What makes OTSM Different?

by Thom Van Vleck

John O'Brien had the top Apollons Lift of the OTSM Championships with this 300 pound lift.

First, please notice I said “different”.  Not BETTER, just different.  Al Myers came up with the concept for Old Time Strong Man contests to bring something different to the USAWA.  I really like the idea.  This does not mean I don’t like the regular USAWA.  On the contrary, I like the idea a lot!  But I have also been a fan of Strongman Contests as well.  I also think a lot of the other USAWA members do as well.  The OTSM brings that strongman flavor, but does something to it that no strongman contest does.  It allows for the events to be loaded to weights that will suit any age group, skill level, weight class, or gender.  Basically, it makes Strongman accessible to everyone, makes it quantifiable (for record keeping purposes that are legit), and brings it in line with the USAWA tenants that we all appreciate (drug testing for one!).

One of the things I like about the OTSM format is how the lifter is allowed several chances to complete a lift within the one minute time limit.  I think this adds some real excitement and drama to the meet.  Several successful lifts in this meet would not have been allowed in the format used by not only the regular USAWA and IAWA meets, but in any Olympic or Powerlifting contest.  For example, John O’Brien called for 300lbs on his final Appollon’s Axle attempt.  He pulled the weight, racked it, then missed the jerk….however, he still had time, so he pulled a second time, racked it, and made a very solid jerk.  This was the only 300lb lift of the meet in the Appollon’s Lift.  For those watching, it is really exciting to see something like that!  I know the limits placed on earlier meets was a time factor, but usually the lift is made quickly and it really doesn’t take much more time with the few times the whole minute is used.

Another thing I like that this format has over regular strongman contests is how you can start with any weight you want.  It brings the best part of a regular weightlifting meets in a Strongman format.  You get three attempts, you can start at any weight and go up to weights that are within your ability.  In most strongman meets, you have one weight for all…..and in my book, “one size does NOT fit all”.   This way, you can have a meet where young and old, the super strong and the weekend warrior, can all take part.

A third thing is the relaxed rules.  Most USAWA regular lifts have pretty strict interpretations on how the lift will be performed, with good reason.  But for the novice lifter or most spectators, this can lead to confusion or frustration when the complete a lift or see a lift completed only have it turned down on a technicality.  To those of us “in the know” we understand perfectly….but for many a slight press out leaves them shaking their heads.  OTSM has many lifts where the lifter can get a weight up multiple ways with few rules.  As a result, very few lifts are turned down upon completion.  This is very spectator friendly in my book!

Now, I do want to take some time to address some criticisms I’ve heard about the OTSM.  Some have to do with the very nature of it (relaxed rules, etc).  Not much I can say about that.  It is what it is.  But some things I can address.  I have heard concerns that we have enough in the USAWA already.  Why do we need more.  Well, first of all, that’s the very nature of those that have come to the USAWA!  Guys who were satisfied with the Olympic lifts stayed with those lifts, but there were a group of guys who weren’t and powerlifting was born…and so on.  The USAWA adds lifts every year!  I would argue that’s just who we are.  Plus, have you ever watched the Olympics….how many swimming styles do we need to compete, gymnastics events, running events?!?!  Nobody complains about why we need a 200 meter champion when we already have a 100 meter champion.   It’s just more ways to have fun and enjoy sports.  Track and Field has two shot put world champs every year…indoor and outdoor.  No big deal.

These seem to be the key differences to me.  It adds a nice wrinkle to all the USAWA offers and I think can serve  as a way to recruit new blood to the larger organization.  I think a lot of new people could get “hooked” into lifting through the OTSM and then as they became more “weightlifting savvy” we could draw them into the more structured lifting of the USAWA!  So, please, even if you don’t want to lift in the OTSM, help the rest of us out by supporting it by either helping at the meets or at the least supporting it through recommending it to others!  OTSM is still very much an experiment…..whether it stays is really up to everyone in the USAWA!   More fun for everyone!

OTSM Championships

by Thom Van Vleck

Group picture from the 2012 USAWA Old Time Strongman Championships.

The 2nd Annual Old Time Strong Man Championships were held on October 14, 2012. We were back in the old Willard School Gym where the 2011 USAWA Nationals were held. This “old school” gym seemed to me to the appropriate place for an “Old Time” themed contest. I had 7 lifters show to test themselves. I had 5 loaders and three officials….so the help outnumbered the competition….which led to a fast meet! While this was down from 10 lifters from the year before there was a lot of enthusiasm and some great lifting.

Tim Piper came with his daughter Whitney. This was her first official meet. Vince Decker made it, as did Mike Lucht and Lance Foster. The battle came down between Dino Gym’s Chad Ullom and the JWC’s own John O’Brien. Chad took an early lead, cut after the Anderson Squat, John O’Brien hit a meet best 805lbs and was barely in First. That meant it all came down to the People’s Deadlift. Chad was ahead of John in the order so that meant he had to pull what he thought was his best and leave the rest to John. John came out needing a 600lb pull to win, but it was not to be. Chad Ullom was the winner! A nice comeback after his 2nd overall finish the week before at the IAWA World’s. Several records fell as well!

JWC member John O'Brien put up the top Anderson Squat of the meet with this 805 pound lift!

One of the things I wanted to do with this meet was make it a fundraiser for the Osteoblasters Weightlifting Club. This is a new club that I helped start up at A. T. Still University where I work as the Director of Counseling. The good news about this club is that I had hoped to have maybe a dozen members…..but instead I have over 60!!!! The bad news is we are sorely in need of equipment. So, the money was to buy equipment, or I offered a second option of donating equipment as your entry. Well, I raised $135.00….but we also had an 800lb Tire, a heavy duty pulling sled, and a very nice Incline bench! The Tire was from JWC member and USAWA competitor Joe Costello and the Incline was donated by Eric Todd who was also the head judge at the meet! Tim Piper also mentioned he would give us some dumbbells as well! Thanks, guys, this is appreciated greatly.

I finally want to thank Al Myers. Al traveled 700 miles round trip, was the scorekeeper, and helped me run the meet. This allowed me to go around and talk to the lifters, encourage them, and also to get to watch some of the lifting. I cannot tell you how often I have run a contest and I miss out on most of the competition because I’m too busy running things behind the scenes. I would also like to thank Chad Ullom, John O’Brien, and Lance Foster. Lance and Chad competed both in the OTSM and my Highland Games held the day before. John was a judge at the Highland Games and competed in the OTSM. Double Duty!!!!!!

The plans are already in motion for next year. Al and I have talked about this and we hope to have three or four OTSM meets that will lead up to the Championships here in Kirksville again in 2013. Next year I won’t have the meet on the same weekend as my Highland Games so it will be on a Saturday. It will stand alone and get the individual attention that it should. I hope everyone will consider coming!

MEET RESULTS

Old Time Strongman Championships
Willard Gymnasium
Kirksville, Missouri
October 14th, 2012

Meet Director:  Thom Van Vleck

Official (1-official system used): Eric Todd

Scorekeeper:  Al Myers

Lifts: Cyr Press, Apollons Lift, Anderson Squat, Peoples Deadlift

WOMENS DIVISION

LIFTER AGE BWT CYR AP SQ DL TOT PTS ADJ PTS
Whitney Piper 11 69.75 21 31 125 135 312 683.22 854.02

 EXTRA ATTEMPTS FOR RECORD

Whitney Piper: People Deadlift 160#

MENS DIVISION

LIFTER AGE BWT CYR AP SQ DL TOT PTS ADJ PTS
Chad Ullom 40 249 141 275 800 600 1816 1443.5 1457.9
John O’Brien 43 275 141 300 805 550 1796 1359.0 1413.4
Mike Lucht 29 222 141 270 560 600 1571 1325.9 1325.9
Vince Decker 41  175  116 220 470  535 1341 1294.8 1320.8
Tim Piper 42 191 101 205 500  450 1256 1151.6  1186.2
Lance Foster 46 318.5 81 175 475 550 1281 904.1 967.4

EXTRA ATTEMPTS FOR RECORD

Tim Piper: Anderson Squat 550#

NOTES: BWT is bodyweight recorded in pounds.  All lifts were recorded in pounds.  TOT is total pounds lifted.  PTS are adjusted Lynch Points for bodyweight corrected.  ADJ PTS are adjusted Lynch Points for age allowance.

Old Time Strongman

by Al Myers

John O'Brien, of the JWC, takes a 270 pound dumbbell to his shoulder at the First Ever USAWA Old Time Strongman Championships. This new Old Time Strongman Event mimics loading events in Strongman, but instead of loading something to a platform, the lifter has to take the dumbbell from the floor to the shoulder. Only at the JWC would the dumbbell be loaded with Old Jackson plates, which is very fitting!!!

It really gave me a good feeling that the FIRST EVER USAWA Old Time Strongman (OTSM)  Championships was such a great success.  Thom did an EXCELLENT JOB of hosting this event at his gym, the JWC Training Hall.   Even though the USAWA only hosted two of these OTSM meets this year, I see this division of the USAWA as one that will grow over time.  Actually, it is probably a good thing that we are growing at a slow pace with this, as it allows us to get “our ducks in a row”.   This allows time to develop the proper protocols in administrating these competitions, as well as time to develop a good selection of OTSM events that will be contested.  I’m hoping next year to have at least four of these Old Time Strongman Competitions within the sanction of the USAWA.  Thom has already agreed to host next’s years Championship so we know we will have that as the “finale”.   Eric Todd has showed interest in hosting one in his gym this upcoming spring, and the Dino Gym has one planned for next July.  

I want to say a few general words about these changes that are happening in the USAWA.  Most USAWA lifters have been very supportive of these changes, but I have received a few comments from people, that as I would say, are “reserved” in their feelings on this.  When changes happen in any aspect in life, it is sometimes unfortable and takes adjustment on an individuals part.   It is easy to just keep doing things as they are always done, but sometimes changes are needed to “spark things”.  This is how I feel about the USAWA branching into Strongman.  We have been struggling for years as an organization in keeping adequate membership to stimulate enough revenue (in membership dues) to keep functioning.  Old Time Strongman will stimulate membership from lifters who may be only interested in these competitions, but a FEW will also compete in the traditional All Round Meets as well since they are already members of the USAWA.  It is a sure thing that it will increase USAWA membership. Strongman is no different than other “niche” competitive areas within the USAWA that already exist.  I talking specially about the Heavy Lifts and the Grip Meets that the USAWA has sanctioned.

I want to explain a few goals and formative ideas I have about this Old Time Strongman.  First of all, in no way do I want to imitate Strongman Competitions that already exist.  If a lifter wants to compete in those, there are plenty of opportunities for this.  We have sanctioned several of those Strongman Competitions in the Dino Gym by NAS through the years.  Instead, I want to share some of my “founding principles” of the USAWA Old Time Strongman so everyone will know where I’m coming from.

1.  General Rules of the USAWA will apply.  This includes using lifts that have established WRITTEN RULES in the Rulebook.  Rules of weightlifting will apply with the 3 attempts allowed per lift, and a lifter will be able to CHOOSE what weight they want to attempt.  No set weight implements will be allowed.  No events for time will be allowed.  Medley type events will not be done. This allows anyone, regardless of ability, to be able to compete.  Also, the USAWA scoring system already in place for our meets will be used.  Bodyweight and age correction will be applied to total pounds lifted.   Now if a meet director wants to have awards for BEST LIFTER for age groups or age divisions that is not a problem, as that is already allowed for any other USAWA meet. 

2.  Drug testing will be done according to the USAWA guidelines.  Most other organization’s Strongman Competitions are not drug tested. We will drug test! This will allow those drug free lifters to be able to compete against others who are also drug free. 

3.  The Old Time Strongman Events will be of such as to honor a lift/event done by an Old Time Strongman.  This goes right along with our mission statement of the USAWA, to honor lifts done by Old Time Strongmen.  No “modern” Strongmen events will be contested – such as stone loading, farmers walks, yoke carries, etc.  Like I said before, there are plenty of other places to do those events in competition.  Also, most of these Old Time Strongman Events will be done using just using a bar or dumbbell/dumbells.  The use of specialized equipment in events will be limited, however, a few events will have them.  I talking about unique lifts like the Dinnie Lift. 

4.  All of these Old Time Strongman Events will have “loose rules” compared to other All Round lifts.  Several of these OTSM events will be partial movements, unlike traditional All Round lifts.  I am hoping that eventually we will reach a list of around 20 “GOOD” OTSM lifts in our Rulebook so meet directors will have a good list to chose from for a meet. Finally, all of these lifts will have the minute clock, meaning a lifter gets as many tries within a minute to complete the lift on their attempt.  No missed attempts on technicalities!! 

I could see meet directors having an OTSM in which other All Round lifts might be included in the meet  list of events.   A lot of our other already established All Round lifts would fit “perfectly” into an OTSM meet.  Lifts like the Crucifix and Two Hands Anyhow pretty much meet the criteria of an Old Time Strongman lift.  But if these lifts are done in an OTSM meet, their rule as stated in the Rulebook must be followed, and not deviated from.  This is essential so records in these lifts can be maintained.  As you can see from these “founding principles”, Old Time Strongman will be a cross between modern Stongman and weightlifting.  I’m really excited about this – and I’m looking forward to what the future will bring!

John O’Brien: Part 2

John O'Brien "blowing up" a pop can using his incredible grip in one of our JWC evangelism shows!

by Thom Van Vleck

I will continue my story on my friend and strength athlete John O’Brien.

In part one I ended with John coming to one of our strongman evangelism shows.  John approached us about joining our team.  We are always happy when guys want to join us, but we also want to make sure they are in it for the right reasons.  Now, I’ve NEVER turned down anyone that wants to join us, but I also want to make sure guys know that it’s not “all about physical strength” but a real Christian ministry effort.  We don’t “show off” we “share” our God given talents for strength for God’s glory.

I invited John out the the JWC gym to meet with him about his desire to join the evangelism team.  John had this amazing and wonderful story about his son, Xavier (who recently became an Eagle scout!).  He talked about how he had drifted away from God and Church and that science had, in essence, become his religion.  He came to believe that science could answer any question about life.  Then along came Xavier.  He was born at 23 weeks (normal is 40 weeks!) and weighed 1lb and 4oz at birth.  His weight actually dropped to 15oz….LESS THAN A POUND!

The doctors told John that Xavier had a 25% chance to live and a 5% chance of being normal.  It was touch and go and things were tough emotionally for John and his wife Andrea.  But it was a moment when John realized that science did not hold all the answers and surrendered himself to a higher power.  Xavier began to improve to the amazement of all.  John credits God for Xavier’s progress and recovery and what a recovery it was and continues to be!  He is a top scholar in school, he looks like a normal teen in every way,  and he’s a mature, tough, likable young man that we are all proud of.

It was at that meeting that I knew John was a special man, not just in strength, but in all the ways that make a man a real man in my book.  John became a core member of the JWC Strongman evangelism team and we have had many great shows together which now number in the hundreds and I hope we have many more to come!  We have even traveled to the Arnold Expo in Columbus, Ohio where we met Arnold himself (a story unto itself!) and got to perform for hundreds.  If there’s any question to John’s “go time” attitude regarding his strength, it was at this show John drove a nail deeply into his hand during a tough bend and he not only finished the bend, he taped up and performed the rest of the weekend.

John is a world class bender.  Another core member of our group is Brett Kerby.  Brett was already a world class bender and John took a keen interest in it.  With Brett’s tutelage, John soon became the master!  It was funny that later he commented that Brett was not a very big guy and surely if he could do it, then John thought he could, too.  That’s John’s attitude about a lot of things….if you can do it….he can, too!   Brett and John have pushed each other to greater heights than they probably would have ever done alone.

John approached bending like he does most everything he does….obsessively….my kind of guy!   He began to bend all the time.  He told me a story that his division head at Truman State, where he teaches, came to him and said he had to stop bending in labs….because the students were afraid to come up to him as he bent 60 penny nail after nail and threw them in a pile.  He bent his first red nail in one of our shows.  I got the crowd all worked up and he had 60 seconds….he bent it in about 15 seconds…making it almost anti-climatic!  His best bends to date are the 4.5″ Red Nail (5/16th cold rolled steel), 7″ X 5/16th grade 5 bolt, and a 4.5″ X 1/4″ grade 8 bolt.  He also bends horseshoes and wrenches in our shows.

John is a good friend.  His recent accomplishment merited an update on an earlier article and I’m sure that there’s plenty more to come from him.  If the USAWA version of Old time Strongman catches on, I think John will be a top contender!

John O’Brien: A TRUE All-Round athlete

John O'Brien in a photo that decorates the Dino Gym showing an Ironmind Red Nail that John hammered shut for Big Al's amusement.

by Thom Van Vleck

John O’Brien has been my training partner, member of the JWC, and most of all, friend, for many years now.  When I think of what an All-Round athlete is, I think of John.  He is good, maybe a better word would be “great” at everything strength related.  I have written about him before but I’m hoping to add to what you already know about him and make the case for him being a TRUE All-Rounder.

He has competed in a strongman contests and Olympic lifting meets and placed or won his class in many contests.  He has competed in Highland Games and always places high.  He has competed in the USAWA with great success in about a dozen meets and has a couple dozen records to his credit.  Not to mention he is a world class short steel bender and performing professional strongman with over one hundred performances under his belt.  That, to me, it a true All-Round athlete!

John started lifting around the age of 13.  His older brother had a weight set at home and then at age 15 he started lifting for sports on programs set up by his coaches.  John mainly played baseball until high school and then he made up for lost time.  He played football (varsity for three years), wrestling, baseball, and track.  He said that he was best at football and baseball, but played the other sports so he could have access to the weight room year around.  He also mentioned maybe watching the girls run in track was a bonus!  Funny how many of us start lifting to impress girls!

John played on a football team in high school that had a dubious distinction.  They lost every game his junior and senior year!  The losing streak became so long that David Letterman started to track in on his show and when they finally won (long after John had left) they had some of the team members fly out to New York to be on the show.  John was a lineman and played both ways, he also played a couple years of college ball at Graceland College.

Then John entered graduate school at the University of Kansas to become the Chemistry Professor he is now at Truman State in Kirksville.  I was around this time that his oldest son was born very premature and lifting ended up being sacrificed for many years.  Then about 8 or so years ago John was very overweight and decided to do something about it.

John was training hard and lost 50lbs in the process.  There were a couple of students that were entering my JWC Strongman contest and they challenged John to enter, John told me they “teased” him and for them…..that was a bad idea!  John not only entered that contest….he won his weight class and rather decisively as I recall.

John had strength, but he is also very athletic, able to adjust to events on the fly.  He will tell you he operates off of “brute” strength, but I say it’s more than that.  He has an intelligent strength that is also athletic.  If strongman contests did not divulge the events, my money would be on John.   Recently, we were at Al’s Dino Gym where there is something called the “pill”.  A giant pill shaped metal object loaded with sand.  John spotted it, walked over and hoisted it…becoming the oldest person to do it (at age 42)….but more than that, what impressed me was his ability to lift it without much planning or practice, or even warm up!!!!  He walked up, sized it up, then lifted it!  That’s more than brute strength.

John said after that first JWC contest he began to only train for strength, beginning a  lifting career in his mid 30’s….when most guys are quitting!  Since that time, he has competed in Olympic lifting, Strongman, USAWA, Highland Games, and most recently, Highlander meets.  John has done well in all and is a two time masters National Champ in Highlander.  More importantly, that first contest was how we met and our friendship began and most of these contests were events we traveled to and/or competed in together!

Another aspect of our relationship started right after that first Strongman Contest that John entered and won.  The next day the JWC was doing a strongman evangelism show at the local YMCA.  I noticed John was in the front row.  He told me later he watched us and thought, “I can do those things” but more than that, he believed in the REASON we were doing them.  Which I will go into in Part 2 of my article!

Next:  Part 2 of “John O’Brien: True All-Round Athlete”.

Meet John O’Brien

by Thom Van Vleck

John O'Brien, of the JWC, is a World Class short-steel bender. In this picture, he displays an IronMind Red Nail which he just bent!

John O’Brien is a USAWA member, a good Highland Games thrower, a great lifter, and a world class short steel bender. Most of all, he’s my friend, training partner and Jackson Weightlifting Club member.  For most of the past decade we have been traveling to USAWA meets, Highland Games, Strongman Contests, Highlander meets, but most importantly he is a member of our evangelism team.  John is also a chemistry professor at Truman State and likes to say he’s trying to change the image of “nerds” everywhere.  He’s certainly the biggest, strongest “nerd” I’ve ever met!

John is  a low key guy.  He doesn’t get too fired up and has come across as being more than a little intimidating due to his size and quiet demeanor. Which is funny when you know he’s one of the nicest guys you could meet.   One  time, we went to a local fast food restaurant and the cashier, a young teen boy, was ready to take John’s order.  He was looking at John, all 6′3″ and 290lbs of him, and said, “Do you work out”?  John looked at him and in his usual economy of words said, “Yes”.  The kid looked him up and down again and said, “You scare me”.  I died laughing.  John is the quiet guy in the room that seems to intimidate people because not only is he big and decidedly strong looking, but you don’t quite know what’s on his mind.  And you won’t know unless you ask him directly!  Another funny story was the time when he would bend 60 penny nails during labs as practice.  Finally the Dean came to him and said he had to stop as the students were too scared to approach him and ask him questions as he bent nail after nail and tossed them in a pile!

I get a kick out of him and over the years have collected a list of top ten “Johnisms”.  When John does say something, it’s usually pretty well thought out and funny if you know him.  If you’ve never met him, they are still funny, but you have to imagine someone saying these in the most low key, matter of fact manner.

1.  You don’t have to be smiling to be happy. (Because John rarely smiles and people often ask him if he’s “OK”)

2. I’m not anti-social, I’m ASOCIAL…..there’s a difference.

3. People  don’t know how to take me and that’s the way I like it.

4. I may not be cheerful….but I’m always prepared. (Did I mention he’s a boy scout troop leader?)

5. You want a better grade in my class?  Then study Harder.

6. Yes, I know how to make nitro-glycerin and no I won’t….it’s very unstable.

7. You have to be careful regarding the chemicals you order….or the ATF or DEA will call.

8.  I like energetic reactions.

9. I have blown off an eyebrow doing experiments…..twice.

10. There was an explosion at the lab over the weekend…..I checked, it wasn’t mine this time.

John is one strong guy.  He has won the Master’s Class at the last two Highlander Nationals.  He always does well at any strength sport he tries because not only is he strong, he’s one of the best athletes I’ve ever met.  He can bend short steel with the best of them and easily bent an Ironmind Red Nail.  He can easily squeeze a pop can until it explodes and is our “go to” guy in our strongman evangelism shows when we need a heavy lift done.  We have sure had a lot of fun doing what we do!

But most of all, he’s one of the “characters” that make up the Jackson Weightlifting Club and the USAWA.  Next time you see him, say hello….don’t be afraid!

Performance Strongman – Part 1

by Thom Van Vleck

Thom Van Vleck breaking bricks using the "Double Forearm Break Style"

Many USAWA members are aware of our own Steve Schmidt’s career as a performance strongman, AKA “Strongman Steve”. He travels around doing strongman shows that often mirror his lifting efforts in the USAWA meets he competes in. As a matter of fact, I’d say that had it not been for Steve’s efforts to become a top USAWA lifter, his strongman career might not have ever happened! USAWA member Eric Todd, who has also joined the JWC for our shows at times, also does performance Strongman shows.

There are two other USAWA members that also have a strongman career as a part of the “Jackson Weightlifting Club”. This includes John O’Brien and Thom Van Vleck. After the “JWC All-Round Challenge” on Nov. 21 the other two more members of the JWC team should also be USAWA members, Brett and Brian Kerby as they are slated to compete in that contest.

The USAWA has a rich history and connection to being what I call a Performance Strongman. Many of the old timers like Appollon, Saxon, and Sandow travelled around earning their living performing, not competing. Today, guys like Steve, Eric and the JWC members do it for other reasons.

John O'Brien using grip pressure only to blow up unopened cans of soda

While just a few of the JWC members do performance strongman shows, they do it to spread the word of Jesus Christ. We are Christian men who believe that God has given us a talent and that we are to use that talent for Him. We are a non-denominational group that often also delivers secular messages such as being anti drug, staying in school, and being good citizens. But we never sacrifice our core message.

Brian Kerby and myself, Thom Van Vleck, are the core members of the JWC evangelism effort. We have been brothers in the Word and Iron since our teenage years and always shared a love of the iron sports. We finally had a chance to go and help Randy Richey and his strongman evangelism team, Omega Force, at the US Strongman Nationals in St. Louis. We ended up being a part of the show and were soon offered to travel with them overseas. Brian and I realized this would not be possible with our family, church, and job obligations and soon realized that God wanted us to share our talents locally.

The JWC Perspective on Team Nationals

by Thom Van Vleck

John O'Brien (of the JWC) loading the last stone at the NAHA Nationals to secure his first place finish!!

John O’Brien and I have trained together for about 6 years now. John is one of my partners on our Strongman Evangelism team and since we are similar height and strength, we figured this would be a good event for us.

Believe it or not, I last competed in an “odd lift” meet nearly 30 years ago. I have helped with USAWA meets and even helped coach John in his USAWA efforts over the years, but I was so focused on my Highland Games career I just hadn’t had the right time to do a meet. Well, having just finished the NAHA Highlander meet the previous day, I had no excuses so John and I joined in. I soon realized what I was missing out on!

Team lifting puts a premium on team work. You have to match your partner’s efforts while applying your own maximum effort into the lift. Timing is everything. A lesson learned on the first lift of the day, the Two man one arm Snatch. John and I can both power snatch around 225lbs…..but it ’s a whole new ball game when you have to do it together. We managed 215lbs. On the other lifts, the Straddle or Jefferson Lift, the thick bar Ciavattone grip deadlift, and the Bench Press Feet in Air did not require split second timing, but still you had to lock out together.

I don’t think at any point John and I felt we were a threat to Chad and Al…..they had been training for this event while John and I had not. We just might have to put some more effort into it for next year and see if we can catch Al and Chad napping. We did manage to beat them on one lift, the BP with Feet in Air with our age handicap, but to be honest, their last attempt looked easier than ours.

It is a lot of fun to walk up to a bar loaded to 850lbs and think that you are going to lift it. Even if it’s a two man lift, seeing all those plates rise up is a real adrenaline rush. I know we were too tentative on this lift and next year I see 1000lb as a real possibility.

I think the best part of All around lifting is the fun of trying new things and having so many ways you can set a record. You get sore in ways that regular training will never make you sore. You also learn how to “lift on the fly”. What I mean by that is that many guys train a limited number of lifts and their strength gets very specific. In other words, a powerlifter will get very strong on the Bench, Dead, and Squat, but they ever find themselves in need of tapping into that strength outside their usual training range of motion, they’ll find themselves coming up short. All around does just that, it trains you to be all around strong.

At any rate, it was a blast. I look forward to the Dino Gym/JWC rematch next year. I plan on bringing more than one team of lifters to take out the Dino Gym crew once and for all! Anybody going to stop us! It was great fun, how lifting should be.