Articles from April 2012

Garage Days, Revisited

By Jarrod Fobes

Jarrod Fobes in action winning the 2009 AAU Freestyle Judo National Championship in the 210 pound division.

Long ago, back in a dark, distant past called “the late 90’s” things were very different. Starbucks was called coffee. Everyone could buy a house. And there was virtually no grappling training to be had in Lawrence, Kansas. Brazilian jujitsu hadn’t made it’s way into every strip mall in America, and the few judo schools I had visited before the Welcome Mat did not convince that I would learn effective groundfighting skills there. For my small group of friends, this left one option: break a few bones over the years figuring it out ourselves.

Very often, we would train in a friend’s detached single car garage. It was made out of cinder blocks, and featured an obstacle course of broken out windows and rusted pipes sticking from the wall. But it did have a 10′x10′ wrestling mat, and sturdy rafters to hang a punching bag from. There was no electricity, so we would train by lantern light after dark. I remember in cooler weather, you could see the steam rising off of the two combatants wrestling on the mat while the others tried to learn by watching.

We didn’t have a coach. We had a vast library of tapes and books: BJJ, judo, wrestling, catch wrestling, vale tudo…anything we could find. If we thought somebody knew a thing about fighting, we would beg them to come in and work with us. A couple of notables were a collegiate wrestling national champion, and a Navy boxer. I learned a lot from both of these guys, but I can probably count the sessions I had with them on two hands. Of course, there were a ton of self-proclaimed experts who somehow never made it to the mat with us. Oh well.

Your partner was your best training tool, period. Lots of good coaches will tell you this. But when you have the luxury of a good coach, you also have the luxury of ignoring him. I can’t tell you how many techniques I learned after saying “I saw this on a UFC last night. Tell me if it hurts.” Then one of us would fumble and twist a limb around, seeking that tap out, while the helpful dummy would tell you if and where it hurt, what you could try to make it better, tighter, faster, etc. I don’t doubt that I would have progressed faster with a coach in those early days, but I did learn to think for myself. Self-coaching has it’s advantages too. I never had a coach tell me something wouldn’t work. Or that a technique was not correct for judo/bjj/wrestling etc. “Can’t” wasn’t a common word. The ultimate aim was truth in fighting. Our early group came from pretty diverse backgrounds. We had a decent powerlifter and wrestler who just liked to scrap. Another came from a ninjitsu background before starting video based bjj training. Me, I had started Tae Kwon Do years before. After six months or so of training, I got into a high school fight with a smaller wrestler, who gave me a painless but humiliating beating. After that I stayed in karate and TKD for lack of other options in western Kansas, but I picked the brain of every fighter and wrestler that would let me.

I wasn’t the best guy in the garage. But I was the one who stuck around. Some guys jumped ship to train bjj in Kansas City. Some just bowed out as injuries accumulated and real life began to impose. In time, my kickboxing coach Dwane Lewis graciously offered to let me throw some mats in his gym, and the Lawrence Grappling Club was born. LGC operated for about seven years, and I learned just as much from teaching as I ever did from training. Students will ask you anything, and you had better have an answer. I began training at the Welcome Mat to finally get some consistent (and excellent) coaching. Not only did I learn how to fight, but how to teach.

After the LGC had been up and running for a few years (and getting a small but tough reputation) a prospective student called. At the end of the call he said “well, thanks for your time. I just wanted to make sure this wasn’t run out of a garage or something.” I thanked him for his call and hung up.

Garage training isn’t for everybody. There’s no music piped in, no showers, and admittedly questionable hygiene. But you will not find sissies there. You will not find belt-chasers, or politics. Whatever their degree of skill, you will find tough men and women dedicated to pursuing fighting in a way most people never will. If that’s not what your after, be sure to call ahead and make sure the place isn’t run out of a garage.

Breath, Stupid!

by Thom Van Vleck

Thom blowing up a hot water bottle till it burst. We all know Thom is the EXPERT when it comes to breathing, as he is "full of hot air". (photo and caption courtesy of the webmaster)

Recently my Mom returned from the doctor.  She was incredulous about what he had told her.  He had told her she was breathing wrong.  My Mom looked at me and said, “Who wouldn’t know how to breath?”.  I was also watching a kid’s show with my youngest son shortly after that.  One of the characters was depicted as being so stupid that he would periodically forget to breath and would turn blue forcing his companion to remind him to, “Breath, Stupid”!

We all know how to breath, right?  It pretty much comes naturally….doesn’t it?  The devil is in the details.  We may know how to breath, but breathing properly during exercise is important.  I have learned a great deal on this subject over the years and this little article won’t do the subject justice, but maybe it will get you thinking.

First of all, I was taught at a young age to “suck that gut in” and breath with your chest.  I recall at one time watching a video of Jack LaLanne saying just that.  When I was in the military I was constantly told to pull that stomach in and stand up straight.  Also, I was always a little self conscious as I’ve been a little overweight since I as a teenager.  So, “sucking it in” has been drilled in my head.  As a consequence, I have always had trouble getting my “wind” or getting too out of breath when I do something even slightly aerobic.  I never really thought much about it, just assumed I was out of shape and needed to work harder.

Then, one day I was doing some short sprints.  I began to notice that I would hold my breath when I would take off and focus on keeping my stomach super tight.  I then read something about learning to breath with your stomach, not your chest, and I began to work on that.  Believe it or not, it was an article on how to play the trumpet!  All of a sudden, I found I had better “wind”.  In other words, I wasn’t as out of breath when I breathed through my stomach and not my chest.  I also began to take deep breaths using my stomach before exertion, before going out to squat, sprint, or do strongman harness pulls.  Using the stomach to breath deep, full breaths filling my lungs helped me have better “wind”.  It also came in hand with one of my specialty feats of strength….blowing up a hot water bottle!

Second, I began to think about my use of the Valsalva Maneuver.   About ten years ago I had an “Idiopathic Sub-retinal Neo-vascularization” in the retina of my left eye.  Basically, I had a small tear in my retina and a vein grew through it like crab grass in the crack of a sidewalk.  As a result, the “crab grass” had to be zapped with a laser and I lost some vision.  It was called “Idiopathic” because there was no readily apparent cause.  I now suspect it may have been Valsava Retinopathy.  This is when a tear occurs in the retina following pressure buildup likely during the use of the Valsalva Maneuver in lifting.

What is the Valsalva Maneuver?  It’s simply taking and holding a deep breath during exertion or if you want to get technical, a “forcible exhalation against a closed glottis”.  I had done that for years.  When you hold your breath you build up intra-abdominal pressure and in turn solidify your core.  This is a primary reason for using a lifting belt.  You use the belt to push your abdomen against and increase the internal pressure.  The support in the back is really secondary in my book.  There is a theory as to why you get light headed during extended periods of using the Valsalva Maneuver.  It involves the Vagus Nerve that runs by your Carotid Artery.  The idea is that as the blood pressure goes up the Vagus Nerve is stimulated causing you to faint so you pass our before you stroke out!   That’s just a theory.  Personally, I would guess the fact you have stopped breathing has something to do with becoming light headed!  The rapid change in blood pressure could also factor in.  At any rate, this is often what gets blamed, and likely rightfully so in most cases, for deaths when lifters get pinned by a heavy bench press when lifting alone.

So, how are you supposed to breath?  The reality is that if you are doing a max effort for single or low reps you are going to hold your breath at some point and take advantage of the intra-abdominal pressure.  You just can’t avoid it.  However, most “experts” will say to breath out during the concentric part of the lift and in during the eccentric whenever possible.  This is what I’ve tried to do as well with most exercises.  There are some that I do the opposite.   For example, from time to time I mix in some high rep leg presses for a set of 100 or more reps nonstop (I know, real lifters don’t leg press….unless it’s an old school leg press like Ed Zercher used to do).  When I do these I have a lot of compression at the bottom so I breath out on the eccentric (going down), which is the opposite.  I basically breath in the way that keeps the intra-abdominal pressure lowest.

Bottom line:  Think about your breathing during each and every exercise!   Breath deep, through the stomach, not the chest.  Keep that intra-abdominal pressure as low as you can and save it for the big lifts!  By the way, I talked to my Mom’s doctor and he noted she was breathing with her chest, not her stomach and this was creating pressure in her abdomen and with her high blood pressure this was not good.  She is learning how to breath, too!

Back Extensions

by Al Myers

The top picture is the starting position for a Back Extension, while the lower picture is the finishing position.

This is an excellent “finishing movement” to a heavy night of deadlifting and squatting. On top of that, it is an Official USAWA Lift!  It is in our Rulebook and but TOTALLY ABSENT in our Record List.  NO ONE has ever done it in a record day and it has never been contested in a USAWA competition.   This surprises me as it is a great exercise that works the lower back.  I like doing them after my heavy training and train them in a higher rep fashion, but this lift is well-suited for a maximum attempt.  I’ll refresh everyone on the USAWA Rule for Back Extensions as I’m sure most lifters are not familiar with this lift:

D11.  Extension – Back

A Roman Chair or similar apparatus is used for this lift. A bar is placed in front of the Roman Chair on the platform. The lifter will take a position on the Roman Chair facing the platform that allows the lifter’s body to bend fully downward at the waist. The seat must not touch the lifter’s torso. The legs must be straight and may be secured. The seat must be parallel to the floor and must not be raised at any angle. At the lifter’s discretion, the lifter will bend at the waist to a 90 degree angle, and fix the bar into the crooks of the elbows, with the arms bent. Once in this position, an official will give a command to rise. The lifter will raise the body to a position where the line of the back is parallel to the platform. The bar must remain fixed in the crooks of the elbows or it will be a disqualification. There must not be any downward movement of the body once the body has started to rise. Once the lifter is motionless, an official will give a command to end the lift.

The biggest difficulty with this lift is having the proper apparatus to do it on.  The seat must be the perfect height to allow the lifter to bend at the waist and place the bar in the crooks of the elbows at a full bend of 90 degrees.  Also, the feet must be secured  staight back for support.  An apparatus like this is usually not available in most gyms, and thus probably why this lift has not been done.  I like using my Glute-Ham device for this as the seat and feet supports are adjustable and allows me to get into perfect position. 

I have never done a max attempt on Back Extensions, but just might do one at my next record day.  After all, it looks like setting a record in it would be very easy as there are not any!!! However, don’t expect to get an IAWA World Record in the Back Extension as this lift IS NOT an IAWA official lift.

Eastern Open Postal

by Al Myers


Chad Ullom performed this 501# Continental to Belt to help him win the 2012 Eastern Open Postal Meet. Chad is the first and only USAWA lifter to have exceeded 500 pounds in the Continental to Belt.


Eastern Open Postal Meet
March 30th, 2012

Meet Director:  John Wilmot

Lifts: Bench Press – Feet in Air, Front Squat, Continental to Belt

Lifters using a Certified Official:

Gabby Jobe – Official Jesse Jobe
Troy Goetsch – Officials Dan Bunch, Bryan Benzel
Denny Habecker – Officials Scott Schmidt, John McKean, Art Montini
Zach Jelinek – Officials Bryan Benzel, Jesse Jobe
Jesse Jobe – Officials Dan Bunch, Bryan Benzel
Chad Ullom – Official Al Myers
Eric Todd – Official Lance Foster
Bryan Benzel – Officials Dan Bunch, Jesse Jobe
Lance Foster – Official Eric Todd
Dan Bunch – Officials Jesse Jobe, Bryan Benzel

Lifters using a non-certified Judge:

Les Cramer – Judge Monica Cook
Sam Rogers – Judge Orie Barnett
John Wilmot – Judge Kay Wilmot
Orie Barnett – Judge Sam Rogers


Gabby Jobe 9 89 50 55 65 170 370.9



 Chad Ullom  40  246  287  452  501  1240  1001.9
 Eric Todd  37  253  350  405  475  1230  969.9
 Troy Goetsch  25  194  280  355  360  995  904.5
 Bryan Benzel  24  287  365  420  410  1195  885.8
 Sam Rogers  49  210  285  277  320  882  844.0
 Les Cramer  70  183  200  227  252  679  836.4
 Orie Barnett  51  231  246  305  342  893  826.9
 Jesse Jobe  35  225  250  250  450  950  795.9
 Zach Jelinek  23  200  185  230  280  695  621.1
 John Wilmot  65  213  130  175  230  535  581.8
 Dan Bunch  47  317  265  190  300  755  579.6
 Lance Foster  46  320  180  250  330  760  578.1
 Denny Habecker  69  191  195  0  267  462  550.6


Notes:  All bodyweights are recorded in pounds. All lifts are listed in points.  Total is the total pounds lifted. Points are the adjusted points for age and bodyweight.

Power Swings

by Al Myers

The top picture shows the starting position of a Power Swing, while the bottom picture shows the finishing position.

Another exercise that I really like to do after my heavy leg/back training is power swings. I have done this exercise “off and on” for many years. Years ago it was one of my favorite training exercises for helping my weight over bar.  The positions are just the same as throwing the WOB (standing style that is!), and builds quick explosive strength in the hips.  This exercise is easy to do.  Take a parallel stance with feet slightly wider than shoulder width. Grip the swing implement with both hands and swing it up to 90 degrees, keeping the arms straight. As the weight hits the peak, drive up the hips to a standing position.  Multiple reps can be done by allowing the weight to “sink between the legs” and performing another attempt without setting the implement down. I like sets of 10 reps or so.

This exercise can also be done one handed.  That is the way I use to train it when I was in throwing in the Highland Games. I felt the one-handed training more directly applied to the WOB.  However, now I prefer the two-handed style as I’m using it as a “finishing movement” to my heavy leg/back day.  I  use an adjustable powerstairs handle to add weight to.  Kettlebells also work well but they are more difficult to grip two handed. Years ago I made a full set of what I call SWING WEIGHTS (now swing bells, as that is another type of training implement) to use for training one-handed power swings.  They are fixed weight implements.

The Power Swing pin loader and attached handle.

The handle can easily be removed from this pin loader to add/remove weight.  All it takes is removing one bolt. The total height of this implement is 16 inches, which I feel is the perfect height to allow the weight to swing to a deep position. Performing 4 or 5 sets of 10-20 reps in 15 minutes at the end of your workout is all you need.  You will feel the work in your lower back and hip flexors.  I really do think these type of exercises following a training session of heavy deadlifts and squats “loosens” thing up, and speeds up the recovery process afterwards.  Of course, that is just my opinion.  But it will leave you “feeling good”, as this always works up a sweat and gives my a little cardio training to end a  good heavy workout.

Zercher Pull Throughs

by Al Myers

The top picture shows the bottom starting position of a Zercher Pull Through, while the bottom picture shows the finishing position.

I have written a blog before about how we “at the Dino Gym” do some light accessory movements after our hard Squat/Deadlift workout.  In that story I covered one exercise that we really like – the Rounded Back Platform Deadlift.  Look back in the blog archives to refresh your memory of that lift, as it is an excellent “finisher movement”.   The purpose of these exercises is NOT TO BUILD STRENGTH (as hopefully your heavy training in the session up that point has already done that), but rather, to “wind down” a workout with an exercise that will increase the blood flow to the lower back and hips, and aid in the recovery process.  I also like doing these movements as it is mentally refreshing as well.  Up till this point the entire workout is about going ALL OUT, and then you get to “change gears” and do a movement that is not strength demanding to finish off the night, but instead stamina demanding.  I’m not saying these movements are EASY though, sometimes they can leave you quite worn out.   I’m not a big fan of high reps to build strength as I’ve never had success with getting stronger by training high reps.  In my heavy stuff I never go over 5 reps, and most of the time it is 1-3 reps on lifts.  But with these “finisher” movements I like to hit lots of reps – like up to 20 or so.   I keep the rest short in between sets and do 3-5 sets total.  It will leave you breathing hard as well!   All the time you need to allot for a finisher movement is 15-20 minutes.  Not a big commitment time wise – most guys spend more time than that packing their gym bag up after their workout.

Now onto the Zercher Pull Throughs. Pull Throughs are a popular exercise for lifters.  The movement focuses on the lower back and hips.  I have done them several different ways – with straps around the arms, ropes to the hands, etc.  But the way I like them BEST is doing them Zercher style.  I have not really read about anyone else doing them these way, but I’m sure others have done them this way as well.  So I’m not presenting this movement as something original by me, but rather describe how I do this movement and why I like it.  I perform this exercise using my lat pull.  I have a low pulley that mounts below the seat that is used for the low lat seat.  I attach a cable through this pulley to a short bar handle.  The cable is the length that allows me to position with the bar handle in the crooks of my arms in a low stance (as demonstrated in the picture).  I lean slightly forward and thrust upwards, extending the hips and straightening the legs.  I lower slowly, and at all times keeping tension, and then do another rep.  There is never a break in the action during these high rep sets.  Use a weight that forces you to work hard but not cause a break down in proper form.  Focus on maintaining proper breathing and just “feel the burn” in the hips and lower back as you add reps!  It is a very simple movement. 

Why do I like these Zercher Pull Throughs more than other types of Pull Throughs?   Like I’ve said, I’ve tried all types and even have special straps made to do them other ways.  I would like to say the reason is because I just love Zerchers so much as that is the reason, but in truth, it comes down to TWO REASONS that have nothing to do with loving the Zercher Lift.  The number one reason is that these Zercher Pull Throughs takes all stress of the arms and shoulders. Other Pull Throughs require you to be holding a strap of some kind in front of you.  This puts pressure on the arms and shoulders, and makes those muscles come into play enough that they become the limiting factor in the exercise, and not the hips and back as it should be.  Reason number two is kinda personal, lets just say a strap being rubbed continuously between the legs can result in friction burns to any body part in the vicinity.   That’s not a desirable thing in any type of exercise!

Rig up your lat pull machine to give this exercise a try.  I assure you that you will be impressed!

Building Bigger Legs

By Roger LaPointe

Wilbur Miller knows the value of building leg strength through squatting. He just recently did a 320 pound 12 inch base squat at the Dino Gyms Record Day at the age of 79!

The secret to building bigger legs is really knowing the tools of the trade. You simply don’t build a skyscraper without a solid foundation. To build that foundation you need the right tools.

I had a great conversation, which did result in a sale, with a very high level basketball coach. As you might expect, he is dealing with very tall men who really are not built to be weightlifters. Yet, they do need the strength and explosiveness in their legs that serious weightlifting will bring them. We talked about the various bars I personally use, unsurprisingly, they are the same type of bars he uses, with slight variations. I regularly use an Olympic weightlifting bar with super smooth rotation, a stiff thick bar, a shrug/trap type bar, and a safety squat bar. At a height of 5 foot 3 inches, I am using them somewhat differently than his potential NBA recruits.

These are the exercises you need to do for building big and explosive legs:
1. Back Squats
2. Clean Pulls or, better yet, Power Cleans
3. A grip building exercise, such as Thick Bar Deadlifts
4. Front squat type movement – for some coaching situations, based on sport, facility resources, and/or body type – shrug bar deadlifts or a safety squat bar squats will be best

Now you need to apply these correctly.

Live strong,
Roger LaPointe

PS. If you can possibly get there, you need to come to the Atomic Athletic Great Black Swamp Olde Time Strongman Picnic. The real draw is the other people who attend. We have had coaches from the worlds of: football, track & field, basketball, mma, wrestling, cycling, boxing and a wide variety of other sports. This is your chance to pick their brains. Don’t miss it. Who knows, they might surprise you and try to pick your brain…

My Friend Andy Goddard

by Steve Gardner

Steve Gardner lifting Andy Goddard overhead at the 2003 IAWA World Championships in Perth, Australia.

I have been asked to write a bit about the late Andy Goddard, as time moves on and newer members join, not everyone knows who he was and why we have a postal match named after him …….

I first met Andy 20 years ago when he wandered into my gym to watch an all round competition that was taking place.  He lived locally and told me he had been in the Army for a number of years, where he was an Army light flyweight boxing champion.  Andy was struck down with a stomach cancer and had an emergency operation, he nearly died, but he pulled through and was invalided out of the Armed Forces. This had all taken place a few years before he came to see me, and he told me he had been given the all clear from Cancer re occurring and thought he would like to start and do some training to see if he could lift with us.

I was delighted to help him and we cautiously worked together, but in no time it was obvious he was a strong little critter, and he took to weightlifting like a duck to water.  Andy started to compete and he thrived on competition. Not only did Andy become a great champion, several times IAWA British Champion in the Open and many time World Champion in the Masters, he was a thoroughly nice man. He was a great friend to everyone, and always had a good word to say.  Andy always helped to encourage new lifters in the sport and was the kind of guy who would do anything for anyone at the drop of a hat.

Andy’s favourite lifts were the Deadlift, Hacklift, Straddle and Trap Bar Deadlift, all of which he performed with more than 3 times bodyweight!  Andy became a great friend of mine and my family too, he was like family to us. Andy was always there to help me every time we had a competition he would be helping me set up and move the weights, or collecting foreign lifters from the airport and helping me put them up. Andy was a quiet man, he wasn’t married but spent a lot of time treating and looking after others.  It was the proudest moment for me to make the presentation to my friend when he was inducted into the IAWA(UK) Hall of Fame in 2007, this was a fitting reward for a true champion and holder of many, many records who had travelled the World and taken part in as many IAWA events as he could, a true all round weightlifter and supporter.

In 2008, Andy started to have some internal pain problems in his groin, though he insisted it did not stop him lifting, it continued to niggle at him and eventually the pains spread to his chest and back. Andy lifted in the World Championships in 2008 and was magnificent, but we knew all was not right. After countless visits to the Hospital they said they were not sure why he had the pain? We all worried in case there was something deeper, and in the end sure enough, eventually a scan showed a shadow near his spine. Andy went in and had some painful surgery on his back, the cancer was in his spine, it had returned after 20 years. Whilst operating they discovered that the cancer had spread to his organs and there was nothing anyone could do. They gave him six months, and that would have taken Andy up to his 50th birthday…he didnt make it, passing away just a few weeks before. It was so sad to see this wonderful light go out, we visited him and talked to him to the end, and were with him on his last day.

I had commented one time on Andys ‘Northern Ireland’ Campaign medal he had been awarded in the Army, having seen two tours of service over there in the early and mid 70’s, when he showed it to me I told him he should be justly proud of his achievements in such dangerous and difficult times. I was very moved when, after the funeral, his girlfriend said Andy had asked her to give the medal to me. I treasure it to this day.

We all miss Andy, and his belt and lifting boots remain at the gym so he is always with us. Andy loved competition, and the postal bearing his name is a fitting tribute to him.

Notes to my younger self

by Al Myers

This is a photo of myself in a powerlifting meet when I first started competing, when I was 20 years old. If only I knew the things then that I know now!

A while back  I was discussing with Dave Glasgow  everything we have learned “the hard way” during our long lifting careers, and how we both wish we knew THEN what we know NOW.  The lifters nowadays have much more training information “at their fingertips” by the volumes upon volumes of training wisdom found on the internet (not saying it is all good info, but there is alot of good information).  Back in my early training days the only source of training information was from other lifters and the most recent edition of Muscle and Fitness that I read in the store off the rack.  Eventually I was able to  afford a subscription to Powerlifting USA so my learning curve expanded.  I want to make these “notes to myself” just in case somehow, by a modern day miracle, I am transformed back into the mind and body of my early 20’s.  


I remember when I was a young lifter I often got “sidetracked” with unproductive training programs (usually out of the latest issue of M&F!).  I kept looking for the ultimate program and truly believed there was one. I would ”jump around” from training program to training program.   Now I know there’s not a “secret training program”   – many programs can be very successful and there is not a single program  that is always better than the rest.  Looking back, I realize now that most of my strength gains came from the most basic of exercises – squats, presses, and deadlifts. 


The most important thing a young lifter can do is to stay consistent in their training.  This means lifting year round, and not taking extended breaks.  I know when I was young I would often lose focus on my training, and participate in other non strength activities for long periods of time.   I also took alot of things for granted – and just assumed that I wouldn’t lose the strength I built up while taking time off for a couple of months to play slow pitch softball during the summer. 


When you are young you are at the peak of your athleticism.  Try to maintain it for as long as  you can because it will leave you eventually!   One thing I’m very glad of was that I was introduced to the Highland Games right at the same time I started lifting weights.  The Highland Games require a great deal of athleticism as several of the events require you be quick on your feet, and be able to move with weights in your hands.  The combined training of weights and the games allowed me to keep my athleticism as I got stronger in the gym.   I have seen several lifters spend so much time with their feet set solid in the squat rack under a set of squats that the ability to move the feet quick is lost.  Also don’t take your flexibility for granted, because as you age this will soon disappear as well.  Take the time to do your stretches.


Young lifters often eat the very worse of diets during the course of a weight  training program.  Fast food seems to be the norm when you are in college.  I know now that  my progress would have been better if only I would have spent a fraction of the time paying attention to my diet as I did to my training.  Also, there are no secret supplements that will quarantee success in the gym.  I have spent money I didn’t have on supplements that I was convinced would help me (remember the liver tablets???), when I should have been buying extra meat and milk instead.  


Young lifters are the worse when it comes to listening to advice.   Find a good mentor and listen to the coaching advice as it will pay off. 


I just think of things I did when I was younger and I am just thankful none of them resulted in a major injury that would have sidelined my lifting career.  I remember feeling when I was young that I was invincible and there was no way I could get hurt doing anything!  Well, all it takes is a couple of serious injuries and you soon realize that the body is NOT invincible and any injury will set back your training!!!  But I did enjoy that fast motorcycle in college.


This is an understatement.  I have met several lifters through the years  that didn’t compete, and when asked about it, would reply that they were waiting to get stronger before hitting a competition.  I know now that more competitions makes you a better lifter as you learn from the competitions and it gives you a gauge of your progress. It also serves as a source of motivation. Plus if you are waiting to get stronger to compete – you will NEVER compete because you will never feel you are strong enough to do it. 

(FINAL NOTE:  I’m not delusional or senile yet so I know my chances of being transformed into a “younger self” will not happen, so I just hope these bits of wisdom somehow helps a new young lifter.   )

The James Lift

by Al Myers

Chad Ullom performing a James Lift with 125 pounds at the 2009 Dino Gym Challenge.

Recently, the James Lift has been receiving some attention in the USAWA.   At my Dino Gym Records Day a couple of months ago Bryan Benzel put up a big lift of 159 pounds.  It has also been discussed in the USAWA Discussion Forum.   This lift has not been contested very much in the USAWA, with the only actual meet it has been in was the 2009 Dino Gym Challenge.   It is a judges nightmare when it comes to the commands for this lift.  A total of FOUR COMMANDS must be given from the head official to properly execute this lift!  I believe this is the most commands for a single lift of all the official lifts in the USAWA Rule Book.  Lets do a review of the Rules for the James Lift:

A27.  James Lift

This lift combines a clean, press, and front squat.  First a clean is done according to the rules of the Clean. Once in the finishing position of the clean, an official will give a command to squat. Once in the bottom front squat position, as defined by the rules of the Squat, an official will give a command to press. The press is performed while maintaining a squat position of legal depth. The rules of the Press apply as defined in the rules of the Clean and Press. Once the bar is overhead, an official will give the lifter a command to lower the bar back to the chest. Once the bar is back to the chest, and at the lifter’s own discretion, the lifter will finish the squat according to the rules of the Front Squat. Once standing, the lifter will receive a command from an official to lower the bar to the platform. The lift ends when the bar is returned to the platform under control by the lifter.

It was brought up in the Discussion Forum why there are not IAWA World Records for this lift.  The reason is simple – the James Lift is NOT an official IAWA lift. It was first contested in the USAWA in the  postal series of 2001.  From my research, it appears this lift originated from the English All Round lifting promoter & weightlifter Tony Cook.  The first rules for the James Lift were written by him for a postal challenge between his gym and Clarks Gym in 1999.  Interestingly, his rules titled this lift the James Squat and Press, as well as including another lift in a slightly deviated form – the James Squat and Press behind Neck.  However, I have read stories of past weightlifters (way before this time) that performed this lift (but never in an official competition with set rules).  When I first heard of this lift, I thought it was probably a lift that Bill named after making longtime Clarks Gym member James Foster do it as an experiment in a training session.  But the person it is really named remains a mystery to me, and if anyone knows more behind this story please let me know. 

Another thing I found very interesting is that this lift was never officially adopted as an USAWA lift, but rather became “grandfathered in”  in subsequent Rule Books.  I have reread all of the Annual USAWA minutes and NO WHERE  is the James Lift mentioned as being presented for official lift status and voted on by the membership for approval. 

I will be very curious to see if Bryan can break the 200 pound barrier in the James Lift this year.  From his obvious great pressing ability and his remarkable shoulder flexibility for a big guy I predict that he will!!


Ed Schock 105 12/1/2002 USAWA Postal 160#
Bryan Benzel 125+ 2/12/2012 Dino RD 159#
Jason Weigle 110 12/15/2001 USAWA Postal 150#
Ed Schock 100 12/15/2001 USAWA Postal 150#
John Monk 75 12/1/2002 USAWA Postal 140#

The following is an addendum by Roger Davis from the USAWA Discussion Forum.  Roger futher describes how the James Lift originated.  I want to include his comments in this blog as they complete the historical review of the James Lift.

“As for origins (of the Name anyway) , it was a lift created by Tony Cook around 1999 in honour of his gym member Paul James, who used to show off his shoulder flexibility after making a clean by pressing the bar overhead and maintaining the full squat, all the others who tried it fell flat on their arses much to the mirth of Paul.  I think Paul was good for about 70kg on this, his press being the limiting factor not his flexibility.  The complete lift got a bit complicated, you had to clean the bar, front squat, hold the full squat position, press, complete the squat and then return the bar to the floor, thinking about the order was harder than teh actual lift !!!  This was competed in a BSAG comp, where I managed about 60kg.

regards,   just thought you would like to know the origin of the name.  Roger Davis”

Olympic Champion Stanley Stanczyk

by Dennis Mitchell

Stanley Stanczyk posing for a picture in the March 1947 issue of Strength and Health. The caption under his picture stated that he was "one of the most perfectly developed of present day weightlifters".

Stanley Stanczyk was born May 10, 1925 in Armstrong Wisconsin.  When he was one year old his family moved to Detroit Michigan.  Even as a child he was stronger than the other children his age.  At the age of nine he joined the Detroit Boys Club where he participated in acrobatics, tumbling, wrestling, boxing, and swimming.  Even though the club had weightlifting equipment the young boys were not allowed to use it. Stan used Charles Atlas’s course, and when no one was looking he would sneak into the weight room and do a few lifts and leave before anyone would see him.  When some of the older lifters did see him and saw how much he was lifting he was allowed to start training.

Johnny Krill, a former 126 Lb. Jr. National champion helped Stan by teaching him the three Olympic lifts, and setting up a training program for him. Right from the start he was a persistent and determined lifter. Along with the Olympic lifts he would do presses behind neck, rowing motion, push ups, reverse curls, shoulder shrugs, sit ups, and squats.  At that time he was told to do squats only once a week.  It was believed that squats would make you slow.  However, Stan said that he felt squats made him feel stronger and managed to do them at every workout. When getting ready for a contest he would concentrate on the three Olympic lifts in order to perfect his style.

In May of 1943 Stan went into the Army.  He served in the Pacific where he received the Purple Heart award.  When not fighting on the front lines he tried to stay in shape by using barbells that he and some other lifters had made out of boiler plates.  Somehow he managed to lug his weights with him as he traveled across the Pacific.  After his discharge from the army in late 1945, he took a third place in the 1946 Sr. National meet as a middle weight behind Frank Spellman, and John Terpak.  He did however set a National record in the clean and jerk with 333.5 Lbs.  In the 1946 North American meet he did take a first place, and defeated both Frank Spellman, and John Terpak.  It was at this time that Stan joined the York Barbell Club and trained for the 1946 world meet to be held in Paris France.  He lifted as a lightweight and did a 231.5 press, 253.5 snatch, and a 325.25 clean and jerk, to win by a 44.25 Lb. margin over second place lifter, Swietillo of Russa. His total of 810.25 Lbs. was a new world record.  After the 1946 world meet Stan moved up to the middle weight class. In 1947 he continued setting records with a 273.5 Snatch world record, and a 341 National record in the Clean and Jerk. In 1947 at the world meet he pushed his Snatch record to 288 Lbs. and the Clean and Jerk to 352.5 lbs.  He also tied the world Press record with 259 Lbs.  He was voted the best lifter in the world pound for pound.

Stan still had one more goal, to become an Olympic champion.  This he accomplished at the 1948 Olympics, where he set a record of 292 in the Snatch. He however refused the record stating that the lift was not good because his knee touched the platform.  He later received the Sullivan award for his good sportsmanship. It was also at this meet he was timed as the fastest moving athlete in the Olympics  Stan also trained for bodybuilding and won the Mr.Miami, All South, and the Mr Florida physique titles.

While living in Florida, Stan and his partner opened a bowling ally.  Due to the AAU rules he had to be a silent partner or he would have been called a professional athlete.  He continued his lifting.  Along with his bowling he continued to win world meets as a light heavy weight,in 1950 and in 1951. He also won the 1951 Pan American meet.  In bowling he won city, and state meets, and bowled a perfect 300 game.  For a short time in 1955 he and his partner ran a gym, but concentrated on their bowling ally,  bar and restaurant business. Stan later bought out his partner and ran the business for twenty seven years.

Stans last lifting contest was in 1957 where he lifted in the new 225 Lb. class, and took a third place using the squat style instead of his usual split style.
Stans was having some health problems and passed away July 3,1997.

John Patterson

by Al Myers

Al Myers (left) with the legendary Australian weightlifter John Patterson (right).

At the 2011 IAWA World Championships in Perth, Australia I met a very interesting and eccentric Australian weightlifter, John Patterson.  I had previously heard stories about John, so I was very intrigued to visit with him firsthand and ask him questions.  John has spent a large amount of time living in the outback, surviving off the land alone.  He is the closest person I have ever met that I would say resembles “Crocodile Dundee” from the popular movie years ago.  He has always had his weights with him, and continued to train by himself in the remote wilderness.  The second day of the meet John brought several pictures for me to look at that were taken when he was younger and in PRIME CONDITION. It was obvious to me from the pictures that he was a VERY STRONG man.  I only wish I could have gotten copies of these pictures so I could share them in this story – but just as John is, they were “one of a kinds” and the original print!

This & That

by Al Myers

I have several topics I want to talk about briefly today to give everyone updates on USAWA issues.


As most know, June 30th is the day for our National Championships in Las Vegas.  I have received a few entries, but would appreciate it if those planning on attending send me their registrations as soon as possible.  I have the tshirts and awards designed, but need to give an absolute count to the trophy shop before long so these things can be made.  Also, our host hotel is the Silverton and they still have good rates, so get your room reserved soon.


The deadline for participation for the first leg of the Goddard Postal is the end of April.  This postal meet will be the World Postal Meet for 2012.  Let it be our goal to have the USAWA well represented.


The USAWA online store has been a great success.  I have sent out many orders so far and I’m about ready to order a restock.  I am thinking of adding a line item or two, so if anyone has any ideas for a new promotional item please drop me an email.


I have just added the 2012 Club Certificates for all member clubs to the Club Roster.  These are pdf’s that you can download and print off to hang in your club’s gym.


This is a reminder that ALL sanction requests must be sent to me AT LEAST 6 weeks prior to a planned event.  This is stipulated in the USAWA rules.  From now on I will make no exceptions.


Last night I had a long phone conversation with longtime all-rounder, Joe McCoy.  Joe has had some ill-health these past couple of years, but now he is back to good health and has moved back to his farm.   He told me that he plans to get back into weight training and start promoting meets again next fall.

Apollons Lift

by Al Myers

Bryan Benzel, of Jobes Steel Jungle, performing an Apollons Lift with 355 pounds at the latest OTSM competition, the Battle in the Barn. Will Bryan be the first USAWA lifter to surpass the mighty Apollons lift of 366 pounds? I predict YES!!

The Apollons Lift was one of the very first OTSM lifts approved in the USAWA.  This lift is intended to honor the late French Strongman Louis Uni, aka Apollon.  In his strongman stage acts he had his Challenge  “Apollon’s Wheels” which he could lift but no one else could. The wheels were railcar train wheels connected with a two inch shaft.  This event is regularly contested in strongman competitions under differing rules, but we are the only organization that offers it as a official lifting event under consistent rules.

Apollon was a very interesting oldtime strongman.  He lived from 1862 to 1928.  He was a big man, standing 6′3″ and weighing around 300 pounds. As a young man he first was employed with a circus as an animal trainer.  It is said he was the only man the big cats were afraid of.  His deep rough voice mixed with his menacing stare and large frame would back the tigers down.  He would often get “right in the middle” of the tigers and grab the alpha tiger by the neck and drag him around just to show his dominance over them.  This lead to his first strongman act in which he would carry a huge tiger over his shoulder in the circus performance.

One of his most famous strongman feats (along with lifting his famous Challenge Wheels) involved a show in which he was to escape from a cell with iron bars.  He would bend the bars with his bare hands and crawl out. He did this performance night after night.  Each time the bars would have to be restraightened for the next nights performance.  One time a local blacksmith not only straightened the bars but TEMPERED THEM to increase their strength.  Whether this was done intentional or not remains a mystery.  Apollon tried and tried to bend the bars to escape but it was beyond his abilities until his wife started yelling at him to “quit being lazy and start acting like a real man”.  This must have infuriated him as it is told that sweat was pouring from his brow and his veins were popping out of his neck as he proceeded to bend the bars and escape.  I can relate to that –  wives have a way of doing things like that to their husbands!

All the lifts within our list of Old Time Strongman Events honor an old time strongman like Apollon.  This is our way of keeping stories like these alive. This would be a good time to remind everyone about the USAWA mission statement:


The USAWA was formed to continue the long standing tradition of old-time weightlifters like Eugen Sandow, Louis Cyr, Arthur Saxon, Hermann Goerner, Warren Lincoln Travis, and many others. We strive to preserve the history of the original forms of weightlifting, which in the past has been referred to as “odd lifting”. Many of the lifts we perform are based on stage acts or challenge lifts of old-time strongmen.

I really feel that our development of the Old Time Strongman as a branch of the USAWA is fulfilling this statement.

Dumbbell Bench Press

by Al Myers

Marilyn Monroe

This picture brings only one question to mind – WHY IS THE DUMBBELL BENCH PRESS NOT AN OFFICIAL LIFT OF THE USAWA?

Dino Gym: 2011 Club of the Year

by Al Myers

The centerpiece of the Dino Gym.

The nomination & voting period is over  for the 2011 USAWA yearly awards, to be awarded at the National Championships in several categories for outstanding performances within the USAWA.  I have just finished the tabulations and I am getting ready to contact the awards shop to get the awards made up.  So – I KNOW who the winners are but that’s still a secret until the awards presentation time!  But there is ONE AWARD that is announced ahead of time – the USAWA Club of the Year.  The reason it’s announced early is that it is really not a “mystery” as to who the winner is as this is the one award that is based on generating points instead of votes.  I have outlined this point system several times in the past so I won’t “rehash” all that now.  What I’m trying to say is this – anyone can add up the points on their own as ALL of the information is available on the website to do so, thus this winner is “no mystery”.

No club can win an award like this based on one individuals performance or effort.  It takes contributions of several.  I want to thank EVERYONE who was part of CLUB DINO GYM this past year, because this is EVERYONE’S AWARD.  I was VERY pleased how our gym functions were attended by gym members.  For the year 2011, the Dino Gym set a record for the most individual memberships to represent any USAWA club – EVER!  A total of 25 lifters joined the USAWA that listed the Dino Gym as their member club. I want to recognize and thank these lifters now (in alphabetical order): Chris Anderson, Darren Barnhart, Casey Barten, Nolan Berry, Rudy Bletscher, Scott Campbell, Chuck Cookson, Matt Cookson, Tyeler Cookson, Sam Cox, Ben Edwards, Lance Foster, Brian Krenzin, Chris Krenzin, Tyler Krenzin, Cody Lokken, Mark Mitchell, Russ Morton, Al Myers, Emily Myers, Molly Myers, LaVerne Myers, Dean Ross, Scott Tully, and Chad Ullom.

The final standings for the 2011 USAWA CLUB OF THE YEAR (only top 5 listed, for clubs generating over 10 points):

1.  Dino Gym – 56 points

2.  Ledaig Athletic Club – 21 points

3.  Jackson Weightlifting Club – 16 points

4.  Clarks Gym – 14 points

5.  Ambridge Barbell Club – 12 points

As per the original rules for the Club of the Year, the defending USAWA Club of the Year is not eligible the following year, and instead is responsible for “passing the title” at the next year’s awards presentation.  Thus, Habecker’s Gym, the 2010 USAWA Club of the Year, is not in the rankings.

Best Lifts in the Past Year

by Al Myers

Adam Glass made the number 2 spot on my list with this 822# Dinnie Lift at the 2012 Minneapolis Meet.

We have seen alot of great lifting in the USAWA during this past year.  It got me thinking about what lifts I would consider the BEST LIFTS of the year.  This was a very hard decision as I felt like I was leaving some lifters and their great lifts off the list, and it was a TOUGH DECISION to narrow the list down to only 10.  I was fortunate to have witnessed most of these lifts on the below list, and I can attest to the impressiveness of them.  I’m sure others would come up with a completely different list, but this is my story and my list!  Just for humor I ranked them, but that doesn’t really mean I found any more impressive than the others.  This list isn’t based on any formula or scientific calculation – just my opinion and view point.  I welcome anyone to make comments about this list in the Discussion Forum if your feelings are different.  Here it goes – from number 10 to number 1:


10. Chris Anderson and his 300# Dumbbell to Shoulder at the 2011 OTSM Championships.

9.  David Dellanave and his 605# record setting Jefferson Lift at the Minneapolis Meet.

8.  Dale Friesz and his 122# Ring Fingers Deadlift at Art’s Birthday Bash.

7. Mark Mitchell and his 252# Pinch Grip at the 2012 Dino Gym Record Day.

6.  Bryan Benzel and his 355# Apollons Lift at the 2012 Battle in the Barn.

5. Art Montini and his 176# Zercher Lift at the 2011 World Championships, breaking the 80+  age group record held by Ed Zercher.

4.  Andrew Durniat and his 519# One Arm Deadlift at the Black Swamp Meet.

3. Chad Ullom’s 900# Neck Lift at the 2011 Heavy Lift Championships in York, PA.

2.  Adam Glass and his 822# Dinnie Lift at the the Minneapolis Meet.

1.  Wilbur Miller and his 457# 12″ base deadlift at the 2012 Dino Gym Record Day at age 79!

I do have one honorary mention lift, and that includes the 804# Team Deadlift done by myself and my daughter Emily at the 2011 Gold Cup in England.  I only mention this because I was extremely proud of her effort in being part of setting  the ALL TIME male/female deadlift in the USAWA & IAWA.  This past year has had MANY GREAT LIFTS done by the membership and I fully expect this coming year will even be better.

Monster Garage Meet

by Larry Traub



Sunday, April 29th

Oakes Road, Georgetown, Indiana

11:00 am – 12:30 pm weigh in – 1:00 pm start

No advance registration – entry forms completed at weigh in

All lifters must buy a USAWA card at a cost of $25

ENTRY FEE – contestants must bring food for pitch in meal that will follow the competition. Bring meat for you and your family, date, etc. Lifters weighing 160 and below should bring a salad dish to be shared, lifters 160 – 230 should bring a side dish and of course those above 230 should bring desserts.

Meet t-shirts will be available.

USAWA rules will be followed. This is a raw contest. (No supportive shirts, suits, or knee wraps)

Drug testing under USAWA guidelines

Advance notice that you are planning on attending would be appreciated.

Contact Larry Traub at or call 502 299 3138

Goddard Postal LEG 1

by Al Myers



Our IAWA President Steve Gardner has just announced this years IAWA World Postal Meet.  Steve is always “changing things up” to make these postal meets interesting, and this year is no exception.  It will be contested in two LEGS, with the results of both added together to make the final standings.  This Postal Meet is in rememberance of English lifter Andy Goddard, who passed away a few years ago.  I had the great fortune of being able to meet and compete with Andy, and he was a person of utmost character.  He had a great passion for all-round weightlifting, and I’m sure he would have  been pleased to see this postal meet being contested under his name.  I commend Steve for keeping Andy’s spirit alive with naming this meet after him.

Now for the “twists” of this postal meet.  The first thing is that it is a TEAM COMPETITION with two lifters making up a team. So get one of your training partners to join you.  Any combination of lifters is allowed – between open, masters, junior or women.  The deadline for the first leg is the end of April, and the deadline for the second leg is the end of July.  Result must be submitted to Steve shortly after these deadlines.  He did not set a deadline for submissions, but please be respectful and get them in as soon as possible.  Results are to be emailed to him directly.  Results can be turned in recorded in pounds or kilograms, but make sure to indicate which on the scoresheet.  If for some reason a team can not “stay together” for both legs, it is acceptable to change teammates for the second leg.  But if this is done, you will be scored ONLY for the leg you did together.  You can not “make up” the prior leg, or get a stronger lifter for the next lifts in question.  All the lifts for the leg MUST BE DONE ON THE SAME DAY.  You cannot do just one lift per day!  Also, since this is an IAWA event, 3 Certified Officials must be used to judge the lifts  instead of the customary minimum of one as required by the USAWA.  The officials names must be recorded on the scoresheet.  The best way to do this is to have them sign the result sheet, and then scan the document to send to Steve so their signatures will be recorded as well.

The World Postal Meet gives everyone the opportunity to compete against lifters in other countries without having to travel.  The lifts can be done in your own gym, so there is not really any reason not to support this Postal Meet.  Now for the lifts for LEG ONE:

One Hand Barbell Snatch (Snatch – One Arm)

Pullover and Push

Straddle Deadlift (Jefferson Lift)

Result sheet for LEG ONE – AndyG 1  (word doc)  AndyG 1 (pdf)