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!

Bernarr MacFadden

Bernarr MacFadden, "Father of Physical Culture"

by Thom Van Vleck

If you know who Bernarr MacFadden is then you truly are a student of Iron History.  MacFadden was born in 1868 and died in 1955.  He became internationally famous and a millionaire (when a million meant something!) promoting Physical Culture.  I have heard that  Bob Hoffman was called “The Father of American Weightlifting”, but before Bob, Bernarr was the “Father of Physical Culture”.  MacFadden not only promoted exercise, he promoted all around physical fitness, all natural foods (he disliked processed foods) , natural treatment of disease (he hated “pill pusher Doctors”), and inspired people to live healthy lives.  Vim, Vigor, and Virility are terms you often heard him say. He directly influence many greats that you will know like Charles Atlas.

He was also at times branded a charlatan and was arrested on obscenity charges (his books were often very frank in there subject matter, but he was NOT arrested for what we would call pornography today).  He often rubbed the medical establishment the wrong way, at least the M.D.’s but not the D.O.’s…..I’ll explain more later.  He made his millions promoting his books and developed properties that had schools, resorts, and all things that in some way related to physical culture and health.  His empire rose and fell and rose and fell.  Personally, I think had he died or retired at a younger age his legacy would likely be more secure in the weightlifting world.  But some of his later dealings, eccentric tendencies, a damaging book by and ex-wife perhaps unfairly tarnished his early work and unfortunately what you do last is often remembered most.

McFadden’s long and colorful life could fill many volumes and I would encourage anyone interested in Iron History to ready up on him.  There is a website dedicated to his life at www.bernarrmacfadden.com.

My connection to MacFadden is as a boy my grandfather, who was born in 1913 and grew up when McFadden was truly at his peak, often quoted and spoke of McFadden and taught me many of his valuable principles and in that way had a major influence on the JWC.   I learned later he also filtered out many of McFadden’s teachings that were probably built on faulty logic and social norms of the day….but you wonder how people will someday look back on us!  I also work at A.T. Still University, founded in 1892 by Andrew Taylor Still and the founding school of Osteopathic Medicine.  A Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.) has the same medical training and credentialing of a Medical Doctor (M.D.) PLUS they have to learn Still’s Osteopathic teachings.  Again, volumes could be written on Osteopathy but I will just point out that Still believed in natural cures, healthy living, was against “pill pushing” as a doctor, thought exercise was essential to health (back when many M.D’s thought exercise was actually bad for you!!!!) and finally was a pioneer in whole person health.   Dr. Still was probably the kind of doctor Bernarr MacFadden would have liked!  I’m researching that right now!

At any rate, our library has a huge collection of rare books.  They often surplus out extra copies and sell them.  When they go unsold, they are given away.  I was checking through a bin of “free” books and when I came across a first edition copy of Bernarr MacFadden’s “Manhood and Marriage” published in 1916.  It had an old style library card in the back and the last time it was checked out was 1963!  Previous to that, 1957!  Kind of hard to believe this book has been on a shelf here my whole life (I was born in 1964) and now I have it.  It is not surprising to me this book was here as the type of people attracted to being a D.O. are the types that believe in whole person health, exercise, healthy living and natural cures.  Don’t get me wrong, they prescribe medication, do surgery and EVERYTHING an M.D. would do but if you see a D.O. you can expect a lecture on healthy living along with your antibiotics!

I am enjoying reading the book.  It is really outdated in many ways, but there is no doubt MacFadden really believed in the healthy lifestyle even if the basis of many of his tenants of healthy living have since been proven otherwise by research.  At least he set a standard which others could then prove right or wrong and if I had to guess, he was more “right”!   Check his story out some time….he’s a real character of the Iron Game!

Dale and Dalton

by Thom Van Vleck

Dale Friesz deadlifting 220 pounds with the Trap Bar at the 2010 USAWA National Championships.

Dale Friesz getting the courage award made me think of my grandfather and patriarch of the Jackson Weightlifting Club.  I think Dale and Dalton would have gotten along just fine.

First, let me say that I have a lot of respect for Dale and I hope that as I get older that I don’t give up on my training.  Dale commented one time that his training is what kept him going and I believe that.  Dalton Jackson was that way, too.

With all the champions to come out of the JWC, from state to national to world champs, people new to the club are often shocked that my grandfather never won anything.  He never competed in a single lifting meet.  But let me explain.  He grew up in the depression and quickly found himself the father to a pack of kids that needed taken care of and he worked long, hard hours to do this.  If he hurt himself, the family was in trouble, so he never maxed out or competed.  It was BECAUSE he sacrificed that later the rest of us could enjoy success.  To the members of the JWC, this made him the greatest champion of them all.

When I was a boy I recall him working at the local shoe factory (a brick hell hole that reeked of chemicals and had no air in the summers….I knew guys who worked there one day and quit….but my grandfather worked there 38 years) full time.  He would work 10 hours a day and half a day on Saturday, or 55 hours a week when they were busy.  He then worked as a janitor of an evening (I often went with him to this job and hung out as he told me stories while he worked) AND he drove a mail truck on Saturday nights.  I often rode with him as he would pick up mail and we would end up around midnight at the airport in Jefferson City.  This meant he’d get home about about 2:00am and he’d still get up and go to Church the next day.  I also recall him sleeping Sunday afternoons!

During these grueling hours, my grandfather would work out.  He worked out all the time.  He would go to the garage gym and get in some lifting, but he also took every chance to get in a few jumping jacks, or push ups, or a bar would be a chance to do some chins.  He incorporated his training in his work, if he were shoveling dirt, he’d do 5 reps over the left shoulder then 5 over the right for 5 sets, then rest a minute, and then back at it.  He would do isometric curls and grip work on the steering wheel of his car while he drove!  I also recall, when he was in his 50’s, he’d go into a handstand and walk on his hands across the yard as he would come into the house.  I’m sure the neighbors thought he was nuts!  Just like I’m sure that those who don’t know Dale the way we do might think he’s a little nuts.  But my grandfather was in fantastic shape and could work all day and I never recall him being sick and if he was, he was in such good shape it didn’t keep him down long.

Then, when he was in his late 70’s, he was hit by a car.  It was a devastating accident and the doctors told us things looked bleak.  He had a severe head injury and they did brain surgery on him.  They put him in one of those rotating beds to drain the fluid off his brain and told us the prognosis was grim and that he’d never fully recover.  But one day, we were in visiting him and my Uncle Wayne noticed he was doing something with his hands.  He was squeezing them…..and he was doing it in 5 sets of 5 reps (his favorite set/rep scheme for exercises) as he switched back and forth.  Soon, this began to spread and the docs thought he was fighting the restraints on his bed.  But we knew, “Pop” (as I called him) was exercising.  He was already planning his comeback!

He made a long, grueling comeback to the amazement of his doctors.  The wreck took it’s toll but Dalton got back to being better than most men his age.  He continued to exercise all the time and lift weights.  I think that if Dalton were around today, he’d be right there with Dale on the platform and I’m sure they’d have a lot to talk about.  Tough times don’t last, tough people do.