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

Accepting the Aging Process

by Thom Van Vleck

None of these guys are showing any sign of aging any time soon! This "unretouched" photo shows that lifting keeps you youthful! Joe Garcia, Chad Ullom, Al Myers, LaVerne Myers, and Thom Van Vleck getting ready to down Cheese Steak Sandwichs in Philadelphia before the Heavy Event Nationals!

I have said it before, the USAWA sometimes seems like a retirement sport for lifters.   The organization has it’s fair share of older lifters and I think it’s great.  I don’t think it has anything to do with it being an organization for older lifters but everything to do with the wide variety of lifts available to the lifters.  This allows those who have injuries that keep them from Powerlifting, Olympic lifting, or strongman meets to stay active and still make gains.

I have known Joe for at least 25 years, Al and Chad for 17 years, and have really gotten to know LaVerne that last 5 years.  We have all had long lifting careers and our fair share of injuries.  And yet, in the photo above we don’t seem to have a SINGLE grey hair…at least in our beards….that PROVES lifting keeps you young!

In particular, I have known Al through having his bicep reattached not once, but TWICE on his right arm a ONCE on his left.  Yet he continues to plug away breaking record after record.  Had he stuck to just powerlifting or just Highland games, that would have been difficult to do.   So that’s a second reason the USAWA is popular among older lifters, they can keep setting records and that keeps them motivated to lift hard.

Many of you know, but maybe a few don’t, that Al was a high ranked Professional Highland Games Athlete.  He even held a Pro world record!  That’s no easy feat!  It’s actually how I met him and not through my affiliation with Bill Clark and Bob Burtzloff (Al’s brother in law).  That was just one of those “small world” deals that we found out later.   There was a time when Al “retired” from throwing.  I was personally pretty sad about this because I had enjoyed our many road trips to Highland Games.  Al told me one time it was hard to stay motivated about throwing when he knew he’d peaked in that sport and would likely never be as good a thrower as he was when he was at his prime.  However, in the USAWA he could still find lifts that he could work on and set not only USAWA records in, but personal bests, too.  And that keeps a guy motivated about his training when he feels he can keep setting “personal bests”!

Now, the photo above, to be honest, was “retouched” just a little.  Al recently dyed….errrrr…I mean “highlighted” his beard because when he grew it back after a long absence (Al used to sport a beard for most of the early years I knew him) it had gotten a little grey…..OK, let’s be honest, it was as snow white as Santa’s beard!   So Al “highlighted” it a little and we gave him a hard time about it.  But seriously, Al is an ageless wonder and I have no doubt that someday he will challenge Art Montini, Dennis Habecker, and the other top record holders for most records ever.

USAWA is a sport that keeps you young at heart!

Bobby Dodd

Bobby Dodd doing his favorite lift, the deadlift

by Thom Van Vleck

Bobby Dodd has been a friend of mine for many years.  Al Myers has known Bobby even longer, throwing with him in the late 80’s.   Bobby has been a friend of all strength sports since I have known him.  I know for a fact if he lived near some all rounders he’d take a keen interest in the USAWA.  I wanted to give the guy some credit for his amazing career in strength sports.

Bobby Dodd is a legend in Highland Games Athletics in the United States.  Not only as an athlete, though he has competed in probably more states in the U.S. and provinces in Canada than any other thrower ever, but as a true friend to the sport.  This has all been done with his usual quiet reserve letting his actions speak for him over words.  His contributions rival any other and I thought it was time he was recognized for his impact.

Bobby Dodd’s involvement in Scottish Highland Games Athletics has spanned over 40 years. His parents were born in Scotland and he was exposed the Highland Games at an early age.  He told me that when he was getting out of the Navy he made a “to do” list and turning a caber was in the top ten.  This led to his first foray into competition was in 1969 at the Santa Monica Highland Games where he walked on for a caber only event and he found himself hooked on the sport.  He realized right away he needed to get stronger and this led to his powerlifting career.

Bobby Dodd throwing in the Scottish Highland Games

The real reason that I wanted to write this story is to convey what a sportsman Bobby is and his valuable contribution to the sport he loves.  His influence goes beyond competition, judging, or the equipment he sells.  He has made many friends, brought so many into the sport he loves, but most importantly has set a standard of sportsmanship for all who have followed that has become part of why many enjoy the competitions today.  Some simply show up and compete and enjoy the fruits of the hard work put into making things happen.  Others work hard to make it happen.  Bobby has done it all!

Bobby began competing in Scottish Athletics in 1980.  His favorite event was the hammer throw.  But he found equipment hard to come by.  As a result, he contacted a local foundry about making some hammer heads for his personal use.  The expense was in making the mold and once the mold was made it was a cheaper process to make more, so Bobby started selling them to recoup the cost of the mold.  Eventually, this led to the development of Mjolnir hammers and a complete line of throwing weights for distance and height for the Games.   This endeavor was called “Hevy Gear”.   Bobby has had his equipment used at well over 100 highland Games in North America, and even Iceland and New Zealand.

Bobby, like many of us, first started giving back to the sport by judging. He first judged in 1984.  He did this off and on for many years and became an SAAA certified judge in 1997.  Since that time Bobby has judged at the Pro World Championships, Women’s World championships, Masters World Championships, North American Championships and numerous other Games from the local and regional level.

Bill Anderson (r) is one of the greatest Highland Games throwers of all time and maybe the greatest hammer thrower of all time. Bobby (l) sponsored the combined Scottish Hammers trophy for the Masters World Championships and named it after Bill. This was taken a the Masters World Championships in Scotland.

In 2004, I traveled to compete in my first Masters World Championships.  When we arrived, there was a mix up on judges and we were short. Since many of the athletes there were also certified judges or had years of experience, they asked for volunteers.  I recall thinking I had travelled half way across the country and didn’t want to miss out on the competition, but  Bobby, who was there to compete, offered to judge.   He sacrificed so others could throw!  I’ll never forget that and it’s just one example of how Bobby has given back to the sport that has given him so much.

I have another more personal connection with Bobby.  That is being a United States Marine.  Bobby was in the Navy and often having a military service connection makes for close friendships.  It has not escaped my notice that Bobby wears the Marine Corp tartan proudly and supports servicemen and women whenever he can.

Bill Scruggs, one of the founding members of the Masters World Championships in Highland Games, told me that Bobby was very supportive in the early days of the MWC.  Bobby not only donated hammers to be used, he developed the Master’s Hammer Aggregate trophy.  It was a traveling trophy awarded based on the aggregate of both heavy and light hammers thrown in the MWC.  While this award is no longer contested, it led to the current aggregate system used in the MWC to determine the best overall hammer thrower, weight for distance thrower, and stone putter.  Bobby has sponsored many other awards to further the sport.

Ryan Vierra, multi Pro World Champion in Scottish Highland Games, said:

“I consider Bobby Dodd one of the most influential people of our sport, past and present. Bobby has provided his valuable time to consult with games, and countless hours judging, as well as providing games all over the world with standardized equipment. When I started the games in 1987 Bobby was one of the athletes that welcomed me into the sport and I consider him a great friend and key asset to the future of our sport.”

Sean Betz, 2008 Pro World Highland Games Champ said:

“ Bobby is a great guy who always is in tune of what’s going on in the sport of highland games.  He takes a lot of pride is his equipment.  One of things I will always remember about Bobby is how he e-mailed me about his deadlift program.  Bobby had just been getting done with cancer treatment and is getting up there in age.   I was shocked as he is still up in the 400lb range for deadlifts and was very serious about increasing it.  A true highland games warrior and a great heart for the sport and for people.”

I competed at the North American Championships near Seattle, Washington in 2010 and Bobby was a judge there.  After the games were over, we enjoyed a libation together and talked about our love for the sport.  Bobby pulled out a huge scrap book.  I expected that it would be full of his own exploits, but instead it had dozens, maybe hundreds, of newspaper clippings of some the greatest ever to turn a caber!  He called it his “History of the Highland Games” and it’s a work in progress.

I was speaking with Steve Conway, the Athletic Director of the Caledonian Club of San Francisco Highland Games (one of the oldest and biggest Games in North America) about Bobby.  Steve talked about throwing with Bobby and Mike Qutermous starting in the early 80’s and the fun they had.  He also pointed out how the CCSF Games had used Dodd’s equipment for years and wondered out loud how many world records and games records had been set with Bobby’s equipment.  Steve also pointed out that Bobby often donated awards and equipment and donated women’s weights often just to get a Games to add women’s events!

Two photos, both of Cindy and Bobby Dodd. One in 1971 and the other in 2009. Over 40 years of Highland Games attendance!

Whenever Bobby Dodd’s name was mentioned, I heard words like “friend”, “mainstay”, “heart” and “influential”.  Sometimes those that do the most aren’t recognized for their efforts. Bobby Dodd one of those guys.  It would be my hope to be more like Bobby.  I want to give back more than I take from the sport I love, make lots of friends, and have a lot of fun in the process.

Omega Force: Christian Strongman Team

By Thom Van Vleck

Randy Richey: Founding Member of Omega Force.

I have met many of my best friends being involved in strength sports.  This is a story about one of them and the group he helped start.   I was competing in a Strongman contest called the “Strongarm Games” in Kansas City put on by Steve Scott.  This contest had a Scottish flair to it and I recall we did some strongman events with some highland games event thrown in.  It was then I first met Randy.  We competed together and hit it off really well.  Then, a couple years later a friend of mine invited me to be his guest in a VIP box for the US Strongman Pro Nationals in St. Louis at Harrah’s Casino.  The warm up show included some bending by John Brookfield and he was performing with Omega Force.  I kept looking at the guy that was the leader but could not place him….when suddenly he called me out by name!  I realized it was Randy, the guy I had met at the Strongarm Games.

Randy hitting a big squat with one of his custom built props.

After the show I talked with Randy at length about what he did.  At that time Bubba Melton was still with him and performing.  During the next year, I would find out that Bubba had passed away and he was only 34 years old.  Omega Force was doing Christian evangelism in the Paul Anderson tradition.  Randy built all his own equipment on his farm in Kentucky and had an ever changing group of guys that would do shows with him.  It was after that show that he told me that he would call me the next time they were up this way.

That next year, Randy did call me and I recruited Brian Kerby to go down with me.  Brian and I thought we’d be mostly helping set things up but quickly found ourselves in the middle of the show!  There were 6 shows in 4 days including two over two days for the US Pro Nationals Strongman Contest.  The final day ended up in the Family Arena in St. Charles where we performed for over 3000 there to see the strongman competition!  Brian and I were so inspired we came back and started our own local team.  From time to time we have helped out Omega Force as have greats like Bill Kazmaier, Paul Wrenn, and Anthony Clark!  A couple years back we went with Randy to the Arnold Fit Expo and were invited to provide security for Arnold himself.  Arnold autographed an 800lb log that Randy squats in his shows to show his gratitude.  It was at that show that Brian Schoonveld, a World’s Strongest Man competitor levered the special sledge hammer that I gave Al Myers and now rests in the Dino Gym.

One of Randy's creations. There's no hiding what Omega Force is all about!

Omega Force was started in 1996 by Randy Richey and Bubba Melton.  They do feats of strength showing their God-given talents and use it to entertain while delivering a Gospel message.  The Mission Statement of Omega Force reads: “To be a ministry that demonstrates love and compassion in bringing forth the gospel to win the lost and to provide spiritual guidance and direction to those in need.  Their purpose is to go into all the world and spread the gospel”.  While some may agree or disagree with what they are about and how they do it, there is no denying the intensity the bring to their efforts.  They also support being drug free and showing love to others.

Circus Dumbbell. This looks very much like the one that Al Myers made!

I had the pleasure of visiting Randy’s home gym in Kentucky a few years back.  I have to say that in many ways it rivals Al’s Dino Gym!  If measured by pure volume, I would say Randy has more stuff than Al!  But the way Al keeps adding to his collection, that may change!  At any rate, if you are in that area, it is worth the trip.  Randy’s gym may be more in the sticks than Al’s so don’t think you will just “drive my it”.  Randy told me he has guys that will travel hundreds of miles for their big weekend workouts!

Randy and Omega Force have been a good friend of the JWC over the years.  I know that in the future both teams will continue the work they do and if the chance to work together again comes, I know I will be there.   Check out their website:  www.omegaforceone.com or look them up on facebook.

Big Muscles or Strong Muscles?

 by Thom Van Vleck

Dennis Rogers next to Thom Van Vleck at the York Barbell Benefit for the Wounded Warrior Project. Dennis is one of the top short steel benders of all time!

The Jackson Weightlifting Club does a lot of Strongman “Evangelism” shows (like Paul Anderson used to do).  To date, we’ve done around 250 total shows with over 100 being full blown productions with the full team.  The smaller shows are what we call “gym bag” shows where we bring in stuff we can carry in a gym bag to put on a small one or two man show.  We often get called by local groups to entertain.

One time, we got a call from the local YMCA to do an “after school” show.  I was planning on doing it solo, but had something come up so Brett Kerby went instead.  We have four core members of our team and Brett is by far the smallest, but he’s the best of the group when it comes to short steel bending and ripping decks of cards in half!  He went to do the show and when he showed up a local TV news crew was on hand and this was not planned (which Brett is not comfortable with that kind of stuff at all!).  At the end, the news crew interviewed the kids and that night we watched it.  Several kids said things like, “That was awesome” or “I liked it when he ripped the phone book in half”.  One little girl really caught our attention.  She said, “I thought you needed to have big muscles to do that…..but I guess not!”   Needless to say, we had a lot of fun kidding Brett about that.  One time we were getting ready to do a show and Brett got there early to set up the sound system.   A guy there to see the show asked, “So….when do the strongmen get here”.  No respect!

Two Thirds of the Jackson Brothers: Phil and Wayne "Staggo" Jackson. Little Brother and Big Brother! Wayne could move big weights but Phil could do some amazing feats of strength that Wayne couldn't!

Meeting Dennis Rogers made me think of Brett.  Dennis also reminded me of USAWA legend Steve Schmidt.  None of these guys are huge, muscle bound, behemoths.  But they are also NOT guys you would want to mess with.  Short steel bending requires a suspension of pain.  I once saw John O’Brien drive a 60 penny nail into his hand at least a half inch…..and he put some tape on it and kept bending for a half dozen more shows that weekend before seeking treatment….he didn’t even flinch.  If you watch these guys you will see how painful it really is and if you try it, you will KNOW how painful it is.  I have managed a 60 penny nail, halving and quartering a deck of cards, and doing phone books.  My hands hurt, my elbows hurt, and my shoulders hurt.  All lifting involves pain tolerance, but that stuff requires “pain suspension”.

So, big muscles impress the novices and sometimes even the experts….but there’s much more to it than big muscles.  Pain tolerance, tenacity, leverage, and being smart and calculating are all factors that guys like Dennis Rogers, Steve Schmidt, and Brett Kerby have mastered.  They are the kinds of guys I would want in a back alley fight because they won’t quit…..and really, who would expect such strength from someone their size!

USAWA Nationals: Let’s Celebrate!

 by Thom Van Vleck

Some of the 2011 USAWA lifters with family and friends at the Banquet following the meet celebrating a great day!

The recent USAWA meet really got me to thinking.  We all work really hard to train, prepare, and then travel to a meet.  Often at great expense.  I have been doing that for over 30 years now.   When I was younger, I would often go to the meet and head right out after collecting my trophy (if I got one!) and my drive home was filled with obsessive thoughts on how I was going to get better.  I have always been really hard on myself and as a result, I can honestly say I’ve never felt like I deserved to celebrate after a meet.  Even though I’ve had meets where I did quite well!

We need to enjoy the fruits of our labor.  Even when we don’t live up to expectations, we need to unwind a little and enjoy the moment.  That’s exactly how I felt at the USAWA Nationals Awards Banquet afterwards.  I enjoyed the moment (plus a great meal, some caked, and a scotch!).  I’ve missed to many of these in the past.  I have been a Counselor for 20 some years, but I”m often my toughest patient because my reflection won’t call me out when I need it.  Results come from getting your body to do things it does not want to do.  Rewarding yourself is an important part of training, it makes it worthwhile.

Now, I know that some folks have other obligations, such as work the next day, or small kids, or a long drive home, but give yourself a break.  Enjoy the moment.  Take a breath……then get back after it!

Wayne Smith: All Round Legend Part II

 by Thom Van Vleck

Wayne Smith pulling a partial deadlift with everything but the kitchen sink on the bar!

In Part II of my story on Wayne Smith, we will look at some of his best lifts, his personality, and his hard work ethic.

Wayne Smith was most impressive when he was deadlifting.  He had a best of 460lb at 148lbs (triple bodyweight).  He also had a 240 bench, snatch 145, C&J 200, squat 290, and a Clean & Press of 160.  Wayne Jackson told me that one of the most impressive things he saw Wayne Smith do was a bent arm pullover from the floor to the chest while lying on a bench with 250lbs.  Some of Waynes old records on the Pre-USAWA “All-Round Records” list include a 230lb Middle Fingers deadlift, a Pinch Grip of 115lbs, and a Miller Clean & Jerk of 90lbs all done in his late 40’s.

Phil Jackson remembers meeting for the first time in 1957.  He said he was around 13 and Wayne was the “expert” who actually was friends with Tommy Kono!  Phil said they all enjoyed Wayne’s wry sense of humor and it made training sessions funny and the long, late night trips back from meets tolerable.  Wayne was always saying something off the cuff.  Some of his best that I remember include:

“Bodybuilding is like a dog show”

“I complained to my wife about how sore I was and when she found out it was from doing a heavy deadlift she told me to see a vet because only a jackass would try something like that”

One time, Ed Zercher, Sr was the head judge at a lifting meet and smith was up on the deadlift.  Zercher was really serious on judging.  Smith walked up and took a “clean grip” as Ed looked on through his trademark tiny spectacles.  Smith stood up, snapped his fingers and said, “That’s right, this is the deadlift…..I was getting ready to clean this”.  Phil said Zercher didn’t bat an eye and said, “One minute” indicating Smith better lift or get off the platform.

Smith up in a tree cutting limbs.

Smith was a tree trimmer his whole life and he was famous for scaling unbelievably tall trees with little or not climbing gear and like a surgeon dropped limbs with great precision.  One day a guy said, “You must like heights” and Smith told him he HATED heights.  The guy asked him why he climbed such tall trees then and Smith said, “Because that’s where my grocery money is at!!!!”

Smith was a great tree trimmer and my Uncle Phil and I both share the experience of helping Smith in his tree trimming business.  Smith was not a wealthy man, as a matter of fact, he usually just got by.  I recall one time Smith was trying to get one of three chain saws going to finish a job when he turned to me and said, “There’s nothing shameful about being poor….it’s just d@med inconvenient”!!!  It’s hard work trimming trees and Smith made extra money cutting that wood up for fired wood that he would sell.  He was one of the hardest working men I knew and the fact that he trained with weights at all was a feat unto itself.  There is no doubt he would have had a much greater career if he hadn’t been breaking his back all day working!

That might explain Wayne’s training regime.  He worked so hard trimming and cutting down trees and often when the work was there he’d put in dawn to dusk days that he hardly had time or energy to train.  Getting that “grocery money” out of the trees was more important than a trophy!  He would often show up at the gym and lift for about 20 minutes at a time hitting all the major lifts he was going to do in the next contest.  For example, if he were going to do a powerlifting meet he’d hit his warm ups, hit his opener and move on to the next lift.  No frills, just right to the point.  Smith got plenty of “assistance” work in his job….the kind of stuff people now do and call “old school” training, Smith did and made a living at it!  Wayne also would focus on some new stunt that he’d practice when he could on the job.  When I was working for him it was around the time Mt. St. Helen’s erupted.  So Wayne was working on doing chins while pinch gripping the rafters.  He also would “monkey bar” across the room pinching the rafters.  He quite seriously would tell me if a volcano erupted and the room filled with lava he’d be safe!  I never knew how serious he was because I thought to myself….”If the room is full of lava then I would think that would be the least of your worries”!  His wry sense of humor kind of always left you wondering!

Smith with his custum made truck hauling a "typical" haul for him. He was talented at getting huge trees out by himself. The truck had a strong wench with an I-beam on the top that would pull a large log right in!

Later Wayne Smith became interested in bowling.  He became very good at it and  and was so successful he was inducted in the Missouri Bowling Hall of Fame.  He is a local legend in the bowling alley and he is proud of the fact that he’s the only person in both the Bowling and Lifting Halls of Fame.

Wayne has been a big part of the JWC for OVER 50 years.  Who knows, maybe if he had not been there to guide my Uncle’s when they first started training maybe there would never been a JWC.  I feel we owe him a lot and his contributions to Olympic lifting, Powerlifting, and the USAWA should not be overlooked!

Wayne Smith: All Round Legend Part I

 by Thom Van Vleck

Wayne Smith deadlifting the front end of a Volkswagon.

Wayne Smith was one of the original Jackson Weightlifting Club members.  He usually lifted in the 148lb class and competed in Olympic lifting meets, Powerlifting, and early “odd lift” meets and later USAWA meets.  Smith was born in 1932 and is currently 78 years old.

Wayne told me he first became interested in weightlifting as a kid with his twin brother, Ward.   But it was not until he joined the Navy that he actually started training regularly.  While in the Navy he was stationed in Hawaii and it was at this time he made a life long friendship with Tommy Kono (If you don’t know, Kono was one of the greatest Olympic lifters of all time and was actually voted “Weightlifter of the Century”).  Wayne has letters he has received over the years and a personally autographed copy of Kono’s book on lifting (Weightlifting: Olympic Style).  There is also a letter from Gary Cleveland.  Cleveland was a great York lifter who later put out a newsletter called the Avian Movement Advocate that Smith would often contribute to.  The letter talks about a letter Kono sent to Cleveland about Smith and it was very positive.  Smith told me that it meant a lot to him that Kono would write that letter about him.

Wayne Smith "wowing the crowd" with his Chinup prowess.

It was around 1957 that Wayne returned from the Navy and was approached by a group of brothers trying to find out more about weightlifting.  Smith felt he was no expert but these young men, the Jackson Brothers,  knew almost nothing and were lifting makeshift barbells made of concrete poured in buckets, old flywheels for extra plates, anvils, and pretty much anything that wasn’t tied down.  My favorite story was about the first thing Smith told them was to reverse their grip on their cleans, presses, and jerks.  They were using a “curl” or “reverse” grip!  Soon they were working out on a regular basis and the foundation for the Jackson Weightlifting Club as we know it today was laid.

Wayne’s first meet was in Omaha, Nebraska in 1958.  His Olympic lifting and Powerlifting career lasted until 1971.  During that time he entered many meets as a member of the Jackson Weightlifting Club.  He was part of a JWC team that won two state team titles.  He was also proud of the fact he never failed to total and he never failed to make weight for his weight class.  He said Kono had taught him to take a safe lift then go all out on 2nd and 3rd attempts and this served Wayne well.  In 1964 won the Missouri State Championships as a middleweight.  Just prior to winning that title he was told he had a lung condition and at the rate he was deteriorating he had maybe two years to live!  He received treatment from Dr. Valuck who he credits with diagnosing him and treating him back to health!

Smith at the top of one of his "perfect" one-arm chins at a powerlifting meet in Minnesota in 1966. You will find a poster of this picture on the wall in Clark's Gym.

In the late 70’s, Wayne began entering “odd lift” meets put on by Bill Clark.  He also lifted in the early USAWA years.  It was in 1977 that Bill nominated Wayne for the AAU Weightlifting Hall of Fame and Wayne was later inducted.  During his lifting years Wayne won 4 major titles.  Other than his state title in 1964, in 1966 he won the City Championships in Kirksville, in 1966 he won the Open Powerlifting title in St. Paul, Minnesota (where the chin up photo was take, more on that later!), and in 1971 he won his last title, a powerlifting meet in Jefferson City were he won the Open title.

Wayne was also a chin up specialist.  He would often challenge all comers to a chin up contest.  He told me he was only beaten one time.  It was by another JWC member named Dr. Rex Lee.  Rex had joined the club while going to the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine and lifted as 114lber.  Rex weighed only 105lbs when he beat Smith by one rep.  My Uncle Phil told me that every meet they ever competed in at some point Smith would put on a chinning exhibition.  If there was no bar to chin on then Phil and another member of the club would hold a 45lb bar up for Smith to chin on!  In 1998 I “revived” the club and in 1999 held a strongman contest and Highland Games that eventually turned into the Kirksville Games and the JWC Strongman Championships/Highlander.  My brother and I held a bar up and at age 68 Wayne did a perfect one arm chin up!  When I say perfect he did a “dead weight” pull and no “kip” or “kick”.  That’s how he always did them and had a best of 6 one arm chins.

Coming Soon: Part II

Bent Press

by Thom Van Vleck

Wayne Smith, JWC member and All Round legend, performing a Bent Press while still in the Navy in Hawaii at Tommy Kono's Gym

The Bent Press is a very unusual lift.  It is difficult for just anyone to perform even with an empty bar, but with practice fantastic poundage’s can be lifted as evidenced by men such as Arthur Saxon (370lbs officially and 385 unofficially).  In the USAWA I believe that Bob Burtzloff was the finest bent presser our organization has seen.  Bob had the top Bent Press in the Missouri Valley All-Round Record List with an official competition lift of 209 pounds in 1985.  In 1984 I saw Bob do a 225lb Bent Press at Sailor’s Gym in Wichita after an old odd lift meet and was told at that time he had done 253lbs.  Al Myers has told me that Bob’s best training Bent Press was 275 pounds!   Just recently at the Heavy Lift Championships in York, PA I witnessed the heaviest Bent Press that has been done officially in the USAWA.  David Whitley joined the USAWA following the meet with the sole intent of doing a record Bent Press.  He performed a 137 pound Bent Press with the bar using both arms. To me, it looked like he could have done much more but just settled for setting the All Time record on this day. Dennis Mitchell has been the most proficient Bent Presser in the history of the USAWA. At the age of over 60, Dennis performed a Bent Press of 88 pounds weighing only around 175 pounds.  Dennis has the most USAWA Records in the Bent Press, totalling over 25 in number.  He has told me that his best Bent Press when he was younger was 175 pounds, which was bodyweight.  That is quite impressive and should be the goal of anyone wanting to achieve excellence in the Bent Press.    The Bent Press has been criticized as a dangerous lift by some,  and lauded as a great lift by others.  If done properly, I feel it is not dangerous at all.

Newcomer to the USAWA, David Whitley does 137 pounds in the Bent Press for the All Time best mark in the USAWA.

Here are the USAWA rules on the lift:

The lift begins at the lifter’s discretion. The bar may be taken from the platform to the shoulder in any manner. This may be done with a one arm clean, or with two hands, or stood on end and taken onto the shoulder using one or two hands. The bar will then be gripped in the center by one hand with the bar parallel to the platform. Once the lifter is in a standing position, with the bar held at the shoulder, the body is bent forward and sideways while the bar remains in a stationary position.  This bending away is continued until the lifting arm becomes straight.  The body will be in a bent over position at this point of the lift. The bar is allowed to rotate in any direction during the lift. The non-lifting arm may rest on the body or legs during the lift.  Width of feet placement is optional.  The lifting elbow may be brought into contact with the hip during the lift. Once the bar is locked out and the lifting arm straight, the lifter may stand when ready. The lifter may use the non-lifting arm as support on the knee or thigh. The lifting arm must remain straight once locked out. The lift will end on command from an official when the lifter is upright, the feet parallel and in line with the torso, the non-lifting hand free from the body, and the bar overhead and motionless.

Al reprinted a great story by Arthur Saxon in the USAWA news titled “What it feels like to lift 350 pounds with one hand” and I recommend going back and reading that one if you missed it or re-reading it if you have an interest in this lift.  Personally, I believe the Bent Press is an exercise that if done properly (and getting flexible enough to do it properly) is very beneficial.  But trying to just go to the gym and “do it” could lead you to real injury trouble.  So, read the rules, watch some videos, try to find someone like Dennis, Bob, or David who are proficient at it to coach you and then “GET AFTER IT”!

Al Myers: Leadership Award

by Thom Van Vleck

Leadership Award Winners (left to right): Al Myers, Thom Van Vleck

This years leadership award went to Al Myers.  I won’t mention who was 2nd….Ok, maybe it was me.  But I must have been a distant second in the voting because Al had quite a year last year and was well deserving of this honor.

Bill Clark was the heart and soul of the USAWA for many years.  For over 40 years some member of my family was getting his newsletters.  Having done a newsletter myself for several years I KNOW the work and cost involved.  Al took over the secretary job from Bill and has upheld the high standard Bill set.  There is no doubt that for years Bill kept the USAWA going and now that mantle has fallen on Al.  Bill brought his unique skill set to the job and so has Al.  It’s like comparing apples and oranges, each one is great in their own way.  Let’s focus on some of the things that led me to vote for Al, and I’m sure others for the same reason.

First, the website.  Back in the day, I got several newsletters.  They were the way to go.  I can recall when a First Class stamp was 6 cents…now it’s 7 times that amount!  Al realized that newsletters were becoming more and more impractical and a website with daily news on it was a necessity.  He also realized that the news needed to be updated daily so that people who check back daily and keep interest up.  I’m not saying websites are better than newsletters (honestly, I enjoyed the paper in my hand reading it during a workout) it’s just more practical in this day and age.  With the younger people, they are used to fast updates, fresh news, early and often and a website is the only way you are going to do that.  Al also recruited some top notch writers (ahem….) to help him out.  He knew people would get tired of just meet reports, so get in some variety and step outside just USAWA news from time to time.  This has also shown the light of day to quite a few stories that would have never been read otherwise.  One in particular was Larry Traub’s story on “Things I Hate about the Sport I Love”.

Second, getting others involved.  Al contacted me one day and asked if I would be interested in hosting the USAWA Nationals.  He wanted a new location for the meet in the hopes that the variety might help attendance.  I knew this was a big job, but I also knew Al would not leave me hanging so I accepted.  Al has talked many of us into going to meets that we might otherwise not attended.  That’s what leadership is all about.

Third, providing equipment.  Al has produced much of the apparatus needed to perform all the various lifts in his gym.  I wonder how many records have been set at the Dino Gym?  I also wonder how many records have been set on equipment that Al made?  So he not only provides  opportunities for setting records in his own gym he has made equipment that has been used in other gyms to set USAWA records.  For example, last year he had a writing contest and the prize (and several were provided) was a thick DB handle to to the DB walk.

Finally, Al will make you feel good about yourself.  Al is a great friend to many of us and I know I appreciate that.  Often, as lifters, we should be encouraging one another and often we do not do this as much as we should.  I believe Al has encourage many and again that is the mark of leadership.

I am excited to see what will happen to the USAWA under Al’s leadership.  For many years Ol’ Clark kept things going, now Al is keeping things going.  I hope he sticks around a long as Bill did!

2011 Nationals: Meet the Loaders

by Thom Van Vleck

Mitch Ridout and Tedd Van Vleck were the loaders for the entire meet and didn't make a SINGLE MISLOAD!

Every meet I’ve been to the loaders have been thanked and rightfully so.  I’ve been a loader before and one time at a meet with about 70 lifters!  It’s hard, thankless work.  The only time anyone notices the loaders is if there’s a miss load!  And at Nationals there were none!  So these guys were barely noticed.

Often, when you look for volunteers for loading the room will empty quicker than a request for a suicide mission during Armageddon!  But I had two guys step up to save the day.  My brother, Tedd Van Vleck, and my “brother from another mother” Mitch Ridout.  Actually, Mitch rented a room from my Mom at one time and she jokingly calls him her “favorite” son (at least I think she’s joking).  Mitch has been my friend for over 20 years and anybody that can put up with me for that long deserves a trophy……especially after the work I get out of him!

Tedd and Mitch both were signed up to lift.  But I was short loaders and I asked them to step in and they took a bullet for JWC team (or maybe Team Ledaig wouldn’t have had a cake walk for the team title!…..Ok, so maybe they would have still won since they had the best lifter in both men and women’s catagories).  But that thinned the JWC ranks out considerably.  I do know that my brother said at the end of the day he wished he’d lifted instead….he thought he’d be less sore!  I also noticed that Dean Ross, who lifted in the morning session, was helping Mitch and Tedd in the afternoon.  That’s the kind of stuff that makes these meets work!

So a special thanks to Mitch and Tedd for being our loaders and allowing the lifters to focus on lifting!  We appreciate you!

2011 Nationals: Behind the Scenes!

by Thom Van Vleck

If it wasn't for my wife Kelly, we would have missed out on the cake!

If you’ve ever run a meet before you know the work that is involved in it and how “Murphy’s Law” can and will apply.  I thought I would share a few of the “behind the scenes” stories.

The Venue Change

Some time ago I had secured the Rieger Armory for our meet.  This is the home of our local Army National Guard.  It is a great venue and I was pleased to get it.  Plus, it had air conditioning!   Two weeks out I called up to “confirm” the date and the time I could start moving things in.  It was at this time I found out they were on their annual two weeks of active duty.  I left a message to call me back.  The Tuesday before the meet I got the call and I found out they were being put on “standby” due to flooding and they were “commandeering” the armory!  At that point, the scramble was on.  I had several back ups, but the big issue you run into with more of the better locations is insurance.  I used to hold things on city owned property and they would sponsor the event and we would fall under their umbrella coverage….but no more (I suppose a special thanks goes to frivolous lawsuits).  As I made calls and found most were already booked, I narrowed it down to two places.  One with air conditioning that would basically be like lifting in a warehouse (it was an auction house) or the Willard School Gym where we ended up which had no air conditioning.  I checked the long range forecast and saw a high of 77 with a low of 59 the night before.  I borrowed a huge fan and rolled the dice.  The next weekend the forecast was for mid 90’s and that gym would have been miserable!  That worked out great in the end.  It was not the first time I lost my venue last minute….probably not the last….always have a back up plan!!!

The Shirts

I love Sunbrite laundry.  The Hettinger family that runs it have been really good to me, it’s one of the few family owned, locally owned business in Kirksville and I try to keep as many of my $$$ locally as I can.  But Josh Hettinger always seems to run up until the last minute with the shirts I order from him.  I have to say this, he ALWAYS comes thru…..but he has to admit….he did bring the shirts in Saturday morning and that gives the meet director high blood pressure.  The first event I EVER ran my shirt guy (not Sunbrite….this guy later went our of business and for good reason) showed up at NOON with my shirts and they were screwed up.  This was after me going by repeatedly trying to proof them and get him to get them done.  ”Checks in the Mail” comes to mind!

The Awards

For the last several years I have bought 2lb anvils from Grizzly tools.  They were unique awards and symbolic of Grandpa Jackson’s anvil that led to my grandfather starting his weightlifting career in the first place.  I went to order more and found out they were no longer selling them!  So I scrambled on the internet to find a replacement and finally did.  However, when I ordered them they were placed on back order!  The sales rep assured me I’d have them on time for the meet (again “Checks in the mail” comes to mind) and sure enough a few days before the meet they came in!  This did not help my blood pressure!

The Cake

This was pretty minor compared to the other things, but my wife suggested we make a “USAWA” cake for the banquet.  I liked the idea and had Al send me the USAWA logo digital file.  He had no idea what I was going to do with it, I thought it would be a nice surprise.  Well, I forgot to order it!  After all, I was already worried about the venue, shirts, and awards!   So, my wife jumped in and took charge and literally ordered the cake on Saturday morning!  She picked it up that afternoon!  Clutch play on her part.

Last minute equipment issues

I had in my mind using some 1″ bars I had for the DB Snatch.  Al called me and said he assumed I had some Oly style handles.  I did not so he stopped at a sporting goods store in Topeka to pick a couple up.  The thick bar was one Al had made and was too heavy for some to open with.  So I sent John O’Brien on a quick run home to get a lighter one that I had meant to bring, but forgot.  I think I sent him a “list” of things to get, but you always seem to forget something!

The Weather

Those that were there will recall that right before the meet started that a storm blew in.  It was not a bad storm but it had plenty of lightning and was dumping ran like crazy.  I had a couple people who were not from the midwest kind of concerned about tornadoes and rightfully so.  But then the roof started to leak!!!!  I had visions of the roof starting to leak all over and ruining the meet!  The funny part is that I run a lot of outdoor strongman and Highland Games….I was thinking before hand that the weather would be no concern since we were inside!  Boy, was I wrong.  Luckily, the ran stopped and so did the leaky roof!

Other than that…haha….the meet ran fine!  I considered it a success and I hope those attended had a great experience!  Again, you never pull these things off alone and if I didn’t have an understanding wife first and foremost, this would never have happened.

Old School Meet in Old School Gym: USAWA Nationals Location Change!

 by Thom Van Vleck

Attention: This article contains important information on a change in venue for the 2011 USAWA Nationals!

No School like the Old School: Williard Elementary, new location for the USAWA Nationals!!!

My Uncle Phil once told me, “Through no fault of your own….you always seem to have the worst luck”.  I guess he was saying that while I do most everything right the variables I can’t control seem to often conspire against me.  However, I have always believed that when the world gives you lemons make lemonade and then grill a nice steak to go with it!

I was notified today that the local National Guard Unit is being activated due to flooding in Missouri.  Their home is the Rieger Armory and since they are being activated we have lost that location as the meet site.   I was told this was the first time since 1993 this had happened!  This caused me to take off from work and search frantically for a new meet location!  I did NOT want anyone to be disappointed when they showed up!  As a result, I tried to be picky….but on short notice “beggars can’t be choosers”.  However, I think the location I have found will work out even better!

It is the old Williard School.  Just a few blocks away from the downtown square and the Dukum Inn where our banquet will be held.  The address is 707 N Centennial Street, Kirksville, MO 63501.  This is an old elementary school built about 80 years ago that has been converted into a private daycare.  A good friend of mine runs it and was willing to let us use the location.  The building is on the corner of Centennial and Cottonwood streets and the gym entrance is on the South side of the building (the Cottonwood street side).

This gym is straight out of the 1950’s and since we are an “old school” type lifting organization I thought it was pretty fitting that we end up in an “old school” for our meet.

If you have any questions on the location, just let me know.  I will have me cell phone on me that day and if you attend the annual meeting the night before we will tell you how to get to the meet.  Cottonwood actually intersects with Highway 63, which is the major North/South highway in town so it is actually only involves one turn to get there from the highway!  Looking forward to seeing everyone!

Zercher Lift: A Missouri Original

 by Thom Van Vleck

Denny Habecker completing the Zercher Lift. Denny will be at the 2011 USAWA Nationals where this lift will be contested

When I was selecting lifts for the 2011 USAWA Nationals to be held June 25 in Kirksville, Missouri I very carefully selected my lifts.  I was trying to get a good mix from each of the major categories.  I wanted a thick bar lift (Continental to Chest), a dumbbell lift/one arm lift (DB Snatch), a power type lift (Deadlift 12″ base), a miscellaneous lift (Cheat Curl), a pressing movement (Pull over and Press), and a squat movement.  For the squat movement I picked the Zercher!  I also wanted all the lift to come off the floor so that the meet could move along quickly and I was not sure how many spotters I would have.

While the list was then passed on the USAWA board to approve and they did approve it the only one that was questioned was the Zercher.  Not because it’s a “bad’ lift, but because it’s been used several times before and there was just some thought that maybe we should “mix it up” a little.  The problem for me was this was the ONE lift I felt I HAD to have in my meet.  The reason:  The Zercher was named after Ed Zercher and he’s a true MISSOURI born strongman!

The man himself: ED ZERCHER, one of Missouri's greatest strength athletes!

One of the things I like about the USAWA is it’s respect for history and the desire to make sure many of these lifts from bygone years are remembered and practiced.  Many of them have real merit and are often “rediscovered” in modern times.  Look at Kettlebell lifting!  My grandfather used to do Kettlebell training when I first stared lifting in the 1970’s and I remember thinking how “old fashioned” that was and he needed to get “modern” if he wanted to get strong!  How naive I was!   The Zercher has made a bit of a comeback for that same reason……in a way!

Many modern lifters have begun to do what they call “Zerk’s” or Zercher Squats.  They take a weight out of low squat rack or power rack, squat with the bar in the crooks of the arms, and then reload it on the rack.  This has become a variation that some lifters use in a mix with front and back squats but it is also one that guys have added that have trouble holding the bar in the front squat position or some other injury the precludes regular type squats.  But of course, as “Ol’ Clark” himself would tell you…..THIS IS NOT A ZERCHER!  Now, there’s nothing wrong with doing “Zerks” and they are a fine exercise to anyone’s repertoire of lifts.

There were some guys recently discussing “Zerks” on a message board and I got on there and pointed out the difference in what I thought was a polite, informative way.  One of them blew up!  He thought I was being petty bringing up the difference.  But to me, Ed Zercher developed that lift and we need to honor the man by keeping things straight!  With that said, here’s the rules for the Zercher lift:

C8.  Zercher Lift
The bar starts on the platform and at the lifter’s discretion the bar is deadlifted to a position where it may be supported on the knees or thighs.
Feet placement is optional, but the feet must be in line with the torso. The lifter will then bend down, with the bar resting on the legs, to a position in which the lifter is able to secure the bar in the crooks of the elbows. The lifter will then stand erect with the arms bent and the bar fixed at the articulation of the upper and lower arms.  The lifter’s arms may be inside or outside of the legs. The hands may be locked together. Once the bar is
motionless, the legs straight, the body erect with shoulders upright, an official will give a command to lower the bar. The bar must be returned to the platform under control for the lift to be complete. It is acceptable to drop the bar once it is below the level of the knees provided that the hands follow the bar to the platform.

So, come to Nationals and help me honor one of Missouri’s greatest Strongmen!  Let’s Zercher!

Deadlift – 12″ Base

 by Thom Van Vleck

Wilbur Miller doing a partial deadlift, but still demonstrating the proper foot placement for the 12" base dead lift

Let’s talk about the 12″ Base Deadlift.   This lift will be contested in the upcoming USAWA 2011 Nationals held by the Jackson Weightlifting Club in Kirksville, Missouri on June 28th.  Make sure you know the rules!

The USAWA Rule Book says:

B1.  Deadlift – 12 inch Base
The rules of the Deadlift apply except that the maximum width of foot placing must not exceed 12 inches between the inside of the lifter’s heels. It is recommended that a 12 inch space be marked on the platform by a drawn line or tape.
Now, just to cover all the bases, let’s cover the rules for the Deadlift just to be sure we all understand it:
A.   Deadlift
The bar will be placed on the platform at the lifter’s feet, directly in front of the lifter. The lifter will grip the bar with both hands with any grip and any hand spacing. The lifter may use an alternate grip in which the palms of the hands are opposed. The lift begins at the lifter’s discretion.  The bar may be uneven during the ascent, but it must finish evenly.  The bar may touch the legs during the ascent, but must not be rested on the legs, bounced, hitched, or lowered. Width of feet placement is optional, but the feet must be parallel and in line with the torso. Heels and toes may rise during the lift, but foot placing must not change.  No substance of any kind may be applied to the legs. When the legs are straight, the arms are straight, the shoulders erect, the bar motionless, the lifter will receive a command from an official to lower the bar.  The bar must be returned to the platform under control for the lift to be complete.

Pretty straight forward!  At the Nationals this year we WILL have tape on the floor to help the lifters and judges make the call.

Continental to Chest: It’s not a Clean!

 by Thom Van Vleck

The mid point of the Continental to Chest.

The Continental to Chest (Fulton bar) will be contested at the 2011 USAWA Nationals hosted by the Jackson Weightlifting Club.  Let’s get familiar with the rules:

A23.  Continental to Chest

The lifter starts with the bar on the platform in front of the lifter and raises it by any method of the lifter’s choosing onto the lifter’s chest above the pectoral muscle. The bar may be raised in one or a series of movements and may come to rest, be lowered, or make contact with any part of the legs and body during the lift. However, the bar must not be upended into any position on the body. Hand spacing and grip are of the lifter’s choosing and may be altered on the bar during the lift. The hands may be removed from the bar during the lift. The bar may come to rest on the lifter’s belt. A towel may be placed in the belt for the bar to rest on.  Touching the platform with a knee or the buttocks is permissible.  It is a disqualification for the bar or plates to touch the platform before the finish of the lift.   Once the lifter’s legs are straightened, the lifter’s body erect, the feet parallel and in line with the torso, the bar motionless, an official will give a command to lower the bar. The lift ends when the bar is placed on the platform under
control by the lifter.

F.  Fulton Bar (2” Bar) Lifts
Fulton Bar Lifts are approved for all bar lifts using a Fulton Bar and the rules of the individual lifts. 

 

We wanted to have one Fulton bar (or thick bar) lift and the Continental to Chest happens to be it.

In the past, this lift has often been referred to as the “Continental Clean”.  This was a pet peeve of  former USAWA secretary Bill Clark.  He would point out that the “Clean” refers to lifting the bar “cleanly” from the floor to the chest.  So, saying “Continental Clean” is an oxymoron……kind of like “near miss” or “alone together”.   Everyone knows what you mean but it really doesn’t make sense!

There’s a deeper story on how the Continental got it’s name.  In the early days of lifting, the British were often in competition with the French and German lifters (or Continental Europe, which did not include the British Isles).  The British took pride in how strictly they would lift the bar “cleanly” to the chest and would make fun of how the French and German would bounce the bar up anyway they could and the would refer to that method as the “Continental Style” in a negative fashion.  Later, the British were instrumental in the early lifting rules and the continental style was phased out and the clean style was accepted for major lifting competitions.  But the USAWA keeps the style alive and well!

So study the rules and get ready for some Continental action!

Pullover and Push: Old School “Bench Pressing”

Pullover and Push as demonstrated by the great Arthur Saxon. He was a favorite of JWC "founding father" Dalton Jackson

by Thom Van Vleck

Those of you who know me know that I can’t make things simple.  I put a lot of thought into things and when I was thinking about lifts for the 2011 USAWA Nationals to be held June 25th in Kirksville, Missouri this process was in overdrive.  I wanted a pressing movement and I also wanted a lift that would honor my grandfather in some way.  Well, he was a big fan of Arthur Saxon and when I saw this photo in the USAWA photo archive it just sealed the deal for me that the Pullover and Push would be that “pressing” movement in the list of lifts for Nationals.

Let’s review the rules to make sure we know how to do the lifts!

A35.  Pullover and Push

The lifter will lie on his/her back on the platform with the bar placed on the platform above the lifter’s head.  Padding, such as a towel or mat, may be placed under the lifter’s body and elbows. The bar is gripped with the palms of the hands facing up and with the bar at arms’ length prior to the start of the lift.  Width of hand spacing and feet placement is optional. The lift begins at the lifter’s discretion. The lifter is allowed multiple rolls with the bar on the platform to gain momentum to the bar. Hands must remain on the bar throughout the lift. The lifter will then pull the bar over and onto the chest or upper abdomen resulting in the upper arms resting on the platform. The bar must not be rolled once on the chest. The bar or plates must not make contact with the platform once the bar leavesthe platform or it will result in disqualification. The lifter is allowed to move or lift the feet and hips during the pullover. Once the bar is on the chest or abdomen, the lifter may move the feet close to the hips, and raise the hipsto create a bridging or belly toss to propel the bar to arms’ length. This is done at the lifter’s discretion. The lifter is allowed feet and hip movement during the push. The lifter may press the bar instead of pushing the bar if desired.  Once the push has begun, the bar must not be lowered in any manner. Only one attempt at the push is allowed. The bar must lock out with even extension. Once the arms are straight, the lifter must lower the hips to the platform and straighten the legs to a flat position on the platform. The arms must remain straight during this time.   When the lifter and bar are motionless, an official will give a command to lower the bar. The lift ends when the bar is returned to the platform under control. It is acceptable to drop the bar behind the head in the return to the platform as long as the lifter maintains hand contact with the bar.

Now, you have to make sure you distinguish this lift from the Pullover and Press and the Pullover and Press with Wrestler’s Bridge.  They are often confused.  The last thing I will say is that if you have a big nose or a big head…..you may want to turn your head when you pull the weight over to the push position!  If you’ve ever done this lift, you know what I mean!  Now, come to the Nationals and try it first hand!

Can you Cheat on the Cheat Curl?

 by Thom Van Vleck

I love me some Cheat Curl! There may be some rule changes that bring the USAWA in line with IAWA rules that will open this up for lots of new records!

The Cheat Curl will be contested at the 2011 USAWA Nationals held June 25 and hosted by the Jackson Weightlifting Club in Kirksville, Missouri.  An interesting paradox will take place with this lift.  As always, the USAWA annual meeting will take place.  This is the one time when rule changes can be discussed, voted on, and passed.  Interestingly enough, one of the lifts being contested is the Cheat Curl.  The USAWA rules currently are different from the IAWA rules and there is a proposal to change the USAWA rules to bring them in line with the IAWA rules.  One of the major differences is the USAWA requires the feet to stay flat on the floor while the IAWA rules allow for the heels to raise.  So, according to the USAWA rules if you did a Cheat Curl following the IAWA rules…you’d be CHEATING?  So I guess it is possible to cheat on the Cheat Curl! Now, here’s where the paradox comes in.

Traditionally, the rules meeting has taken place after the meet.  Since the meeting can be lengthy and since there’s usually a banquet of some sorts afterwards Al Myers and myself decided to have the meeting the night before the meet.  That way, we get the “business” out of the way and the day of the meet only focuses on the lifting and the fun afterwards!  This has created an interesting situation.  One of the lifts being contested on Saturday may have the rules changed on Friday!  If so, then which rules apply!

Currently, the USAWA rules state:

D7.  Curl – Cheat
The bar begins on the platform, and at the lifter’s discretion, is picked up with a grip that has the palms of the hands facing up or away from the lifter. Feet placement and hand spacing is optional, but must remain the same throughout the lift.  Heels and toes must not rise during the lift. Once the lifter is upright in a standing position with the arms and legs straight, the bar on the thighs hanging at arms’ length, an official will give a
command to curl. The knees must remain locked and the legs straight during the lift. The lifter is permitted to bend at the waist, sway the body, or drop the shoulders to gain momentum of the bar. The bar may be lowered prior to the beginning of the curl. The bar must be curled from arms’ length to touching the upper chest or neck in one motion. Any downward movement of the bar during the curl is a disqualification. Once the bar is motionless, and the lifter is upright, an official will give a command to lower the bar. The lift ends when the bar returns to the platform under control by the lifter.

So, be ready for both sets of rules and we will see how this plays out!

Dumbbell Snatch

by Thom Van Vleck

USAWA Secretary Al Myers has the top Dumbbell Snatch in the Record List with this 146# lift at the 2010 Club Challenge.

Let’s take a look at the Dumbbell Snatch which is one of the lifts contested at the 2011 USAWA Nationals being held by the Jackson Weightilifting Club in Kirksville, Missouri on June 25th.  I have listed three rules because one references the other.  If you want the “quick” version, scroll down!

E18.  Snatch – Dumbbell, One Arm
The rules of the Bar Snatch – One Arm apply except one evenly loaded dumbbell is used. The dumbbell may start at any position on the platform. The dumbbell is allowed to rotate during the lift and may finish in any degree of rotation.

A45. Snatch – One Arm

The rules of the Snatch apply with these exceptions. Only one arm is used to perform the lift. The bar is gripped in the center with one hand using any grip, but the palm of the hand must be facing the lifter at the beginning of the lift. The non-lifting hand may be braced or 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. The non-lifting hand must be clear of the body upon completion of the lift. The bar may be in any degree of rotation during the lift and upon the finish of the lift.  Once the bar is overhead motionless, the lifter’s body in an upright position, the lifting arm straight with a locked elbow, the feet parallel and in line with the torso, an official will give a command to lower the bar. The lift ends when the bar is returned to the platform under control. It is acceptable to use two hands in lowering the bar.

D.  Snatch

The bar will be placed on the platform, in front of the lifter’s feet.  The lifter will grip the bar with the palms of the hands facing the lifter, and then in one single and continuous movement lift the bar overhead to arm’s length. The lifter may choose any width of hand spacing.   The lift begins at the lifter’s discretion. The lifter may drop under the bar as it goes overhead, using a squat-style catch in which the legs are bent, or a split-style catch in which the legs are split. The lifter may also choose to drop only slightly, using a power-style catch. The bar may touch the lifter’s thighs and body during the lift. The feet may move during the lift.  No other part of the body other than the feet may touch the platform during the lift.  The turning over of the wrists must not take place until the bar has passed the top of the lifter’s head.  The bar must not touch the head, stop, or be pressed as it goes to an overhead position. The lifter will recover and stand when ready, from the squat or split position, to an upright standing position.  The bar must be maintained in a final motionless position overhead, with arms and legs fully extended, and the feet parallel and in line with the torso.  At this time, a command from an official is given to return the bar to the platform. The lift ends when the bar is brought back to the platform under control by the lifter.

WOW!  Did you get all that!  Here’s the short version:

Grip the dumbbell and take it overhead in one movement and catch it at arms length with the elbow locked, no press out.  You can drop under it anyway you want as long as nothing touches the floor but your feet.  The free hand may brace against the thigh or torso but may not touch the other hand and once you recover, this is important, the free hand must be away from the body.  Finally, you can go left or right handed, your choice at Nationals!

Ravenswood Formula

Thom Van Vleck flashes the "Red Light" at USAWA Heavy Lift Nationals as Head Judge Denny Habecker looks for the call. USAWA officials have a lot more to do than judging the lifts. There's a lot of math involved as well!

by Thom Van Vleck

I know we’ve probably overdone the talk on formulas to rate lifting performances, but here’s one more.  I got a copy of Peary Radar’s Lifting News (Sept. 1965) and notice a story on page 20 titled “A New Simplified Formula for Accurate Rating of Lifting Performances”.  This formula was being touted as an easy way to determine the best lifter.  Evidently, before calculators, the “long hand”  or “slide rule” multiplication using the “Hoffman Formula” often resulted on errors and hard feelings when the errors were revealed later.  As a result, the Ravenswood Formula was developed.

I’ll stop right here and say I’m not pushing this to be used by the USAWA nor do I know if it favors heavier lifters (which I’m not sure why anyone would think I would want that….well…maybe I would “like” that). This is just an interesting piece of lifting history from a time when formulas in lifting seemed to be quite the hot topic.

Laverne Myers and Denny Habecker have passed stringent testing to become USAWA officials

The Ravenswood Formula sought to remove the error prone difficulty of multiplication and replace it with the simplicity of adding two numbers together.  You were give two tables which are quite lengthy.  Table “A” had a bodyweight coefficient which went from 110lbs to 370lbs and Table “B” had a “Total” or lift poundage coefficient which went from 105lbs to 2550lbs.  You simply took the lifters weight and found the corresponding coefficient in Table A (a 4 digit number) and added it to the corresponding weight lifted/coefficient in table B (again, a 4 digit number).  The theory being that this formula was much more simple and less prone to a mathematical error.  You have to take the developer’s word that it’s “fair” or should I say “Accurate” as he does in the title.  The developer was Stanley Gorajczyk.  Not sure where “Ravenswood” came from….maybe easier to pronounce that “Gorajczyk”!   Stanley was an Olympic lifter who got 5th in the 1967 Senior Nationals, so he was a pretty decent lifter as well.

Al Myers looks like he's trying to talk Head Judge Denny Habecker into a good call, but really Denny is busy "doing the math" and calculating the winner using the formula!

I just found it another interesting part of lifting history and went with earlier articles on this website that discussed weightlifting formulas.   If you are interested in the tables let me know.  It might be interesting to compare the outcomes of this formula to others!

Jackson Weightlifting Club Logo

by Thom Van Vleck

The modern JWC Logo.

The Jackson Weightlifting Club has a history that reaches back to 1928.  Like many Clubs and Gyms it has it’s own logo.  Above you will see the modern JWC Logo.  The modern logo has it’s root to the late 1950’s and is based on one that my Uncle Phil Jackson drew.   I have a copy of  that drawing, the original drawing is in Phil’s possession.

Copy of the original JWC logo first developed by Phil Jackson in the late 50's

There was a point I wanted to make a standard logo for the modern incarnation of the JWC.  After some experimentation, I came up with the modern logo and you will find it painted on the JWC Training Hall wall and it is often used on our meet shirts and other related JWC stuff.  In the modern JWC Logo you will find many elements present in the original and a few new things.  I used the shield and barbell, just like Uncle Phil did.  I used a copy of the York Barbell “deep dish” weights for the “barbell” part of the logo.  I felt this appropriate as this was the first Olympic set ever purchased by the JWC (and I still have it!).  I used the same shield but got rid of the small barbell plate at the middle point.  I kept the JWC on the diagonal and added a couple elements.  A lot of thought actually went into this.

First, I added the cross.  A Celtic style cross to celebrate the Celtic roots of the Jackson family.  But more importantly to signify our Christianity.  My family has always been strong in their faith and that is most notable in the fact that the modern JWC has an evangelism team that has done well over 200 strongman evangelism shows in the spirit of how Paul Anderson used to spread the Gospel with his feats of strength.  The cross is at the top because it is most important.  That section of the shield is the symbolic location of the heart and I wanted everyone to know that the JWC holds Christ in it’s heart.

The fancy JWC logo.

Second, the Anvil. It was added to symbolize Grandpa Jackson’s Anvil.  If you don’t know, the first inspiration for Dalton Jackson to lift weights was his father (Arthur Jackson) lifting his anvil overhead to impress his kids.  Later, around 1928, Dalton and his future brother-in-law, Coda Baugher, made some homemade weights and began to train.  Every generation since has lifted the anvil and it sits proudly in my gym to this day!  I  tried to make the shape exactly like the real anvil.  I also put it at the bottom because to me the anvil is the foundation of our club.  So now you know the history of the JWC logo.  I hope someday my kids take it and make it their own!

The Long Journey to York Barbell: Part II

by Thom Van Vleck

In part I of my story about my trip to York Barbell and I detailed my trip.  Now, I’m going to share my feelings about my trip.

The current York Gym

May 28th, 1064 was the date of the Missouri State Championships in Olympic lifting.  How do I know?  Because my Uncle Wayne won that year and he told me that when he got home with the rest of the JWC gang he said I upstaged him being born that day.  He said they all headed down to the hospital to see me.  It was literally a couple blocks away.  Later, he would give me that medal because of the significance of the date he won it.  Without Wayne, I’d never been a weight lifter and I would not be half of what I am today.  Without my Uncle Phil, you could halve that again and without my Grandfather Dalton, I’d be nothing today.  So me wearing that medal was like them being there at York with me.  That medal has been to every lifting meet, highland games, strongman contest, and USAWA event I’ve ever been to, including a couple trips to Scotland where I “dipped” it into Loch Ness.

So, you can see, lifting has been a big part of my family.  It’s not about winning, it was always about getting better.  Being stronger, healthier, and self improvement.  York Barbell was always a part of that.  I practically “teethed” on a 5lb plate.  I remember taking an interest in throwing the discus and not having one, so I took a 5lb York plate out and practiced with it!  In 1963, my Uncle Wayne ordered a Jackson International set and he told me that he sold it partly out of feeling disloyal to York….plus he said his York sets (and the JWC had several by then) were superior in his mind.

Thom Van Vleck checking out the Cyr Dumbbell. My grandfather told me a story about it when I was just a kid.

But the opportunity never came up to travel to York.  Phil told me they talked about it often.  They would lift and talk about meeting Tommy Kono, John Grimek, Steve Stanko, Bob Hoffman and the rest.  They would day dream of lifting in the York Gym  with the greats and seeing where all the weights were made.  But time and circumstance intervened and the dream faded away.  Until now.

So when I went out, I had a lot riding on this trip.  I needed to soak up every detail and take lots of pictures.  I even called both of them in the museum and gave each one a walk through.  They both asked me if I saw the Sandow Statue or the Grimek statue.  They knew a lot of the stuff that was in there!

Thom with the Grimek statue....I don't think he's impressed with me.

Overall, it was a great trip.  But later, I did get a little melancholy.  York is well past it’s pinnacle.  But then again, I  remember stopping at Peary Radar’s old Ironman Headquarters in Alliance, Nebraska a few years back.  It’s all long gone and not a thing remains as is the fate of a lot of the other American barbell makers.  At least York Barbell is still there and it seems the guys that work there appreciate the history.  Mike Locondro told me that the event we attended (Wounded Warrior Project Strength Fest) was all about getting York back to were it belongs….but more than that he told me that his Uncle was John Grimek’s brother in law and to him it was not just about “company policy” but it was personal.  That gave me hope and took a little of that melancholy away.  Maybe York isn’t what it was, but it seems to be rising up again!

On a side note, I traveled 15 miles to the west of York and went by the burial place of my Great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather (yes, that’s right….6 “greats”).  He was a Lutheran pastor that has been credited with starting over 50 churches.  His home still stands and members of my distant family still occupy it.   I hope to go back some day and see some more and meet some of my relatives…the dead one’s and live one’s!

The Long Journey To York Barbell: Part I

by Thom Van Vleck

Thom Van Vleck completes the 73 year journey to York Barbell

Recently I traveled to York, Pa to the home of York Barbell to judge at the USAWA Heavy Lift Nationals.  This, however, is not a meet report but a story about a Long Journey.

Back in 1938 my Grandfather ordered his first “real” barbell set.  Oh, sure, he had been training for along time before this, since 1928 to be exact, but it was at this point he finally could afford a real barbell set to replace the bodyweight exercises, the concrete “bucket” weights, and the assorted things like anvils he would find to train with.  By that time he was married and I recall he had a real fight with my grandmother over ordering that set since they were short on cash.  But it was his dream.  I still have what is part of that set.

Then, in 1957, my Uncle’s Phil and Wayne began to train and scrimped and saved until they could order a real “Olympic” set.  There was other choice but York!  This was the classic deep dish York set.  At that time, Wayne and Phil became avid Olympic style lifting fans and at that time York Barbell was the center of it all.  When I started training, in 1977, my Uncle Wayne bought a new set to encourage me.  I remember vividly him ordering it with a mail order form and a check.  I’m pretty sure he wanted it as much as I did and it was just a good excuse to order a new set!

I have a few hundred Strength & Health and Muscular Development magazines that were published by York Barbell.  I’m not a collector, most are the magazines that my grandfather and Uncles bought off the news stand to read.  I would read these for countless hours as a kid when I started training and as a result, probably know more about York Barbell than all the people who currently work there!

So, when Al asked me to come along and be a judge, I pushed aside a chance to go to Iceland and compete in a highland games and chose to go to York.  You see, even though my family had been “York Men” since 1938, NOBODY from my family had ever been there!

So, here it was, 73 years after that first York barbell set was mail ordered by my grandfather and I was on my way to York.  I was pretty excited but at the same time, I was realistic.  I knew it was not what it was in the glory days.  But I hoped it would still be a great trip.

We arrived the morning of the contest and pulled up out front.  There was Bob Hoffman’s statue standing as proud as ever.  My grandfather used to tell me that Bob was “a little full of himself” and I had to chuckle as I looked at the statue.  Most accomplished men are a little full of themselves.  It often takes a big ego to drive great success.  I wish I could have met the guy, big ego aside, he did much for lifting and made America quite literally….a lot stronger.

The life size barbell mobile hanging in the York Barbell HQ....is that thing real!!!!

Soon, we went inside.  There was a large “Barbell Mobile” hanging from the ceiling.  Barbell plates and bars balanced from a single point from the ceiling.  Not sure if they were real….but if they were that’s a lot of weight hanging there!  Then to the right was a lifting auditorium where the hall of fame induction took place.  I walked through and into the gym area.  It was loaded with platforms and weights, much more modern than I expected but then again, this is not the “original” club where the “York Gang” trained.  That place was long gone and while we drove by the location, nothing remains of it downtown.

The York lifting auditorium

Next, I walked through the museum.  I won’t detail all of it, but while what was there was very cool, it was not as big as I expected, but still not a let down.   What was there oozed history.  I would detour through the museum many times while I was there, taking just a minute to look at something else I had missed.  I then went into the retail store, that was nice, again not as big as I expected but it had “one of everything”.  While there I picked up matching York Barbell shirts with the old style split jerk logo for me and my Uncle Wayne.  I took tons of photos so that later I could show Wayne and Phil a “virtual” tour of the place.  I didn’t go anywhere else, but looked around at the warehouse.  The foundry is gone, they don’t make anything on site anymore.   Later, we also traveled by Bob Hoffman’s old house as the sun set on my York trip and we called it a day.

Next:  Part II My feelings about my Trip.

York Barbell Shirts

 by Thom Van Vleck

Gene Thudium, JWC member in the 50's and 60's, sports his old school York Barbell T-shirt.

I don’t know about you, but I have received about 300 meet shirts in the last 30 years.  Probably 200 I competed in, the rest I was a judge, loader, spotter, scorekeeper, patron, or meet director.  I know how many because every few years I thin them out and keep the ones that have sentimental value in a special drawer, give away some, and keep the rest for workouts.  Some shirts become “lucky”…I have a good meet or workout in it and I then use it when I need some “mojo” for a contest or record day.  Some, a select few, get retired and are never worn again.  The ones I give away go to good homes, guys who are really into the lifting or throwing and really appreciate the shirts.  I gave a fellow highland gamer 75 shirts and he made it into a quilt that was pretty cool and he hung it in his living room.  I can go over and point to different designs and almost tell you how I placed, my throws, and even what the weather was like that day. 

Recently, Al and I traveled to Colorado and met with Russ Murphy, a highland games legend.  I got some really old meet shirts from him, about a dozen or so that go back 20 to 30 years.  He even had one that was from the first meet I ever competed in, in 1995.  Mine had been “retired” so I got his and now I have one I can wear, too.  Years ago, World Powerlifting Champ and the man that broke Kaz’s total record, John Ware, gave me a shirt he wore when he broke Kaz’s record.  I kinda felt like the kid in the Coke commercial getting the jersey from Mean Joe Greene.

Shirts can be pretty special.  Today some of us will be heading to York Barbell for the USAWA Heavy Lift Nationals this weekend.  I can’t wait to get there.  I also know that Al has designed the meet shirts using the  York Barbell logo.  I have a feeling this trip will be epic in many ways, mostly me traveling to the “mecca” of weightlifting for the first time in my life!  I remember seeing many photos of Gene in his York Barbell shirt and thinking I would like to have one….now I will and it will be pretty special.  But I wonder, will this shirt become a retired one, or a lucky shirt, or will I give it away…..only time will tell.

USAWA Nationals: The AWARDS

Special awards for the USAWA Nationals for 2011 (purchased at pjtool.com)

by Thom Van Vleck

The USAWA Nationals for this year will have a unique award for the participants.  The Jackson Weightlifting Club (JWC) had long been defined by Grandpa Jackson’s Anvil.  For the last few years I have used these real anvils for awards.  Each award will come with a CUSTOMIZED plaque engraved by a Jim Spalding (Jim’s Gems) who is a local jeweler and also happens to be a 6 time Masters World Champion in Highland Games.   When the results are tabulated, we will write down you address and send you an engraved plate that will fit on the award with your placing and name.  How many personalized awards do you have in you trophy case?  I bet not many!  There will also be an 11lb Anvil for the overall best lifter.  Again, it’s a REAL anvil.

The “Original” JWC anvil will be present as well and used in the strongman show at the awards banquet.  We will take it outside and give anyone who wants a crack at lifting the anvil like Grandpa Jackson used to from the ground to overhead.  It is a 150lb Anvil and it’s very “doable”!  The real challenge is to lift it by the horn with one hand, pinch grip it by top or lift it by the neck.

Grandpa Jackson's Anvil - The Centerpiece of the Jackson Weightlifting Club

I will also have a 300lb anvil present….This is the MONSTER that so far has defied all who have tried to lift it overhead.  I want to see someone put that thing overhead!  But at the least, We will have the Whiskey Barrel there and the challenge is to lift the anvil onto the whiskey barrel.   Come on out, the USAWA Nationals will be more than just lifting weights…..we will try and make some history!

USAWA Nationals: UPDATE

 by Thom Van Vleck

Private room at the Dukum Inn. This is where the banquet will happen after Nationals

Just an update on the USAWA Nationals.  I have ordered shirts.  They are POLO type shirts –  so better than your standard meet t-shirt!  They will have a stitched USAWA Nationals 2011 patch on them.  I have also ordered the awards.  These are like none you have ever received and I will be putting up a photo at a later time showing them.  Al Myer’s will be bringing his top notch equipment for the meet supplemented by my own.  If you ever wanted to lift on a set of York Hub plates or Jackson International Barbell plates, we will be using them in the meet!

I have recently confirmed reservations at the Armory and the Dukum Inn.  I recently attended a private party there and I was more than pleased.  The bar in the private room was built in 1938 and was the original bar that used to be downstairs.  There is a stage area opposite the bar that will offer a really nice podium for our awards ceremony.  You can see a big screen behind the bar and during the banquet we will scroll pictures of past and present USAWA meets and legends.  I highly recommend the onion rings at the Dukum….they are the best!

Outdoor Lifting: Time for Fresh AIR!

Phil Jackson lifting outdoors at the old JWC club

by Thom Van Vleck

I have a photo album full of old photos of the Jackson Weightlifting club in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s.  Many of the photos, maybe even more than half, are taken outdoors.  Back then, there was a very practical reason for lifting outside in the summer time….NO AIR CONDITIONING!  My Uncle’s told me they built a platform outdoors so they could get some fresh air and keep cool.  The JWC gym moved around several times and often was in an old unairconditioned building.  One of the favorite places of my Uncle Wayne of gym locations was on Jefferson Street near the old Kirksville  Railroad Depot.  Wayne said they rented an old store and they would lift in the store front during the winter.  There were large plate glass windows open to the street with a potbelly wood stove for heat and in the summer they would move the weights out back and lift right under the down town Water Tower.  The Water tower is still there but the store is long gone.  Sadly, not a single picture exists of the gym from that time.  Just the many great stories….including one of how my Aunt Linda would walk by there every day going home from work and see Wayne lifting…..and now they have been together for over 40 years!  She would stop and watch them workout with other girls…..she must have been impressed.

My Uncle Phil told me that lifting outside was also a benefit in other ways besides a cool breeze.  The bright sunshine helped get rid of the winter blues come spring and the fact that girls might walk by just motivated them to lift a little harder!   It might be a hassle to move the weights outdoors, but I think you’ll find a little lifting on a sunshiny day will boost your motivation and be a nice change of pace.