RULE CHANGE – Feet in Air Bench Press

by Al Myers

These are the two ways the Feet in the Air Bench Press must be performed - legs straight off the bench (left) or with legs crossed (right). No longer is a support bench allowed to rest the lower legs on. These pictures were taken at the 2006 USAWA National Championships. Dennis Mitchell is lifting in the picture to the left, with head official Bob Burtzloff seated behind him. Al Myers is lifting in the picture on the right, with head official Thom Van Vleck looking on (and intently I might add!)

One of the IAWA rule changes that happened at the 2011 IAWA World Meeting involved the rule for the Bench Press – Feet in Air.   This proposed change was presented by the IAWA Technical Committee at the meeting, chaired by IAWA Technical Committee Chairman Dennis Mitchell.  The “issue” involved disallowing a support bench during the lift, which has been allowed under previous IAWA rules.  The USAWA rules have NEVER allowed the legs to rest on another (a totally separate) support bench.  This issue was discussed at this past years USAWA meeting as well.  These past couple of years rule changes have been presented to the USAWA   membership to bring our rules (the USAWA rules) into compliance with IAWA rules.  You would be surprised how many differences there are.  All of the other changes were passed at this meeting, but the USAWA membership voted NOT to allow a support bench to rest the legs on.  This decision led to this being presented to the IAWA Tech Committee to see how the IAWA membership felt on it.  There was some opposition, but the majority in attendance felt that a support bench was not within “the intent” of the feet in the air bench press.  Thus the IAWA rule is now changed, and the USAWA rule and the IAWA rule is the same on this now. The bottom line – NO SUPPORT BENCH!

As I’ve said before, there are many subtle (and some not so subtle!) rules differences between the USAWA Rules and the IAWA Rules. These rules differences can make some lifts harder or easier, depending on which rules you follow.  I would say DEFINITELY having a support bench to rest the lower legs on is an advantage as it would provide more balance to the lifter resting on the bench during the press.  That is one of the biggest difficulties in the feet in the air bench press, maintaining proper body position as you press the weight up.  The interesting thing is that this difference between the IAWA rules and the USAWA rules came about because of how the original rule was interpreted.  The original rule stated that the “ankles and heels” must not be supported or resting on the floor.  This was interpreted by IAWA as meaning the lower legs WERE allowed to be supported by a support bench, whereas the USAWA made the assumption that NO PARTS of the legs could be supported.  Again, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, THERE SHOULD BE NO INTERPRETATIONS WHEN IT COMES TO THE RULES, everything should be “spelled out” and very clear in what is allowed and not allowed! 

But this leads to an even bigger issue.  What about all the IAWA World Records that were set by lifters resting their feet/lower legs on a support bench?  Should these records still count?  And how would you go about identifying these cases? It will definitely take a much better effort to break one of these records in the IAWA World Record List from now on.  Also, what about all of the other differences between the IAWA rules and the USAWA rules where rule differences might give an “added advantage” to set World records?   These are issues that need to be worked out in my opinion.

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