The Fulton Bar Debate

by Al Myers

This is a picture of Matt Graham pulling a 2" Bar Overhand Deadlift of 540 pounds at the 2001 SuperGrip Challenge hosted by Kevin Fulton. (photo courtesy of Dan Wagman, who was there and competed in the meet as well).

I always enjoy a good discussion/debate on anything All-Round in nature.  Well, these past couple of weeks there has been a very interesting discussion in the USAWA Discussion Forum regarding the Fulton Bar.  If you have missed it – before you read today’s story it might be worthwhile to check it out so you will be “up to speed” on the subject.  I usually try to stay neutral in my writings, and give out just the facts and stuff.  But today I’m going to include a few of my opinions of the subject as well.  So be prepared!  I’m also going to “highlight” a few of the things that have been discussed in the forum, and then give an editorial on them. I plan to “go beyond” any comments I made in my forum replies.  I will also not “name any names” as the opinions expressed here are strictly mine.  Read the forum if you want that other information.

I also will keep this story as to what actually applies to the USAWA/IAWA.  A little history on the Fulton Bar is in order first.  Most know that the Fulton Bar is named after grip-sensation, All-Round Weightlifting Champion Kevin Fulton.  Most DON’T know that originally the name was given to a dumbbell lift with a 2″ diameter handle.  Over 3 years ago I wrote a blog covering this (http://www.usawa.com/the-fulton-dumbbell-deadlift/), but I’m going to repeat a piece of it here as well, as this story needs to be told more than once:

Back in the early 80’s at a odd lifting meet in Liberal, Kansas, meet director Bob Burtzloffincluded a thick-handled dumbbell deadlift in the contest. This dumbbell had a smooth 2 inch diameter handle. Wilbur Miller, the “Cimarron Kid” and Kansas lifting legend, was the hands on favorite to win this event. Wilbur has huge hands with long fingers and was very rarely beaten in any lifting event that involved grip strength. But this day was one of those rare days – when a young farm boy from Nebraska by the name of Kevin Fulton pulled off the upset! Upon Fulton’s winning – Bill Clark announced that this lift would be forever named the Fulton Lift. This eventually lead to the naming of the 2″ bar as the Fulton Bar along with the Fulton Dumbbell. As for Wilbur – upon the finish of the event he went back to the warm-up area and proceeded to pull more on this lift than he did in competition. He went home knowing that he may not have won the event on this day, but with the satisfaction of knowing he would next time!

The naming of the 2″ bar as the Fulton Bar in the USAWA became named that way later.  I have checked back in old meet results, and to the best of my research have determined that the first Fulton Bar lifts done in the USAWA were performed in 1995.  Bob Hirsh, USAWA Hall of Famer, performed lifts at a couple of record days (Arts Birthday Bash & the Buckeye Record Breakers) using the Fulton Bar. He was one of the first record-setters.  At this point these lifts were called numerous things, like Fulton Deadlift with knuckles front, Fulton Deadlift Reverse Grip, Fulton Deadlift with Overgrip,  or Fulton Deadlift with alternate grip. Nothing was consistent.  The Fulton Bar Lifts really never “took off” in the USAWA till 1999 when Kevin Fulton started using the Fulton Bar  in his annual SuperGrip Challenges in Litchfield, Nebraska.  Now the story gets real interesting.  In the beginning in the USAWA the deadlift with the Fulton Bar using an Alternate Grip was called the Two Hands Fulton Deadlift!  Exactly the same name that the IAWA(UK) uses today to refer to the lift where an overhand grip (with hook) is used on the 2 inch bar!!!  This is backed up in several reliable sources – ie old entry forms, meet results, and even in the initial USAWA Rulebook!!!!

This comes directly from the 2003 USAWA Rulebook Edition (which is considered the original USAWA rulebook):

F23. Two-Hand Fulton Deadlift- The rules of the deadlift apply with two exceptions. 1.  The bar must be at least 1-15/16 inches in diameter. 2.  Foot placing is optional.  The hook grip is allowed. 

Nothing is mentioned about a Ciavattone Grip being used, or having the knuckles forward.  So you see – confusion in the naming of these lifts went back to the very  beginning. The USAWA lift Deadlift – Fulton Bar, Ciavattone Grip was not placed in the USAWA rulebook till the 2009 Edition.  However, it was contested several times in USAWA competition before then and records were being kept in it, which makes no sense to me because if it was not official in the Rulebook with established approved written rules then it shouldn’t be present in the Official Record List.  But back then the  USAWA operated like the Wild West – no written law and the guy with the fastest draw was named Sheriff.  Policies seemed to change on a whim and the town folks weren’t asked.

Which brings us to the TOP ALL-TIME Deadlift – Fulton Bar, Ciavattone Grip in the USAWA Record List. This GREAT RECORD is held by Matt Graham with a 540 lb. lift performed at the 2001 SuperGrip Challenge held at Kevin Fulton’s place.  However, he did this lift by using a hook grip on the 2″ bar!!!!  I have knowledge of this from very several reliable sources (including from Matt!).  First of all, anyone who can hook grip a Fulton Bar is in a “class of their own” as most can’t even touch fingers on it.   I’m going to defend Matt here.  First of all, when he did it it WAS NOT against any USAWA Rule, and is not his fault at all that it is now in the USAWA Record List.  The lift was listed in the meet results as “2″ deadlift overhand”, and the meet results were typed by Kevin Fulton himself.   Kevin was too humble to even identify the lift correctly (ie Fulton Deadlift) that beared his name in the results !!!   The problem arises when these results were put into the record list without a proper rule in place first.  With no official rule – the lift is just an exhibition lift with the rules set at the moment by the meet director, which may change the next time the lift is contested.  Of course, there could have been others that “hooked” the Fulton Bar in this meet (I doubt it!) and set USAWA records as well, but because it was not 540 pounds no one notices.  This includes other meets as well during that time  period. Again, the first written USAWA rule for the Deadlift – Fulton Bar, Ciavattone Grip came out in the 2009 Rulebook (3rd Edition) and these previous records just got “incorporated” into  the Record List under the new name. 

I know I have gotten extremely “long winded” with all this, and I’m sure most have quit reading by now. But I’ve just covered some of the history of the Fulton Bar and I haven’t even GOT to my opinions yet!!!  I still have MUCH MORE I could say on this subject, but I guess I better save it for another day….

Grip Championships

by Al Myers

MEET ANNOUNCEMENT
USAWA GRIP CHAMPIONSHIPS

Scott Tully had the "top lift" at the 2012 USAWA Grip Champioships with this 394# Vertical Bar Deadlift - 2 Bars, 2". This year the 2" Vertical Bar Deadlift will be contested again, but this time with only one Vertical Bar.

For the fourth year in a row now, the USAWA will feature the Grip Championships.  This event allows the showcasing of unique strength, that of grip strength, in crowning a yearly champion.  The USAWA has in its list of lifts numerous lifts that focus on gripping strength, and these are the lifts that are chosen for this Championship.  Each year there is a different selection of lifts in this meet, which allows lifters to demonstrate their specific grip strength from year to year.  This year the lifts in the Grip Champs are:

Pinch Grip (Two Hands)
Vertical Bar Deadlift – 1 Bar, 2″, One Hand
Deadlift – Fulton Bar, Ciavattone Grip

In addition to this being the USAWA Grip Championships, a postal challenge has been issued with the IAWA(UK).  Mark Haydock, of England, is  promoting  the British Grip Championships on February 2nd, the weekend before the USAWA Grip Championships. .  This year it has been organized that the IAWA(UK) Championships will offer the exact same events as the USAWA, thus setting up the “perfect situation” for a International Postal Grip Challenge between the USAWA and the IAWA(UK).  The IAWA(UK) President Steve Gardner and I have been in contact with each other in setting this up.

Steve  and I have agreed that the “WINNER” will be determined by averaging all the scores from each participant from each Nation to determine the winner of the challenge.  This means that EVERYONE who competes in the Championships will be part of this challenge, no one will be left out, and everyone’s performance matters. This is different than many of the postal challenges of the past, where only a set number of lifters are selected to participate in the final scoring of the event.  We were hoping to have both of our Championships scheduled for the same day, but due to scheduling conflicts we were not able to organize it this way.  Steve has promised to keep the IAWA(UK) scores “secret” till after our event is finished as to not give us the advantage of knowing what we need to beat.  This is looking to be a fun challenge and I hope lots of USAWA lifters show up to support this event!

ENTRY FORM  – 2013 USAWA Grip Championships Entry Form