All-ROUND Grip Strength

by John McKean

Rob McKean showing total body work (and enjoyment!) from squeezing the life out of dear old Dad!

My neighbor once shouldered a 604 pound wrestler and body-slammed him.  A gym full of iron game devotees also witnessed him doing a strict bench press of 330 pounds for 38 consecutive reps – no wraps, no suit, no drugs! Except for a busy work schedule, my old buddy would have challenged Paul Anderson for a berth on the ’56 Olympic weightlifting team.   Art Montini knew him as a fellow “Odd-lift” competitor (curl, bench press, press-behind-neck, squat, deadlift – like a version of All-Rounds, before official powerlifting!). You may know him as Bruno Sammartino! Yes, THAT Bruno – pro wrestling’s “Living Legend,” the athlete responsible for selling more tickets than any wrestler in history!

Before breaking in to the pro ranks, Bruno set all Pittsburgh heavyweight lifting records and even won a physique contest or two. During very intense workouts, however, his most unusual exercise, always thinking toward wrestling, was to grip a long, heavy boxing bag and squeeze for all he was worth. We would call this a “bear hug,” and the young lion eventually acquired the power to EXPLODE these rugged combinations of thick canvas and sand! In his first crack at the heavyweight wrestling title (in what was later revealed to be much more of a serious grudge match than “entertainment”), Bruno applied his very brutal gripping hold onto longtime champion Buddy Rogers, acquiring a submission within 47 seconds of the match!

The total body Iso-Hug on a sparring mannequin, for all-round grip strength

Naturally, we young teens were anxious to emulate our hero’s training procedures. I found the heavy bag squeeze to be superb grip strength training, not only pumping the forearms, but also going full circle to yield arm, delt, and pec strength. Heck, the hips, legs, and back were intensely involved too – truly an all-round gripping exercise!! Since the material always “gave” a bit when hugged with intent, what started as an “isometric exercise” of sorts ended up more as a short range type movement, as in subsequent power rack lifts.

The old sand bags are still around, but few of our weightlifting gyms have them. I suppose you could sneak up and try this on a lifting partner – though I did this once with Art, and he BIT me (of course, I found out the hard way that Art was actually an undefeated collegiant wrestler in his early years!). These days, however, there are lifelike mannequins that provide a realistic type body gripping (see photos) and supply a rugged “moving isometric” form of work. Or you could build a bag – fill it with stones, sand, or straw.

John exploding the top of a small sparring bag with his killer headlock !

One old time wrestler, Ed “Strangler” Lewis, a generation before Bruno, built himself a special skull sized bag to religiously train his deadly headlock. It was said no other wrestler, back in the 1920s when the professional sport was entirely legitimate, could ever defeat him. In fact, his crushing arm grip was so intense that even willing sparring partners were hard for ole Ed to come by! I can personally attest to the gripping STAMINA that a headlock squeeze will yield; if one holds on, giving his all, for a minute or more to a small bag, then the forearms and biceps feel swollen to Mr. Universe proportions!

WE in the USAWA pride ourselves on lifts that work the total body! Throw away those wimpy little hand grippers or soft tennis balls, and grab onto something that’ll cause all-round crunching effort!

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”!

All-Round Approach – Part 2

by John McKean

Positioning for a band/bar deadlift. Notice the stepping on bands to yield initial tautness. Also note the thick bar for increased grip strength development.

Recently, a friend from England named Eddie Quinn used his long years in martial arts to develop an amazing, condensed self defense system that he calls THE APPROACH (http://the-approach.com/).  Eddie has asked me to create a strength routine that would benefit his many students around the world. Of course, I’d like to share it with our all-rounders as well!  I can think of nothing better than a few key all- round lifts using my minimum equipment oriented, energy conserving band/bar moving isos.  I’ve included some photos to show how I place the bands over a barbell and how to anchor these strands of stretch rubber by merely stepping on them.  Originally Mr. Quinn requested I make a DVD of the actual lifts, but my grubby face and strained expression would probably scare off any and all future students – we have much better looking all rounders demo-ing these mechanics in our ever growing library of You-Tube videos here on site!

Midway into the pull. Note that band tension will increase resistance toward lift completion. Fight this - try to ACCELERATE!

So, Eddie, here are the lifts to search, off to the right of this main page: JEFFERSON (for all important thigh and hip drive, to thrust in with authority on an opponent), BENT OVER ROW (immense straight in pulling power development to rip an attacker right off his feet), CLEAN AND PUSH PRESS (explosive arm thrusting via leg drive, for major league hammerfists and elbows), and 2” THICK VERTICAL BAR LIFTS (absolute best for gripping strength, when you need to hold-on, to literally tear a limb off!).  For each lift, place a medium strength rubber band (I suggest Jumpstretch.com “mini monster bands”) over the bar and perform a set of three reps, adding a bit of weight to go to a second set of two. Do this every other day, starting with relatively “easy” weight at first – you won’t FEEL fatigued, but it sure takes a toll on the musculature and requires 48 hours recuperation.  Be dynamic for each rep (which should be done as singles with slight pauses between each attempt) by starting with control and power then accelerating throughout the movement (try to “beat the bands”).  When the weight becomes too easy, be progressive and add just a bit more – over time this builds way up, with genuine functional strength developing that sticks with you for a lifetime!

Bands doubled and affixed to a Jump Stretch base stand.

Oh, by the way, this routine is not limited to martial artists.  Every wrestler, football player, track man/woman, and all rounder can experience huge gains with this 15 minute workout! And a quick, intensive strength workout leaves plenty of time for an athlete’s main skill development training. Just as Eddie Quinn preaches economy of movement for optimum personal protection, gym time should also hammer directly to the core of your power base.

All-Round Approach – Part 1

by John McKean

Bill March pressing 390# in strict style.

During the 60s renowned York Barbell Club weightlifter Bill March set national and world press records, won major Olympic lifting championships, took a Mr. Universe title, and was even invited to pro football tryouts.  At his most efficient, Bill completed his actual daily power rack lifting in 24 SECONDS!  His York teammate, Lou Riecke, did similar isometric routines, total training time of less than a minute, to break a world snatch record.  Later, Lou took his methods to the NFL as one of the first pro strength coaches – he helped a then mediocre little team known as – AHEM – the Pittsburgh Steelers to four Super Bowl rings!  In this same time period, a rather large teenage track & field star named Gary Gubner used short range rack moves to build such phenomenal strength that he established world indoor records in the shot put AND earned himself a spot on the U.S. Olympic Weightlifting Team.

Unfortunately power rack routines didn’t quite stick.  Sessions seemed over before they began, movement range was too short, lifts were way too intense when done correctly, and, for the vain, no “pump” created.  Well, they did work very well for me, but even I got bored (and you guys know what a slug I am!).  So, some years ago (long after my original heavy weight power rack experiments) I started placing rubber flex bands over the barbell, did full range all round lifts thus “handicapped,” and termed them “moving isometrics.”  Like Bill March’s short range isos, momentum and acceleration were thwarted to yield solid, pure push through every inch of an exercise.  Yet the bands encouraged more SPEED and finish (actually, “pushing through” the top rather than “braking,” which somewhat discourages total effort).  Best of all, maximum results came from band/bar lifts that were NOT total, all out, explode-your-arteries, max weight killers.  In fact, from my findings, these work best with a comfortable barbell weight of 60-70% of one’s best single.  Even now, as “early middle age” (65!!!) approaches, these moving isos are giving me substantial gains on most lifts.

Coming Tomorrow

Part 2 of the All-Round Approach of properly using band resistance in your training.

All-Round Lifting, Jungle Style

by John McKean

John McKean "places his best foot forward" in setting up for a dumbbell deadlift using the modified T-Stance.

Big bellied and bubbly, the kindly, bespeckled old timer reminded me of a favorite uncle. Indeed, he chattered on endlessly and always treated me as a long lost, cherished relative. But, as a large man, he always stood kinda funny — his rear foot constantly at a 45 degree outward angle with the front foot’s heel jammed at its center, toes pointing directly at you. Seemed narrow and uncomfortable, oddly insufficient to balance a 280 pound person. Yet, I learned later that if he ever moved that front foot toward anyone while angered, that individual would become an instant corpse! You see, this absolute MASTER of the Indonesian martial art of Silat was once written up in a major magazine series entitled “The Deadliest Man on the Planet.” And, as I was informed from his senior students, during his covert assignment by our government during WW2 many U.S. enemies, as their final sight on earth, witnessed the lightning like speed and deadly power behind that stance!

The proper foot placement for the T-Stance. It may be used for any lift that requires the heels to be together.

So, years back, from training this art and experiencing firsthand the balance and channeled strength afforded by its modified “T -stance,” I adjusted it to experiment on certain all-round lifts. Surprisingly, the unusual footwork gave superior performance in the heels together press, and as the beginning stage (before slight foot opening for position) of the Jefferson and one arm Hack, among others.

Recently I played around with the one arm dumbbell deadlift in preparation for the Boston Gold Cup meet, and found my Indonesian stance was IDEAL for that awkward lift. The problem with the big plated dumbbell pull is that the DB handle is too far out from your body, thus thwarting initial power, and twisting uncontrollably as it ascends up the thighs. So I began with my right foot jammed in between the plates, shin almost touching the bar. The foot was at the best angle I could achieve, tho not quite 45 degrees. My left foot would begin at the outward plate, a few inches from the approximate center of my inner-DB foot, then I would advance it a bit to allow room for the pull. I discovered that my arm was afforded an absolute straight down position for a perfect initial deadlift pull, and that it rested within my right thigh so as not disturb the direct path of the big dumbbell (the weight, not me!). Just a bend of my legs yielded all power from hips and thighs, rather than stress and twisting of the lower back – really, more of a squat than a deadlift.

The tribesmen living within the highland jungles of West Java, where my Silat mentor was raised and taught, knew a thing or two about pinpoint balance and exacting body positioning for exerting maximum power. In their dangerous environment they HAD to! We in all-rounds can also certainly experiment and adapt our own individual structures as a means to stand solidly and “kick butt” on the record book!

World Wide Row

John McKean

Recent work on the bent over row shows good effects on the 65-year-old upper back of that chubby little rascal in front who we know as John McKean!

John Grimek, our FIRST USAWA Hall-of-Famer (I was there when Howard Prechtel nominated him!) once wrote that the bent over row is a lift where huge poundages are possible, because the movement employs the arms, shoulders, lats, lower back, hips, and thighs. Big John also stated that the row is the absolute best heavy exercise for building the biceps, as well as the upper back. I once met a young super-heavyweight at a power meet who took Grimek’s advice seriously – the lad ONLY trained the heaving row for biceps, and a few bench presses for the triceps. Without exaggeration, his well formed upper arms had to have measured 23 inches!!

Famed writer/lifter Terry Todd did a photo filled article of his deadlift training for winning one of the first National powerlifting contests – yep, the huge poundage-heaving ROW was given prominent mention as his major assistance exercise. Terry was rowing with over 450, as I recall; those pictures left a lasting impression on my young mind! Even today the row is king in building other ALL-ROUND lifts!

We in the USAWA have instituted the bent over row as an official lift during the past season. First to “test” it was Al Myers’ crew, who raved about the dynamic feeling to pull big weight and the genuine enthusiasm for officially performing this grand old exercise! As Al mentioned, it is a natural, basic exercise that we ALL started our weight training with, and requires a unique direction of pull that no other lift fulfills! Later, big Ernie Beath (who really was the one instrumental in pushing for the inception of this barbell keystone as official) and I rowed for records at Art’s Birthday Bash (I think one END of Ernie’s bar was more than I managed!!). At this point in time, world-wide, the IAWA has adopted a “wait-and-see” attitude, but I think our more carefully conceived, clearer version of the rules should tell how simple and direct the bent over row is as a lift.

USAWA Rule for the Bent Over Row

The lift will start at the lifter’s discretion with the bar placed on the platform in front of the lifter. The lifter will grip the bar with an overhand grip with the palms of the hands facing the lifter. The width of grip spacing and feet placement is of the lifter’s choosing, but the feet must be in line with the bar. The body must be in a bent over position at the waist. The upper body must not straighten past 45 degrees parallel to the platform at any time during the lift or it is a disqualification. The legs may be bent during the lift and upon the completion of the lift. The bar is lifted to touch the abdomen or torso by bending the arms. The bar must touch the abdomen higher than the belt, or the navel if a belt is not worn. It is a disqualification if the belt supports the bar at the abdomen upon the finish of the lift. The lift ends by an official’s command when the bar is held motionless at the abdomen or chest.

Not only can our All-rounders benefit by direct effort applied to rows, but many who would come to us for weight training programs will make huge strides in OVERALL strength by utilizing the row as a LIFT.  As such, of course, we can draw these athletes into our fold to display prideful gains on a weightlifting platform!!  But these big bent over pulls can certainly serve wrestlers, martial artists, track and field athletes, football players, etc. I, for one, would love to see some of these new guys at our record day meets! Of course, it won’t hurt our image, either, to start associating IAWA lifters with that huge, old time “V” taper derived from concentrated, high-powered rows!

Superior Strength for Athletes through All-Rounds

John McKean

John McKean, at 64 years of age and in the 80 kg class, performed a 120.9 kilogram One Arm Dumbbell Deadlift at the 2010 IAWA Gold Cup last month. This is the best One Arm Dumbbell Deadlift in the USAWA Record List, regardless of weight class, for lifters over 60 years of age.

Fierce looking, amazingly muscular, and sullen , the 181 pound powerlifter sat alone in a corner of the Ambridge VFW gym during one of our 1960s powerlifting meets. Nobody was crazy enough to disturb the thick thighed monster as he death-stared the warmup platform. Except me, of course; the resident nut! Surprisingly gracious and talkative, the young (but already bald & fu-manchu mustashed), record setting squatter explained his very basic leg routine -simply work up in singles from a power rack’s parallel pin position, starting dead stop at the bottom (eliminating rebound or “stretch-reflex”), going to an absolute limit, once per week. I’m sure this eventual all time great altered his approach over the years, yet not long ago I heard he became the only master lifter over 50 to set an official squat of over 900 pounds!

A similar power rack approach was taken by legendary Paul Anderson. In a story by Terry Todd, who witnessed the training, mighty Paul had 1050 pounds situated on a below parallel pin position (so low, recalled Todd, that he himself couldn’t even squeeze himself under it).  Anderson easily got himself up from this dead stop bottom position, many singles during training, figuring such easy work (for HIM!!) would allow a “regular” squat with 1150-1400 pounds!!

Olympian Russ Knipp, who the astounded Russians called one of the strongest pure pressers and squatters they had ever seen, described to me his “2/3 squats”.  Again, these were performed from dead stop in a position just a hair above parallel.  Just over the middleweight bodyweight limit, Russ used to do these for 5 sets of 10 with 515 pounds -and not even pushing it, as they were supplementary exercise for his olympic lifting! Russ told me after this “overload” work, any regular squat always felt easy & he never had trouble getting up from low 400+ pound cleans!

Of course, based on progress by these true giants of lifting, I, at my powerlifting best – an awkward, small boned, unmuscular little 165 pound geek- discovered that rack bottom-start squats took my stalled contest lift of around 450 up to a state record 555 in amazingly rapid time. And this was before super suits, big belts, wraps, and all the other “aids” were around.

OK, enter All-Round lifting -we have LOTS of quality lifts that build the same core strength in dead start fashion, as did the rack pin squats, without the need of a bulky, space consuming power rack station. Think about it – our Jefferson, trap bar deadlift, dumbbell deadlifts, Zercher, and others start with no momentum -on the floor- and work the same important core muscles. If modern athletes would simply adopt a few of our sheer strength movements, they would be WAY ahead on FUNCTIONAL power, as opposed to trying to mimic modern powerlifting’s super-duper suited/wrapped, enhanced quarter squats and steel spring shirted, assisted bench presses.

As a long time secondary teacher, I always cringed at the ridiculous weight training that high school and college football, wrestling, and track coaches offered to their athletes. Many times coaches that I knew would simply go to the internet and select bodybuilding style programs, as they themselves had no real experience (and their coaching egos would NEVER have them ask an actual weightlifter!!). I heard of one school’s “strength- coach” who had senior football players do nothing but curls(!!!!), and another who trained female soccer players, but not allow anything heavier, ever, than 3 pound dumbbells!  Equally upsetting were the athletic departments that would tell the youngsters to just do the powerlifts on their own -yep, more quarter squats, bounced bench presses, deadlift injuries, and the ever present assistance gear that easily conned kids bought on their own!

It seems to me that we in the USAWA could maybe initiate all-round contests or, at least, seminars, on high school & college campuses to demonstrate the superiority of our “old time” training methods.  Certainly we could really help athletic programs that could use REAL strength training for their students, and, who knows, our base of competition oriented lifters could expand tremendously!

Gold Cup One

by John McKean

Howard Prechtel as a young man, sitting and relaxing as he poses for a picture with over 1000 pounds on his back!

Howard Prechtel phoned me to describe, in his typical factual but low key manner, his idea for a meet where IAWA World Champions would strive to set individual world records in their favorite lifts. He was most pleased to inform that the Wide World of Sports was VERY interested in TV coverage! Of course a large Gold Cup would be awarded to each successful contestant in this “World Champions Record Breakers” meet (in later years , Gold Cup meet was easier to say & inscribe on trophies!).

Soon, all lifters were wildy excited about this concept, and planned to travel to Cleveland( Lakewood), where the meet venue was a large High school, famous for its legendary football teams, and other athletics. However, as Howard later told me, with a bit of mirth in his normally somber tone, one prominent US lifter wasn’t too thrilled. Seems this specialty lifter had not ever entered or won a World Championship, but, in his own ,rather unhumble opinion, was very worthy of competing ( a legend in his own mind !) in this unique record day event. He phoned, more than once I believe, and pleaded, begged, and implored Howard to let him appear before the TV cameras! But Howard was always very principled, and held his ground – ONLY legitimate world champs would grace the stage!

Another famous lifter was quite excited to demo his skills to a televised international audience. But, though “sparse” of hair,had a bit of vanity to him and often wore an absurdly thick , wavy brown wig when out on the town. So, in preparation for his network debut, he had his wife, a professional hairdresser, dye his sidehair to yield a perfect, flowing brown tone to exactly match the shade of the 6″ muffet that was to be pasted to the top of his bare skull.Only problem was, our boy fall asleep during the dying process, the extra time converting his remaining real hair to jet black!! The hair piece had to remain at home, and fellow contestants had to bite their lips to suppress chuckles when they saw their newly done old pal, the darkest haired chrome-dome in history!

During the meet, everyone marveled at Howard’s organizing skills -the weight set up & appearance of the large auditorium was spectacular! The Gold Cups on display lit up the room to create added excitement & atmosphere of a truly important, historic event. The only disappointment, and it really seemed minor at the time due to everyone’s enthusiasm with the lifting, was that the filming crews never showed.

Spectator involvement may have been the largest ever -as mentioned this was a Saturday at an athletic based high school and most student athletes were there for Saturday training. These kids didn’t even mind sharing their spacious weight lifting room with competitors; they were thrilled to see real competition style lifters warming up beside them. One of the bigger football players , a nice,polite young man, couldn’t help himself but ask my (then) 12 year old son,Rob, what he could possibly be lifting in what was deemed by them a virtual “professional” weightlifting contest. When Rob described his intent to do a hand and thigh with 800 pounds, the senior linebacker almost fainted! And when Rob went off to lift, EVERY athlete crowded in to watch a grade school child pull a hard fought 800 ! In fact, Rob was so intent on this performance that he apparently broke tiny blood vessels in his cheeks and was red faced for a week!!

In this, and following Prechtel meets, lifters were supplied every comfort and convenience by Howard. He was, indeed, a Bob Hoffman of all-round lifting, and even looked like the ole “Father of Modern Weightlifting”, with a similar beneficial demeanor! We’ll miss ya, Howie, your meets and your character were pure quality, and your hard work & dedication to promoting them will forever remain as “golden” as your cups!

Art’s Birthday Bash

by John McKean

As a classic Autumn day, Art’s big meet started in brilliant warming sunlight, crystal blue skies, trees ablaze in color, and Art more mellow (well, he growled less!!) upon his 83rd birthday! I was first in, to find Art in his usual position in the VFW Barbell Club office, ready to dispense the meet t-shirts and donuts that he generously supplies free to all lifters & guests. We didn’t have to wait long for our travelers to bound down the steps into our Ambridge “cave.” First came Denny & Kohl from a delightful trek through the mountains from across state, then the ever-smiling Scott Schmidt from Cleveland, and, finally, big Ernie Beath and family from the Eastern shores of Maryland. Ernie is usually the first one to show, but managed to misplace his car keys, AND – big news – he’s newly married to a gorgeous gal who attended her first meet with us!!

Art announced that, in addition to our usual self torture, Scott, he, and I would do the lifts for Steve Gardner’s World team Postal meet. Wonderful, more pain! But these proved to be a good choice of movements, and gave us each a shot at a few more records!

Big Ernie and I had been reducing – Ern was down to a meager 385 (marriage will do that to ya, big guy!) and I was down to my old powerlifting weight of 165 (having just celebrated MY 41st wedding anniversary, momma has stopped feeding me altogether!! Naw, she baked me a superb apple pie right after the contest – tho’ I had to elbow Sean & Rob outa the way!). But the two of us were excited about doing the bent over row for a National record, and are hopeful that next year the IAWA will reconsider and put it on the international list of lifts. Ernie did a huge 351 pound pull, and hopes to be the first to row with over 400 for the record books! His big dumbbell presses were their usual awesome displays of pure power!

Old Art celebrated the onset of his 84th year with one arm hacks & Zerchers, and did a teeth lift with 113 pounds – I still maintain that Art should get extra credit for this event, since he must be pulling with little more than one remaining tooth!! (I mentioned that once before to him and he BIT me, to prove ALL the old chompers are still healthy – ouch!! But my subsequent rabies shot hurt worse!!). But the ole guy went on to do all the Postal lifts with ease, cleaned up the gym, and later attended the usually long barbell club monthly meeting! And I’ll bet he still was up for his usual training session at 4 AM this morning (Monday)!

Denny went through with quiet deliberation on 5 new records, to keep a slight, but constant lead over Art in the race for most USAWA records. Of course, President Habecker always has exciting news and views of All-Round lifting to share with us – only, as yours truly experienced, don’t plan on getting a bench press signal from him anytime in the forseeable future when he’s expounding those views!!

Kohl Hess at 16 years young, and 273 pounds big, astounded us by performing the “shoulder drop,” which absolutely frightened us older guys! Later, among others, he did a big “bear hug” lift with 115K, which seemed natural, since the massive young man undoubtably trains by wrestling & terrorizing real local bears in the Lebanon woods!

Ole Scott Schmidt is the only olympic style lifter I know that keeps smiling while he bangs big lifts overhead!! Though he found new joy in the Postal events contested and loved the 2 hand pinch grip and Ciavattone deadlift! It’s almost too bad that later on in the day his hometown Cleveland Browns had to play our Steelers!! (tho for this day he was an honorary VFW BBC member and an adopted Western Pennsylvanian!).

Lots of iron was moved and birthday candles snuffed out (next year’s meet has to have the cake monitored by the fire department!!), and we hope to have a big crowd for 2011! Train hard, guys!

MEET RESULTS

Art’s Birthday Bash
Ambridge VFW Barbell Club, Ambridge, PA
October 17, 2010

Meet Director:  Art Montini

All lifts listed in pounds except as noted

IAWA International Officials: (3 judges on all lifts) : Art Montini, Denny Habecker, Scott Schmidt, John McKean

John McKean – 165 pounds, 64 years, Class – 60+, 75K

Trap Bar Deadlift 365#
Ciavattone Deadlift 322#
Bent Over Row 220#
Deadlift 2 Barbells 360#
Straddle 2” Bar 302#
Reflex Clean & Push Press 95#
Reverse Curl 70#
Two Hands Pinch Grip 101#

Art Montini – 180.5 pounds,83 years, Class -80+, 85K

Left Hand Hack Lift 98#
Right Hand Hack Lift 98#
Left Hand Zercher 98#
Right Hand Zercher 98#
Teeth Lift 113#

Denny Habecker -191 pounds, 68 years, Class -65+, 90K

Fulton Deadlift 262#
Ciavattone Fulton Deadlift 202#
Bench Press Hands Together 150#
Right Hand Thumbless Deadlift 128#
Two Dumbbells Clean & Press 100#

Scott Schmidt -252 pounds, 57 years, Class -55+, 115K

Clean & Press – 105K
2” Bar Vertical Deadlift R – 95K

Kohl Hess -273 pounds, 16 years, Class – 16+, 125K

Shoulder Drop – 40.0K
Clean & Jerk – 79.5K
Bear Hug -115.0K
Straddle Deadlift – 200.0K
Clean & Press on Knees – 62.5K

Ernie Beath – 385 pounds,29 years, Class – Open, 125+

Bent Over Row -351#
RH Dumbbell Clean & Press -150#
Strict Curl -150#
LH Dumbbell Clean & Press -135#

Longstrength, Peak Power: Warming Up Chapter 4

by John McKean

Chapter 4 – A Sample Program

Let’s have you sample a Longstrength warmup followed by a brief, intense barbell routine.  Prepare to be amazed at the ease and enjoyment of a truly efficient strength building system.  First, grab the lightest pair of barbell plates around for about 12 minutes of shadowboxing.  Start very light and easy, both weight-wise and time-wise, for your first session.  Don’t be static, but “get into it”—pretend you’re kung fu champion of the world defending against a large dreaded street gang, and wipe ‘em all out!  Then go to a bar sitting across, a squat rack and rapidly knock out about 60 squat pulls.  Finally, with still no rest, locate low dipping bars (or use the back of two chairs) and do a forward bend (also called a “good morning”) between them, pushing back up with combined effort from the arms and lower back.  Do these “sissy dips” for 60 reps, and your pre-lift preparation is complete.

Longstrength Squat Pulls

By now you should be warm and feeling really good about yourself—after all, you’ve just won a major war and set new personal records for pull-ups and dips!  So growl a little bit more, and take, say, 75% of what is estimated to be a “comfortable” best barbell press for this day.  Delight in the ease with which you single it up.  Rest briefly, then do a single with 85%, and a final lift with 95%.  Never missed all the lighter barbell sets, did you?  But if you desire some repetitions, now is the very best time for them anyway—back down to 70% and do what will be a very easy 5-8 reps. Follow the same procedure (don’t repeat the warmup, of course, as it will carry you right on through if your barbell workout is brief and intense, as it should be) with the high pull, then the squat.  Next workout, follow the same warmup (add half a minute to the shadowboxing and a few more squat pulls and good-morning dips) but do -three different lifts for more varied all-round work.

Your routine looks like this:

MONDAY

Longstrength

  • Shadow box: 12 minutes
  • Squat Pulls: 60 reps
  • Good-morning dips: 60 reps

Lifts

  • Press from rack: 1/75%, 1/85%, 1/95%, 6/70%
  • High Pull: 1/75%, 1/85%, 1/95%, 6/70%
  • Squat: 1/75%, 1/85%, 1/95%, 6/70%

THURSDAY

Longstrength

  • Shadowbox: 12 1/2 minutes
  • Squat Pulls: 65 reps
  • Good-morning dips: 65 reps

Lifts

  • One-arm dumbbell press: 1/75%, 1/85%, 1/95%, 6/70%
  • One-arm dumbbell row: 1/75%, 1/85%, 1/95%, 6, 70%
  • Deadlift: 1/75%, 1/85%, 1/95%, 6/70%

Longstrength Good-Morning Dips

A word about cycling, progression and the rep scheme.  As noted in my previous articles in HG, it’s best to base workout percentages on the peak lift for the day, but during the first week of the program this is never a top-ever, personal max.  More in the neighborhood of 85% of your very best, with small weekly progressions of 2-1/2 or 5 pounds throughout the cycle.  Yes, each cycle will guide you beyond your previous top weight, if you keep at the cycle long enough!

The back-down set

The 70%-rep set after heavy singles adds a degree of very satisfying muscle stimulation.  Emotionally, too, it serves as a tremendous “mild pump” because, following the intensity of heavy lifting, it can be performed with complete confidence due to an amazingly “light” feel to the body, and in the perfect form enforced by the just-previous concentration on limit attempts.

In my early powerlifting days, for instance, I always found it a “stroll in the park” to do the backdown set in my squat sessions with 405 pounds for 6-8 reps after singling up to 515-600 pounds.  Yet whenever I tried to just work up to that 405 weight and reps on its own (without heavier singles done first), it was an all-out strain and usually a mental and physical impossibility.  In retrospect, I suppose it was these down-sets which provided the unexpected result of supplying me nearly 27″ thighs at 5′3″ and about 170 pounds bodyweight—quite a bit overdone size wise, in my opinion, but muscular gains I’ll wager could never have been achieved on my small bone frame with a standard high-rep, high-set pyramid scheme.

Exercises

Keep the exercises basic, ‘breviated, varied and safe.  Those listed are fairly standard to most programs, but perhaps a few extra comments are in order.

The one-arm row has always given me the ultimate in lat exercise and is fairly safe compared to the two-arm version, if the non-exercising arm is braced on a bench.  Pull smoothly and in good form, yet a bit of extra body heave won’t hurt now and then when poundages get up there.  Likewise, the one-arm dumbbell press can recruit more of the body into action while permitting the arms to handle an increased weight (total) over what could be done with the two-arm variety.

The high pull is a total-body movement, starting as a quick deadlift, and accelerating into a high heave toward the chin from mid-thigh level (it’ll probably only reach a little above belly button level with really heavy weights).  Form is not super important here, just strive to keep the bar in close to the body, and relish the power you experience when almost all major muscle groups are working coordinately.

Longstrength details

Please don’t overlook your Longstrength progression, however.  Always add a few reps to the squat pull and good-morning dip each workout. You really want to get to the stage where minutes are being counted rather than reps.  Doctor Tom Auble, a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, tested these movements extensively and determined that even at a relatively slow pace of 20-30 reps per minute, the workload on squat pulls, for example, done for time, exceeds that of almost all standard aerobic programs.  For the lifter, an eventual 6-12 minutes of each maneuver will add superb conditioning to the body along with an unmatched warmup.

Remember always to move from one Longstrength exercise to the next without resting, in contrast to the weight exercises which benefit from 3-5 minutes of rest between sets.  The desire is to achieve a steady (but accelerated) heart rate while exercising for a good length of time.  While growing familiar with these new applications of strength-orientated exercises (chins, dips, squats, good mornings) a trainee quickly builds into one consistent, steady endurance session.  As Dr. Schwartz recently explained to me, “Longstrength offers the enthusiastic trainee maximum torque (a relatively new term referring to mechanical work with subsequential oxygen uptake and calorie expenditure) per pound of bodyweight.”

More than likely, you’ll feel your actual weight lifting in this program is over before it begins, but I guarantee you’ll love the results.  Strength gains will come like never before, that nagging tiredness will be replaced with an inner glow, and the old body will display brand new bumps and cuts.

Put in a proper time frame, a really effective warmup will take an enjoyable 20 minutes or so, with perhaps a mere 4 minutes devoted to actually lifting (not counting rest between sets, of course).  Never get this 5 to 1 ratio backwards! You see, many of the keys to strength, fitness, and body development can be found in the warmup.

Longstrength, Peak Power: Warming Up Chapter 3

by John McKean

Chapter 3 – Longstrength

Longstrength Shadowboxing

Although I enjoy playing around with differing Heavyhands combinations from time to time, and like Heavyhands walking with my wife during off days (active rest for recuperation), my favorite training warmup is known as “shadowboxing.”

As the name implies, a free sparring session is done with weighed hands (2-1/2 pound plates work as well as anything).  Just stalk around the gym after an invisible adversary, punching quickly with all manner of improvised blows, body weaves, and footwork combinations.  Have fun with it, let your imagination and energy flow, and beat up the bad guy for 15-20 minutes.  After winning this match (it’s so easy when no one’s hitting back), you’ll feel mentally and physically aggressive enough to attack a heavy barbell immediately.  What formerly was a weight that required 5 sets to even think about, you’ll feel like biting in half.

After complete satisfaction for several years, I sure thought Heavyhands shadowboxing was the last word in preparation for weight training.  Then Dr. Schwartz exposed me to another dimension—an aerobic warmup that could actually add strength and muscularity.  Always interested in my application to weight training of his concepts, the good doctor regularly supplements my gym findings with related laboratory research and his own considerable knowledge of exercise and the body.  But I was left speechless the day he phoned to announce that he’d just completed 750 (not a misprint—seven hundred and fifty) chin-ups!  Now, I know his own daily Heavyhands workouts have given him superb conditioning and, despite being 68 years of age, the sleek, refined look of a “natural” physique contender (my wife calls him the ultimate hunk!)  But even this amazing aerobic athlete surely could not perform 75 times the number of chins most of us strain to do. Then he told me about Longstrength…

Before describing Longstrength, however, let’s take care of your curiosity as to exactly how this past-prime-time superman managed his “impossible” chin-ups.  By the way, since then, Schwartz has specialized on alternate one arm chins and recently hit a personal high of 2,000 (yes, two thousand!) performed continuously for 45 minutes.  What’s the trick?  Well, in his usual quest to employ as many muscles as possible during exercise, Schwartz simply combined a chin-up with a free squat.  That is, he set up a bar at about standing chin height, then squatted down until arms were extended fully, and pulled back up with combined bicep, lat and leg power.  (Often he pressed up while descending to also involve the delts and triceps.)  In this innovative maneuver, arm power “lightens” the body, enabling far more free squats than ever possible, while leg thrust during the up stroke allows chin-up repetitions previously capable only by the “Energizer Bunny”—it can keep on going, and going, and going…

Longstrength, then, seeks the integration of many muscle groups at once in unique combinations of pushes and pulls which involve one’s own artificially lightened bodyweight as resistance.  Its goal is to marry strength with endurance to, as Schwartz described, “lasso all your muscles and more in a loop of total fitness.”  Naturally, a Longstrength devotee will, in short order, hit hundreds of reps per exercise (better measured in minutes than by counting reps) to effectively engage the cardiovascular system.

To date, Dr. Schwartz has created over 100 Longstrength exercises, and a new book describing this astounding fitness strategy is due out in early 1994.  Careful experiments have flabbergasted researchers when subjects generated unexpected high levels of oxygen uptake (a prime measure of aerobic effectiveness) on these relatively slow-paced moves.  Yet due to “muscle loading”—a simultaneous involvement of most of the body’s musculature—subjects reported feeling far less of an effort than computer read-outs showed their workload to be.

During the past two years, Longstrength has become the core of my entire lifting program. It compliments my initial shadowboxing warmup (which Schwartz considers part of Longstrength anyway) by nudging the large muscle groups of the legs, hips and back into play without tiring me prior to lifting. Virtually every inch of my body is readied for applying peak power, with the new combined exercises also adding a unique means of building explosiveness safely and, by its very nature, offering some mild preparatory stretching. Surprisingly, I’ve noticed vastly improved muscularity in my arms, delts, lats and thighs. Most importantly though, since strength-orientated moves such as pull-ups, dips, squats and bend-overs are the basis of Schwartz’s new regimen, gains in my all-round competitive lifts have accelerated significantly.

A few words of caution.  While Longstrength offers us iron hefters two factors we’re very familiar with and always relish, namely, endless variety and limitless, rapid progression, please don’t ever stray from the muscle-loading concept—strive always to use as many muscles as possible in any unique combination which you’re sure to invent.  If you confuse this with any form of “circuit training,” where many muscle groups are attempted to be reached by moving from one isolation exercise to another, none of the benefits above will be achieved.  In fact, when carefully analyzed, the once highly-touted circuit training proved to do absolutely nothing toward increasing aerobic capacity—measured oxygen utilization actually was quite low despite all the huffing and puffing between stations. So, although circuits did hit a variety of exercises and created rapid heart rates, they were exposed as a complete bust for endurance, never produced much strength or development, and served just to tire trainees needlessly. Remember, we want to warm up without burning out.

Longstrength, Peak Power: Warming Up Chapter 2

by John McKean

Chapter 2 – Dr. Leonard Schwartz and Heavyhands

A while back I lucked into a fantastic book which taught me more about a really proper, thorough warmup system than had all previous years of training.  Titled Heavyhands, and written by Dr. Leonard Schwartz, who has since become a valued friend and teacher, the text revealed a unique aerobic training system involving many muscles working at one time.  Light dumbbells are curled, swung and pushed for the upper body while simultaneously running, dancing, bending or twisting.  Interesting combinations such as walking with forward raises, punching while bobbing and weaving, and overhead swings with forward bends are done for sessions of 12-40 minutes.  Unlike the ridiculous notion put forth by some that standard barbell moves can become “endurance” training after a paltry 10 or 20 reps, Heavy hands exercise is true aerobic work (sustained by relatively easy movement for long periods of time) and, from my experience, absolutely fantastic as a warmup routine.

If you’ve read my previous articles on all-round strength training (issues 23 and 25 of HG) you know I favor short sessions featuring only 3 or 4 progressively heavy singles per lift.  Many have asked, though, how it’s possible to do an initial attempt with 80% or more of a limit. Well, by simply following a few of Dr. Schwartz’s exercise guidelines, practically any reasonable opener is a breeze.  Heavyhanding for 20 minutes leaves my entire musculature warm and ready to go, creates an inner exhilaration from the increased oxygen uptake, and provides that wide-awake feeling so necessary for pinpoint concentration.  Additionally, in distributing this workload over many parts of the body at once, these warmups seem very easy and leave plenty of energy for the barbells.  In strict laboratory tests, Heavyhands exercise has proven superior to common calisthenics, jogging, rowing machines, rope skipping, cycling, and other endurance activities, without creating any of the common fatigue or boredom.

Longstrength, Peak Power: Warming Up Chapter 1

by John McKean

Chapter 1 – Introduction

“As usual, we missed seeing you in the warm up room yesterday!” teased my old lifting pal, Barry, during morning two of the recent US National All-Round Weightlifting Championships.

Laughing, I replied, “Hey, I did too stop in for a moment to beg some tips from Dennis Mitchell about his bent press techniques.”

Rolling his eyes, Barry , continued, “Some of the guys are still bewildered at how you can wave those tiny dumbbells around for a few minutes then just run out on the platform and start with humongous poundages.  C’mon now, we’re hip lifting today with thousands of pounds, aren’t you gonna get that old bod just a little bit tuned up?”

Flashing my best sheepish grin, I replied, “But, Barry, I’m already warm, wide awake, and full of energy—I just came back from a pleasant 20-minute Heavyhands walk through town with my wife and son!”

Based on considerable training experience, and competition in all branches of weight lifting,  I’ve determined that not only is the traditional warmup of “step-ladder” sets not necessary, but that substantially higher working poundages can be achieved without them. You see, sets of 5-10 reps with 135, 225, 315, etc., actually do very little to “warm” the body or even a specific muscle group, while the effort involved just robs energy from the all-important peak poundage set of any given lift. Yes, I’ve read all about the supposed necessity to carefully follow weight increments in order to recruit more and more muscle fibers, for “mental preparation” to reach top lifts, gradually cultivate neurological efficiency, etc., etc.  But in my book (and that’s a rather thick training log after 32 years!), all such reasoning and rituals are pure bunk.

Think about this for a second: If you would happen to be strolling along a railroad track and turned suddenly to discover a fast freight train on your ass, would there be need for any warmup to set a new personal long jump record? On the other hand, how much faith would you have in this leaping ability if said butt was draggin’ from just going through 5 sets of 5 progressively heavier squats?

Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not suggesting the elimination of a warmup or downplay its importance. The purpose of this article is, in fact, to place priority on the most efficient preparation for achieving the best possible heavy workout.  I hope to convince you that a non-barbell warmup is actually the sensible way to go and that it rarely makes any sense to ever touch a bar which weighs much less than 70% of a max for any exercise.

Barbells Up, Dumbbells Down Part 4 – Bob Karhan


by John McKean

My all-round cohort and good buddy from Cleveland, Bob Karhan, has done more dumbbell home training than most. Very few trainees these days can match big Bob’s pure pressing power, the result of many years of concentrated work with various forms of dumbbell pressing. He’s kindly agreed to share some of his findings:

When training dumbbells I usually do 1-2 sets after my barbell exercises. For example, after a heavy press behind neck session I take a heavy pair of dumbbells and do a set of 5-6 reps in the dumbbell press. If this is fairly easy, I’ll add weight and go for on more set of 3-5 reps. If the first set proves to be a gut-buster, I’ll skip the second set.

I prefer sticking to a rep scheme of 3-8. The first rep always proves to be essential to jockey for ideal dumbbell positioning and establish coordination between muscle groups. Repetitions eventually enable one to discover a personal groove and fine tune it over the course of time. Only dumbbells permit this minute adjustment of positioning. In fact, I seriously doubt whether any two individuals could have the exact same degree of push.

In IAWA competition, the center of the ‘bell handles for presses can’t be higher than the clavicles. This presents a new level of difficulty because the initial drive requires a shoulder and elbow rotation to get the ‘bells started. This motion has a tendency to get the dumbbells out of one’s groove. By doing the exercise this way, the amount of weight is reduced by about 10-15% while shoulder aggravation is increased by 50%. It’s always important with dumbbells to work a lift in the most comfortable manner.

One other way to develop dumbbell power is to employ 2” dumbbell handles. These are hard to control and they’re tremendous for developing the grip. Mostly, when you go back to the standard 1” handles they feel like mere toys in your hands.

Barbells Up, Dumbbells Down Part 3 – The Nuts and Bolts

by John McKean

Sort of a surprise for any who have read my previous articles expounding the use of heavy single-rep lifts, but dumbbell strength training is best done is sets of 3-6 reps. At least a triple seems necessary to develop coordination and groove, absolutely essential to successful dumbbell work. In many gym experiments I’ve discovered I could take a particular poundage and do three good but fairly taxing reps with the dumbbell, then go but 5 pounds heavier only to find the stubborn ‘bells just wouldn’t budge an inch. Friends related exactly the same experience. So, if a “gym limit” can usually be pumped for 3-4 reps instead of only one, you might as well shoot for this number.

Singles can be attempted on widely spaced occasions – you need something to shoot for. But with dumbbells there’s a lot more control factors against you, and conditions won’t always be regulated as with a barbell. Your mood, drive, groove, coordination, incentive, and a well-rested, ready body has to be exactly in tune for that new dumbbell record. Plus, as any experienced dumbbell aficionado will tell you, it’s all too easy to mentally burn out on the short bars if you attempt too many maxes too frequently. Sad to report, misses with even previous marks occur a lot. Seems you must lose a little occasionally before your body allows you to advance. But take heart. When you do hit a new limit you’ll discover a unique exhilaration, ‘cause the dumbbells will let you know that you’ve really worked for and deserve it.

Many of us find that our top dumbbell weights are most easily achieved when done for a single set of 3-5 reps performed directly following a short session of singles with a similar barbell move. For instance, we work a standard barbell press for 70% x 1, 80% x 1, 90% x 1, then finish – almost a “backdown set” – with a dumbbell press for, say a set of 4 reps. Since the dumbbell move is tougher and always lighter than its big brother barbell exercise, the body, and especially the mind, are better prepared (tricked) for dumbbell intensity when backing down to it instead of progressively building up in sets. It’s just so important to allow that first dumbbell rep to go smoothly and seem fairly light. Following that, reps 2, 3, 4 and, maybe 5, almost always flow easily. But there’s no second chance if the first one sticks.

A few barbell-up, dumbbell-down combos you may wish to try include snatches/swings, barbell hack squats/dumbbell deadlifts, push presses/one arm jerks, cheat curls/incline dumbbell curls, power cleans/dumbbell pullups, etc. Again, not that dumbbell lifts can’t be trained by themselves – some, such as all-rounds torturous two-hands anyhow, can’t be trained any other way. It’s just that quicker advances in poundages and better quality training come when the dumbbell lifts are combined with heavy single barbell movements. Just remember the formula of 4 sets of 1 with the barbell, 1 set of 4 with the dumbbell.

Progression can best be summed up this way – don’t be in too much of a hurry. Keep plugging at that set of 3-5 reps with a consistent poundage, workout after workout, until it starts to feel light and easy. Then just nudge the dumbbells up by 5 pounds the next session. Some may prefer to gradually raise reps, starting at 4 and eventually achieving 7 with a given weight before upping the poundage and starting over at 3 or 4. Regardless of which progression you prefer, always be a bit cautious during that next workout with the weight jump – attack it, because that addition of a mere 5 pounds per hand may prove far heavier than you expect. Smaller weight increases with loading dumbbells can be achieved by off-loading, or adding a single plate to only one side of the bell.

Barbells Up, Dumbbells Down Part 2 – A Lesson in Abbreviation

by John McKean

A good friend of mine – our past U.S. National All-Round President, Howard Prechtel – relates how he once specialized for a one-year period on the dumbbell clean & press as his only upper-body exercise. His only other exercise was the half-squat in a power rack. He stayed away from his regular gym at the time to increase his concentration on these two movements (and to avoid unnecessary “advice” from training partners who would have chided him for such limited training). When the year was up, a muscularly massive Howard Prechtel confidently strode into the training hall to easily clean and strict press over 300 pounds on a barbell – at least 50 pounds more than he had ever done before. Teammates were literally flabbergasted – this was absolutely without steroids, and they couldn’t figure out how this gym drop-out pulled it off. You can bet, tho’, that ole Howie didn’t wave around lightweight bells during his escape time from conventional stale routines.

Barbells Up, Dumbbells Down Part 1 – Dumbbell Training

by John McKean

Paul Anderson, Louis Cyr, Arthur Saxon, Hermann Goerner, Doug Hepburn, and John McKean. The question behind this answer is, “Name five all-time superstars of strength who extensively employed heavy dumbbells in training, and one other guy!” Of course, yours truly is the lowly other guy, but I do enjoy standing on the shoulders of these giants to seek some of the progress they found through brutally-intense dumbbell work.

Unfortunately, most dumbbell work nowadays is relegated to lightweight shaping movements, or, at most, relatively high-rip, non-goal oriented exercise with poundages that are “comfortable”. I don’t even like to recall how many gyms I’ve visited where the heavy half of the dumbbell rack is as dusty and untouched as their bench uprights shiny and worn.

Why is this? Simple – dumbbells hurt. That is, in exactly the opposite manner to how exercise machines ease and rob the work of a similar barbell move, dumbbells call for even more total bodily involvement than a long bar. Where machines isolate, dumbbells, on the other hand, require extreme control, utilization of many stabilizing muscles, coordination between muscle groups, and total concentration. They have a longer range of motion than barbells or machines, and bombard deep-lying muscle fibers from many different angles. Most importantly, with some intense effort, seriously-heavy dumbbells eventually adapt to our own personal groove – we’re forced to learn to control the weighty little beasts, and best compensate for out individual leverages. Eventually, then, we discover (perhaps even subconsciously) our own optimum angles of push or pull, to capitalize on innermost strengths.

Many of the old-time strongmen never seemed to lack incentive to go to limit poundages on dumbbell lifts. Of course, back then they regularly contested dumbbell clean & jerks, presses, snatches, swings, and the crucifix. A look at U.S. and British record lists printed in magazines from the 1920s and 30s will show a slew of dumbbell marks which were recorded under official conditions. Do we have any such incentive today? You bet! Under the auspices of the IAWA we currently have 27 registered dumbbell lifts to go after. And, brother, if you thought my insistence on training barbell limits in past articles was taxing, I’m really setting you up for a wonderful world of pain this time.

No, you may not be interested in jumping into one of our dumbbell competitions – the British would call these “single arm championships” – but you sure can obtain huge overall strength gains while bringing out previously unnoticed lumps, bumps and strands of muscle. All that’s required is the desire to see just how heavy a single rep you can eventually achieve with one or more dumbbell lifts. Specialize if you care to, or build a total routine on 4-10 dumbbell moves per week.

Art Montini

by John McKean

This is Art from his "younger days'. This picture is prominently displayed in the Ambridge VFW Barbell Club.

” I LOVE the aches and pains every morning! They tell me that I didn’t die in my sleep!!” Then, to assert this positive life-force, eighty four year old Art Montini heads to the gym every morning at 5 AM to lift weights. HEAVY ones!

You see, Art Montini of Aliquippa, Pennsylvania is perhaps the premiere Master (over age of 40) weightlifter in the world! He has been a competitor in olympic style weightlifting, powerlifting, and all-round lifting for 64 years and a master lifter for 44 of those years.He currently holds around 250 US national records in All-Round weightlifting for the USAWA which places him as first or second on the list for most records ever ( Art laughs at his good friend and record-numbers competitor, Denny Habecker, the USAWA national president. “He’s just a “kid” of 67!”,crows Montini.).But Art has proven that heavy training, rather than lightweight “over 50″ programs is the fountain of youth & vitality.

With no sign of letting up (Art has been known to leave a hospital from minor surgery and typical age related procedures to drive straight to the gym for a workout!),  Montini plans to compete in this year’s All-Round National Championships in Lebanon,PA , set a few more records in the World’s Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, and finish the year by lifting in his own , annual birthday meet in Ambridge,PA.These days in his age group division of 80+ , ole Art doesn’t have a lot of head-on competition, but is quick to reveal his current secret of success -”If at first ya can’t outlift ‘em, OUTLIVE ‘em!”

Seven Priniciples for Cleaning and Pressing Dumbbells

by John McKean

Mark Mitchell, of the Dino Gym, holds the Overall Record in the Clean and Press - 2 Dumbbells in the 125+ KG Class with a lift of 230 pounds (this is a picture of that record). This record was performed in the 2004 IAWA Postal Meet.

1.) Principles of cleaning and pressing barbells apply. You need an easy clean. If you’re stumbling all over as you rack the dumbells, or have to muscle them in over the last few inches, your chances of making a maximum single, triple, or even a set of five are slim.

2.) Concentrate on speed when you clean dumbells. You have to turn the dumbells over fast which requires getting the elbows to move rapidly. Remember, you’re not doing hammer curls.

3.) Dumbell cleans are easier if one uses ‘bells with thin, flat-style plates. I prefer 12½’s myself, the fewer plates the better. Hexagon-shaped dumbells are noticeably harder to clean, at least 90’s and up.

4.) For home training, spiral-lock dumbells are best. They can be changed quickly, and you never have to worry about the collars falling off and causing potential injury.

5.) For pressing heavy dumbells it’s essential to have a solid base. Total-body work comes into play here as you must maintain tight thighs and hips.

6.) When pressing the heaviest dumbells, I prefer palms facing each other, with elbows facing forward and angled slightly outward (as opposed to elbows to the sides).

7.) Keep dumbells directly over the shoulders and concentrate on driving them straight up, always being attentive to prevent the ‘bells from wandering out to the sides.

The Ambridge VFW Barbell Club

by John McKean

John McKean and Art Montini of the Ambridge VFW Barbell Club

Earlier this year the Ambridge VFW Barbell Club celebrated its 50th anniversary ! It was jointly founded by the USAWA’s own Art Montini and his long time friend, Harry McCoy, who went on to serve many terms as Western Pennsylvania’s Chairman of Olympic weightlifting. It was neat to see both men in attendance at the recent USAWA 3 man challenge meet!

Since the early 1960s the Ambridge club has been a hotbed of weightlifting competition. At one time or another, most of the top dogs in the Eastern US in olympic and power lifting, and physique competitors attended these exciting contests. Remember Phil Grippaldi, Tony Fratto, Hugh Cassidy, Frank Remschell, Mr America past 40 Jim Karas, Bob Weaver, George Crawford, Cal Shake, Roger Estep,etc,etc? -all attended VFW meets! Later, with Art, Bill DiCioccio, and me getting into the initial USAWA meets, it was just a natural to host annual all-round contests along with several nationals. Heck, Art’s birthday meet alone has gone on longer than most clubs last these days!

Part of the charm of the Ambridge gym is its old style “hardcore” decor -mostly older olympic sets and pegs chock full of plates, solid iron dumbbells, sturdy racks & benches, and multiple lifting platforms. Yes, there are a few heavy duty machines in the lower part of the gym, but even these “bodybuilding devises” only got in by heated screaming matches during rather wild club meetings!! Training here has always been geared to huge strength and lifting competition, so the well used barbells show more wear and tear than do lat machines seen in most health spas!

A key feature of many of the racks, supports, and odd gear seen in the gym is that they were mostly homemade, and one-of-a-kind. That is, during the 60s the local steel mills were thriving and most of the members were steelworkers – these guys were terrific at welding together all manner of heavy duty structures that would withstand an A-bomb! No one ever asked about the limits of a stairladder squat rack, for instance, because one look at it would quickly convince any user that its support limits would outdo even Paul Anderson’s top weights! If a member feels a piece of steel looks damaged or somehow unsturdy, or just needs modification, almost as his concern is expressed, ole Art Montini has his welding mask on and torch aflame! Believe me, it can make for a unique training session when sparks and superheated metal are flying around -even the rats run for cover (just kiddin’ , never saw a rat during my 43 year membership ,tho Art early in the morning and unshaven is close!).

All members dues,always quite reasonable, have been continually invested in new equipment. It may have been rather Spartan in 1960 when Art and Harry first pooled their own barbells and plates, but quickly evolved into a barbell club that would easily satisfy a healthy roomful of dedicated iron men. Regular clean-up and maintenance crews keep things tidy yet rugged looking. I well remember attending my first power meet at the VFW -it was the most impressive, well equipped “dungeon” I’d ever been in ; even the extensive solid dumbbells on the long rack had been freshly painted a neat shade of dark blue just for that contest! I immediately promised myself that right after graduating from college I was gonna join this group who took such pride in their facility!

I have to fondly recall the many big olympic, power, all-round, and physique meets held upstairs from the gym. This was in the large “dance hall” and stage behind the VFW’s bar on the main floor. Meets would begin at 9 am in the good old days, and last well past midnight! The place was packed with spectators, and even was often stacked 3 deep in the surrounding overhead balcony, and had all the noisy atmosphere that a big sporting event SHOULD have! Great food was sold (and sold OUT!) by the ladies auxillary upstairs, and the “occasional” lifter or official would sometimes sneak out to the front bar for a quick beer! The only problem was dressing downstairs in the locker room just below the lifting platform -when the olympic lifters dropped a big one the lights& rafters always threatened to bury those down below (never actually happened,though!)!

Nowadays, some of the old time trainees have departed, but current competitors, new barbell buffs, and student athletes still frequent this friendly old pit ! If you haven’t visited already, be sure to attend one of the upcoming USAWA meets that we’re planning!

Club Challenge

USAWA Club Challenge

by John McKean

Group Picture from the 2010 USAWA Club Challenge

It started as a rainy day, but with snow freshly gone, temperatures up, daylight savings about to begin (the promise of longer fun-filled days!), and lifters traveling in from Kansas, Ohio, Maryland, and Lebanon (the town, not the country!), we couldn’t help but begin the morning on a real high! Art & I got things opened up early and prepared at the VFW dungeon, after which Art drove the short distance across the bridge over a rising & fast moving Ohio River to his home to arouse the still slumbering Kansas contingent of Al, Chad, and Rudy!

Meanwhile Big Ernie Beath & his folks popped out of their motor home, parked right outside the VFW, and prepared for an early record assault! The long drive from Maryland the night before, through pounding rain, didn’t give ole Ern the best rest, but he looked all of his 400# worth of awesome power! He warmed up, and when officials arrived, he started the morning with an awesome push press, which unfortunately didn’t hit the groove, but sure woke everyone up when the 410# hit the floor! Passing the reload, Ern went to a few “easy” french presses (tricep extension, standing), ending with a strict, phenomenal 201 pounds! Now EVERYONE was psyched to begin lifting!!

Plates were loaded and we began our “round robin” (first “robin” of Spring? Sorry, couldn’t resist saying that!) approach to the challenge lifts of the 2 bar (2 inches thick) vertical lift,one arm dumbbell snatch, reflex clean & push press, and thick bar straddle lift. As Al noted, these particular lifts are not often contested and gave us all a chance to go for personal bests & records! And we discovered quickly that vertical bar lifts can be slippery on humid early mornings, though Chad offered a unique approach by lifting only his right vertical bar on the heavy attempts – maybe a new lift to be introduced will be his new “see-saw vertical bar lift”!!

Old Art Montini, at the high end of the age groups, was his usual efficient self – as astounded contestants noted “the ole man never missed an attempt!” He rarely does – a habit acquired from always training at 4 AM every morning & not wanting to wake everyone up! At the young end of the spectrum was Denny Habecker’s 15-year-old phenomenon, Kohl, who had his brother drive him cross state, starting at 4 that morning! Kohl made Denny proud (Denny couldn’t make the meet, being hampered with bronchial pneunomia and with strict orders from his doctor – and Judy(!!!!) – not to travel.) with new records in most of the events & especially impressive flair for the quick lifts. His explosive one arm snatch with long hair flying was a meet highlight for me (maybe if I trained that lift as well as Kohl, my own hair – all 3 strands of it – would regrow!!!). Talk about a young “Samson”!!

Man, was it neat to meet Rudy! This 70-some “youngster” really has the enthusiasm to lift and kept us all energetic with his passion for the sport! From what I hear, Rudy hasn’t been away from his wide open spaces of home much, so spending time in the crowded, old former steel towns of Ambridge/ Aliquippa must have reminded him “You ain’t in Kansas anymore!.” But his strength & form were awe inspiring!

Of course the old vets of olympic and powerlifting, Scott Schmidt from Cleveland and Big Al, did their usual efficient jobs with peak weights! Each captained their groups to team wins -Scott (and Kohl) took the 2- man team award (yeah, entering a 3-man team challenge with two people is like showing up at a gunfight with a knife!) and Al led the Kansas men to the overall 3-man challenge title!

The lifting concluded, the Ambridge & Kansas guys, who didn’t have to travel home right away, enjoyed the home cooking of Ambridge’s famed Maple Restaurant to ravenously devour the renowned roast beef. I believe Al & Chad set a new restaurant record, or would have liked to, on consuming their secret beef gravy! As we all said our goodbyes, they were still talking lifting, fishing, basketball, and looking just ahead to the ice cream store next where Art was leading them!

Results:

USAWA Club Challenge
Ambridge VFW BBC
Ambridge, Pennsylvania
March 13th, 2010

Meet Director:  John McKean

Officials – 3 officials used on all lifts: Art Montini, John McKean, Scott Schmidt, Al Myers, Chad Ullom

Lifts:  Snatch – One Arm, Dumbbell, Reflex Clean and Push Press, Vertical Bar Deadlift – 2 bars, 2″, Jefferson Lift – Fulton Bar

Results:

1. Dino Gym – 2715.08 adjusted points

Lifter Age
BWT DB Snatch
Reflex C&PP
VB DL
Jefferson
Al Myers
43 252 146 (R)
224 338 533
Chad Ullom
38 239 136 (R)
245 338 453
Rudy Bletscher
74 221 50 (R)
88 258 255

2.  Ambridge VFW Barbell Club – 2368.66 adjusted points

Lifter Age BWT DB Snatch
Reflex C&PP
VB DL
Jefferson
John McKean
64 174 51 (R)
103 283 353
Art Montini
82 174 35 (L)
65 178 210
Ernie Beath
28 400 121 (R)
251 338 323

3.  Habecker’s Gym – 1709.41 adjusted points

Lifter Age BWT DB Snatch
Reflex C&PP
VB DL
Jefferson
Scott Schmidt
57 259 92 (R)
198 358 303
Kohl Hess
15 272 96 (R)
138 313 407


BWT is bodyweight. All lifts recorded in pounds.

Extra Attempts for Records:
Ernie Beath  – French Press 201 pounds
Chad Ullom – Reflex Clean and Push Press 265 pounds
John McKean – One Arm Dumbbell Snatch 67 pounds (Right)
Al Myers – Reflex Clean and Push Press 250 pounds
Art Montini – Reflex Clean and Push Press 75 pounds

Meeting Louis Cyr

by John McKean

Statue of Louis Cyr in Montreal

While attending the 1987 Master’s Pan Am weightlifting championships ( I believe I was 41 at the time and had trimmed down to 132 # -too much aerobics!), my friend & driver John Harrison and I got slightly lost in the suburb of Montreal between the meet venue and our hotel. This was the third or fourth time we had become lost in that sprawling city during that exciting weekend! Since the hotel was only about 2 miles away, we knew we couldn’t be that far off course! Another group of lifters were following us back and, of course, they didn’t know exactly where we were either. So we pulled off beside a tiny park to check the map. As we got out of the cars some one pointed over and exclaimed “Look at that!! Isn’t that Louis Cyr?!” We all eyeballed the massive, well weathered statue and couldn’t miss the inscription! We lifters were like school kids over this find! Was this the neighborhood that Cyr himself once roamed?

In case anyone is not sure, Cyr is the big one in the background and the tiny figure in the bottom right in a similar pose (I think at that bodyweight I had the advantage in shape & definition over ole Louie for this pose-off!!) is yours truly! I captioned the photo as ” Louis Cyr asking John for All-Round training advice!”

Later we asked our Canadian hosts ( who did one heck of a job in hosting this big event) about the statue and they seemed completely mystified, not knowing of its existence. Since that time, in fact, NO ONE who I’ve ever heard of has seen this really cool statue! We couldn’t even locate it again ourselves when describing it to other lifters back at the hotel. Thank goodness we took the photo! I thought it would be neat to display this since the recent article appeared in a recent Daily News below.( the pic since has inspired me to bulk up!!).

John’s B-day Record Day

by John McKean

Nature threw us one of its usual December curves with snow squalls on Saturday, which kept some away, but Sunday was sunny and clear, though cold! Art & I arrived early and weren’t sure if anyone would show up when the gym was still empty at 8:30, but we had a surprise official turn up for a workout – young Bill DiCioccio, veteran of most USAWA meets during the 90s. Then Big Ernie Beath, now at 400 pounds, “crowded” the gym all by himself! He and his mom & dad had driven their van up the previous day to slowly traverse any weather problems; traveling slow through the mountain areas, his dad said the drive from Maryland took almost 11 hours (normally 5). Then Scott & Cathy Schmidt bounced in from Cleveland – didn’t even see white stuff on the way over! Denny Habecker had given us frantic phone calls the evening before as he was almost snowed under in Lebanon, but made the drive on Sunday in record time!

Big Ernie was anxious to start and began as everyone else was just getting settled in. The drive & weather set him back just a bit, as he could “only” manage a rack jerk of 406 pounds!! He tried 426 three times, but had trouble holding the lockout!! Well, he may have been tired, but that lifting sure woke the rest of us up!! Ernie also did an EASY rack push press of 386. and a dumbbell side press of 154 that looked more like a strict stance DB press!! Denny, Art, and Kohl Hess, a promising new teen who Denny brought over, did the postal meet qualifying lifts under official judging, and set a few records while doing so! Of course ole Art ,just had to throw in a few extra lifts for records, as did the always smiling Scott Schmidt (probably smiling because his rolling barbell after the set down almost nailed me twice!). Even this old man, though not quite my birthday yet ( on the 15th I turn 64; all gifts freely accepted!!!), managed to lose the “return from retirement” rust to post a few new marks!

We managed to get done at about 12:30, so it turned out to be a very efficient session. Everyone was so enthused about the ” BIG WORKOUT” at the club, that Art & I have agreed to conduct several more throughout the calendar year. Heck, the gym is fairly vacant on Sundays, and it doesn’t cost us anything !! Besides EVERYONE does their best lifting with the shared adrenaline flowing through the air (or is that smell just our gym mold, some of which is almost older than Art??!!), and our new record certificates are already a hit! See ya all there at upcoming meets!

FOR FULL MEET RESULTS:

John’s Birthday Record Day

(and National Postal Meet Qualifier)

Ambridge VFW Barbell Club, Ambridge, PA

December 6, 2009

All lifts listed in pounds except as noted

IAWA International Officials: (3 judges on all lifts)

Art Montini, Denny Habecker, Scott Schmidt, John McKean

Results:

John McKean – 174.5 lbs., 63 years old, 60+ 80K Class

Ciavattone Deadlift                    335

One-Arm Hack (L)                     175

One-Arm Hack (R)                    215

One-DB DL (R)                         225

Hack Lift – 2″ Bar                       275

Art Montini – 181 lbs, 82 years old, 80+ 85 K Class

Clean and Press – 2″ Bar          65

2 Hands Anyhow DB/BB           60

Clean & Push Press                 80

Zercher                                     158

Ciavattone DL                           200

Denny Habecker – 200 lbs, 67 years old, 65+ 95 K Class

Clean & Push Press                148

Zercher                                     215

Ciavattone DL                          290

Scott Schmidt – 262 lbs., 57 years old, 55+ 120 K Class

Clean & Seated Press-Behind Neck             75K

Clean & Seated Press                                   80K

Vertical Bar DL – 1 bar, 1″,  (L)                      92.5K

2 Hand (1 bar) 1″ Vertical Bar Deadlift          150K

Kohl Hess – 264 lbs., 15 years old, Jr. 14-15 120 K Class

Clean & Push Press                130

Zercher                                     215

Ciavattone DL                           290

Ernie Beath – 400 lbs., 28 years old, Open 125+ Class

Jerk From Rack                             406

Push Press From Rack                386

Overhead Squat (Arms Ext)          251

RH Side Press DB                        154

LH Side Press DB                         134

Alternate Grip Clean & Press        225

Reverse Grip Clean & Press         225

IAWA Finger Lift Challenge

International “Tough Guy” Finger Lift Challenge

by John McKean

On a gorgeous Pennsylvania Fall day, IAWA president Steve Gardner and his always charming wife Karen convinced their American hosts, the equally charming USAWA first couple, Denny and Judy Habecker, to travel to Ambridge to challenge a not-so-charming pair, Art Montini and John McKean, to an impromptu finger lift team meet. Steve had the great idea that a friendly visit to the VFW “cave” would prove more sociable if we actually lifted something while amidst our usual spirited conversation (it’s rumored that Art only speaks in grunts if something heavy is not in his hands!). We were honored that Steve and Karen would spend some of their three-week American vacation with us at the Ambridge gym!

Steve set up three teams – the two ladies were the female team, Steve & Denny were the “presidential” reps, and Art & I were the Ambridge grunge boys! (Well, Steve had nicer team names!). So we agreed to do the index finger, ring finger, and middle finger ring lifts. We had a lot of laughs and some very sore fingers!! Karen and Judy did some very impressive pulls, with their efforts threatening to make the rest of us look bad at the onset! But in the final tally, ole 82 year old Art Montini was the star of the show, with quick effortless pulls of very heavy, record weights; the guy seems to feel no pain!

After the lifting and Steve’s meticulous tallies of scores, Art showed us an amazing little home cooking restaurant on one of the side streets of downtown Ambridge. The food was as amazing as the lifting and the magical day we shared as all-round “brothers (and sisters) of Iron”! With the sun just retreating over the hills of the Steel Valley, Steve, Karen, Denny, and Judy headed back to Lebanon, content with a good day’s work!

FULL MEET RESULTS:

IAWA Tough Guy Finger Lift Challenge

WHERE’S THE BEEF? At Future USAWA meets!

by John McKean

John McKean and Ernie "Beef" Beath

His online handle is “Beef” and at 6′2″ and 390 pounds, big Ernie Beath sure fits the billing! The polite and pleasant 28-year-old strongman from Cambridge, Maryland, and I started e-mailing sometime back, and I was simply astounded over his reported training poundages. It was only natural that the pressing variations he favors be verified for the world by doing them in sanctioned USAWA events, and he was most anxious to acquire official verification. So Ernie traveled over to Ambridge for Art’s annual Birthday Bash Record Day, and wasted no time doing a perfect world record rack push press with 381 pounds. It was so easy that we talked him into a 401 pound attempt, which was almost locked out, perhaps simply a victim of first meet jitters! But he’ll try over 400 at our December 6 meet (We’d like a big turnout guys!!! Come on over!) and will take a shot at a huge JERK from the rack, where’s his gym best is over 450!!

Ernie is a home trainee, and has developed his training concepts almost entirely on his own. He found out early on that he could make best strength gains with heavy singles, so goes almost to top limits on a variety of lifts (2 or 3 per session, 4 times per week on average) every workout. He really enjoys pushing big weights overhead, doing things like the above mentioned presses & jerks from the rack, clean & press behind the neck, and even strict presses while seated flat on the floor. However, he’s not too keen on flat benches or lying down to lift, ever since a training accident with 700 pounds in the partial close grip bench press cost him an eye (after the hospitalization, he bounced right back to the heavy lifting that means so much to him!).

Ernie Beath and a 381 pound Push Press from Rack

A true all-rounder, Ernie has always done “variations” from standard lifts, even without knowing about us in the USAWA, such as Zerchers, squats with the bar held overhead in snatch position, various close stance deadlift forms, and high pulls/continental types. An unusual move that both Ernie and I are trying to get established as an official IAWA lift is the bent over row in both strict and “power” forms. The Beefster hauls in over 500 pounds in this back strengthening, total body movement. Again he relegates this typical bodybuilding exercise away from its normal roots by pulling exclusively with heavy singles!

Another unique aspect of Ernie’s training is his use of heavy chains over the barbell. Quite often, for jerks, presses, and front squats he’ll place a 60 pound chain over each end of the bar. And on “good” days he has a pair of 100# chains! Of course the lifts start with lesser weight, with much of the chain linkage on the ground, but by lift’s end, ALL that unwieldy weight comes together! Ernie claims a regular 400# jerk with a barbell, for example, seems so easy and balanced in comparison to one with his heavy, awkward chains!!

We are fortunate to be witnessing just the beginning from this youthful behemoth ! A most welcome newcomer to our USAWA fraternity, I’m sure Ernie’s name will soon be all over the record book!

Art’s Birthday Bash

Wonderful Lifting at Art’s Birthday Bash

by John McKean

Caveman Art Montini - He's been lifting weights for over 60 Years!

On a gorgeous,crisp Fall day, ole Art Montini turned 82 ;rare when the annual meet falls exactly on the old boy’s actual birth date,but it happened this year! And,as usual, Art was at the gym setting up at 6:30 AM & trying to keep flys off the donuts and cake that he treats us to each year! His first “customer” was newcomer, 28 year old Ernie Beath from Maryland, all 390 pounds of him (Art immediately tried to hide the donuts,but Earnie turned out to be an amazingly light eater!). Actually Earnie arrived the night before with his parents in their spacious motor home ,and in need of a place to park for the night. Art knew that the Ambridge police chief was a long time member of our gym so Earnie & family got to park in the safest spot in town, the police station lot (as Earnie’s mom bragged, “Our first arrest!”)!

After the group from Cleveland arrived and USAWA prez Denny Habecker made it in from Lebanon, we were set to go. Amazing athlete Dennis Mitchell immediately decided to chisel up his 77 yr old abs a bit more and embarked on a marathon Roman Chair situp session; he broke his former record by 5 reps with a steady ,perfect grind-out of 525 reps in 38 minutes!

Then Art Montini showed us an amazing teeth lift with 128 # -of course we teased him that he should get extra credit for the lift because he’s lifting with just his one remaining tooth (kidding,of course, he has a full,natural set. Years of good Italian food must yield strong,durable chompers!!).

Denny Habecker did 5 good records,following a 4 1/2 hour morning drive. Since he did things like a reverse curl,one arm deadlifts, and odd grip presses, we all figured that long sessions at the steering wheel must be great arm warmups!

Scott and Kathy Schmidt made their annual appearance, and we always enjoy their good cheer and smiling faces, with Scott displaying his usual olympic lift perfection on moves like the continental and the push press.

Of course, a huge (and I mean HUGE!) surprise and treat for us all was watching the very first all-round contest of the aforementioned Earnie Beath (who,not too unexpectantly , goes by the nickname “Beef”!). Earnie had been emailing over the past few months and expressed interest in getting official credit for his pressing ability; I was fascinated with his ultra heavy training methods and the lifts he modestly admitted to. Despite meet nerves and some travel fatique, Earnie showed rock solid power in the push press from racks- he went through attempts of 315 pounds, 361, and 381 as easily as I can push press a bare bar (maybe easier!!). He actually tried a fourth attempt at 401 and only missed at the very top of the lockout!! All his records this time were in pressing moves, including some he’d never tried before,such as the reflex and alternate grip. Believe me, this young man is nowhere near his potential yet, and now has the incentive of USAWA competition to spur him on! A most welcome addition to our USAWA family!

And as the lifts were all done just before 1 PM,Art & I threw them all out of the gym so we could rush home to watch our Superbowl champion Steelies beat Detroit. A most productive birthday for Art!

FULL MEET RESULTS:

Copy of o9 bash meet

Strength Through Variety (Part 4)

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

by John McKean

John McKean performing a 2-Bar Deadlift.

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

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

John McKean perfoming an One Arm Deadlift.

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

Round 2: 85%

Round 3: 92½ %

Round 4: 100%

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

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

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

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

Strength Through Variety (Part 3)

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

by John McKean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strength Through Variety (Part 2)

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

by John McKean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strength Through Variety (Part 1)

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

by John McKean

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

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

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

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

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

Powerlifting Saved This Man’s Life!

by John McKean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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