Top Lifts of 2013

by Al Myers

Art proudly displaying his homemade Teeth Bit!

Today welcomes in a New Year, and  with it comes the excitement of another very promising year in the USAWA.   2013 had to be one of the best EVER in the history of the USAWA.  There were many great competitions and great individual performances.  Of the 22 official competitions that occurred in 2013 in the USAWA, I was a participant or attended 18 of them!

As I’m sitting here sipping a cup of coffee in the early morning hours of 2014 (my internal clock would not allow me to sleep in!), I’m reflecting on some of the fantastic lifts I was able to witness “first hand” in the USAWA in 2013.  It didn’t take me long to come up with a list of over 20, but I’m gonna narrow the list today to the TOP TEN lifts that impressed me the most. I want to reiterate  that this is MY LIST of the lifts that I was able to watch, and only reflects my viewpoints.  Many, many others were extremely impressive that did not make the list. A few individual lifters had multiple lifts that impressed me, but I’m only including THE ONE that impressed me the most by an individual lifter.  It took me three times as long to come up with my list as it did to write this blog!  Here it goes – counting down from number ten:

10. Lance Foster and his 575# Dinnie Lift at the OTSM Championships

This had to be one of the most tenacious lifts of the year.  Lance struggled at the Battle of the Barn with the Dinnie Lift, but came back a month or so later to up his performance by 75 pounds! If the USAWA offered a TRUE GRIT AWARD Lance would win it.

9.  Jera Kressly and Logan Kressly 600# heels together deadlift at the Team Championships.

Jera and Logan did this mixed pair (man/woman) lift quite easily at the Team Champs.  I should mention that Logan was only 15 at the time!  That’s a big deadlift for any mixed pair with a normal stance – let alone having the heels together!

8.  James Fuller and his 60 KG Bent Press at the Gold Cup.

James has been on a mission to mastering the Bent Press this year.  The Bent Press is one of the MOST old and obscure lifts of all round lifting.  Very few even know how to go about doing one.  I first saw James bent pressing Frank’s axle at the Heavies, with was extremely cumbersome to handle.  I was going to include that effort instead of this one for James, but his Gold Cup lift really deserves it more as it was done in a big competition.  It won’t be long before James puts up the highest Bent Press record of All Time in the USAWA.

7.  Joe Ciavattone Sr. and his 805# Neck Lift at the Heavy Lift Championships.

This HAD to make my list.  Joe is one of the best neck lifters in USAWA history, and held the overall record for many years.  To come back and hit a personal record now several years later shows true ability.  I was glad to be able to witness his lift (as I had not seen his previous record lift).

6.  Troy Goetsch and his 260# one handed Vertical Bar Lift at the Grip Championships.

I’ve seen many great VB lifts in the past, but Troy’s is one of the best.  Troy won the overall lifter at the Grip Champs, and his VB was the lift that I will remember from him on that day.

5.  Frank Ciavattone and his 202.5 KG Ciavattone Grip Deadlift at Nationals.

Frank still has some great lifting in him, as shown with this big lift at our National Championships which is named after him.  I never get tired of watching Frank do Ciavattone Grip Deadlifts – and this is one I’ll never forget.

4.  Dan Wagman and his 120# Pullup at the Dino Gym Record Day.

YES – that’s 120 pounds strapped to the waist and then performing a pullup with the chin OVER the bar with no kipping!!! And hold for a down command!  Not too many around could even come close to this performance of Dan’s.  I’ve seen a lot of great lifting out of Dan and often what he does does not surprise me – but this pullup did!

3.  Joe Ciavattone Jr. and the 1400# Hand and Thigh Lift at the Heavy Lift Championships.

Junior doesn’t realize yet that he will be a future superstar of the USAWA, but I see it.  His untapped strength is unreal, and this big H&T proves it.  He just finished with a 1200 at the meet,  I gave him a couple of tips between lifts, and then he adds 200 pounds and gets it easily!  Impressive to say the least…

2.  Eric Todd and this 1000# Neck Lift at the Battle of the Barn II.

ET has put up 1000 pound Neck Lifts before several times – but this one was done with rules beyond those of the USAWA.   He cleared the floor substantially, and then HELD the lift for over 2 full seconds recorded on a stop watch.  I’m still shaking my head after seeing that effort!

1.  Art Montini and his 107# Teeth Lift at the Presidential Cup.

All I can say is that I still don’t know how he did this!  Art is 85 years old and has FALSE TEETH.  This lift won him the Presidential Cup of the USAWA for the year, and I would say deserving of the lift that impressed me the most!  Art has been one of the most active lifters in the USAWA this year – attending most of the championship events, attending the “Big Three” (Nationals, Worlds, and the Gold Cup), and still involved with promoting his annual Birthday Bash.  He has a deeper resume than anyone in the history of the USAWA, and I’m glad to name Art’s lift as the most impressive lift of 2013.  Congrats Art!!

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!

The One Arm Snatch: My Five Favorite Pictures

by Al Myers

One of my favorite all-round lifts is the One Arm Snatch.   From the first time I tried it I knew I was going to like it.  I have never been a good Olympic lifter (I started my lifting career as a Powerlifter), and everyone knows that it is much harder to master the proper technique of Olympic Lifting as you get older.  It is something you should learn to become proficient in early on at a young age – and definitely not after several years of heavy bench press training and the tight shoulders that follow.  But the One Arm Snatch – now here was my chance to do an Olympic-type lift that really requires NO advance training in Olympic Lifting as it is so different from the 2-handed Snatch.   I think I also like this lift because my One Armed Snatch is not too far behind my Two Handed Snatch.  I can do slightly over 75% in the One Arm Snatch compared to the two handed version, which either means I excel at the One Arm Snatch or I am just really, really bad at the Two Handed Snatch!

I want to share my five favorite pictures of the One Arm Snatch.  Actually it took me  longer to narrow down my list to five than write this blog!  Several I went back and forth on – and then the REALLY hard part was ranking them!  The One Arm Snatch is also often referred to as the One Hand Snatch, which is the older term that describes this lift.  Now on to the pictures!!!

Picture #5

Arthur Saxon and the One Arm Snatch.

I have always been an Arthur Saxon fan.  Arthur is usually noted for his outstanding Bent Press and 2-Hands Anyhow, but he was also quite good at the One Arm Snatch.  Unlike alot of other Oldtime Strongmen, I truly believe the lift poundages reported by Arthur Saxon.  He was a true weightlifter more than a  strongman performer.  His best official Right Hand Snatch was 195 pounds, and his best unofficial Right Hand Snatch was 210 pounds.  This was done at around 200-210 pounds bodyweight – AMAZING!

Picture #4

Milo Steinborn and the One Arm Snatch.

Henry “Milo” Steinborn has left his legacy in the USAWA with his signature lift, the Steinborn Lift.  What most people don’t realize is that Steinborn was more than just a squatter, as he excelled at the quick lifts as well. I like this picture because it signifies a truly “Oldtime Strongman” approach to weightlifting.  Notice the thick handled barbell with no knurling and the globe ends.   This bar weighed 173 pounds.   This picture was taken in 1921 in an exhibition done by Steinborn in Philadelphia.  It has been said he snatched this bar with one hand SIX TIMES that day!

Picture #3

Vasily Alexeev and the One Arm Snatch.

In 1980, the great Super Heavyweight Russian Olympic Lifter and winner of many Olympic Gold Medals, Vasily Alexeev performed a One Arm Snatch of 231 pounds.  I am sure he didn’t train this lift much at all, but still put up one of the best performances of all time.  Notice how he is catching the One Arm Snatch like a regular squat snatch.  This lift was done in an exhibition in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Picture#2

Bob Burtzloff and the One Arm Snatch.

My brother-in-law Bob Burtzloff introduced me to the USAWA over 20 years ago.  Bob is a legend in all-round lifting in the Midwest prior to the USAWA being formed.  He was a great all-round lifter, and excelled at one arm lifts.  His 171 pound One Arm Snatch performed in 1987 still ranks as the BEST ALL-TIME One Arm Snatch in the USAWA Record Book.  This picture was from the old USAWA Rulebook, and was early inspiration for me to train the One Arm Snatch.

Picture #1

Charles Rigoulot and the One Arm Snatch.

This is my favorite picture for one reason – because Charles Rigoulet was the best of ALL-TIME!  In 1929, he made a Right Hand Snatch of 115 kilograms (253.5 pounds).  This was done at a muscular bodyweight of 215 pounds.  A lot of people considered Rigoulot an One Arm Snatch specialist, but I disagree.  He also was very good at several other lifts, including the Olympic Lifts.   One thing about this picture that impresses me is his strict technique – notice his heels together at completion and upright finish.  Rigoulot loved to lift with his shot-loaded barbells, and it is also appropriate that this picture shows him doing just that.

Well, there you have it.  Now tomorrow I may have another list of 5 different favorites, but why can’t a man change his mind?  I hope these pictures give someone the inspiration to go to the gym and train the One Arm Snatch today!!

One Hand Snatch

by Arthur Saxon

Position 1 - One Hand Snatch

Place yourself in position 1 (see illustration), and as you pull strongly with the right hand and shoulder, press as hard as you can with the left hand on the left knee.  Then when the weight has reached a fair height, dip beneath same, the eyes to be all the time on the weight.  The secret of this lift is to use as many muscles as possible at the same time, that is, you press with your legs, pull with your arm, and push with the disengaged one, also pull with the shoulder and jerk with the back, suddenly, when the weight is over your head, dipping beneath same, and throwing it a little to the back.  There are two positions possible in snatching the weight, either of which are good, and both of which I will describe.

Position 2 - One Hand Snatch

One is to keep the body perpendicular and dip cleanly beneath the weight, the other is to suddenly fall to one side as in the bent press, when the bar is about the height of your head, and so place a straight arm beneath the weight, after which you recover to an erect position.  The benefit and advantage in this latter position being, given a a man who is enormously strong and a good side presser, if his arm should not go in the first attempt quite straight, then he may finish up the last inch or two by the body press, that is if no objection be made by referee or opponents in competition.  A variation of this is to snatch the bell overhead with two hands instead on one, the hands being held the same distance apart as in the double-handed barbell lift.  Those anxious to practice the single-handed lift all the way, as in the English Amateur Championship Competition, will find my instructions as to the snatch are, in reversed, directly applicable to the initial pull-in to the shoulder.  All that you have to do is place your hand on the bar with the palm to the front instead of to the back, then pull the bell up to the chest, stepping back with the left leg if pulling in with the right hand, and exerting as many muscles as possible as described.

NOTE:  – In all these positions where the weight is lifted to the shoulder from off the ground, the arm must NOT be bent at the first portion of the pull.

CREDIT:  The Development of Physical Power by Arthur Saxon

Saxon Snatch

by Al Myers

Dino Gym member Tyler Cookson performs a Saxon Snatch.

Another lift contested at the Dino Gym Challenge will be the Saxon Snatch.  This was a popular strength feat done by the Old-Time German Strongman Arthur Saxon.  Even though Saxon was best known for his Bent Pressing and Two Hands Anyhow, he was quite a grip specialist.  Often in his strength shows he would demonstrate his grip strength by snatching a wooden plank, with both hands or just with one.  It is reported that he could one-hand Snatch a 90 pound 3 inch thick wooden plank!  Saxon had abnormally long fingers and hands for his size, and did several other grip feats to back up this claim.

We are going to honor this great grip feat of Arthur Saxon’s by including it as our “grip lift” in the Dino Gym Challenge.

The Rules of the Saxon Snatch:

A wooden plank, of 3 inch thickness, will be used as the apparatus.  The plank will be able to be loaded with plates to any weight desired.  The rules of the Snatch apply.  The plank must be gripped with an overhand (knuckles facing away) pinch grip. The lifter will have a time limit of 1 minute to accomplish a legal lift.  If  the plank is dropped or not deemed a legal snatch, the lifter may repeat as many times as desired within the time limit.

What Goes Around….

Arthur Saxon would probably be considered "cutting edge" with most of his training techniques today!

by Thom Van Vleck

Recently, I had a young guy come out to my place to try out the Highland Games.  He was in his early 20’s and had done some weight training at the local YMCA and in high school, but was not a hard core lifter or iron game follower.  What was funny was I gave him a tour of my gym and he started pointing to things I had like they were new and cutting edge.  As if my gym was equipped with “all the latest”.  In particular, he pointed to my Kettlebells and said, “Wow, you have some kettlebells, I would like to try training with those, I’ve heard they are really good to train with”.

This was in contrast to when my Uncle Wayne Jackson saw the Kettlebells right after I had bought them.  Wayne gained the bulk of his training knowledge from reading S&H, MD, and Ironman in the 50’s and 60’s.  He said, “So what are you going to do with those old things”.  As if I had raided the York Barbell museum!   Wayne’s comments leaned towards how Kettlebells were never us used in his day and you couldn’t find those for years and he wasn’t sure what good they were going to do me.

In 2009, I got to go to the Arnold Fitness Expo.  It was there I found out just how “popular” Kettlebells had become again. They were having a competition that centered around doing all kinds of different maneuvers with the kettlebells, some of which I could see a lot of benefit, some….not so much…but hey, I swing a hammer in circles and flip telephone poles in my spare time….so who am I to judge.

I have a lot of stuff in my gym, most of it is pretty old or “well used”.  It is funny to me how things go in and out of style.  It got me to pondering “WHY”?  A lot of times exercises and equipment get run out of town by the “latest thing”.  Usually being sold by some guy looking to make a buck more than he’s trying to “revolutionize” the fitness industry.  He tells us that the old stuff is dangerous, useless, or inferior and enough people buy into it that it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy and the old stuff falls to the wayside.  But form follows function and eventually, what works is rediscovered and comes back again.

Now, this wasn’t intended to be an article on the benefits of Kettlebells, they are just an example.  I’m not trying to sell you on the and I don’t sell them!!!  Just remember, in our effort to get better (whether that be bigger, faster, stronger at lifting, throwing, team sports, whatever) we need to gain a broad understanding of what’s out there.  We need to know our history, we need to know what works and what doesn’t and filter what comes from the so called “experts” so that we may find the tools we need to achieve our goals.  We need to constantly look at what’s been used, what’s on the “shelf” (so to speak) and how can it be used to freshen up our training and lift us to victory!  (no pun intended!).

The Sheffield Showdown – Saxon vs Sandow

by Thom Van Vleck

Arthur Saxon supporting his brother Hermann, who is seated on a kettlebell. To make the act even more difficult, Arthur is holding out another kettlebell with his other arm!

Al’s recent story on Sandow beating Sampson got me to thinking about another great old time strongman confrontation.  When I was a kid, my granddad Dalton Jackson (originator of the Jackson Weightlifting Club) told me this story.  My Granddad (or “Pop” as I called him) was a big fan of Arthur Saxon and always seemed to paint Sandow as the villain in his stories.  Pop often liked the guy that talked less and showed more and I think he thought Sandow talked a lot more than he lifted and manipulated situations to his advantage rather than winning with his strength.

Arthur Saxon was a master of the Bent Press, which is a USAWA lift and the rules for it can be found in the rule book.  At one point, Arthur laid down the challenge to Sandow, or any other strongman, that he could not be beaten in the Bent Press.  Money was involved and the honor to be called the World’s Strongest Man was on the line.

As Sandow was the older (around 30 to Saxon’s 19 or 20) and the more established performer at that time, Saxon’s claim was taken very seriously by Sandow.  On February 26, 1898 in Sheffield, England the Saxon Trio was performing, and when the challenge was laid down, Sandow jumped to the stage to accept the challenge.

As was the custom of that day, each strongman would pick a lift and go back and forth with the winner often being the man to beat the other at one of his “pet” lifts.  First, Saxon lifted a 110lb kettle bell to his shoulder and held it there with his little finger while a 160lb man climbed up his shoulders and sat on the weight.  Saxon then bent pressed both.  Sandow refused to even try this, and as Pop told me, “broke the unwritten rules of strongman feats”.  Saxon then, using his whole hand, took a 180lb Kettle Bell and 188lb Oscar Hilgenfelt, a member of the original Saxon Trio, in the same manner and bent pressed it, but did not stand erect with it.  Again, Sandow refused to try it!  Finally, Saxon Bent Pressed a 264lb barbell and stood erect with it on his second try.  Sandow, very fresh having passed up every feat to this point, agreed to try the lift.  I recall Pop painting Sandow as purposely trying to wear Saxon out before finally answering a challenge.  Even with this ploy, it took Sandow 5 tries to get the weight to arms length but he did not stand erect with the weight.  Saxon claimed victory, and in my mind, rightfully so!

Saxon began to use the event to promote his shows and the “sore loser” (as Pop called him) Sandow then took his only recourse, which was to sue Saxon in court since he couldn’t beat him on the platform.  Sandow, being the home country favorite and significantly better financed (seem not much has changed about courts….money wins!) won a decision after getting a witness to the event to say he lifted the weight and that even though he admitted he did not stand erect with it, he did not have to!  Pop made it sound like Sandow claimed he “could have” lifted it, but chose not to!  Now the impression I had was Sandow was not only a sore loser, but a cheater!  Further, Sandow cried foul that Saxon used a barbell loaded with mercury and that he had “practiced” with it and could counter the Mercury flowing in the bells and keep his balance. While Sandow struggled with the balance each attempt.  Either way, Pop told me that if you accepted a challenge, you didn’t cry foul later!

It was some time later I was reading a story on Donald Dinnie, the legendary Highland Games athlete that went 40 years undefeated in the caber toss.  Dinnie heard of Saxon, but refused to believe that Saxon’s claims.  In October of 1904, Saxon traveled paid a visit to Dinnie and using Dinnie’s weights, bent pressed 340.5lbs.  After that, Saxon had Dinnie’s support and praise.

Now, I don’t mean to ruffle the feathers of Sandow fans out there, I just wanted to convey the story of a great event in strength history and from the perspective of how it was told to me as a young boy by a man that lived not too long after the event transpired!   But truth be told, to this day, Arthur Saxon is my favorite!

The Bugbear of Training: How to Avoid

by Arthur Saxon

Arthur Saxon, on the cover of his book The Development of Physical Power, which was originally published in 1906.

I take it for granted that no one can enter into training for any sport, including weightlifting, and even practice for physical development only, without encountering monotony in training, which threatens to upset all schemes for daily exercise, throwing one back in one’s work, especially as staleness makes its appearance. I, of course, am more directly concerned with weightlifting exercises than with any other, but, no doubt, when I have given my views as to how one may steadily progress, and at all times make some little advance, however slight, and overcome the bugbear of training, then it will be found possible to adapt my hints to other forms of exercise.

In the first place, when you feel a little stale, yet, perhaps, not stale enough to make a total rest advisable, then, when you lift, if you lift all weights, whether in practicing feats or weightlifting exercises, at such a poundage that they can be readily raised with ease and comfort, it will be found that your work is once more a pleasure, and short you may return to your usual poundage. The bugbear or training loses half its fearsome aspect to the tired athletes who has a lot at stake, and must continue at his work, if it be done in company with a friend or friends.  There is nothing so fatiguing as the raising of iron weights time after time with no one to watch, no one to encourage, no one to advise – to express surprise at your improvement.  To surprise and beat your friends is always an encouragement, and in practicing with weights you cannot get the right positions unless you have an expert lifter to occasionally offer a hint.  Lifting, too, may become dangerous if practiced by oneself, so you see the idea is to endeavor to make your training as much as pleasure as possible. If necessary, enter into little competitions with your friends.  I had almost said a small bet would be an incentive to work, but I suppose I must include betting among the list of vices we human beings are apt to give way to, but this will not preclude one from a friendly competition occasionally in which points may be conceded, and lifts performed on handicap and competition lines.

Carefully adjust your work to your condition at the moment.  Ask yourself each time you lift, “Am I in good form today?” If you feel yourself in good form – specially “fit” – then that is the time to try a “limit” lift.  Note what you have raised that day – the weight and the date – and at another suitable time see if you can surpass your last record lift by a few points.

Such pleasant, invigorating and helpful aids to training as massage, towel friction and sponge-down, are all direct helps in aiding one to continue constantly and persistently with the practice.  Without regularity good results cannot be expected, yet immediately your mind, always questioning your condition, and ever ready to appreciate a weakness, tells you that you are stale, an immediate and entire rest is imperative.  To go on when stale is to invite an entire breakdown.  I have known even nervous exhaustion to attend the misdirected efforts of the athlete who persists in hard training when he feels himself going to pieces through over-work.  To try to work like a machine, knowing that ever at one’s side stands the bugbear of training, ready to weaken one’s resources through over-work, and bring about a breakdown, is the height of folly.  Nature has given one an instinct which will make heard, with warning notes, the danger signal when over fatigue threatens, and this signal should never be allowed to pass unnoticed.

Whilst on this subject, I would point out that the man of sedentary occupation can never hope to stand the same amount of physical work as regards to weightlifting as his fellow, who is a manual laborer, and whose muscles are daily tuned to mechanical labor, which drains the system least of any, whilst brain work is a constant and steady drain on the whole system, and it will, no doubt, surprise many to learn that the brain-worker is more likely to suffer from over-work than the man who, like myself, daily performs arduous feats which are purely muscular.  When the brain-worker changes to physical work, he finds the change helpful, inasmuch as a change of work is a good as a rest, and, therefore, he will not, of course, regard the lifts he practices as work, but as a pleasant pastime.

Credit:  The Development of Physical Power by Arthur Saxon

The Pullover and Push Part 2 – History

by Al Myers

Arthur Saxon performing the Pullover and Push

Just like the stories of Milo Steinborn developing the Steinborn Lift because squat stands didn’t exist, Old Time great strongmen like Arthur Saxon and George Hackenschmidt were performing the Pullover and Press and the Pullover and Push on the floor before the bench press existed.  This was the only way at the time to do a supine press since benches for bench presses weren’t around yet. The Pullover and Press (where the lifter lies flat and performs a strict press unlike the Pullover and Push where the lifter can arch) was performed before it “evolved” into the Pullover and Push. I can just imagine the lifter’s comments at the time when the first lifter did “the Push” instead of “the Press”. Much like the comments I here now when you see big bench presses put up with an armored reinforced bench shirt on!!  Such comments as, “THAT’S not a real bench press!”, “If you wear a bench shirt, you’re a cheater!”.  And so on.  Back then I bet you would hear comments like, “THAT”S not a real pullover and press!”, and “If you got to bridge like that, you’re a cheater!”. So, really nothing has changed in over 100 years of arguments and debates involving supine pressing! My opinion is that the Pullover and Push is a different lift compared to the Pullover and Press (just as benching with a shirt on is compared to without) and everyone should treat it that way.  Arthur Saxon even made this comment regarding the Pullover and Push in his book The Development of Physical Power “A more genuine test, perhaps, is to lay perfectly flat, and slowly press the barbell overhead.” And this came from our hero Arthur Saxon who HELD the record in the Pullover and Push for some time with a lift of 175 kilograms in the early 1900’s.

The Pullover and Push was contested heavily between 1900 and 1930, at which time the more modern Bench Press gained popularity. The Pullover and Push pretty much disappeared as a competitive lift after that, and most weightlifters at the time didn’t even know how to perform it. However, the Pullover and Push made a resurgence in the mid 1980’s with the organization of modern-day All-Round Weightlifting.  It is now one of the most popular lifts in All-Round competitions.  Of the over 200 official All-Round lifts, I can count on at least one meet per year will have the Pullover and Push in it.

Some of the best Pullover and Push lifters among Old Time Strongmen include Arthur Saxon (175 kg), Harold Wood (175.2 kg), and George Lurich (201.5 kg).  Lurich set this World Record in 1902 in Leipzig, Germany, but since he was wrestling professionally at the time, this was considered “the Professional Record”. Modern day All-Rounders have posted significantly higher records, possibly due to modern day bars and plates that allow the bar to reach the chest/abdomen easier.  These are the modern day best Pullover and Push records – all of which were done in official competitions.

Adrian Blindt (70 kg BWT) – 177.5 kg
Rick Meldon (80 kg BWT) – 190 kg
Phil Anderson (90 kg BWT) – 202.5 kg
Steve Angell (100 kg BWT) – 180 kg
Bob Burtzloff (110 kg BWT) – 215 kg
Al Myers (120 kg BWT) – 204.1 kg

The research for these modern day record holders was done by Roger Davis, who wrote a splendid article about the Pullover and Press and the Pullover and Push in the March 2009 issue of MILO.  Roger’s article is the best article covering these lifts that has ever been written, and if you get a chance and want to read about the Pullover and Push in more detail than what I have done here, I recommend you get that copy of MILO and read it.

Tomorrow I am going to cover techniques used in the Pullover and Push, and even give away some of “my secrets” that I have learned about this lift over the years.

The Saxon Trio

by Dennis Mitchell

The Saxon Trio

Back in he late 1890s Eugene Sandow was the king of strength in England. A gentleman by the name of Arno Saxon (His real name was Arno Patschke) saw the interest that the public had for strong men acts and also the possibility of making a good living by forming his own strongman act. Arno was a German wrestler and strongman. Traveling back to Germany in 1897, he formed the first Saxon Trio. Arno Saxon teamed up with  Oscar Hilgenfeld and the 19 year old Arthur Hennig, who later changed his name to Arthur Saxon. The three traveled to England and put on a genuine strong man act. There were no false weights, tricks, or illusions. Just honest lifting, supporting and juggling heavy weights.
The first to leave the trio was Oscar Hilgenfeldt. He joined with Albert Attilla to form their own act called The Attilla Brothers. His place was taken by a man named Somerton. Somerton stayed with the trio only a short time and was replaced by another German named Adolf Berg. More changes were to come when the originator of the group, Arno Saxon left. Arthur Saxon had his 17 year old brother, Hermann, take his place. Once again the ever changing trio changed again when Adolf Berg left and was replaced by Arthur’s youngest brother, Kurt. We now had the true Arthur Saxon Trio. But not for long as Hemann decided to do a solo act and once again Adolf Berg returned. After a time Hermann returned and once again the three brothers were billed as the Arthur Saxon Trio.


Arthur was born April 28, 1878. Hermann was born March 17,1882 and Kurt, March 11,1884. All were born in Leipsic, Saxony. They started training at an early age using stone weights, and putting on shows in their back yard when Arthur was 15 years old, Hermann,11, and Kurt 8 years old. They offered ten Pfenning (2.5 cents) to any one up to the age of 15 who could defeat them. When Hermann was still 16 years old he could bent press 100 kilos by holding together two 50 kilo kettle-bells. Kurt at the age of 11 could swing 50 kilos. Even as the members of the trio kept changing they were quite successful and traveled with the Wirth Brothers Circus through Europe and India. Not only did they lift weights but were quite skilled in wrestling.


Other than their outstanding lifting the Saxon Brothers were “Strong Eaters.” At a typical breakfast they would eat 24 eggs, 3 pounds of smoked bacon, porridge with cream, honey, marmalade and tea with lots of sugar. Lunch served at about 3PM consisted of 10 pounds of meat, with vegetables, sweet fruits, sweet cakes, salads, pudding, and tea with lots of sugar. Supper was usually smoked fish and cold meat. There was never any whiskey or brandy, but they did drink some beer. The stories of their beer drinking were greatly exaggerated. After their 3 o’clock meal they would rest for a couple of hours. During this time Kurt would do the shopping for their next days food. He was the cook.
It was now time for their workout. They never did a light workout and did a large variety of lifts with ring weights and barbells. They would warm up with leg presses. (No leg press machines) The bent press was done at every work out, doing as many as thirty lifts at each training session. The only non lifting exercises the did was jumping and swimming, and sometimes wrestling. They trained six days a week for four hours.


When Arthur died, August 6, 1921, Hermann and Kurt continued the act for a wile with great success. However Hermann did not have the heart to continue, as it was not like the old days. Kurt continued on his own until he was injured August 24, 1924, when a bridge and car that he was supporting collapsed and put an end to his career as a strong man. He then worked at the University of Leipzig as a trainer, and for a wile ran his own gym until it was destroyed during the second world war. Kurt died September 5, 1952, and Hermann, February 12, 1961. Arthur was best known for his bent pressing, an official lift of 371 pounds, and the two hands any how lift of 448 pounds. Listed here are some of Herman’s and Kurt’s lifts.

Kurt                          Hermann
Right hand snatch                                                        213 pounds                  206 pounds
Left hand snatch                                                           189 pounds                  202 pounds
Right hand bent press                                                332 pounds                   332 pounds
One hand clean & bent press, right hand             275 pounds                  272 pounds
Kettle bell swing right hand                                         187 pounds                  196 pounds
Two hands clean and jerk                                            341 pounds                  330 pound

Below is a comparison of their measurements taken by Dr. Sargent of Harvard University.

Kurt               Hermann                    Arthur
Height                                       68.1″               67.6″                         69.5″
Neck                                         15.5″               16.0″                         16.5″
Chest                                        43.0″               45.0″                         45.7″
Hips                                          36.0″              36.5″                          36.5″
Biceps                                       15.5″              16.0″                          16.5″
Forearm                                    14.2″               14.5″                         14.2″
Wrist                                         8.2″                 8.1″                           8.1″
Thigh                                        23.0″               22.0″                         23.2″
Calf                                          16.0″               15.0″                         15.7′
Weight                                    164 pounds      163 pounds                204 pounds
Age                                          26 years          28 years                     32 years

The Foot Press

by Al Myers

Dave Glasgow lifting over 1000# in the Foot Press at the Dino Gym Challenge

Recently at the Dino Gym Challenge we performed an “exhibition lift” that was a very popular Old Time Strongman performance feat. I initially termed it the “Plank Support”, but the proper name for the lift we did in the meet should be the “Foot Press”. This lift has never been contested before (in modern times at least) so I had some uncertainty in how the event would go. The difference between a Plank Support and a Foot Press is this – in the Plank Support the legs are already locked as weight is added to the feet while with the Foot Press the weight is pushed up with the legs/hip to lockout. Both of these were favorites of Arthur Saxon, and it is reported that he did 3200# in both. Saxon would lay on his back while a heavy plank was placed on his feet in which weight (often in the form of people) was loaded onto the plank. He did “a little extra” with his act in that once the weight was loaded and supported he would slightly unlock his knees and then leg press it out again. So in a sense he was doing both a Plank Support and Foot Press at the same time! Other strongman didn’t unlock their legs when doing this stunt. He also didn’t use any hand supports, thus maintaining balance with his feet only! The rules for the Foot Press as was done at the Dino Gym Challenge is as follows:

Rules for Foot Press

An apparatus is used in which weight is loaded onto the feet only while the lifter is laying on his/her back on the floor/platform with the legs vertical and perpendicular to the floor. The apparatus used must allow the weight to rise without providing any leverage to the lift, but may be guided in a tract. It is also acceptable to use a plank resting on support platforms. The lift starts at the lifter’s discretion. Hands may be placed on the legs or any part of the apparatus, but must not be used to push directly against the weight being lifted. The weight lifted must clear the supports and be held motionless, at which time an official will give a command to end the lift.

The following is a story told and written by Sig Klein, “When Arthur Saxon came to this country to fill an engagement with the Ringling Brothers Circus, weightlifters in and around New York thought here was the athlete for Warren Lincoln Travis to meet in competition. For reasons never made clear to me, this match never materialized, although Travis trained for the match that was being talked about. He told me that he could never hope to equal Saxon in the Bent Press or on the Foot Press, but he trained on these lifts nonetheless. Travis spoke to Saxon about the Foot Press and I will tell you what transpired regarding this lift. Travis asked Saxon if a contest was to be arranged and the Foot Press was one of the tests, if he, Saxon, would agree to allow Travis to do his lift with the plank resting on two trestles and iron placed on the plank. Saxon, who had his two brothers trained and a group of men who were placed on this plank in perfect order by the brothers, agreed to allow Travis to do anything that he desired. Travis said that this was the way Saxon acted about most any lift. He was very fair and would agree to most any kind of arrangements for a contest as long as Saxon could get a contest. Travis had the greatest respect for Arthur Saxon and told me that in an overhead weightlifting contest Saxon could beat him but that Travis hoped to defeat Saxon on the Back and Harness and Finger Lifts.”

I was very impressed with this lift and everyone at the meet seemed to enjoy it. It is a lift that can be done in almost any gym. All it takes is a Vertical Leg Press Machine or a Power Rack in which a plank could be placed across the supports. The Foot Press is the Heavy Lift version of the Leg Press. There are a couple of Leg Press Lifts as official USAWA lifts, but they are full range of motion lifts and nothing like the Foot Press. I am going to present this lift to the USAWA Executive Board for new lift approval so hopefully, the next time the Foot Press is done it can be “official” and records can be set in it.

Dino Gym Challenge

The Arthur Saxon Pentathlon

by Al Myers

Chad Ullom demonstrates how to do a 258# Arthur Lift. (And YES - That's the bar going UP the back)

Chad Ullom captured his third straight overall best lifter title this past weekend at the Dino Gym Challenge, by winning this year’s Arthur Saxon Pentathlon. Chad showed complete dominance in all of Arthur’s lifts, demonstrating flexibility that most lifters lack. He put up big marks in the One Arm Dumbbell Swing (150 pounds) and the Arthur Lift (258 pounds). An exhibition lift, which I called the Plank Lift, was the last lift of the meet and despite Chad’s dominance in the previous four lifts when meets include a lift like this, in which a large amount of weight can be lifted compared to the other lifts, things are never “in the bag” until the meet is over. I had the disadvantage of being before Chad “in the order of call” so he used good strategy in matching my attempts in the Plank Lift. I tried to “put the pressure on him” by calling for 2050# for my last attempt, but it is only good strategy if you get the lift! That was just a little over my strength abilities, but making a small jump wasn’t going to overtake him. Congratulations Chad on the win!! Dave Glasgow made his USAWA debut in this meet, and looked and lifted like a veteran. Dave has been around the iron game a long time, and has been one of the top Highland Games throwers in the country in his age class for several years. Dave is very athletic and had no problems with the lifts in this difficult meet. I was very impressed with his Two Hands Anyhow, when he went “old school” and did the lift with two KETTLEBELLS. My father-in-law Rudy Bletscher came in fourth. Rudy really enjoys competing against guys much younger than him, and constantly surprises me when he puts up a great mark in a lift he never tried before. Most guys his age could not even come close to doing a Bent Press, but he managed to post a successful lift in this extremely difficult lift. We held to the TRUE RULES of the Bent Press and did not allow any side press. That is the reason our Bent Press poundages are not as high as you would expect. When you are not very proficient at the Bent Press it is very easy to CHEAT and try to side press the weight – but we held TRUE and performed the Bent Press the proper way. Arthur Saxon would have been proud of us (but probably amused by all of our obvious lack of ability in this lift compared to him!). Darren Barnhart was a surprise entry for me. Darren is a “regular” at the Dino Gym and just showed up to the gym to help judge and load, but I persuaded him into competing. Darren is a real trooper and gave all the lifts a try despite his lack of training them or even seeing them done before! This is the main ingredient in what it takes to be an All-Rounder – no fear of any lift. I was extremely impressed by Darren and his effort he put forth in this meet – he “almost” had a record in the Arthur Lift at 203#, and after struggling to get the bar to his shoulders which required much exertion he “double pumped” his Jerk, causing him to get red lighted. These are the red lights that are the hardest to give – but as an official you have to “call it like it is”. I hope Darren will come to my record day in February and get that record – he is more than capable of it.

Dave Glasgow and his 150# Two Hands Anyhow using a pair of heavy Kettlebells.

I was very happy that I had five participants in this meet. I knew that the lifts I selected were probably not anyone’s favorites, and was prepared for a low turnout. But part of the excitement of All-Round Weightlifting is trying new things, and learning how to do some of the lifts that the Old-Time Weightlifters performed. I want to thank everyone who showed up to participate. I also want to thank Wilbur Miller for AGAIN coming to my meet to help out and give encouragement. Wilbur is a true inspiration and lifting hero to us at the Dino Gym! Wilbur was entering All-Round Weightlifting Meets as far back as the early 1960’s, when hardly anyone competed in the All-Rounds and there was no USAWA. Lifters like him are the reason we have All-Round Weightlifting today – so we need to give credit where credit is due. Thanks Wilbur for everything you have done for our sport!

Afterwards, my wife Leslie prepared a huge German Feast for everyone. I figured since we were celebrating the lifting of Arthur Saxon – this would only seem appropriate. Lots of Brats, Kraut and German Potato Salad was consumed!!! A few of us even celebrated with some German Dark Beer (Warsteiners) afterwards!! A day like this doesn’t happen every day so we made the most of it. When we finished eating, I “challenged” the group to consuming an Arthur Saxon Health Drink, which Arthur would drink every morning to start the day. It consists of one Dark Beer, 2 shots Gin, one raw egg, and 2 big spoons of sugar. Of course, Chad “jumped” right on this challenge with Dave not far behind! We again “toasted” to Arthur and the great fun that was had by all.

Toasting to Arthur Saxon with a Saxon Health Drink

2010 Dino Challenge Group Picture Front Row (left to right): Chad Ullom, Al Myers Back Row (left to Right): Darren Barnhart, Wilbur Miller, Dave Glasgow, Rudy Bletscher

FULL MEET RESULTS:

Dino Gym Challenge
Arthur Saxon Pentathlon
Dino Gym, Abilene, Kansas
January 16th, 2010

Meet Director: Al Myers

Officials (1 official system used): Al Myers, Chad Ullom, and Darren Barnhart

Lifts:  Swing – Dumbbell, One Arm, Bent Press – With Bar, Two Hands Anyhow, Arthur Lift, and Plank Support (Foot Press)

Results:

Lifter Age
BWT Swing Bent Anyhow Arthur Foot Total Points
Chad Ullom
38 236 150 R
85 R
220 258 1450 2163 1767.39
Al Myers
43 257 140 R
75 R
180 132 1450 1977 1608.88
Dave Glasgow
56 257 95 R
85 L
150 132 1050 1512 1384.27
Rudy Bletscher
74 219 60 R
30 R
90 45 850 1075 1233.42
Darren Barnhart
42 296 110 R
75 R
160 132 1050 1527 1148.78


All lifts recorded in pounds. BWT is bodyweight in pounds. Total is total pounds lifted.  Points are bodyweight and age adjusted.

What it feels like to lift 150 pounds with one hand

by Arthur Saxon

Arthur Saxon demonstrating the proper technique for the Bent Press.

I have often been asked what it feels like to press 350 lbs. with one hand, and perhaps to my readers the different sensations experienced will be interesting. In the first place, immediately I start to press the weight away from the shoulder I become perfectly oblivious to everything except the weight that I am lifting. The spectators are obliterated from my mind by the effort of intense concentration which is necessary to enable me to press the weight. I immediately engage myself in a terrific struggle in which the weight and I are competitors, and only one can win, either the weight must be lifted or else I fail. This concentration is, of course, one of the secrets of success in lifting. It enables me to bring forward the last ounce of pushing power, and for the time being to exert strength beyond that normally possessed.

As the weight steadily rises aloft, perhaps half way it wavers, the balance alters, and I have immediately, yet very carefully and quietly, to adjust my position to the altered balance of the bar. Then I proceed with the press, my body gradually falling lower towards the left knee, my eyes fixed all the time upon the ponderous weight balanced over my head, ready to fall at a moment’s notice should I weaken or place myself in a false position, and should at this moment anyone shout out, it might startle me, make me waver, and cause the weight to fall. Therefore, if I am attempting a world’s record in this position, I generally ask for complete silence until I have either failed or succeeded, and I might mention here that to think of failure is to fail, and always tell myself all the time that I am certain to succeed even though I am attempting a weight more than I have hitherto lifted. Eventually, my arm is straight, and before coming to an upright position I engage in another tussle with the enormous barbell, in which I have to exert all my will power to hold together the flagging powers of tired muscles, which have been strained by the tremendous pressure which 350 lbs. brings on to them in the effort of pressing aloft. By supreme effort of the will I fix the bell in a good position and then stand upright. Often the bar will roll on to the fingers instead of being directly over the wrist, in which case severe pain is inflicted, and I have to persevere with the lift under doubly hard conditions, or else drop the weight and try again.

Credit: The Development of Physical Power by Arthur Saxon

The Arthur Saxon Pentathlon

by Al Myers

The most famous picture of Arthur Saxon - performing a Two Hands Anyhow.

Don’t forget this coming weekend the Dino Gym is presenting the Arthur Saxon Pentathlon.  This meet was designed to honor the great German weightlifter, Arthur Saxon.  I have always respected the great lifts of Saxon – he was well-rounded with his lifting ability and showed the world that you could be athletic and still a great weightlifter.  He performed with his brothers, Kurt and Hermann, making up the Saxon Trio.  Their strongman act was based on weightlifting, and not gimmicky stunts which a lot of their contemporaries performed in their shows at the time.  For this meet I selected Five of Arthur Saxon’s best lifts in setting up this challenge.  A couple of them are difficult to perform, and aren’t contested very often in the USAWA, so this will give everyone a chance to do something different.  These are the five lifts and Saxon’s best mark in them:

Swing – Dumbbell, One Arm     187 pounds
Bent Press – with bar                371 pounds
Two Hands Anyhow                  448 pounds
Arthur Lift                                386 pounds
Plank Support                          3200 pounds

Arthur Saxon was 5′10″ and weighed around 210 pounds at his prime.

I haven’t had a Quiz of the Week for a while now – so here is a question.

What was Arthur Saxon’s real name?

The winner will receive a USAWA patch. Rules: First correct answer emailed to me wins, and only one answer per day.

Dave Glasgow of Winfield, Kansas has already provided the correct answer to the Quiz, with Saxon’s given name being Arthur Hennig. Dave is a seasoned Highland Game athlete and is entering his first All-Round Weightlifting Meet this weekend, at the Arthur Saxon Pentathlon. Welcome Dave to the All-Rounds!!

The Mystery of Arthur Saxon’s Death

by Al Myers

Arthur Saxon (April 28, 1878 to August 6, 1921)

Arthur Saxon was an old time strongman who never left any questions about what weight he lifted – his lifts where often weighed and people who questioned his strength were silenced. Saxon preferred barbells and dumbbells in his strength shows and never performed show acts that included trickery or slight of hand. Even when the famous Scottish Strongman Donald Dinnie questioned whether Arthur Saxon could do what he said he could Arthur sought out Dinnie and preceded to prove himself by lifting on Dinnie’s equipment. He bent pressed 340 pounds using Dinnie’s weights!! Donald Dinnie became a believer that Arthur Saxon was a strong as he said he was.

However, despite living a lifting career that never left questions unanswered – his death was quite different – and clouded with mystery.  I have read three different accounts of how Arthur Saxon died – and I don’t really know which one is correct. All sources seem to be reputable. I am sure these accounts are debatable – and if anyone knows more on this please email me so we can discuss it.

Story 1: After WWI, Arthur resumed putting on Strength Shows by himself.  The war had caused the Saxon Trio to break up. Times were tough and Arthur continued to put on show after show to make ends meet. Due to his long hours and poor working conditions, he developed pneumonia but declined medical attention.  He continued to put on performance after performance until eventually the pneumonia overcame him.

Story 2: Arthur was at the height of his career.  During one of his strength shows, he was doing a support lift where he was supporting a heavy wooden bridge that a car was driven over. Apparently, the wooden bridge broke and the car and several people fell on him causing great injury. He was in the hospital a long time, and had operations where “iron bolts” were driven in at several places. He never fully recovered, and died from pneumonia as a complication of his weakened condition.

Story 3: Arthur was married to an English girl that he met while putting on his strength show tours throughout England.  However, he was in Germany while she was still in England when the war started. After the war, circumstances arose that prevented Arthur and his wife from being reunited. This caused Arthur to go into a deep depression, and on a cold winter night, he went on a drinking binge.  The police found him the next day, lying in the street dead. The cause of death was given as pneumonia.

Which story would you like to believe?
My pick is Story #1 – a mighty strongman never quitting until his dying breath!!

Which story is true?
Who knows. Even the whereabouts of Arthur Saxon’s  gravesite is unknown!!

Arthur Saxon died at the age of 43 – the same age that I am now. This is the reason that I am honoring Arthur Saxon at my 2010 Dino Gym Challenge by hosting the “Arthur Saxon Pentathlon”.

Single-handed Dumbbell Swing

by Arthur Saxon

Arthur Saxon perfoming a One Arm Dumbbell Swing

The muscles called into play are practically the same here as in the one-handed snatch , but the bell must be placed on end between the feet as shown in illustration. Keep the head down, then, with a perfectly straight arm, pull up, using a combination of muscular efforts and concentration as described in the snatch lift. Lean back and watch the dumbbell with your eyes, and when it is at a suitable height suddenly dip beneath same and twist your wrist violently, so that you may place a straight arm beneath the bell.

Credit: The Development of Physical Power by Arthur Saxon

Quiz of the Week

by Al Myers

Name this USAWA Lift and who it is named after. Also, name the USAWA lifter that has lifted the most weight in this lift in an USAWA event.

Step 1 - Lift the bar behind the back

Step 2 - Roll the bar up the back onto the shoulders

Step 3 - Perform a behind the neck jerk

Winner receives an USAWA patch

Rules: First correct answer to webmaster wins, and only one answer may be given per day.

Congratulations to Chad Ullom of Topeka, Kansas for correctly identifying this lift as the Arthur Lift, named after the great old-time German strongman Arthur Saxon (and demonstrated by him in these photos). This lift requires great shoulder flexibility. The bar starts on the platform behind the lifter, and is raised behind the back until the bar is positioned above the hips (or above the belt). At this point, the lifter bends forward, and in a series of steps rolls the bar up the back until it is fixed across the shoulders. The hands are allowed to come free of the bar during this. The lifter then stands and performs a behind the neck jerk, at which time the lift is completed. Saxon is reported to have done 386 pounds in this lift, as it was witnessed by Warren Lincoln Travis. This lift was introduced to the USAWA by Art Montini – so in a way it is named after two Arthurs. The top weight ever lifted in the Arthur Lift in the USAWA was done by Chad Ullom, who lifted 297 pounds at the 2007 National Championships.

Chad Ullom performing the Arthur Lift at the 2007 National Championships