Sportsmanship Award Winner

by Al Myers

Tim Piper (left) awarding Dennis Mitchell (right) the winner of the Sportsmanship Award in the USAWA.

The Sportsmanship Award went to a lifter who I felt really deserved it – Dennis Mitchell.  The definition of the Sportsmanship Award is, “This goes to an individual who possesses and shows great sportsmanship within the USAWA.  The act of sportsmanship may be by conduct at all events, or by an specific example of exceptional Sportsmanship.”

This sums up Dennis Mitchell.  Dennis is one of the most supportive lifters I know.  He always is encouraging others – and well as supporting the USAWA in any way he can.  This  includes always giving encouraging words to other lifters, sitting in the officials chair when he’s competing, writing for the USAWA website,  or helping the USAWA by being a valuable member of the USAWA Executive Board.  Dennis is a VERY IMPORTANT PERSON in the USAWA, and it’s nice to see the membership rewarding him in this way by voting  him the Sportsmanship Award of the Year.

Congrats Dennis!!!!!

Louis Abele’s Training Program

by Al Myers

Louis Abele

At our Nationals in June, Dennis Mitchell loaned me a pamphlet that outlined Louis Abele’s Training Programs.  It was compiled by Chester O. Teegarden, and  published in 1948.  It is only 15 pages long, and has lots of interesting training information and insight into the training philosophies of Louis Abele.  I actually had set this pamphlet aside and just rediscovered it to read (so I haven’t forgot about it Dennis!).  I blame my distraction on this to all that was going on at the National Meet.

Louis Abele was often in the shadows of other great York lifters at the time – namely John Grimek, Steve Stanko, and John Davis.  However the progress he made in Olympic lifting compelled him onto the national stage as one of the best heavy weight lifters of the time. I asked Dennis about Louis Abele and this was his reply, ” I never had the opportunity to meet Louis Able. He had the misfortune of being at his best when John Davis was at his best. He could never get the recognition that he deserved as he was overshadowed by John.  The thing that I found very interesting about his training was that he used a large verity of lifts. I’ve only read one other study where it was felt that instead of doing, for example four sets of squats, to do one set of lunges, one set of front squats, a set of back squats and then one set of leg presses. I’ve used this form of training as I’ve gotten older as I am trying to keep as many parts moving in as many directions as I can.”

I want to thank Dennis for sharing this Louis Abele Training Program with me, and thus in turn I’m gonna share it with you!  Interesting historical information like this is easily lost with the passage of time.  It is a pdf so simply open it, print it off, and save it for future generations of lifters (or put it in some digital file that will soon “die off” when your computer crashes because you forgot to have it backed up!”)

The Training Programs of Louis Abele  (PDF)Louis Abele Training Programs

I very much enjoy visiting with Dennis and discussing such issues as how he has seen lifting change in his lifetime.  Dennis is over 80 years of age and STILL COMPETING in competitions (both all round and Olympic lifting).  He has a wealth of information and wisdom.  He has had a lifting career that has spanned over 60 years so he has “been there” and “seen it all”.  I can’t help but finish with a little story on Dennis that I found humorous.  At Nationals he made a comment to my daughter Molly (age 15) and Chad’s daughter Bree (age 16) as they were “playing” with their cell phones.  I was fortunate to overhear this story that he told these two young girls about how he has seen communication improve over the years. It is priceless, and left a look of disbelief on the girls’  faces!!

“In 1954, Fort Monmouth in New Jersey  I was in the last class to learn how to use carrier pigeons. They were still being used in the Korean War. Any time I use E-Mail or cell phones I think of this. We had a special net pouch that we could carry the birds in when we out in the fields. The only company the army found that could make these pouches was a company that made ladies undergarments, the Maidenform Co………………………..Denny M.. ”

Lifter of the Month: Dennis Mitchell

by Al Myers

Dennis Mitchell (left) receiving his Championship Award from meet director Frank Ciavattone at the 2013 USAWA Heavy Lift Championships.

The lifter of the Month for the month of May goes to Dennis Mitchell – and for good reason.  At the Heavy Lift Championships last month Dennis has accomplished something VERY FEW lifters EVER achieve.  He eclipsed a milestone of competing for 70 years.  That’s right – 70 years of active competition!  In my book, that’s an amazing accomplishment and worthy of special recognition.  

I first met Dennis at Nationals 10 years ago or so.   Since then I have got to know him very well, as he is always representing the USAWA at national and international events.  He has been one of the most loyal supporters of the USAWA since the organization began.  

Congratulations Dennis on winning this months Lifter of the Month!!!

Heavy Lift Championships

by Al Myers

2013 USAWA HEAVY LIFT CHAMPIONSHIPS

The group picture from the 2013 USAWA Heavy Lift Championships in Walpole, Massachusetts.

What an exciting Heavy Lift Championships last weekend!  I knew I could expect a great meet atmosphere with the meet being held at Franks Barbell Club, hosted by meet promoter extraordinaire Frank Ciavattone, but this time Frank even exceeded my expectations!   Frank is a very seasoned USAWA meet promoter, having promoted numerous past National Championships and World Championships. Frank is a meet promoter who knows how to put the “lifter’s first”.  He always has the basics well-covered, then he throws in unexpected special things which makes his promotions “one of a kind”.  I regard Frank as one of the BEST meet promoters within the USAWA EVER, and I am VERY GLAD to see him “back in action” putting on meets.  Frank will be the host of the 2014 IAWA World Championships, which will be a special affair.  Everyone BETTER get that meet “penciled in” on your future meet itinerary.  It will be one you WILL NOT want to miss.

Dennis Mitchell performing a 630 pound Hip Lift.

Since the weather was very nice (low 60’s), Frank had set up a platform outside for the meet to be conducted on.  It provided the perfect atmosphere for a Heavy Lift Championships.  Most everyone was in shorts and t-shirts (with the exception of Flossy!) as the day progressed.  Ten lifters competed in this Championships.  I view the Heavy Lift Championships as the SECOND most important Championship event within the USAWA (the National Championships being the NUMBER ONE).  I say this because the Heavy Lift Championships has a longer history than all the others, and because the Heavy Lifts are very uniquely all-round lifts.  No other lifting organization features these lifts. 

Colleen Lane competed in her first Heavy Lift Championships and came away with an overall women’s title. I was most impressed with her 450# Hand and Thigh lift. Denny Habecker was as “solid as ever” with his lifting.  Denny finished off the day with a record 1000# Hip Lift.  Dennis Mitchell had many records, with his 455# Hand & Thigh impressing me the most.  This day marked a BIG DAY for Dennis as it marked his 70th year of active competition in lifting.  That’s right – 70 years!!!!  And in that run Dennis has never missed a year without hitting the platform at least once.  Truly an amazing record that very, very few will ever achieve.  Art Montini again showed that he is not ready to slow down yet.  Art had a great day and finished with a 700# Hip Lift.  I would like to see another 85 year old man do that! NOT LIKELY!  Joe Ciavattone Sr. had a day to be proud of.  He finished third overall in a field of wily veterans in the Heavy Lifts, and in the process he set a PERSONAL RECORD in the Neck Lift with an outstanding lift of 805 pounds!  Joe was the first USAWA lifter to break 800 pounds in the Neck Lift years ago with his historic 804.5#, and I know he had to question since if he was every going to do more.  Well, after what I saw of him last weekend, I would say he has lots more in him!  It was a very solid lift with plenty of clearance.  I could tell that this lift  alone made him tremendously satisfied with his day’s lifting.  Congrats  Joe – you earned it! 

Joe Ciavattone Sr. performing a big Neck Lift enroute to his new personal record of 805 pounds!

However, the real “story of the day” should go to Joe Ciavattone Jr.  It’s been a couple of years since I have seen Joe Jr, and since that time Junior has grown into a MAN!  His neck is now thicker than ole dad’s, and his strength is just starting to mature.   His future is very promising as a future USAWA superstar.  I also want to mention that Joe Jr. is very coachable, and wants to learn how to be a better lifter.  I tried to give him as much advice as I could, and he then would take it IMMEDIATELY to the platform for a bigger lift!   That trait will take him to the next level.  He took an extra attempt in the Neck Lift and he easily got 700 lbs, with much more in the tank.  He also took a fourth on the Hand and Thigh and destroyed 1400 pounds.  Those are the best lifts of ALL TIME in the USAWA for a teenager.   I really liked watching Joe Jr. compete in this meet.  He has a fierce competitive mindset.  Mark my words on this – Joe Ciavattone Jr. will be a future Overall National Champ! 

Joe Ciavattone Jr. performing a new ALL TIME teenage USAWA record in the Hand and Thigh with this 1400 pound lift!

Jim Fuller made his trip from Maine for his second appearance in the Heavy Lift Championships.  I first met James at York a few years ago at the Heavy Lift Championships. He has made great progress with his heavy lifting since then.  He put up a 1100# hand and thigh and a 1400# Hip Lift in this meet.  He has his own harness equipment, and it’s obvious that he has been training these very difficult lifts.  I was most impressed with him missing 1350# on his second attempt hip, only to come back at 1400# and NAIL IT!  That’s gutsy!  Afterwards at Franks backyard picnic, James cleaned and pressed Franks Old 45 Deep Dish York by hub pinching it with one hand for me.  I was even more impressed seeing it first hand than from the pictures he had sent me from Franks last record day.  I have a Deep Dish York 45, and I could tell immediately that Franks was different.  The hub on Franks 45 was very wide (we measured it at 4-3/4″).  My York 45 is much less in diameter.  Frank said his York 45 was made in the 1930’s (while mine was made in the 50’s).  Apparently very few are still around as the design of the thick hub caused the plate to be thinner and most have broken apart at the junction of the base of the hub and the plate.  Bottom line – this Deep Dish York 45 is MUCH harder to hub lift than the newer ones!!!   James hub lifted it several times with ease. 

James Fuller "playing around" hub pinching Franks very difficult old York Deep Dish 45.

Franks son Jeff lifted and did very well, placing fourth overall.   Jeff did well in every lift – 650# Neck, 1200# Hand and Thigh, and a 1400# Hip.  Jeff has loads of natural lifting ability (a Ciavattone trait!!!).  He looked to be good for more in each event to me.  It was a great pleasure to have Frank  join us on the lifting platform.  I know Frank had lots on his mind hosting the meet at his place, serving as head official most of the day, and organizing the awards banquet and meal afterwards.  Frank has great heavy lifting technique, and it’s obvious he has spent a lot of time “polishing his trade” with the heavy lifts.  

The great display of after-meet food prepared by Frank and his family!

After the meet, we were treated to a HUGE ITALIAN feast at Franks place.  You name it he had it – pasta, salad, meatballs, chicken, sausage, etc.  A totally top notch affair.  Many thanks are in order for Franks family in preparing this feast.  I also want to thank the outstanding loaders who worked hard all day – Dave, Peter, and Charlie.  You guys made this event move along with your outstanding loading all day. 

Meet Results:

2013 Heavy Lift Championships
Franks Barbell Club
Walpole, Massachusetts
May 4th, 2013

Meet Director:  Frank Ciavattone

Announcer and Scorekeeper: Al Myers

Officials (3 official system used):  Frank Ciavattone (head official), Denny Habecker, Dennis Mitchell, Joe Ciavattone Sr., Art Montini, Al Myers

Loaders: Dave Hartnett, Peter Vouno, Charlie Payne

Lifts:  Neck Lift, Hand and Thigh Lift, Hip Lift

WOMENS DIVISION

LIFTER AGE BWT Neck H&T Hip TOT PTS
Colleen Lane 57 206 175 450 500 1125 1166.5

MENS DIVISION

LIFTER AGE BWT Neck H&T Hip TOT PTS
Al Myers 46 235 780 1300 1800 3880 3400.6
Joe Ciavattone Jr. 19 224 600 1200 1750 3550 3040.2
Joe Ciavattone Sr. 44 217 725 1100 1500 3325 2981.5
Jeff Ciavattone 33 235 650 1200 1400 3250 2662.1
Jim Fuller 41 226 400 1100 1400 2900 2472.0
Denny Habecker 70 191 270 775 950 1995 2396.3
Dennis Mitchell 81 152 245 425 630 1300 1949.4
Art Montini 85 177 200 450 700 1350 1890.4
Frank Ciavattone 58 285 300 800 1000 2100 1858.8

NOTES: All weights recorded in pounds. BWT is bodyweight in pounds. TOT is total pounds lifted.  PTS are adjusted points for bodyweight and age correction. 

EXTRA LIFTS FOR RECORD

Denny Habecker:  Hip Lift 1000#
Dennis Mitchell: Hand and Thigh Lift 455#
Joe Ciavattone Sr.: Neck Lift 805#
Joe Ciavattone Jr.: Neck Lift 700#
Joe Ciavattone Jr.: Hand and Thigh Lift  1400#

BEST LIFTER AWARDS

Women Master 55-59 100KG Class – Colleen Lane
Mens Teenage 18-19 105 KG Class – Joe Ciavattone Jr.
Mens Senior 110 KG Class – Jeff Ciavattone
Mens Master 40-44 100 KG Class – Joe Ciavattone Sr.
Mens Master 40-44 105 KG Class – Jim Fuller
Mens Master 45-49 110 KG Class – Al Myers
Mens Master 55-59 125+ KG Class – Frank Ciavattone
Mens Master 70-74 90 KG Class – Denny Habecker
Mens Master 80-84 70 KG Class – Dennis Mitchell
Mens Master 85-89 85 KG Class – Art Montini
Overall Mens Best Lifter – Al Myers

25 Year Participation Award

by Al Myers

Winners of the 25 Year Participation Award: Denny Habecker (left), Art Montini (middle), and Dennis Mitchell (right). Missing from this picture is Dale Friesz.

As part of our yearly USAWA Awards Ceremony, this year it included several “special awards”.  These were awards that were presented by the USAWA for accomplishments over the entire 25 history of the USAWA.  That’s quite a hard award to win – it is the result of years and years of effort and contributions!  The lifters that won these awards are the TRUE LEADERS of the USAWA, and it is only the right thing to do to thank them by recognizing them with these special awards.  The first 25 YEAR AWARD given out was the participation award.  This award went to 4 individuals – Dennis Mitchell, Denny Habecker, Art Montini, and Dale Friesz.  These guys have competed in over 80% of the USAWA Nationals in the 25 year history of the USAWA.  Dennis leads the pack with an amazing 24 of 25 (only missing the first year in 1988).   Denny has been in 23 of 25 (only missing the first two years, 1988 & 1989).  Art is third in this race with competing in 21 of 25 (missing 1997, 2004, 2006, & 2011).  Dale rounds out this field of “superstars” with a record of 20 of 25 (missing only 1988, 1989, 2000, 2006, & 2011).  I would have to say that these lifters have had “amazing runs” of National Championship entries and will be a “tough act” to follow for future USAWA lifters.   Congrats!!!!

Bob Geib – New Inductee into the USAWA Hall of Fame

by Al Myers

Bob Geib (center) receiving his USAWA Hall of Fame Plaque. Presenters include Al Myers (left) and Dennis Mitchell (right).

The big HIGHLIGHT of the USAWA Annual Awards Presentation was the induction of Bob Geib into the USAWA Hall of Fame.  The Hall of Fame is the highest honor one can receive in the USAWA, and there is not a person more deserving than Bob Geib.  Bob has been involved with the USAWA since almost the very beginning.  Bob got started in the USAWA under the guidance of USAWA legend Howard Prechtel. I’m sure Bob spent many hours training with Howard in the Prechtel Athletic Club in Cleveland developing his skills with the all-round lifts. I know this because Bob has frequently mentioned Howard to me, and gives Howard credit for getting him involved in the USAWA.  Bob also often traveled with Howard to big National and World meets.  At this years Nationals, Bob even brought a plaque honoring Howard to the meet venue, so in a small way Howard Prechtel was a part of this years big 25 year celebration.

This brings the USAWA Hall of Fame membership to 23 members over our 25 year history.  So you can see it is hard to reach Hall of Fame status – that’s less than 1 new member every year.  This award is not just HANDED OVER – you have to earn it!   Bob has quite the resume of USAWA involvement.  Dennis Mitchell (a fellow Cleveland native who has known Bob for a long time) gave Bob’s  induction speech.  In his speech, Dennis summarized Bob’s involvement which I would like to share with you.

  • Competed in the USAWA Nationals 14 times -  2012, 2011, 2005, 2004, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1997, 1995, 1994, 1993, 1992, 1991
  • Competed in the IAWA Worlds 9 times – 2005, 2004, 2002, 2000, 1999, 1994, 1993, 1992, 1991
  • Competed in the Gold Cup 8 times – 2005, 2004, 2003, 1998, 1996, 1994, 1992, 1991
  • Bob promoted the IAWA Gold Cup in 2005 in Hawaii.  He also competed in the very first Gold Cup which was promoted by Howard Prechtel in 1991.  He has competed oversees 5 times – England three times, Australia once, and Scotland once.
  • Currently holds 77 USAWA records.

Soon I will write a complete biography on Bob for the USAWA Hall of Fame archives.  But in the meantime – CONGRATULATIONS Bob on this big honor.  You are now part of the elite USAWA crowd. You deserve it!!

Heavy Lift Championships

by Al Myers

Group picture from the 2012 USAWA Heavy Lift Championships: (front left to right) Roger LaPointe, Al Myers, Denny Habecker, Eric Todd, Scott Schmidt (Back) Dave Polzin

This past Saturday Roger LaPointe, of Atomic Athletic, hosted the 2012 USAWA Heavy Lift Championships.  It was held in conjunction with his annual promotion, the Atomic Athletic Great Black Swamp Olde Time Strongman Picnic.  After last year’s Heavies in York, I didn’t know if that meet could be topped, but after attending Roger’s event I think it was!   The combination of the championships and the picnic were a perfect fit – it led to a festive environment along with many spectators.  Roger did an EXCELLENT JOB of bringing everything together to celebrate a day of strength. Along with the Championships, there were several strength shows by other strongmen going on.  All of this was topped off with a big meal for everyone in attendance.  I won’t say anymore about the picnic activities as I will leave that story for Roger to tell later.

Myself (left) and Roger LaPointe (right). Roger did an outstanding job of promoting the USAWA Heavy Lift Championships!

The meet itself was well attended for a Heavy Lift Championships. All together 7 lifters entered – a mixture of heavy lift veterans and a couple of new lifters to the “chain lifts”.  This meet doesn’t appeal to all lifters, and generally the Heavy Lift Champs doesn’t get more entries than this, so I was very pleased with the turnout.  It ended up “being a battle” between Eric Todd and myself for the overall champion.  It came down to the last event, the Hip Lift, to decide the day’s champion.  I was in order before ET, so I pushed myself and got a 2000# Hip Lift to put a little pressure on him.  He responded well, and put up with a personal record Hip Lift of 2075# to edge me out by only 3 adjusted points. I will have to do some research on this, but I’m guessing this is the closest finish for the overall lifter EVER in a Heavy Lift Championships.  Eric was the one who “stole the show” of the day on the whole – he started off the meet with an overall ALL TIME USAWA & WORLD RECORD in the Neck Lift with an unbelievable lift of 905 pounds!!!  His new record topped Chad Ullom’s 900 from last years Heavy Champs, which has now become the norm for being one of the best in the Neck Lift.   It was a really impressive lift, and I expect will inspire Chad to lift even more.  I fully expect one of these two lifters to be the first to break the “magic barrier” of 1000 pounds in the Neck Lift.  It will happen.  I was glad to see ET enter this big meet and win this championships. Most don’t know this, but ET has been competing in the USAWA longer than I have (by 6 months).  He has never really traveled far to meets in the USAWA as he has been focused on his pro strongman career.  He is a gifted all rounder and I kidded him he is still a youngster (at 37) in the USAWA and his best years are still ahead of him.

Dennis Mitchell giving an interview to the local TV station.

On the other end of the spectrum is Dennis Mitchell.  Dennis is now 80 years old and was the oldest lifter in this meet.  For his age, Dennis is remarkable.  Most guys his age would never take on lifts like the Heavy Lifts.  Dennis is a “master” at these lifts, and constantly surprises me with his lifting.  He told me last weekend that this month marks 69 years since he began lifting weights (that’s right, 69 years!!!!).   Also, he has competed throughout this whole time. That is one long lifting career!!!  I was glad to see Dennis get recognized by being interviewed by the local TV station.

Another lifting milestone was achieved this past weekend as well.  Our USAWA President Denny Habecker told me that Saturday marked 50 years since his first lifting competition – to the day!!!   I made sure to celebrate this occasion with Denny after the meet.  Denny multi-tasked all day as a lifter and as the head official, as well as bringing the heavy bar and accessories for the meet.  Many things happen in the USAWA only because of Denny!! He finished with a record lift in the Hip Lift at 944 pounds.

I was glad to see competing the two newcomers, wily veteran Olympic Lifter Dave Polzin, and the big talented young kid Thomas Casillas.  Both have tremendous abilities, and with a little practice on the Heavy Lifts will be very good Heavy Lifters. Dave really impressed me after the meet when he did a 198# Clean and Press at the age of 62 for an age group record!!!  Andrew Durniat made an appearance as well in one of the strongman shows.  I hadn’t seen Andrew in a year, but immediately I could tell that he has added some muscular size since then.  He did a 166# one arm snatch for a new record.  This is one of the best one arm snatches of the year in the organization.  Andrew’s strength in a lift like this shows that he is “way more” than just a grip lifter.  I’m hoping that we will continue to see Andrew compete in the USAWA, as he is a great person as well as a superb lifter.

Athletic Atomic club member Dave Polzin performed a 198# Clean and Press at the age of 62!!!!

Another all -round lifter who was in attendance but did not compete was the Cleveland lifter John Kurtz.  John trained under the legendary Howard Prechtel and obviously has a wealth of information.  I enjoyed visiting with him throughout the day and getting to know him.  His name is “littered” throughout our USAWA record list with impressive records, and it was nice to be able to “put a name with a face”.   He has had some health issues of late, but he still looked like he was in lifting shape to me!!!  I hope to see him get “back into action” in USAWA competition.  The only person I have not mentioned yet is Scott Schmidt.   I saved Scott for last because I want to make sure everyone knows how much he contributes to our organization.  Scott is part of the 5-person executive board that governs the USAWA, and is very influential “behind the scenes”.  He is always very helpful at meets, and one of the better officials in the organization.  He put up a great lift of 1005# in the Hand and Thigh as well and placing third overall in this meet. 

MEET RESULTS:

Heavy Lift Championships
Bowling Green, Ohio
May 12, 2012

Meet Director:  Roger LaPointe

Lifts:  Neck Lift, Hand and Thigh Lift, Harness Lift

Officials:  Denny Habecker, Dennis Mitchell, Scott Schmidt, Eric Todd, Al Myers

Announcer: Roger LaPointe

Scorekeeper: Al Myers

Loader: Jeff Rybek

LIFTER AGE BWT NECK H&T HIP TOT PTS
Eric Todd 37 252 860 1200 2075 4135 3266.6
Al Myers 45 240 700 1100 2000 3800 3263.1
Scott Schmidt 59 249 287 1005 1400 2692 2567.8
Dave Polzin 62 215 330 750 900 1980 2090.3
Denny Habecker 69 196 0 600 900 1500 1761.4
Dennis Michell 80 154 240 400 550 1190 1756.8
Thomas Casillas 15 305 0 600 0 600 496.9

 

NOTES:  BWT is bodyweight in pounds.  TOT is total pounds lifted.  PTS are adjusted points for bodyweight correction and age allowance.

EXTRA LIFTS FOR RECORDS:

Eric Todd  Neck Lift:  905#
Denny Habecker Hand & Thigh Lift: 705#
Denny Habecker Hip Lift: 944#
Dennis Mitchell Hand & Thigh Lift: 450#
Dennis Mitchell  Hip Lift: 625#
Thomas Casillas Hand and Thigh: 700#
Dave Polzin Clean and Press: 198#
Andrew Durniat Snatch – Left Arm: 166#
(33 years old, 230 lbs. BWT)

RULE CHANGE – Feet in Air Bench Press

by Al Myers

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

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

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

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

USAWA Official Dress

by Al Myers

Dennis Mitchell competes in every meet wearing a singlet. This picture is from the 2011 USAWA National Championships.

One of the issues that has presented itself recently in the USAWA is the issue of the “official dress” in USAWA competitions or events.  The USAWA has always been very lenient in what lifters wear in competitions.  We allow lifters to wear tshirts and shorts, unlike most other lifting organizations. Most other lifting organizations I have competed in don’t allow a lifter to wear shorts and tshirt, but require the lifter to wear a singlet for competition.  The only thing we insist on is that the lifters don’t wear supportive gear, like knee wraps or super suits.  The thoughts of this go back to the ideas of our founder Bill Clark, who felt that lifting in shorts and tshirts is acceptable.  I don’t have a problem with this either, but this “relaxed dress code” has lead to even more relaxed dress, and lifters have been wearing long sleeve tshirts, sweatshirts, sweatpants, and even jeans in competitions!  I think part of this is the “change of times” in everyday life.  It used to be that businessmen dressed in suits and ties for work everyday.  Then along came casual Friday, and before we knew it EVERYDAY is casual Friday, and now I go into businesses and see people wearing shorts and tshirts to work!  What has happened?  It has been a gradual trend of decline in the acceptable code of dress.  Now that is happening in the USAWA!  I guess this is showing my age, because I still want to LOOK like a weightlifter in a competition, thus the reason I always wear a singlet.  Most of the lifters my age or older do the same.  I look at guys like Denny Habecker, Scott Schmidt, Dennis Mitchell – and these guys always look the part of weightlifters at meets by wearing weightlifting singlets, instead of some ratty old tshirt and sweatpants.

I’m going to go over some of the rules on official dress, which comes straight from our USAWA Rulebook.

SECTION VI. EQUIPMENT

2.  The lifting uniform may be a one piece suit or it may consist of shorts and a shirt.  The lifting uniform must not provide any support that would aid in lifting.
3.  Upper body must be covered by a one piece suit, shirt or both. No tank tops are allowed. If a one piece suit is worn, the straps must be over the shoulders.
4.  Lower body must be covered by a one piece suit or shorts.  No sweat pants are allowed. The suit or shorts must not extend lower than the base of the quadriceps muscle. An undergarment is allowed to be worn under the suit or shorts, but must not provide any support that would aid in lifting.
5.  Headgear of any kind is not allowed except for religious purposes.  This would include stocking caps, ball caps, headbands, or any other covering of the head.
6.  Lifting gloves are not allowed.
7.  Lifting straps are not allowed.
8.  Braces or supports on any part of the body are not allowed. This would include neoprene elbow and knee sleeves.  An exception to this rule may be made by the officials if the lifter has proof that it is medically necessary.
9.   Socks must extend no higher than the bottom of the kneecaps and must not be an aid in lifting.
10.   Suitable shoes or slippers must be worn. They must not provide an unfair aid in lifting.
11.    A belt may be worn and must not exceed 12 centimeters or 4-3/4 inches in width.
12.  The lifter may be required to have his/her gear, which may include shoes, lifting belt, wrist wraps, and lifting attire inspected at weigh-ins. Approval of proper dress code will be determined by the Meet Director.  Lifting attire which contains inappropriate language or images, is too revealing, sloppy in appearance, or deemed otherwise inappropriate by the weigh-in official or Meet Director is a violation of the USAWA dress code.

These rules pretty much “lay it out” what is expected.  I truly believe that most of the violations are due to  lifters  just not being aware of what is required to meet the USAWA dress code.  Very rarely do I feel there is any malicious intent by a lifter to “cheat” by violating these requirements. There is reasons behind all this and let me explain a few.  Wearing long sleeve shirts is not allowed because some lifts require the elbows be locked.  A long sleeve shirt could hide this infraction.  The same thing applies to wearing sweat pants – if the knees are covered it makes it difficult for the official to tell if the legs are straight in lifts that require this.  Headgear, like loose stocking caps or ball-caps, might impair the ability of an official to determine if a lifters head is flat on the bench, or against a wall in lifts like the strict curl.  Obviously knee sleeves can be “lift enhancing”, but even if they were loose and non-supportive, they could undermine an officials view of the legs just like sweatpants would. 

Read over article 12.  Our rules allow a meet director to approve the proper dress, and if wanted, a meet director could disallow inappropriate dress. I had to do this at the National Championships where a young lifter was wearing tight fitting spandex shorts (like biker shorts) under his singlet.  This undergarment was in violation of rule number 4, because it extended below the base of the quadricep.  No harm was done, and he just took it off when I asked him. He was not aware that this was a violation.  But in this meet the Zercher was contested, and wearing a tight fitting undergarment this low on the quadriceps would allow a lifter to rest the bar on the shorts instead of on the legs alone, which I feel would give an unfair advantage. 

My feeling is that all lifters should be required to wear singlets in competition, and not just shorts and tshirts.  When I was throwing in the Highland Games kilts were required by all athletes in competition (outside of novice classes).  All throwers “looked the part” of being a Scottish Athlete this way. By requiring singlets in the USAWA, all lifters would also “look the part’ of being a weightlifter.   I welcome input and discussion on this topic in the USAWA Discussion Forum.  I would like to know everyone’s opinion on this. 

Speaking of improper dress code – it is time for another quiz.  There are a number of pictures in our Rulebook demonstrating the USAWA lifts. Among these pictures there is a NUMBER of improper dress code violations (which obviously were overlooked in competitions because most of these pictures came from competitions).  I have counted them up and was surprised at the number.  For anyone who emails me the correct number of violations regarding the USAWA Dress Code among the pictures in the Rulebook I will send you a free  USAWA Water Bottle.  The deadline for this quiz  is when I get back from the World Championships in Australia.

The Secret to my Strength

by Thom Van Vleck

My lovely wife, Kelly, serving up cake at the USAWA Nationals hosted by the JWC. She is the icing on my cake!

I have a secret to my strength, however much of it I have, and I owe it to someone special in my life.  It has nothing to do with secret supplements, or special workout routines, or coaching I have received,  but everything to do with the source of my motivation to be successful in life.  It’s my wife.  And since we are celebrating our 21st Anniversary this week (and more importantly to me the 25th Anniversary of our first date and the “real” first day or our life journey!!!!) I wanted to give her the credit she deserves.

My awesome wife, Kelly, by my side. She not only makes me feel younger but I even look younger.

Like a lot of us, we have a wife that puts up with what we do.  Some are more supportive than others.  I have admired some of the older guys in the USAWA and their how their wives seem to support what they do, like Dennis Mitchell and Denny Habecker. My wife takes care of a lot of the “behind the scenes” things at the numerous meets I run and I’m lucky to have someone who understands that my training is part of who I am and without it, I’m much less of a man.  I really need it to stay balanced and focused and my wife let’s me do that.

So, thanks for letting me give credit to someone who had been there by my side for 25 years….but let’s all take some time to thank those who help us out and let us do the things we love to do!   A solid partner in life is maybe the most important ingredient to success.  Thanks Kelly, for choosing to be mine!

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”!

My Thoughts on the Gold Cup

by Al Myers

Gold Cup Meet Director Frank Ciavattone (left) and IAWA President Steve Gardner (right) directed the Awards Banquet after the meet.

I am a little embarrassed to admit this – but the 2010 IAWA Gold Cup in Walpole, Massachusetts was the FIRST Gold Cup that I have attended.  Truthfully, in the past I just couldn’t understand why someone would go to a meet where ONLY one (or two if time permitted) lifts for records were allowed.  It just didn’t seem to make sense to me – especially since I could go to a local record day or a meet and set SEVERAL RECORDS.  So I always passed on attending “the cup”.  But now since I have been to one, I now understand the significance of this meet and have a completely different feeling about it.  The Gold Cup is one of only two IAWA Events (the World Championships being the other) that is contested each year.  It signifies the excellence of our lifts and recognizes those that are representative of our organization on an International level.  By attending, it shows that you are one of the elite lifters of the organization.  The Gold Cup was initially organized by Howard Prechtel several years ago with the concept that this meet would allow lifters who were World Champions to come to perform their BEST lifts for records, and in the process have a RECORD DAY that was the BEST of the BEST, and thus give our organization more exposure by demonstrating the tremendous abilities of the lifters within our organization.

Joe Ciavattone Jr., at 17 years of age, deadlifting 227.5 kilograms for a World IAWA Record.

What all can I say about the efforts of Frank Ciavattone for organizing this great event???  Frank has been a National and World Meet promoter for many years, and his experience of putting on a TOP QUALITY EVENT was evident.  Frank had an excellent venue for us to compete in.  It was held at the Italian American Club in Walpole (which is just outside of Boston).   Lots of room for lifting and viewing, a great platform to lift on, and plenty of weights.  Our IAWA President Steve Gardner handled the scoretable and announcing and kept things flowing very well. Judy Habecker assisted with the scoring and does more “behind the scenes” than anyone else in the USAWA.  Thank you Judy from all of us!!!  Eighteen lifters competed and set many new IAWA World Records.  I really enjoyed seeing the variety in lifts performed – from deadlifts to presses, to unique lifts like the Clean and Press on Knees.  Some of the lifters were “seasoned” competitors like Art Montini and Denny Habecker, while others were still teenagers, like Joe Ciavattone Jr, Jonathon Ciavattone,  Frankie Ciavattone, and Kohl Hess.  The age of the lifters varied between 16 and 83 years of age.

Dennis Mitchell, at age 78, performed 600 repetitions on the Roman Chair Situp!!

What were the highlights of the meet?  That is a hard question to answer because it seemed every Gold Cup Record was a highlight.   Things that really impressed me where:  seeing Frank do 160 kg in his signature lift – the one armed deadlift, watching the wily Dennis Mitchell performing 600 reps in the Roman Chair Situp at the age of 78, and seeing Art perform a stiff-legged deadlift of 100 kg with ease. Most guys his age couldn’t bend over to pick up 50 pounds and he does over 200 pounds with straight legs!!  Of course, I really enjoyed watching Joe Ciavattone Jr. deadlifting over 500 pounds for the first time!  I very clearly remember when I did that for the first time as a teenager.  That had to be one of the best lifts of the day.  My father LaVerne attended the meet with me and I talked him into lifting.  He did a 187# one handed Ciavattone Deadlift.  At the awards banquet when he was presented his trophy he remarked to the group that it was the first trophy he had won in a weightlifting meet!  And speaking of trophies, Frank went way beyond expectations with the trophies he gave out.   He awarded EVERYONE a large Gold Cup in appreciation of their performances.  Just another little thing that SHOWS why the Gold Cup means just a little bit more than another ordinary record day!  Chad and I were the only ones to do a two man lift for IAWA record.  We decided to do a 2-man deadlift, after first wanting to do a 2-man one arm deadlift (but it is not an IAWA lift).  After doing 1000# in the 2-man deadlift, we were allowed to do our 2-man one arm deadlift for exhibition and USAWA Record.  I wanted to do this lift for Frank – and thankfully (because I didn’t want to let Frank down) – we got our 800 pounds.  Another great performance of the day was John McKean’s one arm dumbbell deadlift of 266# (I know his inspiration was that DINO GYM SWEATSHIRT he was wearing!).  This broke a record he set over 10 ago – which shows he is getting better with age.  I really enjoyed getting to FINALLY meet Joe Ciavattone.   We always seem to “just miss” each other by attending different meets, and he is the great lifter and person I expected him to be.  His passion for lifting shows when he is busy coaching his boys.

Al Myers and Chad Ullom performed a 2-Man Deadlift of 1000 pounds, and a 2-Man One-Armed Deadlift of 800 pounds.

Afterwards, Frank hosted the banquet at his house.  That is the type of generous person Frank is – opening up his house to his lifting friends.  The food was fabulous!!  Frank’s Mom and his sister Cara prepared an Italian Feast that had everyone “licking their chops”!  I know I ate my share.  After the awards were given out, I conducted the ceremony in which Scott Schmidt was officially inducted into the USAWA Hall of Fame.  Scott gave a very thankful response in appreciation.  I will have more on that in a future USAWA Daily News story. Another special moment for me was when Frank presented me with a special award thanking me for my work and efforts in the USAWA.  It meant more to me than the big Gold Cup I received for lifting.

NOW I know what the IAWA Gold Cup is all about, and it is more than just going to a meet to set a record.  It is about being part of an elite competition promoted by the  International All-Round Weightlifting Association.

COMING SOON – VIDEOS FROM THE GOLD CUP

Luigi Borra

by Dennis Mitchell

Luigi "Milo" Borra posing at around 28 years of age.

Luigi Borra was born in Milan Italy, January 14, 1866.  As a young man he was active in gymnastics, wrestling and weightlifting.  At the age of twenty three, he gave up employment as a telegraph instrument maker and joined the circus as a wrestler.  From there he joined the Folies Bergere also as a wrestler.  He had a good physique and was a good poser. He performed throughout Europe in music halls and theaters, combining gymnastics, posing, and feats of strength. It was while performing that he met Louis Attila.  Attila convinced Luigi to return to England with him so that Attilla could manage and promote him and arrange for bookings.  However, Attila’s motives were not only for Luigi’s benefit.  Louis Attila had been traveling and performing with Eugene Sandow.  A quarrel between Sandow and Attila caused their break up.  Attila went to Paris and later returned to England with Luigi.  He intended to use Luigi as a new performer to dethrone Sandow.  Luigi was a small man and unknown in England.  Attila knew that Sandow would not meet any well known performer and hoped to get revenge by having Luigi challenge Sandow in wrestling and in feats of strength. Sandow, after his defeat by the McKann brothers was not accepting any challenges, and there were quite a few of them. Attila claimed that Sandow would not meet Luigi, as Luigi had defeated Sandow in wrestling in Italy.  However Attila could not show any proof of this.  Some years later (1894) when Attila opened his Broadway gym, they became friends again.

One of Luigi’s acts was to place a 200 pound barbell on his shoulders.  Six 56 pound block weights were attached to a harness that Luigi was wearing, and two men would hang onto the ends of the barbell.  The total weight being over 1,000 pounds.  Luigi would turn around three times while supporting the weight.  He would also hang by his teeth while doing a crucifix with a pair of 50 pound dumbbells.  He would juggle an 80 pound kettlebell and with the left hand, would clean and bent press 225 pounds.  He only weighed 160 pounds.  He would press up into a hand stand while lifting 200 pounds with his teeth.

Brinn "the Cannon Ball King", aka Luigi Borra, supporting a a 500 pound motorcycle by a chin pole.

He continued performing under Attila’s management, and as many strongmen did, changed his name to Milo.  For a short time he did some exhibitions with Louis Cyr.  With the rising popularity of the Saxon Trio, Luigi stopped performing for a while, but later reappeared as Brinn – The Cannon Ball King.  His act opened December 28, 1903 at the Hippodrome Theater in Liverpool.  His act consisted of juggling, hand balancing and balancing a cannon or a motorcycle at the end of a pole on his chin.  He was able to do this with a 400 pound cannon.  He not only performed in England but also in Germany and Italy.  He was an excellent performer, and showman, well liked, and performed for many years.  After retiring from performing he ran a bar called the Grafton Arms.  At the weight of 167 pounds he stood 5′5.25″, chest 46.5″, biceps 15.75″, thigh 23.5″, and calf 15.75″.  He died January 19, 1955 at Twyford in Berkshire, England.  He was 89 years old.

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

Siegmund “Zisha” Breitbarth – The Ironking

by Dennis Mitchell

Siegmund "Zisha" Breitbarth

Siegmund “Zisha” Breitbarth was born in Starwieschtch, City of Lodz, Poland in 1883 in an orthodox Jewish family. He was the second of seven children. His father was a blacksmith. The first evidence of his strength was at age three. While playing in his father’s shop, a heavy bar fell on him and he was able to lift it off and free himself. By age four he was helping his father with his work. He was a bit of a trouble maker and was expelled from several religious school for demonstrating his strength on his fellow students.

During the first World War he served in the Russian army and was a prisoner of war in Germany. After the war he remained in Germany and made his living by performing as a strongman in the market place. It was there that he was spotted by the manager of “Circus Bush”, the largest circus in the world at that time. He traveled with the circus performing as a clown, acrobat, and as a strong man, and was featured as the opening act. From the circus he went into vaudeville, performing in Vienna. At that time political events were quite unsettled. The emerging Nazi Party was active as a result of France’s occupation of the Rue. There were many bloody confrontations. Even with the anti-Semitism, hostility, and prejudice at a post war high, Siegmund was very popular in Vienna, more than any other entertainer or sports figure at that time.

In 1923 he emigrated to the Unite States, and in 1924 became a citizen. He continued to work in vaudeville and was reported to be earning $7,000 a week, an unbelievable amount of money in the 1920s. His act consisted of bending iron bars (that’s where he got the name “Ironking”), breaking horse shoes, pulling a wagon full of people with his teeth, supporting an elephant in the event known as the “Tomb of Hercules”, and carrying a baby elephant up a ladder. He would support a car full of people on his chest while lying on his back. He could drive a spike through a thick plank with his bare hands.

He wrote a book called Muscle Power, and also sold a mail order body building course. He thought of himself as a modern day Samson, and wanted to train an army of strongmen in order to free Palestine from British rule. While touring Europe he pierced his leg with a rusty spike while driving it through a plank with his hand. He developed blood poisoning, and in spite of two surgeries, died in Berlin Germany Oct. 12th, 1925 at the age of forty-two.

At the age of thirty-one he had the following measurements: Chest 50″, neck 19″, arms 15.5″, waist 35″, and calf 17″. There are no records of what Siegmund could lift with either barbells or dumbbells. He said that the audiences were more interested in his supporting events and bar bending.

George Barker Windship, MD

by Dennis Mitchell

One of the very few pictures of George Barker Windship, MD (Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society)

George Barker Windship was born in 1834 in Roxbury, Massachusetts, and entered Harvard University at age 16. He stood five feet tall and weighed one hundred pounds. Because of his small size he was constantly teased and tormented by his classmates. He started practicing gymnastics at the Harvard gym in an effort to build himself up. He spent some time every evening after classes at the gym doing chins, dips, and working on the rings and various bars. By the time he graduated he was well known for his strength. He could chin twelve times with one arm, and do a one arm chin with either arm using just his little finger.

On a trip to Rochester New York, he saw a lifting machine and lifted 420 pounds in what was similar to a Hand and Thigh Lift. After returning home he made his own hand and thigh apparatus, lifting a barrel that he would fill with rocks and sand. He became a dedicated weight lifter.

He returned to Harvard University and following in his father’s, grandfather’s, and great grandfather’s foot steps entered medical school. However, he stated that his main reason for medical school was to learn about the human body in order to improve his lifting.

He graduated in 1857, and had increased his Hand and Thigh Lift to 1208 pounds. He also fashioned a yoke type apparatus similar to the Harness Lift and could lift 2200 pounds. At this time he also added dumbbells to his training and in time could press a pair of 100 pound dumbbells. He also added barbell lifting with a globe barbell that he could vary the weight from 141 pounds to 180 pounds by adding shot to the globes. He was never a very big man reaching the height of 5′7″ and weighing 147 pounds.

This is a lifting apparatus designed and built by George Barker Windship, MD. It was patented in 1893, and is a forerunner of the Universal Machine.

Dr. Windship had his gym next to his medical office, and would tell his clients that if they would spend more time in his gym they would spend less time in his medical office. Dr. Dudley Sargent, the head of the Harvard Physical Education Department, after watching Dr. Windship work out, stated that, “he was exceeding strong and that he used very heavy weights in a number of different movements and angles with both weights and on machines that he invented”.

Dr. Windship gave many lectures on the health benefits that would come from being strong, and would end his lectures with a demonstration of his strength. He preached that heavy lifting was a form of medical therapy.

He had patents on various equipment. He made a dumbbell that could be adjusted in half pound increments from eight pounds to one hundred and one pounds. He invented the forerunner of the Universal Machine, and invented a leg and hip machine. his training methods were quite modern and he stressed very heavy short workouts with ample rest between training sessions. One of his patents in 1870 was for a machine that used compressed air in a piston for resistance in a rowing machine and a cable apparatus used for working the chest.

On September 12th, 1876, at the age of just 42, Dr. Windship died of a massive stroke. There were those who were against heavy lifting stating that it was dangerous, and used Dr. Windship’s death as proof. It did have a negative affect on lifting and for some years lifting was looked on as being dangerous.

Cyprien Noe Cyr – World’s Strongest Man

by Dennis Mitchell

Louis Cyr

Cyprien Noe Cyr was born October 10, 1863 in Saint Cyprien Napierville Canada ( now Quebec ). He was the second child of seventeen children born to Pierre and Philomene Berger Cyr. He was never a frail or slight child as he weighed 18 pounds at birth. His father was quite strong and worked as a lumberjack and farmer. However Cyprien Noe inherited his exceptional physical power from his mother who stood 6′ 1″ tall and weighed 265 pounds, and could toss around 100 pound sacks with ease. At the age of 8 years, it is reported that he carried a calf in from the field when it did not want to return to the barn. He went to school from age 9 to 12 years, and then went to work in the lumber camps in the winter, and on the farm in the summer. Though gentle by nature, he soon had the admiration of his fellow workers for his unusual strength. Legion has it his mother decided he should let his hair grow long like Sampson in the Bible, and was said to curl it regularly. In 1878 the Cyr family moved to the United States in hopes of greater financial gains. It was at this time that Cyprien Noe changed his name for a more American of Louis. By age 17 he weighed 230 pounds, liked to play the violin, dance and work out with weights. In spite of his size and strength, his chubby pink cheeks and long blond curls gave him a babyish look, and made him the butt of jokes and teasing. At the age of 18 he entered his first strongman contest in Boston where he lifted a full grown horse off the ground. The horse stood on a platform that had two handles attached. The total weight was three quarters of a ton. There were no more jokes or teasing. His family moved back to Quebec in 1882. He was married that year to Meline Comptois and for a while worked as a lumberjack. From there he and his wife moved to Saint-Helene, where his parents had moved to. They soon organized “The Troupe Cyr” and performed through out the province with great success. For about two years he worked as a policeman, and for a short time owned a tavern. But soon organized another troupe of wrestlers, boxers, and weightlifters. He later defeated Canadian strongman David Michaud in one hand lifting and by lifting 2,371 pounds on his back. He also worked for Ringling Brothers Circus for a year and then with Horace Barre opened their own circus, with jugglers, strongmen, and acrobats. They performed for five years. In 1900 Cyr’s health started to fail. His over eating and large size and the onset of Brights disease put an end to competition and performing. He died at his daughter’s home November 10, 1912 at the age of 49. Dr. Dudley Sargent of Harvard University measured Cyr when he was 32 years old. He measured him at 5′8.5″, neck 20″, biceps 20″, forearms 16.3″, wrists 8.2″, chest 55.2″(expanded 60″) waist 47.4″, thighs 28.5″, and calfs 19.2″. His weight at that time was 291 pounds. He did reach the weight of 365 pounds later. Some of his bests lifts were: 500 pound one finger lift, back lift 4,337 pounds, bent press (more of a side press) 273 pounds, hand and thigh 1897 pounds, crucifix 94 pounds right , 88 pounds left, one hand dead lift with 1.5″ bar 525 pounds, and a “Platform” squat of 2,371 pounds.

Hall of Fame Biography – Dennis Mitchell class of 1997

Dennis Mitchell performing his favorite lift - the Bent Press.

Dennis Mitchell was born February 15th, 1932 in Cleveland, Ohio. He still lives in Cleveland. He was “raised” in the family business of photography, and worked in the family business part time during High School and College. After returning home from two years in the Army, Dennis worked full time with his father until his father retired in 1961. Dennis continued the family’s photography business until he retired in 1995. Dennis has been married to his wife Flossy for close to 48 years. They have two daughters and four grand children. Dennis started lifting in May of 1943. He started out with bodybuilding and some Olympic lifting training. He got involved with the USAWA in 1989. Dennis is very involved in other sports. He also has competed in running, swimming, and Judo. He still competes in Olympic Weightlifting and Masters Swimming. Howard Prechtel, who Dennis has known since 1949, introduced him to All-Round Weightlifting. Dennis remarked, “I’ve always been interested in training the odd lifts, and being part of the USAWA allowed me to enter competitions where these lifts are contested.” During the 1940’s and the 1950’s, Dennis trained at Joe Raymond’s A.C. He now trains at home and has a very complete home gym which is set up for All-Round Weightlifting training. Dennis is a member of the Ohio Olympic Weightlifting committee. He is chairman of the World All-Round Technical Committee. He has held that position for several years. Dennis is also a very active official, having judged at many local, National, and World meets. Dennis was the Co-Meet Director of the 2008 National Championships in Columbus Ohio. He also has helped organize the local portion for six All-Round World Postal Meets. The chain lifts and the Bent Press are his favorite lifts. Dennis has competed in 20 National Meets, 19 World Meets, and 6 World Postal Meets. He has lifted in many states, and overseas in England, Scotland, Australia, and New Zealand. Dennis has won his weight and age class in 20 National Meets, 17 World Meets, and 6 World Postal Meets. When asked what he likes about All-Round Weightlifting, he replied, “One of the best parts of being involved in the All-Rounds is the people. They are just a super group.”

Dennis Mitchell perfoming the Vertical Bar Deadlift.

Dennis Mitchell perfoming a Bent Press with a dumbbell.

Quiz of the Week

by Al Myers

Which lifter has participated in the most National Championships?

Winner receives a USAWA Patch!!!!!

Rules: 1st response to webmaster with correct answer wins

Only 1 answer per day

Hint: He has competed in 20 of the 21 National Championships, only missing the very first one in 1988.

We have a winner!!!! Scott Schmidt, of Cleveland Ohio, named the lifter who has participated in the most National Championships. It is Dennis Mitchell. Dennis has been very involved with the USAWA since the beginning. He has served as chairperson of the Technical Committee for many years. He also was Co-Meet Director of the 2008 National Championships. Next in line is our President, Denny Habecker, who has competed in 19 of the 21 Championships, followed by Art Montini (18 of the 21) and Dale Friesz (17 of the 21).

Dennis Mitchell, performing one of his favorite lifts, the Bent Press, at the IAWA World Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand.