Bob Burtzloff on Training (circa 1981)

by Thom Van Vleck

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

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

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

Bob wrote:

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

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

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

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

One Arm Clean & Jerk

by Thom Van Vleck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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”!

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!!

Goerner Stroll

by Al Myers

Bob Burtzloff participated in the Goerner Stroll at Kevin Fulton's SuperGrip Challenge several years ago.

This will be the last event in the Oldtime Strongman Competition at the Dino Gym Challenge.  It is based on a unique stage act performed by the Oldtime German Strongman Hermann Goerner.  The name of this Oldtime Strongman Event was not pegged by me – I have heard mention of the Goerner Stroll for many years!  How did it get named?  Maybe it was the stage feat in which Hermann Goerner would carry two large suitcase onto the stage – one in each hand.  Once in the middle of the stage he would sit both cases down and out climbed two young gals in each one!  Or maybe it was that memorable day at the training hall in Leipzig in 1920 where he picked up two bars, one in each hand weighing in at 663 pounds together, and proceeded to walk across the gym!  Either way, Hermann deserves the credit for this feat!!

The Rules for the Goerner Stroll

Two barbells will be used.  The lifter must pick up both barbells at the same time, one in each hand, and walk (or run) a distance of 1 rod (or 16.5 feet).  The starting and finish lines must be marked.  The plates on the bars must be behind the starting line at the start, and finish entirely beyond the finish line at the end.  The weight selected on the bars must not be changed during the attempt.  Both bars must be loaded to the same weight.  A one minute time limit is allowed for the attempt.  If the bars are set down or dropped between the  starting and finish lines during this 1 minute time limit, the lifter may start over, but MUST restart at the starting line.  Strapping the bars to the hands is NOT ALLOWED.

The Pullover and Push Part 3 – Technique and my Secret Tips

by Al Myers

Al Myers attempting a 475# Pullover and Push at the 2004 Dino Gym Challenge

Since Part 1 already covered the rules of the Pullover and Push, I am going to assume everyone knows what is expected regarding the rules of this lift.  I am going to cover things here that AREN’T in the rules – and hopefully give you suggestions that will help you improve upon this lift. First of all, the Pullover and Push is a violent exercise and not for the “faint of heart”.  It is no wonder the modern day Bench Press has replaced it.  It is very easy to get hurt doing this exercise, and just being off a little in position and  technique can result in injury.  I have incurred several injuries myself from this exercise, and I consider myself knowledgeable of the proper technique. At the 2007 Nationals I fractured a carpal bone in my wrist. I have suffered bruised ribs, lacerations to the elbows, bruises to the chest area, wrist injuries, and even a couple of times been knocked unconscious from failing to get my head turned adequately when pulling the bar over my head. Now with THAT being said, if you don’t want to take any of my advice I would completely understand, and maybe THIS LIFT is one you might not want anything to do with!  But All-Rounders are a hard-headed group of lifters (myself included), and for some reason like pain and punishment.

A lot of lifters have benched pressed over 500 pounds, with some even doing it without bench shirts and with long pause counts on the chest.  But NO ONE has done over 500 pounds in the Pullover and Push!  I do think this is possible some day, but it will take a unique lifter who wants to specialize in this lift.  One big problem with the Pullover and Push is that it is not a good lift for large lifters.  Large lifters with big chests have an obstacle that smaller lifters don’t have – that is first you have to get the bar pulled over your head and chest to even START the push.  I have seen many strong bench pressers fail in even getting 200 pounds in position on the chest.  It is humbling to be a 400 pound plus bencher and fail with 200 pounds in the Pullover and Push! However, it will take someone with good size to be able to “break” the 500 pound barrier.  I think the “ideal body size” for putting up big weight in the Pullover and Push is a lifter around 6 feet tall that weighs between 220 pounds and 240 pounds. The height is needed to enhance an arch (or bridge) and 240 pounds is about the top bodyweight a lifter can weigh before excessive resistance is reached in the Pullover.

I was fortunate to learn many of “my secret techniques” from the best Pullover and Push lifter of All-Time – Bob Burtzloff. Bob has  the best lift of All-Time (and the All-Time USAWA Record) at 473 pounds, done in 1987.  Bob did over 200 kgs several times in competition.  You have to have “NO FEAR” when doing the Pullover and Push.  The Pullover and Push has a 1-2 punch, which you must be prepared for and overcome, before you will get to the Push portion of the lift.  The first “Punch” is the bar slamming into your chest during the Pullover, and the second “Punch” is the bar impacting your abdomen. You must have your abs “tighten up” when this happens or it will knock the breath out of you. Much like a hard punch to the gut.  I like to roll the bar three times on the platform, with the last roll pulling with EVERYTHING I got. I do the first two rolls to get me mentally prepared, much like a basketball player who will bounce the ball a set number of times before a free throw.  It is called a Pullover, but THAT is far from how it should be executed, as a pullover implies that you are lifting the bar onto the chest.  Instead, the bar should be PROPELLED onto the chest by the momentum of the rolling bar. Some of these tips on the pullover don’t really apply to smaller lifters – as I have seen lightweight lifters literally roll the bar into position onto the chest/abdomen without the plates ever leaving the platform.  It is very important to turn your head to the side when the bar is coming over the face as to prevent that knockout blow to the jaw. Once the bar has passed over the face I like to quickly turn my head face up and RAISE my head up as I think it helps drop the chest slightly to help the bar reach its desired location on my upper abdomen. Make sure you wear a shirt that doesn’t have a sticky vinyl logo on the front of it. Do everything you can do to reduce friction on the chest.  I like to wear a tight white T-Shirt.   Another “trick” is to take a wide grip on the bar (snatch grip).  This will shorten the length of “stroke” needed in finishing the push. Even if you are against wrist wraps, this is one lift where you should wear them.  The wrists have to “turn over” hard and fast in the transition between the pullover and the push, and lots of stress is placed on them.  I also recommend wearing a weight belt.  The bridge places lots of pressure on the lower back and a belt helps support the back.  I will wear my belt slightly higher on my abdomen than when doing a deadlift, and after I buckle it I leave a loop of belt sticking up. I have on occasion over pulled the bar to the abdomen and if not for this loop of belt “blocking” the bar and causing it to stop, I would have not have been in position to do the push.  Two styles of Pushing are used. Smaller lifters tend to pull the bar to the abdomen, let it pause while pulling the feet under, and lift it as high as possible with the bridge before finishing it out with a slight press. Larger lifters (like myself at 6 foot and 250 pounds) like to rebound it quickly from the abdomen to arms’ length.  To do this the feet must already be in position by the hips because you will need to bridge quickly. My biggest weights lifted have happened with this technique as I feel I get a “rebound” effect from the abdomen going directly into the bridge. Much like the rebound effect in the Clean and Jerk. However, everything has to be timed perfectly, because if you are slightly out of position you will lose the  direct line of push and miss the lift.  I find it important to have a mat under my body during the lift. Most lifters do this to cushion the impact of the elbows, but I find I need it to help “stick” myself to the platform.  On a slick wood platform during the  pullover without a mat, I will pull myself towards the bar and slide on the platform. It is best to use a mat that is thin with a rubber backing.  Usually these are not available in competition, so I resort to using a towel which works adequately.

I consider someone who is very proficient in the Pullover and Push to be able to do 150% of bodyweight. A goal everyone should have is to be able to do bodyweight. You are also considered good at the Pullover and Push if you can outlift your best raw Bench Press. You should DEFINITELY be able to do more in the Pullover and Push than the Pullover and Press!  I hope I have given a few tips that will help you improve your training in the Pullover and Push.

Bob Burtzloff at the 2002 SuperGrip Challenge

by Ben Edwards

"This is Bob Burtzloff's double overhand deadlift of 305 pounds on a 2" bar at the 2002 SuperGrip Challenge at Kevin Fulton's farm in Nebraska. It was a great contest and a great group of people." - Ben Edwards

Bob Burtzloff – The USAWA’s BEST in the One Arm Clean and Jerk

by Al Myers

Bob Burtzloff performing a One Arm Clean and Jerk in the early 1980's. Bob is doing this outside his house in the pasture in South-Western Kansas. The bar is loaded with 10 Kilo bumpers for a total weight of 231 pounds. As you can tell, the ground is not exactly level.

As I promised last week on the USAWA Discussion Forum, I am featuring a story today on Bob Burtzloff from Liberal, Kansas.  As some of you know, Bob is my brother-in-law and one of the pioneers of All-Round Weightlifting.  He was competing in All-Round Weightlifting (or Odd Lifting as it was known then) before the USAWA was even an organization.  Lifters like Bob are the reason we have an organization today.  If it wasn’t for lifters competing in this sport before it organized – there may not have been an USAWA!!  The USAWA started in 1987, but Bill Clark was hosting Odd Lift Meets long before this.

But back to today’s story on Bob Burtzloff.  Bob was a true all-rounder – excelling at several different types of lifts.  However, one of his favorite lifts was the One Arm Clean and Jerk. Bob was a very accomplished Olympic Lifter in the state of Kansas. He won several State Championships in Olympic Lifting so it was only natural for him to be great in the One Arm Clean and Jerk.  His best official One Arm Clean and Jerk was 253 pounds, but I know he had done up to 275 pounds in training. Most guys can’t do this much in the Two Handed Clean and Jerk!!

There are two very different and distinct techniques for doing an One Arm Clean and Jerk – and Bob was the master of both.  The most common technique is to side clean the bar prior to the Jerk.  The other technique is to One Arm Clean the bar in front, much like a regular Clean.  This is very difficult to do as the rules state, “In receiving the bar at the shoulder, the bar must not make contact or rest on the shoulder or chest opposite to the lifting arm.  The center of the sternum is the line of lineation.” Very few have the ability to do this while maintaining control of the bar.  Bob also had a “stunt” he would do in the One Arm Clean and Jerk.  He would first side clean the bar with his right arm, Jerk it overhead, lower it back to the shoulder, and then TOSS THE BAR over his head and catch it in his left hand dead center. At that point he would Jerk it overhead with his left arm before returning the bar to the platform. And I’m not talking about him using light weight on this – in 1988 at the IAWA World Championships in England Bob did this with 220 pounds!!  Everyone in attendance was shocked and in disbelief!! I have witnessed Bob doing this several times in the past and can attest that it is just one of those things you have to see to truly believe.

Bob retired from All-Round Weightlifting by 1990, but he has made a few appearances at All-Round Meets since. In 2004, Bob competed in my Dino Gym Challenge and did a 175 pound One Arm Clean and Jerk which is the All-Time BEST in the USAWA Record List.  Bob was the BEST before the USAWA and is STILL the BEST in the One Arm Clean and Jerk!!!

TOP USAWA ALL-TIME ONE ARM CLEAN and JERKS


1.   175 Pounds  Bob Burtzloff
2.   165 Pounds  Matt Doster
3.   160 Pounds  Barry Bryan
4.   160 Pounds  Joe McCoy
5.   154 Pounds  Al Myers
6.   154 Pounds  Bill Spayd
7.   154 Pounds  Don Verterosa
8.   145 Pounds  Mike McBride
9.   138 Pounds  Dennis Stahnke
10.  132 Pounds  Bob Karhan
10.  132 Pounds  Ed Schock

Special BonusYouTube Video of Bob Burtzloff doing a One Arm Clean and Jerk from an Odd Lifting meet in 1986. It appears the weight on the bar is over 200 pounds.

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