Gary Ell – The Tiverton Dynamo

by Al Myers

Recently I had the great fortune of interviewing  “The Tiverton Dynamo” Gary Ell.  Gary lives in Tiverton, Devon, England.  He trains at the Tiverton Weightlifting Club and has been competing at the IAWA World level for several years now.   Gary is a very dynamic lifter – and recently performed a very exhausting lifting marathon as a fundraiser for hospice.  Most don’t know this about Gary, but in March of 2007 he was in a serious car accident.  As he was sitting in his stationary car, another vehicle going 70 mph smashed into the back of his car! The doctors said he would never walk right again, let alone ever lift!  He has proved them all wrong.  Initially all he could do is Bench Press as he suffered a serious back injury. The other guys in the club had to actually lift him off the bench after his sets since he couldn’t get off the bench by himself!!!  Gradually, through persistent training he has been able to regain most of the lost strength.  Gary has a lifting tenacity that few have – thus earning the nickname of the Tiverton Dynamo!! Last month I was able to “catch up” with Gary at the Gold Cup in Glasgow, Scotland – so let’s get to the interview!

Gary Ell performing a 2" Bar Hack Lift of 185 kilograms at the 2012 IAWA Gold Cup in Glasgow, Scotland. This was the FIFTH BEST performance of the Gold Cup, based on the Blindt Formula.

AL:  Please tell me a little about yourself. I have known you for a few years now, but I don’t know much about your personal life.

GARY: Al, I have been married to Jackie for 18 years (Jackie works in a bakery).  I have one stepson Kris who is 22 and a chef, and 2 daughters Maddy (17) in the Royal marines band (saxophonist), and Mina (15) who is studying at high school. I worked previously as a brewery engineer and before that as a beer taster. For the past four years I have worked as an Ambulanceman. The other sport I play is Water Polo and I represent Tiverton playing in goal.  I have played many sports over the years including cricket, soccer and rowing.  My ‘weights’ career started in powerlifting, graduating into All-Round lifting for fresh challenges. I love the variety of lifts and never lack for a challenge,  always encouraging the youths at the club to try new lifts. No two workouts of mine are ever the same!

Gary Ell receiving congratulations for his fundraising effort!

AL:  Recently, you performed an IAWA lift (Total P0undage Lift)  that is not very well known for a charity cause. Could you elaborate on this? I’m interested in what motivated you to do this and why, as well as the specifics of your record setting effort.

Gary performing an overhead lift during the lifting marathon.

GARY:  I had decided to raise some money for charity (hospiscare – who look after cancer and other terminally ill patients).  I visit the hospice and I know the nurses who provide great help and support in the community as well. 1 in 3 people get cancer during their lifetime, some survive and unfortunately some don’t make it. Having read Steve Gardner’s tribute to Andy Goddard (although I hadn’t met Andy), this cemented my plan to do something positive.  Having found the Inman mile I persuaded the lads at the club to give it a go earlier in the year.  I looked for a fitting challenge.

Then the F4 lift “total in 3hrs 9 mins” was discovered. I mentioned it at the club that I wanted to give it a go. After putting together the necessary helpers, refs, etc, Mark Rattenberry said why don’t you do a variety of lifts? And so the ‘Century Lift a thon’ was born, comprising of 100 different IAWA lifts to be completed in the time limit.  I proceeded to construct a true all body list of the 100, incorporating Power, Dumbell, Olympic, Speciality(Steinborn, Zercher, Shoulder drop etc) and 2″ bar grip test as the lifts.  All the lifts had to be unaided, no harnesses or equipment lifts.  And all through just the hands.  (the Travis was included, but executed with just hands and no special belt).  The first challenge was to do the 100.  The second challenge was to look at the masters records and list them all, to see if any were possible!  The third challenge was to try and lift 15tons through the hands in the time.

And so the exhibition began, the lifts being done pretty much in order, no warm ups ,straight in , a blend of maximal lifting , repetitions, and speed lifts, one after the other (to catch up time).  Pauses and more attempts for the records, some just done and moved on to the next.  It became a battle of endurance and fatigue was a very big factor around the 2 hr mark. I’d left most of the deadlift style exercises to the end of the list, but only ended up with 1 rep straddle, hack and deadlift as the power had all gone.  All 100 exercises were completed, totalling 400 successful lifts, and 36522.7kgs (80349.9lbs)

Gary performing a hands together bench press during the event. Gary did 100 different All-Round lifts during his record setting performance!

AL:  That’s an amazing accomplishment! I’m sure you were pretty sore the next day! Surely, you had to have several helpers to make this effort happen? Also, I know you did this as a fundraiser. Did you met your goal?

GARY: Hands – Very sore, after the lifts I couldn’t straighten my fingers naturally and I had claw-like hands.  I ripped off four callouses, which are now healing.  Even today (Thursday) I have ‘Traps’ of iron, and surprisingly, sore hamstrings.  The guys at the club, Mark Rattenberry, Thomas Cleverley and Axel Amos, did refereeing and loading, and one of our younger lifters Dion Maynard loaded nearly every lift as well. Everything was set out at four lifting ’stations’ and without the help of the guys it wouldn’t have been possible.  I set myself an optimistic goal of raising £250,  and when it has all been collected the total will be very close to it.   I am very pleased to be able to make a contribution to the charity.

Just another lift done - the seated press.

AL: I commend you on using your given abilities in this manner. That is a noble cause in raising money for hospice, as cancer affects nearly every family. Are there any plans in the future to do this again?

GARY: As for any plans, I told the guys it was one of their turns on this event next year!  I was told , “We ain’t mad enough - only you are!!”,  which I found funny as well as honoured in an odd kind of way.  I am sure we will as a club do the Inman mile challenge again sometime in 2013.  As for me, I probably will come up with a madcap challenge at some point. I think I am likely to come up with a power rather than endurance event,  ” but I’m mad so who knows!!”.

AL: In closing, I want to thank you for allowing me to do this interview with you. Are there any more comments you would like to make?

GARY:  Al, I am deeply honoured that you wanted to do an article on this,  and I have had a beaming smile since being asked. I often read the articles on the USAWA website, and to be featured amongst the legends of the sport is a high honour for me, inspiring me to do more. It was all made possible by the help I got from the guys, and I have had a positive response and support from the charity calling me inspirational.  That is deeply touching and humbling.  It made all the pain and effort so worthwhile.

MIKE MURDOCK – “HAM AND EGGER”

BY DAVE GLASGOW

MIKE MURDOCK, OF THE LEDAIG HEAVY ATHLETICS, PUT UP SOME BIG LIFTS LAST WEEKEND AT THE DEANNA SPRINGS MEMORIAL.

CHANCES ARE, YOU HAVE SEEN HIM BUT NEVER, REALLY, NOTICED HIM.  HE’S NOT FLASHY, HE NEVER MAKES A SCENE.  HE CAN USUALLY BE FOUND SITTING QUIETLY IN A GROUP OF PEOPLE; OBSERVING.  EVEN IF YOU DON’T NOTICE HIM WHEN HE IS THERE, YOU WILL NOTICE IF HE’S NOT THERE.

MIKE MURDOCK WANDERED (WONDERED?) ONTO A HIGHLAND GAMES FIELD ONE DAY, NOT FULLY KNOWING WHERE IT WOULD LEAD.  WHERE IT LED WAS AN INTRODUCTION TO, NOT ONLY THE GAMES, BUT AN ORGANIZATION KNOWN AS THE USAWA.  THAT, ULTIMATELY LED TO WHAT HAS NOW BECOME A STAPLE AT THE GAMES AND THE USAWA EVENTS HELD AT AL’S DINO GYM IN HOLLAND, KS., NAMELY, MIKE!  HE IS, MOST GENERALLY, ONE OF THE FIRST TO SHOW UP AND ONE OF THE LAST TO EXIT.  HE IS NOT AFRAID TO PITCH IN TO HELP AND CAN BE COUNTED ON TO A HAVE FEW GOOD IDEAS ALONG THE WAY.

RUDY BLETSCHER (LEFT) AND MIKE MURDOCK (RIGHT) LIFTED 585 POUNDS IN THE 2-MAN TRAP BAR DEADLIFT AT THE 2010 USAWA TEAM NATIONALS. THIS IS AN AMAZING LIFT FOR TWO LIFTERS OVER THE AGE OF 70!

AS ONE OF THE ‘ELDER STATESMAN’ GRACING THE USAWA IN THIS AREA, MIKE HAS SEEN A LOT IN HIS TIME AND HIS STORY IS WORTHY OF SOME CONSIDERATION.  MIKE WAS BORN AND EDUCATED IN NEBRASKA.   MOVING TO KANSAS WAS, AS HAS BECOME HIS FASHION, NOT IN THE CONVENTIONAL MEANS.  HE TRAVERSED THE 330 MILES ON A ONE SPEED BIKE IN A JOURNEY THAT TOOK HIM 3 DAYS!!  A STINT IN THE AIR FORCE FOLLOWED BY A LONGER STRETCH IN THE NAVY GAVE WAY TO HIS USE OF THE GI BILL TO GET A COLLEGE DIPLOMA TO DECORATE HIS WALL.  “I TAUGHT FOR A YEAR, BUT, I KNEW I WASN’T ANY GOOD AND I DID’NT WANT TO MESS THE KIDS UP. SO, I GOT OUT”.  IN A LOT OF WAYS, THAT STATEMENT SHOWS US WHAT MAKES MIKE, MIKE.  HE IS UNSELFISH, THINKS OF OTHERS AND HAS THE WHEREWITHAL TO UNDERSTAND HIS OWN LIMITATIONS.  THAT GOES FOR HIS LIFTING, AS WELL.  A SELF TAUGHT LIFTER, HE WAS WISE ENOUGH TO UNDERSTAND THAT SQUATS, PRESSES, AND PULLS WERE WHAT SHOULD MAKE UP THE MEAT OF HIS WORKOUTS.  INTERESTINGLY ENOUGH, HE STARTED ON AN ‘OTASCO’(THIS WAS A REGIONAL HARDWARE CHAIN BACK IN THE DAY), BASIC 110# SET IN THE EARLY SIXTIES.  HIS LIFTING, BY HIS OWN ADMISSION IS ‘ON AGAIN, OFF AGAIN’.  OVER THE YEARS, HIS TRAINING HAS CHANGED LITTLE AND, THOUGH HE IS SEVENTY ONE YEARS OLD, HE ENJOYS THE WORK INVOLVED AND THE RESULTS IT BRINGS.   BY HIS OWN ADMISSION, HE IS “NOT THAT STRONG” (THIS STATEMENT, I LEAVE OPEN FOR DEBATE).   HE IS WHAT I THINK WOULD BE KNOWN IN THE VERNACULAR AS A ‘HAM AND EGGER’.  THIS IS THAT CLASS OF GUY/GAL THAT LIFTS BECAUSE HE ENJOYS IT, KNOWS HE WILL NEVER WIN ANYTHING, WORKS HARD ANYWAY AND HAS A HELL OF A GOOD TIME WHENEVER HE IS IN THE COMPANY OF LIKE MINDED FOLKS.  THIS IS THE CLASS OF LIFTER THAT I, ALSO, PROUDLY, NUMBER MYSELF AMONG!  ASKED THE LIFTS HE WAS MOST PROUD OF (HE IS THE OWNER OF A NUMBER OF USAWA RECORDS), HE QUICKLY REPLIED THAT IT WOULD HAVE TO BE ALL THE TWO MAN RECORDS HE HAS MADE WITH HIS FRIEND AND FELLOW SEPTUAGENARIAN, RUDY BLETSCHER. THEN HE SAID, WITH AN IMPISH GRIN ON HIS FACE, “THE CRUCIFIX LIFT OF 80 LBS. THAT ONE MAY STAY AROUND FOR A WHILE!”

ONE FINAL THING.   THIS WAS NOT TO BE PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE.   HOWEVER, I DON’T THINK I WILL GET IN TOO MUCH DUTCH IF I LET IT OUT.  AT AL’S GRIP NATIONALS THIS YEAR, THERE WAS A SILENT AUCTION, WITH PROCEEDS TO GO TO THE ANIMAL SHELTER IN SALINA.  MIKE GAVE A CONSIDERABLE AMOUNT OF CASH TO THE ORGANIZATION, AFTER BIDDING ON, WELL, NOTHING!  HE JUST, SIMPLY, DID IT!!   THIS IS WHY I LIKE CALLING HIM FRIEND!  LOOK MIKE UP AT THE NEXT GET TOGETHER AND, IF YOU AREN’T ALREADY A FRIEND, MAKE HIS ACQUAINTANCE. YOU WILL BE BETTER OFF FOR IT.  HE’S NOT THAT HARD TO FIND.  HE’S THE GUY SITTING IN THE BACKGROUND. QUIETLY LISTENING, WATCHING, LEARNING……..

A True Spiritual Warrior – An Interview with Steve Angell

Interview and article by Cliff Harvey (www.cliffharvey.com)

Interview – Steve Angell

Steve Angell

I faced a crisis back in around 2001…
I had been boxing with the great NZ coach Chris Martin out of the same Auckland Boxing Association stable that included Paula Mataele – at the time the Super Heavyweight Champion of New Zealand. After suffering several concussions during sparring, and having already sustained quite a few playing rugby over the previous 14 years I had been faced with the prospect of giving up my goal of becoming an international fighter. I was pretty despondent about this, and to be honest I needed a new challenge. I had always had a fascination with the seemingly superhuman levels of strength exhibited by people like Arthur Saxon, Herman Goerner, Geoge Hackenshmidt, Joe Greenstein and others. I had also never been truly strong. Sure – I was pretty strong and I threw around some OK weights in the gym – but naturally gifted in strength I certainly wasn’t…
As I researched the old time strongmen and became more and more interested in ‘All Round Weightlifting’, one name stood out, and kept popping up in the competitions of the time as one of the greats of lifting – Steve Angell. The lifts that Steve put up in competitions became the weights that I attempted to meet (pound for pound) and became a focus for me in my early days of strength sports. Years later and having competed in both All-Round and Olympic weightlifting it is my absolute pleasure to now know and be able to ’shoot the breeze’ with the man that was my inspiration to enter into competition. And it is my pleasure to introduce him to you.

Cliff Harvey – Hi Steve thanks for agreeing to talk with us. It’s a real honour!

Steve Angell – The pleasure’s all mine Cliff, I’m honoured that you feel me worthy of an interview.

CH – Thanks. Steve – I’m sure many of my readers will be aware of your accomplishments, but for the rest can you give us a little bit of your background and history in the iron game?

SA – Well it all started for me in Athletics. I was a hammer thrower who needed to get stronger for the event. I have been Buckinghamshire County Hammer Throwing Champion as a Junior, senior and in 2009 came out of retirement to win the senior championships as a 35-39 year master.

My need to get stronger for throwing led me to train at a great old school type gym in my area. The guy who ran the gym (Brian Clayton) saw the potential in me as a powerlifter and after just over a year of serious training became Junior British Drug Free Powerlifting Champion and I broke the British Deadlift record by 40kgs, recording a lift of 280kgs at 90kgs bodyweight.

The venue for the competition was Steve Gardner’s powerhouse Gym, and there we formed a friendship that would mould my All-round lifting career.

There was a picture on the wall of Steve’s gym of him performing the stone putt in a Highland Games competition. As a thrower this got my juices going, and upon talking to Steve found out he ran strongman and Highland Games competitions. I talked Steve into letting me compete in his next Highland Games competition, and as the youngest guy there, won the games.

As you know Cliff, Steve is one of the main men in the IAWA, and he encouraged me to have a go at an All-Round competition, and the rest as they say is history…
I became a multiple World Champion in the All-Rounds and in the last 20+ years have competed in just about every type of strength sport I could find. A rundown of my achievements are as follows.

County Hammer Throwing Champion
Junior British Powerlifting Champion and record holder
IAWA World Champion 7 times (4 times over-all champion)
IAWA World One Hand Deadlift Champion
WNPF World Deadlift Champion
British Strandpulling Champion 9 times
Britain’s Drug Free Strongest Man Winner 1997
British Deadlift Champion.
Closed the Iron Mind number 3 ‘Captains of Crush Gripper’
Lifted the ‘Dinnie’ stone 9 times (In two visits)
Lifted the ‘Inver’ stone 3 times

CH – That’s quite the wrap sheet Steve! Out of all the things you’ve done what are you most proud of?

SA – The thing I am most proud of, and it was emotionally the hardest thing I have ever had to do was back in September 1996. Just six days before I was due to compete in the World Championships in Glasgow Scotland, My father passed away from cancer. My mother and brothers and sisters wanted me to go to Scotland and compete. It was hard for me to travel to Scotland, but my weightlifting family helped me through it. I won my weight class and best over all lifter award and broke six world records. I then flew back to England and the next day with my brothers and cousin carried my fathers coffin at his funeral. The first time my dad saw me compete, he was shocked how his quiet son could become such an animal. I placed my trophy from my first competition in his coffin. I love and miss my father more than anything…

I am very proud of all of the above as far as winning titles goes. The lift I am most proud of is my 255kgs Zercher. i did this lift at 102kgs bodyweight in 1997, and twelve years later it is still the biggest lift ever done regardless of bodyweight. A lot of the things i am most proud of are what I call ‘off the cuff lifts’, where I did no prior specialist training. They are a 1660lbs Hand & Thigh lift performed in Frank Ciavattone’s basement in Boston USA. We just loaded up the bar to see what I could do. I also Closed an Ironmind No 3 Gripper on site. A guy brought one along to an all-round competition and I closed it. I also Lifted the Dinnie Stones 5 times with no prior training. In fact the lifts were the day after the 2001 IAWA world Championships held in Glasgow Scotland. I had performed 8 lifts over two days and was quite beat up, and after winning my weight class and best lifter award, was a bit worse for ware after celebrating with my Old friend Jack (Daniel’s) on the Sunday night. Never the less, after a 4hr drive to the stones, I lifted them 5 times. I have been back to them since and lifted them a further 4 times.

CH – That’s amazing stuff Steve, and what a great way to honour your father, that must have been terribly difficult. I know that we have agreed before that there is no weight in comp so heavy as that of loved ones coffin. Your family must be incredibly proud…

So Steve I’m interested to hear the story of how you ‘tamed the BEAST’!

SA – That’s one of the hardest off the cuff strength feats I have ever done. Recently I cleaned every rep and pressed a 48kg kettlebell for 100 reps (50 left & 50 right handed) For some reason a 48kg ball with a handle has gotten the name “THE BEAST”. To me that’s just a marketing ploy from Dragondoor, but also it’s setting limitations in peoples mind sets. 100+ years ago, strength Athletes gave us the Dinnie Stones, The inver stone, the Inch Dumbbell and the Apollon Axel. They were “BEASTS” to lift, not a 48kg kettlebell.

CH – Ha ha – that’s great stuff Steve. Too many people put limits on their performance. So talking about limits what are some of your best lifts in competition?

SA – I have always been a platform lifter. By that I mean all my PB’s have been done in competition and not in the gym. My best lifts ever are.

Deadlift 280kgs (90kg bodyweight) 300kgs (110kg bodyweight)
One Hand Deadlift 230kg
Zercher 255kgs
Continental to Belt 250kgs
Continental Clean 182.5 kgs
Continental Snatch 125kgs
Straddle Deadlift 310kgs
Hack Lift 300kgs
Trapbar Deadlift 300kgs
One Hand Snatch 75kgs
Hand & Thigh Lift 1600lbs

I think they are some of my best lifts. Although I did a training phase once doing half front squats out of the power rack and worked up to 800lbs. My coach at the time (Brian Clayton) said it was the best feat of strength he had ever seen drug free.

CH – You were certainly a big inspiration for me when I was first entering into weightlifting competition. who were some of your role models in strength sports?

SA – Thanks Cliff, that means a lot to me. My hero’s if you like were (to start with) Bill Pearl and Bill Kazmaier. I brought a copy of a bodybuilding magazine back in 1986 when I was 16 years old. There was an article about Bill Pearl in it and he was 55 years old at the time. He looked amazing and to this day, i have that magazine at hand to inspire me. Kaz was just a “BEAST” and I loved everything about him. I set out to be the next Kaz. If you see me getting psyched before a lift, it is modelled on Kaz. The two Bill’s are still hero’s of mine.

On the lifting scene a bit closer to home, I have a lot of people to thank for helping me become the best I could be. They include. My first coach Brian Clayton, My hammer throwing coach Jack Kee. My wieghtlifting Coach Chris Gladding, who is a second father to me. Steve Gardner has played a big part in encouraging me during my lifting career.

Just seeing some of my fellow lifters compete has inspired me. Just a few names are – Frank Ciavattone, John Vernacchio, Neil Abery, Howard Prechtel and Denny Haybecker.

Outside the lifting arena, my heroes are Mohammed Ali, English decathlete Daley Thompson and Liverpool football player Kenny Dalglish. And the greatest English Rugby player of all time Martin Johnson.

CH – Well being a Kiwi and rugby fanatic I won’t comment on Martin Johnson mate! But I think we can agree on the rest of the legends you listed.
You are heavily involved in kettlebells now – can you tell us a little about how you became involved with the UKKA?

SA – In 2003 I became the youngest English inductee into the IAWA hall of fame. Steve Gardner put a great evening of entertainment on for the inductee dinner, and one of the the people he booked was Stan Pike, the founder of the UKKA. He did a kettlebell demonstration and i was just instantly hooked. I had seen pictures of kettlebells being used by old time strongmen and just fell in love with them. After the awards ceremony, I chatted to Stan and we hit it off straight away. We were like two old warrior spirits meeting again after a millennium. Steve Gardner got Stan to come back to his gym so we could have a play with the bells and I purchased a 16, 25 and 32kg kettlebell from Stan on that day and spent some time using them to warm up prior to my lifting sessions.

I then contacted Stan about becoming qualified as a UKKA instructor. I travelled up to Scotland a few times over the next year and our friendship grew, as did my kettlebell collection. I now own KB’s from 6kgs through to 56kgs and I truly believe Stan’s ‘IntenseFitness’ kettlebells are the best designed bells in the world.

After my training with Stan, I was proud and honoured to be invited to become a senior Instructor with the UKKA. I now train personal trainers and certify them to become instructors.

I truly think kettlebells are the best training tool out there, but they are not the only tool. I incorporate them into a well balanced strength and conditioning routine. As a strength athlete, I use kettlebells, sand bags, rocks and stones etc to turn the strength I gain from free weight and machine training into functional strength. for instance, I could work up to 150kg seated press on my powertech plate loaded machine and then perform up to 100reps pressing a 48kg kettlebell.

I also love using kettlebells for circuit conditioning training. I perform 5 x two hand swings, 5 x one hand swings each hand, 5 x snatches each hand, 5 x clean and presses each hand, 5 x Fig 8 each direction and 5 x pass around the body each direction. i would warm up with a 16 kg, then work through 20, 25, 32, 40, and 45kg kettlebells.

CH – I’d like to get some ‘from the hip’ opinions from you on “The state of the fitness industry”

SA – It’s full of under qualified instructors. By that I mean under qualified in experience. It’s very easy to qualify as a personal trainer if you have a couple thousand pounds (or dollars) to spend, but I have to be honest, I would not pay most of the people who have come to me to qualify as a KB instructor to train my cat let alone myself. On paper most of the people I have put through their KB instructor courses are more qualified them me, but in a lot of cases they have become clients of mine because they can’t even (or have not been taught on their courses how to) squat correctly. I had one trainer want me to put them through a strength session. I was just ready too beast him because I automatically thought technique would be fine. The first session ended up resulting in me teaching a trainer who had spent around £7,000 on training courses the basic squat techniques.

I gave up on qualification when on my PT instructors course. They (WABBA) said there were only three exercises that trained the hands, wrists and forearms. The reverse curl, wrist curls and wrist roller. I wrote loads of exercises on my written exam amd they failed me. I went mad at the guy running the course. He wrote the answers they required on a piece of paper, handed it to me and said if your paper has these answers on it you will pass. I filled the papaer out, got my qualification – and it is the most worthless piece of paper I own. I think that just about sums up the closed mindedness of the industry as a whole.

CH - “Kettlebells in the industry”

SA – Too many people in it to make a quick buck.
Just about every man and his dog seems to be an expert in KB’s and bringing out very poor DVDs. When i started kettlebell training, bought lots of DVD’s and books trying to gain as much knowledge as possible. How ever most of them seem to be trying to think up new exercises just to bring their next DVD or book out. Just the same as everyone knows that deadlifts, squats, cleans, presses etc are the best compound type exercises to perform using barbells. Swings, snatches, cleans, presses along with some core type exercise like turkish get ups are the best kettlebell exercises to perform to gain the best results. Everything else is just an add on to your training after you have performed the basics.

CH – “Instability devices (bosus etc)”

SA – Deadlift 3 times bodyweight without a belt and you will have all the core stability you will ever need. The picture of you sitting on a bosu ball writing your training diary sums up their worth.
Just stick to basic heavy compound movements, supplemented with kettlebells, sandbags etc and you will get all the core stability you need.

CH – Thanks Steve! We got a lot of use out of that pic!
You know that my speciality is nutrition – what are your philosophies on nutrition? What sorts of things do you eat in a given day?’

SA – I like to work on the KISS theory when it comes to Nutrition. That is ‘Keep It Simple Stupid’.
I keep my nutrition simple and balanced. I like the theory I was taught when I studied the basics of nutrition. “If man has made it or tampered (processed) with it. Limit it or eliminate it from your diet all together.” When I made my mini comeback last year and got my deadlifts over 300kg again, I supplemented with more protein than I had before. On top of my meal plan, I was taking 30 grams of protein in a drink four times a day. I found this very useful in recovering from intense workouts. Other than that, I take a high potency Multi Vitamin, 2 grams of Vit C and B complex Vits daily.

CH – I agree Steve – and I use that analogy (‘if man made it don’t eat it’) a lot in my lectures too.

You have been called a ’spiritual warrior’ can you tell us a little about the role faith plays in your daily life?

SA – I read a quote in a book once from a Buddhist Monk that kind of sums up my religious faith. He said he loved Christ and Christianity, but was not so keen on ‘churchianity’. That sums me up quite well. I am a very spiritual person, but not mega religious. I believe in and love God, but also believe in the teachings of Buddha. Christ and Buddha are the two most peaceful people to have walked the earth. Once politics has been removed from the teachings of both of them, you come down to the fact that they both just wanted people to live in harmony, help one another and remove greed from their lives. What a great world it would be if that ever happened.

CH – It sure would Steve, great thoughts there. If more people would recognize the fundamental truths of faith and cultivate their own connection with God, ‘The Divine’, ‘The Superconscious’ or whatever you want to refer to it and stop just trying to be ‘right’ the better off the world would be.

So along those lines you’ve also become more heavily involved in yoga and tai chi lately. How did you come to be involved with those?

SA – I had my best ever year lifting in 1997. I was British champion twice, world Champion, did my 255kg Zercher and 230kg One Hand Deadlift and won Britain’s Drug Free Strongest Man competition. However all that obviously took its toll on my body, as in my first Competition of 1998 my back blew out on me. The heavy one hand deadlifts had compressed the lumber discs and to cut a long story short it took two years for me to recover from this injury. Part of my rehabilitation was me purchasing a yoga video for back health. I learnt the exercises on the video and carried on doing them for a few years. Then I took on a client who started telling me about a yoga holiday that she had just come back from run by a guy called Simon Low. My wife had just started getting into yoga at the time and when I told her about Simon Low yoga retreats, she looked him up on the internet and before I knew it had booked us on his next retreat. That was a great retreat and I made a good friend in Simon Low during that week. He admitted to me that when he looked at me as a 240lb weightlifter, he wondered what on earth I was doing on one of his retreats, but I kind of proved to him during that week that you can be very strong, but be flexible as well. With all the meditation, chanting etc we did during the week and me Om-ing with the best of them, I came away from the retreat with the new name, “Peaceful Warrior”. I now have that tattooed on my arm.

I had also become friends with a local Tai Chi teacher by the name of Peter Warr in the early nineties and he taught me a basic routine and some chi gong to help be breath deeper and help with the nerves before competitions. I always know I would take it further at some point. I started going to his classes again a few years ago, and have now done my coaching courses with him and am qualified to teach the Yang style 8, 16 and 24 forms along with the BCCMA 24 form

CH – How have these experiences changed your outlook on training and life?

SA – I have become a more balanced person with yoga and tai chi. Tai chi has taught my the Chinese yin and yang philosophy of hard (strength training) and soft (yoga and tai chi) and that the body works best when they are in balance. I am still very much a yang (hard) man, but try and create as much balance as possible. I also know, I will turn my back on the strength world one day and yoga and tai chi will become the foundation of the remainder of my life.

CH – I’ve certainly found the same Steve. I was introduced to yoga growing up with my Dad and more recently have gotten back into it and I both love it and feel that it for me to provides the ‘yin’ to the ‘yang’ of lifting and fighting.
Looking back over your career how have you evolved as a lifter?…and as a person?

SA – I will be 40 years old in 2010 and I believe I am a better all-round athlete and person than I was in my twenties. That is because I have introduced more conditioning in to my training as well as yoga and tai chi. In my twenties, I was just a beast with the aim of lifting more in each competition.
Looking back, never really enjoyed the moment with all my victories. As soon as the Gold medal was in the bag, I was thinking of the next. My father even said to once that I should sit back and realize what I achieved. It wasn’t until 1997 when my body could not take anymore beatings and subsequently I had to take two years out to rehab my back and body that I started bringing more balance it to my training. In 2001 / 2002, I had lost that balance again and despite being the strongest I had ever been, I took it too far again and completely detached my right distal biceps tendon. I had to have surgery to reattach it and another year to fully recover from the injury. It was then that I took a step back and could see what I was doing to myself and my wife and family. I retired from International competition in 2002 and that is is when I added boxing training into my routine and then the following year met Stan Pike and was introduced to kettlebells. From there my training has become much more balanced. I always felt I was only six months real hard training away from being able to hit big poundage’s again though. And this was proved right in 2009 when I competed in my County Championships at Hammer throwing after a break of 13 years and won the Gold Medal and then after 10 weeks heavy training broke the IAWA Trap -Bar Deadlift World Record pulling my first 300kg deadlift since 2002.

CH – What are you working on right now Steve? Any new projects on the way?

SA – 2009 was a bit of a comeback year for me winning the County Hammer throwing championships and deadlifting 300kgs again. The real inspiration behind this was my daughter Ella. I wanted to win medals and trophies for her, so she would know her daddy was at one time one of the strongest drug free people in the world. She really is my inspiration now. And also I have to stay big and strong to keep the boys at bay when she gets older Ha Ha.As I stated earlier, I will be 40 in 2010 and I wanted to do something mad to celebrate my 40 years on the planet. I am sharing this goal with you exclusively in the interview. As you know I have a love for stone lifting and the most famous stones in the world are the Dinnie stones in the highlands of Scotland. I have visited them twice, lifting them 5 times in 2001 and four times in 2007. For my 40th I am going to attempt to lift them 40 times. This is the biggest (and craziest) goal I have ever set myself. In the fourth rep back in 2007, I tore the skin from my hand and was unable to attempt any more reps, so I am going through some very strict training for this goal and am videoing my training and the attempt its self and if successful will be bringing a DVD out of the whole thing. As you say Cliff, “if you shoot for the stars and reach the moon, you have still had a great journey”. With this goal I am shooting for the stars and am very much looking forward to the journey.

CH – Wow Steve, that is one hell of a goal! Thanks for sharing it with me and my readers. If there’s anyone who can do it, it’s you mate.

Thanks again for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to me mate. It’s an honour and a pleasure to be ’singing from the same song sheet’ as you would say.

(Webmaster’s comment: I want to again thank Cliff for allowing The Daily News to run his interview with Steve Angell. This interview is also available on Cliff’s website and blog – which can be found at www.cliffharvey.com.)

Interview with Scott Schmidt – Part 4

by Al Myers

Scott's best official lift in the Hip Lift is 2000 pounds.

Al: I was glad to see you recently register your club with the USAWA and help with the growth of the USAWA Club Program.  Could you tell me the history of your club?

Scott: My club, The Schmidt Bar Bell Club, was founded in March, 1967. I was 14 years old at the time, lifting with my friends in my parents garage. We registered with the AAU later to be eligible to compete with the other clubs in the Cleveland, Ohio area. Our goal was to win team trophies, and that’s what we got good at! Our toughest competitor during our early years was the famous Olympic Health Club. Old Scotty Boy had to get some good talent to beat those guys! Ultimately, our winning strategy was boiled down to prepping our guys to be in the right weight class at the right time to have the best shot at winning. With weight control knowledge learned from High School Wrestling, our young guys in the light classes often scored more team points then their big guys. And if we were good enough to win the head to head battles, we often walked away with the title. As we got older and gained weight, by now we could still put up a good fight, because we had gained experience. One of our greatest accomplishments was winning the Ohio State Teen Age Weightlifting Championships. Believe it or not, when we won in 1971, it was the last year they held that specific tournament in our State. So, 39 years later, we are still the defending Champs!!

We stayed active as a club until the early 80’s. Since The Schmidt Bar Bell Club was not competing actively as a team, I personally have represented The Westpark YMCA for Olympic Weightlifting and The Prechtel AC  for All Round events since then.

But after a conversation with Al Myers, who is doing everything he can to grow our organization, I decided to resurrect the old club name for competing again in team competition. I love to train other folks to help them reach their potential. I have coached my family members and friends to World Titles and Records over the years, and my new goal is to repeat that process under the Schmidt Bar Bell Club banner!

Scott is doing a Zercher Lift at the 2009 IAWA World Championships. At this meet Scott was the Open 120 kg Champion and the Best Master 55+.

Al: What do you think the future of the USAWA will be?  What does the organization need to do in order to grow?

Scott: The future for the USAWA looks promising. I think it’s all about telling others of our activity, and engaging them to have fun with us.

I think we are on an outstanding track of communication methods to have the best shot at growth. As in most endeavors, the best way to grow is by word of mouth. If we can all encourage others face to face in addition to our event postings, I feel we have a great chance to attract more members.

I thought of this idea the other day: As you know, the fitness industry is booming with participants. Moving weights is no longer looked down at, like when weight training was in it’s infancy. So to appeal to that audience, with the intent of drawing them into a few of our “exercises” , here’s my thought. What if we touted the prestige of becoming a “World Record Holder” to those folks who haven’t jumped on board yet?

In other words, stress the honor a new comer could achieve by setting a record in one of our over 200 events.  I’m sure there are a lot of folks out there who are good at some of the events we have. And to encourage them to try to obtain a “World Record” may just be the spark to get them to try our All Round Lifting.  The details of how, when and where we post this type of “advertising” would need to be figured out.  But it might spur some interest, in someone who trains hard at a fitness place and finally wants to test themselves against the record books.

Al: I agree!!  We have a great sport and all it takes is getting the word out. Thanks Scott for doing this interview.

Interview with Scott Schmidt – Part 3

by Al Myers

Scott Schmidt performing a 100 kg Continental Snatch at the Ambridge BBC. Notice Art Montini as the head judge and Howard Prechtel watching on the left.

Al: How do you mix your training for Olympic lifting and All-Round Lifting?

Scott: I prioritize my schedule based on what competition lies ahead. I have clearly determined training for the sometimes awkward All-Round lifts actually improves overall performance for Olympic style events. How? First I work on the basics of getting used to moving heavy weights to increase power. Then as I focus in on speed and technique as the Olympic competition approaches, the movements have an easier feel. This encourages me to push up bigger Olympic lifts, and better results are obtained. One important fact to remember.

Do not over train! I find I get my best results when I am not nursing an injury. If I can’t move the warm up weights I need on the way to my goal, I just back away and do a fitness type workout.

Al: How do you train?  Where do you train?

Scott: I usually train 3 days a week, about an hour and a half per session. As a meet approaches, I add 1 extra day per week two months ahead of the competition. My objective for my style of training is to work programs in a cycle method. A blend of fitness exercise and moving heavy weights works best for me. When an All-Round meet is announced, I target my weakness on any given lift, and work to improve that area. Quick example: For Olympic Style training, I just work on clean style deadlifts. To maintain good form, the weight I use is much lighter than a regular reverse grip deadlift. However, when an Al-Round meet has a form of deadlifting, I try and pick up as much as I possibly can. And you know what? In the end, it improves my overall power, which enables me to pick up more in the Olympic movements! This is one of the many benefits of blending my training, so I can improve at both sports, instead of being too stubborn to try new movements.

For training locations, I have 3 primary locations. On Sunday’s I train at Jim Malloy’s Gym. On Friday’s, I train at the Westpark YMCA in Cleveland, Ohio. The rest of the week, I train at my own custom built facility attached to my house. In order to show support for the USAWA, I recently resurrected my original club name, The Schmidt Bar Bell Club, founded in1967, and submitted my club membership.


Interview will be continued tomorrow.

Interview with Scott Schmidt – Part 2

by Al Myers

Scott Schmidt performing a 157.5 KG Clean and Jerk at the Ohio State Championships.

Al: When did you get started in All-Round Weightlifting?  Was there anyone responsible for introducing you to All-Round Weightlifting?

Scott: My first competition was the USAWA Winter Fest 2-15-92. Later that year, on 10-17-92, I was in the US Inlands meet. These were both held in the historic Ambridge Barbell Club.

I was first introduced to the sport in 1990 by Bob Karhan, past USAWA Champion and record holder, from Cleveland, Ohio. We both trained at the Westpark YMCA at t

he time. Since I was already in shape to move heavy iron, Bob encouraged me to try my strength on some new events. The Nationals wereheld in Akron, Ohio that year, but due to my Olympic style training schedule, I did not compete.

I did attend the meet, however and was able to coach Hall of Famer Jim Malloy with his lifts at his first All-Round competition.

Al: I know you have competed several times at the USAWA Nationals.  What have been some of your favorite meets?

Scott: I have fond memories of every one of them. They have all provided me with the opportunity to “bring out the beast in me”. I love to prepare for an event, then gain the satisfaction of putting up a goal breaking performance. Here’s a quick funny story. Good news? At the 2008 Nationals, I was mentally and physically ready to try my first 2000 pound hip lift. Bad news? They didn’t bring enough iron to accommodate me! They were able to locate 1800 pounds, and it did go up, at least!

Al: What are your favorite All-Round lifts and why?

Scott: My favorite All-Round lifts are: Overhead pressing and jerking events, gripping lifts, and hip and hand and thigh lifts. I haven’t posted a number yet, but I would love to try a back lift on the famous Al machine! The reason I consider these my favorites, is due to years of Olympic style training, I was able to make fast progress with these events. I strive to set the class record at what I am good at. Back in 1996, I was the first man in the USAWA to clean and push press 300 pounds. Made me happy!

Interview will be continued tomorrow.

Interview with Scott Schmidt – Part 1

by Al Myers

Scott Schmidt performing a 107.5 KG Snatch at 228 pounds bodyweight at the National Masters Championships.

Al: Scott, please tell me a little about yourself.

Scott: Baby Boomer Scott Alan Schmidt was born 11-15-1952 in Cleveland, Ohio. I have lived in the Greater Cleveland Ohio area all my life. I was raised in a very competitive athletic environment, with 2 older and 1 younger brothers. Through out my Career in business, I have been employed as a Salesman. Most of my time has been in telecommunications sales. In addition to putting my efforts into providing for my wife, son, daughter, and now helping when I can with my  grandson, I also serve my church as council president.

Al: When did you start lifting weights?  Was there anyone who got you started? Who was an inspiration to you?

Scott: I was hooked on training with weights when I was 14 years old. A new neighbor moved in next door, and he had a York Olympic Set. He offered advice and old magazines for instruction, and I just loved working out to record my improvements! My neighbor, Al Steele, worked at a  Cleveland Steel Mill with Chuck Vinci,  2 time Olympic weightlifting Gold Medalist.They were good friends. Occasionally, Chuck would visit Al’s gym when I was there, and he would encourage this skinny 148 pounder to do good. 40 plus years later, Chuck happens to do his banking where my wife Kathy works. So we still stay in touch.Small world, huh?

Al: I know your lifting background is with Olympic Lifting. What are some of the awards you have won in Olympic Lifting?

Scott: I have been in many competitions since my first one in 1967. In my home State, Ohio, I have won the Open State Championship 10 times.  I have won the Masters State Championship 16 times. I have won 2 National Master’s Championships, 4 American Open Masters Championships, and 3 Pan American Masters Championships.  During the course of these events, I set Meet and National records at the competitions also.  I have also competed 4 times in the World Masters Weightlifting Championships.  My best result was a Third place finish in 1993.

Interview will be continued tomorrow.

Interview with Bob Moore – Part 3

by Al Myers

Bob Moore squatting at a fundraiser for a young girl with cancer. His efforts raised over $4000.

Al: I know you were involved in several big meet promotions. Could you tell me a little about the meets that you directed.

Bob: I had the opportunity to direct several large, successful USAWA and powerlifting meets, one being the 1992 USAWA National Championships. If I recall correctly, it was one of the first USAWA meets to secure major sponsors (Budweiser, PepsiCo, etc). The site for the meet was a great location, and the local hotel we worked with had a great nightclub for everyone’s enjoyment. Town officials even got involved and handed out the trophies during the awards ceremony. Other meets I directed involved a bench press meet at a nightclub; we had a huge turnout and a lively environment. I also co-promoted several meets with a close friend, Howie Waldron. Knowing that a strong support staff can make or break a meet, we worked with the Warrior Weightlifting Team, which consisted mainly of Coyle Cassidy High School powerlifters. One particular meet was held in a huge grand ballroom – with state of the art equipment, food and drink for the lifters, and huge trophies for the winners. The meet netted thousands of dollars, which in turn was donated to the Warrior team, which enabled them to take the trip to the Teenage National Championships.

Al: I am glad to hear that you will be making a “comeback” into All-Round Weightlifting. The USAWA needs individuals like you involved in our sport. Do you have any views on the future of the USAWA?

Bob: I believe there is tremendous growth potential, maybe more than any other sport, for the USAWA. However, the USAWA and IAWA need to make a concerted effort in bringing the sport to the public. Efforts should be made to recruit more lifters, and to make it more of a mainstream sport. Powerlifting and Olympic lifting are known by just about everyone who sets foot in a gym. When I was training for USAWA events, my training would naturally draw questions and interest from other gym members. When it came to presenting to Corporate Sponsors, I found they loved the idea and eagerly wanted to get involved. How many other sports can you find a 13 year old and an 80 year old competing side by side? A few suggestions would be to have trained persons work in a public relations role to make the equipment, lifts, etc, more widely know by a bigger audience than currently exists. There should be a “core” set of lifts that are familiar to the public; lesser known lifts can be introduced at a later time. Demonstrations prior to powerlifting meets would be both informative and entertaining. More head to head competition would also give the sport a needed boost, whether done by weight class or age. With a great set of records in the books, the USAWA and IAWA need to make sure these records, as well as new ones are challenged in dynamic and creative ways.

Strength sports in general have always been divided by drugs, big egos, and equipment. The future of all strength sports is dependent on the credibility of their respective organizations. The USAWA has major advantages over other strength sports; it does not have any splinter organizations, we have one set of record books, strict drug testing rules are in place and there is no equipment that affects lifts. It is my hope that the USAWA can take advantage of the huge opportunities that lie ahead of the organization.

Al: Bob, thank you very much for doing this interview. As a final question – What advice would you have for a new weightlifter that is interested in All-Round Weightlifting?

Bob: Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Weightlifters love to talk! They would love a new set of ears to talk to, don’t be afraid to talk to them. The key to success in any area of your life is knowledge. When I needed help with my back lift I called the king of all back lifters, Paul Anderson. Who better to ask? He turned out to be a wonderful source of information, as well as a nice, kind individual. He also became my role model later in my lifting career, and life. To this day I still donate to the Paul Anderson Youth Home (www.payh.org).

Young lifters should surround themselves with successful, dedicated, positive, knowledgeable lifters; there is no room for doubt or negativity when you are training. Failure is not an option. As weightlifting is an art form, young lifters also need to study the mechanics of the lifts they are going to be performing. Just because someone can lift a lot of weight does not mean they are doing lifts in the most effective way. Minor changes in hand, foot, knee or shoulder position can lead to major gains. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to the All-Rounds or strength sports as everyone has different proportions, strengths and weaknesses. My 17 year old brother, Ryan, has broken several long standing teen and high school powerlifting records with techniques that are slightly different than my own. His squat and deadlifts are both well over 600, and his bench is going over 400 now at a bodyweight of 242. His body is different than mine so we made the proper adjustments in his training.

If I may say one more thing before this interview ends, all the talent in the world is of little to no value if you do not use it to help others. Use your God given talents to help others! Go out and make a difference in the world!

Bob Moore lifting a car at a fundraiser sponsored by Venture Sports on Founder's Day in Mansfield, MA. The weight of the car was 3430 pounds!

Interview with Bob Moore – Part 2

by Al Myers

Bob Moore doing a Hip Lift at a benefit fundraiser, in which money was raised to help a young boy with cancer.

Al: I had no idea that you underwent that many physical hardships before your distinguished lifting career. That must have took tremendous courage and willpower. I know Frank had to be a major influence on your All-Round Lifting. Along with Frank, who inspired you to take up weightlifting and compete in the USAWA?

Bob: As a young boy, a weightlifting or strongman competition on Wide World of Sports was a must see. I remember watching Bill Kazmier and Vasili Alexeyev dominate their respective strength sports. After watching those shows I would go outside and lift weights. I recall the time that I was outside lifting and my dear dad said “I don’t care what you want to be in life, just make sure you are the best you can be.” Those words have stuck with me ever since. My dad inspired me to be the best at what I loved, powerlifter and strongman.

Al: What was your favorite All-Round lifts? I know the Zercher Lift had to be one since you still hold the All-Time USAWA record in the Zercher Lift with a lift of 529#.

Bob: The Zercher lift was indeed my favorite. Although my highest official lift was 529, my best gym lift was 585. I had to stop doing them at the gym after dropping that 585 on the floor- the third floor of an old warehouse. I am still in shock that the floor didn’t collapse! My other favorites are the hip lift, hack lift and the straddle lift. I never had the chance to do the back lift in the USAWA but you will see me back on the platform in an attempt to break the all time record late in 2010.

Al: Please tell me about some of your accomplishments in All-Round weightlifting that you are the most proud of.

Bob: When I look back, I am most proud of the opportunities that the All-Round Weightlifting gave me to help others. My talents on the platform eventually led to the creation of my foundation, Lift For Life. While attending a fundraiser for a young boy with cancer, I observed a group of former pro athletes donating their time signing autographs to raise money for the cause. I thought to myself “Your autograph is worth less than the paper its written on, but you do have a talent in weightlifting.” A couple of weeks later there was a home show. The World’s Gym in Foxboro, MA, who was kind enough to sponsor me, had rented booth space at the show. I came up with the idea of getting people to sponsor me for each pound I was able to lift. World’s Gym did a terrific job in getting their members to sponsor me, and we raised over $6,000 for the young boy, who sadly lost his battle with the disease shortly thereafter. However, the idea caught on and I was approached by others to do events for their children. I will never forget the time that I did a 2,000+ pound hip lift to benefit a boy with cancer. The day of the event, I lifted and did several other feats of strength; afterwards, I was exhausted. While packing up for the day, unknown to me, the boy and his mother arrived (she had gone to get him from the hospital to witness the hip lift). I knew I couldn’t let him down, so I loaded the bar back up and did a 2,200+ pound lift (2 reps) for him. That was the best I had done at that time and it was also the most rewarding. Other moments of pride in strength sports include traveling to Russia and winning two gold medals for powerlifting, taking home a bundle of cash at a pro strongman competition in Canada, and of course, winning my division at the IAWA in London.

Interview will be continued tomorrow.

Interview with Bob Moore – Part 1

by Al Myers

I recently had the opportunity to interview one of the early pioneers of the USAWA, Bob Moore. Bob competed in the early 1990’s and was one of the top heavyweight USAWA lifters at the time. I have seen his name in the USAWA Record List for years (we’re about in the same class) and was always tremendously impressed with some of his records. Now after this interview I am even more impressed with him. He is a man of great character, and has used his extraordinary strength for several benefit causes. This says a lot about a weightlifter – using his God given ability to help out the less fortunate. Bob had to overcome severe physical hardships in becoming a top level weightlifter which shows the amount of determination and desire that he has in his heart. He was also involved in the USAWA as a Meet Director – thus demonstrating his leadership abilities by giving back lifting opportunities to others in the USAWA. Now lets get on to the Interview!

Bob Moore still holds the top ALL-TIME Zercher Lift in the USAWA, with a lift of 529#, set at the 1992 USAWA National Championships in Walpole, Massachusetts.

Al: Bob, please tell me about yourself and how you got started lifting weights?

Bob: I live in Norton, MA with my wife of 21 years and 2 children, Caroline, 16, and Robert Jr, 11. I am employed by a major Wall Street firm as Senior Vice President of Institutional Sales and Trading. My exposure to lifting weights started when I was about 12 years old. I purchased a plastic set of weights in response to the daily beatings I took at school. I continued to lift in high school until I suffered a serious football injury. The result was a broken back that required a spinal fusion of my L2,L3 and L4 vertebrae. After a couple of years of rehab I was back to playing sports. All that ended after I was in a serious car accident that resulted in the re-breaking of my back, broken bones and hundreds of stitches and plastic surgery to my face. This time I was told my luck had run out and my only goal should be to walk again. Fast forward a few more years and I was walking and started lifting very light weights to strengthen my back. It seemed the more weight I put on the bar the better my back felt. About a year later I entered a local powerlifting meet where I totaled 1,300.

Al: When and why did you get involved with the USAWA?

Bob: I had been enjoying a successful powerlifting career when I met Frank Ciavattone in 1991. Frank invited me over to his house to train together. Knowing his reputation and accomplishments I gladly accepted, and what I learned was a turning point in my lifting career. While I was doing squats, he was hooking up a belt and chain to a bar on the ground then hoisting up a couple of thousand pounds. I was blown away. I racked the weights and asked him if he could teach me how to do it. I was hooked! It was a perfect way to change up my powerlifting workouts. It also taught me not to fear big numbers when I was powerlifting.

Interview will be continued tomorrow.

My Interview with Frank Ciavattone – Part 3

by Al Myers

Frank Ciavattone has done a Neck Lift with 808 pounds!!

Al: What have been your favorite All-Round lifts? What records have you set that you are most proud of?

Frank: My favorite lifts were the three Ciavattone lifts, One hand deadlift and the Necklift. They all seemed natural for me. As for records, my favorite’s are one arm Hacklift right hand 402 1/5 lb’s, one arm Deadlift right hand 562 1/5 lbs, one arm Ciavattone lift right hand 331 lbs, Neck lift 808 lbs, Hand and thigh 1610 lbs, and a Hip lift of 2515 lbs.

Al: What advice do you have for new All-Round lifters?

Frank: Stay away from any artificial way of getting ahead. Hard, hard, hard work is what got me to do the best I could without jeopardizing my number one thing in my life, FAMILY. Keep your priorities in the right order. This formula keeps everyone happy and supportive.

Frank Ciavattone's favorite lift - the one arm deadlift.

Al: What is needed in the USAWA for the organization to grow?

Frank: Get involved in your particular region or state. Do the best of your ability and either promote, coach, run a meet or like I do every year, go to schools and promote our drug free sport with a talk of how you can be a World Champ without drugs. Then show them some feat of strength they may never see again. If everyone did this instead of complaining the USAWA would be that much stronger!!!!!!

Al: Do you have any other thoughts about All-Round weightlifting that you would like to mention?

Frank: The sun does not shine for everyone in most sports, as it does not shine for the same in Olympic lifting, Powerlifting, or Strongman events. But I’m sure if you tried the USAWA you will find that the sun does shine on one of our 100+ lifts. So give our sport a try. I have also met some of the most caring athletes, friends and families out of any other sport I have participated. Thank You for this opportunity.

Al: Frank, thanks so much for participating in this interview. It is always a pleasure getting to visit with you.

My Interview with Frank Ciavattone – Part 2

by Al Myers

Frank Ciavattone was the first American to ever lift the Dinnie stones unassisted. He performed this amazing feat in 1995.

Al: I know you have promoted several All-Round meets throughout the years. Could you tell me about some of the most memorable meets you have promoted?

Frank: I have run National and World competitions in both Allrounds and Heavy Lifts. The most memorable Allround meet was definitely the 1st one in 1993, in my home towns of Norwood/Walpole, Mass. All in one meet I had my family, friends, the towns people, and all the lifters from other countries. They were also like friends and family. With that combination it was a week of comradeship, competitiveness, and support. The rest was a true celebration of what this sport is by bringing a half dozen countries together as human beings. This is a time I will always cherish in my heart. As the Heavy Lifts go, I would have to say Winning the Outstanding Lifter Title at the 2005 World Heavy Lift Championships in front of my home towns Norwood/Walpole, Mass. I was in the 275lb. class. I gave the award to my daughter Domenique. That was a Hallmark moment for me.

Al: How many times have you competed overseas at World Meets? I know when you where in Scotland you became the first American to ever lift the Dinnie Stones without straps. Could you tell me the story about your success in lifting the Dinnie Stones?

Frank: I have lifted overseas in 6 World Championships and 1 Millennium Gold Cup for a total of 7 trips. The Dinnie Stones story got started by Willie Wright and his team wanting me to go north and give them a try! They offered to take time off from work and take me. For this I said yes and would give it my best shot. Well after lifting in 2 day competition with 10 lifts at the 1996 World Championships, and the 9th lift being a 507lb. right hand- 1 arm deadlift, I was beat. After the meet we all got ready for the banquet, which anyone who’s ever lifted in Scotland know their banquets are right up there with the best of them. Well around midnight Willie informed me that the mini-bus was leaving at 5 a.m. sharp, tomorrow morning with about a 4 or 5 hour drive. The next day everything goes on schedule and we arrive there with a full mini-bus. I never saw the stones in person before but have to say I was overwhelmed at them. They were both chained to the wall, and it was drizzling out. Everything had a film of water over it, and the marble size piece of chalk I brought was disintegrated. So I found an area not so wet and dug my hands through the dirt to dry them up and it helped. At this point I picked up the little stone right and left, then I did the same to the big stone. Well now I thought I did it. They all yelled NO – do the 2 stones together. Since they were chained to the wall I decided to keep my 2 feet together since the stones were close to the wall. It was hard for me to straddle them and definitely too tight to have one on each side. So finally on my 1st. attempt I reached down and slowly stood up, and stood there while Willie Wright gave his down signal. I was in another world as I felt like I could not put them down. I got an IAWA World record certificate and the honors of being the 1st. US citizen to lift up the stones without straps or other assistance. Also to be one of few to lift them feet together. I am not sure who the others are. The truth to all this is I lifted them fatigued, never seen them before, and never trained to lift them. No excuses – just got of the bus and within 5 minutes lifted both of the ground. I did it my way!!!!!!

My Interview with Frank Ciavattone – Part 1

by Al Myers

Recently at the World Championships I got the great honor of getting the opportunity to compete with Frank Ciavattone again. It has been several years since Frank has been able to compete because of various injuries, with the last one being a hip replacement. Frank is a true Pioneer in the Sport of All-Round Weightlifting and contains a wealth of information. He is also the ultimate sportsman by demonstrating that a big man can be very strong without the use of drugs, showing that strength comes from within, and displays the unselfish attitude of always helping out his fellow competitors.

Frank Ciavattone performing a One Arm Hack Lift at the 2005 USAWA National Championships. I'm standing behind him watching and learning. Frank has the top USAWA lift of All-Time in this lift at 402 pounds.

Al: Where do you current live and what do you do for a living?

Frank: I live at 204 East St. E. Walpole, MA 02032. I am a self-employed Excavator Contractor two-thirds of the season and a Heavy Snow Remover the remaining time.

Al: When did you first start weightlifting and how did you get started?

Frank: I started to lift after I received a 75lb. weight set for Christmas in 1966. My uncle Ralph (my godfather) was a bodybuilder in the early 1950’s. He actually placed 5th in the 1951 Mr. Boston Contest. Plus my dad was a Marine during the Korean War and was a Power Shovel operator (steam shovel). Running this type of equipment makes you strong. I remember how big, calloused and strong his hands were. No doubt they were my inspiration.

Al: What got you started in All-Round Weightlifting?

Frank: I trained for many years (1971 to 1988) with my coach Joe Mills of The Central Falls Weightlifting Club in Central Falls, R.I. Joe trained some of the best Olympic lifters in the country and the world, such as Mark Cameron and Bob Bednarski. Joe did this with respect and honesty. I was always very close to Joe and he knew I would never make it as a World champ in Olympic lifting. He suggested to me to work the lifts that I could out lift all the other lifters from the club in and go for the best there ever was. His only suggestion was stay around 275lbs. or less. I never ever got the drug speech from him as he knew my family and how we were raised and the rest is history. I also had some tremendous help from Bill Clark, John Vernacchio, and Howard Prechtel. I met Bill at the 1984 American Championships in Conn. He told me how they do Allround lifting in Missouri and sent me newsletters to see the records and THEN another sparkplug lit. I’ve got all his newsletters ever since. I basically was a charter member in 1988 but due to a personal problem could not go to England. John & Howard gave me endless phone time on educating me how to do a lot of the lifts before upcoming contests. I can not leave without mentioning Frank Gancarz and Ed Jubinville (both deceased) who played a big part in making me feel Allround lifting was just as important as life itself! To these MEN I truly admire and respect and I thank them from the bottom of my HEART!

Lifter Interview – Tom Ryan

by Al Myers

Tom Ryan performing a Hip Lift.

Al: where do you currently live and what do you do for a living?

Tom: I live in Acworth, Georgia (outside Atlanta) and have lived in Georgia most of my life, being a native Atlantan. I was a college professor for decades and now teach online courses for statistics.com. I have also done some course development work for them and do occasional consulting through them. I have written four statistics books (600-page books) for my New York area publisher and expect to finish my fifth book by the end of the year. I have also done a considerable amount of additional writing, including some sports writing, such as six articles on basketball statistics within the past few years for betterbasketball.com. I enjoy doing various types of writing and a few weeks ago wrote a guest column on teaching quantitative courses that was in the Atlanta paper on May 20th. The American Statistical Association, which elected me a Fellow in 2000 (I’ve been a member since 1972), somehow found out about that article and have linked the article at their website.

Al: When did you first start weightlifting and how did you get started?

Tom: I started lifting weights in December, 1958, at the age of 13. I would have made an ideal “before” picture for a bodybuilding course ad as I was 5-7 and weighed only 107 pounds. I was all skin and bones and my father even called me “Bones”. I believe I pressed 40 pounds for 8 reps in my first workout. I was in the 8th grade at the time and there were two kids in my physical education class who couldn’t climb the rope in the gym and touch the ceiling. I was one of the two. Then I started lifting weights and did succeed (to the cheers of my fellow students), even after almost dying from whooping cough and missing a few weeks of school.

I went from “bones” to almost the other extreme, eventually reaching 305 pounds, with my highest competitive bodyweight being 296 at two contests. I did not compete when I was in my prime, as I wanted to wait until I was a national caliber lifter before I entered competition. By my mid-30s, however, I realized that was never going to happen, and that was a depressing realization because I trained very hard. Then my life changed when I wrote to Murray Levin, who ran U.S. Olympic lifting at the time, in 1981 and offered to help in any way that I could. Murray sent my letter to Bill Clark, who immediately wrote to me. Bill had a paragraph about me in his Master’s newsletter in 1982, even though I was only 36 at the time and Master’s lifting then started at age 40. Bill also sent me his Missouri Valley newsletter. This was well before the days of the USAWA but Bill had introduced me to a new world and I now had something to train for.

Tom Ryan performing the Reeves Deadlift.

Al: Was there any one person who introduced you to lifting?

Tom: No one got me started. It was pure self-motivation, being motivated by my lack of strength and muscles. As I aged and started becoming stronger, with a 289 clean and jerk in training at the age of 19, I idolized Tony Garcy, five-time national Olympic lifting champion, and followed his career very closely. I eventually met Tony at the 1966 Senior Nationals and spoke with him briefly then. Several months ago I sent him a sympathy card after the death of one of his sons and received a nice card and note from he and his wife in reply. I was also motivated by Paul Anderson, whom I met in 1972 and corresponded with during the early 1970s, as well as the late 1980s.

Al: When did you first get involved with the all-rounds? Didn’t you compete in one of the very first World Meets?

Tom: I am one of the charter members of the USAWA, as indicated by the list on page 23 of the 5/17/09 edition of the Strength Journal. I competed in my first Zercher Meet in 1987, about the time that plans to start the USAWA were being formalized, so I just naturally became a member of the USAWA. Yes, I competed in the World Meet in Plymouth Meeting, PA in 1989. I suffered a tricep injury during the Pullover and Push event that took a very long time to fully heal.

Al: What have been your favorite lifts?

Tom: Over the years my favorite lifts have been the ones that I can do, quite frankly, and that list shrinks as I age! LOL When I was much younger, I enjoyed pressing and tried different types of pressing. My best pressing performance in USAWA competition occurred at the 1989 Zercher Meet when I did a heels together military press with 200 and then pressed 210 on my last attempt but lost my balance and had to take two steps backward. Later that year I thought I had pressed 209 at the World Meet, but I expected the weight to be heavier than it was and put a bit too much body into the lift, resulting in two red lights for backbend.

Probably my lifetime best pressing, considering form, was done in training one day in 1977 when I did a wide-grip military press with 229 for 4 reps. My heels weren’t together but those were strict presses with no lower body movement at all. That was one of those magic moments when I was really “on” and knew that would never happen again. And it didn’t!

During the late 1980s and early 1990s I made some reasonable one-hand deadlifts in USAWA contests, ranging from 330 to my PR of 345. My back started “complaining” about any type of deadlift with very much weight as I moved through my 50s, so I became somewhat of a one-arm thumbless deadlift specialist, doing over 200 officially. This is the type of lift that allows grip specialists like Ben Edwards to excel. In my case, I think it is a matter of technique because my hand strength is rather ordinary. I also found that I was reasonably good at the rectangular fix, at least for my age, as I made 95 pounds at the age of 61.

Al: I know one of your interests has been the history of weightlifting. Who are some of your favorite old time strongmen?

Tom: There are people who know more about the history of weightlifting and oldetime strongmen than I do, but yes, I have been interested in these subjects for decades and began work on a book on historical strength figures in the late 1980s. I mentioned Tony Garcy previously but I would rather not think of him as “oldetime” since he is only 6 years older than me. LOL. Rather, if we think of strongmen who performed in the general vicinity of 1900, there were certain performances that I wish I could have seen. In particular, one evening in 1889 Apollon (Louis Uni) did not know that the iron bars on a gate that was part of his stage performance had been tempered by a blacksmith, who was bribed by a prankster. Unaware of this, Apollon and his massive forearms struggled to bend the bars, while his wife prodded him , assuming that he was just being lazy. Finally Apollon was able to bend the bars enough for him to slide through them, but he was totally exhausted and explained to the audience that he was unable to continue his performance. David Willoughby believed that this may have been Apollon’s greatest strength feat.

I wish I could have also seen the bent presses of Arthur Saxon. It is hard for me to believe that a man weighing only about 204 pounds could bent press close to 400. (He is credited with 370 but reportedly did 386 unofficially and supposedly attempted 409 but the weights started falling off the bar.) Bent pressing was popular in the 1940s, especially in the New York area, and although Al Beinert bent pressed 360 in the mid-1900s weighing almost 60 pounds more than Saxon, nobody has approached Saxon’s record.

It would also have been fun to meet some of the leading strongmen of centuries ago, like Thomas Topham and Giovanni Belzoni, not to mention the enigmatic giant, Angus McAskill.

Al: Do you have any special memories of any all-round weightlifting meets?

Tom: Well, I would like to forget the injuries that I sustained! LOL Yes, I certainly have fond memories of people with varied backgrounds and professions and from different parts of the country and world getting together for fun and competition. There were personal duels I had with Bill Clark at Zercher Meets, with him insisting that we compete straight up, despite our differences in age and bodyweight. It was fun seeing Steve Schmidt do harness lifts with well over 3,000 pounds, far in excess of what the rest of us did, and more recently to see his feats, either in person or on film, with bar bending and teeth lifting and pulling very heavy vehicles, as well as record-breaking repetition back lifting. Although I didn’t witness it, Joe Garcia’s hand and thigh lift with 1,910 is a tremendous accomplishment, the highest lift on record. Since I go back a long way, there were some competitions in which I saw Ed Zercher do some exhibition leg pressing when he was 80 or so. Yes, I have many fond memories.

Al: What do you think the future of the USAWA will be?

Tom: Over the years, Bill Clark had hoped that the USAWA could attract some of the strength stars of the past, but that hasn’t happened. Jim Bradford, who is now 80 and was a silver medalist in the 1952 and 1960 Olympics, has been an ardent follower, but I don’t recall him competing in any USAWA contest. There are so many official lifts that virtually everyone, regardless of physical condition, will be able to find some lifts that they can do. I would like to see more people compete, both young and old, but our numbers are dwindling, not increasing. Hopefully your considerable and praiseworthy efforts with this website, Al, will increase interest in the USAWA. We can only hope.

Al: Thank you, Tom, for participating in this interview.