Big T’s OTSM (First Update)

by Thom Van Vleck

I have some more information on OTSM being held at the Jackson Weightlifting Club.  Entry info and a link to the first story on the meet can be found under the USAWA Future Events section.

This meet will be held outside weather permitting.  If the weather is bad, we’ll move it inside.  Each lifter will be given the chance to look at the records and attempt one record attempt on a lift outside the competition once the meet is completed.  Additional records will be up to there being time.  I wanted to mention this in case there was anyone coming that planned on trying some record attempts.

I thought I might catch some flack regarding my decision to have two champs.  One based on the formulas and the other based solely on most weight lifted.  So far not a peep.  I think it will be interesting to see if they are different!  Just so you know, it’s not my plan to do this with the OTSM Championships.

In addition, This meet will happen regardless of the turn out.  The idea of having this in conjunction with a Highland Games meet is I hope to get some new members to sign up.  You will notice I don’t have a deadline.  All comers!  So don’t worry about the meet being cancelled due to low turnout.  THIS WILL HAPPEN!

Finally, bring some shade, sunscreen, and a folding chair.  It’s pretty wide open at my place so shade is tough to find.  I don’t sunburn and don’t notice it….but we’ve toasted a few of the fair skinned lifters and throwers at my place!

Hope to see you there!

Nicknames

by Thom Van Vleck

I’ve told a story recently and reference a nickname for my Uncle Wayne Jackson.  I wanted to tell about where that came from.

A couple of years ago I hosted the USAWA Nationals.  Wayne was able to make it and was kind of a guest of honor.  At one point Al Myers noticed I called him “Staggo” and asked me about it.  As everyone that knows me, knows ALL TOO WELL, there’s a story behind that!

When I first started training at age 15 it was with my Uncle Wayne Jackson.  It was kind of a tradition to make up nicknames back in the day.  Often it was something that started out as an insult but over time became a badge of honor.  I go to a Lutheran Church and we are taught about how the Catholics used to make fun of us and called us “Lutherans” as an insult.  Now we wear it with honor.

I tended to favor the deadlift…because I was good at the deadlift.  Like a lot of young guys I tended to train what I was good at and ignore what I was bad at…which was pretty much everything else!  My Uncle Phil was the type of guy to cut right to the chase but Wayne was the type to try and use some subtle remark to get his point across.  I think he knew I had a pretty fragile self esteem so just telling me the way I was training was pretty stupid might have dealt me a blow….and I might have quit training.

So one day Wayne started calling me Bob Peoples.  If you don’t know who Bob People’s was, he was very much a deadlift specialist and I was on my way to becoming one, too.  Every time I would start pulling Wayne would say, “Well, there goes Bob People’s again” or he might say, “So is Bob deadlifting again today”.  He made his point and I started to diversify my training.  But I also had to get him back.

Wayne was kind of sensitive about his weight, considering he spent most of his life over 300lbs!  I once asked him how much he weighed at his heaviest and he told me 339 and A HALF.  I then asked, “So when you weighed 340…what were your best lifts”.  Wayne looked at me dead serious and said, “Tommy!  I NEVER weighed 340″.  He also would emphasize that a give weight was “in his street clothes” as if to say “I don’t actually weigh that much, I’m much lighter with my clothes off”!  We all have a weakness and that was his.  Now to exploit it!

We were watching one of the early World’s Strongest Man contests and there was a competitor from Holland named Staggo Piszko.  This guy was huge…and ROUND!  It was made more pronounced by the fact he had this little guy that was his “trainer” or “coach” that was dwarfed by him and kept running around him like he was on fire.  My Uncle kept chuckling every time he saw him.  So for the last 30 years it stuck!  And like many nicknames, what started out as a snappy comeback and a good-natured “ribbing” ended up being a badge of honor.

Many times I called up Wayne and said this line:

“HEY, STAGGO!  …..and he’ll be Staggo to me forever!

Better than Gold

by Thom Van Vleck

The medal my Uncle Wayne gave me.

I was recently at an event and one of the other competitors reached over and pull out a medal I had hanging around my neck.  He wanted to know what it represented.  It is a medal that I’ve worn in every competition I’ve been in or at least been on between lifts or events.  It’s been dipped in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico, the North Sea, the Irish Sea, Mississippi River, Columbia River, Missouri River….even Loch Ness and other places I have traveled and competed.

It is a medal my Uncle Wayne Jackson won the year I was born. The story goes that he went to the meet and won this medal.  He would have been around 21 years old and in the midst of a great run of winning Olympic lifting events in the Midwest that included a Teenage National Title and 5 Missouri State Championships.  Wayne came back from the meet ready to show off his “winnings”.  He had been unable to reach anyone by phone and since this was the days before answering machines and cell phones….if you weren’t there to answer the phone you missed the call!  So he had not been able to tell anyone about winning.

When Wayne arrived at home the house was empty and there was no note or other information on where everyone had went!  He was a little concerned and a little disappointed that he had not been able to share his victory with his family.  Then my Grandmother showed up and told him that he needed to get down to the hospital as his sister had her baby.  Which was me of course!  He told me I had upstaged him!

Reverse side with the 1964

From as early as I can remember my Uncle Wayne was a part of my life.  As a kid he would pick me up and throw me high in the air.  We would wrestle and he would take me out hunting arrowheads.  He never had any children of his own and he became a second father to me.  My kids are like his grand kids.  Obviously, he’s the main reason I got into weight training and in doing so he may have saved my life.  At the least, my life has been much better for getting into lifting.  Over the years he is the first person I call after a contest and he’s also kept up to date on my workouts.  He’s always quick with a compliment and slow to criticize.  He has also been an inspiration to me for his faith in God and using his strength not to intimidate others but protect those that needed protecting.

There came a time when he wanted me to have this medal.  I’m sure it’s not worth much but it’s priceless to me.  It represents our friendship and love for one another.  It represents a passing of the torch in the Jackson Weightlifting Club.  It reminds me of him and when he’s not able to be there with me I feel like he’s there.  It is better than gold to me.

Big T’s OTSM

by Thom Van Vleck

MEET ANNOUNCEMENT: BIG T’S BIRTHDAY BASH OTSM

This May I turn 50 years old.  My wife asked me what I wanted to do.  Well, I love to throw, lift, and eat with family and friends.  So I will be hosting a Scottish Highland Games at my gym near Greentop, Missouri as well as an USAWA OTSM meet!  You may enter both if you like.  There will be burgers and brats grilled for lunch.  The Highland Games will begin at 10:00am while the OTSM will follow immediately after around 3 pm.  Weigh ins will start at 9:00am or immediately before the lifting starts.  There will be miniature anvils for awards.  One difference with this meet is that there will be two champions.  One will be decided using formulas while the other will be declared on most weight lifted.

MEET DIRECTOR: Thom Van Vleck

DATE: May 31, 2014

LOCATION: JWC Training Hall, 23958 Morgan Road, Greentop, MO, 63546

A special Iron Man award will be given to the combined thrower and lifter.

Following the throwing and lifting, weather permitting, there will be a bonfire and evening festivities.

Three lifts will be contested.  Two are tried and true OTSM lifts while the third is a brand new lift that will be tried out for the first time.

The Cyr Press

Any dumbbell with a handle diameter between 1 inch and 1.5 inches is allowed. The dumbbell may be brought to the shoulder in any manner, but must come to the shoulder before going overhead. This includes using two hands. Once at the shoulder, the dumbbell is taken overhead with only one hand anyhow. The other arm/hand is not allowed to touch the lifting arm during the overhead portion. The feet are allowed to move. If the lifter misses with one arm, the dumbbell may be switched to the other arm during the attempt, but the arm used must be selected at the shoulder. A time limit of 1 minute is allowed for the attempt. The dumbbell may be set down or dropped during the attempt. If the overhead portion of the lift is missed, it may be restarted at the shoulder. Once the dumbbell is overhead motionless with arm straight, the legs straight and feet in line with the torso, an official will give a command to end the lift.

Dumbbell to the Shoulder

A dumbbell will be taken from the floor to the shoulder using any method the lifter wants to employ. The dumbbell may be lifted with two hands, continental style, or may be rested on the belt during the lift by any part of the dumbbell. Hands may grip the plates, bar, collars, or any part of the dumbbell. Any size plate may be loaded onto the dumbbell. The lift is completed when the lifter is standing upright, with the dumbbell resting on the shoulder, and the lifter demonstrating control. Both hands may remain on the dumbbell to complete the lift, or with one hand or both hands off the dumbbell. A time limit of 1 minute is given to complete the lift. An official will give a command to end the lift.

Thor’s Hammer (NEW LIFT!)

A 2″ vertical bar that conforms to the rules for the 2″ vertical bar lifts (2″ in diameter and no more than 18″ long with no knurling) will be used. Just as with a vertical bar lift, the bar may be gripped by any grip with only one hand near the top of the vertical bar. In addition, the hand must not be touching any weights or collars used to secure the weights.  The lift will begin at the lifter’s discretion. There will be a one minute time limit to complete the lift. Once the lifter chooses to use the left or right hand, the other hand will not come in contact with the weight.  If the lifter misses an attempt they may switch hands but only with the weight resting on the lifting area.  The lift must be one continuous motion from the floor to a locked out position with no press out.  The lifter may choose to snatch or swing the weight.    The forearm must not touch the weight at any time.  The lifter may move the feet and body to adjust to the lift like a snatch lift.  The lift is considered complete when the lifter is in an upright position with the knees and elbow locked, feet in line with the torso with the weight under control.  At which time the official will give the command to end the lift.

Wayne Jackson: Chasing Strength

by Thom Van Vleck

Wayne Jackson is my Uncle.  But he has been much more than that.  He inspired me to lift weights, he was a father figure to me, a training partner, and most of all, a friend.  Wayne, along with his brother Phil, revived the Jackson Weightlifting Club in 1957.  While the club grew to over two dozen members and fielded teams that won the Missouri State team title in Olympic lifting two times and several Missouri State Champions…Wayne was our most successful lifter.  Wayne won the Teenage Nationals and 4 Missouri State Championships in Olympic Lifting and one title in Powerlifting.  He was simultaneously the Missouri State Champ in Olympic lifting and Powerlifting in 1971!  Wayne also has the claim to fame of holding the Missouri State record in the Clean and Press.  That event was dropped in 1972 and as a result it can never be broken!  His best was 365lbs.

Wayne is a jovial, gentle giant.   I have called him “Staggo” for over 30 years in reference to Dutch World’s Strongest Man competitor Staggo Piszko who was  one of the biggest WSM competitors ever.  My dad always referred to Wayne as “Big’un”.  His arms were well over 20 inches and his chest was over 60 inches at around 5′10″ in height.  He made an impression with just his size.  But if you were ever around him much you would soon realize that he would never hurt a fly.  He was always interested in what you were lifting and you almost had to pry out of him his best lifts.  He was always very modest and often would even minimize his best lifts….I’ve not met many lifters that do that!

Wayne had a long time lifting rivalry with Wilbur Miller.  Now I specify “lifting” because otherwise they were the best of friends.  As a matter of fact I traveled with Wayne to an “Odd lift” meet held at Sailor’s Gym in Wichita in 1984 so that Wayne could reunite with Wilbur.  I would point out that Wayne never lost to Wilbur in the Clean and Press even though Wayne was never able to beat Wilbur in the total.  A couple years back Wilbur told me that he always wanted to beat Wayne on the press but that Wayne was “just too good at it”.

I have many stories I could tell about Wayne and I have written about him before in MILO.  But here is one that gives some insight into Wayne’s attitude about lifting.  I was a teenager and not showing much prospect at winning any gold medals.  I was thinking about giving up on lifting.  I had read a story where the author had stated you needed talent to be a truly great lifter.  I asked Wayne about it and matter of factly he said, “I just always figured a guy could be as strong as he wanted to be if he were willing to work hard enough”.  While some could challenge how true that statement is, it’s more of an attitude.  After that, I didn’t worry about what I didn’t have, I just kept working hard and didn’t worry about what talent I had or didn’t have.  All I could really control was how hard I worked.

Wayne loved lifting.  Some guys lift as a means to an end.  Wayne just loved lifting.  He lifted often and he trained very hard….often with no contest as a goal.  He would set lifting goals then break them and move on to the next goal.  He “chased strength” his entire life!  We lifted in a couple early odd lift meets that Bill Clark held and I had to almost beg him to compete.  But when he did he made some great lifts.  He did a super strict 280lb seated press (his training best was 330 but he had trouble adjusting to keeping his feet flat on the floor….I once saw him seated press 300lbs for 8 sets of 3 reps!), a heels together 300 pound press, a 300 pound reverse grip clean and press to name a few).  I saw him hang clean 400lbs (with straps) and on another occasion jerk 400lbs.  This was in his mid 30’s.

I could write volumes on Wayne, but wanted to give him some of the recognition I felt he deserved.  He lifted with Bill Clark and in Clark’s meets more times than I could count and was friends with many of the early USAWA members.  I had always hoped he would make a comeback but so far that has not come to pass.  He still trains and still loves to talk training and lifting.  It was his way of life!

My Visit to Ledaig Heavy Athletics

by Thom Van Vleck

Banner that hangs in the Ledaig gym

Recently I got to make my first trip to Ledaig since Dave built his new facility.  This is Dave Glasgow’s family gym.  I say family gym because it belongs to his whole family.  You drive down that road and it’s hard to figure out which “Glasgow” to stop at as each mailbox has that name on it. But if you know Dave and he counts you as a  friend, then you are family, too!  This sits on some family property about 30 miles from Wichita, Kansas but really miles away from anyone!  It is near Rainbow Bend, Kansas and if you can find that then you are right up there with Columbus and Magellan as an explorer.  Dave used to train in a round metal tank that would literally roast you on a hot day.  The frame for the gym was put up years ago, I believe Dave’s Dad had built a metal frame and never finished it.  Dave got it done and there is a gym, shop and garage housed in the large building.  You could park a dozen cars in there if it were cleared out, but Dave has a quarter sectioned off for the gym that is walled in and the rest is full of tools, cars, and projects!

Dave Glasgow cutting some steel rod in his gym to make stakes for Highland Games trigs.

I have been to many gyms overthe years and to me my favorites also include other “manly” pursuits.  My Uncle Phil has a reloading room attached to his gym.  Al Myers has a full scale metal shop in his gym.  Randy Richey (http://www.usawa.com/omega-force-christian-strongman-team/) has one of the coolest gyms I’ve ever seen with the a massive metal shop.   Hard to believe anyone could top Al’s gym, but Randy just might! I can’t top those guys but my gym has a workshop as well. Dave has entered the fray with a huge workshop area with the ability to cut, weld, and shape metal along with working on the two antique corvettes parked in his gym.

Some old school Eleiko bumpers at Ledaig

Another hallmark of a cool gym in my book is to have historical and cool things to lift.  Ledaig has many things, old and new to lift.  I was especially salivating over his Eleiko plates.  They are old and well used, but still cool nonetheless.  Dave has some equipment that he has used for many, many years in his gym and you can just feel the positive “mojo” in there!

If you get a chance to make it to a USAWA meet at Ledaig, it’s worth the journey.  You can fly into Wichita and that gets you close.  But if you drive there just know this:  The cell phone reception is not very good and on more than one occasion I have fielded a call from a lost lifter driving the countryside looking for “Rainbow Bend”.  Be sure you know how to get there!   Because it truly can be one of those places that “you can’t get there from here”!

New Orleans Anvil Lifting

Columbian Anvil at Sigles Metal Shop in the French Quarter....it waited 57 years for me to come lift it!

by Thom Van Vleck

Recently a friend of mine said that every weightlifter is always secretly sizing up objects around him to see if he can lift them.  I guess I do that to.  Some you know are impossible, others not so impossible.  I like to keep my eye out for Anvils.  Most of you know my affinity for anvils, you can find an previous article I wrote on my own family anvil here:

Grandpa Jackson’s Anvil

This past month I was able to take my wife on a surprise trip to New Orleans.  The choice to go there was almost chance.  I had a credit to use, there was a deal on New Orleans……so there you go!  We were just looking to spend some time sight seeing in the French Quarter.  Now, everyone has heard of Bourbon Street, and it goes right through the middle of the French Quarter.  But there is much more to it than that and my wife and I set about exploring the back streets checking out the unusual stores, bars, and shops.  Some were “interesting” to say the least but I came across one place that was closed on that day that intrigued me.  I was called Sigles Antiques and Metal Craft.

Sigles was a nondescript shop on Royal next to the Andrew Jackson Hotel.  There is a story on the Jackson side of my family that we are related, but I can’t prove it.  But my wife thinks his crusty, stubborn attitude pretty much proves we are related!  Sigles had all kinds of iron work.  Scroll work, hitching post tops, all kinds of stuff.  A very elderly woman ran the shop who I later found out was 91.  She said that she and her husband had owned the shop for 57 years.  My wife bought some fluer-de-lei coat hangers and I found a nice spear top that I’m going to use for one of my Highland Games flags.

Then I noticed a shop door that said no customers in the shop.  ”SHOP”….I had to see the metal shop!  I very politely asked the owner’s wife if I could check it out even if the husband wasn’t there.  She graciously complied and it was like stepping back in time!  All kinds of old tools….I mean really old stuff!   And then….there it was….the Anvil.  She had no idea about where it came from except it came with the shop when they bought it 57 years ago!   I explained I liked to lift things and she gave me the go ahead.  It was not fixed to the stand and it was fairly easy, I would guess it around 150lbs.  I then took some photos so I could learn more about it and promised to share that with her as she was curious herself!

The Anvil had what looked to be a “V” or inverted  pyramid and a large “M” on the other side.  I did some research and found out this was a historically significant anvil.  It was a “Columbian” which were manufactured in Cleveland, Ohio from about 1903 to 1925.  They were the first anvils to be “Cast Steel” in one solid piece.  Evidently this made them very tough compared to the “Wrought Iron” Anvils made before that were welded from pieces into one Anvil.  They were very popular in their time and while the “Cast” or “tool” or “Crucible” type steel was very expensive it required less labor to finish and it was around this time labor was becoming more expensive than materials so they really took off.  This particular Anvil is of the “London Pattern” and it would be valued at 2-4 bucks a pound….but to me it’s priceless!  They made these from 10lbs to 800lbs in increments and in 1925 or 26 the company quit making them and imported a like cast steel anvil from Sweden.  I wonder if it’s the same steel foundry that makes Eleiko!  (or made Eleiko as I hear they get their product from China now….).

I have  work trip that takes me back in September.  I plan to share what I learned and visit the shop again.  These folks live above their shop and are in their 90’s and have no plans to retire.  I think that’s pretty cool and….as far as she knows….NOBODY had lifted that anvil overhead before!  My wife said, “Leave it to you to find something to lift in the French Quarter”.   Yes, I’m always looking for something to lift!

JWC Redesigned Logo

by Thom Van Vleck

The New JWC logo.

The Jackson Weightlifting Club is one of the oldest Clubs in the USAWA…and that’s saying a lot because there are some old clubs!  To me, what sets the JWC apart is it very much is a family club.  Sure, there are lots of non family members, but the core has been my family and for over 85 years there has been a member of my family at the lead.  While I hope that continues, I just hope it’s around another 85 years regardless of who is running it!  I am pretty proud to keep the tradition going of lifting for not only strength of body, but strength of mind, spirit, and character.  That’s why on the logo below that adorns the front of the shirt it says “Strength, Faith, Honor, and Wisdom”.  I would say that lifting is more about life than winning awards for the JWC…..but awards are nice, too!

Logo that's on the front of the new JWC shirts

The anvil that is on the both sides is a silhouette of the Original “Grandpa Jackson” Anvil that sits in my gym.  Many will remember the story I’ve probably told too many times of my Great Grandfather lifting that anvil to impress his kids, then my grandfather turning to weight training to achieve that same feat….then that turning into a tradition of lifting in our family.  And yes, 1928 was the year my grandfather started lifting with his future brother in law and his friends that led to the formation of the the JWC.  While the name “Jackson Weightlifting Club” wasn’t coined until 1957, I consider 1928 as the date the idea was born…..which was more important than the name.  That idea was a man could use weights to make himself better in all ways….not just physical strength.

The "old" logo in use since the 90's.

The Logo drawn by my Uncle Phil in the late 50's that inspired all the future logos.

Here are the old logos just to let you compare.  I have tried to stay true to the original as I want to always honor those that came before me and paved the way.  I know I’ve shared the symbolism of it before, but since I’ve made an update, I wanted to share again.  I plan on having the shirts available at my Highland Games in October and the Old Time Strongman Championships this fall (looking at a December date).  So if you like them, come and compete and get one as a meet shirt!  I know a shirt won’t make my lift more (well….unless it was a bench shirt…but who likes those!)…but when I wear this shirt, I feel extra inspired to not let the tradition down!

Me and my walking stick

by Thom Van Vleck

(WEBMASTER NOTE: Recently I issued a writing contest, in which I challenged lifters to write about an unusual training implement/device that they use in their training. The stories were submitted and judged, and I’m going to initially publish the top three stories in the USAWA Daily News as they were the contest award winners. Thank you to everyone who submitted stories for this competition, as they were all excellent.  Here’s story NUMBER THREE:)

Me with my walking stick.

Recently Al Myers put out the challenge for another writing contest.  This time around the challenge was to write a story on “an unusual training implement/device that you use in your gym for training”.  First of all, I’m pretty excited about this because I am hoping many of our members get involved and I will see some new things to possibly try out.  When you have been lifting as long as some of us have, you kind of need something new every once in awhile to spark that fire!

Second of all, I have a lot of unusual stuff in my gym!  Every so often I find something or make something that can be that “something new” to get me going.  Often, I use it for awhile and more often than not, it ends up stored away for long periods of time.  So I sat in my gym, trying to think of what I wanted to write about.  Then it hit me.

I would write about the one piece of equipment, other than a barbell, that I have used the most in my gym.  While not a completely unique piece of equipment, it is practical, can build strength, and I would think could benefit any gym.  But that’s not why I wanted to write about it.  It’s the story behind it and what it means to me.

Many of you know that when I was around 10 years old I was in a terrible accident.  Before that time I could run like nobodies business.  I was by far the best athlete in my school and once, while in the 4th grade, got beat up by a 6th grader after I showed him up in gym class.  Then it was all taken away in an instant.  Both legs were broken, my hip, both arms, a severe concussion, internal injuries…..let’s just say it was a bad deal.  My parents were initially told I would be brain damaged (I can see those who know me nodding their head and thinking “that explains a lot”!), crippled (almost lost my right leg), and even possibly blind.  I spent 3 plus months flat on my back with no guarantee I would ever make it out of that bed to anything more than a wheelchair.

The "tip" of the walking stick....painted green for my favorite color. That metal tip has saved me from some nasty falls!

I cannot explain to you what it is like to wake up in a bed two weeks removed from your last memory with that memory being a sunshine filled day having fun with your friends with your body busted up and on so many pain medications you keep seeing things that aren’t there.

As I lay there and my situation became more and more known to me, I sunk into a deep depression.  My Mom and Dad were having problems and this only led to bigger problems.  My father dealt with it by going to work driving his truck and staying away while my mother stayed by my side 24/7.  While I appreciated my mother’s dedication, she bought into the possible negative outcomes and this made it tough for me to stay positive.  I know realize we both share a family “curse” of depression and it was no fault of hers.  I did have the support of my extended family and many would often come visit.

One person in particular came every chance he got.  Of course, this was between his two jobs at the shoe factory and evening janitor work.  That person was my grandfather Dalton Jackson.  He and I were fast friends before this accident and this only brought us closer together.   We often went on hikes in the woods, hunted arrowheads, and in general had fun in the outdoors.  Dalton, or “Pop” as I called him, showed up shortly after I first came to with an old “Outdoors” book.  It was a book on how to camp, canoe, hunt, fish….a basic survival book.  This was 1974 and this book was from the 50’s.  It had some photos and drawings made by the author.  Kind of what he had learned in his lifetime outdoors.

In particular, there was a story on how to make a walking stick.  It was very simple.  You would take an old hoe, cut then blade off leaving a short metal “spike” on the end.  Pop pointed it out and promised that when I got out, we would make one.  It was that optimism that I hung on to.  Pop said I would need a walking stick which implied I would be walking again some day….and I believed him.

The top of the walking stick with the badge that represents the Isle of Skye in Scotland. This badge was with me when I climbed two of the tallest mountains in Scotland.

Shortly after I got home, I was in a wheel chair for some time.  At one point, we went out to the barn and he took a hoe he used in his own garden and we took a hacksaw and cut the blade off.  We then took some sandpaper to the wooden handle and sanded it smooth and then applied a little stain and some Shellac.  Pop used Shellac often.  Don’t see it much any more, but if you’ve ever heard the expression “he got shellacked” that’s where it comes from.  It put a nice, shiny, coat to seal it against water.

Obviously, I couldn’t use it right away.  But sitting in a wheel chair before cable television, computers, and the fact we didn’t even have a phone for awhile……you get pretty bored.  I would take that walking stick and find all kinds of things to do with it.  My grandfather showed me some exercises that I now realize were related to the “Weaver” stick.  I would lever that thing in all different directions chocking up on it as needed.  I would also pretend to do bench presses, overheads….you name it.

Then, as I started to be able to walk and I started lifting as a way to gain strength that stick found it’s way into my lifting.  I would use it to loosen up my shoulders.  I also couldn’t even squat my body weight so I initially lowered myself to a chair and use my arms to assist in my squats.  Then, when I could do a squat without help, the first thing I remember squatting was that walking stick across my shoulders.

Yes, I even hiked with it.  Pop and I retraced the railroad bed of the CB&Q that my Great Grandfather helped build in the 1800’s from Kirksville to Trenton.  It was about 60 miles that we did a few miles at a time.  I later took that walking stick and hiked in the Rockies, Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, the Appalachians, the Ozarks…..countless treks and hikes. I have even taken it in parades.  I couldn’t take it to Scotland so I bought a hiking badge and have fixed the badge to a stick in Scotland and then taken the badge and put it on my old “hiking stick”.

Most any time I go to my gym to loosen my shoulders I will grab that stick.  I will also pick it up when I work grip and lever it in all kinds of positions.  I am pretty decent at levering a sledge hammer and I honestly believe using this stick over the years is why.  I also try to walk a mile every day around my property and that stick makes the walk with me most every time.

I would have to say that most people would find it pretty plain.  But not me.  That stick has power.  It made me believe and it reminds me of “Pop” every time I look at it.  I know he sacrificed a perfectly good hoe for me to have that stick because he understood what it meant.  I have always believed there are no “secret” routines….only the one’s that you truly believe in will be the one’s that work.  My walking stick is symbolic of that!

Now, you will have to excuse me….I have a walk to go on!

My Training Adventure in Graduate School

by Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre, of the JWC, pulling a 604 pound Peoples Deadlift at the 2013 Dino Gym Challenge, his first USAWA competition. (caption courtesty of the webmaster)

I am a graduate student at A.T. Still University, an Osteopathic medical school in Kirksville, Missouri. I have had the pleasure of meeting many great people while working on my master’s degree. I have also found the time and motivation to re-discover my passion for weightlifting. This is something I had been away from for many years prior to moving to Missouri. One of the people I have formed a great friendship with is Thom Van Vleck. Thom has written a story about the Osteoblasters before and I’d like to extend upon it. Thom has introduced me to the USAWA and Highland Games, both of which I have come to love for the competition and camaraderie. A few weeks ago I was able to experience my first USAWA event at The Dino Gym and this was just awesome! Well, that’s a little about me, now, on to my story.

“You are your own first healer”… “I am my own first patient”… These principles are repeated hundreds of times throughout the educational adventure known as medical school. However, the time crunch and fast paced learning environment make it very difficult for students to truly embrace this attitude. It seems as though one of the first things to be put on the back burner is personal health and wellness, especially when it takes so much time, commitment, and energy to stay afloat in such a demanding curriculum. Motivation quotes are plastered throughout the internet but one of the easiest to believe, and one of my favorites is that “a one hour workout is only four percent of your day, no excuses.” This is the very attitude that is pushed at A.T. Still University by the Osteoblasters Weightlifting Club (OWC). I put in so much time and work to officially establish the OWC as a University club because I honestly believe that the benefits of exercise go far beyond the body; to the mind and spirit. This trifecta, “Body, Mind, and Spirit” is another principle that is mentioned countless times at any Osteopathic medical institution. With the help of Thomas Van Vleck, the director of counseling, Dan Martin, the director of the Thompson Campus Center and Jared Nichols, a medical student, I was able to see my dreams for this club come true.

Mike performed a 410 pound Hackenschmidt Floor Press. He was one of only 3 lifters who exceeded 400 pounds at the meet. (photo and caption courtesy of webmaster).

With the New Year (2012), came the beginning of the Osteoblasters. I started to design a fitness approach that would be fun, effective, and fit within the confines of about an hour. Even if I could reach out to only a dozen students I was going to consider this a successful endeavor. I designed a blend of circuit training, powerlifting, olympic lifting, strongman training, Crossfit, and I even incorporated exercises to promote the maintenance of basic movement skills, and what I came up with has evolved into the “Osteoblasters.” If people who cherish time so much are willing to devote an hour to me several times a week I figured I owed it to them to make every minute worthwhile.

At the end of my grueling workout, with several people near complete exhaustion, some people seemingly in pain, I walked around to ensure that everyone was okay and get some feedback. What I got back were “high-fives”, some “wows”, and even some comments that are inappropriate to put in print. Thinking I may have scared some people away I prepared for the next class to be smaller and have less energy overall. What actually happened was over 50 people showed up! It did not take more than a few days for the word to spread about how great this “Osteoblasters” program was and how much everyone enjoyed the challenge. I was in no way prepared for this influx of people and was forced to scramble to adapt a workout that would accommodate fifty or so people. It was not easy but I made it happen.

This blend of so many exercise styles seems to be appealing to everyone. We are not training for a competition, a race, or even to get better at a sport, we are training for life. Everyone can find at least a few things they are good at, and I force them to work through things that they may find difficult. One of the things that I never imagined would become part of this workout “class” was the camaraderie most people experience when being part of an athletics team. The majority of people do not continue competitive athletics after high school so this is an area that is easily lost as we “grow up.” The Osteoblasters are just that, a team. We are a team of individual working towards a common goal, not to win a competition or break a world record, simply to get better. Everyone is always looking to break their own personal records whether it is the number of pull ups, weight of a deadlift, or the duration of a hand stand, everyone shows up to get better. This camaraderie extends far beyond the gym as well. I see these people studying together, working together, and hanging out together. This makes all the time and work that I put into this program completely worth it.

I have been able to reach beyond the student population as well and have members of the faculty, staff, and even significant others of students as members of the OWC. We have established a great program that I hope will last for many years. Sometimes people need a push to remember that you are your own first patient. It is extremely important to study and do well while in school but it is also very important to remember your own personal health and wellness. The OWC takes this responsibility to the core of its mission statement: “The OWC will work to improve the well-being of its members through strength training and conditioning. The OWC aims to reach out to people of all levels of experience and offer a safe and structured platform for physical health and wellness.”

Hope you all enjoyed this little story of how I am keeping weightlifting and competition alive and well, even in the demanding environment of a medical school!

Wayne Smith: 1932-2012

by Thom Van Vleck

Wayne Smith deadlifting the front end of a Volkswagon. This was one of Wayne's favorite photos.

Got word that one of our USAWA brothers and long time Jackson Weightlifting Club member Wayne Smith passed away.  Wayne was a guy that goes way back.  He did the “Odd Lifting” back in the 50’s and 60’s when Ed Zercher kept the records.  Smith even predates Bill Clark in his lifting career.  There are a couple of good stories on Wayne Smith archived in the website if you’d like to brush up on this great lifter.

http://www.usawa.com/wayne-smith-part-ii/

http://www.usawa.com/wayne-smith-all-round-legend-part-i/

The last meet Wayne attended was last year’s USAWA Nationals held in Kirksville, Missouri.  Wayne had to enjoy the meet as a spectator but he told me at one point how he itched to get on the platform.  He even said he hoped to get back into shape to do so!

I have many stories on Wayne, he was a unique individual that loved his weightlifting.  He encouraged me a lot and since he never had kids of his own, I think in some way he adopted me.  He would take photos around bragging on me and it made me want to live up to his stories!   Which made me train harder as sometimes Wayne could make a guy look too good!  But he always spoke highly of his friends, that was just him.  The last time I visited him he insisted that I go around the nursing home to introduce me to everyone.  He was a friend to all.

Wayne will be missed.  His funeral will be next Monday in Kirksville.  I you have a kind word about him you would like to pass on, send it to me at tvanvleck@yahoo.com.  I will make sure his family and friends get it.  His legend will live on, not because he was the greatest lifter but because he was the greatest friend.

Nice Rack! Part II

by Thom Van Vleck

My "Babies!

Some time ago I wrote a USAWA story called “Nice Rack” and it was about a rack of York “Globe Style” Dumbbells that Bill Clark has at Clark’s Championship Gym in Columbia, Missouri.  I jealously admired those Dumbbells and wished I had a set of my own.

As luck would have it, I came across a set for sale through my USAWA friends, namely Larry Traub.  Larry had these and made me an extremely generous offer on them that I couldn’t refuse.  Soon enough, I had them in my possession (after a detour from South Carolina thru Indiana and back to Missouri….a small price to pay!).

The "Crown Jewels" of my collection, the legendary 100lb Globes.

I took off a layer of rust, then laid down a few coats of paint and white lettered the raised “York” and poundage numbers.

I am not a collector, these will be used in my training and by anyone who trains at the JWC!  But if you use them and drop them, you might end up with an Olympic bar as a necktie!   If you break them….notify next of kin!  So, next time you come by the JWC Training Hall…CHECK’em out!  Oh, and once again….Thanks Larry, you made me very happy and they will take these when they pry my cold dead hands from around them!

Osteoblasters Weightlifting Club

by Thom Van Vleck

The Osteoblasters Logo.

I work at A.T. Still University in Kirksville, Missouri (and we have a sister campus in Mesa, Arizona).  The University centers on several programs that are all healthcare related.  The “granddaddy” of them all is the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine which was founded in 1892 and produces some of the finest Doctors in the world!  I am the Director of Counseling and I really enjoy my work helping these students who will in turn help so many in their career.

For years, I have wanted to start a weightlifting type club.  We have a fine fitness center (Thompson Campus Center) run by Dan Martin who is very supportive of weightlifting and fitness in general.  Since I have worked here, I have had many students involved in the Jackson Weightlifting Club, my Scottish Highland Games, and in a few of the USAWA meets as well (last year Joe Costello, an ATSU graduate, competed in the Old Time Strongman Nationals).  Recently, I finally found a couple of motivated students who helped me get this done.   Their names are Mike McIntyre and Jared Nichols.  Out of that, the Osteoblasters Weightlifting Club was born.  The sports teams of the past at ATSU had a skull and crossbones as their logo and an “O” as their “letter”.  So I created a logo that had crossed barbells with a skull surrounded by an “O” as a tribute to the school’s past.  The world Osteoblaster comes from the name of a cell that helps break down bone to rebuild it stronger after stress (such as exercise).  That cell is called an “Osteoblast” (I can’t make that up!).  Plus, KCOM is an Osteopathic school so it just seemed right.

I had hoped we might get 10 or so to join the club. Imagine my surprise when over 50 joined!   We had a wide range of students from many different athletic backgrounds.  Some had been outstanding college athletes, some just weekend warriors, but they all had the common thread of using weightlifting to reach their goals and wanted something more than a weight room full of machines, benches, and squat racks.  They wanted to be able to do Olympic style lifting and training, strongman training, and more dynamic type stuff than is typically allowed in the average gym.  So, we got Dan Martin of the TCC to buy us some bumpers and other equipment and we utilize the basketball gym area by pulling out large rubber mats for platforms.  We started 4 sessions a week and this fall we will move to 6 a week!  We will go out back of the TCC and lift off the parking lot, throw Highland Games weights, toss kettlebells around, pull sleds, you name it and we’ve probably done it.  Today’s youth want to lift, but they don’t want to be boxed into powerlifting, weightlifting type meets.  They want variety, and I’m hoping the USAWA will give them some variety.

My hope is that the OWC will help the JWC when it comes to the meets that I do.  The JWC is hosting the Old Time Strong man Championships again this fall and I’m hoping that students will volunteer to help as well as compete! I am also hoping to sanction a meet for the OWC this fall!  This could be a beautiful relationship!     Plus, I can help these guys lift and train….and I”m “on the clock”!   Can’t beat that!

Bill Leffler, JWC Member

by Thom Van Vleck

JWC Member Bill Leffler. 7 time Highland Games World Champion

Bill Leffler will be an unfamiliar name to USAWA members, but he is a member of the Jackson Weightlifting Club which is  a USAWA club so I thought it might be of interest to some of you.  Bill is involved in Scottish Highland Games and recently accomplished a pretty amazing feat.  He not only won his 7th World Championships in 9 years (he was 2nd twice) he also won his 6th World’s in a 5 year age group!  Let me explain.

In the world of Scottish Highland Games Masters you become a “master” at age 40.  Most competitions have masters classes, but usually just 40 and over or maybe 40-49 and 50 and up.  USAWA members such as myself, Dave Glasgow, Mike Murdock, Chad Ullom, and Dean Ross have all thrown as masters in highland games.  Once a year, we have a World Championship.  At that time, we break the age groups down into 5 year blocks (40-44, 45 – 49, 50-54, etc.).  The meet is held at a different location every year (twice it has been in Inverness, Scotland) and the dates often vary.  As a result, due to when Bill’s birthday is and the fact you are considered “that age” on the day of the meet Bill accomplished the feat of winning 6 World Championships in 5 years!  His friends Mark Buchannan (who has the rare honor of beating Bill once….and losing losing to him a half dozen other times…sorry, Mark!) and Jim Spalding presented him with a specially engraved sword to honor his accomplishment.  Next year Bill moves up to the 60-64 age group and there are no doubt going to be many records shattered and if Bill wants to keep going, more championships are sure to come his way!

Bill is an amazing athlete.  During his run of Championships he has beaten all the best throwers over age 50 at on time or another.  When he has lost, he comes back to beat whoever has beaten him!   Recently, at the 2012 Master’s Worlds the greatest performances ever accomplished as measured by a formula were listed.  The #1 all time for 50 and over was Bill!  Not only that, only one other thrower has won more World’s and nobody else is even close.  I would point out that this year there were over 100 throwers at the MWC…so it is well attended and competitive!   That one thrower with more is none other than our training partner and one of the presenters of the sword….Jim Spalding…also a JWC member!

Bill is very humble regarding his talents.  He doesn’t brag, he let’s his throwing speak for him.  However, I have found him to be very driven and pushes himself very, very hard.  He accepts no less than his best and rarely is he satisfied, he always wants to do better!  Bill’s background is in track & field and he’s been throwing shot and discus for almost 50 years.  It was in 2002 I got him to try the highland games and he’s been at it ever since!   Bill is a great friend and I know I am a better thrower for having trained with him.  Recently he gave me some credit for helping him, but really, he’s a one man wrecking crew on the field.   I just pointed him in the right direction from time to time!   I am hoping one of these days Bill will try the USAWA.  His lifts are top notch and I know he would do well.  But at heart, he’s a thrower and that’s why he lifts.

Congrats to JWC member Bill Leffler!   The JWC is proud of you!!!

Multiple Sized Plates

by Thom Van Vleck

The JWC logo, based on a previous drawing by my Uncle Phil over 50 years ago, incorporates a "York" 400lb "hub style" Olympic set.

I have a lot of weights.  I don’t think of myself as a collector, I use everything I have in my gym.  Nothing gets put in a “glass case”.  I have to say that some things I have for practical reasons.  Certain bars work better for Deadlifts, some for Push Presses, some weights just have a “better feel”.   But sometimes I just like the “looks” of something.  I think it goes back to when I was a kid reading all those old Weightlifting mags.  Most of them were basically advertisements for barbells, supplements, and other related stuff being sold by the publisher.  I remember looking at the advertisements and generally you would get these weight sets that had various sized plates and they load them all on the bar for a photo.  Basically, you ended up with what’s in the logo above.  A bar loaded with plates that not only decrease in weight, but in size.  Keen eyes may have noted I actually drew one extra plate on the drawing for the JWC logo….that’s been a long held secret of mine and to date if anyone has noticed, they didn’t say anything.  As far as being an artist….all I know is I know what I like.  When I was drawing that barbell, it just “looked” right to add one last little set on the ends.  Purely aesthetic! 

A York "iron shoe", a Milo DB, and a standard 1" DB, loaded with the "taper" of smaller and smaller plates

Sometimes, when I lift, I want to load up the bar and have that “assortment” on there.  No reason other than it just pleases me!  It is aesthetic which to me always meant that it was cool to look at but doesn’t have any real reason other than that!  I recently bought some 7.5lb, 12.5lb and 20lb solid 1″ barbell plates to go with my 1.25lb, 2.5lb, 5lb, 10lb, and 25lb plates.  Why,  just so I can load them all up and get that “look”.  To me, its a classic look, and it looks cool…….but I do think there is a reason for wanting all those odd little plates on there.

When I first started lifting I was spoiled having all kinds of weights at my disposal since my Uncle’s had quite a collection from the early days of the Jackson Weightlifting Club.  But I recall my Uncle Wayne telling me how they initially had cement weights they had made using buckets and scrap metal for bars.  They had saved up for the York set….a pretty penny in those days!  When they got that first 300lb set it became their goal to put that overhead.  My Uncle Phil told me that Gene Thudium joined the club and at 145lbs of bodyweight, he clean and pressed 165lbs and declared he was going to “lift that whole 300lb” set.  To Gene’s credit, he did do 280lbs at 181lbs in competition….a great lift and had he not been disillusioned when they dropped the clean & press from competition in 1972 I think he would have done it!   My Uncle Wayne recalls the day Thudium walked in the gym and Wayne told him they had dropped that lift.  Thudium, who had been on that mission for a dozen years, threw his hands up, quit, and NEVER came back to the gym!  At any rate, they wanted to lift that whole set which meant all the smaller plates loaded on there.  So, I think there was that challenge of “lifting the whole set” that came along!   As a side note, they ordered a 400lb set and my Uncle Wayne ended up Jerking that out of the rack. 

So, for whatever reason, I like the look and honestly, anything that will motivate me to lift is a good thing in my book.  Even if my wife wonders why I had to order those “odd” sized plates when I have about a 1000lbs of 1″ plates already!

Good versus Evil

by Al Myers

Dino Gym member Chuck Cookson lifts the Dino/JWC Challenge Wheels overhead.

Last weekend after the Dino Gym Challenge, we pulled out the “Dino/JWC Challenge Wheels” for a little impromptu competition between a few of us.  That seems to always happens after any meet at the Dino Gym.  Often the real competition (for bragging rights) happens after the official competition took place!  I’ve been saving this little challenge for a special moment like this. Last fall Thom Van Vleck gave me a set of train cart wheels with a rotating 2″ axle between them.  It was off of an old-style push cart so the train wheels are much smaller than regular train wheels.  This was the “matching set” to the cart wheels I gave Thom last summer at Nationals (I’ll let him tell that story).  Thom really fixed up this Challenge Wheels for me – one side is painted Dino Blue with the  Dino Gym name painted on them, and the other side is painted JWC Black with the JWC name painted on them.  Half of the axle is painted blue, while the other half of the axle in painted black.  It looks quite spectacular in appearance!

These Challenge Wheels will become a centerpiece of the Dino Gym, as they hang from the ceiling.

One day when I was looking at it in the gym I thought how symbolic these Challenge Wheels are.  The black representing the “dark side” of lifting while the blue representing  all the things good in lifting (I should mention that blue is a very patriotic color). Weightlifting is the constant battle of “Good vs. Evil”.   At times when I’m lifting I really feel like the weights are my enemy, and in order to win the battle I must lift them.  It often requires me to give peak performance to accomplish this goal in front of me, and takes me to my limits of physical ability. So in other words, the weights (the evil) brings out the best in me (the good).   Now before you start thinking that the Dino Man has finally “lost his marbles”, think about this for awhile. Why do YOU LIFT WEIGHTS?  It’s not about the trophies or awards, it’s much more than that. It’s about the sense of  “conquering the iron” that makes you keep coming back for more.   I sure don’t lift weights for my health either.  If that was the case, I wouldn’t want ANY  PART of some of these dangerous all round lifts and would buy myself a bow flex instead.   

It gave me great satisfaction to lift the Challenge Wheels.  Several of the other gym members lifted them as well.  BIG POPPA Mark Mitchell strict pressed them at least a dozen times to top all of us. I have no idea what this challenge weighs, or really care to know. That’s not the point of it. Afterwards, these Challenge Wheels got hung from the ceiling and will reside there until the next lifter wants to “take a shot at it”.  It will become a centerpiece in the Dino Gym for all to see, and hopefully, will inspire others.  

(AUTHOR’S  NOTE:  In no way do I intend to imply that the JWC is evil because the JWC worships the color black and trains under ground level in a dark  basement dungeon.  The Dino Gym considers the JWC as a friendly rival, and much appreciates this wonderful gift from them.)

JWC Around the World!

by Thom Van Vleck

Brian Hare, top Highland Games athlete sporting his JWC hat while doing some stone lifting in ICELAND!

I have had a lot of fun (and sometimes frustration) putting on meets over the years.  One of the things I’ve enjoyed doing is creating new meet shirts, and sometimes hats for something different.  I have also enjoyed seeing my shirts pop up at the most unusual places.  Recently, Brian Hare, a top Highland Game thrower posted the above photo of him doing some stone lifting in Iceland wearing his JWC stocking cap.

Front and center, you will see Bob McConaughey sporting his JWC shirt, that year he set the masters World Record in the Bench Press with 744lbs at 242lbs bodyweight.

I also got one from Bob McConaughey, a top Powerlifter and Highland Games thrower where Bob was representing the Frantz Power Team but wearing a JWC shirt!  I am not surprised when I’m in the local super market and see one of my shirts, but I was surprised when I was in Edinburg, Scotland and turned around to see one of my shirts!  Sean Betz was wearing it before throwing in the Pro World Championships!  Sean told me he took that shirt to every meet as he liked it as warm up shirt since it was roomy and had long sleeves.  I have seen photos of him in it all over the place!

Hey, I can't resist running this photo of Tully one more time!!!!! Here's a JWC shirt showing up in California! This may be the most published photo in ever on the USAWA website!

I have many more examples and sometimes I know that a shirt may be worn just because it fits well, happens to be the only one clean, or just at the top in the shirt drawer!  But whatever the reason, whenever I see it, it makes me feel pretty good and motivates me put all the negatives aside in running a meet and make plans for the next one.  If you have one of my shirts and you end up wearing one in some cool or exotic location, send me a copy!  It will make my day!

Trap Bar Training: Part I

by Thom Van Vleck

Al Myers doing a 650 pound Trap Bar Deadlift at the 2010 USAWA National Championships.

I have been training for over 30 years.  I realized the other day that I have competed in 5 different decades.  My first meet was in 1979, so I have competed in the 70’s, the 80’s, 90’s, 00’s, and 10’s.  Not sure if that makes me proud or makes me feel old!   When you do the same thing for many years you need to do things to “change it up” and stay fresh.  Not only by putting new physical demands on your body but more importantly, in my book, staying fresh mentally.  I do two things to try and stay motivated and avoid a rut.  I will travel to other gyms to train to get ideas and I will buy new equipment.

About a year ago, I bought a trap bar.  I had never really used one in my training even though it was available at a gym I used to work out at.  I had just considered it kind of a gimmick. I mean, aren’t you just deadlifting?  When I first got it, I had used it to do some shrugs, some jump shrugs, and some “frame carry’s” (think “farmers walk”).  But funny enough….I didn’t deadlift with it.  My offseason training switched over to my throwing season as a Highland Games athlete and for man years that meant lots of throwing and no lifting.  What I’m setting up here is that I had a trap bar, but had not used it in the way it was intended….deadlifting!

Then, in July, I traveled to the Ledaig Highland Games held by Dave Glasgow.  Dave also held a USAWA record day that same weekend.  On Monday I traveled to visit Wilbur Miller and then Tuesday I headed to Al’s Dino Gym for the “Big Tuesday” workout.  My plan was to work out with Al and “steal” some secrets! HAHA.

Workout day arrived and I planned on doing whatever Al did.  Now, I have to say, this throwing season I have been following Al’s training advice (after all, he WAS a world record holding PROFESSIONAL Highland Games thrower before his USAWA days!) and lifting heavy while “in season”.  Something I had not done for some time.  I mean, really, why would I go to Al’s and do my regular lifts when I’m there to learn.

One of the lifts we did was the trap bar deadlift.  At first, I did not do well with it.  I’m a decent deadlifter with a 640lb lift to my credit and I had recently pulled 555 with just a little work.  It was an ego buster, and I ended up with a 551lb lift while Al shot up to 700!  But then we did sets and reps and I began to get a feel for it.  I realized a couple of things so when I got home I did a 4 week cycle on the trap bar deadlift and pulled a nice 645lb lift.  I was ecstatic!  I know that it doesn’t compare with the 640 I pulled about 10 years ago, but I was still thrilled.

Next up: Part II  Trap bar training and the “rules”.

Your First Set of Weights

by Thom Van Vleck

One of my granddad's original York plates from his "first set" of weights

Do you remember your first set of weights?  When I was 10 I was in a terrible car accident and was injured pretty badly.  I broke both legs, both arms, my hip and various other injuries….I still hurt!!!!   As I recovered from that, I could not go to the JWC gym so my Mom bought me some plastic coated cement weights.  They were “Randy White” weights, he was a defensive lineman for the Dallas Cowboys.  I made it a goal to lift the entire set  of 110lbs overhead.

I also remember, around 1977, sitting with my Uncle Wayne Jackson as he ordered a brand new York set of weights, a 400lb set of the “top of the line” olympic weights.   A short time later, somebody STOLE that set and I remember being angry and heartbroken.  Luckily, insurance covered it’s replacement and soon we were back in business.  Although, I have to admit, I still wonder where that bar ended up!

I also recall my grandfather Dalton Jackson talking about waiting 10 YEARS to order his first set of weights.  Before that, he made weights out of buckets of cement and old metal rods and supplemented that by lifting anvils, rocks, whatever was around.  He had an assortment of flywheels and other scrap metal discs that had odd shaped holes in them he used for weights.  It was 10 years and he was even married by then before he could order his first weight set.  It was a York 1″ set, I think it was 110lbs.  I have a good portion of that set, and that’s a story unto itself as part of that was out of our family for over 40 years and only recently was reacquired!  I’m sure my Grandfather very much appreciated that first set!

Finally, my kids have all the best stuff.  When my daughter started lifting I bought her a “top of the line” 33lb women’s Olympic bar.  I try to make sure they have all they need, but I wonder, will they have an appreciation for what they have?  Will they have that feeling that comes with that “First Set of Weights”?  I hope so, it’s a good feeling, a special one.  And a feeling I get almost every time I get a new toy to lift in my gym.

The Secret to my Strength

by Thom Van Vleck

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

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

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

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

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

Bars, Bars, and MORE Bars!

by Thom Van Vleck

Al doing front squats, his favorite lift! But try to ignore him, what I really want you to notice is the wide variety of bars on the Dino Gym wall!

Ok, if you lift weights regularly I’m sure you have noticed there are a lot of bars out there!   Yesterday, Al pointed out what’s “legal” in the USAWA and how that rule has changed to allow some wiggle room.  He wrote that article in response to my use of the over sized “John Ware” bar used at the OTSM Championships.  I think I inadvertently opened a can of worms for Al using that bar.  I, for one, appreciate the wiggle room. Here’s why:

Back in the day, all bars were assumed to be made for competition so they were all made to exact specifications.  I remember sitting down with my Uncle Wayne Jackson as he ordered a new York 400lb Olympic set in 1977 (I still have it!).  Back then, you had few suppliers to order from……then came the fitness craze and people started making bars for training, not competition.  What’s the one thing that can end the life of a bar?  Getting bent!  How do you make a cheap bar last longer?  Make it thicker and out of harder steel, so you end up with these bars that are thicker and of hardened steel that won’t “whip” like a high quality Oly bar.  When you walk into my gym you will see the “gun rack” of bars and at first glance, they all look alike.  But look closely and you’ll see all kinds of subtle variations.  I’ll blame China, too.  Even Eleiko, the “Cadillac” of barbells, now has their bars forged in China, then assembled in Sweden.  I had a York bar that had “York, U.S.A” on it….made in China…but assembled in the USA so I guess they get around the loophole of not mentioning “China” on the bar.  I’ll blame China because I don’t think they worry too much about “exactness”.  They don’t care if it’s “legal”, they just crank out a product and if it’s close, then it’s all good to them.

I have about 15 or so bars (I don’t know exactly how many because I have so much of my stuff out on “loan” I’ve lost count.  But let’s just say I have a wide variety of bars (but not as many as the Dino Gym) and when you look closely at these bars there are all kinds of subtle…and not so subtle differences.  There are also many variations in the type of steel used.  The best kind of steel for a bar will bend and good steel will bend and then snap back into it’s original shape.  Hardened Steel will not bend and will tend to snap if you force it to bend or it will bend and stay that way.  You can even have good and bad batches of steel that are intended to be the same.  So, two bars that are “Exactly” the same upon visual inspection, maybe even made by the same company, may have very different characteristics.  Companies today will “contract” out jobs to factories in China.  That contract may be bid out after each order and a different company will supply the bar each time resulting in all kinds of variations.

Ok, just ignore he ugly guy doing the Continental to the Shoulders and focus on the bars on the wall! More bars in Al's gym!

Finally, it’s my contention the original size of an Olympic bar was developed for the average sized man.  I am 6′3″ and my wing span is 6′9″.  It is very difficult for me to get under a “regulation” bar and not bind up.  John Ware was the same way so he had that bar we used in the 2011 OTSM Championships custom made for him.  I know there are some issues with having the weights further away from the center of gravity and that can create more “whip” and help with certain lifts…but it’s easier for the shorter guy to adapt to a longer bar than the taller guy to adapt to a shorter bar.

Again....try not to focus on the ugly guys...and notice the bars leaning against the wall in the background! The JWC has it's fair share of bars! (btw...that's Dean Ross hitting a Anderson Squat at the OTSM in the JWC Training Hall!)

So, the moral of my story?  There are a lot of variations out there on the “standard” Olympic bar.   Some will bend, some will have good whip. I have 4 made by York and there are differences in width INSIDE the collars and there should NOT BE as these are regulation bars.  We need a little play so that we can allow for more bars to be used.  Weightlifting for fitness is a growing craze, but lifting as a sport is DYING!  Today’s generation is not the sticklers for details like Baby boomers who were raised by the WWII generation where almost everyone had served in the military and picked up on that “attention to detail”.  Today’s younger guys just want to lift more weight and they don’t like rules that make no sense to them.  Rules are made to make things more fair, not the other way around.  So, thanks to the USAWA for loosening up the rules on the dimensions of the bars but keeping the spirit of fairness by having rules that keeps the lifting true and comparable from contest to contest!  I think it will be good for our sport!

15 Year Journey

by Thom Van Vleck

Thom Van Vleck hitting 620lbs on the "Anderson Squat" at the Old Time Strong Man Championships at the JWC Training Hall

I have accumulated a lot of equipment in my gym over the years.  Most everything has a story behind it and since I’m a “story teller” here is the “story” behind the bar used at the OTSM Championships on October 16, 2011.  It is an oversized bar that weighs in at 50lbs.  It was custom made for World Champion Powerlifter John Ware, who was at one time my training partner.  John’s greatest feat, in my opinion, was beating Bill Kazmaier’s “unbeatable” World Record Total.  John did a 985lb squat the day he beat that record.  With the oversized bar he hit 1000lbs in a contest that allowed him to use the bar.  It is very stiff and longer than a regulation bar, allowing John to not be bound up when under it.  I know some might consider him using a “special” bar to get an official 1000lb squat questionable, just like I know many would question his chemical methods and I won’t make apologies for either one here.  Just know he was my friend, he never offered anything to me, helped me immensely in my training, donated to the JWC his time and much equipment, and paid the ultimate price for being a champion on those terms when he passed away several years ago.

So, that being said, I knew he left a lot of equipment to Truman State University where he was the head football coach for many years.  This bar was a part of that inheritance so to speak.  It was kept where the football players lifted and used for many years.  Back when I trained with John we would have these big Friday Squat workouts.  Several of the linemen would be involved and heavy weights would be lifted.  It was around this time, 15 years ago, I hit a 600lb squat with that bar.  That’s the most I have ever squatted to parallel.  That would have never happened without the training atmosphere present during those years.  I went from a 365lb squat to 600 during that time.  When John left, the bar kind of disappeared.  I had no idea whatever happened to it until this summer.  It turned up, rusted and neglected, and basically thrown away and replaced by slick, new chrome bars that I’m sure appealed to the younger lifters at the college who had no idea what a jewel this bar is.  Their loss was my gain and I refurbished this bar and nursed it back to health!  As I cleaned the rust off, I could recall countless workouts and countless lifters, World Champion powerlifters, several NFL bound players, and even a future Professional “rassler”, Glenn Jacobs AKA “Kane” of WWE fame.

So, when it came time to do the Anderson Squat at the OTSM I reached over to grab a bar from my “Olympic Bar gun rack” where I store the 15 or so bars I own and my eyes fell on John’s old bar.  I had not thought about using it, I had another very good, stiff squat bar…..but it just seemed fitting.  I was very please when I hit the 620lb squat some 15 years after hitting the 600 on the same exact bar.  I also know that John would be very pleased that bar was used in that type of meet.  That bar has undoubtedly seen a lot of lifting, and as long as I have it, it will continue to see a lot of lifting!  The story has not ended.

Strongman Championships

by Thom Van Vleck

Group picture from the FIRST EVER USAWA Old Time Strongman Championships.

The “new” Old Time Strongman format took another step forward with a Championship hosted by the Jackson Weightlifting Club on October 16th, 2011.  Ten lifters showed for this inaugural event which I plan on making an annual meet on the same weekend as the Scottish Highland Games I host.  My hope is that each will help promote the other.  This year I had three throwers stick around and lift the second day.

We started in the JWC Training Hall with the Anderson Squat.   This lift was done from a starting position 2/3 of the lifters height or less.  The challenge was starting a squat from the bottom position.  I have a very large dry erase board which served as our scoreboard making it easy for lifters to see where their competition was at.  That paid off for John O’Brien after Al Myers hit what most of us thought would be the biggest squat of the meet with 760lbs.  But John had the last lift and called for 765 and made it with power to spare.  Honestly, I think both men could have went over 800lbs had they gauged their attempts better, but being a brand new lift a lack of experience showed for everyone.  I cannot recall a single miss in this lift, which shows everyone had more in the tank!

Meet director Thom Van Vleck put up a BIG Anderson Squat with a fine lift of 620 pounds.

The second event was the Anderson Press.  The bar had to be set no higher than your height.  Eric Todd and Chris Anderson both topped out over 300lbs with Eric hitting a meet best of 350lbs.  It is interesting to note that you would see lifters make a lift easily, then make a slight increase, like 20lbs, only to find the bar seemed to be superglued to the rack!

Eric Todd put up the TOP Anderson Press with a great lift of 350 pounds.

The third event was the Dumbbell Shoulder.  In this event you could lift the dumbbell to the shoulder in any way you wanted.  This included using both hands, hooking it on the belt along the way, and rolling it up your chest!  It was fun to watch guys getting creative.  At one point, as Chris Anderson muscled up 300lbs for the top lift in this event, Al Myers said, “It looks like you were wrestling a bear”!  Joe Costello  ran out of attempts and before the dumbbell was unloaded he walked over and shouldered the 300lbs!  Joe was heard to say, “Next time…..”.  I’m sure this event will be in the future of Old Time Strongman and Joe will get that lift officially…and more!

Chris Anderson had the BEST Dumbbell to Shoulder with a tremendous lift of 300 pounds.

The last event of the day was the only lift that had been contested before.  This event was the Dinnie Lift.  Two vertical bars set at the same height and loaded in offsetting weights the same percentage as the real Dinnie Stones.  In other words, one had to be loaded no more than 70% of the weight of the other.  We had a four way tie for the top lift in this event with Al Myers,  Joe Costello, Chris Anderson, and Eric Todd all pulling 705lbs.  An interesting problem led to this….that’s all we could fit on the bar with the weights present in the gym!  The JWC has a lot of weights, but many of them are old school “deep dish” York and Jackson plates.  These did not allow the bars loaded over the 705lb mark.  We were even loading smaller plates in the space between the deep dish plates!  This may have had an effect on the outcome as Eric Todd had one attempt left but no way to load the bar any higher.  Here is why.

After the age and weight formulas were applied, Al Myers was the victor for overall best lifter honors.  However, Eric Todd was a close second.  What if Eric would have had his last attempt?  I feel badly about that, but then again, Al might have hung with him as it was apparent both had more left.  Interestingly, Joe Costello edged out John O’Brien in a close race for 3rd place.  John lifted more weight, but Joe was lighter by nearly 40lbs and the difference paid of for him.  Fifth went to Chris Anderson as he avenged his loss to me at the NAHA nationals.  Chris is only 23 years old and he is sure to only improve.  I was 6th followed by Rudy Bletscher, Dean Ross, Mike Murdock, and Lance Foster.

Rudy, Dean, and Mike have competed many times and this event was like the rest.  These guys push each other hard and yet the the obviously have nothing but respect for one another.  Rudy came out on top in what might have been a late birthday present since he turned 76 the day before.  They are very evenly matched and that makes for some good competition.

I thought the meet went well other than the loading situation on the Dinnie Lift.  I will have to get some thinner plates if we contest that event again because I’m going to host the event next year!  The Awards were my “trademark” anvils and the meet shirts were the latest version of the JWC gym shirt.    I really appreciated how the lifters helped clean up and put the weights away after the meet.   You could not ask for a greater group of guys. Friendships forged in iron!

MEET RESULTS

USAWA Old Time Strongman Championships
October 16th, 2011
JWC Training Hall
Kirksville, Missouri

Meet Director:  Thom Van Vleck

Officials (1 official system used):  Al Myers, Thom Van Vleck, Mike Murdock, Eric Todd

Loader:  Mitch Ridout

Lifts: Anderson Squat, Anderson Press, Dumbbell Shoulder, Dinnie Lift

Lifters:

Al Myers – Age 45, BWT 253#, 115 KG Class & Masters 45-49 Age Group
Rudy Bletscher – Age 76, BWT 213#, 100 KG Class & Masters 75-79 Age Group
Joe Costello – Age 36, BWT 253#, 115 KG Class & 20-39  Age Group
Dean Ross – Age 68, BWT 283#, 125+ KG Class & Masters 65-69 Age Group
Mike Murdock – Age 71, BWT 234#, 110 KG Class & Masters 70-74 Age Group
Lance Foster – Age 45, BWT 318#, 125+ KG Class & Masters 45-49 Age Group
Chris Anderson – Age 23, BWT 287#, 125+ KG Class & 20-39 Age Group
Eric Todd – Age 36, BWT 250#, 115 KG Class & 20-39 Age Group
Thom Van Vleck – Age 47, BWT 299#, 125+ KG Class & Masters 45-49 Age Group
John O’Brien – Age 42, BWT 291#, 125+ KG Class & Masters 40-44 Age Group

Lifter Squat Press DB Dinnie Total Lynch Points
Myers 760 270 270 705 2005 1581.1 1676.0
Todd 710 350 230 705 1995 1583.0 1583.0
Costello 710 275 230 705 1920 1514.1 1514.1
O’Brien 765 270 270 635 1940 1428.8 1471.7
Anderson 620 310 300 705 1935 1434.4 1434.4
Van Vleck  620 230 230 440 1520 1104.9 1193.3
Ross  460 180 150 440 1230 917.9 1184.2
Bletscher  280 130 120 410 940 811.3 1111.5
Murdock  280 140 120 410 950 779.7 1029.2
Foster  400 140 200 440 1180 833.4 883.4

NOTES: All results listed in pounds.  Total is total pounds lifted. Lynch is points adjusted for bodyweight. Points are overall points adjusted for bodyweight and age.

BEST LIFTER AWARDS

Best Lifter Overall - Al Myers
Best Lifter 20-39 Age Group – Eric Todd
Best Lifter 40-44 Age Group – John O’Brien
Best Lifter 45-49 Age Group – Al Myers
Best Lifter 65-69 Age Group – Dean Ross
Best Lifter 70-74 Age Group – Mike Murdock
Best Lifter 75-79 Age Group – Rudy Bletscher

A Sign from Above!

by Thom Van Vleck

Underneath an Anvil shaped sign in Lindsborg, Kansas

I like challenges.  I guess that’s why I lift weights.  For the past 30 plus years I’ve sat down with paper and pen and wrote up countless workout routines, set goals, and made plans.  I also have traveled far and wide to meet with the best, learn from them, and been inspired by them.  I have also looked from inspiration from things around me for my lifting.  This could be something I would want to lift, but it could also be something that would inspire me to train harder and lift more!

Recently, I was in Lindsborg, Kansas with my family after competing in the McPherson Scottish Highland Games.  My wife and I both have some Swedish ancestry (her being one quarter Swedish) we wanted to go by Lindsborg and soak up some of the Swedish atmosphere….and food!  While we walked around I saw the sign in the above photo.  Back in the day, most people couldn’t read so shop owners would have signs that told you what they did by their shape as much as by what they said.  Did you know that barber poles represent veins and arteries because barbers used to draw blood to remove “bad blood” back when people thought that would cure their illnesses?  Blacksmiths would, of course, use an anvil!

I like anvils.  If you don’t know the story of Grandpa Jackson’s anvil then you probably don’t know me.  But just in case, I have an anvil that’s been in my family for 4 generations and lifted by all 4 generations….maybe more!  I know it’s at least pre-Civil War, who knows.  But more importantly, it was the inspiration for my grandfather to begin lifting weights, that led to my Uncles lifting, and me and the many, many lifters that came out of the Jackson Weightlifting Club.  So, when I was walking down the street, this sign inspired me.  It was symbolic of a trade, but it has become symbolic of strength, hard work, and do-it-yourself type attitude.

Now, it’s funny when I mentioned this, John O’Brien stated that when I had ideas, he often ended up getting hurt.  But in this case, I was just thinking about making a sign for my gym like the one above.  Because I want my gym to be symbolic like the anvil.  Symbolic of hard work, sweat of your brow, can-do, and self determination.  So, this was a just a sign for most walking by, but for me…..it was a sign from above!

JWC Expands!

by Thom Van Vleck

The newest addition to the USAWA's list of clubs: The Jackson Weightlifting Club: Transcon!

The last weekend of August the three JWC Members, Josh Hettinger, Mitch Ridout and myself made the trip over to Galesburg, Illinois where my brother, Tedd, had just bought a new house due to a work transfer.  He had a beautiful, huge garage and wanted me to work my magic and set him up with the home gym for the hardcore lifter and that’s exactly what I did.  I felt like an interior designer for hardcore lifters!

For the platform we have two layers of 3/4 CDX board with a top layer designed for two lifting platforms side by side with plywood in the middle of each and heavy duty rubber for where the bar will land.  There is a power rack that used to belong to Zach Schluender, a top Olympic style lifter who has snatched around 375 and Clean & Jerked  around 440lbs as a superheavy.  There are squat racks that once rested in the Old JWC gym that just about everyone that’s ever lifted for the JWC has used, made from old truck wheels and axles for uprights.  He has a steel log for strongman training, two full Olympic sets, adjustable squat stands, a bench that once belonged to Russ Murphy that adjusts to several angles and is heavy duty, and an assortment of other equipment.  I even made him a metal sign with the JWC logo on it.  I should start a new business in hardcore gym design…I’m sure there’s a huge market for that out there!  Not only is Tedd’s gym ready for a hardcore workout but it already is filled with history of big lifts and lifters that will inspire your workout!

A fitting end to a hard day of training: STEAKS on the Grill! On a "Green Egg" no less, Al likes these so much he has TWO of them!

This will not just be a second location for the JWC but a second club. My brother is hoping to get some local guys interested in lifting and even hosting a meet in his gym!  He even plans to register his gym with the USAWA!  We have called it tentatively the “JWC Transcon” because Tedd works for the Railroad and the “Transcon” is the busiest Rail line in his company AND since has had to move his gym twice we wanted a name that could fit anywhere he goes…..but that name isn’t finalized yet!

The weekend was about as good as it gets.  We had a work day setting up the gym and moving things in the house.  Then we went to Peoria where we competed in the Scottish Highland Games on the next day.  Then the third day was lifting and grilling big steaks on Tedd’s new “Green Egg Grill”.  So, if  you are in central Illinois area or know someone who is, there is now a place for you to train.  Stop by and see Tedd and check out the JWC Transcon!

Strongman Nationals

 by Thom Van Vleck

MEET ANNOUNCEMENT

2011 USAWA OLD TIME STRONGMAN NATIONALS

Frederick Winters working with a really big Dumbbell at the 1904 Olympics. There were several Dumbbell lifts done at this contest and one is serving as the inspiration for a lift at this years Old Time Strongman Nationals.

The first ever USAWA Old Time Strongman Nationals will be held on Sunday,  Oct. 16, 2011 at the Jackson Weighlifting Club Training Hall.  This will be in conjunction with a fun filled weekend of strength that includes a Scottish Highland Games on Oct. 15th.  If you have ever wanted to try your hand at the Highland Games this is your chance to get two events in one weekend.  There is even a special discounted entry for both!  Soon I will have all the information up at www.jacksonweightliftingclub.com!

First, a quick note on the Highland Games on Saturday.  This will include 7 traditional Scottish feats of strength.  The hammer throws, the Weights for Distance, the Weight Over Bar, the Sheaf stone, the Stone put, and last but not least, the caber toss.

Now, to the Strongman contest.  Earlier this year Al Myers held the first ever USAWA Old Time Strongman contest at the Dino Gym.  It was a great success.  Al and I discussed it and said there ought to be a Nationals each year and I offered to hold it at the JWC Training Hall.  In the coming weeks we will be highlighting the events.  The rules of the lifts are included with the  entry forms.

OLD TIME STRONGMAN LIFTS CONTESTED

Anderson Press

Anderson Squat

Dinnie Lift

1904 Dumbbell to Shoulder

Entry form  for the USAWA Old Time Strongman Nationals (pdf) -  Old Time Strongman Nationals Entry Form

Entry form for the Kirksville Highland Games (pdf) -  Kirksville Highland Games Entry Form

Omega Force: Christian Strongman Team

By Thom Van Vleck

Randy Richey: Founding Member of Omega Force.

I have met many of my best friends being involved in strength sports.  This is a story about one of them and the group he helped start.   I was competing in a Strongman contest called the “Strongarm Games” in Kansas City put on by Steve Scott.  This contest had a Scottish flair to it and I recall we did some strongman events with some highland games event thrown in.  It was then I first met Randy.  We competed together and hit it off really well.  Then, a couple years later a friend of mine invited me to be his guest in a VIP box for the US Strongman Pro Nationals in St. Louis at Harrah’s Casino.  The warm up show included some bending by John Brookfield and he was performing with Omega Force.  I kept looking at the guy that was the leader but could not place him….when suddenly he called me out by name!  I realized it was Randy, the guy I had met at the Strongarm Games.

Randy hitting a big squat with one of his custom built props.

After the show I talked with Randy at length about what he did.  At that time Bubba Melton was still with him and performing.  During the next year, I would find out that Bubba had passed away and he was only 34 years old.  Omega Force was doing Christian evangelism in the Paul Anderson tradition.  Randy built all his own equipment on his farm in Kentucky and had an ever changing group of guys that would do shows with him.  It was after that show that he told me that he would call me the next time they were up this way.

That next year, Randy did call me and I recruited Brian Kerby to go down with me.  Brian and I thought we’d be mostly helping set things up but quickly found ourselves in the middle of the show!  There were 6 shows in 4 days including two over two days for the US Pro Nationals Strongman Contest.  The final day ended up in the Family Arena in St. Charles where we performed for over 3000 there to see the strongman competition!  Brian and I were so inspired we came back and started our own local team.  From time to time we have helped out Omega Force as have greats like Bill Kazmaier, Paul Wrenn, and Anthony Clark!  A couple years back we went with Randy to the Arnold Fit Expo and were invited to provide security for Arnold himself.  Arnold autographed an 800lb log that Randy squats in his shows to show his gratitude.  It was at that show that Brian Schoonveld, a World’s Strongest Man competitor levered the special sledge hammer that I gave Al Myers and now rests in the Dino Gym.

One of Randy's creations. There's no hiding what Omega Force is all about!

Omega Force was started in 1996 by Randy Richey and Bubba Melton.  They do feats of strength showing their God-given talents and use it to entertain while delivering a Gospel message.  The Mission Statement of Omega Force reads: “To be a ministry that demonstrates love and compassion in bringing forth the gospel to win the lost and to provide spiritual guidance and direction to those in need.  Their purpose is to go into all the world and spread the gospel”.  While some may agree or disagree with what they are about and how they do it, there is no denying the intensity the bring to their efforts.  They also support being drug free and showing love to others.

Circus Dumbbell. This looks very much like the one that Al Myers made!

I had the pleasure of visiting Randy’s home gym in Kentucky a few years back.  I have to say that in many ways it rivals Al’s Dino Gym!  If measured by pure volume, I would say Randy has more stuff than Al!  But the way Al keeps adding to his collection, that may change!  At any rate, if you are in that area, it is worth the trip.  Randy’s gym may be more in the sticks than Al’s so don’t think you will just “drive my it”.  Randy told me he has guys that will travel hundreds of miles for their big weekend workouts!

Randy and Omega Force have been a good friend of the JWC over the years.  I know that in the future both teams will continue the work they do and if the chance to work together again comes, I know I will be there.   Check out their website:  www.omegaforceone.com or look them up on facebook.

Big Muscles or Strong Muscles?

 by Thom Van Vleck

Dennis Rogers next to Thom Van Vleck at the York Barbell Benefit for the Wounded Warrior Project. Dennis is one of the top short steel benders of all time!

The Jackson Weightlifting Club does a lot of Strongman “Evangelism” shows (like Paul Anderson used to do).  To date, we’ve done around 250 total shows with over 100 being full blown productions with the full team.  The smaller shows are what we call “gym bag” shows where we bring in stuff we can carry in a gym bag to put on a small one or two man show.  We often get called by local groups to entertain.

One time, we got a call from the local YMCA to do an “after school” show.  I was planning on doing it solo, but had something come up so Brett Kerby went instead.  We have four core members of our team and Brett is by far the smallest, but he’s the best of the group when it comes to short steel bending and ripping decks of cards in half!  He went to do the show and when he showed up a local TV news crew was on hand and this was not planned (which Brett is not comfortable with that kind of stuff at all!).  At the end, the news crew interviewed the kids and that night we watched it.  Several kids said things like, “That was awesome” or “I liked it when he ripped the phone book in half”.  One little girl really caught our attention.  She said, “I thought you needed to have big muscles to do that…..but I guess not!”   Needless to say, we had a lot of fun kidding Brett about that.  One time we were getting ready to do a show and Brett got there early to set up the sound system.   A guy there to see the show asked, “So….when do the strongmen get here”.  No respect!

Two Thirds of the Jackson Brothers: Phil and Wayne "Staggo" Jackson. Little Brother and Big Brother! Wayne could move big weights but Phil could do some amazing feats of strength that Wayne couldn't!

Meeting Dennis Rogers made me think of Brett.  Dennis also reminded me of USAWA legend Steve Schmidt.  None of these guys are huge, muscle bound, behemoths.  But they are also NOT guys you would want to mess with.  Short steel bending requires a suspension of pain.  I once saw John O’Brien drive a 60 penny nail into his hand at least a half inch…..and he put some tape on it and kept bending for a half dozen more shows that weekend before seeking treatment….he didn’t even flinch.  If you watch these guys you will see how painful it really is and if you try it, you will KNOW how painful it is.  I have managed a 60 penny nail, halving and quartering a deck of cards, and doing phone books.  My hands hurt, my elbows hurt, and my shoulders hurt.  All lifting involves pain tolerance, but that stuff requires “pain suspension”.

So, big muscles impress the novices and sometimes even the experts….but there’s much more to it than big muscles.  Pain tolerance, tenacity, leverage, and being smart and calculating are all factors that guys like Dennis Rogers, Steve Schmidt, and Brett Kerby have mastered.  They are the kinds of guys I would want in a back alley fight because they won’t quit…..and really, who would expect such strength from someone their size!

Wayne Smith: All Round Legend Part II

 by Thom Van Vleck

Wayne Smith pulling a partial deadlift with everything but the kitchen sink on the bar!

In Part II of my story on Wayne Smith, we will look at some of his best lifts, his personality, and his hard work ethic.

Wayne Smith was most impressive when he was deadlifting.  He had a best of 460lb at 148lbs (triple bodyweight).  He also had a 240 bench, snatch 145, C&J 200, squat 290, and a Clean & Press of 160.  Wayne Jackson told me that one of the most impressive things he saw Wayne Smith do was a bent arm pullover from the floor to the chest while lying on a bench with 250lbs.  Some of Waynes old records on the Pre-USAWA “All-Round Records” list include a 230lb Middle Fingers deadlift, a Pinch Grip of 115lbs, and a Miller Clean & Jerk of 90lbs all done in his late 40’s.

Phil Jackson remembers meeting for the first time in 1957.  He said he was around 13 and Wayne was the “expert” who actually was friends with Tommy Kono!  Phil said they all enjoyed Wayne’s wry sense of humor and it made training sessions funny and the long, late night trips back from meets tolerable.  Wayne was always saying something off the cuff.  Some of his best that I remember include:

“Bodybuilding is like a dog show”

“I complained to my wife about how sore I was and when she found out it was from doing a heavy deadlift she told me to see a vet because only a jackass would try something like that”

One time, Ed Zercher, Sr was the head judge at a lifting meet and smith was up on the deadlift.  Zercher was really serious on judging.  Smith walked up and took a “clean grip” as Ed looked on through his trademark tiny spectacles.  Smith stood up, snapped his fingers and said, “That’s right, this is the deadlift…..I was getting ready to clean this”.  Phil said Zercher didn’t bat an eye and said, “One minute” indicating Smith better lift or get off the platform.

Smith up in a tree cutting limbs.

Smith was a tree trimmer his whole life and he was famous for scaling unbelievably tall trees with little or not climbing gear and like a surgeon dropped limbs with great precision.  One day a guy said, “You must like heights” and Smith told him he HATED heights.  The guy asked him why he climbed such tall trees then and Smith said, “Because that’s where my grocery money is at!!!!”

Smith was a great tree trimmer and my Uncle Phil and I both share the experience of helping Smith in his tree trimming business.  Smith was not a wealthy man, as a matter of fact, he usually just got by.  I recall one time Smith was trying to get one of three chain saws going to finish a job when he turned to me and said, “There’s nothing shameful about being poor….it’s just d@med inconvenient”!!!  It’s hard work trimming trees and Smith made extra money cutting that wood up for fired wood that he would sell.  He was one of the hardest working men I knew and the fact that he trained with weights at all was a feat unto itself.  There is no doubt he would have had a much greater career if he hadn’t been breaking his back all day working!

That might explain Wayne’s training regime.  He worked so hard trimming and cutting down trees and often when the work was there he’d put in dawn to dusk days that he hardly had time or energy to train.  Getting that “grocery money” out of the trees was more important than a trophy!  He would often show up at the gym and lift for about 20 minutes at a time hitting all the major lifts he was going to do in the next contest.  For example, if he were going to do a powerlifting meet he’d hit his warm ups, hit his opener and move on to the next lift.  No frills, just right to the point.  Smith got plenty of “assistance” work in his job….the kind of stuff people now do and call “old school” training, Smith did and made a living at it!  Wayne also would focus on some new stunt that he’d practice when he could on the job.  When I was working for him it was around the time Mt. St. Helen’s erupted.  So Wayne was working on doing chins while pinch gripping the rafters.  He also would “monkey bar” across the room pinching the rafters.  He quite seriously would tell me if a volcano erupted and the room filled with lava he’d be safe!  I never knew how serious he was because I thought to myself….”If the room is full of lava then I would think that would be the least of your worries”!  His wry sense of humor kind of always left you wondering!

Smith with his custum made truck hauling a "typical" haul for him. He was talented at getting huge trees out by himself. The truck had a strong wench with an I-beam on the top that would pull a large log right in!

Later Wayne Smith became interested in bowling.  He became very good at it and  and was so successful he was inducted in the Missouri Bowling Hall of Fame.  He is a local legend in the bowling alley and he is proud of the fact that he’s the only person in both the Bowling and Lifting Halls of Fame.

Wayne has been a big part of the JWC for OVER 50 years.  Who knows, maybe if he had not been there to guide my Uncle’s when they first started training maybe there would never been a JWC.  I feel we owe him a lot and his contributions to Olympic lifting, Powerlifting, and the USAWA should not be overlooked!

Wayne Smith: All Round Legend Part I

 by Thom Van Vleck

Wayne Smith deadlifting the front end of a Volkswagon.

Wayne Smith was one of the original Jackson Weightlifting Club members.  He usually lifted in the 148lb class and competed in Olympic lifting meets, Powerlifting, and early “odd lift” meets and later USAWA meets.  Smith was born in 1932 and is currently 78 years old.

Wayne told me he first became interested in weightlifting as a kid with his twin brother, Ward.   But it was not until he joined the Navy that he actually started training regularly.  While in the Navy he was stationed in Hawaii and it was at this time he made a life long friendship with Tommy Kono (If you don’t know, Kono was one of the greatest Olympic lifters of all time and was actually voted “Weightlifter of the Century”).  Wayne has letters he has received over the years and a personally autographed copy of Kono’s book on lifting (Weightlifting: Olympic Style).  There is also a letter from Gary Cleveland.  Cleveland was a great York lifter who later put out a newsletter called the Avian Movement Advocate that Smith would often contribute to.  The letter talks about a letter Kono sent to Cleveland about Smith and it was very positive.  Smith told me that it meant a lot to him that Kono would write that letter about him.

Wayne Smith "wowing the crowd" with his Chinup prowess.

It was around 1957 that Wayne returned from the Navy and was approached by a group of brothers trying to find out more about weightlifting.  Smith felt he was no expert but these young men, the Jackson Brothers,  knew almost nothing and were lifting makeshift barbells made of concrete poured in buckets, old flywheels for extra plates, anvils, and pretty much anything that wasn’t tied down.  My favorite story was about the first thing Smith told them was to reverse their grip on their cleans, presses, and jerks.  They were using a “curl” or “reverse” grip!  Soon they were working out on a regular basis and the foundation for the Jackson Weightlifting Club as we know it today was laid.

Wayne’s first meet was in Omaha, Nebraska in 1958.  His Olympic lifting and Powerlifting career lasted until 1971.  During that time he entered many meets as a member of the Jackson Weightlifting Club.  He was part of a JWC team that won two state team titles.  He was also proud of the fact he never failed to total and he never failed to make weight for his weight class.  He said Kono had taught him to take a safe lift then go all out on 2nd and 3rd attempts and this served Wayne well.  In 1964 won the Missouri State Championships as a middleweight.  Just prior to winning that title he was told he had a lung condition and at the rate he was deteriorating he had maybe two years to live!  He received treatment from Dr. Valuck who he credits with diagnosing him and treating him back to health!

Smith at the top of one of his "perfect" one-arm chins at a powerlifting meet in Minnesota in 1966. You will find a poster of this picture on the wall in Clark's Gym.

In the late 70’s, Wayne began entering “odd lift” meets put on by Bill Clark.  He also lifted in the early USAWA years.  It was in 1977 that Bill nominated Wayne for the AAU Weightlifting Hall of Fame and Wayne was later inducted.  During his lifting years Wayne won 4 major titles.  Other than his state title in 1964, in 1966 he won the City Championships in Kirksville, in 1966 he won the Open Powerlifting title in St. Paul, Minnesota (where the chin up photo was take, more on that later!), and in 1971 he won his last title, a powerlifting meet in Jefferson City were he won the Open title.

Wayne was also a chin up specialist.  He would often challenge all comers to a chin up contest.  He told me he was only beaten one time.  It was by another JWC member named Dr. Rex Lee.  Rex had joined the club while going to the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine and lifted as 114lber.  Rex weighed only 105lbs when he beat Smith by one rep.  My Uncle Phil told me that every meet they ever competed in at some point Smith would put on a chinning exhibition.  If there was no bar to chin on then Phil and another member of the club would hold a 45lb bar up for Smith to chin on!  In 1998 I “revived” the club and in 1999 held a strongman contest and Highland Games that eventually turned into the Kirksville Games and the JWC Strongman Championships/Highlander.  My brother and I held a bar up and at age 68 Wayne did a perfect one arm chin up!  When I say perfect he did a “dead weight” pull and no “kip” or “kick”.  That’s how he always did them and had a best of 6 one arm chins.

Coming Soon: Part II

2011 Nationals: Meet the Loaders

by Thom Van Vleck

Mitch Ridout and Tedd Van Vleck were the loaders for the entire meet and didn't make a SINGLE MISLOAD!

Every meet I’ve been to the loaders have been thanked and rightfully so.  I’ve been a loader before and one time at a meet with about 70 lifters!  It’s hard, thankless work.  The only time anyone notices the loaders is if there’s a miss load!  And at Nationals there were none!  So these guys were barely noticed.

Often, when you look for volunteers for loading the room will empty quicker than a request for a suicide mission during Armageddon!  But I had two guys step up to save the day.  My brother, Tedd Van Vleck, and my “brother from another mother” Mitch Ridout.  Actually, Mitch rented a room from my Mom at one time and she jokingly calls him her “favorite” son (at least I think she’s joking).  Mitch has been my friend for over 20 years and anybody that can put up with me for that long deserves a trophy……especially after the work I get out of him!

Tedd and Mitch both were signed up to lift.  But I was short loaders and I asked them to step in and they took a bullet for JWC team (or maybe Team Ledaig wouldn’t have had a cake walk for the team title!…..Ok, so maybe they would have still won since they had the best lifter in both men and women’s catagories).  But that thinned the JWC ranks out considerably.  I do know that my brother said at the end of the day he wished he’d lifted instead….he thought he’d be less sore!  I also noticed that Dean Ross, who lifted in the morning session, was helping Mitch and Tedd in the afternoon.  That’s the kind of stuff that makes these meets work!

So a special thanks to Mitch and Tedd for being our loaders and allowing the lifters to focus on lifting!  We appreciate you!

Old School Meet in Old School Gym: USAWA Nationals Location Change!

 by Thom Van Vleck

Attention: This article contains important information on a change in venue for the 2011 USAWA Nationals!

No School like the Old School: Williard Elementary, new location for the USAWA Nationals!!!

My Uncle Phil once told me, “Through no fault of your own….you always seem to have the worst luck”.  I guess he was saying that while I do most everything right the variables I can’t control seem to often conspire against me.  However, I have always believed that when the world gives you lemons make lemonade and then grill a nice steak to go with it!

I was notified today that the local National Guard Unit is being activated due to flooding in Missouri.  Their home is the Rieger Armory and since they are being activated we have lost that location as the meet site.   I was told this was the first time since 1993 this had happened!  This caused me to take off from work and search frantically for a new meet location!  I did NOT want anyone to be disappointed when they showed up!  As a result, I tried to be picky….but on short notice “beggars can’t be choosers”.  However, I think the location I have found will work out even better!

It is the old Williard School.  Just a few blocks away from the downtown square and the Dukum Inn where our banquet will be held.  The address is 707 N Centennial Street, Kirksville, MO 63501.  This is an old elementary school built about 80 years ago that has been converted into a private daycare.  A good friend of mine runs it and was willing to let us use the location.  The building is on the corner of Centennial and Cottonwood streets and the gym entrance is on the South side of the building (the Cottonwood street side).

This gym is straight out of the 1950’s and since we are an “old school” type lifting organization I thought it was pretty fitting that we end up in an “old school” for our meet.

If you have any questions on the location, just let me know.  I will have me cell phone on me that day and if you attend the annual meeting the night before we will tell you how to get to the meet.  Cottonwood actually intersects with Highway 63, which is the major North/South highway in town so it is actually only involves one turn to get there from the highway!  Looking forward to seeing everyone!

Zercher Lift: A Missouri Original

 by Thom Van Vleck

Denny Habecker completing the Zercher Lift. Denny will be at the 2011 USAWA Nationals where this lift will be contested

When I was selecting lifts for the 2011 USAWA Nationals to be held June 25 in Kirksville, Missouri I very carefully selected my lifts.  I was trying to get a good mix from each of the major categories.  I wanted a thick bar lift (Continental to Chest), a dumbbell lift/one arm lift (DB Snatch), a power type lift (Deadlift 12″ base), a miscellaneous lift (Cheat Curl), a pressing movement (Pull over and Press), and a squat movement.  For the squat movement I picked the Zercher!  I also wanted all the lift to come off the floor so that the meet could move along quickly and I was not sure how many spotters I would have.

While the list was then passed on the USAWA board to approve and they did approve it the only one that was questioned was the Zercher.  Not because it’s a “bad’ lift, but because it’s been used several times before and there was just some thought that maybe we should “mix it up” a little.  The problem for me was this was the ONE lift I felt I HAD to have in my meet.  The reason:  The Zercher was named after Ed Zercher and he’s a true MISSOURI born strongman!

The man himself: ED ZERCHER, one of Missouri's greatest strength athletes!

One of the things I like about the USAWA is it’s respect for history and the desire to make sure many of these lifts from bygone years are remembered and practiced.  Many of them have real merit and are often “rediscovered” in modern times.  Look at Kettlebell lifting!  My grandfather used to do Kettlebell training when I first stared lifting in the 1970’s and I remember thinking how “old fashioned” that was and he needed to get “modern” if he wanted to get strong!  How naive I was!   The Zercher has made a bit of a comeback for that same reason……in a way!

Many modern lifters have begun to do what they call “Zerk’s” or Zercher Squats.  They take a weight out of low squat rack or power rack, squat with the bar in the crooks of the arms, and then reload it on the rack.  This has become a variation that some lifters use in a mix with front and back squats but it is also one that guys have added that have trouble holding the bar in the front squat position or some other injury the precludes regular type squats.  But of course, as “Ol’ Clark” himself would tell you…..THIS IS NOT A ZERCHER!  Now, there’s nothing wrong with doing “Zerks” and they are a fine exercise to anyone’s repertoire of lifts.

There were some guys recently discussing “Zerks” on a message board and I got on there and pointed out the difference in what I thought was a polite, informative way.  One of them blew up!  He thought I was being petty bringing up the difference.  But to me, Ed Zercher developed that lift and we need to honor the man by keeping things straight!  With that said, here’s the rules for the Zercher lift:

C8.  Zercher Lift
The bar starts on the platform and at the lifter’s discretion the bar is deadlifted to a position where it may be supported on the knees or thighs.
Feet placement is optional, but the feet must be in line with the torso. The lifter will then bend down, with the bar resting on the legs, to a position in which the lifter is able to secure the bar in the crooks of the elbows. The lifter will then stand erect with the arms bent and the bar fixed at the articulation of the upper and lower arms.  The lifter’s arms may be inside or outside of the legs. The hands may be locked together. Once the bar is
motionless, the legs straight, the body erect with shoulders upright, an official will give a command to lower the bar. The bar must be returned to the platform under control for the lift to be complete. It is acceptable to drop the bar once it is below the level of the knees provided that the hands follow the bar to the platform.

So, come to Nationals and help me honor one of Missouri’s greatest Strongmen!  Let’s Zercher!

Pullover and Push: Old School “Bench Pressing”

Pullover and Push as demonstrated by the great Arthur Saxon. He was a favorite of JWC "founding father" Dalton Jackson

by Thom Van Vleck

Those of you who know me know that I can’t make things simple.  I put a lot of thought into things and when I was thinking about lifts for the 2011 USAWA Nationals to be held June 25th in Kirksville, Missouri this process was in overdrive.  I wanted a pressing movement and I also wanted a lift that would honor my grandfather in some way.  Well, he was a big fan of Arthur Saxon and when I saw this photo in the USAWA photo archive it just sealed the deal for me that the Pullover and Push would be that “pressing” movement in the list of lifts for Nationals.

Let’s review the rules to make sure we know how to do the lifts!

A35.  Pullover and Push

The lifter will lie on his/her back on the platform with the bar placed on the platform above the lifter’s head.  Padding, such as a towel or mat, may be placed under the lifter’s body and elbows. The bar is gripped with the palms of the hands facing up and with the bar at arms’ length prior to the start of the lift.  Width of hand spacing and feet placement is optional. The lift begins at the lifter’s discretion. The lifter is allowed multiple rolls with the bar on the platform to gain momentum to the bar. Hands must remain on the bar throughout the lift. The lifter will then pull the bar over and onto the chest or upper abdomen resulting in the upper arms resting on the platform. The bar must not be rolled once on the chest. The bar or plates must not make contact with the platform once the bar leavesthe platform or it will result in disqualification. The lifter is allowed to move or lift the feet and hips during the pullover. Once the bar is on the chest or abdomen, the lifter may move the feet close to the hips, and raise the hipsto create a bridging or belly toss to propel the bar to arms’ length. This is done at the lifter’s discretion. The lifter is allowed feet and hip movement during the push. The lifter may press the bar instead of pushing the bar if desired.  Once the push has begun, the bar must not be lowered in any manner. Only one attempt at the push is allowed. The bar must lock out with even extension. Once the arms are straight, the lifter must lower the hips to the platform and straighten the legs to a flat position on the platform. The arms must remain straight during this time.   When the lifter and bar are motionless, an official will give a command to lower the bar. The lift ends when the bar is returned to the platform under control. It is acceptable to drop the bar behind the head in the return to the platform as long as the lifter maintains hand contact with the bar.

Now, you have to make sure you distinguish this lift from the Pullover and Press and the Pullover and Press with Wrestler’s Bridge.  They are often confused.  The last thing I will say is that if you have a big nose or a big head…..you may want to turn your head when you pull the weight over to the push position!  If you’ve ever done this lift, you know what I mean!  Now, come to the Nationals and try it first hand!

Can you Cheat on the Cheat Curl?

 by Thom Van Vleck

I love me some Cheat Curl! There may be some rule changes that bring the USAWA in line with IAWA rules that will open this up for lots of new records!

The Cheat Curl will be contested at the 2011 USAWA Nationals held June 25 and hosted by the Jackson Weightlifting Club in Kirksville, Missouri.  An interesting paradox will take place with this lift.  As always, the USAWA annual meeting will take place.  This is the one time when rule changes can be discussed, voted on, and passed.  Interestingly enough, one of the lifts being contested is the Cheat Curl.  The USAWA rules currently are different from the IAWA rules and there is a proposal to change the USAWA rules to bring them in line with the IAWA rules.  One of the major differences is the USAWA requires the feet to stay flat on the floor while the IAWA rules allow for the heels to raise.  So, according to the USAWA rules if you did a Cheat Curl following the IAWA rules…you’d be CHEATING?  So I guess it is possible to cheat on the Cheat Curl! Now, here’s where the paradox comes in.

Traditionally, the rules meeting has taken place after the meet.  Since the meeting can be lengthy and since there’s usually a banquet of some sorts afterwards Al Myers and myself decided to have the meeting the night before the meet.  That way, we get the “business” out of the way and the day of the meet only focuses on the lifting and the fun afterwards!  This has created an interesting situation.  One of the lifts being contested on Saturday may have the rules changed on Friday!  If so, then which rules apply!

Currently, the USAWA rules state:

D7.  Curl – Cheat
The bar begins on the platform, and at the lifter’s discretion, is picked up with a grip that has the palms of the hands facing up or away from the lifter. Feet placement and hand spacing is optional, but must remain the same throughout the lift.  Heels and toes must not rise during the lift. Once the lifter is upright in a standing position with the arms and legs straight, the bar on the thighs hanging at arms’ length, an official will give a
command to curl. The knees must remain locked and the legs straight during the lift. The lifter is permitted to bend at the waist, sway the body, or drop the shoulders to gain momentum of the bar. The bar may be lowered prior to the beginning of the curl. The bar must be curled from arms’ length to touching the upper chest or neck in one motion. Any downward movement of the bar during the curl is a disqualification. Once the bar is motionless, and the lifter is upright, an official will give a command to lower the bar. The lift ends when the bar returns to the platform under control by the lifter.

So, be ready for both sets of rules and we will see how this plays out!

Jackson Weightlifting Club Logo

by Thom Van Vleck

The modern JWC Logo.

The Jackson Weightlifting Club has a history that reaches back to 1928.  Like many Clubs and Gyms it has it’s own logo.  Above you will see the modern JWC Logo.  The modern logo has it’s root to the late 1950’s and is based on one that my Uncle Phil Jackson drew.   I have a copy of  that drawing, the original drawing is in Phil’s possession.

Copy of the original JWC logo first developed by Phil Jackson in the late 50's

There was a point I wanted to make a standard logo for the modern incarnation of the JWC.  After some experimentation, I came up with the modern logo and you will find it painted on the JWC Training Hall wall and it is often used on our meet shirts and other related JWC stuff.  In the modern JWC Logo you will find many elements present in the original and a few new things.  I used the shield and barbell, just like Uncle Phil did.  I used a copy of the York Barbell “deep dish” weights for the “barbell” part of the logo.  I felt this appropriate as this was the first Olympic set ever purchased by the JWC (and I still have it!).  I used the same shield but got rid of the small barbell plate at the middle point.  I kept the JWC on the diagonal and added a couple elements.  A lot of thought actually went into this.

First, I added the cross.  A Celtic style cross to celebrate the Celtic roots of the Jackson family.  But more importantly to signify our Christianity.  My family has always been strong in their faith and that is most notable in the fact that the modern JWC has an evangelism team that has done well over 200 strongman evangelism shows in the spirit of how Paul Anderson used to spread the Gospel with his feats of strength.  The cross is at the top because it is most important.  That section of the shield is the symbolic location of the heart and I wanted everyone to know that the JWC holds Christ in it’s heart.

The fancy JWC logo.

Second, the Anvil. It was added to symbolize Grandpa Jackson’s Anvil.  If you don’t know, the first inspiration for Dalton Jackson to lift weights was his father (Arthur Jackson) lifting his anvil overhead to impress his kids.  Later, around 1928, Dalton and his future brother-in-law, Coda Baugher, made some homemade weights and began to train.  Every generation since has lifted the anvil and it sits proudly in my gym to this day!  I  tried to make the shape exactly like the real anvil.  I also put it at the bottom because to me the anvil is the foundation of our club.  So now you know the history of the JWC logo.  I hope someday my kids take it and make it their own!

The Long Journey to York Barbell: Part II

by Thom Van Vleck

In part I of my story about my trip to York Barbell and I detailed my trip.  Now, I’m going to share my feelings about my trip.

The current York Gym

May 28th, 1064 was the date of the Missouri State Championships in Olympic lifting.  How do I know?  Because my Uncle Wayne won that year and he told me that when he got home with the rest of the JWC gang he said I upstaged him being born that day.  He said they all headed down to the hospital to see me.  It was literally a couple blocks away.  Later, he would give me that medal because of the significance of the date he won it.  Without Wayne, I’d never been a weight lifter and I would not be half of what I am today.  Without my Uncle Phil, you could halve that again and without my Grandfather Dalton, I’d be nothing today.  So me wearing that medal was like them being there at York with me.  That medal has been to every lifting meet, highland games, strongman contest, and USAWA event I’ve ever been to, including a couple trips to Scotland where I “dipped” it into Loch Ness.

So, you can see, lifting has been a big part of my family.  It’s not about winning, it was always about getting better.  Being stronger, healthier, and self improvement.  York Barbell was always a part of that.  I practically “teethed” on a 5lb plate.  I remember taking an interest in throwing the discus and not having one, so I took a 5lb York plate out and practiced with it!  In 1963, my Uncle Wayne ordered a Jackson International set and he told me that he sold it partly out of feeling disloyal to York….plus he said his York sets (and the JWC had several by then) were superior in his mind.

Thom Van Vleck checking out the Cyr Dumbbell. My grandfather told me a story about it when I was just a kid.

But the opportunity never came up to travel to York.  Phil told me they talked about it often.  They would lift and talk about meeting Tommy Kono, John Grimek, Steve Stanko, Bob Hoffman and the rest.  They would day dream of lifting in the York Gym  with the greats and seeing where all the weights were made.  But time and circumstance intervened and the dream faded away.  Until now.

So when I went out, I had a lot riding on this trip.  I needed to soak up every detail and take lots of pictures.  I even called both of them in the museum and gave each one a walk through.  They both asked me if I saw the Sandow Statue or the Grimek statue.  They knew a lot of the stuff that was in there!

Thom with the Grimek statue....I don't think he's impressed with me.

Overall, it was a great trip.  But later, I did get a little melancholy.  York is well past it’s pinnacle.  But then again, I  remember stopping at Peary Radar’s old Ironman Headquarters in Alliance, Nebraska a few years back.  It’s all long gone and not a thing remains as is the fate of a lot of the other American barbell makers.  At least York Barbell is still there and it seems the guys that work there appreciate the history.  Mike Locondro told me that the event we attended (Wounded Warrior Project Strength Fest) was all about getting York back to were it belongs….but more than that he told me that his Uncle was John Grimek’s brother in law and to him it was not just about “company policy” but it was personal.  That gave me hope and took a little of that melancholy away.  Maybe York isn’t what it was, but it seems to be rising up again!

On a side note, I traveled 15 miles to the west of York and went by the burial place of my Great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather (yes, that’s right….6 “greats”).  He was a Lutheran pastor that has been credited with starting over 50 churches.  His home still stands and members of my distant family still occupy it.   I hope to go back some day and see some more and meet some of my relatives…the dead one’s and live one’s!

The Long Journey To York Barbell: Part I

by Thom Van Vleck

Thom Van Vleck completes the 73 year journey to York Barbell

Recently I traveled to York, Pa to the home of York Barbell to judge at the USAWA Heavy Lift Nationals.  This, however, is not a meet report but a story about a Long Journey.

Back in 1938 my Grandfather ordered his first “real” barbell set.  Oh, sure, he had been training for along time before this, since 1928 to be exact, but it was at this point he finally could afford a real barbell set to replace the bodyweight exercises, the concrete “bucket” weights, and the assorted things like anvils he would find to train with.  By that time he was married and I recall he had a real fight with my grandmother over ordering that set since they were short on cash.  But it was his dream.  I still have what is part of that set.

Then, in 1957, my Uncle’s Phil and Wayne began to train and scrimped and saved until they could order a real “Olympic” set.  There was other choice but York!  This was the classic deep dish York set.  At that time, Wayne and Phil became avid Olympic style lifting fans and at that time York Barbell was the center of it all.  When I started training, in 1977, my Uncle Wayne bought a new set to encourage me.  I remember vividly him ordering it with a mail order form and a check.  I’m pretty sure he wanted it as much as I did and it was just a good excuse to order a new set!

I have a few hundred Strength & Health and Muscular Development magazines that were published by York Barbell.  I’m not a collector, most are the magazines that my grandfather and Uncles bought off the news stand to read.  I would read these for countless hours as a kid when I started training and as a result, probably know more about York Barbell than all the people who currently work there!

So, when Al asked me to come along and be a judge, I pushed aside a chance to go to Iceland and compete in a highland games and chose to go to York.  You see, even though my family had been “York Men” since 1938, NOBODY from my family had ever been there!

So, here it was, 73 years after that first York barbell set was mail ordered by my grandfather and I was on my way to York.  I was pretty excited but at the same time, I was realistic.  I knew it was not what it was in the glory days.  But I hoped it would still be a great trip.

We arrived the morning of the contest and pulled up out front.  There was Bob Hoffman’s statue standing as proud as ever.  My grandfather used to tell me that Bob was “a little full of himself” and I had to chuckle as I looked at the statue.  Most accomplished men are a little full of themselves.  It often takes a big ego to drive great success.  I wish I could have met the guy, big ego aside, he did much for lifting and made America quite literally….a lot stronger.

The life size barbell mobile hanging in the York Barbell HQ....is that thing real!!!!

Soon, we went inside.  There was a large “Barbell Mobile” hanging from the ceiling.  Barbell plates and bars balanced from a single point from the ceiling.  Not sure if they were real….but if they were that’s a lot of weight hanging there!  Then to the right was a lifting auditorium where the hall of fame induction took place.  I walked through and into the gym area.  It was loaded with platforms and weights, much more modern than I expected but then again, this is not the “original” club where the “York Gang” trained.  That place was long gone and while we drove by the location, nothing remains of it downtown.

The York lifting auditorium

Next, I walked through the museum.  I won’t detail all of it, but while what was there was very cool, it was not as big as I expected, but still not a let down.   What was there oozed history.  I would detour through the museum many times while I was there, taking just a minute to look at something else I had missed.  I then went into the retail store, that was nice, again not as big as I expected but it had “one of everything”.  While there I picked up matching York Barbell shirts with the old style split jerk logo for me and my Uncle Wayne.  I took tons of photos so that later I could show Wayne and Phil a “virtual” tour of the place.  I didn’t go anywhere else, but looked around at the warehouse.  The foundry is gone, they don’t make anything on site anymore.   Later, we also traveled by Bob Hoffman’s old house as the sun set on my York trip and we called it a day.

Next:  Part II My feelings about my Trip.

York Barbell Shirts

 by Thom Van Vleck

Gene Thudium, JWC member in the 50's and 60's, sports his old school York Barbell T-shirt.

I don’t know about you, but I have received about 300 meet shirts in the last 30 years.  Probably 200 I competed in, the rest I was a judge, loader, spotter, scorekeeper, patron, or meet director.  I know how many because every few years I thin them out and keep the ones that have sentimental value in a special drawer, give away some, and keep the rest for workouts.  Some shirts become “lucky”…I have a good meet or workout in it and I then use it when I need some “mojo” for a contest or record day.  Some, a select few, get retired and are never worn again.  The ones I give away go to good homes, guys who are really into the lifting or throwing and really appreciate the shirts.  I gave a fellow highland gamer 75 shirts and he made it into a quilt that was pretty cool and he hung it in his living room.  I can go over and point to different designs and almost tell you how I placed, my throws, and even what the weather was like that day. 

Recently, Al and I traveled to Colorado and met with Russ Murphy, a highland games legend.  I got some really old meet shirts from him, about a dozen or so that go back 20 to 30 years.  He even had one that was from the first meet I ever competed in, in 1995.  Mine had been “retired” so I got his and now I have one I can wear, too.  Years ago, World Powerlifting Champ and the man that broke Kaz’s total record, John Ware, gave me a shirt he wore when he broke Kaz’s record.  I kinda felt like the kid in the Coke commercial getting the jersey from Mean Joe Greene.

Shirts can be pretty special.  Today some of us will be heading to York Barbell for the USAWA Heavy Lift Nationals this weekend.  I can’t wait to get there.  I also know that Al has designed the meet shirts using the  York Barbell logo.  I have a feeling this trip will be epic in many ways, mostly me traveling to the “mecca” of weightlifting for the first time in my life!  I remember seeing many photos of Gene in his York Barbell shirt and thinking I would like to have one….now I will and it will be pretty special.  But I wonder, will this shirt become a retired one, or a lucky shirt, or will I give it away…..only time will tell.

USAWA Nationals: The AWARDS

Special awards for the USAWA Nationals for 2011 (purchased at pjtool.com)

by Thom Van Vleck

The USAWA Nationals for this year will have a unique award for the participants.  The Jackson Weightlifting Club (JWC) had long been defined by Grandpa Jackson’s Anvil.  For the last few years I have used these real anvils for awards.  Each award will come with a CUSTOMIZED plaque engraved by a Jim Spalding (Jim’s Gems) who is a local jeweler and also happens to be a 6 time Masters World Champion in Highland Games.   When the results are tabulated, we will write down you address and send you an engraved plate that will fit on the award with your placing and name.  How many personalized awards do you have in you trophy case?  I bet not many!  There will also be an 11lb Anvil for the overall best lifter.  Again, it’s a REAL anvil.

The “Original” JWC anvil will be present as well and used in the strongman show at the awards banquet.  We will take it outside and give anyone who wants a crack at lifting the anvil like Grandpa Jackson used to from the ground to overhead.  It is a 150lb Anvil and it’s very “doable”!  The real challenge is to lift it by the horn with one hand, pinch grip it by top or lift it by the neck.

Grandpa Jackson's Anvil - The Centerpiece of the Jackson Weightlifting Club

I will also have a 300lb anvil present….This is the MONSTER that so far has defied all who have tried to lift it overhead.  I want to see someone put that thing overhead!  But at the least, We will have the Whiskey Barrel there and the challenge is to lift the anvil onto the whiskey barrel.   Come on out, the USAWA Nationals will be more than just lifting weights…..we will try and make some history!