The EZ-Way Formula

by Thom Van Vleck

I like to read old weightlifting magazines….well….I like to read anything related to weightlifting!  Recently Wayne Gardner, an “old timer” in the Jackson Weightlifting Club, gave me a bunch of old magazines and books.  With this treasure trove was three issues of Dan DeWelt’s “Powerlifting News”.  Dan put this newsletter/magazine out in the 70’s for a time.  Mike Lambert who put out Powerlifting USA for 25 years was inspired by Dan.

As I was reading the February 1973 issue I found a very short article on the EZ-Way Formula to arrive at the best lifter.  It was written by Bob Shadron who seemed to be inspired to come up with something easier than the Hoffman Formula.   Shadron  said “….we can replace the Hoffman Formula for good”.  He also touts it to be accurate and fair at all bodyweights.

The formula is simple.  You divide the lifter’s bodyweight into their total or the lift.  Round that number to the nearest 100th of a percent (10.591 would become 10.59).  You end up with the the number of “times bodyweight” lifted.  You then add to this the lifter’s body weight divided by 100 (a 251lb lifter gets a factor of 2.51).  Shadron claims the second number “assures that a heavier lifter gets a little more credit….than a lighter lifter….in direct proportion to the increase in bodyweight.

So, using my examples, a lifter that lifted 10.59 of their bodyweight would add their factor of 2.51 to get a final coefficient of 13.1.

I’m not promoting this formula, just reporting it.  I know Al Myers enjoys “analyzing” these types of things (after all, he’s the “facts” guy and I’m the “fluff” guy!) so maybe Al will break this down or tear it apart!  Whichever the case may be.  I just found it interesting and thought I would share it.  Don’t worry!  I don’t plan on bringing it up to replace our current system…even it it does appear to favor the heavier lifter.

What makes OTSM Different?

by Thom Van Vleck

John O'Brien had the top Apollons Lift of the OTSM Championships with this 300 pound lift.

First, please notice I said “different”.  Not BETTER, just different.  Al Myers came up with the concept for Old Time Strong Man contests to bring something different to the USAWA.  I really like the idea.  This does not mean I don’t like the regular USAWA.  On the contrary, I like the idea a lot!  But I have also been a fan of Strongman Contests as well.  I also think a lot of the other USAWA members do as well.  The OTSM brings that strongman flavor, but does something to it that no strongman contest does.  It allows for the events to be loaded to weights that will suit any age group, skill level, weight class, or gender.  Basically, it makes Strongman accessible to everyone, makes it quantifiable (for record keeping purposes that are legit), and brings it in line with the USAWA tenants that we all appreciate (drug testing for one!).

One of the things I like about the OTSM format is how the lifter is allowed several chances to complete a lift within the one minute time limit.  I think this adds some real excitement and drama to the meet.  Several successful lifts in this meet would not have been allowed in the format used by not only the regular USAWA and IAWA meets, but in any Olympic or Powerlifting contest.  For example, John O’Brien called for 300lbs on his final Appollon’s Axle attempt.  He pulled the weight, racked it, then missed the jerk….however, he still had time, so he pulled a second time, racked it, and made a very solid jerk.  This was the only 300lb lift of the meet in the Appollon’s Lift.  For those watching, it is really exciting to see something like that!  I know the limits placed on earlier meets was a time factor, but usually the lift is made quickly and it really doesn’t take much more time with the few times the whole minute is used.

Another thing I like that this format has over regular strongman contests is how you can start with any weight you want.  It brings the best part of a regular weightlifting meets in a Strongman format.  You get three attempts, you can start at any weight and go up to weights that are within your ability.  In most strongman meets, you have one weight for all…..and in my book, “one size does NOT fit all”.   This way, you can have a meet where young and old, the super strong and the weekend warrior, can all take part.

A third thing is the relaxed rules.  Most USAWA regular lifts have pretty strict interpretations on how the lift will be performed, with good reason.  But for the novice lifter or most spectators, this can lead to confusion or frustration when the complete a lift or see a lift completed only have it turned down on a technicality.  To those of us “in the know” we understand perfectly….but for many a slight press out leaves them shaking their heads.  OTSM has many lifts where the lifter can get a weight up multiple ways with few rules.  As a result, very few lifts are turned down upon completion.  This is very spectator friendly in my book!

Now, I do want to take some time to address some criticisms I’ve heard about the OTSM.  Some have to do with the very nature of it (relaxed rules, etc).  Not much I can say about that.  It is what it is.  But some things I can address.  I have heard concerns that we have enough in the USAWA already.  Why do we need more.  Well, first of all, that’s the very nature of those that have come to the USAWA!  Guys who were satisfied with the Olympic lifts stayed with those lifts, but there were a group of guys who weren’t and powerlifting was born…and so on.  The USAWA adds lifts every year!  I would argue that’s just who we are.  Plus, have you ever watched the Olympics….how many swimming styles do we need to compete, gymnastics events, running events?!?!  Nobody complains about why we need a 200 meter champion when we already have a 100 meter champion.   It’s just more ways to have fun and enjoy sports.  Track and Field has two shot put world champs every year…indoor and outdoor.  No big deal.

These seem to be the key differences to me.  It adds a nice wrinkle to all the USAWA offers and I think can serve  as a way to recruit new blood to the larger organization.  I think a lot of new people could get “hooked” into lifting through the OTSM and then as they became more “weightlifting savvy” we could draw them into the more structured lifting of the USAWA!  So, please, even if you don’t want to lift in the OTSM, help the rest of us out by supporting it by either helping at the meets or at the least supporting it through recommending it to others!  OTSM is still very much an experiment…..whether it stays is really up to everyone in the USAWA!   More fun for everyone!

Wayne Smith: 1932-2012

by Thom Van Vleck

Wayne Smith deadlifting the front end of a Volkswagon. This was one of Wayne's favorite photos.

Got word that one of our USAWA brothers and long time Jackson Weightlifting Club member Wayne Smith passed away.  Wayne was a guy that goes way back.  He did the “Odd Lifting” back in the 50’s and 60’s when Ed Zercher kept the records.  Smith even predates Bill Clark in his lifting career.  There are a couple of good stories on Wayne Smith archived in the website if you’d like to brush up on this great lifter.

http://www.usawa.com/wayne-smith-part-ii/

http://www.usawa.com/wayne-smith-all-round-legend-part-i/

The last meet Wayne attended was last year’s USAWA Nationals held in Kirksville, Missouri.  Wayne had to enjoy the meet as a spectator but he told me at one point how he itched to get on the platform.  He even said he hoped to get back into shape to do so!

I have many stories on Wayne, he was a unique individual that loved his weightlifting.  He encouraged me a lot and since he never had kids of his own, I think in some way he adopted me.  He would take photos around bragging on me and it made me want to live up to his stories!   Which made me train harder as sometimes Wayne could make a guy look too good!  But he always spoke highly of his friends, that was just him.  The last time I visited him he insisted that I go around the nursing home to introduce me to everyone.  He was a friend to all.

Wayne will be missed.  His funeral will be next Monday in Kirksville.  I you have a kind word about him you would like to pass on, send it to me at tvanvleck@yahoo.com.  I will make sure his family and friends get it.  His legend will live on, not because he was the greatest lifter but because he was the greatest friend.

OTSM Championships is now a FUNDRAISER!

by Thom Van Vleck

The OTSM Championships will be used to raise funds to buy more equipment for the Osteoblasters Weightlifting Club

The Old Time Strong Man Championships are just around the corner!  October 14, 2012 is the date for the 2nd  OTSM Championships and I have some exciting news.  This year we will be raising money for the Osteroblasters Weightlifting Club.  The OWC was formed just this past spring and has already been made an official University Organization with a membership of over 50 students making it one of the largest organizations on campus.  To give you some perspective, we have around 350 students on campus at any give time (with many students out on clinical rotations as our primary mission is creating physicians).  So, our membership represents a significant portion of the student population.   We have members of our club that are involved in Olympic lifting, Power lifting, Strongman, boxing, martial arts, cross fit, highland games, and many other sports where they use weightlifting to get better.  However, many of our members just realize that lifting weights is an integral part of an all around fitness program.  We promote a healthy, drug free lifestyle and for that reason, a USAWA meet seemed a great fit for a fundraiser.

Mike McIntyre is our club President and a student in our Biomed program (working on his master's degree) and a driving force in getting the OWC organized. Here Mike is doing Deadlifts with over 500lbs on the thick bar.

As the staff adviser for the club I help them with whatever their needs may be.  Right now, we need more equipment!   And you can help!  Come and compete at the OTSM Championships and I will be donating 100% (that’s right, 100%) of the entry fee money to the club!  You still have to buy your USAWA memberships (but really….shouldn’t you already have it!), but you can know that your entry fee will go to a good cause.

I have been amazed at the interest our club has generated and while the director of our campus Rec Center has been very generous in buying us equipment, we had no idea how many students would turn out for the club workouts!   We have over 30 showing up at 4 organized lifting sessions each week!  We need your help!  Sign up to compete today….and if you are feeling generous, anything extra you give will go to buying equipment and I would even consider donations of equipment for a trade for your entry!.  So bring what you have and we’ll let you donate it as your entry fee!   We will also have club shirts on sale for a fundraising (don’t worry, you will get a meet shirt, this is something just for the club).

Jared Nichols

I will repeat a previous story on the OTSM, we have moved it to the old Williard School Gym where I held Nationals last year!  Great location for a meet!   So come out and lift, and if you can’t lift, please come and help.  Don’t worry, you won’t get roped into loading (I have student club members for that!!!!)   I DOl need USAWA certified judges and experienced lifters to help coach my newbies in the warm up area on the rules and lifts…..there will be a lot of NEW lifters at this meet and they need coaching and mentoring!  While I will accept entries on the day of the meet, a heads up is always appreciated.  See you soon!

Update on the OTSM Championships for 2012

by Thom Van Vleck

2011 Group Photo....I hope to DOUBLE that number this year!

With the recent approval of new Old Time Strong Man events recently approved at the National meeting in Las Vegas I thought this would be as good a time as any to put in a plug for this year’s Championships.  Last year we had 10 lifters show for the contest.  This year I anticipate even more participants in this fun and exciting new area of lifting!  Regular readers of the website will know that I recently started a Weightlifting Club (see the article http://www.usawa.com/?s=osteoblasters&x=8&y=10) at the University I work at.  Many are interested in competing and helping out.  I have also been getting several inquiries from lifters who did not attend last year….so interest is looking good!

A great photo of Al doing the DB to the Shoulder, a newly recognized OTSM lift!

I recently ordered anvils for my awards.  These will be miniature anvils mounted on a base with the meet name and date.  The anvil has has become my “signature” award as it relates to the Jackson Weightlifting Club’s early beginnings and the lifting of Grandpa Jackson’s Anvil.  Which will be on hand if you want to lift a piece of family history!

So, click on the meet link on the homepage and download your meet entry today!   Make it a weekend and attend the Highland Games the day before the OTSM meet.  Looking forward to seeing you there!

Bob People’s Deadlift

by Thom Van Vleck

Bob Peoples doing some rack work showing the inspiration for the OTSM "Peoples Lift" (photo from www.zacheven-esh.com)

The Bob Peoples’ Deadlift was recently approved at the USAWA National meeting as an OTSM “official” lift.  You can take a crack at setting a record in this lift at the OTSM Championships to be held by the JWC in Kirksville, Missouri on Oct. 14 and entry can be found on the upcoming meets section on the USAWA homepage.  It is basically a Deadlift from 18″ off the ground instead of the standard Deadlift.  Here are the Official Rules:

Peoples Deadlift – This is a partial deadlift, where the bar height must not be over 18″ from the platform (measured from the top of the bar). The plates or bar may be supported on stands, rack supports, or blocks to obtain this height. The lifter must have the bar in front of the legs, as in a normal deadlift. The hands must be on the outside of the legs (NO SUMO STANCE) during the entire lift. Lifting straps or any other gripping aid is not allowed. It is NOT an infraction to drag the bar up the legs, bounce the bar up the legs, or support the bar on the legs during the lift (hitching). A one minute time limit is allowed for the lifter to make a legal lift, during which time a lifter may make multiple tries. Once the lifter is totally upright and the bar motionless, an official will give the command to end the lift.

Now, a little history.  I’m not gonna try an do a comprehensive history on Bob Peoples.  But if you know your lifting history you would know that Bob was one of the greatest Deadlifters in history.  Bob was pretty strong all the way around, but his best lift was the deadlift and he came with many new and innovative ways to do the lift.  One of these things was to utilize the power rack, which formed the basis of the Peoples lift.  He also utilized heavy negatives using a hydraulic lift on a tractor to reset the weight and he also used a ring while on a platform that allowed him to drop well below what you would with a regular deadlift.  It honestly looks like the forerunner of the Trap Bar!

Try your hand at the Peoples Deadlift!  Sign up for the OTSM today!!!!

Nice Rack! Part II

by Thom Van Vleck

My "Babies!

Some time ago I wrote a USAWA story called “Nice Rack” and it was about a rack of York “Globe Style” Dumbbells that Bill Clark has at Clark’s Championship Gym in Columbia, Missouri.  I jealously admired those Dumbbells and wished I had a set of my own.

As luck would have it, I came across a set for sale through my USAWA friends, namely Larry Traub.  Larry had these and made me an extremely generous offer on them that I couldn’t refuse.  Soon enough, I had them in my possession (after a detour from South Carolina thru Indiana and back to Missouri….a small price to pay!).

The "Crown Jewels" of my collection, the legendary 100lb Globes.

I took off a layer of rust, then laid down a few coats of paint and white lettered the raised “York” and poundage numbers.

I am not a collector, these will be used in my training and by anyone who trains at the JWC!  But if you use them and drop them, you might end up with an Olympic bar as a necktie!   If you break them….notify next of kin!  So, next time you come by the JWC Training Hall…CHECK’em out!  Oh, and once again….Thanks Larry, you made me very happy and they will take these when they pry my cold dead hands from around them!

Osteoblasters Weightlifting Club

by Thom Van Vleck

The Osteoblasters Logo.

I work at A.T. Still University in Kirksville, Missouri (and we have a sister campus in Mesa, Arizona).  The University centers on several programs that are all healthcare related.  The “granddaddy” of them all is the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine which was founded in 1892 and produces some of the finest Doctors in the world!  I am the Director of Counseling and I really enjoy my work helping these students who will in turn help so many in their career.

For years, I have wanted to start a weightlifting type club.  We have a fine fitness center (Thompson Campus Center) run by Dan Martin who is very supportive of weightlifting and fitness in general.  Since I have worked here, I have had many students involved in the Jackson Weightlifting Club, my Scottish Highland Games, and in a few of the USAWA meets as well (last year Joe Costello, an ATSU graduate, competed in the Old Time Strongman Nationals).  Recently, I finally found a couple of motivated students who helped me get this done.   Their names are Mike McIntyre and Jared Nichols.  Out of that, the Osteoblasters Weightlifting Club was born.  The sports teams of the past at ATSU had a skull and crossbones as their logo and an “O” as their “letter”.  So I created a logo that had crossed barbells with a skull surrounded by an “O” as a tribute to the school’s past.  The world Osteoblaster comes from the name of a cell that helps break down bone to rebuild it stronger after stress (such as exercise).  That cell is called an “Osteoblast” (I can’t make that up!).  Plus, KCOM is an Osteopathic school so it just seemed right.

I had hoped we might get 10 or so to join the club. Imagine my surprise when over 50 joined!   We had a wide range of students from many different athletic backgrounds.  Some had been outstanding college athletes, some just weekend warriors, but they all had the common thread of using weightlifting to reach their goals and wanted something more than a weight room full of machines, benches, and squat racks.  They wanted to be able to do Olympic style lifting and training, strongman training, and more dynamic type stuff than is typically allowed in the average gym.  So, we got Dan Martin of the TCC to buy us some bumpers and other equipment and we utilize the basketball gym area by pulling out large rubber mats for platforms.  We started 4 sessions a week and this fall we will move to 6 a week!  We will go out back of the TCC and lift off the parking lot, throw Highland Games weights, toss kettlebells around, pull sleds, you name it and we’ve probably done it.  Today’s youth want to lift, but they don’t want to be boxed into powerlifting, weightlifting type meets.  They want variety, and I’m hoping the USAWA will give them some variety.

My hope is that the OWC will help the JWC when it comes to the meets that I do.  The JWC is hosting the Old Time Strong man Championships again this fall and I’m hoping that students will volunteer to help as well as compete! I am also hoping to sanction a meet for the OWC this fall!  This could be a beautiful relationship!     Plus, I can help these guys lift and train….and I”m “on the clock”!   Can’t beat that!

Bill Leffler, JWC Member

by Thom Van Vleck

JWC Member Bill Leffler. 7 time Highland Games World Champion

Bill Leffler will be an unfamiliar name to USAWA members, but he is a member of the Jackson Weightlifting Club which is  a USAWA club so I thought it might be of interest to some of you.  Bill is involved in Scottish Highland Games and recently accomplished a pretty amazing feat.  He not only won his 7th World Championships in 9 years (he was 2nd twice) he also won his 6th World’s in a 5 year age group!  Let me explain.

In the world of Scottish Highland Games Masters you become a “master” at age 40.  Most competitions have masters classes, but usually just 40 and over or maybe 40-49 and 50 and up.  USAWA members such as myself, Dave Glasgow, Mike Murdock, Chad Ullom, and Dean Ross have all thrown as masters in highland games.  Once a year, we have a World Championship.  At that time, we break the age groups down into 5 year blocks (40-44, 45 – 49, 50-54, etc.).  The meet is held at a different location every year (twice it has been in Inverness, Scotland) and the dates often vary.  As a result, due to when Bill’s birthday is and the fact you are considered “that age” on the day of the meet Bill accomplished the feat of winning 6 World Championships in 5 years!  His friends Mark Buchannan (who has the rare honor of beating Bill once….and losing losing to him a half dozen other times…sorry, Mark!) and Jim Spalding presented him with a specially engraved sword to honor his accomplishment.  Next year Bill moves up to the 60-64 age group and there are no doubt going to be many records shattered and if Bill wants to keep going, more championships are sure to come his way!

Bill is an amazing athlete.  During his run of Championships he has beaten all the best throwers over age 50 at on time or another.  When he has lost, he comes back to beat whoever has beaten him!   Recently, at the 2012 Master’s Worlds the greatest performances ever accomplished as measured by a formula were listed.  The #1 all time for 50 and over was Bill!  Not only that, only one other thrower has won more World’s and nobody else is even close.  I would point out that this year there were over 100 throwers at the MWC…so it is well attended and competitive!   That one thrower with more is none other than our training partner and one of the presenters of the sword….Jim Spalding…also a JWC member!

Bill is very humble regarding his talents.  He doesn’t brag, he let’s his throwing speak for him.  However, I have found him to be very driven and pushes himself very, very hard.  He accepts no less than his best and rarely is he satisfied, he always wants to do better!  Bill’s background is in track & field and he’s been throwing shot and discus for almost 50 years.  It was in 2002 I got him to try the highland games and he’s been at it ever since!   Bill is a great friend and I know I am a better thrower for having trained with him.  Recently he gave me some credit for helping him, but really, he’s a one man wrecking crew on the field.   I just pointed him in the right direction from time to time!   I am hoping one of these days Bill will try the USAWA.  His lifts are top notch and I know he would do well.  But at heart, he’s a thrower and that’s why he lifts.

Congrats to JWC member Bill Leffler!   The JWC is proud of you!!!

USAWA Members GO SCOTTISH!

by Thom Van Vleck

Chad Ullom and Thom Van Vleck at the 2012 Master's World Championships in Greenville, South Carolina.

Chad Ullom sets up "to pick" the Caber.

Recently, Chad Ullom and myself  traveled to Greenville, SouthCarolina to participate in the  2012 Master’s World Championships (MWC) of Scottish HighlandGames.  Most USAWA members know Chad for his lifting.  I knew Chad as a Highland  Games athlete long before his decorated USAWA lifting career.   As a matter of fact, I think I have competed with Chad in more competitions than any other athlete ever between our Highland Games exploits and USAWA meets!   Chad just turned 40 and has made a bit of a “comeback” to his Highland Games roots to compete in the the MWC.  In his first MWC he garnered a 4th place finish out of about 20 throwers in his class (40-44).  I placed 6th in my group (45-49) which also had about 20 competitors.  The overall competition had over 100 throwers!  So, as you can tell, this is a very competitive group.

Chad shows explosiveness and outstanding form as he drives the caber into the air.

First, a quick primer for those of you who don’t know what the Highland Games are.  There are 9 events that include Hammer Throwing, Weight for Distance throwing, stone putting (think “shot put”), and Weight Over Bar event, a sheaf toss, and the uniquely Scottish event, the Caber toss.  This event involves picking up a tree trunk, running with it, then attempting to flip it end over end.  You can win individual events, but the goal is the overall win which is much like the “total” in weightlifting.

Chad was in an extremely stacked class which was eventually won by Braidy Miller.  Braidy has held the NCAA record in the discus and I believe the indoor weight and was an All American in those events and National Champion.  He missed going to the 1992 Olympics by a fraction.  But Chad was able to pull the caber win out in a decisive manner.  As a matter of fact, only Braidy and Chad turned the caber at all and  both of Chad’s turns were superior to Braidy’s.  So, even though Braidy was victorious, Chad won the caber toss and to me, that is a special event to win due to it being the premier Scottish event!

..... and Chad seems to be trying to push the caber over from afar as he completes the winning caber toss at the 2012 Master's World Championship in Greenville, South Carolina. (Caber photos by Melanie Mullally)

I had hoped to win my 4th Weight Over Bar event at the World’s, but it was not to be.  Still, 2nd place in that event makes me proud and I was so close to winning!  But that will only make me work out even harder to get that title back next year!  I would also like to point out that two other JWC members who aren’t USAWA members went with me and won titles.  Jim Spalding won the under 200lb over 50 class and Bill Leffler won the 55-59 group.  So the JWC did well!

So, now you know me and Chad’s secret.  We put on skirts and toss telephone poles when we aren’t lifting in USAWA meets.  But we have several USAWA brothers and sisters that have that “other” passion as well such as Dean Ross, Mike Murdock, Dave Glasgow, Scott Campbell, just to name a few!   Chad and I are already making plans for next years MWC to be held in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Bob Burtzloff on Training (circa 1981)

by Thom Van Vleck

Bob Burtzloff participated in Olympic Weightlifting as well as All Round Weightlifting. He was multiple times Kansas State Champ in Olympic Lifting.

Most everyone that has been around the USAWA any amount of time knows who Bob Burtzloff is and what a great champion he has been and continues to be.  Some of the older USAWA lifters may think of Bob’s great Bent Pressing, One Arm Clean & Jerk, or his Steinborn.  Bob has some great accomplishments.  In my book, his greatest accomplishment was beating Wilbur Miller’s Clean and Jerk record.

The training information below was relayed in 1981 to Bill Clark from a man Bill described as a “23 year old 242lb Bricklayer”.   I personally think the wisdom Bob relays is timeless and what he views as most important is what most lifters miss out on in their search for the “magic routine”.

Bob wrote:

“My workout is not fancy, but it helped me.  I pick a certain number of exercises to do in a workout.  I usually do at least three differenet movements.  Sometimes more depending on time and energy.  I pick a weight and number of reps that I want to do in the exercise.  For example, if I’m doing snatches with 250, I would do 15 total reps, regardless of the number of sets it takes.  I have used this type of routine for up to 50 reps, although 15 total reps works best for me.  I once did 50 jerks with 320, but was sore for a week.  Still, the work allowed me to break Wilbur Miller’s Clean & Jerk record only 10 days after the training effort.  Here’s and example of some of my best heavy workouts:

C&J – 363 X 15, 320X 50 total
Front Squat – 385 X 15 total
Snatches – 220 X 15, 231 X 15, 241 X 15, 251 X 15, 251 X 1, 271 X 1 – all in the same workout.
Bench – 360 X 15 total
Military Press – 231 X15 total
One Hand C&J – 203 X 15 total

I believe that desire and mental attitude are more important in making gains than any particular workout routine.  One must have a strong desire to accomplish what he sets out to do or he’ll quit when things get tough.  A strong, unyielding desire to succeed is essential in maintaining a positive mental attitude.   If a person has a positive outlook on  training, he will be able to work harder and with heavier weights.  Many people allow their attitude toward training  to defeat them long before they step onto the competitive platform.  If a lifter overcomes adverse circumstances in training, the effects will carry over into competition.   A good thing to remember is that attitude is more important than circumstances.  Circumstances give you neither defeat nor victory.  They merely provide you with the opportunity to see what your thoughts and convictions really are and what you intend to do with them.

Everyone encounters obstacles between them and their goals, but a positive attitude will allow a dedicated lifter to eventually break thru these barriers and achieve his goals.   The key to success is hard work followed by ample rest.  I’m not saying that I always have a positive attitude or that I always work hard, for if I did, I would be a much better lifter for it.”

Blasts from the Past

by Thom Van Vleck

Ed Zercher, the original "keeper of the odd lift records" doing an exhibition unsupported Leg Press with over 600lbs circa 1962.

Recently, Wayne Gardner visited me.  He is a Jackson Weightlifting Club member from way back and a frequent lifter in the midwest and early USAWA member.  Wayne provided me with some old newsletters of Clark’s and I made copies for me and Al.

Al’s recent announcement of the 2012 USAWA Team Championships made some interesting information pop out at me.  In the April 1, 1981 Region 8 Weightlifting Newsletter put out by Ol’ Clark himself there is a list of some “Odd Lift” records and one of the lifts is the “Two Man Team Curl”.  Two records are listed:

Two Man Team Curl

198lb Class – Glen Schwachter & Ed Zercher, Jr – 225lbs (1980)

Hvy Class – Robert Wilson & Ron Webster – 275lbs (1980)

There are also some records that go back to the early 1960’s.  Here are some of the more notable records:

Pullover and Prone Press

198lb Class – Homer Lewellen – 260lbs (1963)

Right Hand Hack Lift

Hvy Class – Bill Clark & Bill Fellows- 275lbs (1962)

Jerk Behind Neck with Snatch Grip Then a Full Squat with Weight Overhead (maybe the record for longest name, too!)

198lb Class – George Winkler – 240lbs (1962)

Now we start to go WAAAAY back.  Clark stated that the below records were Missouri Valley AAU marks prior to 1941.  So, while we don’t know the exact year these were set, they were set prior to or in 1941.

Right Hand Continental Press

148lb Class – Gordon Strain – 126.5lbs

Right Hand Clean and Bent Press

148lb Class – Gordon Strain – 174lbs

Right Hand Clean and Side Press

148lb Class – Gordon Strain – 142lbs

Two Hands Anyhow

148lb Class – Gordon Strain – 217lbs

Hvy Class – Ed Zercher, Sr. – 271lbs

Repetition Leg Presses (Unsupported)

Hvy class – Ed Zercher, Jr. – 200reps with 250lbs in 7 minutes 30 seconds – (set in 1952)

Hvy Class – Ed Zercher, Sr – 10 reps with 605lbs (set in 1962)

The oldest record listed that has a verified date is a Harness Lift done by Ed Zercher, Sr with 2150lbs in 1940.

Clark goes on to state that there were currently 59 lifts that records were being kept in at that time!  The latest of which was the Reverse Grip Clean and Press that was first done by my Uncle Wayne Jackson and in 2011 the Reverse Grip Press out of the rack was added to the modern list of USAWA records in his honor.

It’s interesting to me that we have some many lifts we keep records on and yet there are several of these lifts listed in the old record book that aren’t “modern” USAWA lifts!  We might have to look at some of these old time lifts and bring them back.  At any rate, here’s some old time records to test yourself against!  Have fun!

Breath, Stupid!

by Thom Van Vleck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Multiple Sized Plates

by Thom Van Vleck

The JWC logo, based on a previous drawing by my Uncle Phil over 50 years ago, incorporates a "York" 400lb "hub style" Olympic set.

I have a lot of weights.  I don’t think of myself as a collector, I use everything I have in my gym.  Nothing gets put in a “glass case”.  I have to say that some things I have for practical reasons.  Certain bars work better for Deadlifts, some for Push Presses, some weights just have a “better feel”.   But sometimes I just like the “looks” of something.  I think it goes back to when I was a kid reading all those old Weightlifting mags.  Most of them were basically advertisements for barbells, supplements, and other related stuff being sold by the publisher.  I remember looking at the advertisements and generally you would get these weight sets that had various sized plates and they load them all on the bar for a photo.  Basically, you ended up with what’s in the logo above.  A bar loaded with plates that not only decrease in weight, but in size.  Keen eyes may have noted I actually drew one extra plate on the drawing for the JWC logo….that’s been a long held secret of mine and to date if anyone has noticed, they didn’t say anything.  As far as being an artist….all I know is I know what I like.  When I was drawing that barbell, it just “looked” right to add one last little set on the ends.  Purely aesthetic! 

A York "iron shoe", a Milo DB, and a standard 1" DB, loaded with the "taper" of smaller and smaller plates

Sometimes, when I lift, I want to load up the bar and have that “assortment” on there.  No reason other than it just pleases me!  It is aesthetic which to me always meant that it was cool to look at but doesn’t have any real reason other than that!  I recently bought some 7.5lb, 12.5lb and 20lb solid 1″ barbell plates to go with my 1.25lb, 2.5lb, 5lb, 10lb, and 25lb plates.  Why,  just so I can load them all up and get that “look”.  To me, its a classic look, and it looks cool…….but I do think there is a reason for wanting all those odd little plates on there.

When I first started lifting I was spoiled having all kinds of weights at my disposal since my Uncle’s had quite a collection from the early days of the Jackson Weightlifting Club.  But I recall my Uncle Wayne telling me how they initially had cement weights they had made using buckets and scrap metal for bars.  They had saved up for the York set….a pretty penny in those days!  When they got that first 300lb set it became their goal to put that overhead.  My Uncle Phil told me that Gene Thudium joined the club and at 145lbs of bodyweight, he clean and pressed 165lbs and declared he was going to “lift that whole 300lb” set.  To Gene’s credit, he did do 280lbs at 181lbs in competition….a great lift and had he not been disillusioned when they dropped the clean & press from competition in 1972 I think he would have done it!   My Uncle Wayne recalls the day Thudium walked in the gym and Wayne told him they had dropped that lift.  Thudium, who had been on that mission for a dozen years, threw his hands up, quit, and NEVER came back to the gym!  At any rate, they wanted to lift that whole set which meant all the smaller plates loaded on there.  So, I think there was that challenge of “lifting the whole set” that came along!   As a side note, they ordered a 400lb set and my Uncle Wayne ended up Jerking that out of the rack. 

So, for whatever reason, I like the look and honestly, anything that will motivate me to lift is a good thing in my book.  Even if my wife wonders why I had to order those “odd” sized plates when I have about a 1000lbs of 1″ plates already!

OTSM Championship

It doesn't get any more MANLY than Pro World Champion Dan McKim in his Kilt. Come to the Strength Weekend, put on a kilt and compete in the Games on Saturday, then the Old Time Strongman Championships on Sunday! Dan has competed in Kirksville before and I hope to have him back this year.

by Thom Van Vleck

MEET ANNOUNCEMENT:
OLD TIME STRONGMAN CHAMPIONSHIP

Last year we had our inaugural OTSM Championship at the JWC Training Hall (AKA “Modern Day Torture Chamber” or “My basement”).  I thought it went pretty well and as a result I want to make this an annual event.  The date will be October 14, 2012, with the start time being 10:00am (weigh in’s will happen at 12:00am the morning of the meet or between 9 and 10am before the meet).   The location for the meet will again be the JWC Training Hall.  However, there may be an exception.  Last year we had 10 strongmen show up.  This year if I get enough signed up before hand I plan on returning to the venue we used for the 2011 USAWA Nationals (the old Williard School Gymnasium).   I would say anything over 15 competitors would cause me to have to make that call as my gym was pretty crammed with 10 lifters.  That will be a nice problem to have!  

Now, a quick history lesson.   This event will be held the day after my Scottish Highland Games.  In 1999 when I first started that event I had a strongman contest the next day.  If you competed both days you won an “Iron Man Award”.  I did that for several years and at one point hit 33 competitors for the strongman event!   Then I had a sharp decline and then dropped it until Al Myers and I talked about me holding an OTSM event.  I thought “PERFECT”!  I can bring back the Iron Man weekend!   So, that is why this event will be held on a Sunday and on that date as my Highland Games will be held on October 13th.  Setting dates locally is a real challenge for me due to several big events in Kirksville around that time.  If I held it any other weekend there would be almost NO WAY anyone could get a motel room.  So, that’s why I was limited to that date. 

Since this event is the day after my Highland Games it’s a chance to compete in both!  You know you always wanted to dress up in a kilt!  Now’s your chance!   So sign up for both!  Special Iron Man award for those who survive both days.  This isn’t a “participation award” this is a SURVIVED IT award! 

Now, for the meet information.  I plan on having shirts and awards, plus water and drinks available to the lifters.  I plan on the following events:

Anderson Squat
Cyr Press
Apollons Lift
Bob People’s Deadlift

Lifts will be finalized after Nationals in June after the USAWA Nationals and the annual meeting.  Entry is $25, but if you enter both the Highland Games ($25) and the OTSM you get both entries for $40 (saving $10).   Three attempts per event, total poundage will determine weight class winners.  Overall best lifter will be determined by weight and age formula per USAWA rules.

OTSM entry form – 2012 Old Time Strongman Entry Form

Kirksville Games entry form – 2012 Kirksville Highland Games Entry Form

Contact Thom Van Vleck at tvanvleck@yahoo.com or 660 341 1755 for details.

Tourism Ambassador Award

by Thom Van Vleck

Thom Van Vleck accepting his Ambassador of the Year Award from the Kirksville Chamber of Commerce. (photo courtesy of KTVO)

Thanks to the USAWA, I was greatly honored by the Kirksville Chamber of Commerce the other night.   For the past 15 years I have held dozens of Highland Games, strongman contests, and helped the Irondogs with powerlifting and olympic lifting meets that have brought a lot of people to Kirksville.  I never really thought about it until this award came up, but many would have never come to Kirksville had these events not been held.  To be honest, I just wanted to host meets and have some fun!   My goal financially has always been to break even….and even that goal isn’t always met!  Those of you who have run meets know what I’m talking about!  I never thought about the fact I was bringing tourism to my hometown. 

So why do I want to thank the USAWA?  Because promoting the Nationals in Kirksville last year seems to be the event that got me recognized by the C of C!  Some of you that attended were kind enough to write a thank you letter to the C of C as they helped me out with the meet.   Those letters were so good, they put me up for the award and I won!  There were about 200 of Kirksville’s best at the annual banquet where I got my award.  Debi Boughton, head of tourism for the C of C introduced me, talked of the games and the meets I have promoted, and then read a couple of the letters send by USAWA letters.  The first letter was from Chad Ullom and the second one was from Denny Habecker and his wife.   These letters mentioned business that had several representatives in the crowd.   I gave a little speech, plugged my events for the coming year, and thanked the C of C for helping me as well as the local sponsors who’ve been so good to me over the years. 

Afterwards, I was interviewed by the local paper and the local television station.   I also was asked to speak at the local Rotary clubs (there are two in town) and do an hour long interview at a local radio station!  I have to say, I felt like a real BIG SHOT!  I was just a great opportunity to promote my Highland Games (that’s my real passion), but also to solicit new volunteers, sponsors, and competitors.  One of the people that approached me after the award ceremony wants to try his hand at the Highland Games!  New blood is always a good thing. 

Afterwards some friends took me to the Dukum Inn for a celebratory round of drinks and soon I was home in time to catch the evening news with a story on my.  Leave it to one of my kids to bring “Ol’ Dad” back down to earth.  After the news showed me giving my speech and talking about the award my youngest son said, “Yeah, Dad….now can we turn it back to my show”!  

So, thanks USAWA for “putting me over the top”.  I think a lot of good things will come out of this award, some new sponsorship, some new help, some new spectators, and maybe even a new competitor or two!  I am hosting the Old Time Strongman Championships again this year and the Chamber wants to help me on that one, too.   So come back to Kirksville, or come for the first time!  More USAWA events are to come! 

http://www.kirksvilledailyexpress.com/features/x1251827843/Kirksville-chamber-honors-Tate-others-for-local-service

The JWC Monster Wrist Roller

by Thom Van Vleck

LaVerne Myers, of the Dino Gym, training on the JWC Monster Wrist Roller in preparation for next month's USAWA Grip Championships.

Recently, I made a monster wrist roller out of spacers from an old disc (farm implement that would bust up clods after plowing or aerate the ground).  These spacers look like giant spindles and are about 2″ in diameter in the grip.  I put three on a 1 1/4″ bar.  The two outside ones were for grip and the inside one was to roll up the rope which was attached to a vertical bar loaded with weight.   I was so pleased with it, I made one for Al Myers who then took it and improved up on the design.  I have to admit, Al’s is now better than mine, although I made some changes to mine based on Al’s ideas.

At any rate, I have been using it lately for my grip.  I use it just like a regular wrist roller but I set in in my squat racks  so that it take the pressure off my delts and puts all the emphasis on my forearms.  I try and get really aggressive rolling the weight up and use enough weight to really challenge me.  I pretend I’m trying to squeeze water out of a rock!!!!!

Wrist rollers are a great training tool, even if you don’t have a “Monster” one like me and Al.  If you come to either the Dino Gym or the JWC Training Hall, you will have to give them a try!  Grip has always been stubborn for me to make progress so any new toy adds new excitement to my training and for now, the Monster Wrist Roller is what’s new in my grip training!

Inspiration for the Inman?

By Thom Van Vleck

In Indonesia, men walk down into Mount Ijen, an active volcano, to haul out sulfur. They will carry an average of 100kg out for several kilometers as a way to make a living.

One of the most diabolical lifts in the USAWA is the Inman Mile.  It’s so different you have to wonder where Jerry Inman came up with the idea for this! Let’s review the rules:

D17.  Inman Mile
The lifter will take a bar onto the shoulders with a weight equal to 150 per cent of the lifter’s bodyweight. The lifter will then carry this weight a distance of one mile. Gait is optional.  Stopping to rest is allowed, but neither the lifter nor the weight may be supported in any manner.  The bar must not be touched by any assistants once the mile has begun or it will be a disqualification. The bar must stay on the back the entire mile. The lifter may be handed refreshments during the mile. Records will be kept for time.

It’s different to say the least.  I often wonder where someone could have come up with such a test of strength and I have even questioned if this is more endurance than strength.

The other day I was watching a travel show.  I enjoy seeing different parts of the world.  In this one they were talking about men in Indonesia who go down into and active volcano called Mount Ijen.  They load up baskets with sulfur and haul them up and out of the volcano.  They make it a point to spend as little time as possible in the volcano because of poisonous gas so usually once they are loaded they beat a hasty path out!  They claimed they would not rest until they got out of the volcano and this was “well over a kilometer”.  Their loads average around 100kg or 220lbs.  I would estimate these men weigh in the neighborhood of 150lbs on average.  The should some of them with their shirts off and they had unbelievable trap development, I assume from letting the weight ride on the shoulders.

It got me to thinking…..was this the inspiration for the Inman mile?  Maybe someone can tell me what it is and while this likely is not…you can certainly see where it could be!   If it is, I’m glad they didn’t include dodging poisonous gas and it being all uphill in the rules….this seems hard enough!  I think this lift is safe from any records from me but I’d like to see it done.

http://www.noplanes.com/2010/03/sulphur-miners-of-mount-ijen-active.html

One Arm Clean & Jerk

by Thom Van Vleck

Bob Burtzloff, one of the greatest of all time on the one arm Clean & Jerk. You can tell that Bob is lifting this from a racked position, one of the two ways to complete the lift.

The USAWA National Championships have been set for Las Vegas, Nevada next June.  One of the lifts that will be contest is the One Arm Clean & Jerk.  This lift is a difficult lift so you can’t start working on this one too early!  This lift takes a lot of balance, strength, and flexibility that not all lifters may have without some practice.  Let’s take a look at the rules:

The rules of the Clean and Jerk apply with these exceptions. Only one arm is used to perform the lift. The bar is gripped in the center by one handand may be cleaned in front or cleaned to the side. Any grip may be used by the lifter. The bar must be cleaned to the same shoulder as the lifting arm in a single movement. During the clean, the bar must not touch any part of the legs or torso.  In receiving the bar at the shoulder, the bar must not make contact or rest on the shoulder or chest opposite to the lifting arm. The center of the sternum is the line of lineation.  The non-liftinghand may be supported on the thigh or knee of either leg but must not contact the bar, platform, or lifting arm during the lift or it will be a disqualification. With a single distinct effort the lifter will jerk the bar to arms length above the head. The non-lifting hand must be clear of the body upon completion of the lift.  The bar may be in any degree of rotation when overhead. Once the bar is overhead motionless, the lifter’s body in an upright position, the feet parallel and in line with the torso, an official will give a command to lower the bar. Both hands may be used to lower the bar. The lift ends when the bar is returned to the platform under control.

So, assuming you know the basic rules of the Clean & Jerk, you are ready to do a One Arm Clean & Jerk.  Now, there are two ways that I know of to complete this lift.  One involves pulling the bar into a rack position and jerking it out of that rack position just like a regular two hand Clean & Jerk.  Another is to lift the bar and catch it to the side with the bar at a 90 degree angle to the body, this method may work best for those who lack flexibility.  Below is a great photo of Bob Burtzloff showing that method.

Bob Burtzloff setting the Best One Arm Clean and Jerk Record in the USAWA. This was done at the 2004 Dino Gym Challenge with a lift of 175 pounds.

Now, one final word of advice.  I know when I was a kid, I did some one arm cleans.  I was taught, to pull high and then use the free arm to help rack the bar.  In other words, you ended up in a position at the finish where it looked like you had done a two hand Clean, but the bar had popped free of one hand.  This is NOT ALLOWED in the rules.  The first time I thought of attempting this lift I did not read the rules carefully and this impacted my lifting considerably.  Not only did I not lift what I had planned, but I was not prepared to lift in any other way.  So learn it, practice it and we’ll see you in VEGAS!!!!!

Ice it down!

by Thom Van Vleck

Thom enjoying a post-competition "hydrotherapy" session following last summers Ledaig Highland Games. A cold group bath with your sweaty buddies is a great way to enhance recovery following a hard day of competition! (photo courtesy of Al Myers)

Ok, I’m sure by now half of you are thinking I mean beer….but I mean your body!   I’m talking about what some call “hydrotherapy” or the used of heat and coolness to reduce inflammation, soreness, and recovery times between workouts.  Now, there’s a ton of stuff out there on the good, ol’ world wide web and if you found this, you can find that.  I’m just gonna give you some basics.

First, what led to this was me getting old.  After numerous injuries over the years, broken bones, etc.  it’s all catching up to me.  when I was young I just worried about working out, now I feel I have a pretty good understanding of how to develop a good work out routine so now I’m more focused on how I can recover more quickly….especially with age!  I remember Mickey Mantle once saying he wished he’d taken better care of himself when he was younger.  Well, Mickey was past his playing career when he said that but for those in the USAWA our playing career is never over.   You can make a big difference.

Before your workout, be sure and spend some time warming up.  My warm up time has probably tripled from my 20’s.  I have a special routine that I do and I pay attention more to my preworkout diet, load up on fluids all day, and I don’t push the time…..when I’m ready and I’m ready and not before.  I also use anti-inflammatory type medication (Ibuprofen, sodium naproxen, etc.).

After the workout, ice the areas you’ve worked out down.  My knees (especially my right one) tend to swell after my squats.  I have found that after the workout I have a heat pad and an ice pack that I alternate back and forth it does wonders.  I will also take a hot and cold shower, start warm, take it down, the up, then down.  I end it with cold water.  In the winter, I’ll take a snow bath alternating with the hot tube or sauna.  If you don’t have a hot tub or sauna, get a chair for you shower and do the “poor man’s sauna”.  Throw a large beach towel over you, you can get that water incredibly hot without burning and the hot steam will fog the mirrors for a square mile!

I also bought something called “the stick”.  Basically, it’s a human rolling pin.  I work the areas I can myself and then I recruit my wife to get the areas I can’t.  I use this thing to the point of it being painful, but afterwards I feel like a million bucks….kind of the poor man’s deep tissue massage.

Well, I hope these few things get you to thinking……and if all else fails…..ice that beer down while you ice down!

JWC Around the World!

by Thom Van Vleck

Brian Hare, top Highland Games athlete sporting his JWC hat while doing some stone lifting in ICELAND!

I have had a lot of fun (and sometimes frustration) putting on meets over the years.  One of the things I’ve enjoyed doing is creating new meet shirts, and sometimes hats for something different.  I have also enjoyed seeing my shirts pop up at the most unusual places.  Recently, Brian Hare, a top Highland Game thrower posted the above photo of him doing some stone lifting in Iceland wearing his JWC stocking cap.

Front and center, you will see Bob McConaughey sporting his JWC shirt, that year he set the masters World Record in the Bench Press with 744lbs at 242lbs bodyweight.

I also got one from Bob McConaughey, a top Powerlifter and Highland Games thrower where Bob was representing the Frantz Power Team but wearing a JWC shirt!  I am not surprised when I’m in the local super market and see one of my shirts, but I was surprised when I was in Edinburg, Scotland and turned around to see one of my shirts!  Sean Betz was wearing it before throwing in the Pro World Championships!  Sean told me he took that shirt to every meet as he liked it as warm up shirt since it was roomy and had long sleeves.  I have seen photos of him in it all over the place!

Hey, I can't resist running this photo of Tully one more time!!!!! Here's a JWC shirt showing up in California! This may be the most published photo in ever on the USAWA website!

I have many more examples and sometimes I know that a shirt may be worn just because it fits well, happens to be the only one clean, or just at the top in the shirt drawer!  But whatever the reason, whenever I see it, it makes me feel pretty good and motivates me put all the negatives aside in running a meet and make plans for the next one.  If you have one of my shirts and you end up wearing one in some cool or exotic location, send me a copy!  It will make my day!

Hot Stove Workout

by Thom Van Vleck

A Hot Stove is where work gets done, and managing what's important means putting it up front or in back....managing your workout is the idea of this article.

I just wanted to share a workout plan I have for this winter.  As most of you know, I do a lot of throwing in the Scottish Highland Games.   Winter time for me is “off season”.  It is a time where I am trying to build strength again.  I also want to increase my conditioning and flexibility.  In season, I do a lot of throwing, and in the process I get pretty burned out on it by the end of the year and it’s good to get back in the gym for some old school training.

The first thing I need to tell you is that there is NOTHING I enjoy more than the adrenaline rush that comes with heavy lifting.  I get a high that will last for days.  Any hardcore lifter will know what I mean, that moment when the weight starts piling on and the goosebumps pop up on your arms and a chill runs down your spin and it’s “GO TIME”!  I love it.  But, as I get older I have to deal with a couple of factors:  Recuperation and Injuries.

Because of the increased recuperation time that comes with age and the injuries my body has endured, I can’t hit the max attempts like I did 20 or 30 years ago. I have to be smart!  Part of the problem is that I want to work my entire body at once and be cycling into heavy lifts that involve  my entire body.  So this year I came up with my “Hot Stove Workout”.

The “Hot Stove Workout” has my hitting the big numbers on a particular lift during my “Big Saturday” workout.  This is when I’m hitting that adrenaline rush and feeling good about moving some heavy iron (heavy for me!).  This is what I call my “Front Burner” exercise.   I am also using that time to work on my Erector Spinae and hamstrings using the Reverse Hyper, swiss ball (leg curls), and leg curling on the Reverse Hyper (a little exercise I stole from Al Myers).

Then Sunday is my conditioning day.  Right now I’m doing football agility drills with my son, who’s playing football in school, medicine ball drills, and tossing the pigskin around along with hitting the volleyball back and forth with my wife who’s on a volleyball league.

Monday is a day when I work on Grip, Neck, and Abdominal exercises, really going crazy on them.  Then my “Big Tuesday Workout” I hit two exercised that are my “Back Burner” exercises.  They are on their way to being “Front Burner” exercises and when one gets moved up, then another takes it’s place…destined to eventually make it to the “Front Burner”.  I always have three exercises and I make sure I have one that’s a leg movement, one a pressing movement, and another that’s a pulling or back movement.  It is also this day that I do any assistance work.

I then finish off with a set of 100 on the leg press.  These are very explosive, I drive up on the toes, and I usually have to crawl out of the gym after that.  By then I’ve worked out for 4 days and then I have three days to rest and get ready for the next Saturday.  I enjoy this workout very much and for now, that’s all I need to keep me lifting.  It doesn’t matter how great the workout is, if you don’t enjoy it or it doesn’t motivate you, then it’s the same as worthless.

By keeping a couple exercised on the back burner, using less weight, I’m able to be ready to switch them to the front burner.  That way I’m always hitting something heavy on Saturday and not having to build up over time for a big lift.  By lifting only once a week with over 90% poundages, I am able to recuperate and stay fresh.  I hope my workout has given you some ideas for your own training.  Everything I know about training I learned from someone else!!!!

Wayne Smith Update

by Thom Van Vleck

Wayne Smith, long time USAWA lifter and even longer time member of the Jackson Weightlifting Club was recently featured by me in two part website article.  Wayne also attended the USAWA Nationals hosted by the JWC in Kirksville this year.  Wayne has many friends in the lifting world and I thought maybe some of you would like to hear the latest.

A couple of weeks ago Wayne was rushed the hospital.  He was having some problems and they were very concerning.  I went several times to check up on him and left with more questions than answers.  The doctors just didn’t know what was going on with him.

Well, I have good news.  I visited with Wayne yesterday and he is doing much better and appears to be on his way to recovery and has moved from the hospital to a rehabilitation unit.  He was his old self again and was enjoying visits from three JWC members in one day.  Wayne Jackson had made a visit, and then Wayne Gardner, then myself.

It is nice to know that we take care of our own and the friendships made on the lifting platform are often life time ones.  We hope that Wayne will be back home soon and if you have a message for him, just let me know at tvanvleck@yahoo.com and I will make sure he gets it!  He tells me he is not going to let this keep him from making his comeback in lifting!   You have to admire the dedication.

Trap Bar Training: Part II

by Thom Van Vleck

Thom Van Vleck performing Trap Bar Deadlifts with the addition of 60 pounds of chains attached to the bar. Thom joined us at the Dino Gym for one of our "Tuesday Night Workouts" and discovered the FUN OF TRAP BAR DEADLIFTS. (photo and caption courtesy of Al Myers)

Now, to continue with the Trap bar, I learned a couple of things as I began to work this lift.  First, I needed to start with the bar where the center of gravity was where it normally would be with a regular deadlift.  Then, as I pulled up, I would shift that center towards the center of my thigh.  The began to engage the hips more.  Your “groove” might be different but it’s critical you play around with it and find it…it’s different than a straight bar for sure!!!!

My plan is to work this lift hard over the winter with a goal of 700lbs!  I will let you guys know what I end up with, but the truth of the matter is that I’m as motivated about pulling again as I was 10 years ago when I got the 640 deadlift!  When I got that lift I was on a quest for 700 but had worked for so long and so hard on doing deadlift after deadlift after deadlift I got burned out on heavy lifting from the floor.  So it’s more more important to me the trap bar has captured my imagination and made me believe I can hit big numbers again. That’s the real gift of it.  Maybe I’ll finally pull that 700!  Even if it’s on a trap bar!  So, try some trap bar pulls to spice up your training….and don’t forget, it’s a USAWA official lift so you can set records on it, too!!!!!

Rules for the Trap Bar Deadlift are pretty basic.

I9.  Deadlift – Trap Bar
The rules of the Deadlift apply except a Trap Bar must be used. The Trap Bar must not be of the type that contains elevated handles.

 

Al Myers even has a two man trap bar!  So you can go to the Dino Gym with your training partner and hit some big “two man” lifts.

So go “Trap” and see if your pulling power doesn’t come up!

Trap Bar Training: Part I

by Thom Van Vleck

Al Myers doing a 650 pound Trap Bar Deadlift at the 2010 USAWA National Championships.

I have been training for over 30 years.  I realized the other day that I have competed in 5 different decades.  My first meet was in 1979, so I have competed in the 70’s, the 80’s, 90’s, 00’s, and 10’s.  Not sure if that makes me proud or makes me feel old!   When you do the same thing for many years you need to do things to “change it up” and stay fresh.  Not only by putting new physical demands on your body but more importantly, in my book, staying fresh mentally.  I do two things to try and stay motivated and avoid a rut.  I will travel to other gyms to train to get ideas and I will buy new equipment.

About a year ago, I bought a trap bar.  I had never really used one in my training even though it was available at a gym I used to work out at.  I had just considered it kind of a gimmick. I mean, aren’t you just deadlifting?  When I first got it, I had used it to do some shrugs, some jump shrugs, and some “frame carry’s” (think “farmers walk”).  But funny enough….I didn’t deadlift with it.  My offseason training switched over to my throwing season as a Highland Games athlete and for man years that meant lots of throwing and no lifting.  What I’m setting up here is that I had a trap bar, but had not used it in the way it was intended….deadlifting!

Then, in July, I traveled to the Ledaig Highland Games held by Dave Glasgow.  Dave also held a USAWA record day that same weekend.  On Monday I traveled to visit Wilbur Miller and then Tuesday I headed to Al’s Dino Gym for the “Big Tuesday” workout.  My plan was to work out with Al and “steal” some secrets! HAHA.

Workout day arrived and I planned on doing whatever Al did.  Now, I have to say, this throwing season I have been following Al’s training advice (after all, he WAS a world record holding PROFESSIONAL Highland Games thrower before his USAWA days!) and lifting heavy while “in season”.  Something I had not done for some time.  I mean, really, why would I go to Al’s and do my regular lifts when I’m there to learn.

One of the lifts we did was the trap bar deadlift.  At first, I did not do well with it.  I’m a decent deadlifter with a 640lb lift to my credit and I had recently pulled 555 with just a little work.  It was an ego buster, and I ended up with a 551lb lift while Al shot up to 700!  But then we did sets and reps and I began to get a feel for it.  I realized a couple of things so when I got home I did a 4 week cycle on the trap bar deadlift and pulled a nice 645lb lift.  I was ecstatic!  I know that it doesn’t compare with the 640 I pulled about 10 years ago, but I was still thrilled.

Next up: Part II  Trap bar training and the “rules”.

Weight Over Bar

by Thom Van Vleck

Thom Van Vleck tossing the 42lb weight at the 2011 Kirksville Games

Some of you may know that several of our USAWA members are currently, or have been, participants in the Scottish Highland Games.  These are strength events, but mostly involve throwing or tossing weights.  One of the events, and my personal favorite, is the “Weight Over Bar”.  I thought I might give a little background on this event, discuss the rules, and explain why I think throwing this type of movement into your training occasionally might be a good way to mix things up and avoid a training rut.

This event involves throwing a weight with a handle over a cross bar for height using one hand only.  Women use a 28lb weight, masters men and under 190lb throwers use a 42lb weight, and all other men use a 56lb weight.  It is thought the weights were originally balance beam scale weights.  In the old system in Scotland a “hundredweight” equaled 112lbs.  Half that was 56lbs and half that was 28lbs.  A “stone” was 14lbs and the 42lb weight was half way between the 28 and 56.  So, basically the 28 was 2 stones, the 42 was 3 stones, and the 56 was 4 stones!  It should be noted old English Anvils also used this measuring system and that is why if you find an English anvil and it says 112 on the side, it’s NOT 112lbs, but 1 hundred weight (112lbs), 1 Quarter Hundred weight (28lbs) and then 2 odd pounds.  So it would be 112 + 28 + 2 = 142lbs!  I know, pretty complicate, just know in the Highland games we throw a 28lb, a 42lb, and a 56lb weight!

There are two ways to get the weight over the bar.  You can “stand” and basically do what would be a “super one hand snatch” and pull the weight up and over your head and over the bar.  Or you can do the “spin” and basically do a “turn” (much like the rotation on the shot put).  That technique is not widely accepted (such as by our USAWA secretary!) plus it’s very difficult to master so unless you are going to take this up as a sport let’s focus on the standing style.  Typically, in competition, you would have “standards” that look much like a high jump bar or pole vault set up.  The bar goes up until only one competitor is left.  Out of the 9 events in the Highland Games, this is the most basic.   It requires the least technique and is often dominated by the strongest athletes.

That is why I think it would make a good training tool to add to the rotation of your training routine.  It would be a good event to use to train for the one arm snatch, the DB Swing, DB Snatch….any movement where you have to move the bar quickly from the floor to overhead!  You could use a kettlebell to practice this event, or a solid dumbbell.  Since the idea is to throw it as high as possible I would only do this outside where the weight can fall safely on the ground.  Use a weight you can get up in the air 12 to 15ft.  You don’t need a cross bar, just get out there and get some rips in and see what happens.  Pulling a weight hard enough to toss it several feet over your head should develop explosive power and speed.  Plus, it’s just a lot of fun!  If you do it in your back yard you can give your neighbors something to talk about!

Sometimes this event is called the Weight for Height.  I have no problem with this, but just so you know it is thought the Weight for Height actually refers to how the Irish  would perform this event.  Instead of tossing the weight over a bar (the term “toss” is used whenever you speak of height events and “throw” whenever it is a distance event) you have a target, often made of wood, hanging in the air and you try and hit the target.  If you hit it, it is raised and you go again.  Some of the other rules for the Weight Over Bar include you have three tries at each height.  If you make it, the bar goes up and you get three fresh attempts.  So, in competition it’s not unusual to take 5, event 10 or more attempts.

So, mix up your training a little, the kilt is optional!   Try some Weight Over Bar!

Your First Set of Weights

by Thom Van Vleck

One of my granddad's original York plates from his "first set" of weights

Do you remember your first set of weights?  When I was 10 I was in a terrible car accident and was injured pretty badly.  I broke both legs, both arms, my hip and various other injuries….I still hurt!!!!   As I recovered from that, I could not go to the JWC gym so my Mom bought me some plastic coated cement weights.  They were “Randy White” weights, he was a defensive lineman for the Dallas Cowboys.  I made it a goal to lift the entire set  of 110lbs overhead.

I also remember, around 1977, sitting with my Uncle Wayne Jackson as he ordered a brand new York set of weights, a 400lb set of the “top of the line” olympic weights.   A short time later, somebody STOLE that set and I remember being angry and heartbroken.  Luckily, insurance covered it’s replacement and soon we were back in business.  Although, I have to admit, I still wonder where that bar ended up!

I also recall my grandfather Dalton Jackson talking about waiting 10 YEARS to order his first set of weights.  Before that, he made weights out of buckets of cement and old metal rods and supplemented that by lifting anvils, rocks, whatever was around.  He had an assortment of flywheels and other scrap metal discs that had odd shaped holes in them he used for weights.  It was 10 years and he was even married by then before he could order his first weight set.  It was a York 1″ set, I think it was 110lbs.  I have a good portion of that set, and that’s a story unto itself as part of that was out of our family for over 40 years and only recently was reacquired!  I’m sure my Grandfather very much appreciated that first set!

Finally, my kids have all the best stuff.  When my daughter started lifting I bought her a “top of the line” 33lb women’s Olympic bar.  I try to make sure they have all they need, but I wonder, will they have an appreciation for what they have?  Will they have that feeling that comes with that “First Set of Weights”?  I hope so, it’s a good feeling, a special one.  And a feeling I get almost every time I get a new toy to lift in my gym.

The Secret to my Strength

by Thom Van Vleck

My lovely wife, Kelly, serving up cake at the USAWA Nationals hosted by the JWC. She is the icing on my cake!

I have a secret to my strength, however much of it I have, and I owe it to someone special in my life.  It has nothing to do with secret supplements, or special workout routines, or coaching I have received,  but everything to do with the source of my motivation to be successful in life.  It’s my wife.  And since we are celebrating our 21st Anniversary this week (and more importantly to me the 25th Anniversary of our first date and the “real” first day or our life journey!!!!) I wanted to give her the credit she deserves.

My awesome wife, Kelly, by my side. She not only makes me feel younger but I even look younger.

Like a lot of us, we have a wife that puts up with what we do.  Some are more supportive than others.  I have admired some of the older guys in the USAWA and their how their wives seem to support what they do, like Dennis Mitchell and Denny Habecker. My wife takes care of a lot of the “behind the scenes” things at the numerous meets I run and I’m lucky to have someone who understands that my training is part of who I am and without it, I’m much less of a man.  I really need it to stay balanced and focused and my wife let’s me do that.

So, thanks for letting me give credit to someone who had been there by my side for 25 years….but let’s all take some time to thank those who help us out and let us do the things we love to do!   A solid partner in life is maybe the most important ingredient to success.  Thanks Kelly, for choosing to be mine!

Bars, Bars, and MORE Bars!

by Thom Van Vleck

Al doing front squats, his favorite lift! But try to ignore him, what I really want you to notice is the wide variety of bars on the Dino Gym wall!

Ok, if you lift weights regularly I’m sure you have noticed there are a lot of bars out there!   Yesterday, Al pointed out what’s “legal” in the USAWA and how that rule has changed to allow some wiggle room.  He wrote that article in response to my use of the over sized “John Ware” bar used at the OTSM Championships.  I think I inadvertently opened a can of worms for Al using that bar.  I, for one, appreciate the wiggle room. Here’s why:

Back in the day, all bars were assumed to be made for competition so they were all made to exact specifications.  I remember sitting down with my Uncle Wayne Jackson as he ordered a new York 400lb Olympic set in 1977 (I still have it!).  Back then, you had few suppliers to order from……then came the fitness craze and people started making bars for training, not competition.  What’s the one thing that can end the life of a bar?  Getting bent!  How do you make a cheap bar last longer?  Make it thicker and out of harder steel, so you end up with these bars that are thicker and of hardened steel that won’t “whip” like a high quality Oly bar.  When you walk into my gym you will see the “gun rack” of bars and at first glance, they all look alike.  But look closely and you’ll see all kinds of subtle variations.  I’ll blame China, too.  Even Eleiko, the “Cadillac” of barbells, now has their bars forged in China, then assembled in Sweden.  I had a York bar that had “York, U.S.A” on it….made in China…but assembled in the USA so I guess they get around the loophole of not mentioning “China” on the bar.  I’ll blame China because I don’t think they worry too much about “exactness”.  They don’t care if it’s “legal”, they just crank out a product and if it’s close, then it’s all good to them.

I have about 15 or so bars (I don’t know exactly how many because I have so much of my stuff out on “loan” I’ve lost count.  But let’s just say I have a wide variety of bars (but not as many as the Dino Gym) and when you look closely at these bars there are all kinds of subtle…and not so subtle differences.  There are also many variations in the type of steel used.  The best kind of steel for a bar will bend and good steel will bend and then snap back into it’s original shape.  Hardened Steel will not bend and will tend to snap if you force it to bend or it will bend and stay that way.  You can even have good and bad batches of steel that are intended to be the same.  So, two bars that are “Exactly” the same upon visual inspection, maybe even made by the same company, may have very different characteristics.  Companies today will “contract” out jobs to factories in China.  That contract may be bid out after each order and a different company will supply the bar each time resulting in all kinds of variations.

Ok, just ignore he ugly guy doing the Continental to the Shoulders and focus on the bars on the wall! More bars in Al's gym!

Finally, it’s my contention the original size of an Olympic bar was developed for the average sized man.  I am 6′3″ and my wing span is 6′9″.  It is very difficult for me to get under a “regulation” bar and not bind up.  John Ware was the same way so he had that bar we used in the 2011 OTSM Championships custom made for him.  I know there are some issues with having the weights further away from the center of gravity and that can create more “whip” and help with certain lifts…but it’s easier for the shorter guy to adapt to a longer bar than the taller guy to adapt to a shorter bar.

Again....try not to focus on the ugly guys...and notice the bars leaning against the wall in the background! The JWC has it's fair share of bars! (btw...that's Dean Ross hitting a Anderson Squat at the OTSM in the JWC Training Hall!)

So, the moral of my story?  There are a lot of variations out there on the “standard” Olympic bar.   Some will bend, some will have good whip. I have 4 made by York and there are differences in width INSIDE the collars and there should NOT BE as these are regulation bars.  We need a little play so that we can allow for more bars to be used.  Weightlifting for fitness is a growing craze, but lifting as a sport is DYING!  Today’s generation is not the sticklers for details like Baby boomers who were raised by the WWII generation where almost everyone had served in the military and picked up on that “attention to detail”.  Today’s younger guys just want to lift more weight and they don’t like rules that make no sense to them.  Rules are made to make things more fair, not the other way around.  So, thanks to the USAWA for loosening up the rules on the dimensions of the bars but keeping the spirit of fairness by having rules that keeps the lifting true and comparable from contest to contest!  I think it will be good for our sport!

15 Year Journey

by Thom Van Vleck

Thom Van Vleck hitting 620lbs on the "Anderson Squat" at the Old Time Strong Man Championships at the JWC Training Hall

I have accumulated a lot of equipment in my gym over the years.  Most everything has a story behind it and since I’m a “story teller” here is the “story” behind the bar used at the OTSM Championships on October 16, 2011.  It is an oversized bar that weighs in at 50lbs.  It was custom made for World Champion Powerlifter John Ware, who was at one time my training partner.  John’s greatest feat, in my opinion, was beating Bill Kazmaier’s “unbeatable” World Record Total.  John did a 985lb squat the day he beat that record.  With the oversized bar he hit 1000lbs in a contest that allowed him to use the bar.  It is very stiff and longer than a regulation bar, allowing John to not be bound up when under it.  I know some might consider him using a “special” bar to get an official 1000lb squat questionable, just like I know many would question his chemical methods and I won’t make apologies for either one here.  Just know he was my friend, he never offered anything to me, helped me immensely in my training, donated to the JWC his time and much equipment, and paid the ultimate price for being a champion on those terms when he passed away several years ago.

So, that being said, I knew he left a lot of equipment to Truman State University where he was the head football coach for many years.  This bar was a part of that inheritance so to speak.  It was kept where the football players lifted and used for many years.  Back when I trained with John we would have these big Friday Squat workouts.  Several of the linemen would be involved and heavy weights would be lifted.  It was around this time, 15 years ago, I hit a 600lb squat with that bar.  That’s the most I have ever squatted to parallel.  That would have never happened without the training atmosphere present during those years.  I went from a 365lb squat to 600 during that time.  When John left, the bar kind of disappeared.  I had no idea whatever happened to it until this summer.  It turned up, rusted and neglected, and basically thrown away and replaced by slick, new chrome bars that I’m sure appealed to the younger lifters at the college who had no idea what a jewel this bar is.  Their loss was my gain and I refurbished this bar and nursed it back to health!  As I cleaned the rust off, I could recall countless workouts and countless lifters, World Champion powerlifters, several NFL bound players, and even a future Professional “rassler”, Glenn Jacobs AKA “Kane” of WWE fame.

So, when it came time to do the Anderson Squat at the OTSM I reached over to grab a bar from my “Olympic Bar gun rack” where I store the 15 or so bars I own and my eyes fell on John’s old bar.  I had not thought about using it, I had another very good, stiff squat bar…..but it just seemed fitting.  I was very please when I hit the 620lb squat some 15 years after hitting the 600 on the same exact bar.  I also know that John would be very pleased that bar was used in that type of meet.  That bar has undoubtedly seen a lot of lifting, and as long as I have it, it will continue to see a lot of lifting!  The story has not ended.

Strongman Championships

by Thom Van Vleck

Group picture from the FIRST EVER USAWA Old Time Strongman Championships.

The “new” Old Time Strongman format took another step forward with a Championship hosted by the Jackson Weightlifting Club on October 16th, 2011.  Ten lifters showed for this inaugural event which I plan on making an annual meet on the same weekend as the Scottish Highland Games I host.  My hope is that each will help promote the other.  This year I had three throwers stick around and lift the second day.

We started in the JWC Training Hall with the Anderson Squat.   This lift was done from a starting position 2/3 of the lifters height or less.  The challenge was starting a squat from the bottom position.  I have a very large dry erase board which served as our scoreboard making it easy for lifters to see where their competition was at.  That paid off for John O’Brien after Al Myers hit what most of us thought would be the biggest squat of the meet with 760lbs.  But John had the last lift and called for 765 and made it with power to spare.  Honestly, I think both men could have went over 800lbs had they gauged their attempts better, but being a brand new lift a lack of experience showed for everyone.  I cannot recall a single miss in this lift, which shows everyone had more in the tank!

Meet director Thom Van Vleck put up a BIG Anderson Squat with a fine lift of 620 pounds.

The second event was the Anderson Press.  The bar had to be set no higher than your height.  Eric Todd and Chris Anderson both topped out over 300lbs with Eric hitting a meet best of 350lbs.  It is interesting to note that you would see lifters make a lift easily, then make a slight increase, like 20lbs, only to find the bar seemed to be superglued to the rack!

Eric Todd put up the TOP Anderson Press with a great lift of 350 pounds.

The third event was the Dumbbell Shoulder.  In this event you could lift the dumbbell to the shoulder in any way you wanted.  This included using both hands, hooking it on the belt along the way, and rolling it up your chest!  It was fun to watch guys getting creative.  At one point, as Chris Anderson muscled up 300lbs for the top lift in this event, Al Myers said, “It looks like you were wrestling a bear”!  Joe Costello  ran out of attempts and before the dumbbell was unloaded he walked over and shouldered the 300lbs!  Joe was heard to say, “Next time…..”.  I’m sure this event will be in the future of Old Time Strongman and Joe will get that lift officially…and more!

Chris Anderson had the BEST Dumbbell to Shoulder with a tremendous lift of 300 pounds.

The last event of the day was the only lift that had been contested before.  This event was the Dinnie Lift.  Two vertical bars set at the same height and loaded in offsetting weights the same percentage as the real Dinnie Stones.  In other words, one had to be loaded no more than 70% of the weight of the other.  We had a four way tie for the top lift in this event with Al Myers,  Joe Costello, Chris Anderson, and Eric Todd all pulling 705lbs.  An interesting problem led to this….that’s all we could fit on the bar with the weights present in the gym!  The JWC has a lot of weights, but many of them are old school “deep dish” York and Jackson plates.  These did not allow the bars loaded over the 705lb mark.  We were even loading smaller plates in the space between the deep dish plates!  This may have had an effect on the outcome as Eric Todd had one attempt left but no way to load the bar any higher.  Here is why.

After the age and weight formulas were applied, Al Myers was the victor for overall best lifter honors.  However, Eric Todd was a close second.  What if Eric would have had his last attempt?  I feel badly about that, but then again, Al might have hung with him as it was apparent both had more left.  Interestingly, Joe Costello edged out John O’Brien in a close race for 3rd place.  John lifted more weight, but Joe was lighter by nearly 40lbs and the difference paid of for him.  Fifth went to Chris Anderson as he avenged his loss to me at the NAHA nationals.  Chris is only 23 years old and he is sure to only improve.  I was 6th followed by Rudy Bletscher, Dean Ross, Mike Murdock, and Lance Foster.

Rudy, Dean, and Mike have competed many times and this event was like the rest.  These guys push each other hard and yet the the obviously have nothing but respect for one another.  Rudy came out on top in what might have been a late birthday present since he turned 76 the day before.  They are very evenly matched and that makes for some good competition.

I thought the meet went well other than the loading situation on the Dinnie Lift.  I will have to get some thinner plates if we contest that event again because I’m going to host the event next year!  The Awards were my “trademark” anvils and the meet shirts were the latest version of the JWC gym shirt.    I really appreciated how the lifters helped clean up and put the weights away after the meet.   You could not ask for a greater group of guys. Friendships forged in iron!

MEET RESULTS

USAWA Old Time Strongman Championships
October 16th, 2011
JWC Training Hall
Kirksville, Missouri

Meet Director:  Thom Van Vleck

Officials (1 official system used):  Al Myers, Thom Van Vleck, Mike Murdock, Eric Todd

Loader:  Mitch Ridout

Lifts: Anderson Squat, Anderson Press, Dumbbell Shoulder, Dinnie Lift

Lifters:

Al Myers – Age 45, BWT 253#, 115 KG Class & Masters 45-49 Age Group
Rudy Bletscher – Age 76, BWT 213#, 100 KG Class & Masters 75-79 Age Group
Joe Costello – Age 36, BWT 253#, 115 KG Class & 20-39  Age Group
Dean Ross – Age 68, BWT 283#, 125+ KG Class & Masters 65-69 Age Group
Mike Murdock – Age 71, BWT 234#, 110 KG Class & Masters 70-74 Age Group
Lance Foster – Age 45, BWT 318#, 125+ KG Class & Masters 45-49 Age Group
Chris Anderson – Age 23, BWT 287#, 125+ KG Class & 20-39 Age Group
Eric Todd – Age 36, BWT 250#, 115 KG Class & 20-39 Age Group
Thom Van Vleck – Age 47, BWT 299#, 125+ KG Class & Masters 45-49 Age Group
John O’Brien – Age 42, BWT 291#, 125+ KG Class & Masters 40-44 Age Group

Lifter Squat Press DB Dinnie Total Lynch Points
Myers 760 270 270 705 2005 1581.1 1676.0
Todd 710 350 230 705 1995 1583.0 1583.0
Costello 710 275 230 705 1920 1514.1 1514.1
O’Brien 765 270 270 635 1940 1428.8 1471.7
Anderson 620 310 300 705 1935 1434.4 1434.4
Van Vleck  620 230 230 440 1520 1104.9 1193.3
Ross  460 180 150 440 1230 917.9 1184.2
Bletscher  280 130 120 410 940 811.3 1111.5
Murdock  280 140 120 410 950 779.7 1029.2
Foster  400 140 200 440 1180 833.4 883.4

NOTES: All results listed in pounds.  Total is total pounds lifted. Lynch is points adjusted for bodyweight. Points are overall points adjusted for bodyweight and age.

BEST LIFTER AWARDS

Best Lifter Overall - Al Myers
Best Lifter 20-39 Age Group – Eric Todd
Best Lifter 40-44 Age Group – John O’Brien
Best Lifter 45-49 Age Group – Al Myers
Best Lifter 65-69 Age Group – Dean Ross
Best Lifter 70-74 Age Group – Mike Murdock
Best Lifter 75-79 Age Group – Rudy Bletscher

A Sign from Above!

by Thom Van Vleck

Underneath an Anvil shaped sign in Lindsborg, Kansas

I like challenges.  I guess that’s why I lift weights.  For the past 30 plus years I’ve sat down with paper and pen and wrote up countless workout routines, set goals, and made plans.  I also have traveled far and wide to meet with the best, learn from them, and been inspired by them.  I have also looked from inspiration from things around me for my lifting.  This could be something I would want to lift, but it could also be something that would inspire me to train harder and lift more!

Recently, I was in Lindsborg, Kansas with my family after competing in the McPherson Scottish Highland Games.  My wife and I both have some Swedish ancestry (her being one quarter Swedish) we wanted to go by Lindsborg and soak up some of the Swedish atmosphere….and food!  While we walked around I saw the sign in the above photo.  Back in the day, most people couldn’t read so shop owners would have signs that told you what they did by their shape as much as by what they said.  Did you know that barber poles represent veins and arteries because barbers used to draw blood to remove “bad blood” back when people thought that would cure their illnesses?  Blacksmiths would, of course, use an anvil!

I like anvils.  If you don’t know the story of Grandpa Jackson’s anvil then you probably don’t know me.  But just in case, I have an anvil that’s been in my family for 4 generations and lifted by all 4 generations….maybe more!  I know it’s at least pre-Civil War, who knows.  But more importantly, it was the inspiration for my grandfather to begin lifting weights, that led to my Uncles lifting, and me and the many, many lifters that came out of the Jackson Weightlifting Club.  So, when I was walking down the street, this sign inspired me.  It was symbolic of a trade, but it has become symbolic of strength, hard work, and do-it-yourself type attitude.

Now, it’s funny when I mentioned this, John O’Brien stated that when I had ideas, he often ended up getting hurt.  But in this case, I was just thinking about making a sign for my gym like the one above.  Because I want my gym to be symbolic like the anvil.  Symbolic of hard work, sweat of your brow, can-do, and self determination.  So, this was a just a sign for most walking by, but for me…..it was a sign from above!

The Day I Met Al Myers

by Thom Van Vleck

Al Myers breaking the World Record in the sheaf toss in the professional division

Al Myers and I have been friends for a LONG time.  Well, at least 16 years anyways.  I was digging through some old photos the other day and came across this gem.  It was the Highlands Ranch Highland Games in 1995.  My first competition ever in the Highland Games.  I was competing in the Novice Division with 12 other throwers and got 2nd overall that day, winning 4 of 7 events outright.  Who beat me?  Brian Myers, Al’s brother!

Here’s what I recall that day.  You have to understand first that most Highland Games has “classes” of throwers. There’s a C class (usually for beginners), B class, A class (top amateur) and Pro class (the best of the best).  Also masters and women.  Al was there in the pro class and won it that day, so he was a top pro thrower at the top of his game at that time.  You also have to understand that the groups will rotate events all day, so that when one group is on the hammer, another might be on the caber so in between throws you can watch the other groups throw.  I recall watching Al hit some big numbers that day.  But most of all, the last event for him was the sheaf toss.  And boy, did Al give a clinic!

The Sheaf is a 16lb simulated “hay” bale, usually rope or twine wrapped in a burlap bag.  You use a pitch fork to launch it up and over a crossbar for height.  Al was a 300lber then and had about 30lbs on me back then (how things have changed!).  I was done with all my events and went over to watch the action.  The bar kept going higher and higher and soon the only one left was Al.  I remember my wife was wanting to go, but then I heard that Al would attempt a WORLD RECORD in the sheaf toss!  I had to see that, but I also had been eyeing his attempts and really doubted he had that much in him.  The sheaf standards were raised as high as they would go!  In other words, the bar would go no higher and there was only one other time I’ve seen the standards “topped out” like that and the second time was just this year when Dan McKim, the current Pro National and World  Champ, topped them out in Wichita.  Al got set, began to swing the bar back and forth and with a mighty swing launched that sheaf up and over the bar.  Al probably doesn’t remember this, but I went over and shook his hand and congratulated him….along with 5o other people!

I left that day not really sure if I’d ever compete in a highland games again, and not realizing that Al would some day be one of my best friends.  I also didn’t realize that Al’s brother in law was somebody I had already competed against in the predecessor of the USAWA, Clark’s Odd lift meets.  None other than Bob Burtzloff!  It really is a small world.  I have never forgotten that day because here was Al, at the top of the heap, the winner of the Pro class and me competing (and almost beating) his brother in the lowest group of all.  But each time I talked to Al during the day, he was friendly, encouraging, and offered advice.  A true sportsman!  So, becoming his friend was easy because he was my kind of guy right from the start.  It also sold me on highland games!

So, be nice to everyone.  You never know when you’ll run into them again.  And thanks Al, your encouragement that day set the standard for myself and brought me into a sport I truly love!

USAWA Lifters Dominate Highlander Nationals

by Thom Van Vleck

 

NAHA Nationals held in Omaha, Nebraska

The NAHA (North American Highlander Association) held it’s annual National Championships in Omaha, Nebraska on September 17, 2011.  A full meet report can be found at www.nahighlander.com.  The “Highlander” concept of strength competition combines Scottish Highland Games events with an equal number of Strongman events.  This particular event had the Stone Put, Weight Over Bar, and Heavy Hammer for the Highland Games events and the 12″ Log Clean & Press, Farmers Walk, and a Giant Tire Flip/Keg Carry Medley for the strongman events.

It is interesting to note that the event was DOMINATED by current or past USAWA members!  In the Lightweights we saw Tim Pinkerton make a comeback after a couple of years away from competition to squeak out a win.  The next three classes were won by current USAWA members.  In the Middleweights, Andrew Durniat won easily.  The Heavyweights saw yours truly win with a tie breaker in a three way tie for 1st.  Finally, John O’Brien won the masters easily after winning every single event, and was the only athlete to do that in the competition.

It’s no surprise to me that a competition that seeks to combine two sports would be dominated by athletes that excel in the the USAWA, an organization made up of 100’s of lifts.  The athleticism needed to do well in so many lifts means the lifter is used to applying his strength in many different ways and not in just a few, select, and narrow ways.

So, to my fellow USAWA friends who competed with me Saturday, Good Job!  And to my JWC brother John, way to go!

Rules for the Dumbbell Shoulder

by Thom Van Vleck

Two big Dumbbells.....could either one be shouldered in the "Dumbbell Shoulder" event at the Old Time Strongman Nationals?

When Al and I discussed me hosting the Old Time Strongman Nationals one of the things that I wanted to do was come up with some new lifts.  The “OTS” concept is to have lifts that aren’t current USAWA lifts, that have more relaxed rules, be able to raise or lower the weight, be done for a max attempt, and be something the old timers did.  What followed was me sending Al numerous lifts and him pointing out how they were already USAWA lifts or did not fit the criteria in some way!  In my research I came across the weightlifting for the 1904 Olympics.  It was very different than from today.  There were actually two separate events, a barbell competition and a Dumbbell competition.  There were several Dumbbell lifts and one of them involved cleaning a heavy dumbbell.  I stumped Al on this one.  There are no current USAWA lifts that involved cleaning a dumbbell and Al thought there ought to be so he shot down my idea based on the fact that we need to add that lift to the regular USAWA lifts….as a result it COULDN’T be an OTS event!  So, I came back with this event, as inspired by that 1904 Olympic event and thus the name!

USAWA Rule for the 1904 Dumbbell Shoulder

A Dumbbell will be taken from the floor to the shoulder using any method the lifter wants to employ.  The dumbbell may be lifted with two hands, continental style, may be rested on the belt during the lift, by any part of the dumbbell.  Hands may grip the plates, bar, collars or any part of the dumbbell. Any size plate may be loaded onto the dumbbell.The lift is completed when the lifter is standing upright, with the dumbbell resting on the shoulder, and the lifter demonstrating control.  Both hands may remain on the dumbbell to complete the lift, or with one hand or both hands off the dumbbell.  Time limit of 1 minute is given to complete the lift.  An official will give a command to end the lift.

So, we will give this one a try.  It may be a “one and done” event in that we will have to see how this one plays in competition.  If it does, then great!  At the least, it is a unique event and it will be interesting to see how much we can do!

Rules for the Anderson Squat

by Thom Van Vleck

The Anderson Squat: Old Time Strongman lift

Let’s take a look at one of the new lifts for the Old Time Strongman Nationals to be held Oct. 16 at the JWC Training Hall in Kirksville, Missouri.  First, let’s review what the “Old Time Strongman” is before we talk about this brand new lift.  Old Time Strongman in the USAWA will included lifts popularized or used by strongmen of years past.  The lifts must be loadable (So the bar can be loaded to any weight so any skill level can make the lift and not just have a heavy apparatus with a set weight).    The idea is that you will have a strongman contest that can be contested by a wide variety of skill levels and ages.

Today’s focus is on the “Anderson Squat”.  Paul Anderson, one of the greatest strongmen of all time, was famous for his leg strength.  Ol’ Paul had a lot of unorthodox training techniques often born out of necessity (in other words, “he didn’t have the proper equipment so he just rigged something up and lifted it!”).  One of the more famous lifts he employed was squatting barrels filled with junk from a hole in the ground.  The story goes Paul loaded it and dug a hole deep enough he could get under it and do a partial squat.  He would then throw some dirt in the hole, slowly filling it up, so that he would have to get a little lower each time to complete the lift.  I found a great photo of Paul doing the lift and evidently that day he was short on iron so a couple of pretty girls volunteered!  Don’t worry, if we run low on weights at the meet, I’ll be happy to climb on top for extra weight!

USAWA Rules for the Anderson Squat

 A squat (with a standard Olympic bar) done from a dead stop from a height not over two thirds the height of the lifter.  Squat is completed when the knees are locked and the lifter is standing erect.  Time limit of 1 minute is given for each attempt meaning the lifter may reset as many times as necessary to complete the lift.  Knee wraps or knee sleeves will be allowed.  An official will give a command to end the lift.

The uniqueness of this event is doing a squat from a dead stop.  It is also the challenge of it!  It will be interesting to see what kind of numbers we can put up in this event….and I don’t think Paul will have anything to worry about in regards to anyone coming close to breaking his records in this style of lifting.

Rules for the Anderson Press

by Thom Van Vleck

Paul Anderson with a 450lb Continental Clean & Press. This photo approximates the starting point of the "Anderson Press" event at the Old Time Strongman Nationals.

The first ever USAWA Old Time Strongman National Championship will be held at the JWC Training Hall on October 16, 2011.  One of the new lifts to be contested will be the “Anderson Press”.  Big Paul Anderson, arguably the strongest man that ever lived, used to do some pretty unique training lifts and often rigged things up to work on what he felt were his weaknesses. One lift he came up with was to hang a barbell from a tree with a chain and do partial lockout presses.  This lift was the inspiration for the lift to be contested in October!

USAWA Rules for the Anderson Press

Press (with a standard Olympic bar) will be done from a dead stop position in the power rack from a height no greater than the height of the lifter when standing erect.  Lifter may “bow” back to press the weight but must keep knees locked.  The lift ends when the lifter is upright, arms locked, and demonstrates control of the weight. The lifter may press in an uneven manner and unlock unevenly. It is not a disqualification if the bar is lowered during the press, and afterwards the press resumes. The feet are not allowed to move. However, the lifter may raise the heels or toes during the press.  Time limit of 1 minute is given for each attempt meaning the lifter may reset as many times as necessary to complete the lift.  An official will give a command to end the lift.

You will notice the rules are a lot more relaxed compared to other USAWA lifts.  The idea is that the lifter will be able to handle big weights and it will be pretty evident to any spectators if they get the lift or not.  I know that when I’ve attended meets I have spent a lot of time explaining to spectators that are not familiar with lifting why a completed lift did not count.  While this could still happen, it’s a lot less likely and I think that’s part of the appeal of the the “Old Time Strongman” concept.  It’s more spectator friendly and forgiving to the lifter!   As a result, this type of meet may attract a whole new type of strength athlete to the USAWA that will then try the traditional meets as well.  At least that’s my opinion.  Hope you can make it in October!

What is Art!

by Thom Van Vleck

Barbell Mobile at the York Barbell HQ in York, PA

I have always been a “form follows function” kind of guy.  I like looking at things that are built well, built to last, built to do a job and it’s function is what makes it pleasing to look at.  Like the Golden Gate Bridge is a work of art to me.  Al’s Back Lift apparatus is a work of art to me.  I have problems figuring out the purpose of piles of metal of globs of paint piled upon each other in some seemingly random fashion and then labels as some great statement about the destruction of the environment (no, I would say you using valuable resources to make something that serves no earthly purpose as the destruction of then environment!).  But hey, as my dear ol’ Dad used to say, “Whatever trips your trigger”.

I do have to admit, I like things that utilize what I love to do….lifting weights.  Recently, I was visiting the York Barbell Headquarters in York, PA and hanging from the ceiling was a huge mobile made of weights….not sure if the weights were real….and that looked cool and interesting.  It also rotated slowly.  However, I couldn’t help but thinking to myself how nice it would be to have those barbell plates in my gym!

Now this would be the ultimate challenge for Al Myers to build and an even greater challenge for anyone to lift if it were made of iron!

Another piece of “art” I recently saw (not in person) was an 8 ft tall Dumbbell that was being used as an advertisement of some sort.  There’s a youtube video of it being made ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdDVvwayraE), it looks like they make it out of styrofoam!  I have to admit, if I were walking down the street, I’d pause and check this out (and probably want my wife to take my picture trying to lift it….and yes, I would try and lift it!

They say art is in the eye of beholder and I also heard someone once say, “I don’t know what art is, but I know what I like”.  Sure, I’ve been to college and took “Art Appreciation” and I can BS with the best of them on the finer points of art and answer a few trivia questions about Leonardo da Vinci or Jackson Pollock (no relation to the JWC!)  But when it comes right down to it, I like the kind of art that I can use, like a 1957 Chevy, a well designed house with many architectural features, or a 500lb capacity lat pull down like Al Myers has in his gym!  So, make it pretty, but make it do something other than a paper weight or something to cover a hole in the wall.

JWC Expands!

by Thom Van Vleck

The newest addition to the USAWA's list of clubs: The Jackson Weightlifting Club: Transcon!

The last weekend of August the three JWC Members, Josh Hettinger, Mitch Ridout and myself made the trip over to Galesburg, Illinois where my brother, Tedd, had just bought a new house due to a work transfer.  He had a beautiful, huge garage and wanted me to work my magic and set him up with the home gym for the hardcore lifter and that’s exactly what I did.  I felt like an interior designer for hardcore lifters!

For the platform we have two layers of 3/4 CDX board with a top layer designed for two lifting platforms side by side with plywood in the middle of each and heavy duty rubber for where the bar will land.  There is a power rack that used to belong to Zach Schluender, a top Olympic style lifter who has snatched around 375 and Clean & Jerked  around 440lbs as a superheavy.  There are squat racks that once rested in the Old JWC gym that just about everyone that’s ever lifted for the JWC has used, made from old truck wheels and axles for uprights.  He has a steel log for strongman training, two full Olympic sets, adjustable squat stands, a bench that once belonged to Russ Murphy that adjusts to several angles and is heavy duty, and an assortment of other equipment.  I even made him a metal sign with the JWC logo on it.  I should start a new business in hardcore gym design…I’m sure there’s a huge market for that out there!  Not only is Tedd’s gym ready for a hardcore workout but it already is filled with history of big lifts and lifters that will inspire your workout!

A fitting end to a hard day of training: STEAKS on the Grill! On a "Green Egg" no less, Al likes these so much he has TWO of them!

This will not just be a second location for the JWC but a second club. My brother is hoping to get some local guys interested in lifting and even hosting a meet in his gym!  He even plans to register his gym with the USAWA!  We have called it tentatively the “JWC Transcon” because Tedd works for the Railroad and the “Transcon” is the busiest Rail line in his company AND since has had to move his gym twice we wanted a name that could fit anywhere he goes…..but that name isn’t finalized yet!

The weekend was about as good as it gets.  We had a work day setting up the gym and moving things in the house.  Then we went to Peoria where we competed in the Scottish Highland Games on the next day.  Then the third day was lifting and grilling big steaks on Tedd’s new “Green Egg Grill”.  So, if  you are in central Illinois area or know someone who is, there is now a place for you to train.  Stop by and see Tedd and check out the JWC Transcon!

Strongman Nationals

 by Thom Van Vleck

MEET ANNOUNCEMENT

2011 USAWA OLD TIME STRONGMAN NATIONALS

Frederick Winters working with a really big Dumbbell at the 1904 Olympics. There were several Dumbbell lifts done at this contest and one is serving as the inspiration for a lift at this years Old Time Strongman Nationals.

The first ever USAWA Old Time Strongman Nationals will be held on Sunday,  Oct. 16, 2011 at the Jackson Weighlifting Club Training Hall.  This will be in conjunction with a fun filled weekend of strength that includes a Scottish Highland Games on Oct. 15th.  If you have ever wanted to try your hand at the Highland Games this is your chance to get two events in one weekend.  There is even a special discounted entry for both!  Soon I will have all the information up at www.jacksonweightliftingclub.com!

First, a quick note on the Highland Games on Saturday.  This will include 7 traditional Scottish feats of strength.  The hammer throws, the Weights for Distance, the Weight Over Bar, the Sheaf stone, the Stone put, and last but not least, the caber toss.

Now, to the Strongman contest.  Earlier this year Al Myers held the first ever USAWA Old Time Strongman contest at the Dino Gym.  It was a great success.  Al and I discussed it and said there ought to be a Nationals each year and I offered to hold it at the JWC Training Hall.  In the coming weeks we will be highlighting the events.  The rules of the lifts are included with the  entry forms.

OLD TIME STRONGMAN LIFTS CONTESTED

Anderson Press

Anderson Squat

Dinnie Lift

1904 Dumbbell to Shoulder

Entry form  for the USAWA Old Time Strongman Nationals (pdf) -  Old Time Strongman Nationals Entry Form

Entry form for the Kirksville Highland Games (pdf) -  Kirksville Highland Games Entry Form