Simple Liars, Damned Liars, and Experts

by Thom Van Vleck

I like talking about training.  Even if half the time it evolves in an argument.  The one person I have learned the most about weight training is from my Uncle Phil Jackson.  He would often say to me, “I’ve forgotten more about training than you’ll ever know”.  I still often think he is right.  Another guy I’ll mention is Al Myers.  I have learned more about throwing for the Highland Games from Al than any other person.  A lot of the USAWA crowd may know Al competed in the Highland Games but are not aware he was world class at it.  The reason I listened to Al and Phil was not because they were considered by the majority of the lifting or throwing world as experts but because both had something in common with me.  None of us were what I would call natural or “gifted”.  We all had to work for every bit we have.

First I’ll say this.  There’s a fallacy out there that great athletes make bad coaches and mediocre athletes make great coaches.  The “logic” given is that great players never really learn how to play and rely on their natural abilities while mediocre players have to learn every trick to get better.  The evidence given is that there are many coaches that were mediocre players.  Well, that’s just Bull!  The reality is that there are MANY more mediocre players and it would make sense that they would end up a majority in the coaching world over the handful of great athletes.  What really defines a great coach is knowledge and the ability to impart that knowledge in a way another will take it and use it.  They have what’s been called “Practical IQ”.

Now, I don’t know for sure about Al, but I do know that my Uncle Phil would say I’ve barely listened to him at all over the years.  He’s partly right, I have been stubborn at times.  But I would argue he’s mostly wrong.  If you look at how I train there’s more of him in there than any other person on earth.  As for Al, I know I’ve frustrated him from time to time with a million questions and when he’s been nice enough to answer me I’ve often ripped apart his answers.  Al’s such a nice guy this may be hard to believe….but I’ve made him mad more than once!  Yet, if you look at how I throw…NOBODY has had more influence on my throwing and how I train for throwing!  I have just learned over the years that there are….Simple Liars, Damned Liars, and Experts.

The title for this article refers to a saying among lawyers and judges.  It refers to the “expert” witness.  It is often used to make the point that you can get an credentialed expert witness to support about anything.  Kind of like the saying “Lies, damned lies, and statistics” that make the point that you can find stats to support just about any point of view….whether that point of view is right or not!  This is the attitude I bring into how I approach all experts.

Heck, I AM AN EXPERT!  I have been called into court numerous times to provide expert testimony as a licensed professional counselor.  I have frustrated many judges and lawyers in this role because when I KNOW I’m being looked to as an expert then all the speculation, logic, “makes sense to me” is shoved out of my brain and I got with cold, hard, facts.  And the truth is…..you can’t get much from cold, hard facts!  You need to take that leap and expand out beyond what is known and take your “best guess” sometimes to find success.  When pressed by a lawyer or judge, I would preface my “best guess” by saying this is my “opinion based on what I know”.  That rarely helped….they wanted me to tell them that I “unequivocally” knew the truth and to say it as such.

So, what does all this mean.  I guess (based on what I know…..HAHAHA) that I’m trying to say that we need to seek out experts and understand that one person’s “expert” may not be your “expert”….we all have different needs.  These experts can be anywhere and don’t always need to be the “greatest” or the “most famous”.   We also need to look at being able to mine what an expert can give us even if sometimes they aren’t the best communicators.  We should never throw out the coaching of on person simply because they gave bad advice one time.  That’s like the old saying of throwing the baby out with the bath.  Finally, we need to open ourselves to find people who know more than us and take a leap of faith on what they are telling us…..but always remember there are liars, damned liars, and experts.  It’s all in how you want to look at it.  If you think it’s a lie….or the truth…you’ll probably be right.

Buridan’s Ass

by Thom Van Vleck

The story of Buridan’s Ass is a paradox where an ass (ass as in burro or donkey….not someone’s backside) is that is equally hungry and thirst is placed between a pail of water and a stack of hay.  The ass dies of hunger and thirst because it can’t make a decision about which way to go!  It is actually based on a parable going back to Aristotle.  The more modern version you may be more familiar with is the term “paralysis by analysis”.

Regardless of where it comes from it is the state of over thinking a situation to the point that no decision is made.  There is another parable that I think describes this mental dilemma even better:

There was a fox and a cat arguing over who had the better escape plan.  The fox had hundreds while the cat had only one….run up a tree.  Suddenly a pack of hounds approached and the cat shot up a tree to safety while the fox darted back and forth trying to decide what would be his best option.  In his indecision he missed his opportunity to escape and was caught.

You can get so caught up in seeking the perfect solution that no decision occurs and you end up making mistakes, missing chances, and losing the ability to test out ideas that may have worked for fear there was a better method just around the corner.

How does this related to lifting?  In a way it’s been the story of my lifting career!  I fancy myself a pretty smart guy.  I associate and affiliate myself with the lifters and throwers.  I read all I can about training.  In my early years when I had a spare moment you would find me writing out workouts then erasing parts, adding parts, pondering it….and often never (at best) finishing the workout…or (at worst) never even starting it because I was in search of the “next big thing”.

I think every athlete has been in search of that “holy grail” workout that will bring you big lifts and massive muscles…..and hot babes hanging off your biceps!  The reality is that there is no perfect routine and the most successful athletes learn to move on quickly and decisively from one routine to the next.

So, I’m saying, don’t be an ass…..but how you might ask?

1.  Avoid being a perfectionist….which means allowing yourself to fail.  Failing happens when we take risks and if you aren’t failing then you aren’t taking risks to stretch your boundaries.  In positive psychology they NEVER call it “failure”….it’s always a learning experience.

2. Value speed!  Rewire your brain to “go for it”.  Imagine every decision as a crossroads and you have no brakes on your car.  Make a decision and power through.  What’s the worst that could happen?  You back up and take the other road?  You will still save time over indecision AND you have the learning experience of what was the other way.

3. Focus on starting.  Too often we start to look too far down that road and trying to see where it goes.  If you have an idea, take 30 minutes, or a set time, and go for it all out.  Then assess where you are at rather than sitting down and trying to figure it out.  Set aside time for analysis…like one hour, a day, or 90 days.  Make the amount of time you are in action greater than the analysis time.

4.  Break down goals, look for quick wins, and appreciate every step that moves you forward.  We too often focus only on failure and in the process we forget to look at what worked.  Remove the fear of failure and replace it with an attitude that you embrace change and find opportunity in it rather than potential failure.

5.  Develop habits and routines that avoid the paralysis.  I am reminded of the Nike slogan, “Just Do It”.  For me it’s the Bible Verse James 1:12 which tells us to “Persevere under trial” and those who do will be given the ultimate reward.  Have things that help you get focused and develop them.

Finally, don’t do to this article what I’m encouraging you NOT to do.  Analysis is good!  As a matter of fact there is a common fallacy that our first answer is more often the right answer.  Have you ever been told to “go with your gut” when you don’t know the answer on a test?  Well, I hate to break this to you but it’s NOT TRUE!  It has been proven in study after study.  More often we will change a wrong answer to a right one…almost 2 to 1!  So why is there this perception that we change right answers to wrong?  Because we tend to focus on failure!  So, it is important to keep a positive focus to avoid creating your own fallacies or misconceptions.

As my Uncle Phil told me….train smarter not harder.

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.

OCPD: Weightlifting Sub-type

by Thom Van Vleck

Most, but not all, of my Scottish Hammers....I don't see a problem with having 20 plus hammers....that's normal, right?

Recently the DSM 5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) was released.  It has the criteria for diagnosing mental health disorders.   I end up referring to it a great deal as part of my job as a Licensed Professional Counselor.   The DSM 5 is actually the 7th revision which plays into the fact that there are lots of arguements about what is in it because Mental Health is not as an exact science as we would like.  It relies heavily on the observation and self report of a client and not so much on hard science.  Someday it will, but not now.

The big argument that comes up every time they revise this thing is what is mentally ill and what is not.  Many factors play into this.  Some are pretty legit, some are very politically and culturally driven, and some may be related to special interests such as pharmaceutical companies and mental health facilities that stand to make a profit.  I’m not cynical, just realistic.

So with that in mind I decided to come up with my own disorder.  Obsessive Compulsive: Weightlifting Sub-type.  Now right now I need to clarify something.  Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is different  than Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD).  Many get these confused.  OCD is an anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce anxiety.  The individual then seeks to reduce the anxiety producing thoughts by developing a preoccupation with some obsessive/compulsive behavior.  OCPD is a personality disorder and is characterized by a preoccupation with perfectionism and orderliness.  This can be with the things around them or the people around them.  The funny thing about OCPD is that the person afflicted with it often sees it as a huge plus and a reason for their success….and fail to see how destructive it is to those around them.

So, my OCPD Weightlifting sub-type (and if you haven’t figured out this is mostly tongue in cheek…..and a little not) is geared towards those whose preoccupation with the iron has become a chronic, non-adaptive pattern.  Their drive to achieve perfection in training, diet, and all aspects of life that will lead to that holy grail of being the best they can be has led to them becoming asocial, impossible to deal with, and actually leads to the opposite of what they want to achieve.  Some of the sub-types include narcissism, passive aggressive, paranoid, antisocial, and histrionic (look that one up…it’s interesting).

Now, I said this was tongue in cheek and it mostly is.  There is no way this will ever be a real diagnosis.  But I will tell you that I think weightlifters are a “special breed” (that means “crazy” and “nuts” to the average person).  We see what we do as good and we often reinforce each other especially when one of those “average” persons points out our insanity.  However, we also can box ourselves in with our obsession to the point where we think what we are doing is working and effective when it’s really not.  That’s what OCPD: Weightlifting Sub-type really is.  I know I’ve had bouts with it.  The very nature of the obsessiveness needed to be successful in weightlifting works against you from time to time.

So what do you do?  You need to take a step back every once in awhile and take a look at yourself, what you do, have you convinced yourself what you are doing is working or is it REALLY WORKING.  Take a look at those around you.  Are the blind leading the blind?  Sometimes if you are getting angry because someone contradicts your beliefs that may be a good sign you actually are OCPD:WS.  A good lifter is always open to new ideas.  If you are surrounded by people who agree with you all the time….you better watch out!  That means you are all OCPD:WS! Finally,  take a hard look at what you do.  I was once told by an employer if he asked me why we do something a certain way and my answer was “Because that’s how we’ve always done it” he would fire me on the spot.  I made a joke recently that if I ate hot dogs before ever squat workout I could easily surmise hot dogs were the secret if things went well.  Never assume, always experiment and you will stay away from the chronic, non-adaptive pattern that characterizes OCPD:WS!

So, do you have OCPD: WS….well….do ya?

Da Rules

by Thom Van Vleck

Let’s start off the new year right with some controversy!  I don’t think it’s controversial but I imagine some will.

When my kids were younger they liked to watch a kids’ show called the “Fairly Odd Parents” which was a play off of “Fairy God Parents”.  In the show a boy had two fairy god parents that would help him out in various situations.  The show often centered around him getting himself into trouble then wishing his way out of it.  However, if he could simply wish his way out, then that wouldn’t be much of a show.  There were rules he had to follow.  In the show there was a book called “Da Rules” and it would inevitable appear whenever he would try and make a wish that would easily end the whole show in the first couple of minutes, but then having to follow the rules would lead to a full half hour of hilarity.  The rules were enforced by the leader of the god parents.  Namely, Jorgen von Strangle who was built like Arnold Swarzenegger and suspiciously had an Austrian accent.  Jorgen enforced the rules like a German SS storm trooper and because of this was often the primary protagonist in most every episode due to his inability to bend the rules to any given situation.

Let me set up my “street cred” (what qualifies me as an “expert”….I know…BIG DEAL.  But I do what people to understand my history and that this is based on decades of experience and observations.  My family has lifted in Bill Clark run “odd lift meets” since the 50’s and I lifted in my first odd lift meet in 1979.  I am also a Level 2 Lifetime certified official in the USAWA.  I passed my test on the first try (and that’s a HARD test!).  I have judged in the required 25 competitions to achieve the Level 2 status.  I got Clark’s newsletter for decades and even had a bunch for the 60’s that I gave to Al to complete his collection.  I have followed this for a LONG TIME.

So, get to the point, you may ask!  Well, here’s my thoughts.  There have been times where I have sat around with guys and discussed the membership of the USAWA.  You would think it would be a big deal!  It seems perfect for many lifters that don’t have the leverages to be a great Olympic lifter or pure strength to be a great Powerlifter.  I know over the years it has amazed me how you can take a guy that is mediocre in lifting but he (or she) will have this one lift (or two) that they are flat out AMAZING at.  So why don’t we have people flocking to the sport.  I think I know why.

Da Rules.

I know we need rules.  There needs to be structure.  But when does the structure become a road block?  We try and create a system that is objective, but because humans are involved it’s doomed to always be subjective no matter what we do.

Some years ago I took my brother to watch his first Olympic lifting meet.  Art Tarwater was the head judge.  He’s been Olympic lifting and judging meets for over 50 years.   A great friend of lifting and a great lifter.  He’s also a stickler for  the rules.  If you get a lift when he’s judging, you did it according to the rules and that’s no joke.  He KNOWS every infraction.  So, my brother is watching this meet and about 50% of the lifts that were completed were turned down.  Press outs, catching the clean below the clavicals, elbow touch to the knee….on and on.  My brother kept asking what was wrong with this lift or that.  At one point Tarwater told the lifter to put the weight down as he has made an infraction on the clean and not to bother on the jerk.  My brother (who is almost a dozen years younger than me and this is important as I think he represents the mind set of a younger generation) finally made the comment “THIS IS STUPID…..THOSE ARE GOOD LIFTS”.

Now, let’s get into the meat of my point.  There are times when rules are enforced properly and then times when they are NOT.  There are many reasons for this but here is one I’ve seen repeatedly in the USAWA (and might get me in trouble with some guys).  First, let me say I haven’t gotten a speeding ticket in over 20 years (more than I can say for Al Myers).  Is it because I don’t speed?  Heck no!  I speed all the time.  I get pulled over, too.  But I get warnings.  My daughter, who is 16, got pulled over the other day….she got a ticket.  I bet you dollars to doughnuts (pun intended) that cops give younger people less warnings and more tickets than older guys.  Why?  Because they want them to learn a lesson.  I see that same thing with judges in our sport….in all lifting sports and event he Highland Games.  Heck, even in the Pro sports the old veteran gets the calls against the rookie every time!

I think we, as judges, have good intentions when we red light certain infractions.  But what I think has happened is younger guys come in and do a meet or two and leave with a bad taste in their mouth and that stop coming.  Then we are left with this core group that never grows and we are slowly aging ourselves out of existence.  I would also say there has been a time or two I have wondered if the intentions WEREN’T good and the judge WANTED to run off the lifter.  Yes, I said it and I stand by that statement.  We are all human.

So let me end with this.  I would challenge the members of the USAWA to encourage some young lifters to get into the sport and I would ask you to challenge yourself as a judge to look at these guys and know that they are learning and if an infraction did not help them in completing the lift then warn them before red lighting them (and I understand that’s not “Da Rules”….but a judge by definition forms an opinion or conclusion about “if” something fits the law…..otherwise we would be called “Police” who ENFORCE the law).  An example would be dropping the weight after the conclusion of the lift.  For many lifters this is part of lifting.  They just don’t know and need to learn.  Police officers give a ticket for the infraction, a judge forms an opinion and comes to a conclusion as to what the intent of the law was and if the event fit that intent or if the event intended to subvert the law.

Otherwise, we appear rigid and controlling and who wants to be a part of that.  I can tell you the younger generation does not.  They see Jorgen von Strangle as the enemy.

Black Angus MacAskill

by Thom Van Vleck

Angus MacAskill with a normal sized man.

I enjoyed hearing stories when I was a kid.  You know…good, old fashioned story telling.  Television was around, but with one channel the viewing was limited and since we live in a very rural area story telling in my family was a huge form of entertainment.   My grandfather was the king of story telling….he had a great voice and a knack for painting a picture in your mind of not only words being said, but sights and even smells!  He had been a fan of strongmen and wrestlers and I got to hear many stories about them.  One in particular became a favorite.  That is the story of Black Angus MacAskill.

Angus MasAskill was a giant but a special kind of giant.  The Guinness Book of Records lists him as the largest “natural” giant of all time.  He had normal proportions and no growth abnormalities.  He may have been simply the biggest human being that has ever lived that achieved that size simply through nature and not the result of a disease process.  At his peak he stood 7′9″ tall and weighed 500lbs.  His palm was 8″ wide and his feet were 16″ long and 8″ wide.  He also had a chest that measure 80″ around and shoulders that were 44″ across. Yet, if you saw him in a photo with no point of reference he looked like a “normal” sized man!

Something else made him special.  He had great strength.  He would often take on feats of strength but only if money were put on it.  Some of the feats credited to him (as with all past feats, some questions may arise as to the authenticity so I leave it to the reader to judge for themselves) are as follows:

1. Shouldering a 2,800lb ships anchor (some speculate it was set up where he simply had to do what amounts to a partial lift).

2. Carry two 350lb barrels, one under each arm.

3. Hold a hunderdweight (112lbs) with two fingers at arms length for 10 minutes.

4. Life a full grown horse over a 4ft tall fence.

5.  Set a 40ft tall mast single handed into a schooner.

6.  Carried a sick man over his shoulder for 25 miles in a blizzard to a doctor without once setting him down.

7.  Once was pulling a boat onto a beach and tore the boat in half.

Angus had many nicknames.  He was “Black Angus”, “Mount Kaskill”, the Cape Breton Giant.  He was from Cape Breton Island which was part of Nova Scotia but he was born on the Island of Berneray in the Outer Hebrides Islands of Scotland.  It is a only about 4 square miles with barely over 100 people.  It is about as barren and wind swept of an island as you could imagine.  No wonder his father took him and his family to Nova Scotia!  They settled near Englishtown in St. Ann’s Harbor which is also a very remote location.  Later, many of the group that traveled with Angus’ family moved on to settle in New Zealand.

So Angus’ family had moved from a treeless windswept island to a land that had huge trees covering nearly every square inch so they quickly became lumberjacks.  This was hard work and the MacAskill’s were all know for their strength, but not necessarily their great size.  Angus was the exception in size.  So we know he grew up doing back breaking, hard labor.

The story goes that Angus did not become exceptionally large until he was 12.  He then grew quickly and gained the nickname Gille Mor which is Gaelic for “Big Boy”.  While he was tremendously strong, he was at first clumsy.  At 14 he traveled to Sydney, the largest town in the area, about 40 miles away by boat.  He had never been to such a place and they all put in at a local tavern that had music and dancing.  A local man was dancing and seemed to step on Angus’ large foot while he was sitting watching.  Everyone laughed but Angus did nothing.  This happened a second time and as good natured as Angus was, he still did nothing.  But the third time proved the charm and Angus stood up and hit the fellow so hard he was at first thought dead!  The ship’s captain found Angus hiding on the ship praying that the man was not dead.

There was a point where Angus’ father raised the rafters in his home to allow Angus to walk around upright.  His father also built him a special, long bed.  His father made his sons all work very hard and had a saying that Angus took to heart.  ”What’s worth doing at all is worth doing well”.  While Angus grew up in a very strict Christian environment he also enjoyed making side bets on who could finish a hard job (which he often won) and getting together for a “Ceilidh” or party where bagpipes and fiddles were played and songs were sung with wine, rum, and whisky being shared!

Angus loved his home and most enjoyed fishing along in a rowboat in the bay were he could look at the wooded hills and farms.  No doubt that is the reason that he returned there after traveling all over the world later with the circus.  It is also interesting that the world may have never heard of Angus MacAskill because he loved his life and home and was reluctant to leave it.  But a hard winter led to very hard times and he succumbed to and offer to travel as a giant.  He was promised good money and it was a way to help his family.

There are many tales of him being on tour and doing feats of strength.  One of my favorites was he entered a tavern and picked up a 140 gallon “puncheon”  or barrel of scotch whiskey.  He struck the top with his fist causing the bung or cork to fly out.  He then picked up the barrel and drank from it while toasting the other patrons!  Another was he was on a train when a robbery was attempted.  When he stood up the robbers fled the train without any loot!

Angus often dressed in “Highland Costume” while on tour. He toured all over the world but often hated the heat of the warmer climates.  There is a story that he once met Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle.  Upon being presented with two gold rings by the Queen, he stomped his foot on the carpet to show his strength and left permanent marks with his boot heels.  It was there that Angus supposedly held William Wallace’s sword in his hand at arms length being one of the few to accomplish this feat.

Angus made two world tours that often lasted years.  His first return was a happy one with many of the same people still living in the area.  But his final return found half the population gone.  The timber market had slumped and growing crops or livestock was tough in that climate.  But nonetheless, Angus retired to his home operating a store and mill with his friends and family close by.  The story goes he was a good business man and disliked credit, but never turned away someone in need and was very generous to the local Church.  He died at the age of 38 and was a friend and hero to all in his homeland.  A legendary giant!

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!

Thanksgiving Day Workout

by Thom Van Vleck

Not sure if this is exactly how my house will look on Thanksgiving...but close!

Some families have a tradition of playing football on Thanksgiving.  I have a personal tradition of lifting on Thanksgiving!  I started this several years ago when Thanksgiving for my extended family kind of fell to me and my wife.  My grandmother passed away in 1990 and up until then we would spend ever Thanksgiving and Christmas with my grandparents.  All my cousins, aunts and uncles would come and often it was a very full house.  After her passing that “mantle” was passed on.  My parents took Christmas and my wife and I took Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is notorious…..and yet beloved….for the massive meal of Turkey and all the trimmings.  After a meal like that….about all you can do is lay around while your body directs all it’s resources to digesting a very heavy meal.  If you are like me, there seems to be something about eating  a lot that makes me get hungry again sooner than normal.  Not sure why, but it just simply adds to the calorie intake for the day.

So to counteract this I started a personal tradition of working out on Thanksgiving.  After all, aren’t we supposed to be thankful on that day and what am I most thankful about personally?  Being blessed with an  able body AND blessed by God to live in a country and a time where I can enjoy that luxury!  Of course, nothing like a tough workout to make you good and hungry for the feast.  I know that one of the added benefits for me in my training is that food seems to be so much more enjoyable after a workout!

I try and involve may family when I can and I know my son Ethan is planning to workout with me.  Maybe others as well!  So here is my workout for Thanksgiving 2013!

5:30am  A 3 mile walk!  Ethan is going and my dog, Sunny always enjoys it as well.  I live in the country and depending on who’s house I go by there might be 3 or 4 dogs walking with us by the end.  I think they look for me!  Our cat will sometimes follow in the shadows as well, creeping along the overgrown fence lines.

7:00am Active recovery routine.  This is a dozen or so stretching exercises that seem to keep my old bones limber.  I will also fire up the smoker at this point as well.

8:00am  Got a back workout planned this time.  I will warm up and hit a good ol’ 5×5 on the Power Clean.  This will be followed by several Lat and Trap exercises….I always mix them up but I will likely get in 3 sets of 20 on each.  Then it will be Bicep work followed by grip work.  I have been doing standard DB curls, hammer curls, and then finish with Concentration Curls.  The Grip work will be straight out of Bill Pearls training manuals.

10:00am will be Brunch.  My wife has traditionally made Scotch Eggs.  This is boiled eggs wrapped in sausage, breaded and deep fried.  Some pancakes, coffee, and fresh fruit.

The rest of the day will be preparing the big meal!  Lots of good food and good friends over.  Looks like we will have an even dozen this year!

So, how about a Thanksgiving Workout!  Start a tradition!

Battle in the Barn II

by Eric Todd

Group picture of participants at the Battle in the Barn II. (left to right): Conan Wass, Mike Pringle, Eric Todd, Lance Foster, Thom Van Vleck, Dean Ross, and Scott Tully

Battle in the Barn 2013 is done and in the books.  We had lots of fun, and some great lifting occurred.  I would like to thank Al for coming out and running the score table, and Thom for being our Judge.  I would also like to give a huge thanks to Conan Wass for loading for us.   Five lifters competed in 4 lifts.  Dean Ross came all the way from Oklahoma for the event.

Eric Todd (left) being presented the overall lifter awards from Al Myers (right).

Some of the highlights from the meet for me were:

Dean Ross absolutely grinding out his last deadlift.  HE just got edged out on a final lift from getting 3rd by formula.

Lance Foster’s Dumbbell to the shoulder.  He hit a big number, but missed out on his next one which would have been a BIG PR.  If he had not bombed on the deadlift, he would have been right in the mix.

Thom Van Vleck, the USAWA chair of the OTSM, served as the official.

Professor Scott Tully making a clutch Dinnie lift to put himself into 3rd by formula.

What I was most impressed with was a lean, mean Mike Pringle.  I hardly recognized him when he rolled in. This was Mikes the second ever all-round meet that he has competed in, and he came in STRONG!  I was very impressed with his dumbbell to the shoulder technique.  It seemed very efficient, though I could not duplicate it.  His People’s deadlift was also incredibly strong.

We scored this meet two ways.  One was by the standard formula, and the other was by straight weight lifted.

By formula, the meet ended like this:

5th-Lance Foster
4th-Dean Ross
3rd-Scott Tully
2nd-Mike Pringle
1st-Eric Todd

By straight weight the results are as follows:

5th-Lance Foster
4th-Dean Ross
3rd-Mike Pringle
2nd-Scott Tully
1st-Eric Todd

 
 
Lance Foster performing a 495 pound Dinnie Lift.

MEET RESULTS:

2013 Battle in the Barn II
Saturday, October 19th, 2013
ET’s House of Iron and Stone
Turney, Missouri

Meet Director:  Eric Todd

Meet Announcer & Scorekeeper: Al Myers

Official (1 official system used): Thom Van Vleck

Loader:  Conan Wass

Lifts:  Cyr Press, Dumbbell to Shoulder, Peoples Deadlift, Dinnie Lift

LIFTER AGE BWT Cyr DB DL Din TOT PTS
Eric Todd 38 262 170 265 605 770 1810 1402
Mike Pringle 37 175 110 225 520 535 1390 1342
Scott Tully 37 342 130 150 565 605 1450 990
Dean Ross 70 273 60 125 375 435 995 989
Lance Foster 47 330 80 175 0 495 750 562

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

RECORD LIFT FOLLOWING MEET:

Eric Todd – Neck Lift 1000 lbs.

This lift was officiated by three officials (Al Myers, Thom Van Vleck, and Lance Foster).   The plates were weighed individually as well as the bar to verify the accuracy of the final weight, and the lift was held for 2.06 seconds.

Why Progressive Resistance isn’t always Progressive Pt 2

by Thom Van Vleck

Next year I turn 50.  When I was a kid I remember when my grandmother turned 50 and she made it out like she was practically dead!  On the other hand I am enjoying life quite a bit as of late.  I’m the happiest I’ve ever been to be honest.  I’m healthy, I like my work, my marriage the best ever.  All my kids are teenagers and yet we get along very well.  Life is good.  I have nothing to complain about as I roll into the 2nd half of life should I live to be 100.

I also am working out as hard as I ever have.  But there have been adjustments in how I measure progress.  When I was young I needed to have actual “progress” in my progressive resistance to be happy.  When I was 30 I benched 360.  I worked my bench for a year and then I maxed out and hit 365.  When I was 30….that was a major disappointment.  There was also a time when I squatted 400 and then spent a solid year focusing on my squat and ended at 600!  That was great progress!

As I bear down on 50 my idea of progress has changed.  It would be unrealistic for me to look at adding 200lbs to any lift….except maybe some heavy lift in the USAWA.  I am now at a point in my life where holding the line is a huge victory for me.  I push pressed 300 for the first time almost 20 years ago.  Every so often I do a few and I seem to always hit 300….but my long ago goal of 400 will not likely happen.  I throw in the highland games and I’m throwing as well or better than I ever have….but setting personal bests are few and far between.  I also understand that the day will come when I will set my last personal record.  Then my idea of progress will have to change again.

At that point, it will be begrudgingly giving up my strength.  Mark my words, I plan on going down swinging.  But I know I’ll eventually go down.  I recall trying to get a buddy that had been a good lifter in his 20’s to try masters lifting.  His comment was, “I want to be good….not good for my age”.  While I can appreciate that statement, I’ll tell you that I’m happy to be good for my age!

So as I get older my idea of progress will adjust.  Otherwise it will all become an exercise (no pun intended) in futility.  My Uncle Phil once asked me, “Why do you continue to train when you know someday age and time will take it all away”.  Of course he knew the answer and was just challenging me as he so often has in my life.  To me it’s like climbing a mountain.  Once you are at the top, the only way to go after that is down.  But I would rather enjoy the view as from up high as long as I can.  Not everyone gets to the top but everyone eventually finds the bottom.  Life is a precious gift and I plan on sliding into my grave sideways someday as they say….well worn and yelling what a ride!

Why Progressive Resistance Isn’t Always Progressive

by Thom Van Vleck

Milo of Croton is often credited with originating the concept of Progressive Resistance.....at least in folk lore.

Most everyone knows the story of Milo.  He was a Greek wrestler that dominated wrestling in ancient Greece in his time…that is pretty much a fact.  The legend is he became that way because he observed that he could lift a bull on his shoulder and he supposed that if he did that every day that he should still be able to do that when the bull was full grown.  He then did that, and carried the bull on his shoulders into the Olympic Stadium, slew it and ate meat from it raw to intimidate his fellow wrestlers.  That part may be fact, partly true, or just a great story.  I know it would play well in modern professional wrestling!

The idea was that if you put the body under increasing progressive resistance it would adapt slowly but surely and become stronger.  I think most of us understand that if you weight train, that’s the idea!  What I don’t think most realize is that the adaptation to work load is a flat, linear line from weak to strong.  It actually probably looks like a zig zag line to slow climbs over time where you see ups and downs that if averaged made a nice linear line.

Most people handle making gains pretty well.  Who doesn’t!  What really separates those who make great gains is those who handle the down times.  My point is that when you have times that you slide it’s how you react to that lack of progress or even loss of progress that dictates long term success.  It’s the reason they set up great boxers with “bums” they can beat up on.  Sure, lots of wins and knockouts will sell lots of tickets but that’s not why they really do that.  It’s to create confidence in the fighter.  Getting you butt kicked does not instill confidence in most people.

Those most successful are those that learn to deal with failure and find the ways to most quickly turn it around.  They have short memories on failure and stay focused on success.  They know that failure is part of the process and keep their head down and keep working.  They understand that progress isn’t always linear, accept it, and make each failure a part of their learning process.  They also understand that a lack of progress means a time for change and they don’t stubbornly hold onto a set routine just for the sake of finishing that routine.  They make adjustments and keep focused on what’s going to help them reach their goal

So, my point is, progressive resistance my not always be as progressive.  Success comes from dealing with that quickly, efficiently, and getting back on track.  So the next time you hit a sticking point…know that’s when champions are made…not when it’s going well.  Because even great boxing champs get knocked out once and you never see them at the top again.  But the greatest come back time and again!

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”!

Unorthodoxy: A Training Program

By Thom Van Vleck

Bill Pearl autographed this cover of Muscular Development for my Uncle Phil. This picture hangs in the JWC Training Hall and inspires me in my bodybuilding workouts.

Anybody that trains for any length of time will get stale on any particular routine.  Everybody knows that.  We constantly switch things around to keep things fresh.  For many of us this means recycling many of the basic routines over and over….which can become stale within itself.  I have been training for 36 years and it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and make no progress.  Or in my case, at age 49….trying to hold off the aging process which means lifting a weight I did 10 years ago is considered progress!!!! With those kinds of goals (avoiding decline instead of making gains) it becomes harder for me to stay motivated and enthusiastic about my training.

So, last year I decided I needed to shake some things up.  I upped my sets and reps, added  more exercises to the mix, and did what I would call an “Old School Bodybuilding” Workout.  Something that would make Reg Park or Bill Pearl happy!  This meant training heavy, but with more sets and reps.  I figured my single rep strength would suffer but to my surprise….it’s doing quite well.  I would credit the routine, but I really think it’s the enthusiasm this routine has created in my training.  My enthusiasm has been the highest it has been in years!

I really tried to start thinking outside the box.  I recalled about 18 years ago working my Bench Press for a solid year and adding a paltry 5lbs to my max.  Back then I was in my early 30’s and expected more!  I went from 360lbs to 365lbs.  I went into my next workout with no real plan and decided to hit ten sets of ten reps with 185lbs (about 50% of my max).  Boy was I sore the next day.  I had been used to a basic 3 sets of 8 reps program and this more then quadrupled my reps.  I went into my next workout still without a plan so I just added 10lbs and decided to make hitting 225lbs for 10 sets of 10 reps my goal.  I spent the next 6 months doing this same routine with NO ASSISTANCE work (of course, I was working back and legs….but no upper body assistance work).  This may be hard to believe, but I eventually did 300lbs for 10 sets of 10 reps.

Now, before Al Myers calls BS on me….let me explain.  When I did the 185, it was full reps, controlled, with a full pause at the bottom.  As I increased my form got sloppier and sloppier…..I didn’t care because I was so frustrated with my bench anyways.  I began to do half reps only locking out the last rep and slamming them harder and harder off my chest.  I also began to wear two, three, and even five tight t-shirts for extra padding.  So, I’m sure if I’d been doing these in a gym there would have been some guy making fun of me, telling me I was a joke, etc. etc.   I will be the first to admit that ten sets of ten reps with 300 was about the ugliest benches you would ever see.

The result.  The next week I warmed up.  I loaded 370 for the easiest PR I’d had in years.  I got cocky and jumped to 390….and got it.  Then I went to 400lbs…and I narrowly missed the first try and then did it on a second attempt!  I jumped up and screamed like I’d won the lottery!  The last Powerlifting meet I was in I got that 400lbs wearing a single ply bench shirt and that was my last  powerlifting meet.  I would point out I got 2 reds on that 400 for moving my feet….but I got it as far as I was concerned.  At that point Highland Games were beginning to consume my interest and I haven’t maxed on the bench since.

More recently, I have went back to that 10×10….with a twist.  I call it the 10×10x10.  Again, this is Unorthodox and will likely get you funny looks in gyms and chastised by most trainers.  But I just don’t care if it gets me results and keeps my interest up.  That’s worth more than “perfect form and the perfect routine”.  So, here are two examples of my 10×10x10.

The first is the Dumbbell Press.  I do 10 sets of 10 reps…..but at 10 different angles.  I have an adjustable bench that goes from a straight up and down to different angles of inclines all the way to a flat bench and then I slide plates under the front end to get two levels of declines.  So it’s ten sets of ten reps done ten different angles.  I have done this with the same weight allowing minimal rest and I’ve done it increasing the weight each set.

The second version of my 10×10x10 is with the box squat.  I have been using a safety squat bar which right there will get you made fun of my some guys.  I contend that you can save your back a lot with that bar and at my age that’s an issue.  I also would contend that you have to be very disciplined in using it as you can easily cheat.  I focus on keeping me weight centered on the balls of my feet and only using my hands to keep my body upright. This limits the weight…which is hard on the ego…but keeps the focus on my legs where I want it.  I do 10 sets of 10 on the squat but I start with a rock bottom squat, then to an 8″ box, then 10″…..in 2″ increments up to 24″ which from me having a 36″ inseam is well above parallel (God forbid!).  All the while I jump up in weight.

I’m not trying to say these are “secret routines” or you will have great gains, I’m just trying to show you how I have used some “Unorthodoxy” in my training to keep me motivated.  So, from time to time try being a little unorthodox in your training.  I would still say a good, structured program is best, but every so often do something outside the box.  A little change from time to time is good.

Jackson Stones

by Thom Van Vleck

My circle drive, the Jackson Stones in the foreground and my other concrete "strongman" stones behind them.

When you come to my place I have a circle drive in front of my house.  In the center is a tree planted on honor of my mother in law, Peggy Lynn Barton-Baybo, who passed away about 10 years ago.  Around the tree are four limestone fence posts that weigh around 225lbs each that came from central Kansas courtesy of Ryan Batchman.  Ryan is a great lifter (one time USAWA member) and thrower and a real friend.  They came from his farm and are fence posts carved from limestone used in the 1800’s in central Kansas when trees where scarce.  Then around that are my strongman stones.  I have several different sized  concrete stones….kind of your traditional strongman stones from 225lbs to 300lbs.  The biggest round stone sits on a concrete slab from my Great Grandpa Baugher’s well.  It has a hole in it where the pump went and a concrete ring around it.  I like it because it reminds me of a mill stone.  But I also have three natural Granite stones I dug up on my farm starting 20 years ago.

The 220lb "First" Jackson Stone

I eventually dubbed my three natural Granite stones the “Jackson Stones”.  But early on, about 20 years ago I discovered some stones that had been pushed in a draw on my farm.  Years ago the top had been row cropped and I’m sure as they came up with these glacial till stones they pushed them in the draw to get them out of the way.  They were half buried and I just wanted one to practice stone lifting so I picked the smaller one that was around 220lbs.  A good “starter” stone.  This stone was kept in my yard and from time to time I’d lift it.  It was used in my first ever strongman contest as part of a medley event.  Chad Ullom was at that event.

The second Jackson Stone, 299lbs

About 15 years ago I decided I needed a bigger stone so I went back to the draw and after much digging and work pulled this 299lber out.  It looks smaller in the photo but it’s not as round as the first one and the odd shape made it a challenge.  It was at that same time I pulled out the third stone, which weighed in at 330lbs.  This trio of stones was used in several of my strongman contests and was part of my training when I used to work on strongman events.  They also were often used in our strongman shows that USAWA member John O’Brien did with me.  We had a standard Whiskey Barrel that we would lift the stones on.

The 330lbs, the third Jackson Stone.

These stand as a challenge for anyone that comes to my place.  As far as I know, only Eric Todd, John O’Brien, Joe Costello, Brian Kerby, and myself have lifted all three in succession.  While they are rough and easier to grip, they are odd shaped and finding the center of gravity can be a real problem.  Making them challenging in their own way.  For years I just guessed the weight and I was at 225, 300, and 325.  I finally weighed them officially and found I was not too far off!  I have a plan if I can find a 440lber to make some Dinnie Style rings!   The pink granite crystals make them really beautiful in my book over the grey concrete stone.  I hope others will take the challenge.  If you want a crack, just come to my place!

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!

Thom Van Vleck: NEW Level 2 Official

by Al Myers

Thom Van Vleck (right) is joined by fellow USAWA officials LaVerne Myers (left) and Denny Habecker (middle) at the USAWA Heavy Lift Championships in York in 2011. As you can see, these three took their judging duties very serious as they are getting "down and dirty" to get a good view of the lifting!

Thom Van Vleck has just been promoted to the highest level of officiating status in the USAWA.  He is now a Level 2 Official, and joins a very short list of the most qualified officials within the USAWA.  Since the development of the USAWA Officials Program in 2009,  officials must NOW be certified to judge any USAWA competition/event.    I would like to review a bit of this as it pertains to USAWA Rulebook:

VII. Officials

10.   There will be two levels of classification for Certified USAWA officials.

  • Level 1 Test Qualified – The official has passed the USAWA Rules Test and completed the practical training sessions.
  • Level 1 Experience Qualified – The official has the experience of officiating in 25 or more competitions or events.
  • Level 2 – The official has passed the USAWA Rules Test and has completed the practical training sessions, and has the experience of officiating in 25 or more competitions or events.  

Thom has been officiating in the USAWA for close to 10 years and has officiated at some “BIG” meets.  He has officiated numerous championships events, including the 2006, 2009, and 2011 National Championships.  He also officiated at the 2012 IAWA World Championships.  He earned the Level 2 classification for officiating in over 25 events (as well as passing the USAWA Rules Test).  He is now awarded a LIFETIME OFFICIALS CARD in the USAWA and will have the ability to approve new officials that undergo the Practical Training Sessions.  Congrats Thom!!!

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!

The MOST INTERESTING MAN IN THE WORLD – Dr. Robert Goldman

by Al Myers

Thom (right picture) and myself (left picture) with Dr. Goldman at the 2013 Arnold Higland Games in Columbus, Ohio.

A few weeks ago I made the trip to the Arnold Classic in Columbus, Ohio.  The plans were made for this trip to be in conjunction with the USAWA  Club Championships in Pittsburgh, but when the Club Champs were called off because of bad weather that didn’t really end up happening , we decided to just make the trip to the Arnold anyways.  The four of us (me, Chad Ullom, Thom Van Vleck, and Mike McIntyre) had already made the plans to be gone, so instead of only getting one day at the Arnold, now we got two days. 

You always meet interesting people at these kind of events.  Some you heard of beforehand, and others for the first time.  On Sunday we attended the Arnold Classic Highland Games to support several throwers that we know.  It was a grand event, and sponsored by Dr. Robert Goldman.  Dr. Goldman put up the prize money for the invited pros as well as funding the game expenses. This was the first time I had met him, and I was very impressed.  When I got back home I did some research on him, and I might have to say, he is the MOST INTERESTING MAN IN THE WORLD.  In fact, I have not met anyone who has accomplished what he has in his life in so many different arenas.  Add in the fact that he has a little “all round weightlifter” in him and I was thoroughly impressed.  But before I get to that, you need to read his resume first:

http://drbobgoldman.com/

Dr. Bob Goldman performing a WR 321 consecutive handstand pushups (photo courtesy of Dr. Goldman's website).

It would take a book to write about all of the accomplishments that Dr. Goldman has achieved (or a very extensive website like the one he has!). One of his first books was titled “Death in the Locker Room” which was one of the first unveiling’s of the drug and steroid scene in competitive sports. Dr. Goldman is very anti-drug, and even required steroid testing  at the Arnold Highland Games (which is not the common practice in Highland Games) .   Thom and I compared him to the mysterious Dos Equis man that you often see in beer commercials (who is portrayed as the Most Interesting Man in the World in the beer advertisements).  Dr. Goldman  just radiates confidence and vitality, and after meeting him, you know there is more to the story than what you experienced in that interaction.  On top of all the books he has written and the medical advances he is responsible for, he has achieved some great All Round lifting accomplishments.  He has set several Guinness World Records in such strength events as the handstand pushup, situps for repetitions, one arm pushups, and many others.  The following YouTube Video is very interesting, and is worth the 15 minutes it takes to watch.

YouTube Video –  A lifetime of firsts: The story of Dr. Bob Goldman

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyDgV5WOxH8

It’s great the World has men like Dr. Robert Goldman.  He is proof that if you have a positive attitude and strong work ethic, anything is possible to achieve.  He’s a great role model for all of  mankind.

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!

A Poet and Didn’t Know it. Part II

by Thom Van Vleck

Here it is, the “long lost” poem from my past around 1979:

Each and every day, when time is free

I head to the weight room to pay my fee

Sometimes alone or with a friend

I lift the weights to no end

My chest, covered with muscle and sinew

Is filled with happiness that is not new

From the first rep to the last

I build strength that cannot be past

I am above the rest

In my happiness

Because weightlifting is like no other sport

It’s just me and the weights, from beginning to end

and if I am true, I will always win in the end

Now….I’m not going to be submitting this to any poetry competition anytime soon but this really got me to thinking.  What motivated me back then?  Had I lost some of that?  I “self analyzed” myself and looked for what the 15 year old me could tell the 48 year old me.

Each and every day, when time is free how do I use my free time. Back then, I looked forward to every free moment and filling it with training or thinking about training.  I was excited!

I head to the weight room to pay my fee lifting it paying the price. Every time I go to the gym I want to pay the price and NOT sell myself short.

Sometimes alone or with a friend. I can have a training partner, but you have to lift first and foremost for you!

I lift the weights to no end. I leave it all in the gym

My chest, covered with muscle and sinew. I am there to get strong!  Never forget the main goal!

Is filled with happiness that is not new. I found joy in the journey and not just the goal.

From the first rep to the last. Make every rep count, never just go through the motions.

I build strength that cannot be past. Regardless of what “chicken salad theory” says, I have to have the attitude that I can be as strong as I want to be as long as I am willing to work hard enough.

I am above the rest in my happiness. I am exceptional.  American was built on exceptional-ism.  As long as I don’t bring anyone else down in the process.  If you want to be your best you have to think you are the best and find joy in that.

Because weightlifting is like no other sport. Weightlifting is special.  If you don’t get that….I can’t explain it.

It’s just me and the weights, from beginning to end. It starts with me and ends with me.  I can want help, I can accept help…but I should never NEED help.  I take personal responsibility for all that I do and if I get help, then it’s icing on the cake.  I have to do this for myself.

and if I am true, I will always win in the end. Fate or destiny…..I believe I am in control (no matter how delusional that may be) because when I believe I’m in control then I will believe that what I do will actually make a difference and if I believe that I’m more likely to actually do it.  I must stay true to my belief if I want to have any chance at getting stronger because if I don’t, I will most certainly not get strong.

Now, I’m not sure if 15 year old Thom really believed all those things….I like to think that in some way the seeds for my beliefs had been sown.  But the reality is that I don’t know what I was thinking then…but it my thoughts can say a lot of where I’m at now.  My mother used to tell me about the “Rawlings Curse” (my birth name was “Rawlings”…that’s a long story).  It was almost this idea that those of us with Rawlings blood couldn’t help but fail.  I hated that idea.  I wanted to be successful.  I rejected her logic and decided that I wanted to be in control of my fate.  I made that decision at a very young age.  However, one time my Uncle Phil did tell me, “If I believed in bad luck…and I don’t…..you have it”.   I could let life kick the life out of me.  But I choose not to and I lift on.  It’s all a matter of how you want to look at it….your perception is your reality.  My perception is that every challenge I’ve had in life has made me stronger.  I look forward to the next challenge.  

Dino Gym Challenge

by Al Myers

2013 DINO GYM CHALLENGE
“PRESENTING AN OLD TIME STRONGMAN POWERLIFTING MEET”

Group picture of the participants in the 2013 Dino Gym Challenge.

MEET REPORT:

I was expecting maybe 10 or 12 lifters for the annual Dino Gym Challenge – but then to my amazement lifters kept showing up and showing up!!  The total number of entrants came to 21 lifters!!!!  That’s only a few off what entered the World Meet that I promoted last fall!!!  I was very excited to see this, as it shows the interest that lifters have in the “new” Old Time Strongman Competitions.  This meet was promoted as an “Old Time Strongman Powerlifting Meet” because it contained three OTSM lifts that are partial-lift deviations of the three powerlifts (Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift).  The meet included two Official OTSM lifts (the Anderson Squat and the Peoples Deadlift) as well as one exhibition lift (the Hackenschmidt Floor Press).  The Hack FP  ”went over” really real with the lifters and I hope that it will become approved as an official OTSM lift this year. 

The three officials of the Dino Gym Challenge holding their souvenir beer mugs - complete with Dino Gym logo!! These mugs were given as the awards to all participants. (left to right: Chad Ullom, Thom Van Vleck, LaVerne Myers)

One thing that I GREATLY appreciate with the Dino Gym members is how we always “come together” to support each other in our promoted events.  Putting on any competition requires lots of “behind the scenes” work, and manpower on the day of the event. Even though we had more lifters show up than expected, things ran very smoothly because there was enough “helpers” to make it happen.   Often after meets the attention is always on the lifting performances, but things wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t for those facilitating the meet.  In this meet report I want to mention these guys first (they’re often the last mentioned).  The USAWA OTSM Chairman Thom Van Vleck is first on my list to thank.  Thom has been promoting the yearly OTSM Championships, and he has made a effort to be at most ALL of the OTSM meets in the USAWA, offering leadership and support.  He took on the hardest event to officiate (the Anderson Squat) for the day.  Chad Ullom, who normally doesn’t miss an opportunity to compete, sat this one out so he could be one of the needed officials of the day.  He officiated the Peoples Deadlift as well as loaded that event the entire day.  LaVerne Myers officiated the new OTSM event, the  Hackenschmidt Floor Press.  LaVerne has been a very important official in the club, and does an outstanding job.  He is very professional in his officiating and keeps things on pace.  His group finished before Chad’s and Thom’s in every rotation!!!  I also want to thank Mike Murdock and Tyler Cookson for helping spot and load throughout the day.  This help allowed me to focus on the daily details, keeping the scores updated, and taking lots of pictures.  Finally, I want to mention and thank my wife Leslie who made the lunch for everyone and puts up with me for stressing over every “little detail”. 

Dan Wagman pressing 435 pounds, which was the top Hackenschmidt Floor Press of the meet.

Now onto the lifting performances.  The IAWA World Champs Dan Wagman and Ruth Jackson made their appearance from Colorado, and added another overall victory to their USAWA resumes. Both performed outstanding in all of these OTSM events.  Dan “put up” the top Hackenschmidt Floor Press of the day with 435 pounds. Newcomer Mike McIntyre lifted 410 pounds in the FP.  Mike is a member of the JWC, and at 29 years of age, has his best lifting years still ahead of him.  KC Strongman Eric Todd also lifted 410 pounds in the FP.  That’s THREE lifters over 400 pounds!!! 

I was very interested to see the big lifts in the Anderson Squat. I was hoping to see several lifts over 800 pounds – and that I did!! Eric Todd became the first USAWA lifter to ever go over 900 pounds (with a lift of 903#).  ET has been “making his name known” in the USAWA this past year with winning the Heavy Lift Champs last spring, and setting the ALL TIME neck lift record at Worlds.  His second place finish in this stellar-packed field of lifters show that he is also a top contender in any future OTSM competition.  John O’Brien of the JWC upped his personal record in the Anderson Squat to 810 pounds. I want to mention that John did this after losing over 30 pounds of bodyweight. This bodyweight loss while maintaining his same strength helped him with the formula adjustment and aided him to get third place overall at this meet. I say this because he “just edged” out Alan English by one point!!!   Alan is a Dino Gym member who I have FINALLY got to compete in an USAWA competition. He is a gifted strength athlete who has lots of strongman victories to his name.  I hope that this meet has inspired him to compete more in the USAWA, because if he does, you will see several great things out of him in the future.  Rounding out the top five was another Dino Gym member, Scott Campbell.  Scott finished off his day with the second highest Anderson Squat, with a lift of 881 pounds.  Scott is a seasoned Highland Game Athlete who has strength that he doesn’t really know he has. 

Dino Gym member Chuck Cookson had the top Peoples Deadlift of the meet with this 800 pound lift!

I got a couple of other lifters that I want to mention.  First – Chuck Cookson.  Chuck started the meet off by putting up the top Peoples Deadlift of the day – 800 pounds!!!  However, he opened a little too high on the Anderson Squat (800 pounds!!!) and couldn’t get a lift in.  If he would have got in an Anderson Squat, he would have placed much higher in the overall.  I want to thank Art Montini and Denny Habecker for making the trip from Pennsylvania to compete.  It’s always inspiring to watch these two lift in meets.  I would like to know how many USAWA meets these two have competed in throughout the years. They seem to always be at USAWA events, and have been doing this for 25 years!!! I really doubt if there are very many other lifters in the USAWA that have competed as many times as these two.  I want to thank a couple of Jobe Steel Jungle lifters who made the trip – Tim Songster and Dan Bunch. I really appreciate it when lifters travel to my meets from out of state. This includes Dean Ross from Oklahoma.  I did a quick count and lifters from six states competed in this meet.  That’s simply amazing!!!

As always, I still have lots more to report on but I got to draw a conclusion to my meet report at some point.  Tomorrow I’ll reveal the results from the challenge between the Dino Gym and the Hoghton Barbell Club.  Also, I still have the results from the shooting competition that went on after the meet to report on. That’ll be coming later this week.  Again, I want to thank EVERYONE who competed, helped out, or just showed up to watch.  This will go down as one of the best Dino Gym Challenges of ALL TIME. 

MEET RESULTS:

Dino Gym Challenge
Dino Gym, Abilene, Kansas
Saturday, January 19th, 2013

Meet Director:  Al Myers

Officials (1 official system used):  Thom Van Vleck, Chad Ullom, LaVerne Myers

Scorekeeper:  Al Myers

Loaders:  Tyler Cookson, Mike Murdock

Lifts:  Anderson Squat, Hackenschmidt Floor Press, Peoples Deadlift

WOMENS DIVISION

LIFTER AGE BWT SQ FP DL TOT PTS
Ruth Jackson 51 107 286 160 319 765 1180.1
Jera Kressly 28 219 319 0 379 698 593.2

EXTRA ATTEMPTS MADE FOR RECORD:

Ruth Jackson: Anderson Squat 308#
Ruth Jackson: Hackenschmidt Floor Press 180#
Jera Kressly: Anderson Squat 352#
Jera Kressly:  Peoples Deadlift 399#

MENS DIVISION

LIFTER AGE BWT SQ FP DL TOT PTS
Dan Wagman 50 185 738 435 677 1850 1917.6
Eric Todd 38 262 903 410 717 2030 1573.1
John O’Brien 44 262 810 380 554 1744 1419.0
Alan English 29 231 694 320 702 1716 1418.1
Scott Campbell 38 287 881 325 654 1860  1378.8
Mark Mitchell 52 316 672 365 624 1661 1329.4
Tim Songster Sr. 45 205 501 285 554 1340 1251.8
Mike McIntyre 29 273 600 410 604 1614 1225.5
Darren Barnhart 45 302 628 340 624 1592 1221.1
Dave Glasgow 59 252 507 250 504 1261 1195.4
Doug Kressly 33  276 540 320 604 1464 1106.1
Scott Tully 37 313  600 320 604 1524 1086.2
Dan Bunch 48 360 551 275 624 1450 1055.3
Denny Habecker 70 198 331 215 349 895 1052.9
Dean Ross 70 273 402 180 379 961 955.9
Ben Edwards 37 217 440 225 449 1114 951.4
Art Montini 85 175 209 120 306 635 895.2
Chuck Cookson 43  275 0 300 800 1100  865.7
Lance Foster 47 330  402 180 554 1136 851.9

 EXTRA ATTEMPTS MADE FOR RECORD:

Denny Habecker:  Anderson Squat 352#
Denny Habecker: Hackenschmidt Floor Press 225#
Denny Habecker: Peoples Deadlift 369#
Dan Bunch: Peoples Deadlift 649#
Dan Wagman: Anderson Squat 782#
Dan Wagman:  Peoples Deadlift 707#
Dean Ross: Peoples Deadlift 399#
Lance Foster: Hackenschmidt Floor Press 190#

EXTRA LIFTS MADE FOR RECORD:

Dan Wagman: Curl – Cheat, Reverse Grip 204#
Dan Wagman: Vertical Bar Deadlift – 1 Bar, 2″, Left Hand 180#
Dan Wagman: Vertical Bar Deadlift – 1 Bar, 1″, Left Hand 217#
Dan Wagman: Vertical Bar Deadlift – 1 Bar, 1″, Right Hand 217#
Ruth Jackson: Bench Press – Right Arm 44#
Ruth Jackson: Bench Press – Left Arm 44#
Ruth Jackson: Bench Press – Feet in Air 110#
Ruth Jackson: Bench Press – Hands Together 93.5#
Ruth Jackson: Holdout – Raised 33#
Ruth Jackson: Holdout – Lowered 33#
Ruth Jackson: Deadlift – Right Arm 181.75#
Ruth Jackson: Deadlift – Left Arm 181.75#
Ruth Jackson: Deadlift – Ciavattone Grip, Right Arm 90#
Ruth Jackson: Deadlift – Ciavattone Grip, Left Arm 90#

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

A Poet and Didn’t Know it! Part 1

by Thom Van Vleck

I was going through some old magazines recently.  These aren’t just magazines that are old…they are magazines that have been in my possession since they were purchased by me from the newsstand (yes, we had one in Kirksville…and it’s still here!) since I started training.  The past 20 years I have spent a lot of my magazine time on the ones that my Uncle’s gave me from the 50’s and 60’s and the ones my grandfather gave me from the 30’s and 40’s plus some I have bought over the years from collectors or “inherited” from other old club members who know I will keep them and take care of them.   I have ignored the 70’s, 80’s and up.  Partly because I see those era’s as tainted by steroids and partly because I felt like the commercialism really got carried away (I know, I know…..all the early mags sold stuff too….and were practically catalogs for products….but it just seemed to get worse!).

At any rate, I dug out some late 70’s mags recently.  This included some old “Muscle Builder” mags by Weider.  There’s a reason I hadn’t looked at these for years!  I bought them back in the day because there was little information available and I took what I could get!  At any rate, as I thumbed through a 1979 issue a piece of paper fell out.  It was folded up note book paper with the vertical red line on the left side where you would start writing and the blue lines so you would keep things neat and straight plus three holes to put it in a three ring binder.  I felt like I had to describe that as I don’t think the younger kids would know what I’m talking about!!!!!   The paper indicated to me it was from school and it was probably something I had wrote while goofing off and avoiding class work.  I often would sit and draw pictures related to lifting, sketch out workout routines, write out goals, or just about anything you could imagine related to weightlifting…..from the age of 15 to 18 I was as fanatical as they come!

This particular piece of paper was jammed in an article by Mike Mentzer on calf training.  I recall that article well!  It almost landed me in the Emergency Room.  I often was too impatient (that’s what they called Attention Deficit Disorder what I was a kid) to read all the “details”.  My calves were as skinny as a marathon runner and I wanted to gain some size.  This article detailed about a dozen or so exercises and in my haste to get “Diamond Shaped” calves I decided to do them all for 3 sets of 20 with maximum weights.  The next day my calves were so sore I could hardly walk.  It was also a day I was supposed to go rabbit hunting with my Uncle Phil (also an accomplished lifter and as sadistic as they come when it comes to training!).  He saw me hobble out (in SERIOUS PAIN) and quickly surmised I was sore from lifting.  He offered to call of the hunting but I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction as I knew I’d never hear the end of it.  So we proceeded to hunt for the next 8 hours in cold, wind, and rain and I’m pretty sure he picked the spots that required the most walking to get to.  Finally, we went home and my calves actually felt a little better….until I laid down.  Then, they began to feel like they were on fire and someone was slicing them open with a scalpel!  They hurt so bad quiet tears ran down my face.   My mom found me and evidently I was having trouble hiding my distress and wanted to take me to the ER.  I refused, and I recall her going in trying to talk my Dad into “making” me go….but lucky for me my Dad was as sadistic as my Uncle and laughed his butt off as he knew exactly what was going on.  I was lost in the memory as I held that paper in my hand.

So, back to my story….I opened up this long, lost paper expecting some workout routine, or something like that….and found a poem.  It was a poem I had written when I was around 15 years old.  You have to understand that I started lifting at age 13…but on my 15th birthday (because I read where Arnold started seriously training at age 15) I went “all in”.  And when I say all in, I was training around 3 hours EVERY DAY and lived, ate, and breathed lifting every waking moment….and then I would DREAM about it at night!   Evidently, I had run out of routines and things to write about and had written a poem.  While I write a lot and always have….I haven’t written a lot of poems.  I don’t remember writing this one, but I do know I wrote it as I recognized my handwriting.  I peeled the yellowed and folded pages open and began to read.

In Part II, the poem.

Everybody’s got to have Goals!

by Thom Van Vleck

My main goal for 2013 is to look as sexy as possible. (photo and caption courtesy of the webmaster)

Just curious if anyone else is a “goal setter”.  As the new year approaches, I try to ponder the coming year.  I have often set “New Years Resolutions” as many do and as many that set them also do….I break a lot of them!  Here are some things I’ve learned about setting goals.

First, don’t box your self in.  I try and set marks to shoot for, but I’m also not too rigid about leaving open the chance for “targets of opportunity”.   In the Marine Corps we were taught that you may have an objective, but if an easy target (target of opportunity” came up, the go for it!  Maybe you start out wanting to hit a big squat, but your knee flares up.  Then you find the squats you’ve been working on have helped your deadlift.  Go for a big deadlift and forget about the squat until the knee is better and DO NOT push the knee into a serious injury by stubbornly pushing through it.   Maybe you set a goal to lose 50lbs but find 35lbs gets you were you want…..how you look and feel is more important than what the scale says.

Overall shape.  My primary training goal for 2013 is to get in the best overall shape of my life.  I have went from 310lbs to around 280….I am not dieting, just stopped eating junk.  More protein, less carbs, fat, sugar.  I want to continue this.  I have no “goal” weight but I do want to lose fat, and get leaner. I have set a bottom number of 242lbs….that’s a long story…but if I can’t get lean enough at that weight I will just have to work harder!  Too often in the past I have just wanted to be stronger….when being healthy first will ultimately create lasting strength.

Lifting.  In the past, I have set poundage goals….This year I’m trying something different.  I’m not going to worry about how much I lift, I’m going to focus on intensity.  It is my goal to enter each lifting session with more intensity and not measuring success.  Too often I’ve set up lifting routines that are many weeks of hitting the same lifts….this time I’m going to be flexible.  I want to go into the gym excited about what I’m doing and embrace changes in my routine as a positive rather than a failure to hit lifts mapped out months earlier.

Have goals, sub-goals, and a “quota” goal.  My Uncle Phil years ago managed salesmen.  I asked him if he set goals for them.  He said, “They call them goals, I call them quotas”.  His point was he would set a hard goal that was high and probably unrealistic and make it a quota….then when they fell short he would sit down with them and look at what they achieved, not that they had failed to reach their “quota”.  He felt that by reaching unrealistically high they would achieve more than had they set “too easy” goals….because he found when most hit their goals….they QUIT TRYING.  He also like to set up sub goals that were rewarded along the way.  He often rewarded his salesmen out of his own pocket when they reached sub goals.  Reward yourself as you hit goals and make yourself into “Pavlov’s Dog”!  They you will salivate at the thought of being successful.

I don’t claim to be an expert in this area, these are just some lessons I have learned over the years.  I am looking for a big year in 2013!  I want to be leaner, stronger, lift bigger weights, throw farther in the highland games….and if I end up a little “sexier” (by the way, the photo above was Al’s doing!!!!) all the better!

OTSM Goes BIG in 2013!

by Thom Van Vleck

It’s not even 2013 yet and we already have THREE OTSM (Old Time Strong Man) contests for  next year and at least one other in the works.  For that reason, we are looking at expanding on the pool of lifts.  How this works is a lift is proposed, then used in a contest to see how it works.  If it works, it is then taken to the annual meeting for approval by the members.

First up is Al’s meet he recently posted for January.  In it he will be introducing a new experimental lift, the Hackenschmidt Floor Press.  There will be an article soon explaining this lift.  Al’s meet will have the Anderson Squat, the Hack Floor press, and the People’s Deadlift.  Rules for the other two lifts are located in the rule book.  This is basically an Old Time Powerlifting Meet!

Second will be in April.  The meet date is not set, but likely the end of April.  This will  run by Tim Piper and will be in Macomb, Illinios. This meet will be at the Salvation Army Gym and that Gym is worth the trip by itself!  I was there recently to help judge a meet and it was as “Old School” as they come and the prefect place for an OTSM meet!

The, of course, the OTSM Nationals will be held in Kirksville, Missouri for the 3rd time.  This meet will be later in the year and while the date is to be determined….it WILL happen and will be the “finale” for the OTSM season.

I also know that Eric Todd and the KC Strongman crew are looking to hold a meet and I’m hoping to talk Jesse Jobe to put one on. I would also like to see regular USAWA meets, such as Record Days, associated with these meets.  As that would help open up the USAWA to new members and fans!

Now we have the makings of a circuit!  So, for those interested, I propose that we have an “OTSM” circuit.  I am looking for ideas on how to format this so anyone that has a good idea, send it my way.  Basically, I want to reward the person who attends the most meets and places the best at those meets.  This award will be present at the conclusion of the OTSM Championships.  Maybe we should even have a club champion as well.  What do you think?  Let me know!

I hope that everyone will give an OTSM meet a look in 2013.  Maybe even host one and compete in one!

OTSM Championships is now a FUNDRAISER!

by Thom Van Vleck

The OTSM Championships will be used to raise funds to buy more equipment for the Osteoblasters Weightlifting Club

The Old Time Strong Man Championships are just around the corner!  October 14, 2012 is the date for the 2nd  OTSM Championships and I have some exciting news.  This year we will be raising money for the Osteroblasters Weightlifting Club.  The OWC was formed just this past spring and has already been made an official University Organization with a membership of over 50 students making it one of the largest organizations on campus.  To give you some perspective, we have around 350 students on campus at any give time (with many students out on clinical rotations as our primary mission is creating physicians).  So, our membership represents a significant portion of the student population.   We have members of our club that are involved in Olympic lifting, Power lifting, Strongman, boxing, martial arts, cross fit, highland games, and many other sports where they use weightlifting to get better.  However, many of our members just realize that lifting weights is an integral part of an all around fitness program.  We promote a healthy, drug free lifestyle and for that reason, a USAWA meet seemed a great fit for a fundraiser.

Mike McIntyre is our club President and a student in our Biomed program (working on his master's degree) and a driving force in getting the OWC organized. Here Mike is doing Deadlifts with over 500lbs on the thick bar.

As the staff adviser for the club I help them with whatever their needs may be.  Right now, we need more equipment!   And you can help!  Come and compete at the OTSM Championships and I will be donating 100% (that’s right, 100%) of the entry fee money to the club!  You still have to buy your USAWA memberships (but really….shouldn’t you already have it!), but you can know that your entry fee will go to a good cause.

I have been amazed at the interest our club has generated and while the director of our campus Rec Center has been very generous in buying us equipment, we had no idea how many students would turn out for the club workouts!   We have over 30 showing up at 4 organized lifting sessions each week!  We need your help!  Sign up to compete today….and if you are feeling generous, anything extra you give will go to buying equipment and I would even consider donations of equipment for a trade for your entry!.  So bring what you have and we’ll let you donate it as your entry fee!   We will also have club shirts on sale for a fundraising (don’t worry, you will get a meet shirt, this is something just for the club).

Jared Nichols

I will repeat a previous story on the OTSM, we have moved it to the old Williard School Gym where I held Nationals last year!  Great location for a meet!   So come out and lift, and if you can’t lift, please come and help.  Don’t worry, you won’t get roped into loading (I have student club members for that!!!!)   I DOl need USAWA certified judges and experienced lifters to help coach my newbies in the warm up area on the rules and lifts…..there will be a lot of NEW lifters at this meet and they need coaching and mentoring!  While I will accept entries on the day of the meet, a heads up is always appreciated.  See you soon!

Leadership Award

by Al Myers

TOP: Denny Habecker receiving the Runnerup Leadership Award (right), presented by Al Myers (left). BOTTOM: Chad Ullom "stepping in" to accept the Leadership Award in Thom Van Vleck's abscence (right). Again, the presenter is Al Myers (left).

Another very important award given out during the USAWA Yearly Awards Ceremony is the Leadership Award.  This Award is for individuals that have shown exceptional leadership qualities throughout the year in the USAWA.  Both of this year’s winners are indeed worthy of this award!  The Leadership Award Winners are:

WINNER – THOM VAN VLECK

RUNNERUP – DENNY HABECKER

It was a shame that Thom was not present in Vegas to receive this award, because of all that he has done for the USAWA it would have been nice for him to get this recognition first hand.  Thom has been very instrumental in helping with this website, as well as taking on the promotion of the USAWA Old Time Strongman Championships.  Last year he hosted the very first OTSM Championships and it was VERY successful. 

Denny should be a yearly candidate for this award because of the unselfish and unrelenting effort he constantly pours into the USAWA.  Being the USAWA President is a never ending job, and Denny performs it to perfection.  He deserves more credit than he often gets, so I was VERY excited to see him win this award and get this recognition.

CONGRATS THOM AND DENNY!!!

USAWA Members GO SCOTTISH!

by Thom Van Vleck

Chad Ullom and Thom Van Vleck at the 2012 Master's World Championships in Greenville, South Carolina.

Chad Ullom sets up "to pick" the Caber.

Recently, Chad Ullom and myself  traveled to Greenville, SouthCarolina to participate in the  2012 Master’s World Championships (MWC) of Scottish HighlandGames.  Most USAWA members know Chad for his lifting.  I knew Chad as a Highland  Games athlete long before his decorated USAWA lifting career.   As a matter of fact, I think I have competed with Chad in more competitions than any other athlete ever between our Highland Games exploits and USAWA meets!   Chad just turned 40 and has made a bit of a “comeback” to his Highland Games roots to compete in the the MWC.  In his first MWC he garnered a 4th place finish out of about 20 throwers in his class (40-44).  I placed 6th in my group (45-49) which also had about 20 competitors.  The overall competition had over 100 throwers!  So, as you can tell, this is a very competitive group.

Chad shows explosiveness and outstanding form as he drives the caber into the air.

First, a quick primer for those of you who don’t know what the Highland Games are.  There are 9 events that include Hammer Throwing, Weight for Distance throwing, stone putting (think “shot put”), and Weight Over Bar event, a sheaf toss, and the uniquely Scottish event, the Caber toss.  This event involves picking up a tree trunk, running with it, then attempting to flip it end over end.  You can win individual events, but the goal is the overall win which is much like the “total” in weightlifting.

Chad was in an extremely stacked class which was eventually won by Braidy Miller.  Braidy has held the NCAA record in the discus and I believe the indoor weight and was an All American in those events and National Champion.  He missed going to the 1992 Olympics by a fraction.  But Chad was able to pull the caber win out in a decisive manner.  As a matter of fact, only Braidy and Chad turned the caber at all and  both of Chad’s turns were superior to Braidy’s.  So, even though Braidy was victorious, Chad won the caber toss and to me, that is a special event to win due to it being the premier Scottish event!

..... and Chad seems to be trying to push the caber over from afar as he completes the winning caber toss at the 2012 Master's World Championship in Greenville, South Carolina. (Caber photos by Melanie Mullally)

I had hoped to win my 4th Weight Over Bar event at the World’s, but it was not to be.  Still, 2nd place in that event makes me proud and I was so close to winning!  But that will only make me work out even harder to get that title back next year!  I would also like to point out that two other JWC members who aren’t USAWA members went with me and won titles.  Jim Spalding won the under 200lb over 50 class and Bill Leffler won the 55-59 group.  So the JWC did well!

So, now you know me and Chad’s secret.  We put on skirts and toss telephone poles when we aren’t lifting in USAWA meets.  But we have several USAWA brothers and sisters that have that “other” passion as well such as Dean Ross, Mike Murdock, Dave Glasgow, Scott Campbell, just to name a few!   Chad and I are already making plans for next years MWC to be held in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Breath, Stupid!

by Thom Van Vleck

Thom blowing up a hot water bottle till it burst. We all know Thom is the EXPERT when it comes to breathing, as he is "full of hot air". (photo and caption courtesy of the webmaster)

Recently my Mom returned from the doctor.  She was incredulous about what he had told her.  He had told her she was breathing wrong.  My Mom looked at me and said, “Who wouldn’t know how to breath?”.  I was also watching a kid’s show with my youngest son shortly after that.  One of the characters was depicted as being so stupid that he would periodically forget to breath and would turn blue forcing his companion to remind him to, “Breath, Stupid”!

We all know how to breath, right?  It pretty much comes naturally….doesn’t it?  The devil is in the details.  We may know how to breath, but breathing properly during exercise is important.  I have learned a great deal on this subject over the years and this little article won’t do the subject justice, but maybe it will get you thinking.

First of all, I was taught at a young age to “suck that gut in” and breath with your chest.  I recall at one time watching a video of Jack LaLanne saying just that.  When I was in the military I was constantly told to pull that stomach in and stand up straight.  Also, I was always a little self conscious as I’ve been a little overweight since I as a teenager.  So, “sucking it in” has been drilled in my head.  As a consequence, I have always had trouble getting my “wind” or getting too out of breath when I do something even slightly aerobic.  I never really thought much about it, just assumed I was out of shape and needed to work harder.

Then, one day I was doing some short sprints.  I began to notice that I would hold my breath when I would take off and focus on keeping my stomach super tight.  I then read something about learning to breath with your stomach, not your chest, and I began to work on that.  Believe it or not, it was an article on how to play the trumpet!  All of a sudden, I found I had better “wind”.  In other words, I wasn’t as out of breath when I breathed through my stomach and not my chest.  I also began to take deep breaths using my stomach before exertion, before going out to squat, sprint, or do strongman harness pulls.  Using the stomach to breath deep, full breaths filling my lungs helped me have better “wind”.  It also came in hand with one of my specialty feats of strength….blowing up a hot water bottle!

Second, I began to think about my use of the Valsalva Maneuver.   About ten years ago I had an “Idiopathic Sub-retinal Neo-vascularization” in the retina of my left eye.  Basically, I had a small tear in my retina and a vein grew through it like crab grass in the crack of a sidewalk.  As a result, the “crab grass” had to be zapped with a laser and I lost some vision.  It was called “Idiopathic” because there was no readily apparent cause.  I now suspect it may have been Valsava Retinopathy.  This is when a tear occurs in the retina following pressure buildup likely during the use of the Valsalva Maneuver in lifting.

What is the Valsalva Maneuver?  It’s simply taking and holding a deep breath during exertion or if you want to get technical, a “forcible exhalation against a closed glottis”.  I had done that for years.  When you hold your breath you build up intra-abdominal pressure and in turn solidify your core.  This is a primary reason for using a lifting belt.  You use the belt to push your abdomen against and increase the internal pressure.  The support in the back is really secondary in my book.  There is a theory as to why you get light headed during extended periods of using the Valsalva Maneuver.  It involves the Vagus Nerve that runs by your Carotid Artery.  The idea is that as the blood pressure goes up the Vagus Nerve is stimulated causing you to faint so you pass our before you stroke out!   That’s just a theory.  Personally, I would guess the fact you have stopped breathing has something to do with becoming light headed!  The rapid change in blood pressure could also factor in.  At any rate, this is often what gets blamed, and likely rightfully so in most cases, for deaths when lifters get pinned by a heavy bench press when lifting alone.

So, how are you supposed to breath?  The reality is that if you are doing a max effort for single or low reps you are going to hold your breath at some point and take advantage of the intra-abdominal pressure.  You just can’t avoid it.  However, most “experts” will say to breath out during the concentric part of the lift and in during the eccentric whenever possible.  This is what I’ve tried to do as well with most exercises.  There are some that I do the opposite.   For example, from time to time I mix in some high rep leg presses for a set of 100 or more reps nonstop (I know, real lifters don’t leg press….unless it’s an old school leg press like Ed Zercher used to do).  When I do these I have a lot of compression at the bottom so I breath out on the eccentric (going down), which is the opposite.  I basically breath in the way that keeps the intra-abdominal pressure lowest.

Bottom line:  Think about your breathing during each and every exercise!   Breath deep, through the stomach, not the chest.  Keep that intra-abdominal pressure as low as you can and save it for the big lifts!  By the way, I talked to my Mom’s doctor and he noted she was breathing with her chest, not her stomach and this was creating pressure in her abdomen and with her high blood pressure this was not good.  She is learning how to breath, too!

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!

Tourism Ambassador Award

by Thom Van Vleck

Thom Van Vleck accepting his Ambassador of the Year Award from the Kirksville Chamber of Commerce. (photo courtesy of KTVO)

Thanks to the USAWA, I was greatly honored by the Kirksville Chamber of Commerce the other night.   For the past 15 years I have held dozens of Highland Games, strongman contests, and helped the Irondogs with powerlifting and olympic lifting meets that have brought a lot of people to Kirksville.  I never really thought about it until this award came up, but many would have never come to Kirksville had these events not been held.  To be honest, I just wanted to host meets and have some fun!   My goal financially has always been to break even….and even that goal isn’t always met!  Those of you who have run meets know what I’m talking about!  I never thought about the fact I was bringing tourism to my hometown. 

So why do I want to thank the USAWA?  Because promoting the Nationals in Kirksville last year seems to be the event that got me recognized by the C of C!  Some of you that attended were kind enough to write a thank you letter to the C of C as they helped me out with the meet.   Those letters were so good, they put me up for the award and I won!  There were about 200 of Kirksville’s best at the annual banquet where I got my award.  Debi Boughton, head of tourism for the C of C introduced me, talked of the games and the meets I have promoted, and then read a couple of the letters send by USAWA letters.  The first letter was from Chad Ullom and the second one was from Denny Habecker and his wife.   These letters mentioned business that had several representatives in the crowd.   I gave a little speech, plugged my events for the coming year, and thanked the C of C for helping me as well as the local sponsors who’ve been so good to me over the years. 

Afterwards, I was interviewed by the local paper and the local television station.   I also was asked to speak at the local Rotary clubs (there are two in town) and do an hour long interview at a local radio station!  I have to say, I felt like a real BIG SHOT!  I was just a great opportunity to promote my Highland Games (that’s my real passion), but also to solicit new volunteers, sponsors, and competitors.  One of the people that approached me after the award ceremony wants to try his hand at the Highland Games!  New blood is always a good thing. 

Afterwards some friends took me to the Dukum Inn for a celebratory round of drinks and soon I was home in time to catch the evening news with a story on my.  Leave it to one of my kids to bring “Ol’ Dad” back down to earth.  After the news showed me giving my speech and talking about the award my youngest son said, “Yeah, Dad….now can we turn it back to my show”!  

So, thanks USAWA for “putting me over the top”.  I think a lot of good things will come out of this award, some new sponsorship, some new help, some new spectators, and maybe even a new competitor or two!  I am hosting the Old Time Strongman Championships again this year and the Chamber wants to help me on that one, too.   So come back to Kirksville, or come for the first time!  More USAWA events are to come! 

http://www.kirksvilledailyexpress.com/features/x1251827843/Kirksville-chamber-honors-Tate-others-for-local-service

Ice it down!

by Thom Van Vleck

Thom enjoying a post-competition "hydrotherapy" session following last summers Ledaig Highland Games. A cold group bath with your sweaty buddies is a great way to enhance recovery following a hard day of competition! (photo courtesy of Al Myers)

Ok, I’m sure by now half of you are thinking I mean beer….but I mean your body!   I’m talking about what some call “hydrotherapy” or the used of heat and coolness to reduce inflammation, soreness, and recovery times between workouts.  Now, there’s a ton of stuff out there on the good, ol’ world wide web and if you found this, you can find that.  I’m just gonna give you some basics.

First, what led to this was me getting old.  After numerous injuries over the years, broken bones, etc.  it’s all catching up to me.  when I was young I just worried about working out, now I feel I have a pretty good understanding of how to develop a good work out routine so now I’m more focused on how I can recover more quickly….especially with age!  I remember Mickey Mantle once saying he wished he’d taken better care of himself when he was younger.  Well, Mickey was past his playing career when he said that but for those in the USAWA our playing career is never over.   You can make a big difference.

Before your workout, be sure and spend some time warming up.  My warm up time has probably tripled from my 20’s.  I have a special routine that I do and I pay attention more to my preworkout diet, load up on fluids all day, and I don’t push the time…..when I’m ready and I’m ready and not before.  I also use anti-inflammatory type medication (Ibuprofen, sodium naproxen, etc.).

After the workout, ice the areas you’ve worked out down.  My knees (especially my right one) tend to swell after my squats.  I have found that after the workout I have a heat pad and an ice pack that I alternate back and forth it does wonders.  I will also take a hot and cold shower, start warm, take it down, the up, then down.  I end it with cold water.  In the winter, I’ll take a snow bath alternating with the hot tube or sauna.  If you don’t have a hot tub or sauna, get a chair for you shower and do the “poor man’s sauna”.  Throw a large beach towel over you, you can get that water incredibly hot without burning and the hot steam will fog the mirrors for a square mile!

I also bought something called “the stick”.  Basically, it’s a human rolling pin.  I work the areas I can myself and then I recruit my wife to get the areas I can’t.  I use this thing to the point of it being painful, but afterwards I feel like a million bucks….kind of the poor man’s deep tissue massage.

Well, I hope these few things get you to thinking……and if all else fails…..ice that beer down while you ice down!

Hot Stove Workout

by Thom Van Vleck

A Hot Stove is where work gets done, and managing what's important means putting it up front or in back....managing your workout is the idea of this article.

I just wanted to share a workout plan I have for this winter.  As most of you know, I do a lot of throwing in the Scottish Highland Games.   Winter time for me is “off season”.  It is a time where I am trying to build strength again.  I also want to increase my conditioning and flexibility.  In season, I do a lot of throwing, and in the process I get pretty burned out on it by the end of the year and it’s good to get back in the gym for some old school training.

The first thing I need to tell you is that there is NOTHING I enjoy more than the adrenaline rush that comes with heavy lifting.  I get a high that will last for days.  Any hardcore lifter will know what I mean, that moment when the weight starts piling on and the goosebumps pop up on your arms and a chill runs down your spin and it’s “GO TIME”!  I love it.  But, as I get older I have to deal with a couple of factors:  Recuperation and Injuries.

Because of the increased recuperation time that comes with age and the injuries my body has endured, I can’t hit the max attempts like I did 20 or 30 years ago. I have to be smart!  Part of the problem is that I want to work my entire body at once and be cycling into heavy lifts that involve  my entire body.  So this year I came up with my “Hot Stove Workout”.

The “Hot Stove Workout” has my hitting the big numbers on a particular lift during my “Big Saturday” workout.  This is when I’m hitting that adrenaline rush and feeling good about moving some heavy iron (heavy for me!).  This is what I call my “Front Burner” exercise.   I am also using that time to work on my Erector Spinae and hamstrings using the Reverse Hyper, swiss ball (leg curls), and leg curling on the Reverse Hyper (a little exercise I stole from Al Myers).

Then Sunday is my conditioning day.  Right now I’m doing football agility drills with my son, who’s playing football in school, medicine ball drills, and tossing the pigskin around along with hitting the volleyball back and forth with my wife who’s on a volleyball league.

Monday is a day when I work on Grip, Neck, and Abdominal exercises, really going crazy on them.  Then my “Big Tuesday Workout” I hit two exercised that are my “Back Burner” exercises.  They are on their way to being “Front Burner” exercises and when one gets moved up, then another takes it’s place…destined to eventually make it to the “Front Burner”.  I always have three exercises and I make sure I have one that’s a leg movement, one a pressing movement, and another that’s a pulling or back movement.  It is also this day that I do any assistance work.

I then finish off with a set of 100 on the leg press.  These are very explosive, I drive up on the toes, and I usually have to crawl out of the gym after that.  By then I’ve worked out for 4 days and then I have three days to rest and get ready for the next Saturday.  I enjoy this workout very much and for now, that’s all I need to keep me lifting.  It doesn’t matter how great the workout is, if you don’t enjoy it or it doesn’t motivate you, then it’s the same as worthless.

By keeping a couple exercised on the back burner, using less weight, I’m able to be ready to switch them to the front burner.  That way I’m always hitting something heavy on Saturday and not having to build up over time for a big lift.  By lifting only once a week with over 90% poundages, I am able to recuperate and stay fresh.  I hope my workout has given you some ideas for your own training.  Everything I know about training I learned from someone else!!!!

Wayne Smith Update

by Thom Van Vleck

Wayne Smith, long time USAWA lifter and even longer time member of the Jackson Weightlifting Club was recently featured by me in two part website article.  Wayne also attended the USAWA Nationals hosted by the JWC in Kirksville this year.  Wayne has many friends in the lifting world and I thought maybe some of you would like to hear the latest.

A couple of weeks ago Wayne was rushed the hospital.  He was having some problems and they were very concerning.  I went several times to check up on him and left with more questions than answers.  The doctors just didn’t know what was going on with him.

Well, I have good news.  I visited with Wayne yesterday and he is doing much better and appears to be on his way to recovery and has moved from the hospital to a rehabilitation unit.  He was his old self again and was enjoying visits from three JWC members in one day.  Wayne Jackson had made a visit, and then Wayne Gardner, then myself.

It is nice to know that we take care of our own and the friendships made on the lifting platform are often life time ones.  We hope that Wayne will be back home soon and if you have a message for him, just let me know at tvanvleck@yahoo.com and I will make sure he gets it!  He tells me he is not going to let this keep him from making his comeback in lifting!   You have to admire the dedication.

Trap Bar Training: Part II

by Thom Van Vleck

Thom Van Vleck performing Trap Bar Deadlifts with the addition of 60 pounds of chains attached to the bar. Thom joined us at the Dino Gym for one of our "Tuesday Night Workouts" and discovered the FUN OF TRAP BAR DEADLIFTS. (photo and caption courtesy of Al Myers)

Now, to continue with the Trap bar, I learned a couple of things as I began to work this lift.  First, I needed to start with the bar where the center of gravity was where it normally would be with a regular deadlift.  Then, as I pulled up, I would shift that center towards the center of my thigh.  The began to engage the hips more.  Your “groove” might be different but it’s critical you play around with it and find it…it’s different than a straight bar for sure!!!!

My plan is to work this lift hard over the winter with a goal of 700lbs!  I will let you guys know what I end up with, but the truth of the matter is that I’m as motivated about pulling again as I was 10 years ago when I got the 640 deadlift!  When I got that lift I was on a quest for 700 but had worked for so long and so hard on doing deadlift after deadlift after deadlift I got burned out on heavy lifting from the floor.  So it’s more more important to me the trap bar has captured my imagination and made me believe I can hit big numbers again. That’s the real gift of it.  Maybe I’ll finally pull that 700!  Even if it’s on a trap bar!  So, try some trap bar pulls to spice up your training….and don’t forget, it’s a USAWA official lift so you can set records on it, too!!!!!

Rules for the Trap Bar Deadlift are pretty basic.

I9.  Deadlift – Trap Bar
The rules of the Deadlift apply except a Trap Bar must be used. The Trap Bar must not be of the type that contains elevated handles.

 

Al Myers even has a two man trap bar!  So you can go to the Dino Gym with your training partner and hit some big “two man” lifts.

So go “Trap” and see if your pulling power doesn’t come up!

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”.

Weight Over Bar

by Thom Van Vleck

Thom Van Vleck tossing the 42lb weight at the 2011 Kirksville Games

Some of you may know that several of our USAWA members are currently, or have been, participants in the Scottish Highland Games.  These are strength events, but mostly involve throwing or tossing weights.  One of the events, and my personal favorite, is the “Weight Over Bar”.  I thought I might give a little background on this event, discuss the rules, and explain why I think throwing this type of movement into your training occasionally might be a good way to mix things up and avoid a training rut.

This event involves throwing a weight with a handle over a cross bar for height using one hand only.  Women use a 28lb weight, masters men and under 190lb throwers use a 42lb weight, and all other men use a 56lb weight.  It is thought the weights were originally balance beam scale weights.  In the old system in Scotland a “hundredweight” equaled 112lbs.  Half that was 56lbs and half that was 28lbs.  A “stone” was 14lbs and the 42lb weight was half way between the 28 and 56.  So, basically the 28 was 2 stones, the 42 was 3 stones, and the 56 was 4 stones!  It should be noted old English Anvils also used this measuring system and that is why if you find an English anvil and it says 112 on the side, it’s NOT 112lbs, but 1 hundred weight (112lbs), 1 Quarter Hundred weight (28lbs) and then 2 odd pounds.  So it would be 112 + 28 + 2 = 142lbs!  I know, pretty complicate, just know in the Highland games we throw a 28lb, a 42lb, and a 56lb weight!

There are two ways to get the weight over the bar.  You can “stand” and basically do what would be a “super one hand snatch” and pull the weight up and over your head and over the bar.  Or you can do the “spin” and basically do a “turn” (much like the rotation on the shot put).  That technique is not widely accepted (such as by our USAWA secretary!) plus it’s very difficult to master so unless you are going to take this up as a sport let’s focus on the standing style.  Typically, in competition, you would have “standards” that look much like a high jump bar or pole vault set up.  The bar goes up until only one competitor is left.  Out of the 9 events in the Highland Games, this is the most basic.   It requires the least technique and is often dominated by the strongest athletes.

That is why I think it would make a good training tool to add to the rotation of your training routine.  It would be a good event to use to train for the one arm snatch, the DB Swing, DB Snatch….any movement where you have to move the bar quickly from the floor to overhead!  You could use a kettlebell to practice this event, or a solid dumbbell.  Since the idea is to throw it as high as possible I would only do this outside where the weight can fall safely on the ground.  Use a weight you can get up in the air 12 to 15ft.  You don’t need a cross bar, just get out there and get some rips in and see what happens.  Pulling a weight hard enough to toss it several feet over your head should develop explosive power and speed.  Plus, it’s just a lot of fun!  If you do it in your back yard you can give your neighbors something to talk about!

Sometimes this event is called the Weight for Height.  I have no problem with this, but just so you know it is thought the Weight for Height actually refers to how the Irish  would perform this event.  Instead of tossing the weight over a bar (the term “toss” is used whenever you speak of height events and “throw” whenever it is a distance event) you have a target, often made of wood, hanging in the air and you try and hit the target.  If you hit it, it is raised and you go again.  Some of the other rules for the Weight Over Bar include you have three tries at each height.  If you make it, the bar goes up and you get three fresh attempts.  So, in competition it’s not unusual to take 5, event 10 or more attempts.

So, mix up your training a little, the kilt is optional!   Try some Weight Over Bar!

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!