Shoulder Drop Continued…..

by Al Myers

Last month when Thom wrote that “controversial” story on the Shoulder Drop I thought maybe there would be some hotly discussed forum debate on it – but there wasn’t!!!  I guess that goes to show that the Shoulder Drop is not an All Round Lift that warrants attention, and most lifters really don’t care “one way or the other” what the rules dictate on it.  I was not really surprised by this.  The Shoulder Drop is one of those Official Lifts of the USAWA and the IAWA that is rarely performed, and only at a handful of record days.  There has been only a handful of records ever set in it.

I was intrigued by Thom’s history of the Shoulder Drop, as it was an old lift he learned from his Grandfather Dalton Jackson.  I’ve spent a lot of time researching old time all round  lifts – and there is very little information of the Shoulder Drop being a lift performed by lifters 100 plus years ago.  It does not have the rich historical significance  of lifts like the Steinborn Lift, Jefferson Lift, the One Arm Deadlift, and others. In fact, important old time strength writers like George Jowett and WA Pullom didn’t discuss it in their writings, which included many rules and regulations of the many lifts at the time. The Shoulder Drop appears to have originated as an USAWA/IAWA lift.

I did “some digging’ in my USAWA archives and found just a little as to the origins of the Shoulder Drop in the USAWA. This following is from the February 1st, 1990 issue of the Strength Journal (Vol. 1, No. 3) written by journal editor Bill Clark.

Two new lifts were approved by the board on January 20. They were the Travis Lift and the Shoulder Drop. The rules for each:

Shoulder Drop

The bar must be cleaned either to the chest and then to the shoulders or may be cleaned directly to the shoulders. Once the bar is motionless and held by both hands at the shoulders, the official will give the command to drop.  The hands are removed and the bar either dropped or shrugged from the shoulders at the moment of hand release. The bar then must be caught at arm’s length behind the body.  Once it is held motionless at arm’s length behind the body, the referee will give the command, “down”, thus completing the lift.  The weight may not be rolled down the back, but must be dropped.  Balancing the bar on the shoulders while placing the hands in position prior to the drop is not allowed.  Also – the body must be erect before the command to stop.

Bill then went on to state that the Shoulder Drop was nominated by Dr. Jim Clark of Houston, Texas.  This was a specialty lift of Dr. Clark, who was reported to be capable of big poundages in the Shoulder Drop. However, looking over the record list I see no mention of his name which tells me that he never did complete an official Shoulder Drop in the USAWA.

In reading these initial rules, do you see something missing???  I  sure do – there is no mention that the legs must be straight throughout, only that the body must be “erect” before the official’s down command, or as worded, “command to stop”.  Now that is interesting to me!  So it appears that Thom is not left lost out in the right field  bleachers eating popcorn by himself here with his argument of allowing knee bend.   This initial Shoulder Drop rule supports Thom’s cause!

When did the Shoulder Drop rule change to require straight legs throughout????  Who knows.  There is no mention of it is subsequent meeting minutes that a vote was ever taken.  However, the “straight leg requirement” was put into the initial 2002 USAWA Rulebook, as well as the IAWA(UK) Rulebook.   Maybe a vote was taken at a meeting sometime and due to sloppy minute taking, was never recorded. Or maybe the “straight leg requirement” was just added as an afterthought by the rulebook editor  with no vote approval???

It is obvious that the Shoulder Drop was not in the initial list of official USAWA/IAWA lifts since it was added in 1990 (3 years after the formation of the USAWA/IAWA).    I have performed the Shoulder Drop on a few occasions and I do agree with Thom that allowing leg bend with the lift would make it much safer (and more enjoyable to practice).   Maybe if the Shoulder Drop rule was changed to allow knee bend it would become a more popular All Round lift?

Let your “voice be heard” on this controversial (haha, said tongue-in-cheek) topic in the USAWA Discussion Forum.  If enough support is gathered – it may be time to make a change in the rules of the Shoulder Drop.

Shoulder Drop Rules

by Thom Van Vleck

Time for me to stir some controversy!  Okay, so many years ago my grandfather Dalton Jackson taught me the shoulder drop.  He told me it was how the “old timers” did it.  First, let’s review the USAWA rules for the Shoulder Drop.

Shoulder Drop: The bar is first cleaned and placed at the base of the neck to start this lift. Feet placement is optional. Once the lifter is upright, and the bar motionless, an official will give a command to start the lift. The lifter will then release the grip on the bar, allowing the bar to drop from the shoulders behind the back. The bar must not be rolled down the back or arms. The lifter must catch the bar in the hands at arms’ length behind the back. The legs must remain straight throughout the lift. The lift ends on command by an official when the bar is controlled in the hands by the lifter.

The way my grandfather taught me was exactly the same as above except of one key thing.  My grandfather would bend his knees as he caught the bar and “shock absorb” the weight.  Obviously, much more can be handled in this way.  You can “feel” the weight hit the hands and then this allows time to “grab” while you sink with the weight.  The locked knees method becomes a guessing game and using much weight at all easily results on spinal strain, busted knuckles, and in some cases (like Chad Ullom) getting what amounts to a “horse collar” tackle by the weight!

First of all, I would like to know the history on this rule.  I’m not saying it’s wrong, I would just like to know where it comes from. My grandfather got all of his information through magazines or 2nd hand so he could have easily gotten this wrong.  But I have tried to research this to no avail.  So if anyone out there knows more about this let me know.

Second of all, unless there is some historic reason for the knees to be kept locked, I would like to see the rule changed to allow for bent knees.  I would argue a lot less injuries would result with greater poundages used and the lift would become more skill based.

Third…if there is a historical reason for the locked knees then I would like to submit a new lift at the next meeting.  The Jackson Shoulder Drop, which would allow for the bent knees.

I know, what’s the big deal!  The shoulder drop is an obscure lift and rarely done.  But I can tell you that my Grandfather did it often.  He did a lift where he would clean the weight, press it overhead, lower it behind the neck, shoulder drop it, and set it on the platform.  He eventually did 135lbs this way which was pretty good for a guy that could barely press much more than that at the time!  So, if you know anything about this lift other than what’s in the rule book please get on the forum and let me know.  Also, let me know if you have a beef with me submitting a new lift that would allow a knee bend and why.

Shoulder Drop

I am planning a team postal meet with details coming soon and one of the lifts we will be doing is the Shoulder Drop.  Here is a good video of JWC member Josh Hettinger setting a record in the Shoulder Drop:


and here is what the USAWA Rule Book says on this lift:

D25. Shoulder Drop

The bar is first cleaned and placed at the base of the neck to start this lift. Feet placement is optional. Once the lifter is upright, and the bar motionless, an official will give a command to start the lift. The lifter will then release the grip on the bar, allowing the bar to drop from the shoulders behind the back. The lifter must catch the bar in the hands at arms’ length behind the back. The legs must remain straight throughout the lift. The lift ends on command by an official when the bar is controlled in the hands by the lifter.

There is actually a reason that I picked this lift as one I wanted to do (and it has nothing to do with Chad Ullom’s Shoulder Drop performance, even if it was pretty funny)

When I was a kid, my grandpa Dalton Jackson (Granddaddy of all the JWC!) used to do all kinds of lifts.  Some I’m pretty sure he made up himself, but many he said he read about or saw in old magazines.  The thing is that my grandpa often saw still photos or read descriptions and I’m not sure he always got them right.  One he did was a lift he claimed Arthur Saxon did.  It was a multipart lift where you would Clean and press the weight, then lower the weight behind the neck, do a Shoulder Drop with it, then set it down.  But the way he did it was he would catch the weight with bent legs whereas the USAWA rules state you must use straight legs.  Since the Shoulder drop was the most difficult of the lift….I decided to use it in honor of “Pop” (what I always called my Grandpa).