Articles from February 2011

Wrist Wraps & Knee Wraps

by Al Myers

I just want to take today and clarify the USAWA’s stance on wrist wraps and knee wraps.   I know last week (in the Dear Dino Man column) I made reference to our organization not allowing any kind of wraps, and I have received a few questions regarding that.  The Dino Man’s response was a little extreme, because in truth our organization does allow wrist wraps and knee wraps in certain lifts.  That response was more aimed at the ridiculous use of lifting suits and supportive bench shirts, which allow a lifter to lift WAY more weight than they could without them on.  But today’s story is not about my opinion on supportive lifting equipment – so that’s all I’m going to say about that.  This story is about what the USAWA allows in regards to wrist wraps and knee wraps.

With the March Postal Meet approaching (the Eastern Open Postal), this discussion becomes very relevant.  This postal meet contains the 12 inch base squat as one of the lifts.  Last June at the Annual National Meeting of the USAWA the topic of knee wraps came up.  Where they allowed or not?  The membership was divided on this – meaning half thought they were and the other half thought they WEREN’T allowed!  Apparently in 1997 the use of knee wraps was approved by the membership  for the front squat and 12 inch base squat.  This issue was never brought forth in the Rule Book and thus a lot of lifters assumed from that point on that knee wraps were not allowed for these two lifts.  The only lifters who knew they were allowed were those in attendance at this 1997  meeting.  The problem this has created is that some lifters were wearing knee wraps for the front squat and 12 inch base squat in postal meets since then while others were not.  Several  USAWA records were established from that point on with  knee wraps.  It is nearly impossible to go back now and identify these occurrences  so the membership at the 2010 meeting voted again in favor to allow knee wraps for these two lifts ONLY  (front squat and 12 inch base squat) and make this point known in the current Rule Book.  This rule is now part of the updated 4th Edition USAWA Rule Book.   This knee wrap rule for these two lifts comes into accordance with the IAWA rule which also allows them.  The regular stance squat is an IAWA lift (not a USAWA lift) and knee wraps may also be worn with it.   Also,  dimension specifications of legal knee wraps were added.  They are not to exceed 2 meters in length, with maximum width of 10 cm and maximum thickness of 1 mm.

Wrist wraps have been allowed in the USAWA since 1997 for all lifts.  Before this wrist wraps were only allowed for lifts that allowed back hang and front hang (mainly the dumbbell swings).   The specifications of legal wrist wraps are not to exceed 1 meter in length, with maximum width of 10 cm and maximum thickness of 1 mm.  The rules also state if the wrist wraps contain thumb loops, they must be removed from the thumbs prior to lifting.  Now don’t confuse wrist wraps with wrist straps.   Wrist straps or lifting straps that attach the hands to the bar are NOT allowed!

Section VI. 12 states that all equipment (including wrist wraps and knee wraps) may be required to be inspected by the meet official at weigh-ins.  If the equipment does not meet the rules criteria, this equipment will not be allowed to be used in the competition.  I hope this clears up some of the confusion regarding  wrist wraps and knee wraps usage in the USAWA.

Year in Review

by Al Myers

Next week I’m going to get the 2010 USAWA Year in Review Books printed.  Please let me know soon if you want one. The cost is $40 ($50 if you also want an updated Rule Book).  Please send payment to me and make your check payable to the USAWA.  So far, this is the list of those who have ordered a book.

Al Myers – Paid

Frank Ciavattone – Paid

Dale Friesz – Paid

Denny Habecker

Thom Van Vleck

Art Montini

Randy Smith

Longterm USAWA Members

by Al Myers

Dale Friesz has been an active member of the USAWA since the first year of membership in 1988. Dale has had more reasons than anyone to have let his membership lapse, yet he maintained his yearly membership to support the USAWA. Lifters like Dale are the foundation of our organization.

Last week’s Quiz of the Week was a very important one for one simple reason – it gave recognition to those USAWA Members who have been yearly members since the first year of the USAWA.  These 5 USAWA member have showed extreme loyalty to the USAWA by being members all these years.  It is easy to miss a year of membership -  such as a lack of competing due to illness or injury.  I know this could have been  the case for a couple of these lifters, yet they STILL maintained their yearly membership despite the physical hardship. Most lifters don’t do that – they rejoin when they are able to compete again.   These lifters should receive an award for their loyalty to the USAWA (hmmm…. who’s the USAWA Award Director? I may have to talk to him about this.  Especially since NEXT year is the 25th anniversary of the USAWA).  Just for those who missed the quiz, I want to list these USAWA VIP members again:

Bill Clark

Casey Clark

Joe Garcia

Art Montini

Dale Friesz

Now I want to mention a few others that have been longterm members of the USAWA, but maybe now are retired or just joined a little later.  The initial class of members in 1988 included such notable lifters as Bill Clark, Bill DiCioccio Sr., Joe Garcia, Cindy Garcia, John McKean, Noi Phumchaona, Howard Prechtel, John Vernacchio, Casey Clark, Dale Friesz, Jack Lano, Art Montini, Tom Ryan, Bob Burtzloff, Phil Anderson, Steve Schmidt, John Wilmot, Harrison Skeete, Attilio Alacchi, Paul Knauer, Joe McCoy, Dave Hahn, Clay Oliver, Ron Sisk, Gonzalo Gonzlsez, and Ed Zercher.  There were several more than this that joined that year. However, all together, the USAWA membership was still short of 100 members that first year.

USAWA Hall of Famer Frank Ciavattone joined a year later in 1989.  He has been a member every year since.  USAWA Executive Board member Dennis Mitchell also joined in 1989 and hasn’t missed a year of membership.  A couple of long-term members joined in 1990 and haven’t missed any years of membership since joining – our President Denny Habecker and Hall of Famer Jim Malloy.  A few lifters, like John McKean and Steve Schmidt, only missed a few years of continuous membership due to lifting retirement only to reappear as active lifters. All these lifters  deserve special recognition for their many years of support to the USAWA.  The only USAWA club that has maintained club membership since 1988 has been Clark’s Gym.

John O’Brien: Part 2

John O'Brien "blowing up" a pop can using his incredible grip in one of our JWC evangelism shows!

by Thom Van Vleck

I will continue my story on my friend and strength athlete John O’Brien.

In part one I ended with John coming to one of our strongman evangelism shows.  John approached us about joining our team.  We are always happy when guys want to join us, but we also want to make sure they are in it for the right reasons.  Now, I’ve NEVER turned down anyone that wants to join us, but I also want to make sure guys know that it’s not “all about physical strength” but a real Christian ministry effort.  We don’t “show off” we “share” our God given talents for strength for God’s glory.

I invited John out the the JWC gym to meet with him about his desire to join the evangelism team.  John had this amazing and wonderful story about his son, Xavier (who recently became an Eagle scout!).  He talked about how he had drifted away from God and Church and that science had, in essence, become his religion.  He came to believe that science could answer any question about life.  Then along came Xavier.  He was born at 23 weeks (normal is 40 weeks!) and weighed 1lb and 4oz at birth.  His weight actually dropped to 15oz….LESS THAN A POUND!

The doctors told John that Xavier had a 25% chance to live and a 5% chance of being normal.  It was touch and go and things were tough emotionally for John and his wife Andrea.  But it was a moment when John realized that science did not hold all the answers and surrendered himself to a higher power.  Xavier began to improve to the amazement of all.  John credits God for Xavier’s progress and recovery and what a recovery it was and continues to be!  He is a top scholar in school, he looks like a normal teen in every way,  and he’s a mature, tough, likable young man that we are all proud of.

It was at that meeting that I knew John was a special man, not just in strength, but in all the ways that make a man a real man in my book.  John became a core member of the JWC Strongman evangelism team and we have had many great shows together which now number in the hundreds and I hope we have many more to come!  We have even traveled to the Arnold Expo in Columbus, Ohio where we met Arnold himself (a story unto itself!) and got to perform for hundreds.  If there’s any question to John’s “go time” attitude regarding his strength, it was at this show John drove a nail deeply into his hand during a tough bend and he not only finished the bend, he taped up and performed the rest of the weekend.

John is a world class bender.  Another core member of our group is Brett Kerby.  Brett was already a world class bender and John took a keen interest in it.  With Brett’s tutelage, John soon became the master!  It was funny that later he commented that Brett was not a very big guy and surely if he could do it, then John thought he could, too.  That’s John’s attitude about a lot of things….if you can do it….he can, too!   Brett and John have pushed each other to greater heights than they probably would have ever done alone.

John approached bending like he does most everything he does….obsessively….my kind of guy!   He began to bend all the time.  He told me a story that his division head at Truman State, where he teaches, came to him and said he had to stop bending in labs….because the students were afraid to come up to him as he bent 60 penny nail after nail and threw them in a pile.  He bent his first red nail in one of our shows.  I got the crowd all worked up and he had 60 seconds….he bent it in about 15 seconds…making it almost anti-climatic!  His best bends to date are the 4.5″ Red Nail (5/16th cold rolled steel), 7″ X 5/16th grade 5 bolt, and a 4.5″ X 1/4″ grade 8 bolt.  He also bends horseshoes and wrenches in our shows.

John is a good friend.  His recent accomplishment merited an update on an earlier article and I’m sure that there’s plenty more to come from him.  If the USAWA version of Old time Strongman catches on, I think John will be a top contender!

John O’Brien: A TRUE All-Round athlete

John O'Brien in a photo that decorates the Dino Gym showing an Ironmind Red Nail that John hammered shut for Big Al's amusement.

by Thom Van Vleck

John O’Brien has been my training partner, member of the JWC, and most of all, friend, for many years now.  When I think of what an All-Round athlete is, I think of John.  He is good, maybe a better word would be “great” at everything strength related.  I have written about him before but I’m hoping to add to what you already know about him and make the case for him being a TRUE All-Rounder.

He has competed in a strongman contests and Olympic lifting meets and placed or won his class in many contests.  He has competed in Highland Games and always places high.  He has competed in the USAWA with great success in about a dozen meets and has a couple dozen records to his credit.  Not to mention he is a world class short steel bender and performing professional strongman with over one hundred performances under his belt.  That, to me, it a true All-Round athlete!

John started lifting around the age of 13.  His older brother had a weight set at home and then at age 15 he started lifting for sports on programs set up by his coaches.  John mainly played baseball until high school and then he made up for lost time.  He played football (varsity for three years), wrestling, baseball, and track.  He said that he was best at football and baseball, but played the other sports so he could have access to the weight room year around.  He also mentioned maybe watching the girls run in track was a bonus!  Funny how many of us start lifting to impress girls!

John played on a football team in high school that had a dubious distinction.  They lost every game his junior and senior year!  The losing streak became so long that David Letterman started to track in on his show and when they finally won (long after John had left) they had some of the team members fly out to New York to be on the show.  John was a lineman and played both ways, he also played a couple years of college ball at Graceland College.

Then John entered graduate school at the University of Kansas to become the Chemistry Professor he is now at Truman State in Kirksville.  I was around this time that his oldest son was born very premature and lifting ended up being sacrificed for many years.  Then about 8 or so years ago John was very overweight and decided to do something about it.

John was training hard and lost 50lbs in the process.  There were a couple of students that were entering my JWC Strongman contest and they challenged John to enter, John told me they “teased” him and for them…..that was a bad idea!  John not only entered that contest….he won his weight class and rather decisively as I recall.

John had strength, but he is also very athletic, able to adjust to events on the fly.  He will tell you he operates off of “brute” strength, but I say it’s more than that.  He has an intelligent strength that is also athletic.  If strongman contests did not divulge the events, my money would be on John.   Recently, we were at Al’s Dino Gym where there is something called the “pill”.  A giant pill shaped metal object loaded with sand.  John spotted it, walked over and hoisted it…becoming the oldest person to do it (at age 42)….but more than that, what impressed me was his ability to lift it without much planning or practice, or even warm up!!!!  He walked up, sized it up, then lifted it!  That’s more than brute strength.

John said after that first JWC contest he began to only train for strength, beginning a  lifting career in his mid 30’s….when most guys are quitting!  Since that time, he has competed in Olympic lifting, Strongman, USAWA, Highland Games, and most recently, Highlander meets.  John has done well in all and is a two time masters National Champ in Highlander.  More importantly, that first contest was how we met and our friendship began and most of these contests were events we traveled to and/or competed in together!

Another aspect of our relationship started right after that first Strongman Contest that John entered and won.  The next day the JWC was doing a strongman evangelism show at the local YMCA.  I noticed John was in the front row.  He told me later he watched us and thought, “I can do those things” but more than that, he believed in the REASON we were doing them.  Which I will go into in Part 2 of my article!

Next:  Part 2 of “John O’Brien: True All-Round Athlete”.

Dear Dino Man

by Al Myers

I get HUNDREDS of questions per month from individuals pertaining to weight lifting or other matters since I have been webmaster of the USAWA Website. I guess that goes along with making your email address publicly known on a website. People are always looking for free advice and the internet provides plenty of it – some good and some not so good. I try to respond to most questions, but there are lots I don’t get around to. I hate to deprive the USAWA Daily News readers of these “email exchanges” so I’ve decided to start an advice column to share some of these questions and my responses. Maybe it will answer a few questions that I repeatedly receive, and cut out having to answer the same question over and over again. I have decided to name this column Dear Dino Man. I am leaving off the names of the email senders – to insure confidentially and possible embarrassment.

Dear Dino Man,

How do I go about learning these all round lifts?

The best place to start is by reading the USAWA Rulebook, located in its entirety on the website. The USAWA Rulebook contains not only the rules of the lifts, but also descriptions in how they are performed. Several of the lifts have been highlighted on the website in the past that give more details. This information can be found by doing a search on the website. We also have a YouTube account that has videos of many of the lifts. It is also linked to the website. However, the best way to learn about the USAWA is to just go to a competition and meet lifters who have experience in all-round weightlifting. All the members of the USAWA are more than willing to help someone new. Of course, if you have specific questions I would be happy to answer them!

Dear Dino Man,

What types of bows are allowed in the USAWA?

You have the wrong USAWA. The one you’re interested in is the United States Association of Wingshooting Archers located at We are All-Round Weightlifters and that is why, at the top of our website, we have a logo of a weightlifter instead of an archer. I just want to mention that in case that was confusing you.

Dear Dino Man,

Sorry my check for my membership dues bounced. The next one is in the mail and it’s good.

Sure it is and I’m planning on deadlifting 1000 pounds tonight.

Dear Dino Man,

When I look at the pictures of some of the lifts on your website, I can’t believe they are real. Is it possible some were done with fake plates? Those pictures of Steve Schmidt lifting all that weight can’t be real.

All lifts in the USAWA are done with real plates by real lifters. There is nothing fake about Steve’s 2000 plus pound Hip Lifts or his 3000 pound plus Harness Lifts – just hard to believe. I have seen Steve Schmidt lift first hand and he’s the “real deal”. And trust me, I’m a doctor.

Dear Dino Man,

Why can’t we wear knee wraps and super suits in the USAWA?

Because the USAWA is about REAL STRENGTH and not FAKE STRENGTH! Plus wearing that gear makes you look like a goofball instead of a weightlifter.

Dear Dino Man,

How do all the guys in your gym get so big and strong? I weigh 150 pounds and can’t seem to gain weight. Someday I hope to weigh 300 pounds of solid muscle.

Because we are on the Seefood Diet. If we see it – we eat it.   Add in an extra helping of daily heavy weight training and someday you will reach your goal.

Dear Dino Man,

Does your dino gym ever get tired of whooping it up on the JWC?

And does a kid ever get tired of eating ice cream??? NO – CAUSE IT TASTES GOOD!!

Dear Dino Man,

I just love it when you put pictures of the Champ on the website. He is so good looking and sexy!!  I would love to meet him and hopefully date him cause he’s built like a real man. Do you know if he is single?

Sorry, I’m afraid not. STUDS like THE CHAMP don’t stay on the market long.  But if you are interested, I could send you the details about joining his fan club.  He is a real All-Round Weightlifting celebrity and has the ego to match it – which you should have been able to guess by the fact that he calls himself  “The Champ”.

(WEBMASTER COMMENT:  All these are real questions with real answers.  The rumor that the Dino Man makes up stories and stretches the truth is incorrect, and is probably being propagated by jealous rivals who lack the witty repertoire of humor that bestows the Dino Man. )

Goerner Club

by Al Myers

Ben Edwards is now part of the "Goerner Club" with his 310 pound Middle Finger Deadlift at the 2011 USAWA National Grip Championships.

It’s not everyday that a lifter can break a mark done by the famous German Strongman Hermann Goerner.  This past weekend at the USAWA National Grip Championships Ben Edwards joined, as I’ve termed, the “Goerner Club” for exceeding Hermann’s best reported lift in the Middle Fingers Deadlift.  Ben lifted 310 pounds.   David Willoughby in his book The Super Athletes listed Goerner as having done a MF deadlift of 140 kilograms (308.5 pounds) around 1925.  I have always considered this the mark to beat to be outstanding in the middle fingers deadlift.  Now, compared to what Hermann has reported in his other finger lifts, this lift of his seems to be a sub-maximal effort.  None the less, it is a very good lift (and is actually believable compared to some of his other claims).   However, this 308.5# middle finger deadlift is not listed in Hermann’s autobiography by Edgar Mueller’s Goerner the Mighty.  I have read this book several times, and I don’t ever remember seeing this lift listed.  Mueller does talk in one chapter about the wide deviations of grips that Hermann uses for his deadlifts, and mentions a middle finger overhand grip  deadlift (of which he lists Goerner as having worked up to 220 pounds), but nothing about using an alternate grip as we allow in the USAWA for the Finger Deadlifts.

Just how many USAWA members are part of this “Goerner Club” for the Middle Finger Deadlift??

The list is quite small.  Only TWO other USAWA members (besides Ben)  have ever exceeded 309 pounds.  The KING OF the MIDDLE FINGER is none other than Kevin Fulton.  Kevin has the best middle finger deadlift of ALL-TIME in the USAWA with a lift of 400 pounds.  This lift was no fluke, as Kevin has exceeded 309 pounds in the MF deadlift several other times as well in official competition.  He set this HUGE MF deadlift at his own 1999 SuperGrip Challenge (which was the first year this meet was held).   The other lifter that is a member of the “Goerner Club” is USAWA Hall of Famer Bill DiCiccio.  In 1994 at the Gold Cup, Bill matched Hermann’s effort with a 309 pound lift.  Now that’s it!!!  I have spent a few hours looking back at past meet results over the past 20 years and I couldn’t find anyone else!!   Congratulations Ben – you are now part of a very small club in the USAWA.  Hermann would have been proud of you.

Check out the YouTube Video of Ben performing the Middle Fingers Deadlift (located on the upper right side of this website).

Records Go Down Last Weekend

by Al Myers

I’m finally able to relax and reflect upon the great weekend of lifting this past weekend at the Dino Gym.  It’s surprising how much needs to be done AFTER a competition – equipment needs fixed and put away, the gym cleaned and picked up, meet reports and results written for the website, and of course nursing all the aches and pains I self-inflicted upon  myself  once again.

Mike Murdock, of Ledaig Heavy Athletics, sets the most USAWA Records over this past weekend at the Dino Gym.

If anyone notices any mistakes in the meet results please let me know.   It is easy to fix – and I PREFER for everything to be correct.  It is very easy for a mistake to happen – poor handwriting that I can’t read, a lift written down wrong, etc.  I know of instances in the past (before this website) where mistakes got recorded and never changed, and thus these “errors” go down in history as “the fact”.   What are you saying Al??? Yes I said it  -  some RECORDS in the Record List are not legit!!!  With this website, and the ability to post results immediately and correct them immediately if needed,  those type of mistakes are not tolerable anymore.

Now on to more pleasant things.  I finally got the weekend record count done. WOW – as the Daily News Story says, “Records Go Down Last Weekend” – that is an understatement.  On Saturday at the USAWA National Grip Championships a total of 32 new USAWA records were set.  On Sunday at the Dino Gym Record Day, a total of 113 USAWA records were set by the 11 participants (105 individual records and 8 team records).   That’s a LOT!!!  Joe G (the USAWA Record Keeper) will have to burn the midnight oil getting all that in the list!!  The top record day in the  USAWA last year belonged to the JWC Record Breakers last October where 109 USAWA records were set. (I’m not saying we topped them, but I DID have to mention this fact because I’m a forthright news reporter).  This year’s Dino Gym Record Day now becomes the TOP record day in the history of the USAWA in regards to number of USAWA records broken in a record day.  The TOTAL USAWA records for the weekend was an amazing 145 records.  Mike Murdock lead the way for the weekend with a total of 27 records set.  Mike started the weekend off as 70 years old and ended the weekend at 71 years old.  What a great weekend of lifting he had to celebrate his birthday.

Denny Habecker, of the 2010 USAWA Club of the Year Habecker's Gym, deserves a rest after a busy weekend of setting records. Denny has the MOST records in the USAWA with 399.

Denny Habecker now has a commanding lead over Art Montini in the RECORDS RACE.  With the 18 records Denny set this past weekend, he now leads Art 399 to 370.  If only Denny knew he needed only 1 more record to hit the 400 barrier I’m sure he would have done it!!

USAWA Records from  the National Grip Championships -  2011GripChamps

Individual Records from the Dino Gym Record Day – 2011DinoGymRD

Team Records from the Dino Gym Record Day – 2011DinoRDTEAM

Quiz of the Week

by Al Myers

Which 5 USAWA members have been members since the beginning of the USAWA??

The first USAWA memberships were issued in 1988.  Since that time, only FIVE have been members every year since.  This is what you call LOYAL membership!!!  These five definitely need recognized – and that is the reason for this quiz.   To get the correct answer you need to give me all 5 correct names.  I will even give you a hint if you want to guess.  These 5 are listed in the 2011 membership roster.  You see – they don’t even wait to get signed up for their yearly membership!

As with all Quiz of the Week the rules are the same:  first correct answer I receive wins, only 1 try per day, and send you answer to this email address –    The winner will receive a  USAWA Patch!

We have 2 WINNERS!

Last night I received TWO correct answers to this quiz!!!

Joe Garcia and Tom Ryan provided the names I was looking for.  The five USAWA members that have been members since the beginning (1988) are Bill Clark, Joe Garcia, Casey Clark, Art Montini and Dale Friesz.  During all these years, these members NEVER let their membership lapse.   I had lots of people make guesses on this quiz, and I want to thank everyone for their participation trying to answer this difficult question.

Catherine Brumback aka Sandwina

by Dennis Mitchell

Sandwina breaking a chain, which was a common act in her performances.

Catherine Brumback was born in Viena, Austria in 1884.  She was the first of fourteen children born to Philip and Joanna Brumbach, who were acrobats who performed in circuses and theaters in Europe.  Her father stood six feet tall and weighed 260 pounds, and had a 56″ chest.  Her mother had 15″ biceps.  Her father could snatch 80 kilograms with one hand, which was a very good lift in the 1800’s.  At the age of fourteen Catherine, who was now called Kathe, stood 5′7″ tall, and weighed 167 pounds.  She had been performing with her parents for quite some time.  She could clean and jerk 50 kg with one hand, and 70 kg with two hands.  By age of sixteen she had also become a very good wrestler.  Her father offered 100 German marks to any one who could defeat her.  At one performance a young 19 year old strong man named Max Heyman accepted the challenge, thinking the publicity would help his career.  Max was rather slight, weighing only 155 to 160 pounds.  Kathe had no trouble quickly defeating him.  Afraid that she had hurt him, she picked him up and carried him to her tent, a most unusual way to start a romance.  Three years later they were married.  They performed together under the name of Les Sandwenes.

As time passed Kathe grew to 5′9″, weighed 200 pounds, had a 44″ chest, a 29″ waist, 16 ” calves, and 14″ arms.  She could bend bars, brake chains, and juggle cannon balls.  She could support a 1200 pound cannon on her shoulders.  Another one of her acts was to lie on a bed of nails while someone from the audience would pound an anvil she supported on her chest.  She was earning $1500 per week.  For a time she had an act with her three sisters, Eugenie, Marie, and Barbara. They performed under the name of the Braselli Sisters.  At a performance in New York City she challenged anyone in the theater to a weightlifting contest.  Eugene Sandow was in the audience and accepted the challenge.  Kathe cleaned and jerked 300 pounds.  Sandow could only  lift it to his chest.  After this contest Kathe changed her name to Sandwina, which said was a feminine version of Sandow.  During her career she performed with several circuses, the most notable being the Barnum and Bailey circus.  After she retired from preforming she and Max opened a cafe in Queens New York . She passed away January 21, 1952.

Dino Gym Record Day

by Al Myers


Group picture of the lifters at the 2011 Dino Gym Record Day. Pictured front row (left to right): Mike Murdock, Chris Krenzin, Tyler Krenzin, Denny Habecker. Back row (left to right): Casey Barten, Al Myers, LaVerne Myers, Scott Tully. Not pictured: Chuck Cookson, Tyeler Cookson, Matt Cookson


After the great meet the day before at the Grip Championships, I wondered if anyone had the energy and motivation to come back for “Day Two” to set some USAWA records.  I was surprised to have 11 participants!  Lots of records were set.  One of the first to walk in the door of the Dino Gym was Mike Murdock.  When I was checking Mike in, he informed me that there was a change to his “status” – he NOW was 71 years old instead of 70, as today was his birthday!  What a way to spend your birthday – breaking records in the USAWA!  Mike went on to break more records than anyone else with a total of 20.  That’s a lot of records considering Mike was going all-out on every lift. His 80# Crucifix impressed me the most – considering it was done IMMEDIATELY following his dumbbell clean and press.

The Krenzin brothers have been regulars these past few years at my record days.  These two young kids, Chris and Tyler,  keep getting stronger as they grow.  They enjoy breaking the marks in lifts that they did the YEAR BEFORE the most.  Their one arm VB deadlifts were very impressive.  Tyler did 100# and Chris was close behind at 97#.  It impressed me when Chris noticed I was wearing my lifting singlet he went back out to the truck to get his youth wrestling singlet – and then he put it on!  He wanted to look like a weightlifter too!!

Scott Tully had a great day.  The day before Scott served as the head official of the Grip Championships.  Based on the grip records he set in this record day – he should have been competing!  Scott performed a 358# Fulton Bar Ciavattone Grip Deadlift, a 232# one arm 2″ VB deadlift, and a 414# 2 bar 2″ VB deadlift – all for overall records in the 125 plus kilogram class.   Pretty stupendous lifts!!!  He topped off his day by breaking the record in the hands together bench press with a lift of 320#, erasing the record held by the Bench Behemoth Dave Beversdorf.  (I’m just throwing this out Dave to give you a little motivation!!)

Matt and Tyeler Cookson pulled a 2-Man Team Deadlift of 860 pounds, for the highest USAWA Team Deadlift of All-Time amongst Junior lifters.

My Dad LaVerne was planning to sit this one out like he did the day before because of a recent eye surgery.  But like a true all-rounder, he decided to ignore the doctors recommendations  and “just lift light” instead. However, once he got started the lifts he did just kept getting heavier and heavier!  His lift that impressed me the most was his 77# one hand Pinch Grip.

Denny Habecker made the long drive to my place by himself (over 20 hours) and still had the energy to lift both days, and on top of that, set many records on Sunday.  His record count for the weekend had to be over 15.  All I can say is “Poor Art” because Denny has just padded his lead in the Records Race over Art Montini.  Denny did a wide range of record lifts, from presses to deadlifts.  Denny doesn’t have any weak areas that he can’t set records in.

Dino Gym member Casey Barten just came in for a Sunday afternoon training session and ended up setting a few records.  Casey always trains Sunday afternoons, and is usually training by himself.  He wasn’t really planning to do anything but I gave him some encouragement (like saying “don’t be a sissy”) and so  he added some USAWA  records to his Sunday afternoon training session.

It was mid-afternoon (and everyone was getting worn out) and I thought the record day might be done, but in walks Chuck Cookson and his two sons, Tyeler and Matt.  We didn’t know it at the time – but the show was just beginning!! Matt, at only 16 years of age, deadlifted with a 12 inch base 484#.  Brother Tyeler showed him big brother still was stronger and pulled 507# the same way.  However, Big Poppa Chuck let the boys know “who their daddy was” and pulled 661# with a 12″ base!! Only multiple time Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman has done more in the USAWA with a 728# 12 inch base DL at the 1994 Texas Deadlift Classic.  Matt and Tyeler then joined forces in TEAM lifting and set several two man records. Their Team Cheat Curl of 330# was very impressive, along with their Team Deadlift of 860#.

I want to thank everyone who attended this year’s Dino Gym Record Day.  Participation is what makes these events fun.  Sorry for the short meet report, but I got LOTS of results to enter!!!


Dino Gym Record Day
February 13th, 2011
Dino Gym, Holland, Kansas

Meet Director:  Al Myers

Certified Officials (1-official system used on all lifts): Al Myers, Denny Habecker, Scott Tully, Mike Murdock

Chris Krenzin – Age 10, BWT 157# (Age group 10-11, Class 75K)

Vertical Bar Deadlift – 1 bar, 2″, right hand: 97#
Vertical Bar Deadlift – 1 bar, 2″, left hand: 92#
Deadlift – Ciavattone Grip: 140#
Curl – Strict: 35#
Clean and Press – 2 Dumbbells: 40#

Tyler Krenzin – Age 13, BWT 146# (Age group 12-13, Class 70K)

Vertical Bar Deadlift – 1 bar, 2″, right hand: 100#
Vertical Bar Deadlift – 1 bar, 2″, left hand: 82#
Deadlift – Ciavattone Grip: 140#
Curl – Strict: 30#
Clean and Press – 2 Dumbbells: 20#

Matt Cookson – Age 16, BWT 187# (Age group 16-17, Class 85 K)

Deadlift – 12″ Base: 484#

Tyeler Cookson – Age 19, BWT 172# (Age group 18-19, Class 80 K)

Deadlift – 12″ Base: 507#

Tyeler Cookson & Matt Cookson (Age group 18-19, Class 85 K)

Team Curl – Cheat: 330#
Team Deadlift: 860#
Team Clean and Jerk: 352#
Team Clean and Press: 308#

Casey Barten – Age 30, BWT 180# (Age group 20-39, Class 85K)

Lateral Raise – Standing: 70#
Deadlift – Inch Dumbbell, Right Arm: 105#
Deadlift – Inch Dumbbell, Left Arm: 105#

Scott Tully – Age 35, BWT 343# (Age group 20-39, Class 125+K)

Bench Press – Hands Together: 320#
Deadlift – Fulton Bar, Ciavattone Grip: 358#
Press – From Rack: 250#
Pinch Grip – Left Hand: 77#
Swing – Dumbbell, Left Arm: 100#
Snatch – Dumbbell, Left Arm: 105#
Vertical Bar Deadlift – 1 Bar, 2″, Right Hand: 232#
Vertical Bar Deadlift – 2 Bars, 2″: 414#
Lateral Raise – Standing: 80#

Chuck Cookson – Age 41, BWT 271# (Age group 40-44, Class 125 K)

Deadlift – 12″ Base: 661#
Press – From Rack, Behind Neck: 225#
Push Press – From Rack: 225#
Press – From Rack: 245#
Curl – Dumbbell, Cheat, Right Arm: 80#
Clean and Press – 2 Dumbbells, Heels Together: 210#

Al Myers – Age 44, BWT 250# (Age group 40-44, Class 115K)

Deadlift – 2 Inch Dumbbells: 240#
Clean and Press – Fulton Bar: 220#
Snatch – Fulton Bar: 185#
Clean and Press – 12″ Base:  220#
Snatch – From Hang: 187#
Swing – Dumbbell, Right Arm: 140#
Bench Dip: 230#

LaVerne Myers – Age 66, BWT 250# (Age group 65-69, Class 115K)

Deadlift – Inch Dumbbell, Right Arm:  120#
Deadlift – Inch Dumbbell, Left Arm: 120#
Crucifix: 40#
Deadlift – Fulton Bar, Right Arm: 141#
Deadlift – Fulton Bar, Left Arm: 141#
Holdout- Lowered: 30#
Holdout – Raised: 30#
Deadlift – No Thumb, Left Arm: 154#
Pinch Grip – Right Hand: 62#
Pinch Grip – Left Hand: 77#
Snatch – Left Arm: 55#
Snatch – Right Arm: 55#

Denny Habecker – Age 68, BWT 191# (Age group 65-69, Class 90K)

Crucifix: 50#
Press – Dumbbell, Right Arm: 70#
Press – Dumbbell, Left Arm: 60#
Clean and Jerk – Dumbbell, Right Arm: 85#
Clean and Jerk – Dumbbell, Left Arm: 65#
Snatch – Left Arm: 55#
Swing – Dumbbell, Right Arm: 65#
Deadlift – Dumbbell, Left Arm: 175#
Deadlift – Dumbbell, Right Arm: 175#
Bench Dip: 135#
Press – From Rack: 135#

Mike Murdock – Age 71, BWT 236# (Age group 70-74, Class 110K)

Vertical Bar Deadlift – 1 Bar, 2″, Right Hand: 127#
Holdout – Raised: 40#
Clean and Press – 2 Dumbbells, Heels Together: 80#
Crucifix: 80#
Clean and Press: 132#
Snatch – Dumbbell, Right Arm: 55#
Snatch – Dumbbell, Left Arm: 55#
Pinch Grip – Left Hand: 62#
Swing – Dumbbell, Left Arm: 60#
Swing – Dumbbell, Right Arm: 60#
Snatch – From Hang: 95#
Clean and Press – On Knees: 95#
Snatch – Left Arm: 55#
Snatch – Right Arm: 55#
Deadlift – Dumbbell, Left Arm: 145#
Deadlift – Inch Dumbbell, Right Arm: 90#
Deadlift – Inch Dumbbell, Left Arm: 105#
Vertical Bar Deadlift – 2 Bars, 2″: 224#
Bench Dip: 65#
Lateral Raise – Standing: 60#

Grip Championships

by Al Myers


The FIRST EVER USAWA National Grip Championships was a huge success this last weekend at the Dino Gym!  The bad weather we had earlier in the week  was past, and besides lots of snow on the ground, it was a beautiful day! Eight brave competitors showed for this inaugural event.  The quality of competition was very high and several new USAWA records were set.  I want to thank everyone who made it out to compete, help or just watch.  I was going to go over the “highlights” of the meet but Ben Edwards has already hit them all in the discussion forum!   He did such a great job covering the meet in the forum, I really think it needs to be shared here in the Daily News as the meet report.  Thanks Ben!!

Group picture of the 2011 USAWA National Grip Championships. Front row (left to right): Denny Habecker, Mike Murdock, Rudy Bletscher, Felecia Simms. Back row (left to right): Mark Mitchell, Dave Glasgow, Ben Edwards, Al Myers.

MEET REPORT by Ben Edwards

I had a great time and enjoyed seeing everyone and the after-lifting meal was great too because we all got a chance to just sit around and chat.

I’ve got quite a list of memorable moments but here are just a few since I’m home and want to spend some time with my wife.

Felecia Simms pulled 280 pounds in the 3" bar deadlift, breaking a record held by arm wrestling champion Mary McConnaughey.

-Felecia! Destroying the 3″ bar deadlift record in style. I have no doubt she could’ve pulled the weight I did and made it look a lot cleaner than I did too. It was also neat getting to offer my 2 cents on what weights you should attempt on one or two events – along with Dave. You didn’t think you’d be able to pinch lift the two 45s but you did that with ease – and about 10lbs more!

-Rudy! Beat HIS 2″ vbar record by 10lbs and didn’t even know it until I looked it up and made sure that was the case. I am somewhat of a rainman with certain numbers (usually my own of course) and remembered his lift on the 2″ vbar from last year.

-Mike! Loved the middle fingers deadlift attempt that went from being a failed attempt – no movement at all – to suddenly being a dominating pull after taking a very short break to re-set.

-Mark! Huge pinch strength! He made 175lbs look like a feather pillow and seemed to be close on the 190+lbs attempt too. And he doesn’t train his grip. Which would make me dislike him slightly – if he wasn’t one of the nicest guys in the world.

-Denny! Had very good and balanced strength on all the lifts that it’s hard to pick one that stood out in my head. Plus the aforementioned super integrity.

Al Myers had the highest 3 inch bar deadlift of the meet with a lift of 555 pounds.

-Al! MONSTER 3″ bar deadlift – 555lbs! – to end the meet in great style. Dave and I were puzzled by your 1-pound weight addition though to the 2″ vbar weight that you ripped off the ground and could’ve seemingly held for a day. I thought you were joking us, haha! Also considered “saving” a 3rd attempt on the 3″ bar deadlift and asking for 1 pound more than what you did on your best attempt. Then of course not being able to lift it wouldn’t be so funny, but hey.

-Dave! That 360lb (?) 3″ bar deadlift was the most impressive IMO of your lifts. Very nice!

Ben Edwards had the best Vertical Bar Deadlift of the meet with a lift of 222 pounds.

-Me. So glad to pull that 310lbs on the middle fingers deadlift! I thought the 275lbs was going to rip my fingers off and really didn’t “want” to try the 310lbs but I knew that with the great crowd behind me I would at least have a chance if I could block the pain. Well, I couldn’t block the pain, lol. But the lift inched up and I just reviewed the picture that Felecia took of me on that lift and it looks like I’m about to fall apart. Little disappointed that my 2″ vbar strength was down 13 pounds from my best pull. Pinch strength was right where it always is – in the crapper, lol. The thick bar deadlifts were very challenging and I’m glad I had enough sense to not choose more weight and hurt myself on either of them. Was embarrassed to only get 325lbs to my knees since I’ve been able to pull that weight on the Apollon’s Axle since 2004.


USAWA National Grip Championships
February 12th, 2011
Dino Gym, Holland, Kansas

Meet Director:   Al Myers

Certified Official (1-official system used):  Scott Tully

Lifts:  Deadlift – Vertical Bar, 2″, One Arm;  Pinch Grip;  Deadlift – Fingers, Middle;  Deadlift – Fulton Bar, Ciavattone Grip;  Deadlift – 3″ Bar

Loaders:  Alan English, John Connor, Matt Cookson, Tyeler Cookson

Lifter Age BWT VB Pin MF DLFB DL-3 Total Points


44 249 183-R 132 275 325 555 1470 1226.9
Ben Edwards 35 219 222-L 162 310 300 300 1294 1099.8
Dave Glasgow 57 248 152-R 132 190 275 360 1109 1042.5
Denny Habecker 68 189 132-R 102 165 225 250 874 1040.0
Mark Mitchell 50 360 152-R 174 245 330 450 1351 1001.3
Rudy Bletscher 75 220 122-R 87 165 225 250 849 979.2
Mike Murdock 70 234 132-L 102 165 225 205 829 891.3
Felecia Simms 28 313 132-R 102 155 205 250 844 600.6

NOTES:  BWT is bodyweight in pounds.  Total is total weight lifted in pounds. All lifts listed in pounds. Points are adjusted points for age and bodyweight. R and L identifies right and left hands.

Extra lifts for records:

Pinch Grip:  Rudy Bletscher 92#
Deadlift – Middle Fingers:  Denny Habecker 180#, Mark Mitchell 275#
Deadlift – 3″ Bar: Denny Habecker 275#, Felecia Simms 280#


Best Senior Women:  Felecia Simms
Best Senior Men:  Ben Edwards
Best Master 40-44:  Al Myers
Best Master 50-54: Mark Mitchell
Best Master 55-59: Dave Glasgow
Best Master 65-69: Denny Habecker
Best Master 70-74:  Mike Murdock
Best Master 75-79:  Rudy Bletscher

And we have a WINNER!

by Al Myers

Over a week ago when I announced this writing competition to find the best “secret tip or training idea” I wasn’t sure how it would fly.  Would anyone even participate??  I didn’t want it to look like I was trying to bride people to write for the Daily News (when truth be known that is probably a correct assumption!).  I was SO impressed when I received 4 EXCELLENT website stories from Thom Van Vleck, John McKean, Joe Garcia and Scott Tully.

Next – I left the vote up to the membership.   Would anyone even take the time to send in a vote?  Or is anyone really even reading all this garble that I turn out?  I have to admit I was a little nervous!  However, all my worry was for naught and the votes came flying in!!  Close to half the USAWA membership must have cast a vote, and the votes were for ALL the stories!  Not one author dominated.  In fact, it was a tie till last night when the last vote came in to determine who won a set of my hanging dumbbell handles.  Now THAT is a vote that counts!!!!

It’s time to announce the winner..  and the winner is….(drumroll)…..John McKean!!!!

Year in Review -2010

by Al Myers

2010 USAWA Year in Review

I have finished the 2010 USAWA Year in Review, compiling all the information that has been placed on the USAWA Website throughout the year of 2010.  I do this for a couple of reasons:  1) to allow all information to be saved for prosperity in one location, and 2) to allow individuals who do not have internet access to stay informed with USAWA news.  I know it is, at this time, pretty “old news” but at least it provides an opportunity for staying abreast of the USAWA nowadays, especially since the USAWA does not provide a written publication any longer.

This is a long book.  You will not be able to finish it in one night.  It contains all 308 blogs that were placed in the USAWA Daily News for 2010.   The book is 441 pages long, and contains 164,875 words.   It has over 250 pictures.  This review book also contains the full meet reports and results for the 22 competitions that the USAWA sanctioned in 2010.

Due to the length, I have decided to forgo the color printing this year which helps lower the cost.  I plan to do another printing by the first of March – so THAT is the deadline for purchasing this Review Book.  Please make payment of $40 to the USAWA for purchase, and send to me.  I will ONLY print Review Books for those that I have payment for in hand.


Heart of America Festival – Day 2

(Webmasters note: This is a reprint of the meet report covering the Heart of America Festival that occurred in August 1963 as published by the oldtime lifting magazine, the Lifting News. Dale Friesz passed this along to me to share, which characterizes one of the early-days All-Round Weightlifting Meets. Dale’s brother, Leonard, is included in the results as he was a member of the Columbia Athletic Club at the time. Our very own Bill Clark served as Meet Director, Head Judge, and Meet Reporter. He also competed! Past meets such as these are the reason why Bill organized All-Round Weightlifting into the USAWA. You will recognize several of the “meet stars” as they are legends in All-Round Weightlifting today. The meet was a two day affair, so I will divide the story into two parts, one covering each day. Enjoy!)

by Bill Clark

On the second day the squat and dead lift marks of Saturday are used and four other events are added to test a man’s back, endurance and will power.  The front squat opens the second day and Miller was very unhappy with his 390 front squat.  Wachholz made 385 and Friesz 380.  The Jefferson lift was next and Wachholz almost caught the lanky Kansas wheat farmer.  Miller did a straddle with 650, but Wachholz surpassed him on bodyweight with a 640 and moved within range with two lifts remaining.  Paul was able to make “only” 600 in the hack lift, but Miller endured with a 650 effort.  In the Zercher lift, Miller made 425 while Wachholz was good for only 365.   The meet was Miller’s once again.  This time with a total of 3320 and 2148 points.  Wachholz was close behind with 3020 pounds and 2072 points.  Your writer was third and felt happy with a mediocre performance after not working out more than five times since February.  He squatted 470 cold, made a 530 dead lift, front squatted 320, straddled up 560, hacked only 500 (has done 600) and Zerchered just 420 – 40 pounds under tops.  This was the meet he had planned to make a 600 squat, but baseball took care of that boast.  Maybe next year.  Too much umpiring this year and not enough time in the gym.

Lifter Squat Front Sq Deadlift Hack Zerch Strad Total Points
Miller 530 390 675 650 425 650 3320 2148
Wachholz 455 385 585 600 365 640 3020 2072
Clark 470 320 530 500 420 560 2800 1817
Friesz 445 380 490 450 385 475 2625 1790
Hahn 400 320 475 475 385 475 2530 1771
Hamilton 280 205 420 420 315 440 2080 1714
Witt 470 295 525 315 335 500 2400 1596
McPheeters 375 475 500
Lewellen 385 500 500
B. Fellows 420 315

Meet Director:  Bill Clark

Officials:  Bill Clark, Don Wickell, Ed Zercher

The question here, then, is how these two great lifters rank with strong men of the past.  Surely, in two days, few men of this size have ever lifted more.  To dead lift 675, hack 650 and straddle 650 along with the others is a phenomenal performance, and Wachholz was superb.  His 640 straddle must rank with the best.

These men are not goons, as power lifters have often been called.  Wachholz has done over 800 as a mid-heavy in the Olympic lifts and won the 100 yard dash, final event of the meet, in an amazing time of 11.3 seconds, running on asphalt in tennis shoes after a hard day on the platform.  Wachholz also throws the discus well over 160 feet and has a beautiful frame, placing high in every physique contest he enters.  He’s married and has two children.  He works in a bank and travels thousands of miles a year to meets. (No relation between his work and his ability to travel).  The marks he set at the Power Festival were all personal records.  In addition, he entered several of the side contests and won them.  He was best in the bench press with 315 pounds and did a stiffarm pullover with 110.

Miller was impressive as always.  He stands 6′3″, and weighs 235.  In high school he was a top miler and turned down a track scholarship at Kansas University after finishing his senior year at Ensign (Kansas) High School.  In his final high school race, he covered the mile in 4:33.6 and wound up third behind two great runners – Wes Santee, who later ran the mile in 4:00.2 and was America’s greatest miler until barred by the AAU for excessive expense money – and Billy Tidwell, a half-miler who represented the U.S. on many international fields.  Miller has done 930 in the Olympic Lifts and was second in the Junior Nationals this year.  He won one other event in the Power Festival, doing an abdominal raise with 105 pounds.  When the meet was over, a side bet came to pass concerning Wilbur’s ability to lift cars.  He promptly picked up the rear end of a Volkswagon, engine and all, and held it a foot off the ground.  He made the lift from the normal deadlift position.

Ed Zercher Sr., an old-timer who has moved enough weight to kill an elephant in his forty years on the platform, refereed all the lifts and branded Miller and Wachholz as two mighty strong youngsters.  He pointed out that their lifting was different from that in the old days when bars were not machined, but allowed the pair could have held their own with many of the greats.  Zercher, at 56, proved to be a horse even yet.  He took 600 pounds on his feet, and without any supporting devices, made 10 reps and held his balance perfectly in the leg press.  He then built a Roman Chair all by himself with 235 pounds balanced on his feet: 145 pounds in his hands and 130 pound Art Tarwater sitting astride the chair doing presses with 100 pounds.  When Tarwater lost his balance, Zercher held the chair steady – much to the amazement of the onlookers.

This meet was held in a shelter house the first evening and on the grass under a large shade tree the second day.  People driving through the park would stop and watch the lifting until they grew tired.  The crowd changed many times and townspeople still talk about the show they say in the park – for no charge.  It seems until someone comes up with a better performance, this must go down as one of the greatest ever.

Heart of America Festival – Day 1

(Webmasters note:  This is a reprint of the meet report covering the  Heart of America Festival that occurred in  August 1963 as published by the oldtime lifting magazine, the Lifting News.  Dale Friesz passed this along to me to share, which characterizes one of the early-days All-Round Weightlifting Meets.  Dale’s brother, Leonard, is included in the results as he was a member of the Columbia Athletic Club at the time.  Our very own Bill Clark served as Meet Director, Head Judge, and Meet Reporter.  He also competed!   Past meets such as these are the reason why Bill organized All-Round Weightlifting into the USAWA.  You will recognize several of the “meet stars” as they are legends in All-Round Weightlifting today.  The meet was a two day affair, so I will divide the story into two parts, one covering each day. Enjoy!)

by Bill Clark

Wilbur Miller, the Cimarron Strongman, and Paul Wachholz, an outstanding athlete from Englewood, Colorado, waged a duel in the Heart of America Power Festival, August 3-4 in Columbia, Missouri, which brought nostalgia to the hearts of the old timers in the crowd and may have established an all-time record for weight hoisted in a two-day period.  The Power Festival, in its third year, is sponsored by the Columbia Athletic Club, Inc., and is a fun meet all the way.  Many lifts, pets of various lifters, are contested and except for eight established events, the meet follows only a vague pattern.  Often more than one contest is under way at the same time.  Last year Homer Lewellen, a mid-heavy from the host club, lifted in 34 different events and totaled well over 15,000 pounds during the two-day session.

This year, however, the number of events was cut down by the tremendous interest in the Miller-Wachholz battle.  There are two sets of trophy lifts in the meet.  On the first day, a Saturday, the contest is the jerk from the rack, squat, and dead lift.  The entire meet is on a bodyweight formula basis because never more than 15 hardy souls enter.  Medals are given for each lift and trophies back five places overall.  Leonard Friesz won the jerk from the rack with a 350 jerk at a bodyweight of 198.  Miller was close behind with 370 and Wachholz was third with 320.

Lifter BWT Jerk Squat Dead Lift Total Points
Miller 235 370 530 675 1575 1014.30
Wachholz 195 320 455 585 1360 932.96
Friesz 198 350 445 490 1285 876.37
Witt 214 225 470 525 1225 807.98
Hahn 187 275 400 475 1150 805.00
Tarwater 130 230 260 410 900 801.00
Fellows 160 265 345 400 1010 776.69
Hamilton 145 230 280 420 930 766.32
Skinner 129 230 280 340 850 760.75
McPheeters 232 260 375 475 1080 698.76
Lewellen 190 280 385
B. Fellows 238 305 420

Meet Director:  Bill Clark

Officials:  Bill Clark, Don Wickell,  Ed Zercher

Friesz, an army captain stationed in Columbia, stayed in the running with a 445 squat, but Miller made 530 to grab the lead and Wachholz came up with 455.  In the dead lift, Wachholz shot ahead of Friesz with a great 585 effort and a near miss with 600.   Miller opened with 600, a weight he does five reps with, then jumped to 675.  He held the listed world amateur heavyweight record at 672 1/2 and made the 675 so easily that 700 or more seemed quite possible.  Miller is a perfect deadlifter.  The weight never touches his thighs as it goes up.  His shoulders are back before weight and thighs get together.  The 700 broke loose twice and went easily to the knees but Wilbur couldn’t get his shoulders back after such a fine effort and the lifts were no good.  He vowed that he would make 700 in Leavenworth in September.

Miller thus won the first day’s trophy event with a 1575 total and 1014.3 points.  His dead lift was a world mark and his lifts and total were all Missouri Valley records.  Wachholz made a 1360 total and established himself as a strong young man. He strengthened this fact considerably the following day.


Official’s Shirts

by Al Myers

The new USAWA Official's Shirt.

The USAWA now has new Official’s Shirts.   It has been many years since the USAWA has issued official shirts for the officials.  Several of the new USAWA officials do not have one.   Thom Van Vleck spear-headed this project.   THANKS THOM!   They are very nice looking blue knit collared shirts, with the USAWA Logo Patch on one sleeve and a United States Flag Patch on the other sleeve. They are embroidered on the front with the wording “USAWA Certified Official”.

If you would like to order an Official’s Shirt, send payment of $25 to me, with payment made out to the USAWA. Please include the size you want. Sizes available – large, extra large, and 2 XL.

Time to Cast Your Vote

by Al Myers

Who's going to win a set of my Hanging Dumbbell Handles??? It's up to YOU!!

It’s now time to vote!!!  All submitted stories have been ran in the USAWA Daily News over the past four days.  A set of my hanging dumbbell handles are at stake for the winner – so chose wisely!!!  It will be  hard to decide – mainly because all of the stories are so good.  That is why I am leaving it up to the USAWA membership to vote.  That’s right – the USAWA membership!   There are LOTS of “perks” to being a USAWA member, like getting to be part of this big decision!!   The list of choices:

1.  Hand and Thigh, Neck Training Tips by Joe Garcia

2.  Art’s Big Hook by John McKean

3.  Row Row Your Back!!! by Scott Tully

4.   Two Ounces of Prevention by Thom Van Vleck

Please send in your vote to me at by next Friday (February 11th).  The winner will be announced on the 12th.   I promise to keep all votes confidential – so don’t worry about that!!!   I’m sure this will be a close vote so EVERY VOTE counts!!

Two Ounces of Prevention

by Thom Van Vleck

As we are all aware, Big Al has created a contest where we are supposed to write a story on a training “secret” we have that would benefit others.  This was a difficult thing for me to do as I don’t keep secrets.  I share everything I have with anyone willing to listen.  I’ve always been that way.  So I really don’t have any secrets…..but I looked at what I do and came up with something I do almost every workout.  It’s something I think has allowed me to compete at a high level as I head into my 47th year and 34th as a weightlifter.

Al & Chad executing a very complicated two man stretch of the spine. Now really, do you have the time for this or for that matter would you be caught dead in such a compromising position???

A healthy back is essential to weight training.  If you lift weights and have never hurt your back, you are either a very good liar, you’ve never pushed yourself, or you just started yesterday.  Back injuries are a part of the sport.  Especially if you are a master lifter over 40, and most USAWA lifters are over 40…..some WELL over 40!  If you’ve had a back injury, you’ve probably tried to rehab it in different ways.  Some of these with drugs like anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, or pain medication.  You may have seen a doctor, a chiropractor,  a massage therapist, or maybe an Osteopath.  You’ve probably been given stretching exercises, yoga exercises, or whatever the latest fad is.  You may have went so far to invest in some equipment, such as a stability ball, rubber bands, or went really expensive with a reverse hyper, or an inversion table!  You also may have found some really complicated and difficult ways to do what all these things try and do…..decompress your spine.

Now, don't get me wrong, I've had a little fun at Al & Chad's expense. These are great exercises, but their problem is the practicality of doing them every workout.

I’m going to share two very simple and basic stretches that require very little investment of time or money.  They can be very helpful in rehabbing a bad or injured back, but I would encourage you to do these EVERY TIME YOU WORK OUT to help keep your back healthy and prevent injuries!

First, there’s the good ol’ bar hang.  Sure, we’ve all heard of it and probably done it.  You hang from a chin up bar.  I know what your are thinking.  ”Geez, Thom, I thought you were going to give us some great secret!  Well, I am.  Sometimes the best things are the simplest things and they are the things we tend to ignore.  Like squats, which is a really great exercise, and yet there’s been a hundred ways developed to avoid squatting each one more complicated than the last!  Now, here is a real secret.  When you hang from the bar, put your heels on something about a foot or two in front of you.  Why?  Because you want to tilt your hips forward.  This will straighten out the lower spine.  Otherwise, if you just hang there the weight of your legs will pull you hips back and bend your spin inward in your lower back.  As a result, the weight of your legs will bend your spine and true decompression does not occur!  You also need to relax everything except your grip (and another thing, this can be a tremendous grip exercise, an added benefit).  If you can’t hang for at least a minute, then use straps until your grip gets to where you can.  Total investment:  A chin up bar.

Now, the only problem with the bar hang is it only decompresses the lower half of your spine.  While this is where most injuries occur, it is only half the picture.   Plus, most guys don’t think much about this, but your spine is more than your back, it’s you neck as well!  Many weight lifters will injure their neck and it’s also an area that gets a lot more abuse than you realize.  Why, because it holds up your fat head!  Seriously, the head is always FORWARD on the neck so any time you are not lying down with your neck supported it is being leveraged with pressure from that bowling ball that’s sitting on top if it!  Also, many of us will injure our neck at some point lifting, playing sports, or doing something stupid (most guys that train tend to be risk takers….admit it, you’ve done something stupid with your body).   And as for the upper back, it gets injured much more rarely than the lower, as a result, how often do we decompress our upper back and neck?

So, this leads me to the second “secret” exercise.  Like I said before, if you got loads of cash, you can spend it on a personal massuese and an inversion table….but if you don’t this will work just as well.  Maybe better because it is so easy you will do it more often!

Neck and upper back stretch....and yes, I used a photo of a pretty girl to "sell" this and influence the vote! Really, would you want to see me doing this or her! Vote for my article!

The second exercise involves sitting in a chair and letting your head and shoulders fall between you knees.  There’s an added benefit that if you get good at this exercise you can also use it to kiss your rear goodbye when you do some of the aforementioned “stupid” stuff.  But seriously, you sit in a chair and let your arms fall between you legs while sitting right on the edge of the chair.  I was taught to let my arms fall relaxed and then let my head fall forward relaxing it as much as possible.  If you do this enough you can fell you vertebrae relax.  I now fell a “pop-pop-pop” in my upper back when I do this.  Again, you want to stay in this position for about a minute.  I also do the added exercise of  doing some head rolls once I sit back up, this will seem to always pop my neck a couple times.  Total investment:  a chair.

So, there you have it.  Two exercises, two minutes, cheap, easy and I would argue for the amount of time and money invested you will do your spine more good than any of that other stuff.  Call this, 2 ounces of prevention!

Row Row Your Back!!

by Scott Tully

Scott Tully training one arm dumbbell rows with 175 pounds using a dumbbell handle specifically made for rowing.

I’m going to start this off by letting you know I’m not a writer, ha ha.  I want to write this about something that has helped me a lot in my overall training, and also want to let you know how we have tried to come up with a new handle to allow you to get even better Upper back and trapezius strength and gains.  When I started training at the Dino Gym almost 10 years ago, I had mainly competed in Olympic lifting and strongman.  One area of major weakness for me was the top end of my deadlift.   I also noticed weakness in my strongman training with stone loading,  as I could lap heavy stones but had a hard time transitioning to the load.  Al Myers and my training partners can attest I would miss many deadlifts over the knee.  We talked extensively about how to fix this.  Rack pulls  helped a little, but it seemed there was another issue.  Al recommended I add in more upper back and trap work.   I had always done lat pulls, but never that heavy and always for high reps, and very rarely any rows.  I thought I got enough of that type of work from strongman training, well I was wrong.  After we had this conversation, I started adding in heavy lat pulls,  not shying away from heavy sets of 5, and added in 4-5 sets of rows.  Rows included standing 45 degree dumbbell rows,  bent over dynamic rows (Pendlay or Russian Rows),  chest supported dumbbell rows on a incline bench, and seated cable rows.

A close up picture of the Dino Row Dumbbell Handle.

Over the years I’ve been able to make this an area of strength. It’s still not what I’d like it to be, but at least it’s  not a glaring weakness. I truly believe that I get the most out of standing 45 degree and chest supported rows with dumbbells.  The problem that myself and a lot of others run into is being able to use a heavy enough weight.  At the one gym I train at our DB’s go up to 120, and at the Dino Gym they go to 150.  The other problem with a DB is that often the plates hit your body before your elbow is far enough back to engage the lats all the way and being that a DB is totally fixed, it doesn’t rotate in your hand at all to allow the elbows up and to be able to pull back.  So I found an idea on the net for a handle and got a hold of Al, and 3 days later we had the Dino Row handle.  The problem with the one I had the pic for was that there was not enough room to add the weight needed, mind you, because I wanted to be able to shrug with these also.  We  were able to make the handle the exact height away from the loading shaft that we needed.  After using these and testing them out I think it’s the most effective way to hit your lats in a rowing movement.  This handle can go as low as 25lbs, and as high as around 250lbs.  One thing I mentioned above was hitting the traps.  The problem I have with barbell shrugs is that they wreck my lower back.  I had a microdiskectomy of my L-4 and L-5 in 2006 and a few movements still bother it, but with these handles I can hold them out to my side and take the pressure off the lower back and  extend the shrug higher. By hitting the Lats  more specifically with the rows I have taken my deadlift from the low 500’s before my back surgery to a 617 in competition and a 650 in training, and rarely do I ever miss a deadlift over the knees now.  There are pics included in this so you can see the handle, and if you’re at the Dino Gym you have to try this out, and the next day your lats will thank you for it.

Art’s Big Hook

by John McKean

John McKean demonstrates a band hookup for the 2-Bar Deadlift using a big S hook that attaches to his belt.

“SPROOOONG! SPLAT!!”  Those two sounds had Art Montini and the rest of the gym in stitches -complete howling laughter throughout the Ambridge VFW Barbell cavern!  The object of their mirth was this ever experimental author proving once again that some flex band set ups don’t adapt too well to certain all-round lifts!

You see, I’d looped each end of a band around the bar (braced from around my upper back) and attempted to do a pullover and push with the set up.  Overestimating the combined resistance, the push went halfway up then ROCKETED back down, the barbell being vigorously propelled by the stretched flex band!  Looking back, I think it must have appeared pretty darn funny, but at the time I felt like one of Al’s shotgunned ducks!

A close-up view of Art's Big Hook.

After that awkward episode, I became a bit more cautious toward THINKING how to best apply the advantages of bands to the individual mechanics of lifts!  And I determined that some moves can be done with a SECTIONED approach (not actually involving a wrap around the bar) to applying extra resistance.  For instance, in certain balanced moves such as one arm deadlifts, Zerchers, and two bar deadlifts the regular grips and positions can be taken, but the band pressure -sometimes considerable extra band pressure- can be simultaneously applied to just the thighs and hips. All that is necessary is a BIG “S” hook to attach the middle of a band to one’s lifting belt, leaving both ends of the band to wrap securely around the feet.  So, in a constant vigil to keep me from killing myself on our gym platform, good ole Art ,the man of steel, made one for me!

Recently I’ve been using this approach toward training the two bar deadlift.  As the above photo shows, I am free to grab the bars in a normal manner, with the bars’ delicate balance unimpeded by extra forces.  The band pressure goes just to the thighs and hips, not adding a lot of extra work, but certainly adding to the chore without necessity of hitting max poundage or leading to burn out.  Really , it’s like doing two exercises at once.  All the usual band advantages are there -this set up thwarts acceleration,yet encourages speed & finishing strong; concentration on the extra stress actually TEACHES proper form and channels power for two bar deadlifts.

OK, get yourself a big hook and add this” harnessed leg lift” into some of your pulling movements & deadlift types! Remember, you don’t want to ever shoot for an overburdening extra resistance, just enough to make the combined exercise “interesting”!

Hand & Thigh, Neck Training Tips

by Joe Garcia

Joe Garcia, the World Record Holder in the Hand and Thigh, shares his secrets of training this lift.

With the Heavy Lift Championships coming up out at York, and seeing Al’s story on the Hanging Dumbbells, I thought I would share information on how I train and perform two of the lifts, the Neck lift and the Hand and Thigh lift. The reason I have put these two lifts together is that the basic movement mechanics are very similar. For two old time lifts there is alot of useful technique available for increasing your poundages.

When training either of these lifts, you will probably find that once a week is frequent enough. I usually do 2 – 3 sets, anywhere from 5 – 10 reps in the HT and 5 – 15 reps in the Neck, but your mileage may vary. When I trained for the record in the Hand and Thigh, I worked up to 1 or 2 warmup sets of about 5 reps at half the weight for my final set, then usually 10 reps for the second set. For the hand and thigh lift, no matter what you do, if you are using heavy weights, your fingers will suffer damage and need time to recover, so in order to protect my fingers so that I can keep training, I usually place a pad between them and my thighs. I also believe it is very important to hold each rep and not just lift and drop. This both lets you feel the weight better and is required for the actual lift. This concept applies to both lifts.

The biggest mistake I see during either lift is the direction of the push. Most people go much too vertical when they should be thinking about driving backwards. Visualize that you are 2 – 3 feet from a wall and the object is to touch the wall with the top/back of your head, and looking at the ceiling at the same time. You body position should resemble a bow. The only muscles that move are your legs, so you should get them really bent at the start of the lift. For the Hand and Thigh, place your hands just at the top of Quad muscles, using it as a shelf.  Biomechanically, it usually helps to get your feet as high up and close to the big bar as possible, so 4×4’s to stand on are very useful. You also want to make sure your fingers contact the skin of the thighs with nothing in between. In the Neck lift, I try to bend backwards even more at the start of the lift. Angling the strap that goes over my head to as far forward as it will go, seems to keep the drive straighter with less resultant ’snap’ to the front.

Again, when you start either lift, don’t think up, think back. Neither lift is a deadlift. For comfort sakes, you may want to have a spotter standing by. Good luck!

National Grip Championships

by Al Myers



Andy Durniat won the 2010 Dino Gym Grip Challenge. Will he return to defend his title and win the FIRST EVER USAWA National Grip Championships? In this picture Andy is setting the USAWA All-TIme best lift of 140 kilograms in the One Arm No Thumb Deadlift.

The Dino Gym Grip Meet was such a HUGE SUCCESS last year -  we decided to do it again this year.   The tradition of grip challenges have been around quite a while in the USAWA – thanks to Kevin Fulton’s grip meets.   However, this year the USAWA has taken  grip competitions to “a new level” as the USAWA Executive Board approved this meet as the USAWA National Grip Championships.  This is the FIRST TIME the USAWA will have a Grip Nationals – the start of a NEW tradition that I hope will continue for many years.

Considering this is a National Championships, a few things had to be done with this meet in order to fulfill our established USAWA rules of conducting a championship.  First of all, only Official USAWA Lifts can be in a Nationals – thus NO exhibition lifts.  However, we have a host of great grip lifts in our Rule Book so this was not a problem.  Second, traditional scoring will be done with age and body-weight corrections on the “total weight” lifted.  And thirdly, all individual body-weight classes and age divisions will be contested for National Championship Awards.

The lifts are:

Pinch Grip

Vertical Bar Deadlift – 1 bar, 2″, One Hand

Deadlift – Middle Fingers

Deadift – Fulton Bar, Ciavattone Grip

Deadlift – 3″ Bar

The 2011 National Grip Championships will be on Saturday, February 12th, 2011. Luckily this year the second weekend of February avoided Valentine’s Day!  For an ENTRY FORM (pdf) – NationalGripEntry

Dino Gym Record Day

by Al Myers



Meet Director: Al Myers and the Dino Gym

Meet Date:  Sunday, February 13th, 2011  10:00 AM-4:00PM

Location:  Dino Gym, Abilene, Kansas

Sanction:  USAWA

Entry Form:  None – just show up

Entry Fee: None

Lifts:  Record Day – Pick any lifts you can set a USAWA record in!

Contact me at if you have any questions.