Articles from June 2010

Minutes of the 2010 Annual National Meeting

by Al Myers, USAWA Secretary

The 2010 Annual National Meeting of the USAWA was called to order by President Denny Habecker following the first day of competition on Saturday afternoon. Roll call was done by Secretary Al Myers with these members in attendance: Denny Habecker, Al Myers, Judy Habecker, Randy Smith, Kohl Hess, Art Montini, Chad Ullom, Scott Schmidt, Dale Friesz, Barry Bryan, Frank Ciavattone Jr., Frank Ciavattone III, and Dennis Mitchell.  The reading of the previous meetings minutes was done by Secretary Al Myers.  The financial report was next given by Treasurer Al Myers. The report from the Official’s Chairman Joe Garcia and Records Chairman Joe Garcia was not available to be provided to the membership, so no report was given. The Website Director Al Myers gave a report on the development of the new website and how it will be beneficial to the USAWA in the future.  Next agenda item was the discussion and vote on the new proposed bylaws developed  by the ad hoc committee of Al Myers, Joe Garcia, and Tim Piper. The committee had previously provided these bylaws to the membership for review, so the membership was aware of the contents before the meeting.  After a brief discussion, Chad Ullom moved to accept them, Dale Friesz provide the second, and the acceptance of the new bylaws  passed by an unanimous vote. Next item brought to the meeting floor was a discussion of the minimum age of officials.  No minimum age is specified in the USAWA Rule Book.  After much discussion, the membership agreed that the age of 16 should be this minimum age.  Denny Habecker moved, Dale provided a second, and the motion passed unanimously.  Dale Friesz brought up the discussion of the USAWA providing a Handicap Division, to provide a division for those to compete in that have a disability.  Most everyone in attendance agreed this was a good idea, but disagreements arose in how we as an organization would assess disabilities.  Denny moved that this be looked into by the Executive Board, and a Handicap Division be implemented by the Executive Board when the board is in unanimous agreement on the specifics. Frank Ciavattone III gave a second, and the motion passed by unanimous vote. The Hall of Fame committee that was formed at last year’s meeting  of Denny Habecker, Dale Friesz, and Dennis Mitchell gave their report next.  The committee proposed that induction occur when an athlete achieves 10 National Championships.  Also, in this was the development of a “contributor” Hall of Fame.  Discussion against this proposal included the argument that it doesn’t reward individuals that contribute to the USAWA in other ways besides just competing.  Those in favor stressed that this proposal would be very simple to keep track of lifter’s progress toward the Hall of Fame, without having to keep track of points. Al Myers moved that the Executive re-evaluate the point system, make some modifications with it, and when every member of the Executive Board is in agreement, it be implemented immediately. Chad Ullom put forth the second, and the motion passed unanimously.  At this point, Dale Friesz nominated Scott Schmidt for the Hall of Fame as he had already met the previous criteria to be in the Hall of Fame. Chad Ullom seconded the motion, and it passed by unanimous decision.  It was agreed that the ceremonial  induction of Scott Schmidt into the USAWA Hall of Fame will occur in November at the Gold Cup.  The next agenda item was the approval of 5 new lifts that have been proposed which were: the chin up, the pull up, the foot press, the turkish get-up, and the bent-over row.  After a short discussion, a vote was taken and these lifts were passed by unanimous vote. Next up was the approval of the Rulebook changes. Al Myers presented a list of proposed changes, most of which were small technical issues involving rules of the lifts that were omitted in the current Rulebook.  Everyone was in agreement on these.  The only significant issue included in this was placing an expiration on Level 1 test approved officials in which a 3 year limit will be placed on officials before being required to pass the Rules Test again. Level 2 officials and Level 1 experience approved officials are exempt from this.  Chad Ullom moved to accept these Rulebook changes, Randy Smith seconded the motion, and it passed unanimously. At this point, discussion arose about allowing knee wraps for the front squat and the 12″ base squat.  The argument for this was that knee wraps have already been approved by the membership for these two lifts at the 1997 meeting, but never implemented in the Rulebook.  Scott Schmidt moved that we allow knee wraps for these two lifts and this be put in the Rulebook.  Randy Smith seconded it, and the motion failed by a vote of 7 to 4.  Discussion resumed and it was brought to the membership’s attention that several records in the Record List for these two lifts were done with knee wraps since it was previously approved and it would be impossible now to determine which ones were set with them.  Scott Schmidt again moved that knee wraps be allowed in these two lifts, Chad Ullom provided a second, and the motion passed by a vote of 10 to 2.  The next agenda item was presenting the Special Awards.  Al Myers and Denny Habecker presented the awards. The Award recipients are as follows:  Athlete of the Year – Al Myers, Athlete of the Year Runner Up – Chad Ullom, Leadership Award – Bill Clark, Leadership Award Runner Up – Al Myers, Sportsmanship Award – Denny Habecker, Sportsmanship Award Runner Up – Art Montini, Courage Award – Dale Friesz, Courage Award Runner Up – Frank Ciavattone, Newcomer Award – David Glasgow, Newcomer Award Runner Up – Kohl Hess, Club of the Year – Dino Gym, Club of the Year Runner Up – Ambridge VFW BBC. The next agenda item was the election of two Executive Board members to a one year position.  Al Myers nominated Dennis Mitchell and Chad Ullom nominated Scott Schmidt.  Randy Smith moved that nominations be ceased and the nominees accepted by unanimous ballot.  Randy’s motion created confusion amongst the membership in his use of proper parliamentary procedure and after an uncomfortable period of silence, a second was made by Al Myers.   A vote was then taken and it passed unanimously.  Next up was the appointment of a Drug Enforcement Director for the USAWA.  Al Myers nominated Chad Ullom.  There were no other nominations, and it passed unanimously.  The appointment of an Awards Director for the USAWA was the next agenda item. Chad Ullom nominated Al Myers, and again there were no other nominations. A vote was taken and it passed unanimously.  The last agenda item was accepting bids for next year’s National Championships.  Only one bid was presented, and that bid was from Thom Van Vleck of the JWC.  Al Myers presented the bid on Thom’s behalf  and gave a persuasive speech to the membership on how “great a guy Thom is”.  A vote was taken and the bid was accepted by majority vote, with only one vote against. At this point and 2 1/2 hours later, the membership was beginning to become restless and  more interested in the huge sandwiches that Judy had prepared for us.  Scott Schmidt moved to adjourn the meeting, with Chad Ullom providing a second, and the vote passed unanimously.

National Championships

The Habecker’s host a fantastic

National Championships

by Al Myers

Group picture of lifters in the 2010 USAWA National Championships.

Denny and Judy Habecker were the hosts for this year’s USAWA National Championships, and they went way beyond what is expected from meet directors.  Due to the small turnout of lifters entered for this year’s Nationals, they decided to have the meet in their backyard instead of renting a venue site.  Denny had a large tent set up in his yard and built a  platform on the grass.  This provided shade for both the competitors and the spectators. While Denny was attending to the lifting needs of the lifters, Judy made sure that no one was going hungry!  The night before the meet Judy provided the lifters with an unbelievable Italian meal of lasagna and pasta, followed with several desserts.  She made breakfast for all of us both days, along with having plenty of food after the meet on both days.  I just barely made my weight class on Saturday due to all the great food she made!  Denny and Judy’s hospitality at this meet went far beyond anything I have ever seen at a competition.  I felt like I was at a family reunion. Denny and Judy are without a doubt the “parents” of the USAWA, and this meet is one I will never forget.  Everyone had a great time and despite the low turnout of participants, this meet was an invigorating experience and proved that the USAWA is very much alive and flourishing!  Someday when our membership is much larger, those of us present this past weekend will look back upon this as the “good ole days” when the USAWA was a family. The meet atmosphere was filled with camaraderie with everyone cheering each other on and helping each other make “a big lift”.

USAWA Awards Director Al Myers presenting the 2009 Courage Award to Dale Friesz.

Now back to the meet itself.  The first person I want to talk about is Dale Friesz.  I have never met anyone like Dale and his commitment to weightlifting.  It would take a book to detail all the things Dale has had to overcome in his life in his quest to continue lifting weights.  Recently Dale has been battling infection and circulatory problems with one of his legs, but he STILL lifted in this meet.  He is scheduled to have surgery this week in which the leg will be amputated below the knee.  I know he had to be in excruciating pain during the meet, and even though he was giving himself IV”s during the day, the heat had to be hard on him (it was in the 90’s and fairly humid).   I was so glad to see Dale receive the COURAGE AWARD  for this past year, as it should be named after Dale “the Miracle Man” Friesz.  Before the meet Dale set a couple of records in the fingers deadlift (both Index and Little), which have always been a favorite of his. I know Dale will be back competing again soon after his surgery, as this is the type of person Dale is.  “Mr. Courage” Dale Friesz is an inspiration to everyone who has had to comeback from an injury by showing that NOTHING can stop you from enjoying the IRON.  We need to keep Dale in our prayers this week.

The next person I want to mention is Barry Bryan.   Barry made his return to the USAWA platform after many years of being away from it.  This was the first time I got to really visit with Barry.  For those of you who are “new” to the USAWA, Barry was the Overall Best Lifter of the 1990 National Championships.  He has records in the record list that are almost unbeatable and have stood for over 20 years.  He is an ICON in the USAWA and it was great to see him back in competitive action. Welcome back Barry!

It was great to see Frank Ciavattone again.  Frank brought along his son Frankie, who isn’t a newcomer to National Competition.  I first met Frankie at the 2005 National Championships, in which he was competing at the age of 11.  Now Frankie is 16, and it won’t be long before he starts putting up the big numbers.  He seemed to really enjoy himself as he had a smile on his face the entire weekend.  He was a big help to me, as he took  pictures for me during the second session in which I was competing in.  Frank is still coming back from his hip replacement, but still showed he can put up big weights. Frank pulled an easy 353 pounds in the One Arm Deadlift (and appeared he could have lifted much more – and it was obvious he still has the grip to hold onto over 500 pounds).   I talked Frank into lifting in the second session in the One Arm Deadlift (which made him wait a long time) so Chad and I could have the honor of lifting with him.  I know this wait probably didn’t help his lifting, but Frank’s presence sure helped Chad and me.  I ended up with a 375# One Arm Deadlift (my competition best) and Chad had the top One Arm Deadlift of the meet at 408#’s.  So even in this small meet, there were three lifters over 350 pounds in the One Arm Deadlift, which hasn’t happened in very many meets in the past.  Frank lifting with us shows you the type of person Frank is – always helping others even if it is at his own expense.  Despite this, Frank is the most accomplished heavyweight lifter of All-Time in the USAWA, and has won over 20 Championships to back it up.

2010 National Championship meet directors Denny and Judy Habecker.

Randy Smith made the trip from his home in Michigan to take fourth overall at this year’s Championships, which moved him up a spot from his overall placing of fifth at last year’s Championships.  Randy is a joy to be around, and when he is not entertaining us with a joke, he is inspiring us with an all-out effort on the platform.  He even entertained us by performing a “Zercher Walk”!  This happened when he missed a Zercher Lift at the top by moving his foot, and in response, locked out the lift and walked to the front of the platform holding the bar in the crooks of his arms!!  The Head Judge, Art Montini, had to wonder if Randy was going to deposit the bar in his lap!!  Speaking of Art, Art continued to amaze us with his unbelievable lifting at the age of 82.  Art did a 242 pound Trap Bar Deadlift – how many 80 plus year old men can do THAT???  I can tell you – NOT MANY!   Scott Schmidt came into the meet in great form – and put up the top Clean and Press of the meet at 100 kilograms.  Saturday night at the National Meeting, Scott was inducted into the USAWA Hall of Fame. Scott is more than deserving of this prestigious award, and has been for several years.  Chad Ullom ended the meet with the TOP Zercher Lift of the meet at 200 kilograms.  With this effort, it gave him the BEST LIFTER in the OPEN DIVISION, which he very much deserved.  Most of you know that Chad is my training partner, and I can tell you that he has the most positive attitude towards lifting, more so than anyone else I know.  He has “pushed” me in training, and made me a better lifter. I also get to travel with him to meets which makes the whole experience much more enjoyable. We have accumulated 1000’s of stories together from our travels (some of which I’ll keep a secret!).   The “Young Samson” Kohl Hess continues to improve under the expert coaching of Denny Habecker and SURPRISED everyone with his 518 pound Trap Bar Deadlift and his 353 pound Zercher Lift. Kohl is ONLY 15, and weighing in at 290 pounds, is built like an Offensive Lineman. He is amazingly flexible for his size, which is very important in All-Round Weightlifting.  I have seen his rapid improvement since  Worlds last October, and with a little more time he will be one of the top lifters in the USAWA.  The last person I want to mention is Dennis Mitchell.  This weekend marked the 22nd CONSECUTIVE National Championships that Dennis has competed in. That is a record that probably won’t be broke by anyone EVER.  At the age of 78, Dennis doesn’t appear to be slowing down.  He always performs his lifts with perfection, making his last attempts look like opening attempts.

This year’s Championships was a HUGE success.  I want to mention the three men who lifted the most weight over the weekend – the loaders.  A big THANK YOU goes to these guys – Terry Barlet, Don Brandt, and John Horn. Again, THANKS to Denny and Judy for welcoming the USAWA into their home and treating all of us to a time we will never forget.


2010 USAWA National Championships

Lebanon, Pennsylvania

June 26 & 27, 2010

Meet Director: Denny Habecker

Lifts on day 1: Vertical Bar Deadlift – 1 bar, 2″, one hand, Pullover and Push, Clean and Jerk -One Arm, Trap Bar Deadlift

Lifts on day 2: Snatch – From Hang, Deadlift – One Arm, Clean and Press, Zercher Lift

Officials (3 official system used): Chad Ullom, Scott Schmidt, Barry Bryan, Randy Smith, Dennis Mitchell, Art Montini, Frank Ciavattone

Scorekeeper: Judy Habecker

Loaders: Terry Barlet, Don Brandt, John Horn

Announcers: Denny Habecker, Judy Habecker, and Aidan Habecker

Day 1 Results:

Lifter Age BWT VB-IArm P&P C&J-1arm Trap DL
Al Myers 43 114.7 70-L 170 67.5-R 295
Chad Ullom 38 108.4 80-R 145 55-R 235
Denny Habecker 67 83.5 60-R 110 35-R 155
Randy Smith 55 89.1 80-R 92.5 40-R 165
Scott Schmidt 57 119.7 90-R 102.5 45-R 202.5
Art Montini 82 80.7 41.25-R 65 20-L 110
Kohl Hess 15 131.5 80-R 107.5 47.5-R 235
Dennis Mitchell 78 70.7 41.25-L 37.5 17.5-R 100
Dale Friesz 69 76.6 40-R 45 10-R 100
Barry Bryan 52 88.0 57.5-R 90 35-R 105
Frank Ciavattone Jr. 55 129.2 90-R —— —— 202
Frank Ciavattone III 16 107.4 57.5-R 50 20-R 105

Day 2 Results:

Lifter BWT Cls. Snatch DL-1arm C&P Zercher Total Points
Al Myers 120 87.5 170-R 90 195 1145 939.53
Chad Ullom 110 87.5 185-R 90 200 1077.5 874.93
Denny Habecker 85 50 115-R 70 110 705 858.84
Randy Smith 90 60 110-R 62.5 150 760 795.81
Scott Schmidt 120 70 115-R 100 107.5 832.5 758.66
Art Montini 85 30 90-L 32.5 70 458.75 701.80
Kohl Hess 125+ 60 100-R 65 160 855 663.01
Dennis Mitchell 70 20 80-L 20 80 396.25 625.36
Dale Friesz 80 12.5 92.5-R 12.5 70 382.5 505.88
Barry Bryan 90 35 60-R 50 50 482.5 495.66
Frank Ciavattone Jr. 125+ —– 160-R —– 115 567 489.63
Frank Ciavattone III 110 20 65-R 37.5 50 405 343.65

BWT is bodyweight in kilograms on day 1 weigh-ins.  BWT Cls. is the bodyweight class on day 2 weigh-ins for records only.  All lifts are recorded in kilograms.  R and L designate right and  left hands.  Total is the total weight lifted over two days.  Points is the adjusted points amended for bodyweight and age correction.


Dale Friesz  – Deadlift, Little Fingers 100.6 pounds

Dale Friesz – Deadlift, Index Fingers 151.8 pounds


Best Lifter Overall – Al Myers

Best Lifter Master – Al Myers

Best Lifter Open – Chad Ullom

Best Lifter Teen – Kohl Hess

Best Lifter 40-44 Age Group – Al Myers

Best Lifter 50-54 Age Group – Barry Bryan

Best Lifter 55-59 Age Group – Randy Smith

Best Lifter 65-69 Age Group – Denny Habecker

Best Lifter 75-79 Age Group – Dennis Mitchell

Best Lifter 80-84 Age Group – Art Montini


The USAWA National Championships were held this past weekend in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.  The meet was hosted and directed by Denny and Judy Habecker.  The top five placings were as follows:

1.  Al Myers, Kansas -  939 points

2.  Chad Ullom, Kansas – 874 points

3.  Denny Habecker, Pennsylvania – 858 points

4.  Randy Smith, Michigan – 795 points

5.  Scott Schmidt, Ohio – 758 points

The full meet results and meet writeup will be available tomorrow in the USAWA Daily News.

Summary of Heavy Lift Competitions

by Dale E. Friesz

Men’s Division

Event Winner Harness Hip H&T Neck Back Total
USAWA Heavy Lift Championships

2009-5/16 Lebanon, PA

Al Myers

Age 42 BWT 254

NC 1845 1204 405 NC 3454
USAWA Heavy Lift Championships

2008-11/15 Columbia, MO

Steve Schmidt

Age 53 BWT 224

3000 2020 1300 355 2750 9425
USAWA Heavy Lift Championships

2007-11/09 Columbia, MO

Steve Schmidt

Age 52 BWT 224

2885 2000 1300 315 2705 9345
USAWA Heavy Lift Championships

2006-11/12 Columbia, MO

Steve Schmidt

Age 51 BWT 223

2700 2100 1200 355 2805 9160
Schmidt’s Backbreaker Pentathlon

2005-11/13 Columbia, MO

Steve Schmidt

Age 50 BWT 218

3010 1900 1300 400 2705 9315
USAWA National Heavy Lift Championships

2005-8/27 Walpole, MA

Frank Ciavattone

Age 50 BWT 270

2200 1900 1200 702 1800 7802
Schmidt’s Backbreaker Pentathlon

2004-11/14 Columbia, MO

Steve Schmidt

Age 49 BWT 220

3110 2105 1400 415 2615 9645
USAWA Heavy Lift Championships

2004-8/28 Lebanon, PA

Frank Ciavattone

Age 49 BWT 267

NC 1902 1203 653 NC 3758
Schmidt’s Backbreaker Pentathlon & USAWA Heavy Lift Meet

2003-11/09 Columbia, MO

Steve Schmidt

Age 48 BWT 208

2900 2000 1300 405 2700 9305
Schmidt’s Backbreaker Pentathlon

2002-11/10 Columbia, MO

Steve Schmidt

Age 47 BWT 209

3005 2050 1000 400 2600 9055
USAWA Heavy Lift Championships

2002-10/19 Walpole, MA

Frank Ciavattone

Age 47 BWT 263

2000 2005 1450 650 2000 8105
USAWA Heavy Lift Championships

2001-11/10 Columbia, MO

Dale Spry

Age 41 BWT 196

2005 1400 625 335 1000 5365
USAWA Heavy Lift Championships

2000-11/05 Columbia, MO

John Monk

Age 35 BWT 152

1685 1325 1005 555 1305 5875
Steve Schmidt’s Backbreaker

1999-10/31 Columbia, MO

James Foster

Age 30 BWT 204

1400 1200 1005 505 1500 5610
USAWA National Heavy Lift Championships

1999-9/11 Walpole, MA

Frank Ciavattone

Age 44 BWT 278

2400 1750 1400 650 NC 6200
USAWA National Heavy Lift Championships

1998-12/05 Walpole, MA

Frank Ciavattone

Age 43 BWT 273

2350 1800 1200 550 NC 5900
Schmidt’s Backbreaker Pentathlon

1998-11/01 Columbia, MO

Joe Garcia

Age 45 BWT 222

1680 1475 1275 475 1670 6575
USAWA Heavy Lift Championships

1997-11/01 Columbia, MO

John Carter

Age 39 BWT 229

3405 2305 1275 400 2000 9385
USAWA Heavy Lift Championships

1996-10/27 Columbia, MO

John Carter

Age 38 BWT 226

3015 2335 1205 400 2300 9255
USAWA Heavy Lift Championships

1995-10/29 Columbia, MO

John Carter

Age 37 BWT 222

2905 2305 1105 400 2600 9315
USAWA Heavy Lift Championships

1994-10/30 Columbia, MO

John Carter

Age 36 BWT 215

2500 2525 910 400 2300 8635
Schmidt’s Backbreaker Pentathlon

1993-10/24 Columbia, MO

John Carter

Age 35 BWT 208

2505 2310 900 400 2205 8320
Schmidt’s Backbreaker Pentathlon

1992-10/25 Sullivan, MO

Steve Schmidt

Age 37 BWT 209

3315 2390 1100 502 2912 10219
Schmidt’s Backbreaker Pentathlon

1991-10/20 Sullivan, MO

Steve Schmidt

Age 36 BWT 220

3515 2420 1013 547 2902 10377
Schmidt’s Backbreaker Pentathlon

1990-10/21 Sullivan, MO

Steve Schmidt

Age 35 BWT 219

2867 2350 1124 506 2800 9647
Schmidt’s Backbreaker Pentathlon

1989-10/22 Sullivan, MO

Steve Schmidt

Age 34 BWT 220

3505 2200 1005 505 2822 10037
Strongman Pentathlon

1988-10/16 Sullivan, MO

Steve Schmidt

Age 33 BWT 223

3500 2200 1200 475 2850 10231
Schmidt’s Pentathlon

1987-10/11 Sullivan, MO

Steve Schmidt

Age 32 BWT 218

3300 2400 1225 470 2805 10200
Strongman Pentathlon

1986-10/25 Sullivan, MO

Steve Schmidt

Age 31 BWT 224

3000 2135 1150 435 2610 9330

Women’s Division

Event Winner Harness Hip H&T Neck Back Total
USAWA National Heavy Lift Championships

2005-8/27 Walpole, MA

Cara Collins

Age 33 BWT 205

920 900 390 250 378 2788
USAWA Heavy Lift Championships

2002-10/19 Walpole, MA

Cara Collins

Age 30 BWT 240

800 880 600 250 1000 3530
USAWA National Heavy Lift Championships

1998-12/05 Walpole, MA

Cara Collins

Age 26 BWT 187

1000 600 600 250 NC 2450
USAWA Heavy Lift Championships

1997-11/01 Columbia, MO

Amy Burks

Age 19 BWT 125

1085 885 465 175 850 3470
USAWA Heavy Lift Championships

1995-10/29 Columbia, MO

Emily Gordon

Age 12 BWT 77

450 300 165 85 250 1250
USAWA Heavy Lift Championships

1994-10/30 Columbia, MO

Kerry Clark

Age 30 BWT 165

1075 1055 450 345 1360 4285
Schmidt’s Backbreaker Pentathlon

1993-10/24 Columbia, MO

Kerry Clark

Age 29 BWT 163

1305 1125 525 325 1210 4490
Schmidt’s Backbreaker Pentathlon

1992-10/25 Sullivan, MO

Deanne Hartwig

Age 43 BWT 135

900 701 352 167 706 2826
Schmidt’s Backbreaker Pentathlon

1989-10/22 Sullivan, MO

Cindy Garcia

Age 36 BWT 152

850 700 450 185 1000 3185
Strongman Pentathlon

1988-10/16 Sullivan, MO

Ruth Thrasher

Age 24 BWT 113

860 700 280 215 750 2805

BWT – bodyweight

NC – Lift Not Contested at Meet

Lifts: Harness Lift, Hip Lift, Hand and Thigh Lift, Neck Lift, Back Lift

The One and Only Steve Schmidt

There is only one SUPER HEAVY LIFT LIFTER:


by Dale E. Friesz

Steve Schmidt set many Back Lift records using his custom-built Back Lift Apparatus.

What follows is a history of the male and female winners of what has progressed, in name only, from the STRONGMAN PENTATHLON, to the SCHMIDT’S PENTATHLON, to the SCHMIDT’S BACKBREAKER PENTATHLON, to the USAWA NATIONAL HEAVY LIFT CHAMPIONSHIPS, to the STEVE SCHMIDT’S BACKBREAKER, and to the USAWA HEAVY LIFT CHAMPIONSHIPS.  The data source is our former organization’s newsletter written by Bill Clark, the STRENGTH JOURNAL.  I believe it is safe to assume that Bill Clark was involved in the meet name changes.  The same five lifts have been contested since the first meet on 11/25-1986 – the lifts are the NECK LIFT, the HAND & THIGH, the HIP LIFT, the HARNESS LIFT, and the BACKLIFT.  It seems that Steve Schmidt, together with Bill Clark, conceived of the meet as it contains the four chain lifts and the biggest lift of all the USAWA – the BACKLIFT.  Steve has competed in 14 of these meets since the first in 1986 in his yard and barn in Sullivan, Missouri. He is UNDEFEATED!  The small table that follows shows how Steve has managed to cheat father time:

10377 1991 Sullivan 220 36
10231 1988 Sullivan 223 33
10219 1992 Sullivan 209 37
10200 1987 Sullivan 218 32
10037 1989 Sullivan 220 34
9647 1990 Sullivan 219 35
9645 2004 Columbia 220 49
9415 2008 Columbia 224 53
9345 2007 Columbia 224 52
9330 1986 Sullivan 224 31
9315 2005 Columbia 218 50
9305 2003 Columbia 208 48
9160 2006 Columbia 223 51
9055 2002 Columbia 209 47

I have enjoyed the recent forum discussions that Steve’s apparatus and large diameter heavy bar made it possible for him to lift such “unreal” poundages. Also, as he aged he was not able to lift as much weight.  I point out that no one has been able to beat him regardless of the equipment used.  Also, that after nearly a quarter century of training he cracked the 3000 pound backlift ceiling twice in one meet, maxing at 3050 pounds.  Big Al was very much present when it was done as it took place in his gym, using his state of the art backlift equipment.

Louis Cyr – The French Canadian Giant

by George Jowett

Louis Cyr

The strongman who obtained his strength from barbell training, and who took to tossing iron for his particular sport, is still the monarch of strength athletes.  No other method can give the same thews, or convey the same inspiring message to those who seek the domain of health and strength.  Years ago, after the French Canadian giant, Louis Cyr, had forsaken the stage to take charge of his saloon in Montreal, thousands of his admirers continued to pay homage to him.  They constantly patronized his saloon so they could claim friendship with this iron king.  They listened to him tell his stories, but always with a hope and a watchful eye to see him perform some feat which to him was common-place, but to others impossible.  It was no uncommon sight to see Louis carry a huge cask of beer off the drayman’s wagon on his one shoulder.  What was a three hundred and twenty pound cask to him, even if it was terribly awkward to handle.  He could grasp it by the chines and lift it from the wagon to the pavement, and then toss it on one shoulder, or throw it back on the truck, according to the need, without registering any sign of exertion.  It was all in a day’s work to him, but one feat he often performed to draw patronage as a part of his business routine.  Yet, he always performed it in an off hand way, that made him appear to be indifferent to any effect the feat had upon the spectators.  They still talk about it in the old haunts, and it is a story worth telling.

Cyr would be reclining on the serving side of the bar and while he was in the midst of his conversation with his patrons, he would be approached by his wife dressed to go shopping.  With the interrogative “Louis,” she would announce her presence.  Knowing what she wanted, the ponderous giant would neither withdraw his gaze or stop in his speech, but would lower his right hand in a nonchalant fashion, upon which his wife would sit.  As gently as a child he would lift her over the counter, and as gently deposit her on the other side without a break in his speech.  Madam would be examining her purse during the unusual journey and would then pass on as calmly as though she had made the trip in a modern elevator.  Showmanship par-excellence was exhibited by both in this extraordinary feat, but can you imagine the amount of strength that was involved?  Although she did not weigh much over a hundred pounds, yet it meant that he curled her weight on the flat of his hand, and passed her over the counter in the manner of a hold-out and with no visible effort.  It was a terrific feat of strength, which when performed, was a source of delight to all who witnessed it.

Credit:  The Key to Might and Muscle by George Jowett

The Cheat Curl: Part 2

by Thom Van Vleck

I once saw my Uncle, Wayne Jackson, deadlift 300lbs with a reverse grip, then do a reverse grip hang clean with it, and then press it overhead….still with the reverse grip.  When I told him how impressive that was he chuckled and told me that when he started lifting at age 14, that he (and my Uncle Phil) were so naive that they thought you were SUPPOSED to have a reverse grip.  When you grow up on the farm before the days of television and magazines were a rare luxury then you just had to make due with what you “thought” was the right was to do something.

Wayne told me that part of the problem was my grandfather Dalton did them both ways as he often switched his grip around for variety.  He would lift with all different grips and would supinate his grip about 50% of the time.  So they just figured that was the right way.  Wayne said they lifted for about a year before they met Wayne Smith who was an experienced lifter who set them straight.  Wayne told me Smith’s eyes bugged out the first time he saw Wayne do a clean & press that way.  As a result, Wayne was pretty good at it.

Again, because of my granddad, I would throw in some reverse grip cleans early on.  Then, I came to the conclusion that these were of no use to me and that no one else I saw in the gym were doing them so they must be bad.   There were a lot of things I bowed to conventional wisdom on that I now wish I’d went my own way on.  It seems that after 30 years I find myself full circle on a lot of things!

So, many years later, about 6 or 7 years ago to be exact, I was working on Power Cleans.  I had read an article about doing some “reverse grip cleans” for the discus and since I was into throwing, I tried some of these.  These weren’t “Cheat Curls” in the USAWA rule book, but “Cheating Cheat Curls” where I would cheat curl it up while driving up on my toes and driving the hips hard without regard to keeping my legs perfectly straight.  I had been stuck on 290lbs for some time for a single in the power clean.  I wanted that magical 300!

After 4 workouts with the reverse grip cleans I switched back to the regular grip.  For the next 4 weeks I did 5 sets of 5 and ended with an all time best of 265lbs at 5X5.  I then maxed out and hit 300!  I was elated.  I also notice, as did my training partner at the time, that I was “finishing” with my hips.  Using the supinated grip had forced me to exaggerate my hip drive and as a result when I went back to the regular pulls, I was finishing harder and that made all the difference.

So, using the cheat curl or going the extra step and doing a reverse grip clean (Cheating Cheat Curl!!!!) you will learn to finish your pull.  It can make all the difference!

The Cheat Curl: Part 1

by Thom Van Vleck

The first part of this article will deal with the Rules of the Cheat Curl and some technique advice. Later, I will do a “part 2″ on how to use this exercise effectively for training. I am profiling this lift as it is part of the JWC Straight Weight Challenge.

The USAWA Rule book says:

D6. Curl – Cheat

The bar begins on the platform, and at the lifter’s discretion, is picked up with a grip that has the palms of the hands facing up or away from the lifter. Feet placement and hand spacing is optional, but must remain the same throughout the lift. Heels and toes must not rise during the lift. Once the lifter is upright in a standing position with the arms and legs straight, the bar on the thighs hanging at arms’ length, an official will give a command to curl. The knees must remain locked and the legs straight during the lift. The lifter is permitted to bend at the waist, sway the body, or drop the shoulders to gain momentum of the bar. The bar may be lowered prior to the beginning of the curl. The bar must be curled from arms’ length to touching the upper chest or neck in one motion. Any downward movement of the bar during the curl is a disqualification. Once the bar is motionless, and the lifter is upright, an official will give a command to lower the bar. The lift ends when the bar returns to the platform under control by the lifter.

Thom hitting a 195# Cheat Curl in a meet at Clark's Championship Gym.

I have seen this lift done in a couple of different ways. The first way, which is the way I prefer, is to lift the bar to the start of the curl position. I then bend forward at the waist KEEPING the bar at the SAME spot on my thighs and then drive my hips forward while lifting the shoulders and pulling back. An example can be seen on the video list on this website. I have always been a “hip” puller and this technique favors me. However, Al Myers does a different style that may better suit others. Al will bend at the waist and drop the bar BELOW THE KNEES and then attempt to pull straight up. He keeps the bar tight to the body, much like he was doing a reverse grip clean from the floor. Al told me that one of the reasons he favors this style is the fact that he’s torn both biceps and wants to minimize the stress on them as much as possible.

Experiment around with both styles and try to find which one suits you best. I have never been satisfied doing something the same way, I’m always trying to tinker with my technique for greater gains and lifts. Next time I’ll talk about using the Cheat Curl to help your overhand pulling.

It’s Training Time Again!

by Siegmund Klein

One of Sig Klein's favorite exercises was doing Handstand Presses on a bench. His personal record was 19 consecutive repetitions.

Yes, it’s time again to take my workout. And how often have I said that to myself. It seems like ages because in another couple months it will be 50 years since I first started systematic bodybuilding…and that’s a lifetime!

Of course one of the most frequently asked questions is whether I still look forward to these workouts. To be perfectly honest I don’t, but I workout nevertheless.  Nor do I go through my workouts with the same zest I did when I used to train with a purpose, such as trying to break a record, or when I had some special contest coming up, or when I wanted to accomplish some feat of strength…. so why do I continue to train? It must be a habit I got into but I continue to train three times a week as regularly as clockwork.

Nature, it seems, works on the law of compensation. If there is no demand there is no supply. Without a supply deterioration sets in.  This happens internally as well as externally.  However, once a bodybuilder gets himself into hard, physical shape it doesn’t take much training to keep it, especially if his muscles were developed sensibly and not merely inflated.

This brings to mind an incident of a West Coast muscle champ who was in New York for an exhibition.  I was invited backstage to meet this fellow.  He told me about his training and what he did.  I was surprised how hard he had to train to maintain his condition.  He included many exercises and numerous sets and the time it took him to complete his training, which he did three or four times a week, every week!  No wonder he looked tired.  His face was lined and his looks drained.  I tried to impress upon him that he was working to the point of no return.  I assured him that he did not have to take such long workouts for his musculature had reached the point where it would take less than half of what he was doing to maintain it.  But I doubt if he heeded my advice.

I believe that if a young man starts training at the age of 17 he will reach almost maximum peak condition in about seven years, continue to increase his strength until about 35 and then retain this plateau for several more years.  Of course his endurance may not be the same at 35 as it was in his 20’s.

As for myself I did my last heavy lifting at the age of 35 when I succeeded in bent pressing the 209 pound Rolandow dumbbell, and shortly after that I bent pressed the famous Louis Cyr 202 pound dumbbell at a show in York, PA. From then on I continued to exercise three times a week… and still do.  But now at the age of 66 I do not train nearly as vigorously as formerly but I still manage to maintain my physical shape.

My training routine takes me about an hour to complete and when I’m finished I forget training until the next training day, and that’s when I recall “It’s that time again – time for another workout.” and I go right to. How about you? Do you?

Credit:  Article by Siegmund Klein in the February, 1969 issue of Muscular Development.

Frank’s First Time with the One Arm Deadlift

by Al Myers

Frank Ciavattone, at age 23, lifting 402 pounds in the One Arm Deadlift the first time he ever tried it.

You KNOW you are going to be good in the One Arm Deadlift when you lift over 400 pounds the first time you try it!  Well, that’s exactly what Frank Ciavattone did the first time he tried the One Arm Deadlift when he was 23 years old on December 15th, 1978.  This lift was part of the New England’s Strongest Man, which Frank went on to win (and again several times in subsequent years). Without a doubt, Frank has lifted over 400 pounds more times in USAWA competition than any other lifter and is the ONLY lifter to lift over 500 pounds in USAWA competition.  Frank’s personal record in competition is 562 pounds in the One Arm Deadlift set in 2005, which is the All-Time best in the USAWA.

Best Crucifix Lifts of All-Time

by Al Myers

Eric Todd and his USAWA record performance in the Crucifix, with a lift of 140 pounds at the 2005 Deanna Springs Memorial Meet.

I think it is only appropriate to HIGHLIGHT the best lifts ever in the Crucifix since it is our signature lift, as demonstrated by the USAWA logo.  The rules of the Crucifix are often misunderstood.  People will  assume it is the same as other similar lifts like the Iron Cross, Muscle Out or Side Lateral, but the Crucifix Lift is much different. The USAWA Rules of the Crucifix Lift is as follows:

Two evenly loaded dumbbells or kettlebells are used for this lift. The lift begins at the lifter’s discretion. The dumbbells are taken to arms’ length overhead with the palms of the hands facing each other and dumbbells touching. The lifter must bring the feet together so the heels are together and touching. The body must be upright at the start of the lift. Once in this position, an official will give the command to start the lift. The lifter will then lower the dumbbells to the side with arms’ straight and palms up. Elbows must be fully locked. The lifter may lean back to any extent when lowering the dumbbells. The wrists do not need to be held straight. The legs must remain straight and knees locked throughout the lift. The heels must remain together and the heels and toes must not rise during the lift. Once the arms are parallel to the platform, and the dumbbells motionless, an official will give a command to end the lift.

The best All-Time USAWA lift in the Crucifix is held by Eric Todd, with a lift of 140 pounds performed at the 2005 Deanna Springs Memorial Meet in the 110K Class.  This lift was judged under the strict judging of Bill Clark.  Eric holds a couple of other weight group records with lifts of 130 pounds and 120 pounds, so he is the REAL DEAL when it comes to the Crucifix Lift.  I have competed several times in meets with Eric when the Crucifix was being contested, and I am always amazed at what he does. Only four other USAWA lifters have ever done over 100 pounds – these being Sam Huff, Mike McBride, Bill Spayd, and Ed Schock (who has the top Master Lift in the Crucifix at 100  pounds). The top teenager in the Crucifix is Abe Smith, who did 70 pounds. Amokor Ollennuking has the top female lift in the USAWA with a lift of 60 pounds.

The famous picture of Joe Southard, performing a Crucifix Lift of 130 pounds in 1963.

What is the best Crucifix in history?  I did some research and their are several “claims” but most seem to have not been verified.  I consider Louis Cyr to be the best in history.  Cyr did a Crucifix with 94 pounds in the right hand, and 88 pounds in the left, for a total weight of 182 pounds. Marvin Eder and Doug Hepburn both were credited with a “Crucifix- like lift” of 100 pounds per hand, but were judged “less than strict”.  Among Old-Time Strongmen, George Hackenschmidt did a Crucifix 0f 180 pounds in 1902.  But even Hackenschmidt said in his own words that it was performed “in a less strictly correct style”.

One thing is certain – the description and rules of the Crucifix has been different throughout history, and not always conforming with today’s set USAWA rules. Actually, the USAWA rules make the Crucifix as difficult as possible with these criteria: heels being together throughout, elbows fully locked at finish, and the lift being completed upon official’s command, thus requiring the weight to be momentarily paused. Joe Southard, the great Illinois All-Rounder, did 130# in the Crucifix at 165# bodyweight in 1963.  This was considered the World Record for quite some time for a competitive Crucifix Lift. The picture of Joe Southard doing this record became well known to USAWA lifters, as it graced the cover of our Rule Book for several years.  But look at the picture closely – and you will notice the dumbbells Southard was using were not loaded evenly on both ends, which would not comply with  today’s USAWA Rules. How much that would help I have no idea. Another couple of lifters who excelled at the Crucifix in the Mo-Valley All-Rounds (before the USAWA was formed) was Steve Schmidt (110# Crucifix at 220# BW in 1985) and Bob Burtzloff (100# Crucifix at HWT in 1982).  Both of these lifts were officiated under the same rules as we use today.

The Crucifix has only been performed in one meet in the USAWA these past few years, and that is the Deanna Springs Memorial Meet, hosted by Bill Clark.  It is in the Deanna Meet EVERY year, as the events in that meet don’t change. The Crucifix Lift is the perfect example of a true “odd lift”, and for this reason makes a great “poster lift” for the USAWA .

Bill Clark and the Zercher Lift

by Al Myers

The founding father of the USAWA, Bill Clark, making a 405 pound Zercher Lift.

I recently found this picture of our USAWA  founder, Bill Clark, performing one of his favorite lifts, the Zercher Lift.  The Zercher Lift was named after the famous old time Missouri strongman Ed Zercher. This picture was taken in the early 1960’s at a meet at the Leavenworth Prison, which Bill was promoting.  Bill’s best lifetime Zercher Lift was 455 pounds – which would still be the best at most USAWA meets today. In a true Zercher Lift, the bar is taken from the platform, and not from a rack or stands. Notice that Bill is not even wearing a belt!

Tuesday Night at the Dino Gym

by Al Myers

This week's Tuesday night training group at the Dino Gym.

“Man – I love Tuesday nights!!”  That is my feeling every Tuesday night at the Dino Gym, because that is our club’s big group workout night of the week.  EVERYONE tries to make Tuesday night to train. The Dino Gym is a club gym, and membership is by invitation only.  We probably have 30 plus members that train at the gym at least once per month, and many more who live a ways off and just show up for a workout every now and then.  It is a “key gym” – meaning that each member gets a key that allows them to train when it is convenient for them, sometimes with another gym member and sometimes by themselves.  I often do several of my workouts by myself in the early mornings before work.  Occasionally, others are on the same schedule and I get someone to train with, but not always.  The Dino Gym caters to several aspects of strength training.  We have powerlifters, highland game throwers, olympic lifters, strongmen competitors, and of course my lifting interest, All-Round Weightlifting. It is quite interesting just watching the different gym members train – everyone has a different training focus and routine.  Most all members are actively competing in a strength sport and different members are always preparing for an upcoming competition.  There is NEVER  down time in the Dino Gym!

But Tuesday nights we all come together and train as a group  for a workout.  I “hit the gym” around five, and often don’t leave till things are “wrapped up” which often is as late as ten.  Some guys come early and leave early, while others come a little later and finish later. I like to be part of ALL OF IT!!  The problem is that when I’m in the gym I want to train, so I keep doing more and more until everyone’s done and I’m totally wiped out!  Four to five hours of continuous training is seldom recommended by ANYONE,  and I can just imagine the “experts” would say I am over-training. But I have done this for years and seem to never tire of it, and always look forward to Tuesdays. One thing it does for me is build up my training endurance, which I feel helps me on days of competition.  A long day of competition is nothing compared to what I put  myself through weekly on Tuesday nights.

Dino Gym member Chuck Cookson pulling his FIFTH rep at 600 pounds in the deadlift!

One of the things that makes me love “Tuesday Nights” is the hard-nosed, all-out training that is going on.  There seems to be energy and excitement  in the air, and it is contagious!  Everyone in the weight-room has one unified purpose – and that is to get stronger. If you are interested in doing a sissy workout, the Dino Gym is not the place to hang out at.  We don’t ALLOW anyone to “take it easy” on Tuesday nights – if YOU don’t know how to train hard we’ll introduce you to 20 rep squat sets or some timed deadlift singles.  I find myself “feeding” on everyone’s training intensity and I just want to push myself all the harder.  Watching efforts like  Scott hitting set after set in time squats with over 400 pounds, Chuck hitting heavy sets of 5 in the deadlifts, and Mark using weights over 500 pounds in the Zercher Harness Lift provides visual motivation more than words would ever do.   I lift harder than I would by myself, mainly because I don’t want to let the guys down.

As I said the Dino Gym has a very diverse group of members.  We have members who have been around forever, like founding members Mark Mitchell and Chuck Cookson, to young men just getting started, like Tyler and Matt and several others. We have inexperienced lifters just getting started, and we have VERY advanced competitors, like professional strongman John Conner.  Everyone helps everyone  get stronger.  That is what the Dino Weightlifting Club is all about.

Congrats on the New Website

I would like to thank Al for all his hard work on the new website.  He is a good friend of the USAWA and all of us and a credit to the iron sport in general.

I know that the annual meeting is coming up at Nationals and I wish I could be there, but I know that the guys who will be there will represent the USAWA well and I look forward to see what comes out of the meeting.

The Bugbear of Training: How to Avoid

by Arthur Saxon

Arthur Saxon, on the cover of his book The Development of Physical Power, which was originally published in 1906.

I take it for granted that no one can enter into training for any sport, including weightlifting, and even practice for physical development only, without encountering monotony in training, which threatens to upset all schemes for daily exercise, throwing one back in one’s work, especially as staleness makes its appearance. I, of course, am more directly concerned with weightlifting exercises than with any other, but, no doubt, when I have given my views as to how one may steadily progress, and at all times make some little advance, however slight, and overcome the bugbear of training, then it will be found possible to adapt my hints to other forms of exercise.

In the first place, when you feel a little stale, yet, perhaps, not stale enough to make a total rest advisable, then, when you lift, if you lift all weights, whether in practicing feats or weightlifting exercises, at such a poundage that they can be readily raised with ease and comfort, it will be found that your work is once more a pleasure, and short you may return to your usual poundage. The bugbear or training loses half its fearsome aspect to the tired athletes who has a lot at stake, and must continue at his work, if it be done in company with a friend or friends.  There is nothing so fatiguing as the raising of iron weights time after time with no one to watch, no one to encourage, no one to advise – to express surprise at your improvement.  To surprise and beat your friends is always an encouragement, and in practicing with weights you cannot get the right positions unless you have an expert lifter to occasionally offer a hint.  Lifting, too, may become dangerous if practiced by oneself, so you see the idea is to endeavor to make your training as much as pleasure as possible. If necessary, enter into little competitions with your friends.  I had almost said a small bet would be an incentive to work, but I suppose I must include betting among the list of vices we human beings are apt to give way to, but this will not preclude one from a friendly competition occasionally in which points may be conceded, and lifts performed on handicap and competition lines.

Carefully adjust your work to your condition at the moment.  Ask yourself each time you lift, “Am I in good form today?” If you feel yourself in good form – specially “fit” – then that is the time to try a “limit” lift.  Note what you have raised that day – the weight and the date – and at another suitable time see if you can surpass your last record lift by a few points.

Such pleasant, invigorating and helpful aids to training as massage, towel friction and sponge-down, are all direct helps in aiding one to continue constantly and persistently with the practice.  Without regularity good results cannot be expected, yet immediately your mind, always questioning your condition, and ever ready to appreciate a weakness, tells you that you are stale, an immediate and entire rest is imperative.  To go on when stale is to invite an entire breakdown.  I have known even nervous exhaustion to attend the misdirected efforts of the athlete who persists in hard training when he feels himself going to pieces through over-work.  To try to work like a machine, knowing that ever at one’s side stands the bugbear of training, ready to weaken one’s resources through over-work, and bring about a breakdown, is the height of folly.  Nature has given one an instinct which will make heard, with warning notes, the danger signal when over fatigue threatens, and this signal should never be allowed to pass unnoticed.

Whilst on this subject, I would point out that the man of sedentary occupation can never hope to stand the same amount of physical work as regards to weightlifting as his fellow, who is a manual laborer, and whose muscles are daily tuned to mechanical labor, which drains the system least of any, whilst brain work is a constant and steady drain on the whole system, and it will, no doubt, surprise many to learn that the brain-worker is more likely to suffer from over-work than the man who, like myself, daily performs arduous feats which are purely muscular.  When the brain-worker changes to physical work, he finds the change helpful, inasmuch as a change of work is a good as a rest, and, therefore, he will not, of course, regard the lifts he practices as work, but as a pleasant pastime.

Credit:  The Development of Physical Power by Arthur Saxon

Eugen Sandow’s Grip Dumbbell

by Al Myers

Eugen Sandow's New Grip Dumbbell. This dumbbell is on exhibit at the York Barbell Museum.

After reading Thom’s story last week about gripper training,  I wondered “what did the old time strongmen do for grip training before the modern day grippers were developed?” Several old time strongmen were known for their exceptionally hand strength – men like Hermann Goerner, Thomas Inch and Arthur Saxon. These guys primarily developed their gripping strength through the use of over-sized dumbbells and barbells.

Last fall when Chad and I toured the York Barbell Museum I was intrigued by a gripping dumbbell  I saw there developed and marketed by Eugen Sandow.  Sandow was famous for his herculean physique and posing abilities, and his ability to mesmerize a crowd with his show performances, but I  never thought of him as a “grip guy”.  So seeing this gripping device of his interested me even more!  In a way, it is more of a gripper than a dumbbell.

Sandow introduced the New Grip Dumbbell in 1899. Eugen Sandow had this to say about his New Grip Dumbbell, “This appliance is very simple. It consists of a dumbbell made in two halves, longitudinally separated about 1.5 inch from one another, the intervening space being occupied by a small steel spring. Whilst exercising, the spring is compressed by gripping the bell and so bringing the two halves close together, in which position they are kept until the exercise is over.  The springs can be of any strength, and consequently the strain necessary to keep the two halves together can be varied to any extent.”

Sandow also developed an instructional  course in how these grip dumbbells should be used, and sold “stronger” springs to increase the training resistance as one improved over time. He had six different designs of this grip dumbbell.  The easiest dumbbell was for children, with models expanding to the most difficult men’s dumbbell. At the time, the men’s model sold for $3 a pair, which was quite a bit of money in the early 1900’s.  Whether Sandow spent a lot of time training with his New Grip Dumbbell himself, or if it was more of a profitable business venture capitalizing on his name, is unknown.  It is definitely true that Sandow was way ahead of his contemporaries in his ability of self-promotion, and knew how to market himself for a profit.  Regardless, his New Grip Dumbbells were, in some part, the precursor of modern day grippers, and he deserves credit for that.

Eugen Sandow always knew how to inspire others in the benefits of exercise.  I want to conclude with Sandow’s testimony in which he gave in his “sales pitch” for his New Grip Dumbbells.  Sandow said, “the object of exercise is to rehabilitate the frame and give it the vigorous strength, the health and the grace intended by Nature, and so fit it to endure the daily task with joyous ease, and make the cup of life a perennial and refreshing draught, like the ambrosia of the Olympian Gods.  With these words I commend to you my new dumbbell.”

I couldn’t have said it any better myself.

Welcome to the New USAWA Website

After much work, the new USAWA website is up and working!  I hope that you like the new features that this website offers – such as the search functions of previous blogs, and the more modern look.  We outgrew our previous site, and this new site will allow us to expand as much as we like, with no limitations.

It is important that you establish a new login.  You still must be a website member and logged in to be able to participate in the USAWA Discussion Forum.  This new site has been designed  to allow the membership to be more involved.  If you are interested in contributing blog stories for the USAWA Daily News, just let me know and I will designate you “author status”. This will allow you to prepare your stories on the website.  Enjoy!

Get a Grip on a Gripper

by Thom Van Vleck

Last Monday night the Jackson Weightlifting Club did one of our Strongman Shows at a Bible Camp near Clarence, Missouri. As we had done this camp for 6 straight years I was trying to come up with some new feats so that those that had been there several times would not be seeing the same old stuff. As I scanned the JWC Training Hall I noticed my “Captains of Crush” Grippers and came up with an idea for something to do with them.

Once at the camp and during the show, I called up the head camp counselor and gave him a regular store bought gripper and I closed the #2 then we switched. He struggled to put a kink in the #2. Then I gave him the “easy one” (a #1) and he failed with it after much straining and groaning. The kids got a kick out of it and I managed a few reps with my #2 to at least make it look like I had some grip. I don’t claim to be a “grip master”, but 10 reps with my #2 is my best.

There are all kinds of grippers out now. The Captains of Crush put out by Ironmind, Heavy Grip Hand Grippers, JB (John Brookfield) grippers, and many others. But what was the original? It got me to thinking and I did some research.

I found some info that gives credit to Thomas Inch as having what were called “nutcracker” grippers that he challenged people in the audience to try. I know there were probably others, but I was thinking in terms of the more modern, steel spring “Super Gripper”.

I had recalled seeing a “Super Gripper” in an old Ironman magazine and after some research (me looking thru my collection of old Iron Man mags!), I found it. It required a reputed 220lbs of pressure to close and was sold from 1964 to 1977. They evidently enjoyed very limited success, but were the inspiration for the Ironmind “Captains of Crush” grippers that started the “Gripper” revolution in 1990 that goes strong today!

I know there is a whole sub culture of strength that now wraps around grippers and training not just to build grip strength but to be able to close a stronger and stronger gripper. I like to break mine out every so often in my training rotation, but I don’t rely on them solely for my grip strength. Personally, I like to train mine with a straight arm as I don’t want to develop the habit of “bending my arm” as I flex my grip. You don’t want to flex the arm on a clean or snatch, nor in highland games or many strongman events. So why not train grip with a fully extended arm?

A final note, if you go out and buy yourself some heavy duty grippers, work into them slowly. I have had at least one training buddy, and myself, sprain a knuckle going too hard, too fast and not warming up enough. That was a painful injury that took a long time to heal and interfered with my other training (and it even made work difficult as I type a lot!).

So, get a grip on a gripper!

Shoulder Drop

I am planning a team postal meet with details coming soon and one of the lifts we will be doing is the Shoulder Drop.  Here is a good video of JWC member Josh Hettinger setting a record in the Shoulder Drop:

and here is what the USAWA Rule Book says on this lift:

D25. Shoulder Drop

The bar is first cleaned and placed at the base of the neck to start this lift. Feet placement is optional. Once the lifter is upright, and the bar motionless, an official will give a command to start the lift. The lifter will then release the grip on the bar, allowing the bar to drop from the shoulders behind the back. The lifter must catch the bar in the hands at arms’ length behind the back. The legs must remain straight throughout the lift. The lift ends on command by an official when the bar is controlled in the hands by the lifter.

There is actually a reason that I picked this lift as one I wanted to do (and it has nothing to do with Chad Ullom’s Shoulder Drop performance, even if it was pretty funny)

When I was a kid, my grandpa Dalton Jackson (Granddaddy of all the JWC!) used to do all kinds of lifts.  Some I’m pretty sure he made up himself, but many he said he read about or saw in old magazines.  The thing is that my grandpa often saw still photos or read descriptions and I’m not sure he always got them right.  One he did was a lift he claimed Arthur Saxon did.  It was a multipart lift where you would Clean and press the weight, then lower the weight behind the neck, do a Shoulder Drop with it, then set it down.  But the way he did it was he would catch the weight with bent legs whereas the USAWA rules state you must use straight legs.  Since the Shoulder drop was the most difficult of the lift….I decided to use it in honor of “Pop” (what I always called my Grandpa).

First All-Round Meet Memories

by Thom Van Vleck

My first All-Round meet was when I traveled with my Uncle Wayne Jackson to the old Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City. It was called “The Wall” because a very imposing stone wall surrounded the facility almost looking like that was all that was there. It was, I thought 1979, but my Uncle said he thought it was ‘80.

I was 15 or 16 at the time and we arrived in time to meet up with Bill Clark. After some greetings we headed inside. I considered myself a pretty tough kid, but I’ll be honest, being inside that place was like being “scared straight”. We went through a double cell door system and we had the backs for our hands marked with ultraviolent ink. The mark had to be there or you didn’t get back out later! A funny note, after the meet, some of the guys that were showering held their hand out of the shower for fear they would wash it off even though it was “permenant ink”. I was afraid to shower at all!

As we filtered into the yard we were escorted by a guard. I noted that he didn’t have a gun or weapon of any kind and when I asked why he said, “The prisoners would just jump me and take it away”. It was then I realized this was the real deal! This was the days before signing waivers….you were just warned and there you go!

A group of the lifting prisoners greeted us. I recall Lou Greenlaw being one of them. He noticed me being a little nervous and he said to stick close to him, anyone that went after me would have to go through him first. Lou was a big guy and I recall him doing a very strict 315lb Good Morning that meet for a record. He was pretty nice to me all day and encouraged me. I wondered later what he was in there for!

After awhile, I came to realize that all the prisoners were pretty nice. Most of them were men that had made bad choices, but weren’t necessarily evil men. At one point I recall the prison cross dressers coming in to watch the lifting. They got kinda rowdy at one point making cat calls at the guys lifting….and they were kicked out as I recall. I thought it was pretty funny, and being a farm kid….I’d never seen anything like those guys before!

We ate lunch in the cafeteria. It was a loud and busy place. The food was like school food, not bad, but not that great. There were a lot of the general population in there and they were pretty rough looking. I sat with Lou!

My Uncle Wayne had a great day. I recall him breaking about a dozen records. The one that stuck out in my mind the most was a 300lb Reverse Grip Clean and press. He did 250 with ease and went to 300. He got it but Bill turned it down. I can’t recall why, but it looked good to me! Wayne had been recovering from a devastating back injury so his lifts were all the more impressive to me. He did an easy 280lbs seated press. Wayne had done 300lbs for 8 sets of 2 at one point in training, but he braced his feet behind him while the rules of the lift required him to have his feet flat which really threw him off. I also recall him power cleaning and pressing 300lbs with power to spare. Wayne was always an explosive presser and it always made him look like he had plenty more in the tank.

I recall doing a 120lb seated press weighing about 165lbs and then deadlifting something like 365lbs. I don’t think they counted it with the other lifts, but at least I got on the platform for the first time in my life.

That prison was legendary, some pretty bad people (like Lee Harvey Oswald) were sentenced there and many of them died there, either by natural causes or otherwise! But all in all, the men I met that day were pretty good guys. Bill used to do a lot for the prisoners with his lifting events and I’m sure it helped put more than one of the straight and narrow. Prison lifting is a thing of the past as many of states have limited this for lots of reasons which are debateable. But that day stands out to me. A kid learned more than just how to lift in a meet that day. He learned a lot about life.

Just Who Was Karo Whitfield?

by Thom Van Vleck

I am currently working on a story on Karo Whitfield that I hope will be in MILO at some point.  My Uncle Phil Jackson, one of the original Jackson Weightlifting Club members, was stationed in Alabama in the mid 60’s on both ends of a year long tour in Vietnam as a member of the US Air Force.
During that time, Phil got to meet a lot of the greats of that era that lived in the south.  Most notabley Paul Anderson and Bob Peoples, but also Frank Zane (who my Uncle called “Chicken Legs Zane”), Joe Dube’, and others.  He also traveled every chance he got to train at Karo Whitfield’s Health Club in Atlanta.  He has copies of routines that Karo gave him.
Karo may have been one of the most influencial people ever in the iron game and if we talk only about the South in the US, he may be the single most influencial person ever.  He is often credited with helping Paul Anderson early in his career as well as coaching and sponsoring many great lifters, but his training and coaching went far beyond weightlifting as he trained and coached athletes from many different sports.
I am currently interviewing my Uncle Phil on Karo and his personality.  He was the classic old school coach using sarcasm and whit to motivate his students and deal with situations.  An example of this was a time when an AAU official was addressing some lifters and one had his wife and baby there, the baby was crying and finally the official commented on it.  Karo immediate said, “You’d cry too if you had to look at such an ugly face for so long”.  My Uncle said that you either loved him or hated him….and he pretty much didn’t care which as long as he got you to your goal.
Karo passed away in 1977 after a long and storied career that reached as far back as the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. If anyone knew Karo, or has info on him, please contact me via the message board of at  This guy deserves to be given credit for what he did for the iron game!

Business Agenda for Meeting

by Al Myers

The following is the business agenda for the 2010 National Meeting, to be held June 26th immediately following the lifting on Saturday at the 2010 National Championships.

1.  Meeting called to order by USAWA President Denny Habecker.

2.  Reading of previous meetings minutes by USAWA Secretary Al Myers.

3.  Report of financial status by USAWA Treasurer Al Myers.

4.  Report from the Official’s Chairman Joe Garcia.

5.  Report from the Record’s Chairman Joe Garcia.

6.  Report from the Website Director Al Myers.

7.  Discussion and vote on proposed bylaws that were developed by the bylaws  ad hoc committee of Al Myers, Joe Garcia and Tim Piper.

8.  Discussion and vote on the new Hall of Fame Program developed by the HOF ad hoc committee of Denny Habecker, Dale Friesz and Dennis Mitchell.

9.  Discussion and vote on 5 new proposed lifts.

10.  Discussion and vote on Rulebook changes.

11.  Election of two executive board members to a one year term.

12.  Appointment of the Drug Enforcement Director and the Awards Director.

13.  Discussion of other business brought forth by the membership.

14.  Award the special USAWA awards.

15.  Accept bids and vote on venue for next year’s National Championship.

16.  Meeting adjourned.

Hall of Fame Biography – John C. Grimek class of 1993

by Dennis Mitchell

John Grimek - This photo is from the cover of the February, 1969 issue of Muscular Development.

John Grimek was born June 17, 1910 in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. He got his interest in weightlifting and body building from his older brother George. John stated that his brother was bigger and stronger than he was, but just didn’t have the interest in the Iron Game that he had. John’s first competition in weightlifting was in 1934 where he took a first place as a heavy weight in New Jersey with a total of 710 pounds. Later that same year he entered his first National meet in Brooklyn. His press of 242.5 pounds was the highest of the meet. However he failed to total due to his lack of training in the snatch and clean and jerk. The following year he placed second to Bill Good in a five lift meet with a total of 1,072 pounds. The five lifts were the one hand snatch, the clean and jerk which had to be done with the opposite hand used in the snatch, the two hands press, snatch and the clean and jerk.

John then moved to York PA. to improve his training. In the 1936 National meet in Philadelphia he pressed 285.5 pounds, snatched 220 pounds, and clean and jerked 308 pounds. He placed first in the heavy weight class while weighing just two pounds over the light heavy limit. His press was a National record. Later the same year he competed in the Olympics in Germany. Though he did not place he lifted more than any other American lifter. In 1937 he reduced to the light heavy weight class for the Sr. National meet in Detroit. In this meet he was to light and was not at his best. But in 1938 he won the Jr. National meet with an 810 pound total in the light heavy weight class. At this time, before physique contest were added to the lifting meets, John continued to compete in lifting. In 1938 still lifting as a light heavy weight he made a total of 830 pounds. (261 press, 245 snatch, and a 325 clean and jerk). John’s best meet was in the 1940 Sr. National meet held in Madison Square Garden, where he did a 285 pound press, snatched 250 pounds and a clean and jerk of 325 pounds. He placed third behind Steve Stanko and Louis Abele. However he did win the Mr. America physique contest, and at this point decided to put his efforts into body building.

In 1941 he once again won the Mr. America contest. The AAU then made a rule that once you won the Mr. America contest you could not enter it again. The first Mr. Universe contest was held in 1947. John could not enter because the AAU said that he was a professional because of his work with the York Barbell Co. However the 1948 contest was open to both amateurs and professionals and he became Mr. Universe. In 1949 he won the Mr. USA contest in a highly publicized meet as it had become a battle between the IFBB organization and the York Barbell organization.

John died November 24 1998, having never been defeated in a body building contest.

USAWA National Championships



June 26th and 27th, 2010

Note: You must be a current USAWA member to compete

Closing Date :  May 26, 2010



CITY_____________________STATE_____ ZIP_______



AGE__________           DATE OF BIRTH_____________

USAWA MEMBER:   Yes  /  No

SHIRT  SIZE___________________________

WEIGHT CLASS_________________________________

DIVISION ENTERING [age group: i.e. open & 40+]_____________________________

In consideration of your accepting my entry, I hereby release all claims for damages, losses, and injuries that I may hold against the USAWA., the Lebanon Senior Center, Meet Directors, all officials and assistants while taking part in the 2010  USAWA Championships  Also I fully understand the USAWA drug testing policy and will  fully avail myself if selected and not hinder the officials in the execution of their duties.


PARENT’S  SIGNATURE [if under 18 years of age] _________________________



The Banquet will be a picnic in Habecker’s back yard. Donations accepted.

Mail entry to Denny Habecker, 637 N. 11TH Ave., Lebanon, Pa. 17046

Schedule of  Events

Venue :                                    Lebanon Senior Center , 710 Maple St.  Lebanon, Pa.

Weigh-ins :                              7:30 A.M. to 8:30 A.M. –Saturday and Sunday

Lifting  starts :                        9:30 A.M.

Lifts :

Saturday – June 26, 2010

Vertical Bar Lift – 1 Bar, 2”, One Hand

Pullover and Push

Clean and Jerk – One Arm

Deadlift – Trap Bar

Sunday – June 27, 2010

Snatch – From Hang

Deadlift – One Arm

Clean and Press

Zercher Lift

Entry Fee – $50.00 [ $70.00 for 2 Divisions]

T-Shirt Included

Awards: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in each weight class and

Age  divisions for Masters, Juniors, and Women,

Based on total poundage lifted.

Best Lifter Awards for each age group in Masters,

Juniors, Senior [20-39], and Women by Formula