one percent per year starting at 36 years of age, until the age of 66 years where it increase to 2 percent. This 2 percent is only for the years of age over 66, not all the years. So you can see, the IAWA(UK) system favors older lifters slightly more than the USAWA system.

The big question is – What is fair? The majority amongst those present at the USAWA Meeting involved in the discussion felt that the current system is fine as it is – but that only applies to the USAWA. What is decided at the IAWA Meeting may be completely different as lifters from other countries will be involved in the discussion, and the vote on it if there is one.

Bill Clark made these comments in the last Strength Journal stating his viewpoint on this, “As a 77 year old, I get 38 percent and can come close to winning if I have a good day. I don’t expect to beat anyone simply by raising the percentage. For all purposes, we weren’t meant to beat up on a strong 30 year old by a formula. I’m very happy with my 38 percent and often feel guilty taking it. There’s no way I deserve 54 percent at age 77. Next thing, I’ll be taking steroids to enhance my 54 percent. Come on, get serious.”

If anyone wants their viewpoints on this stated, please send them to me and I will make them known. I will also try to obtain the graphs of this study so you can evaluate them yourself.


by Al Myers

This past weekend, the Dino Gym promoted two competitions on Saturday, July 18th. The first was a Bench Press/Deadlift Competition sanctioned through the organization 100% Raw Powerlifting. The second was the Central Plains Highlander sanctioned through the North American Highlander Association. NAHA is a new organization promoted by D.J. Satterfield, that provides competitions that are a combination of Highland Games and Strongman. This sport requires the athleticism of Highland Game athletes along with the strength of Strongman to be successful at it. The Dino Gym is promoting the first NAHA Nationals at the Dino Gym on September 19th, 2009. 100% Raw Powerlifting is an organization that limits the use of lifting gear (allows belts only!) and the meets are drug-tested. Both of these are good fits for the Dino Gym!!!! Even though the turnout was small and most of the competitors were gym members, the quality in these two competitions was outstanding!!!

Rex Monahan

by Al Myers

Rex Monahan, in 2003, training his favorite lift - the one handed Deadlift - in preparation for the World Championships.

We have a WINNER to the quiz of the week – Joe Garcia of Sturgeon, Missouri, correctly identified the oldest lifter to ever win the Goerner Deadlift Dozen as the late Rex Monahan of Sterling, Colorado. Rex won the Goerner Deadlift Dozen in 1996, 1997, and 1998. In his last victory he was 74 years old. Rex died January 19th, 2009 – 6 weeks after this past year’s Goerner Meet – and one in which he had hoped to compete in. He had made plans to ride with me to the meet, and even said it would probably be his last meet. I was disappointed when his declining health prevented this from happening. Rex was a Deadlifting specialist – having Deadlifted with heels together a best of 325#, a Hack Lift of 369#, and a Jefferson Lift of 375#. All these lifts were done over 70 years of age and under 200 pounds bodyweight. His best lift was the one handed Deadlift – where he pulled 353 pounds when he was over 75 years old!!!! That record may last as long as Hermann Goerner’s One Handed Deadlift record!!! Rex was also outstanding in the Finger Deadlifts. He has done 150 pounds on the Little Fingers Deadlift!! Rex was a great supporter of the USAWA, and went to every National and World event he could and won many championships. He has over 100 USAWA records. He was inducted into the USAWA Hall of Fame in 2002. As a special tribute to Rex, the Overall Best Lifter Award at this past year’s National Championships was named the Monahan Award.

Middle Fingers Deadlift Showdown

by Al Myers

Chuck Cookson pulling 340# in the Middle Fingers Deadlift.

More on the finger strength of Hermann Goerner…

Hermann Goerner trained the deadlift in many different ways. Pulling was always a part of his workouts – but he never really trained to have a maximum deadlift. He considered the variations of the deadlift to be more “showing” and useful in his strongman performances. He did one arm deadlifts in many different ways – thumbless grip, normal grip with no hook, grip with a hook, bent arm style, etc. He also did two hand deadlifts with different variations – such as an overhand grip with no hook, bent arm style, 2 bar deadlifts, finger deadlifts, etc.

This brings me to the topic of the day – The Middle Fingers Deadlift. Of all the Finger Deadlifts, the Middle Finger is the one where the most weight can be lifted. The rules of the Middle Fingers Deadlift are simple – you grip the bar with the middle fingers only (No other fingers may touch the middle finger when it is gripping the bar) and you do a deadlift. It is allowable to use an alternate grip on the bar.

Sam Cox topped Chuck's lift, with a lift of his own of 345 pounds.

Hermann Goerner claimed a best in the Middle Fingers Deadlift of 308 pounds set in the 1920’s. Compared with his other finger lifts, I don’t feel this “best” was anywhere near what he was capable of doing. The other day in the gym we had a Middle Fingers Deadlift impromptu competition – just to see what could be done. None of the guys participating in this are in training for finger lifting competition – and several of them had never even done a Finger Deadlift before. I was very surprised how well a couple of them did.

What is the best Middle Fingers Deadlift of All-Time???

I did some research of past USAWA record lists, and a brief internet search, and this is what I have found. I do not present this as an official list of the best Middle Fingers Deadlifts, as I am sure there are Middle Fingers Deadlift marks that I am not aware of. Also, some of these marks may have been judged by different standards. Some were in competitions and some just witnessed.

(Only lifts above Goerner’s Middle Fingers Deadlift of 308 pounds need apply)

Top List for the Middle Fingers Deadlift (that I am aware of)

1. 411 pounds by John McLoughlin.  Done at the German-American Athletic
Club in New York City in 1954.
2. 403 Pounds by David Horne.
3. 400 Pounds by Kevin Fulton.  Done at the 1994 Super Grip Challenge.
4. 345 Pounds by Sam Cox.  Done at the Dino Gym in Abilene, Kansas
in 2009.
5. 340 Pounds by Chuck Cookson.  Done at the Dino Gym in Abilene, Kansas
in 2009.
6. 330 Pounds by Steve Sherwood.  Done at the 1992 British Grip
330 Pounds by Steve Gardner.
330 Pounds by John Gardner.
9. 309 Pounds by Bill DiCioccio.  Done at the 1994 Gold Cup.

If anyone knows of other lifters who have exceeded Goerner’s Middle Fingers Deadlift of 308 pounds, please let me know and I will gladly give them credit and put them on the list. Or do it yourself – and beat a “Best” of Hermann Goerner.

Other Middle Fingers Deadlifts that should be mentioned:

230 Pounds by Mary McConnaughey. Done at the 2005 Goerner Deadlift Dozen. This is probably the top women’s mark of all time.

237 Pounds by Roy Mason. This is probably the best Middle Fingers Deadlift for a lifter over 75 years of age. Roy weighed only 150 pounds when he lifted this.

Top Ten Reasons you know you are getting old as an All-Round Weightlifter

by Al Myers

I’m a big fan of Dave Letterman’s TOP TEN – now lets apply it to all-round weightlifting!!!

10. You don’t take warm-ups anymore – they would just tire you out

9. “Enhanced” has a new meaning – you have at least one artificial joint

8. You really enjoy the lifts you get to lay down to do ….until you have

to get back up

7. You start thinking the loaders at the meet would make good pall bearers

6. Putting your lifting shoes on is all the stretching you need

5. You have to hand your cane to a spotter before lifting

4. You have become a Doctor’s “test subject” – and he

writes a paper about you

3. You have to explain to the judges that your press-out was really just

a very slow jerk

2. The drug testers laugh when you give your urine sample

And the #1 reason…

1. Instead of a post-workout protein shake and vitamins, you wash

down your heart pills with a beer!!!

Conner Wins Liberty Strongman Classic!!

by Al Myers

John Conner training for the Hummer Tire Deadlift - where he pulled 905 pounds.

John Conner, the Dino Gym Phenom, won the Liberty Strongman Classic this past weekend in Philadelphia. This professional strongman contest was directed by Al Thompson, and was attended by several of the top professional strongmen in the United States. I am very proud of John, as I have watched him train very hard these past few months with a new sense of determination. I don’t think John is anywhere near his potential yet.

At times, it was estimated that over 7000 people were watching the strongman show. Here is a YouTube Video of John being the first competitor to load all 5 stones at Frawly Stadium – just watch the fans go wild!!!

More on Jack Walsh……..

by Al Myers

Jack Walsh, the New Jersey Strongman, was a strongman showman more than a weightlifter. He loved the Heavy Lifts, such as the Back Lift and the Hand and Thigh Lift because they were crowd favorites with the large amount of weight lifted. He was not a big man, standing a little more than 5′6″ and weighing 180-200 pounds at his heaviest. Thus, his best claims in the Back Lift of 4700 pounds and 1900 pounds in the Hand and Thigh Lift seem even more spectacular. His best lifts were done in the early 1950’s. He was also good at the one arm Clean and Jerk, with a best of 210 pounds done with a barbell. He excelled at the finger lifts – doing a middle finger lift of 550 pounds (using a padded ring which is not used today).

But this lifting stunt of his caught my attention more than any others – he would hang from a chin-up bar with ONLY his chin supporting him, and while in this “hanging position” perform a crucifix with a pair of 50 pound dumbbells!!! Is this possible? I have some leftover USAWA Nationals T-shirts and will give one away to anyone who sends me a picture of themselves doing this!! I’ll make it easy – Just do it with a pair of 20 pound dumbbells!!

Powerlifting Saved This Man’s Life!

by John McKean

This is a reprint of an article by John McKean in the February 1979 issue of Muscular Development. It is a very well written story about Art Montini and how weightlifting helped him overcome severe burns and disability. Art was the oldest competitor at the 2009 USAWA National Championships, and after doing a Back Lift with 1000 pounds at 81 years of age is showing no signs of slowing down!! Read and enjoy.

Arthur Montini - his speedy recovery from a near fatality is an amazing testament to the benefits of powerlifting, and weight training exercises.

The 250 pound squat was a slow teeth-gnashing struggle toward completion even though the trembling lifter hadn’t quite hit the parallel mark. It was the most beautiful lift I can ever remember seeing!! Let me explain my excitement over such a mediocre performance. The lifter was 50-year old Arthur Montini, a very popular powerlifting competitor, official, and meet director in Western Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Mountain Association. Certainly nowhere near his best, Art ground out the light squat in defiance of a severe accident three months earlier which threatened him with total physical debilitation.

A Steelworker from Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, Montini was caught in a disastrous furnace explosion at the mill, leaving him as little more than a burnt, barely alive, mass of human flesh. Doctors at the Western Pennsylvania Burn Unit confirmed that he received burns covering over 65% of his body. His chances of survival were practically nil. Although punished with pain almost beyond comprehension, Montini’s amazing body, toughened by over 30 years of heavy barbell training, proved to be the winning factor in the life or death struggle. Certain that this man’s age would be a negative factor, doctors were astonished when tests confirmed Art’s physical condition to be that of a very healthy 21 year old!! And, matching a fighting body, the old iron slinger had an unyielding desire and determination not only to live but to completely heal – and quickly!!! Showing unbelievably rapid progress from the start, Art was soon allowed visitors. The place looked like a major lifting meet after a while! Testament to the esteem held for this local iron game celebrity was the large influx of lifters and officials who kept pouring in. The nurses were most pleased to see so many good looking, muscular young men in the hospital corridors!

Although still bandaged from his recent, very serious accident, Art Montini performs a favorite strength building movement - incline sit-ups with a pair of York 110 pounders! Talk about abs -wow!

Art cheerfully greeted all his visitors, maintaining good spirits despite the pain and extreme discomfort he was constantly experiencing. Except for the “mummy” bandages which covered him head to toe, he remained the same old talkative, personable Art Montini. Naturally, conversation with his weightlifting buddies always revolved around training. Refusing to acknowledge his condition, Art claimed the worst part of his hospitalization was the inactivity – he desperately wanted to get back to his barbells!! All of us who visited, to the man, were left with absolutely no doubt that the old master would return to the lifting platform once more!!

Recovery from severe burns is a very slow and agonizing process. Daily removal of dead skin as well as constant medication and extensive bandaging are the necessary horrors burn patients must face. Body heat loss, due to the lack of outer skin, causes almost constant shivering, and chances of acquiring an infection are extremely high. But Art Montini is not the type of guy to lie around feeling sorry for himself, and he refused to merely endure a long, drawn out healing process. His three decades of training had convinced him that he could force cell growth if only he could exercise and acquire the necessary nutrients. He knew that his body would not let him down now, having been well versed in making speedy recuperation from constant heavy workouts over the years!

Shortly after his admission into the hospital, Art decided to make good use of a bar hanging across his bed, normally used to help patients pull themselves up to a sitting position. Not only did he sit up, but he proceeded to do set after set of chin-ups on the bar! Considering his blistered skin and total body bandaging, this movement was not exactly easy. But Art liked the feel of the exercise and welcomed the opportunity to get his blood circulating more rapidly and his muscles working again. Soon other improvisations, such as isometric contractions, were incorporated into his makeshift workout. The pain involved was inconsequential compared to this chance to make productive use of his excessive spare time. Now I’ve heard of training under adverse conditions, but this was almost incomprehensible – here was a man who was beginning his comeback while still on the critical list!!

Concentration with heavy attempts is the key to Montini's routine. Here he sinks his teeth into a heavy deadlift.

Supplements were next. Art had his friends sneak in boxes of his favorite Hoffman Hi-Protein Candy Bars, Massive doses of Vitamin C and E, and a few other vitamin and mineral aids. The hospital had already placed him on a high calorie, high protein, balanced diet in order to fulfill the massive needs of replacing dead and dying cells of the burnt skin. However, Montini knew that even huge quantities of today’s rather devitalized , processed foods would not do the job. Certainly the hospital food was not quite good enough for a weightlifter! The self-prescribed, highly supplemented diet quickly worked its magic. In light of Art’s ever accelerating recovery rate, even the skeptical doctors were forced to encourage him to continue his intake of protein, vitamins, and minerals.

Fantastic physical condition and tremendous recuperative abilities are not normal characteristics of a 50-year old man. Of course, Art Montini has been very stubborn to acknowledge either physical or mental aging, having found his personal “fountain of youth” through powerlifting. By thinking and training like a young athlete, he has maintained the body of a young athlete – perhaps the saving grace from his terrible accident. Art has always ignored so-called “conditioning” programs – or “suggested” exercises for middle-aged men. In fact, I sincerely doubt that he has ever performed a truly light workout in his career. No calisthenics, 10-pound dumbbells, or high rep-low weight movements for this iron man!! Art goes to the gym to be challenged and loves to load those heavy plates on the Olympic bar! He is a competitor, always will be, and never plans to change the enjoyment he derives from powerlift training. Even after his relatively short hospital stay, though still healing and bandaged to some degree, Art was in the gym squatting, benching, and deadlifting!!

Montini has competed in area power meets since their inception in the 60’s, but has diligently performed the heavy movements since his earliest barbell training during the late 1940’s. Over the years he has acquired a vast knowledge of training methods and lifting techniques, determining those which work best for him. His body and mental attitude seem to prefer a very basic system of heavy weights and low reps. Depending on the nearness of a meet, he will perform maximum attempts for sets of five, three or single reps on the powerlifts. Also, with fondness for his Olympic lifting days, the “old man” likes to work up in singles to a heavy press, snatch, and clean and jerk as supplemental exercises.

Progress, not maintenance, is his constant goal. “When I can’t increase my poundages on the lifts, I’ll quit – and those days are a long way off!” claims the hardened veteran. Indeed, his best gains have been made in recent years as the iron “bug” has bitten harder than ever. Displaying the exuberance and energy of a teenager, Montini takes almost masochistic delight in forcing out reps with maximum or near-maximum weight. He loves to put himself to the test at a contest and is in his glory competing, officiating, coaching or just being with his fellow lifters.

When asked which bodybuilding exercises he performs to supplement his heavy lifting and for general physical fitness, Art just laughs. He very pointedly comments that max poundage powerlifting is bodybuilding! However, the old boy has often been observed doing sets of high incline sit-ups – while holding two 110-pound dumbells! Just can’t keep the guy away from those heavy weights! As far as a physique is concerned, that 50-year-old tank of a torso speaks for itself!

Montini is perhaps one of the premiere teachers of powerlifting in the country, based on his experience and the number of students he has reached. Over 20 years ago he and Harry McCoy founded the highly popular Ambridge V.F.W. Barbell Club. Devoting much of his spare time toward working for the betterment of this non-profit gym, Art has developed many fine Olympic and power lifters. He leads his teams into practically every area competition, and personally conducts several large meets at the V.F.W. each year. No matter how experienced or prestigious the trainee, this old wizard of weights is always sought for help and advice. Currently, the president of the club, Montini remains the head guru of power at the Ambridge V.F.W.

Presently Art chooses to ignore the wounds, scars, and bandaging remaining from his all too recent accident and has plunged knee deep into a competitive powerlifting routine. He is still upset that the untimely explosion ruined his plans to compete in the 1978 Masters’ Age National Championships, but vows to be ready for 1979! The body may still be a bit wracked up right now, but the competitive spirit has reached an all-time high!

Art has been grinding out heavy squats like this for over 30 years!

Art Montini has shown us all how our beloved sport can condition both body and mind to handle even the most severe stress. Some current fitness “experts” find it fashionable to dismiss heavy weight training as a viable source of exercise for health and longevity. However, Art’s punishing ordeal points out that in addition to providing stimulus for the muscles, powerlifting can create development of tremendous recuperative powers, strong resistance to physical damage, and a mental “toughness” not tolerant of defeat. And just ask Art about longevity. He’ll cheerfully tell you that not only has weightlifting given him so much health and happiness during his lifetime, its benefits have granted him life itself!!

Middle Atlantic Postal

by Al Myers

Middle Atlantic Open Postal Meet
June 2009

Meet Director:  John Wilmot

Lifts:  Clean and Press – Reverse Grip, Continental Snatch, Hack Lift

Lifter Age BWT C&P Snatch Hack Total Points
Al Myers
42 255 220 198 573 991 802.19
Orie Barnett
48 227 170 110 405 685 622.33
John  Wilmot
62 213 110 100 300 510 541.74

BWT – Bodyweight in pounds. All lifts in pounds. Points are age and bodyweight adjusted.

Best Overall Lifter    Al Myers

Is the Van Dam Lift impossible?

by Al Myers

So you think the Van Dam Lift is impossible???  Rob Van Dam, of wrestling fame, is responsible for this lift being in the USAWA Rule Book and to this date he has been the only one to perform the Van Dam Lift.  For those who are unfamiliar with the Van Dam Lift – it involves lifting a heavy dumbbell from the floor to the waist while maintaining the full splits with each foot/leg supported on a bench . Rob Van Dam demonstrated this lift with a dumbbell of 166 pounds. For those who still don’t believe it – it can be viewed on this YouTube Video and was officiated by USAWA officials.

Steve Freides, at 149 pounds, one arm pressing a Kettlebell of 53 pounds while maintaining the full splits.

Now along comes Steve Freides, of Ridgewood New Jersey, who just may be the second person to accomplish the Van Dam Lift. Steve started out childhood suffering from severe asthma and allergies, to enduring a severe back injury as an adult that left him bedridden for several months and unable to walk without limping for over a year.  At this point in his life,  Steve decided to forget about his physical setbacks and took up an aggressive exercise program involving daily stretching and training with Kettlebells. He also runs, swims and bicycles.  He has even entered several powerlifting meets, setting some deadlifting records in the process.  Steve is a certified Personal Trainer by the National Strength and Conditioning Association and was certified as a Russian Kettlebell Challenge Instructor by Pavel Tsatsouline.  He received his RKC Level 2 certification in 2007.

Now the question remains – will Steve enter an All-Round Weightlifting Record Day and be the only person to do the impossible Van Dam Lift besides the man himself, Rob Van Dam?  Lets hope it happens!!!!!!

Joe Garcia and the Hand & Thigh

by Al Myers

A Hall of Fame Biography is now available for Joe Garcia.  Joe is famous for his Hand and Thigh Lifting – and holds the all-time record in this lift by lifting 1910 pounds! Not only has he lifted more than anyone in the history of the USAWA, but also of All Time, even exceeding the Hand and Thigh Lifts of the old time strongmen.

Joe Garcia with the Hand and Thigh Lift

Quiz Question: Name the lifter whose all-time record was broken by Joe Garcia, and the weight of the previous record.

Rules of contest: 1 answer per day, first correct answer to webmaster wins

Winner receives a USAWA Patch!!!!

Mike McBride, of Columbia Missouri, correctly answered the quiz. The

previous Hand and Thigh Lift record holder was the New Jersey Strongman,  Jack Walsh.  He did a Hand and Thigh Lift of 1900 pounds in 1950 at Trenton, New Jersey.  This beat the previous record held by Louis Cyr of Canada, who had a Hand and Thigh Lift of 1897 pounds, set in 1896.  Will it be another 50 years before Joe Garcia’s Hand and Thigh Lift record is broken?

Highlights of the National Meeting

by Al Myers

After the chalk settled, and the lifters full from a BBQ of burgers and chicken, the USAWA membership sat down to have the National Meeting, presided over by USAWA President Denny Habecker. Several issues were on the agenda this year that if voted “yes on” could change the direction of the USAWA and the future of the organization. The first item brought up was the review of the bylaws. The USAWA has been working with bylaws that were developed when the organization began in 1987. In this time no changes have ever been made to the bylaws, despite the fact that the USAWA has been operating in a different fashion from what the original bylaws outlined. Much of this was the result of the failure of the USAWA to grow in numbers – and the original bylaws were written with the idea that the USAWA was going to be a large organization and thus would require complex governing bylaws. After a short discussion, a committee was formed to re-write the bylaws. Members of this committee are Tim Piper, Joe Garcia and myself. The next item brought to the floor was the process of Hall of Fame Induction. The previous system was a point system in which an individual must accumulate 1000 points, and upon reaching this number, would automatically be the Hall of Fame. One person was designated to keep track of everyone’s points. This system ceased to work when the individual in charge of it retired and no one took it over, and thus no one has been inducted since 2003. I presented a new Hall of Fame Induction form to the membership based on a nomination process whereas an individual would nominate someone and be the one responsible for figuring the nominees points, taking the pressure off of one individual. No motion was made to accept this new form. Again, a committee was formed to investigate this process and to report to the membership at next years annual meeting. The Hall of Fame committee consists of Denny Habecker, Dennis Mitchell, and Dale Friesz. The next item was a review of the Officials’ Test. Discussion included that the current rules test is too long and is discouraging people from taking it. As of now, only 8 individuals have taken the rules test in the past 3 years. This was countered by discussion pointing out the importance of having an extensive rules test with stringent criteria in order to become a qualified official, much like other sports organizations. Also included in this was reasons why a practical exam should be implemented. No motions were made. Joe Garcia volunteered to be the Officials’ Chairman. The next item was the approval of the new Rule Book. The Rule Book was updated and expanded on this spring, and was reviewed by several people. The approval of the Rule Book passed unanimously. The motion was amended to include a date of August 1st for the new Rule Book to take effect. The reason given for this was to give time so people could be made aware of it that do not have access to a computer. The proposed Rule Book has been available on the website for the past 6 weeks. The next item brought up was a review of the drug testing policy. Much concern was voiced by the membership about the considerable expense the testing program is costing the organization, and that other cheaper testing programs should be looked at. Amongst the discussion was the importance of maintaining an extensive quality testing program, which this program has done, and having outside individuals doing the testing instead of doing the testing in-house. A motion was made by Chad Ullom to continue with our current testing program and it passed by majority vote. The next item discussed was the future of the Strength Journal, which is published by Bill Clark. Bill Clark announced that he was resigning as publisher of the Journal, effective at the end of the year. Discussion included trying to convince Bill to have a change of mind, but it was to no avail. The next agenda item was election of officers. It started with Bill Clark announcing that he was resigning as Secretary/Treasurer after over 20 years in this capacity. A motion was then made by Bill Clark nominating Denny Habecker for President, myself as Secretary/Treasurer and Chad Ullom as Vice President. The motion was seconded by Randy Smith and passed unanimously. Included in this motion was that the new officers would take office at the beginning of 2010 to allow time for transition. The next item was a review of the record keeping process. Discussion included the possibility of having the Record List put on the website. Joe Garcia, the Official Record Keeper expressed concerns over bandwidth and whether this would be possible with the new website. This was discussed and agreed upon that it needed to be looked into further before the Record List would be put on the website. Joe and I agreed that we will work together on getting the Record List on the website. The next item was a review of the website. Discussion amongst the membership included wanting to have a message board, and being able to register online for membership and sanctioning. Next up was a review of club memberships and the discussion of team awards. In the past, club awards have been given out but this ceased when club memberships declined. As of now, the USAWA has 4 registered clubs. The membership agreed that this was not enough clubs to have an club award program. Next item up was a discussion of insurance. As of now, the USAWA does not provide insurance for sanctioned meets, nor has an insurance policy that would allow meet directors to purchase insurance for meets. Meet Directors must find their own insurance, or just go with out. Discussion included having this looked into and what the costs would be to the organization. No motions were made and no committee formed. The next agenda item was a review of the age adjustment, and whether the point correction was fair. This issue was brought up at the IAWA meeting last fall. Dennis Mitchell presented a survey done by the IAWA committee that was formed to study this. The study showed 1 percent was somewhat fair up to the age of 60, but after the age of 60 performance decrease was more rapid than 1 percent. Concerns were expressed by the membership that increasing the age adjustment for lifters over 60 may deter new young lifters from joining the USAWA. The majority of the membership felt that no change should be made, and this should be the USAWA recommendation to IAWA at the IAWA meeting in October. The next item was an issue brought forward by the Technical Committee concerning whether using the Zercher Lift in the Continental to Belt should continue to be allowed. This issue was brought up at the last IAWA Meeting requesting that the Continental to Belt should be divided into two lifts – the Continental to Belt and the Continental to Belt Anyhow. Discussion among members felt that by the definition of a continental using a Zercher Lift to get the bar to the belt is within the description of a continental, and there would be no point in separating them. This was also the recommendation of the Technical Committee. Next up was a discussion involving whether we should remain part of the IAWA, or join with the BSAG. Membership voiced overwhelming support of IAWA, and after a very short discussion, no motions were made. The next item was a motion made by Bill Clark naming the Overall Best Lifter Award at Nationals the Monahan Award, in honor and memory of Rex Monahan. It passed unanimously. The last item was asking for bids for the 2010 National Championships. Denny Habecker put in the only bid, and it was accepted unanimously.

National Championships

by Ben Edwards

Pictured front row left to right: Rudy Bletscher, Denny Habecker, Art Montini, Dale Friesz, Dennis Mitchell Pictured back row left to right: Charlie Scott, Randy Smith, Tim Piper, Ben Edwards, Joe Garcia, Al Myers,Chad Ullom

Special thanks goes out to my wonderful wife Carrie. She willingly acted as my chauffeur, masseuse, coach, cheerleader, scorekeeper, photographer, and trusted adviser for the entire day. That gave me an unfair advantage over anyone else who didn’t have that kind of support system. I’m a very lucky man to have her in my corner.

At 6 o’clock in the morning, on June 20th, we set out with all the food and other supplemental supplies I would need for a day spent competing at the 2009 USAWA Nationals.

The destination was Al Myers’ Dino Gym in Holland, Kansas. I’ve been there three times previously, but each time I go there is always something I see that I missed on my previous visits to the gym.

The Dino Gym is the best-equipped gym I’ve ever encountered. That’s not an exaggeration either.

Al is a former Highland Games champion, so there is a good deal of Highland Games training equipment at his gym and a training field dedicated to the Highland Games.

Al hosts both strongman and all-round weightlifting contests in his gym too, so both of those disciplines are well represented.

The Dino Gym has everything. From a full set of round strongman training stones to a set of power stairs implements and more farmer’s walk devices than I could keep track of.

I was more worried about the drug testing than the contest itself. Not because I had anything to hide, but because I have a notoriously shy bladder, haha. The drug testers were both very nice and patient guys. The direct-observation tester managed to put me at ease and I luckily gave a sample without holding all the other competitors up for half the day.

After the urine test was completed and that was out of the way, I began mingling with the other competitors and greeting the guys I had already met and some of the guys I hadn’t met yet.

The last time I competed in an all-round contest at the Dino Gym (not counting the Record Day since it’s essentially a contest between me and the record book) was 2006. So it had been 3 years since I had seen most of the guys I had previously met at Al’s gym.

Coming to the Dino Gym and being greeted by Al Myers is always such a pleasure. He makes everyone feel like they’re the only person in the room when he’s talking to you. He is the kind of lifter who can do any physical task very well. He’s athletic, moves fluidly and with great power, and can accelerate heavy weights in the blink of an eye. When he’s focused on a big lift and psyches himself up for it – it’s time to get out of the way and let him lift!

I will never forget getting “drafted” by Al to provide a safety-spot for the most impressive lift I’ve ever seen in person – his 1,000lb Roman Chair Situp that he achieved at his Record Day back in February.

Jason Payne was spotting one side of the ridiculously-loaded bar and I was on the other side. I was sweating bullets because I was not nearly as strong as Jason and I felt the need to bow out and try to decline the spot request.

Well, there was no denying Al when he said he knew I could do it! I bucked up and realized there was no way I was going to deny Al a shot at a possibly once-in-a-lifetime world record attempt like that. He nailed the lift and it’s in the record books now. Quite frankly, I doubt anyone will want to even attempt to come close to that number in the near future.

The mindset it would take to even believe a lift like that is possible is something that I hope to one day achieve. Al is definitely one of the most influential lifters that I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with. He proves the adage about the mind being able to take the body places where it arguably might not necessarily want to go.

Al is always a gentleman – even when he’s psyched and ready to tear up the weights. The determination on his face shines through and everyone watching holds their breath in anticipation of witnessing something special happen on the platform. They were not disappointed, because Al won the Overall, Open, and Masters categories at the contest! Congrats Al, and thanks again for a great day of camaraderie and fun!

Al’s 73-year old father-in-law, Rudy, is a tremendously nice guy. My wife and I had a blast talking with him throughout the contest. He matched me pound-for-pound on the backlift! And to be honest, he had more in the tank on that lift – although he modestly tried to convince me that the lift was hard for him – even though he made it look easy. He also managed to make the Pullover and Press look pretty smooth. Something that I was not able to do. Rudy was awarded the title of Best Lifter in the 70 to 74-year old category. I’m not sure how much he beat the previous Backlift record in his age and weight class, but it had to be by a huge margin.

My wife and I also spent some time talking with Charlie Scott and his charming wife. Charlie was unfamiliar with some of the lifts but he did a great job – and broke some records throughout the contest. I was really surprised when Charlie’s wife happened to mention that he was 74. I estimated his age at most to be around 65, so he was in the company of the other Masters lifters at the contest that filled their sports bottles from the Fountain of Youth and Strength.

Meeting competitors that I had only previously read about is something that I’ll remember fondly for the rest of my lifting career.

The youngest competitor was 32-year old Mike McBride. His consistently strong performances netted him 2nd place overall. This was the first time Mike and I met – although I believe we have traded a few USAWA records back and forth over the past few years. Mike is ferociously strong on all the basic lifts and I don’t think he even specializes on the grip events – so that’s humbling to think he matches or outperforms me on some of the lifts that I have dedicated 9 years of my training to.

I want to mention how nice it was to see Ian Reel again. I last saw him at the 2006 Dino Challenge, where he was already a very strong young man. I think he was 16 years old then and was easily out-lifting me in every event. He was leaner and more muscular this time. Now he’s a college thrower and seems to be as strong as he ever was, but at a lighter bodyweight. Ian is as nice and humble as he is strong – two qualities that are not wasted on me and my wife.

Ian wanted to see me take a shot at chest-crushing Al’s #4 gripper with 2 hands, so I obliged him by shutting it that way. After I did that, he absentmindedly picked up a #2 gripper, and then slammed the handles together with ease! I was very impressed and asked him if he trained with the grippers. Modestly shaking his head, Ian told me that he didn’t train with the grippers – but it’s obvious that the training he does for his throwing focus is astonishingly effective at building a high level of hand strength.

I look forward to seeing Ian compete in an all-round competition again – and maybe one day I can convince him to enter a grip contest. I know he’d do well even though he’s not a grip specialist.

It’s always good to see Joe Garcia. He gave me some really good tips on moving my feet faster on the split part of the jerk, and kept coaching me to bend my knees more than an inch on the One-Hand Snatch. Joe is a wealth of training information and we were very close in strength on all the events until the backlift – where he left me far behind in the dust.

Chad Ullom was quite a bit leaner and lighter in bodyweight than the last time I saw him at the 2006 Dino Challenge. His prodigious strength was still there in full force and he won the One-Hand Snatch with 155lbs and tied Al for 1st on the Axle Clean and Jerk with 255lbs. Chad’s the type of guy that is as quick to congratulate a guy that lifted 100s of pounds less in a contest as he is to congratulate the guy who won the event. That means a lot to a mid-pack lifter and it motivates me to continue plugging away and getting stronger – all while retaining my humility.

I hadn’t met Tim Piper yet but I had seen his name in the record book and for a very good reason. He’s very athletic and has the fastest foot speed I’ve ever seen on the split jerk part of the Axle Clean and Jerk. My wife was very impressed by his athleticism, and so was I. He was also humble and modest about his lifting abilities. Tim was about 30 pounds lighter than me but stronger on a few of the lifts.

Randy Smith and I had never met until this contest. I had seen his name many times in the record books, because a few of his records were in events that I specialized on for a while. He is a super nice guy and a pleasure to talk to about lifting in general and other miscellaneous topics.

His wife was very nice too, although I don’t remember her name offhand. Randy is very impressive for a few reasons. His lean frame is capable of some big lifts. He’s also kind of quiet and unassuming, so he might surprise a few people that expect the best lifters to be slightly more vocal than the mid-pack guys or the beginners. Randy was far superior to me in every lift but the Pullover and Press. And I think that was only because his arms seemed to be a half-foot longer than mine.

I not only aspire to be as strong as Randy when I’m 54 years old – I aspire to be as strong as him at any age! He was awarded the Best Lifter title in the 55 to 59-year old category.

Scott Tully is a big, nice guy. He was the scorekeeper for the entire contest and was also very patient with me because each time I walked away from the platform – whether it was a successful attempt or a failure – I forgot each time to let him know what my subsequent attempt was going to be. Each time I belatedly remembered to go up to the score table, he smiled and told me it was no big deal when I apologized about forgetting to give my next attempt. I think it was a little case of the nerves for me. Even though I’ve competed in about a dozen strength contests, this was my first USAWA Nationals.

Darren Barnhart was one of the loaders who selflessly loaded and unloaded tons of weight all through the long day of competition. Thanks Darren! He’s also the Dino Gym record holder in the 2” Vertical Bar lift – with 229lbs. Heck of a lift under the USAWA rules! I tried to take that gym record back in February – but came up short a few times. Was able to pull the weight up, but couldn’t stop the rotation of the bar.

Ryan Batchman was the second loader, and he spent the entire day alongside Darren loading and unloading. I sincerely think that these guys had the hardest day of anyone there. I’d take competing any day over moving the tremendous amount of weight that these guys did. Bending and stooping over about 8 hours must’ve made them wake up feeling like they’d been hit by a bus the next day. Ryan was a solid guy and looked like he could’ve done 50% over any lift I did that day.

Thanks for loading all day Ryan and Darren! I – and all the lifters – also appreciated the care Darren and Ryan took to make sure that the bars were properly aligned on the 2-Barbell Deadlift. It is a seemingly small gesture, but it makes a big difference when you’re tired and want to conserve every bit of strength for a PR attempt.

The three judges were Bill Clark, Thom Van Vleck, and Mark Mitchell. I’ve met all three guys before and enjoy their company immensely. Bill had his game face on since he was the head judge. But he still managed to give me some very good advice on a few of the lifts. I did manage to pull my head out of the sand and take his advice and put it to good use too. So all was not lost. Thanks guys – judging is one of the most important parts of the day since it’s a Nationals competition.

Thom looked a bit different since he didn’t have the same beard that he did back in 2006. I really want to make it out to one of his Highland Games one of these days. I wish I had more time to talk to him after the contest because I really did want to pick his brain on a few training issues relating to the my desire to try out the Highland Games events.

It was really nice to see Mark Mitchell again too. He looked quite a bit lighter than the last time I saw him too. I think his back issues are healed up and that’s fantastic news too. I remember that he is beastly strong.

Before this contest, Denny Habecker was another lifter that I had only read about. Denny is 66 years old and won the Best Lifter title in the 65-69 year-old category. What impressed me the most about him was the fact that he took the time to give me some pointers on the Pullover and Press – a lift that he just happens to be a phenomenal performer in.

I listened with rapt attention when he gave me some pointers. I would’ve given him my full attention even if I hadn’t just watched him Pullover and Press 195lbs! For those that haven’t experienced the difficulty of this lift, suffice it to say that 195lbs would be respectable in any gym even if you were 20 years old and weighed 250lbs. Since he was under 200lbs and three times older, it was exponentially more impressive to watch him put on a Pullover and Press clinic. Thanks again for the help Denny! His big Pullover and Press might be my vote for the impressive lift of the entire contest.

Dennis Mitchell was awarded the Best Lifter award in the 75 to 79-year old category. The lift I was most impressed by was his 750lb Backlift – at 161lbs bodyweight – and 77 years old. I didn’t get to talk to Dennis more than just a “hello” here and there.

Wish I would’ve taken the time to go up and introduce myself though, because his is another name that I’ve read about on multiple occasions but never had the chance to meet until this contest.

I have a remarkable ability to remember records (numbers), so I have to remember not to walk up to someone I’ve never met and risk looking like the “Rain Man” when I quote from memory one of their records down to the pound.

Dale Friesz was another lifter that I recognized the name, but had never met him before the contest. I also didn’t get to talk to Dale very much – but I watched his 2-Barbell Deadlift pretty closely because I liked his style of almost stiff-leg deadlifting the weight up to lockout. I think that style is better suited to counter the balance issues I had with that event. I’ve already started integrating some stiff-leg barbell deadlifts into my workouts at home since watching Dale’s performance. Thanks Dale!

Art Montini, 81 years old, was awarded the title of Best Lifter in the 80 to 84-year old category. Art is built like a fireplug – and has the power and strength to back up that impressive build.

It’s obvious when seeing him for the first time that he’s one of those guys that’s just built for lifting heavy stuff. I’ve read a lot about Art, possibly more than any other lifter in the USAWA, so I really enjoyed watching him in action.

I wanted to talk to Art more than the little bit I managed to, but he was very approachable and friendly, so I should’ve just gone up more and chatted him up. I didn’t want to throw him off of his game plan by talking endlessly about lifting though.

There were no female competitors at this competition, which surprised me since I’ve seen some superb female lifters over the years. I’m not sure if it’s a lack of female USAWA members right now, but I think everyone would like to see the ladies well-represented at next year’s USAWA Nationals! I’ll start working on trying to get my wife interested in training and competing next year. Come on ladies, break a bunch of records next year!

There is nothing that I would change if I was able to repeat the experience of the 2009 USAWA Nationals again. I enjoyed my entire day. From the 90-minute drive to Al’s Gym, to the day spent gawking at the incredible amount of Iron Game paraphernalia lining the walls.

I tried to be more bold with my 1st and 2nd attempts too and I think that paid off with some significantly higher results than I would’ve secured had I gone with my usual extremely conservative 1st attempts. I went 16 for 18 at the final count.

I look forward to competing again next year – and I will be training very hard to secure a final placing a little higher than this year’s performance.

Congratulations to all the lifters in the 2009 USAWA Nationals! Thanks again to the loaders and the judges! Thanks also to the family and friends who made the trip and cheered on their respective lifters!

Until next year.


2009 USAWA National Championships
Dino Gym, Abilene, Kansas
June 20th, 2009

Meet Director:  Al Myers

Lifts:  Snatch – one arm, Cheat Curl, Clean & Jerk – Fulton Bar, Pullover and Press, Deadlift – 2 bars, Backlift

Officials (3 official system used):  Bill Clark, Thom Van Vleck, Mark Mitchell

Loaders: Darren Barnhart, Ryan Batchman

Scorekeeper:  Scott Tully

Al Myers
145 R
Mike McBride
135 L
Chad Ullom
155 R
Joe Garcia
95 R 155
Randy Smith
100 R
Rudy Bletscher
55 R
100 100
Denny Habecker
70 R
Ben Edwards
115 R
Art Montini
35 L
Tim Piper
105 L
Charlie Scott
50 R
Dennis Mitchell
30 R
Dale Friesz
27.5 R

Notes:  All lifts in pounds. BWT = bodyweight, WAP = Weight Adjusted Points, AAP = Age Adjusted Points

Extra Attempts for records:
Chad Ullom  Pullover and Press 311 lbs.
Joe Garcia  Deadlift – 2 bars 350 lbs.
Dennis Mitchell  Snatch – one arm 30 lbs. (Left), Cheat Curl 83.5 lbs., Deadlift – 2 bars 200 lbs.

Best Lifter Awards:
Best Lifter Overall                   Al Myers
Best Lifter Open                     Al Myers
Best Lifter Master                   Al Myers
Best Lifter 20-39 Age Group     Mike McBride
Best Lifter 40-44 Age Group     Al Myers
Best Lifter 50-54 Age Group     Randy Smith
Best Lifter 55-59 Age Group     Joe Garcia
Best Lifter 65-69 Age Group     Denny Habecker
Best Lifter 70-74 Age Group     Rudy Bletscher
Best Lifter 75-79 Age Group     Dennis Mitchell
Best Lifter 80-84 Age Group     Art Montini

Quiz of the Week

by Al Myers

Name this USAWA Lift and who it is named after. Also, name the USAWA lifter that has lifted the most weight in this lift in an USAWA event.

Step 1 - Lift the bar behind the back

Step 2 - Roll the bar up the back onto the shoulders

Step 3 - Perform a behind the neck jerk

Winner receives an USAWA patch

Rules: First correct answer to webmaster wins, and only one answer may be given per day.

Congratulations to Chad Ullom of Topeka, Kansas for correctly identifying this lift as the Arthur Lift, named after the great old-time German strongman Arthur Saxon (and demonstrated by him in these photos). This lift requires great shoulder flexibility. The bar starts on the platform behind the lifter, and is raised behind the back until the bar is positioned above the hips (or above the belt). At this point, the lifter bends forward, and in a series of steps rolls the bar up the back until it is fixed across the shoulders. The hands are allowed to come free of the bar during this. The lifter then stands and performs a behind the neck jerk, at which time the lift is completed. Saxon is reported to have done 386 pounds in this lift, as it was witnessed by Warren Lincoln Travis. This lift was introduced to the USAWA by Art Montini – so in a way it is named after two Arthurs. The top weight ever lifted in the Arthur Lift in the USAWA was done by Chad Ullom, who lifted 297 pounds at the 2007 National Championships.

Chad Ullom performing the Arthur Lift at the 2007 National Championships

Lifter Interview – Tom Ryan

by Al Myers

Tom Ryan performing a Hip Lift.

Al: where do you currently live and what do you do for a living?

Tom: I live in Acworth, Georgia (outside Atlanta) and have lived in Georgia most of my life, being a native Atlantan. I was a college professor for decades and now teach online courses for I have also done some course development work for them and do occasional consulting through them. I have written four statistics books (600-page books) for my New York area publisher and expect to finish my fifth book by the end of the year. I have also done a considerable amount of additional writing, including some sports writing, such as six articles on basketball statistics within the past few years for I enjoy doing various types of writing and a few weeks ago wrote a guest column on teaching quantitative courses that was in the Atlanta paper on May 20th. The American Statistical Association, which elected me a Fellow in 2000 (I’ve been a member since 1972), somehow found out about that article and have linked the article at their website.

Al: When did you first start weightlifting and how did you get started?

Tom: I started lifting weights in December, 1958, at the age of 13. I would have made an ideal “before” picture for a bodybuilding course ad as I was 5-7 and weighed only 107 pounds. I was all skin and bones and my father even called me “Bones”. I believe I pressed 40 pounds for 8 reps in my first workout. I was in the 8th grade at the time and there were two kids in my physical education class who couldn’t climb the rope in the gym and touch the ceiling. I was one of the two. Then I started lifting weights and did succeed (to the cheers of my fellow students), even after almost dying from whooping cough and missing a few weeks of school.

I went from “bones” to almost the other extreme, eventually reaching 305 pounds, with my highest competitive bodyweight being 296 at two contests. I did not compete when I was in my prime, as I wanted to wait until I was a national caliber lifter before I entered competition. By my mid-30s, however, I realized that was never going to happen, and that was a depressing realization because I trained very hard. Then my life changed when I wrote to Murray Levin, who ran U.S. Olympic lifting at the time, in 1981 and offered to help in any way that I could. Murray sent my letter to Bill Clark, who immediately wrote to me. Bill had a paragraph about me in his Master’s newsletter in 1982, even though I was only 36 at the time and Master’s lifting then started at age 40. Bill also sent me his Missouri Valley newsletter. This was well before the days of the USAWA but Bill had introduced me to a new world and I now had something to train for.

Tom Ryan performing the Reeves Deadlift.

Al: Was there any one person who introduced you to lifting?

Tom: No one got me started. It was pure self-motivation, being motivated by my lack of strength and muscles. As I aged and started becoming stronger, with a 289 clean and jerk in training at the age of 19, I idolized Tony Garcy, five-time national Olympic lifting champion, and followed his career very closely. I eventually met Tony at the 1966 Senior Nationals and spoke with him briefly then. Several months ago I sent him a sympathy card after the death of one of his sons and received a nice card and note from he and his wife in reply. I was also motivated by Paul Anderson, whom I met in 1972 and corresponded with during the early 1970s, as well as the late 1980s.

Al: When did you first get involved with the all-rounds? Didn’t you compete in one of the very first World Meets?

Tom: I am one of the charter members of the USAWA, as indicated by the list on page 23 of the 5/17/09 edition of the Strength Journal. I competed in my first Zercher Meet in 1987, about the time that plans to start the USAWA were being formalized, so I just naturally became a member of the USAWA. Yes, I competed in the World Meet in Plymouth Meeting, PA in 1989. I suffered a tricep injury during the Pullover and Push event that took a very long time to fully heal.

Al: What have been your favorite lifts?

Tom: Over the years my favorite lifts have been the ones that I can do, quite frankly, and that list shrinks as I age! LOL When I was much younger, I enjoyed pressing and tried different types of pressing. My best pressing performance in USAWA competition occurred at the 1989 Zercher Meet when I did a heels together military press with 200 and then pressed 210 on my last attempt but lost my balance and had to take two steps backward. Later that year I thought I had pressed 209 at the World Meet, but I expected the weight to be heavier than it was and put a bit too much body into the lift, resulting in two red lights for backbend.

Probably my lifetime best pressing, considering form, was done in training one day in 1977 when I did a wide-grip military press with 229 for 4 reps. My heels weren’t together but those were strict presses with no lower body movement at all. That was one of those magic moments when I was really “on” and knew that would never happen again. And it didn’t!

During the late 1980s and early 1990s I made some reasonable one-hand deadlifts in USAWA contests, ranging from 330 to my PR of 345. My back started “complaining” about any type of deadlift with very much weight as I moved through my 50s, so I became somewhat of a one-arm thumbless deadlift specialist, doing over 200 officially. This is the type of lift that allows grip specialists like Ben Edwards to excel. In my case, I think it is a matter of technique because my hand strength is rather ordinary. I also found that I was reasonably good at the rectangular fix, at least for my age, as I made 95 pounds at the age of 61.

Al: I know one of your interests has been the history of weightlifting. Who are some of your favorite old time strongmen?

Tom: There are people who know more about the history of weightlifting and oldetime strongmen than I do, but yes, I have been interested in these subjects for decades and began work on a book on historical strength figures in the late 1980s. I mentioned Tony Garcy previously but I would rather not think of him as “oldetime” since he is only 6 years older than me. LOL. Rather, if we think of strongmen who performed in the general vicinity of 1900, there were certain performances that I wish I could have seen. In particular, one evening in 1889 Apollon (Louis Uni) did not know that the iron bars on a gate that was part of his stage performance had been tempered by a blacksmith, who was bribed by a prankster. Unaware of this, Apollon and his massive forearms struggled to bend the bars, while his wife prodded him , assuming that he was just being lazy. Finally Apollon was able to bend the bars enough for him to slide through them, but he was totally exhausted and explained to the audience that he was unable to continue his performance. David Willoughby believed that this may have been Apollon’s greatest strength feat.

I wish I could have also seen the bent presses of Arthur Saxon. It is hard for me to believe that a man weighing only about 204 pounds could bent press close to 400. (He is credited with 370 but reportedly did 386 unofficially and supposedly attempted 409 but the weights started falling off the bar.) Bent pressing was popular in the 1940s, especially in the New York area, and although Al Beinert bent pressed 360 in the mid-1900s weighing almost 60 pounds more than Saxon, nobody has approached Saxon’s record.

It would also have been fun to meet some of the leading strongmen of centuries ago, like Thomas Topham and Giovanni Belzoni, not to mention the enigmatic giant, Angus McAskill.

Al: Do you have any special memories of any all-round weightlifting meets?

Tom: Well, I would like to forget the injuries that I sustained! LOL Yes, I certainly have fond memories of people with varied backgrounds and professions and from different parts of the country and world getting together for fun and competition. There were personal duels I had with Bill Clark at Zercher Meets, with him insisting that we compete straight up, despite our differences in age and bodyweight. It was fun seeing Steve Schmidt do harness lifts with well over 3,000 pounds, far in excess of what the rest of us did, and more recently to see his feats, either in person or on film, with bar bending and teeth lifting and pulling very heavy vehicles, as well as record-breaking repetition back lifting. Although I didn’t witness it, Joe Garcia’s hand and thigh lift with 1,910 is a tremendous accomplishment, the highest lift on record. Since I go back a long way, there were some competitions in which I saw Ed Zercher do some exhibition leg pressing when he was 80 or so. Yes, I have many fond memories.

Al: What do you think the future of the USAWA will be?

Tom: Over the years, Bill Clark had hoped that the USAWA could attract some of the strength stars of the past, but that hasn’t happened. Jim Bradford, who is now 80 and was a silver medalist in the 1952 and 1960 Olympics, has been an ardent follower, but I don’t recall him competing in any USAWA contest. There are so many official lifts that virtually everyone, regardless of physical condition, will be able to find some lifts that they can do. I would like to see more people compete, both young and old, but our numbers are dwindling, not increasing. Hopefully your considerable and praiseworthy efforts with this website, Al, will increase interest in the USAWA. We can only hope.

Al: Thank you, Tom, for participating in this interview.

Quiz of the Week

by Al Myers

In the USAWA, lifts done for repetitions may be contested in competition and for records. The ultimate record for repetitions is the TOTAL POUNDAGE, where the lifter may choose any lift and rep/set scheme, to lift the most weight within a given time frame.  The standard for this record was initially set by the great Warren Lincoln Travis in 1927 when he Back Lifted 5.5 million pounds in 3 hours, 9 minutes. This was done by doing 5500 reps with 1000 pounds.

Name the TWO USAWA LIFTERS who have exceeded this, along with their TOTAL POUNDAGE.

Steve Schmidt setting the all-time record for TOTAL POUNDAGE on December 14th, 2002

Congratulations to the Winner of this week’s quiz -  Tom Ryan of Acworth, Georgia – who correctly identified the two USAWA lifters as Steve Schmidt and Howard Prechtel. Tom had an advantage in this quiz, as he was a witness and assisted in the counting of repetitions during Steve Schmidt’s record. Howard Prechtel initially broke Travis’s record in 1982 by Back Lifting 6,066,060 pounds in 3 hours, 9 minutes. It was accomplished by doing 5460 reps with 1111 pounds. This was then upped by Steve Schmidt, on December 14th, 2002 at Clark’s Gym, in which he lifted 8,087,095 pounds in 2 hours 50 minutes. Steve was 48 years old at the time and weighed only 209 pounds. He accomplished this by lifting 1,115 pounds a total of 7253 times, using the Back Lift. Bill Clark was the official judge and counter of this Herculean effort. I was fortunate to also have witnessed this event and can attest to the stamina Steve exhibited in accomplishing this feat.  He was performing 45 reps per minute, which gave him only about 30 seconds rest per minute.  He maintained this pace for two hours!!!!  Steve broke Howard’s record in 1 hour, 57 minutes.   The conditioning required for something like this must be much the same as that of a marathon runner. I was amazed how quickly Steve recovered following this endurance record, as he did not seem out of breath at all afterwards and even joined in with us on some other record lifts.  Will this TOTAL POUNDAGE record be broken in the next 100 years?   Only time will tell…..

Habecker Is Awarded the Kelly Cup

by Al Myers

Denny Habecker is awarded the Kelly Cup.

USAWA President Denny Habecker of Lebanon Pennsylvania recently was awarded the very prestigious Kelly Cup. The Kelly Cup is the highest award given to an amateur athlete for participation in the Keystone State Summer Games in Pennsylvania. Denny was honored this past month by a special ceremony at the State Capital in Harrisburg. The late Jack Kelly was from Philidelphia and was an Olympic medalist in rowing, along with serving as President of the US Olympic Committee. This award is given to an athlete who excels in their sport in the Keystone State Games and provides a positive role model in their community. This definitely describes Denny Habecker. Denny has been involved in weightlifting for over 40 years and has participated in 23 Keystone State Games. Overall he has won 16 gold medals in weightlifting throughout his years of competing in the games. In 2008, Denny competed in the games less than 6 months following hip replacement surgery!!! Denny has been part of the leadership team for the weightlifting event, and often provides equipment for the competition. In 2008, he was also named Outstanding Athlete in Weightlifting at the games. Denny’s attitude, leadership and sportsmanship sets the standard that all athletes should aspire for.