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!

15 Year Journey

by Thom Van Vleck

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

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

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

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

Strongman Championships

by Thom Van Vleck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MEET RESULTS

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

Meet Director:  Thom Van Vleck

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

Loader:  Mitch Ridout

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

Lifters:

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

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

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

BEST LIFTER AWARDS

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

PLANETS ALIGN

BY DAVE GLASGOW

Dave (left) and Thom (right) enjoy an interesting conversation over a good meal following the 2011 Ledaig Record Day last summer. Dave put his new scales to use at this meet conducting weigh-ins at 12:00 AM the day of the meet (as required by the USAWA rules that weigh-ins must be on the same day). It was the only time I have EVER weighed in at midnight the day of the meet. His new scales were very accurate, and by having this early weigh-in we all could all enjoy breakfast! (photo and caption by Al Myers).

AROUND CHRISTMAS TIME LAST YEAR, I, UNFORTUNATELY, BECAME THE EXECUTER TO MY BROTHER’S ESTATE.  HE DIED VERY SUDDENLY WHICH THREW ME INTO A SOMEWHAT PRECARIOUS JACKPOT.  HOWEVER, HIS DEMISE IS NOT THE SUBJECT OF THIS STORY.  THIS IS A STORY ABOUT HOW, SOMETIMES, THE PLANETS ALL ALIGN AND THE NET RESULT IS YOU CAN MAKE SOMETHING GOOD COME FROM A SAD SITUATION.

AMONG MY BROTHER’S EFFECTS WERE HOUSEHOLD ARTICLES WHICH HE HAD, OBVIOUSLY, ACCUMULATED OVER THE YEARS.  MY DILEMMA WAS HOW TO BEST DISPERSE THESE ARTIFACTS!!  WE HAD BEEN SORTING AND CLEANING FOR SOME TIME.   HOWEVER IT GETS TO A POINT WHERE YOU HAVE TO GET RID OF THE ARTICLES AT HAND OR YOU FIND YOURSELF MOVING ITEMS FROM ONE ROOM TO THE OTHER WITHOUT GETTING ANYTHING ACCOMPLISHED.  SO, WHEN MY BELOVED WIFE OF 36 YEARS, GUNNER, TOLD ME THERE WAS TO BE AN AUCTION FOR THE CHURCH (SHE HAS ATTENDED TRINITY LUTHERAN CHURCH SINCE WE WERE MARRIED AND TAUGHT AT THE SCHOOL THERE FOR 25YEARS), WE BOTH DECIDED THAT DONATING A GOOD PORTION OF HIS ITEMS WOULD BE A GOOD THING ON SO MANY FRONTS!

HOWEVER, AFTER TWO MONTHS OF BEING  “REMINDED”  THAT THE AUCTION WAS COMING UP, IT WAS TO THE POINT THAT I WAS GROWING VERY WEARY OF HEARING ABOUT  THE CHURCH’S AUCTION.  FINALLY, THE DAY CAME TO GATHER THE GOODS AND GET THEM TO THE AUCTION SITE.  WITH THE HELP OF TWO TRUSTED FRIENDS AND GUNNER, WE TOOK THREE PICKUP TRUCKS FULL OF THINGS TO BE DONATED.  WE ARRIVED AT THE BARN WHERE THEY WERE HOLDING THE AUCTION AND QUICKLY UNLOADED OUR GOODS INTO THE CAVERNOUS BUILDING THAT WAS GROWING SMALLER BY THE MINUTE!  WHILE I WAS STANDING THERE LOOKING AT THE THINGS OTHER FOLKS BROUGHT, THE PASTOR STROLLS UP TO ME AND SAYS, “FEEL FREE TO COME ON SATURDAY AND TAKE SOME OF THIS STUFF OFF OUR HANDS!!”  I CHUCKLED AND MUMBLED SOMETHING ABOUT HAVING ENOUGH “STUFF”  TO LAST THE REST OF MY LIFE, WHEN, ALL AT ONCE, I GLANCE OVER AND SEE THREE MEDICAL QUALITY SCALES ON THE OPPOSITE WALL!!!  I HAVE BEEN LOOKING FOR ONE OF THOSE FOR OVER A YEAR AND HERE STOOD THREE. HOLY HELL, BATMAN!!!!

I PRACTICALLY RAN TO THE SCALES AND GREETED THEM AS LONG LOST, TREASURED FRIENDS.

WELL, I BOUGHT ONE OF THEM ON THE SPOT!! HOWEVER, THAT IS JUST THE START OF THE STORY!  AS I WAS WALKING OVER TO PAY FOR THE RELEASE OF MY NEWLY ACQUIRED PAL, I HAPPENED TO LOOK DOWN AT MY FEET AND, TO MY SHOCK, AMAZEMENT AND UTTER DELIGHT, SPIED A YORK BARBELL  SET!!!  I LITERALLY POUNCED ON THOSE SHINING (YES, SHINING!) WEIGHTS, IN FEAR THAT SOMEONE ELSE WOULD SPOT THEM AND GET TO THEM BEFORE I COULD!  GET TO THEM THEY MIGHT!!  HOWEVER, NOT UNTIL THERE WAS ONE HELL OF A FIGHT!!  NOW, FORGET THE FACT THAT THE ONLY OTHER FOLKS THERE WERE EITHER WITH ME OR THE HANDFUL OF CHURCH PEOPLE SETTING THINGS UP!  NO, BY GOD, THIS CATCH WAS MINE!!  THIS PRISTINE YORK SET WAS OF THE ONE INCH, “EXERCISE”  WEIGHT VARIETY, WITH THE 5 FOOT BAR, ADJUSTABLE DUMBELLS, ADJUSTABLE  KETTLEBELL HANDLES AND THE WEIGHT BOOTS!!!   I  AM GUESSING IT IS OF THE 60s VINTAGE.  I WAS ALSO DUMBFOUNDED TO FIND THAT THERE SET THE ORIGINAL CANVAS AND LEATHER STRAPS FOR THE BOOTS!  I JUST KEPT REPEATING, “I CAN‟T BELIEVE THIS!! I CAN‟T BELIEVE THIS!!”

I RAN OVER TO MY BUDDIES (WHO ARE LIFTERS AND “GAMERS” AS WELL) AND SAID, “DUDES!!! COME HERE! COME HERE!!” I WAS SO EXCITED; I HAD GOOSE BUMPS ON MY ARMS!!  MY ONE FRIEND SAID, “MAN, YOU NEED TO RELAX! IT’S JUST A WEIGHT SET. ” OHHHH, THE HUMANITY!! WHAT A HERETICAL THING TO COME FROM THE MOUTH OF ONE OF THE BRETHREN!!!”  AS WE STOOD THERE ADMIRING MY BOUNTY, I COULD ALMOST HEAR THAT WEIGHT SET SAY, “WELL, IF IT AIN’T OLE’ DAVE, AFTER ALL THESE YEARS, COME TO TAKE US HOME AT LAST!”

TAKE YOU HOME, INDEED!!  JUST AS HARD AND FAST AS I POSSIBLY CAN!!   I CAN HARDLY WAIT TO SEE WHAT TREASURES SHOW THEMSELVES THE NEXT TIME THE PLANETS ALIGN!!

A Sign from Above!

by Thom Van Vleck

Underneath an Anvil shaped sign in Lindsborg, Kansas

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

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

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

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

The Day I Met Al Myers

by Thom Van Vleck

Al Myers breaking the World Record in the sheaf toss in the professional division

Al Myers and I have been friends for a LONG time.  Well, at least 16 years anyways.  I was digging through some old photos the other day and came across this gem.  It was the Highlands Ranch Highland Games in 1995.  My first competition ever in the Highland Games.  I was competing in the Novice Division with 12 other throwers and got 2nd overall that day, winning 4 of 7 events outright.  Who beat me?  Brian Myers, Al’s brother!

Here’s what I recall that day.  You have to understand first that most Highland Games has “classes” of throwers. There’s a C class (usually for beginners), B class, A class (top amateur) and Pro class (the best of the best).  Also masters and women.  Al was there in the pro class and won it that day, so he was a top pro thrower at the top of his game at that time.  You also have to understand that the groups will rotate events all day, so that when one group is on the hammer, another might be on the caber so in between throws you can watch the other groups throw.  I recall watching Al hit some big numbers that day.  But most of all, the last event for him was the sheaf toss.  And boy, did Al give a clinic!

The Sheaf is a 16lb simulated “hay” bale, usually rope or twine wrapped in a burlap bag.  You use a pitch fork to launch it up and over a crossbar for height.  Al was a 300lber then and had about 30lbs on me back then (how things have changed!).  I was done with all my events and went over to watch the action.  The bar kept going higher and higher and soon the only one left was Al.  I remember my wife was wanting to go, but then I heard that Al would attempt a WORLD RECORD in the sheaf toss!  I had to see that, but I also had been eyeing his attempts and really doubted he had that much in him.  The sheaf standards were raised as high as they would go!  In other words, the bar would go no higher and there was only one other time I’ve seen the standards “topped out” like that and the second time was just this year when Dan McKim, the current Pro National and World  Champ, topped them out in Wichita.  Al got set, began to swing the bar back and forth and with a mighty swing launched that sheaf up and over the bar.  Al probably doesn’t remember this, but I went over and shook his hand and congratulated him….along with 5o other people!

I left that day not really sure if I’d ever compete in a highland games again, and not realizing that Al would some day be one of my best friends.  I also didn’t realize that Al’s brother in law was somebody I had already competed against in the predecessor of the USAWA, Clark’s Odd lift meets.  None other than Bob Burtzloff!  It really is a small world.  I have never forgotten that day because here was Al, at the top of the heap, the winner of the Pro class and me competing (and almost beating) his brother in the lowest group of all.  But each time I talked to Al during the day, he was friendly, encouraging, and offered advice.  A true sportsman!  So, becoming his friend was easy because he was my kind of guy right from the start.  It also sold me on highland games!

So, be nice to everyone.  You never know when you’ll run into them again.  And thanks Al, your encouragement that day set the standard for myself and brought me into a sport I truly love!

USAWA Lifters Dominate Highlander Nationals

by Thom Van Vleck

 

NAHA Nationals held in Omaha, Nebraska

The NAHA (North American Highlander Association) held it’s annual National Championships in Omaha, Nebraska on September 17, 2011.  A full meet report can be found at www.nahighlander.com.  The “Highlander” concept of strength competition combines Scottish Highland Games events with an equal number of Strongman events.  This particular event had the Stone Put, Weight Over Bar, and Heavy Hammer for the Highland Games events and the 12″ Log Clean & Press, Farmers Walk, and a Giant Tire Flip/Keg Carry Medley for the strongman events.

It is interesting to note that the event was DOMINATED by current or past USAWA members!  In the Lightweights we saw Tim Pinkerton make a comeback after a couple of years away from competition to squeak out a win.  The next three classes were won by current USAWA members.  In the Middleweights, Andrew Durniat won easily.  The Heavyweights saw yours truly win with a tie breaker in a three way tie for 1st.  Finally, John O’Brien won the masters easily after winning every single event, and was the only athlete to do that in the competition.

It’s no surprise to me that a competition that seeks to combine two sports would be dominated by athletes that excel in the the USAWA, an organization made up of 100’s of lifts.  The athleticism needed to do well in so many lifts means the lifter is used to applying his strength in many different ways and not in just a few, select, and narrow ways.

So, to my fellow USAWA friends who competed with me Saturday, Good Job!  And to my JWC brother John, way to go!

Rules for the Dumbbell Shoulder

by Thom Van Vleck

Two big Dumbbells.....could either one be shouldered in the "Dumbbell Shoulder" event at the Old Time Strongman Nationals?

When Al and I discussed me hosting the Old Time Strongman Nationals one of the things that I wanted to do was come up with some new lifts.  The “OTS” concept is to have lifts that aren’t current USAWA lifts, that have more relaxed rules, be able to raise or lower the weight, be done for a max attempt, and be something the old timers did.  What followed was me sending Al numerous lifts and him pointing out how they were already USAWA lifts or did not fit the criteria in some way!  In my research I came across the weightlifting for the 1904 Olympics.  It was very different than from today.  There were actually two separate events, a barbell competition and a Dumbbell competition.  There were several Dumbbell lifts and one of them involved cleaning a heavy dumbbell.  I stumped Al on this one.  There are no current USAWA lifts that involved cleaning a dumbbell and Al thought there ought to be so he shot down my idea based on the fact that we need to add that lift to the regular USAWA lifts….as a result it COULDN’T be an OTS event!  So, I came back with this event, as inspired by that 1904 Olympic event and thus the name!

USAWA Rule for the 1904 Dumbbell 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, 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.  Time limit of 1 minute is given to complete the lift.  An official will give a command to end the lift.

So, we will give this one a try.  It may be a “one and done” event in that we will have to see how this one plays in competition.  If it does, then great!  At the least, it is a unique event and it will be interesting to see how much we can do!

What is Art!

by Thom Van Vleck

Barbell Mobile at the York Barbell HQ in York, PA

I have always been a “form follows function” kind of guy.  I like looking at things that are built well, built to last, built to do a job and it’s function is what makes it pleasing to look at.  Like the Golden Gate Bridge is a work of art to me.  Al’s Back Lift apparatus is a work of art to me.  I have problems figuring out the purpose of piles of metal of globs of paint piled upon each other in some seemingly random fashion and then labels as some great statement about the destruction of the environment (no, I would say you using valuable resources to make something that serves no earthly purpose as the destruction of then environment!).  But hey, as my dear ol’ Dad used to say, “Whatever trips your trigger”.

I do have to admit, I like things that utilize what I love to do….lifting weights.  Recently, I was visiting the York Barbell Headquarters in York, PA and hanging from the ceiling was a huge mobile made of weights….not sure if the weights were real….and that looked cool and interesting.  It also rotated slowly.  However, I couldn’t help but thinking to myself how nice it would be to have those barbell plates in my gym!

Now this would be the ultimate challenge for Al Myers to build and an even greater challenge for anyone to lift if it were made of iron!

Another piece of “art” I recently saw (not in person) was an 8 ft tall Dumbbell that was being used as an advertisement of some sort.  There’s a youtube video of it being made ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdDVvwayraE), it looks like they make it out of styrofoam!  I have to admit, if I were walking down the street, I’d pause and check this out (and probably want my wife to take my picture trying to lift it….and yes, I would try and lift it!

They say art is in the eye of beholder and I also heard someone once say, “I don’t know what art is, but I know what I like”.  Sure, I’ve been to college and took “Art Appreciation” and I can BS with the best of them on the finer points of art and answer a few trivia questions about Leonardo da Vinci or Jackson Pollock (no relation to the JWC!)  But when it comes right down to it, I like the kind of art that I can use, like a 1957 Chevy, a well designed house with many architectural features, or a 500lb capacity lat pull down like Al Myers has in his gym!  So, make it pretty, but make it do something other than a paper weight or something to cover a hole in the wall.

Accepting the Aging Process

by Thom Van Vleck

None of these guys are showing any sign of aging any time soon! This "unretouched" photo shows that lifting keeps you youthful! Joe Garcia, Chad Ullom, Al Myers, LaVerne Myers, and Thom Van Vleck getting ready to down Cheese Steak Sandwichs in Philadelphia before the Heavy Event Nationals!

I have said it before, the USAWA sometimes seems like a retirement sport for lifters.   The organization has it’s fair share of older lifters and I think it’s great.  I don’t think it has anything to do with it being an organization for older lifters but everything to do with the wide variety of lifts available to the lifters.  This allows those who have injuries that keep them from Powerlifting, Olympic lifting, or strongman meets to stay active and still make gains.

I have known Joe for at least 25 years, Al and Chad for 17 years, and have really gotten to know LaVerne that last 5 years.  We have all had long lifting careers and our fair share of injuries.  And yet, in the photo above we don’t seem to have a SINGLE grey hair…at least in our beards….that PROVES lifting keeps you young!

In particular, I have known Al through having his bicep reattached not once, but TWICE on his right arm a ONCE on his left.  Yet he continues to plug away breaking record after record.  Had he stuck to just powerlifting or just Highland games, that would have been difficult to do.   So that’s a second reason the USAWA is popular among older lifters, they can keep setting records and that keeps them motivated to lift hard.

Many of you know, but maybe a few don’t, that Al was a high ranked Professional Highland Games Athlete.  He even held a Pro world record!  That’s no easy feat!  It’s actually how I met him and not through my affiliation with Bill Clark and Bob Burtzloff (Al’s brother in law).  That was just one of those “small world” deals that we found out later.   There was a time when Al “retired” from throwing.  I was personally pretty sad about this because I had enjoyed our many road trips to Highland Games.  Al told me one time it was hard to stay motivated about throwing when he knew he’d peaked in that sport and would likely never be as good a thrower as he was when he was at his prime.  However, in the USAWA he could still find lifts that he could work on and set not only USAWA records in, but personal bests, too.  And that keeps a guy motivated about his training when he feels he can keep setting “personal bests”!

Now, the photo above, to be honest, was “retouched” just a little.  Al recently dyed….errrrr…I mean “highlighted” his beard because when he grew it back after a long absence (Al used to sport a beard for most of the early years I knew him) it had gotten a little grey…..OK, let’s be honest, it was as snow white as Santa’s beard!   So Al “highlighted” it a little and we gave him a hard time about it.  But seriously, Al is an ageless wonder and I have no doubt that someday he will challenge Art Montini, Dennis Habecker, and the other top record holders for most records ever.

USAWA is a sport that keeps you young at heart!

The Anvil Tree

by Al Myers

People often ask Thom where his fascination with anvils began.   It all started with a blow to the head…..

"All right Thom, you just go right ahead! I've warned you enough times about playing under the anvil tree!"

CREDIT:  The Braemar Stone Tablet, Volume #4 Issue #2

HASA Winter Banquet

by Thom Van Vleck

(Webmasters note:  Every year HASA, Heart of America Scottish Athletes, would host a winter banquet where impromptu competitions and awards are given out to the members.  I always enjoy these banquets, and the camaraderie shared between friends.  The best part of the banquet is the “gag gifts”.  We each take turns making fun of each other.  Sorta like a roast.  Today I’m going to share the report from one of the best banquets HASA ever had,  the 2002 Winter HASA Banquet, which was covered in the Braemar Stone Tablet by Thom Van Vleck)

This year we had the HASA awards banquet at the community center.  Steve and Becky were in charge and everyone was asked to bring a carry in dish.   It was more laid back than in the past and I personally enjoyed it.  People could hang out, do whatever they wanted (which for us included pulling out a caber and trying to throw it in a tree).

We again had the “Stone Cold Heavies” contest with a WOB contest.   I had some mugs made up for awards, everyone that entered could get one.  Eleven gus and two gals entered for fun and bragging rights.  The final winners were as follows:

Men: Al Myers first (14 ft), Chad Ullom and Thom Van Vleck second (tie) (12 ft).
Women:  Lori Myers and Leslie Kress first (tie) (12 ft)

I would like to point out that Kevin McAllister beat out his brother Shawn for 10th place when he touched the bar at 10ft with the handle after both cleared 9ft.  Shawn failed to “touch” the bar and in a little known rule, Kevin declared himself the winner by virtue of “touching” the bar.

We had a little impromptu contest where the guys threw the 28 for height. Pretty fun stuff.

As for the awards winners for the year:

Al Myers: Angus Award (top athlete)
Dave Glasgow: Sportsmanship Award
Mike McGhee:  Most Improved Award (and most injured, too)
Scott Campbell:  Best Newcomer

We then handed out “gag” awards and had a blast.  Some notable awards included Dave Henderson’s propeller driven hammer for Steve Scott, who immediately vowed he would throw it “down hill” to pick up extra distance.  Below is a report on another gag award (luckily, the editor of this newsletter has a tremendous sense of humor and is a wonderful person…..Paybacks, Al, Paybacks….)

From Al Myers:

Thom Van Vleck accepting the insulated jockstrap award at the 2002 HASA Banquet, given to him by Al Myers. This gag award was given to Thom because he would always host his fall Highland Games on one of the coldest days of the winter.

I had a great time at the HASA Baquet last weekend.  I finally got my pictures developed and had a good one of Thom accepting his insulated jockstrap award.  I can only guess what he is mumbling to himself as he looks down –

1.  “Hey buddies, we are going to get a warm winter!”
2.  “This jockstrap is furrier than I am!”
3.   “Hey everyone – do you think it could cover this bald spot!”
4.  “I wonder how I am going to get this over my kilt!”
5.  “If I wore this thing backwards, it would be a thong!”

That Al, He’s a funny man…….Paybacks, you hear me Al, Paybacks…..

(Webmasters comment:  So now you know, Thom and my rivalry goes back LOTS of years and he is STILL trying to get the upper hand on me!  Since then I have to add Thom’s comment number 6. )

6.  ” I better wear this when I visit the Dino Gym so I can have some padding for protection for when I run into the Enforcer!”

CREDIT:   The Braemar Stone Tablet, Volume #4, Issue #4

Ban the Spin

by Thom Van Vleck

(Webmaster’s notes:  The following is an editorial written by Thom Van Vleck 10 years ago in the Braemar Stone Tablet regarding his dislike of the spin in the Highland Game height events.  I found this editorial very ironic and humerous on so many levels because since then Thom has totally changed his tune and is now an advocate for the spin.  He has used the spin in the 42# WOB to set a World Record and numerous game records.  But he sure gives a good argument why the spin should be banned!!!!  How does it feel Thom to have to EAT YOUR WORDS??????)

Thom Van Vleck utilizes the spin in the Weight Over Bar to perfection. In 2005, Thom set the All-Time World Record in the 42# WOB with a toss of 20'6". He has won or tied in the WOB at 3 World Championships (2004, 2007, and 2010). (photo credit Kevin Viet)

Recently, there have been some innovations in technique in the highland games.  Namely, the spin on the sheaf and WOB.  I have talked to a great many people about this and want to make their voices heard and to give my own opinion.  You don’t have to like it, or even agree, but I think this is something we need to address before it goes too far. 

A couple of years ago we began to see a few guys spinning on the sheaf.  This year Harrison Bailey (I think) began spinning on the WOB.  This has started to push some records up, and will no doubt continue to do so.  I am opposed to the new techniques on several grounds.

First, they are dangerous. About a hundred years ago a woman was struck and killed in Canada by a wayward hammer.  The man that threw it was so despondent he never competed again.  I know how I would feel if I were responsible for a tragic accident.  I would feel just as responsible as an Athletic Director who allowed unsafe practices to go on.  It was also around that time that there was an innovation in technique.  The athletes began to spin with the hammer.  Yes, much like the Olympic hammer, the athletes would spin and throw the hammer.  However, they quickly realized how dangerous this was and the practice was stopped. I feel that spinning with the sheaf could lead to serious injury as I witnessed Mike Smith flatten a metal chair with a wayward sheaf toss (old style) in McPherson a couple of years ago.  A twenty pound sheaf could seriously hurt an adult and kill a child.  I won’t even go into what a 56 could do raining down from 15 plus feet in the air.

An answer to this would be to create large safe areas, but you push the crowds back when you do that and isolate the athletes even more.  That is a problem within itself.  Many venues I have been to are limited to a confined space and a large field is out of the question.  I want the crowds in as close as they can get, especially the children.  Otherwise, why not go throw in somebody’s back yard?

My second issue with the techniques is they take away the power events.  The Sheaf and the WOB were relatively simple to execute and the strongest guys would usually prevail in these events. There was no hiding your true level of strength.  Making them technical will take away from that aspect.  You also have a great many guys that are strong and love this sport, but have difficulty with the spinning events who will now be left out.  I will admit that I am one of those guys.  The WOB and sheaf, as well as the caber, were my best events.  I do not consider myself athletic, but I have built considerable strength over the years through weightlifting.  By making the event more athletic you will alienate a majority of athletes who are either not as athletic, don’t have the time to work on technique (i.e. have jobs, families), or do this for the love of the sport. YOU TAKE AWAY FROM THE SELF-BUILT ATHLETE WHO MAY NOT BE BLESSED, BUT CAN BUILD ON WHAT HE OR SHE HAS THROUGH WEIGHT TRAINING.

Al Myers (left) and Thom Van Vleck (right) squared off against each other a couple of years ago in a 56# WOB contest, infamously referred to now as the WOB Border War. The rules of the contest required it be a traditional standing toss, in which the spin would not be allowed. I issued this challenge to Thom because I felt he had snubbed the standing toss and everything he once believed in! Chad Ullom served as the official, and due to his incompetence the outcome was questionable as to who had actually won. We each claimed victory, but Chad determined it a tie. (photo credit Chad Ullom)

An answer to this issue would be to only allow the spin in the A class and Pros.  The idea being that once you reach that level you should have worked on the technique enough that you would be safe as well as guys capable and have the time to master the style.  I do not agree with this, but would go along with this solution.

Third, it is hard on equipment.  I have run meets and they are quite expensive.  Al Myers made a good point to me that I feel every athlete should hear. On average at a good meet the AD will spend about $100 per athlete.  The most I have ever paid for entry is $20.  The rest is absorbed through sponsers, gate (which we all know is not great unless you are in a huge games), and straight from the pockets of the AD’s.  Plus sweat and toil equity.  I personally don’t want to have 3 sets of sheaf standards and WOB standards for back ups because the others are getting tore up.  And they will be once everyone starts doing these styles.  You run one meet and you will see how tore up the equipment gets and just how expensive it is to fix it back up.

The simple answer would be to make the athletes more financially responsible.  Higher entry fees or make them agree to pay for repairs to anything damaged by an errant throw.  I don’t want to do this at my meets so I will likely limit the Super A’s to the option of the spins and only if they can demonstrate they have mastered it enough in warm ups they won’t be be a threat to anyone.

While I personally would like to do away with the spinning styles this is not my sport to make demands.  I am not a cry baby and will adapt if that is what I have to do.  I have just heard so many complaints about it I felt I should lead a charge.  If no one follows then I will look foolish (as I have many times before) and walk back and get in line with my fellow athletes to learn the new styles.  If you agree, get on the chat rooms, talk to the AD’s, and organizations (NASGA, RMSA, SAAA, SSAA, etc).  Let’s make the push to make hard decisions on this matter before it goes too far.  Otherwise, it is moving along and until someone get hurt the athletes are going to do whatever it takes to get an edge.

CREDIT:  The Braemar Stone Tablet, Volume #3, Issue #2

Just for Laughs – more funny stuff

by Thom Van Vleck

Recently, Kevin McAllister asked some of his fellow HASA athletes for their training routines.  Some of them were so important to development of the all round athlete I felt I should include them in this newsletter.

Here was Larry Ventress’ response:

Off season:  Lift like hell, throw a little bit
In season:  Lift like hell, throw a little bit more
Results:  I still stink
Post season: Depression sets in
Results:  The oreo cookies come out
Post Cookies:  Feel guilty about not training and eating too many cookies.
Results:  Lift like hell, throw a little bit and get ready for next year.

It’s a vicious cycle!  Hope this helps, Larry.

Al Myers replied:  I also “cycle” train like Larry, but mine goes like this.

Off season:  Powerlift as hard as possible to get stronger and tighten up all tendons/muscle groups
Early season:  Throw as hard as possible and loosen up all tendons/muscle groups
In season:  Pull or tear some major tendon/muscle groups.
Next year:  Start it all over again!!!

Mitch Ridout clean and pressing the Jackson Anvil. Mitch often won this "challenge event" following past HASA Highland Games. I believe his best effort was 14 reps with the 150# anvil - quite amazing! (photo courtesy of Al Myers)

Now, I will include Mitch Ridout’s “King of Beasts” Training Routine for the Highland Games.  Mitch believes strongly in the “KOB”.  It dictates a focus on recuperation.  Mitch say, “It is during the recuperation phase that muscle is actually built, the act of working out actually tears down muscle. Look at our friend, the mighty Lion, the KING OF BEASTS.  He will lay around all day getting up only to eat, have sex, or to deal with competition and he carries a mighty frame of muscle.”  Now, I can tell you….. I have watched Mitch train and he fervently believes in the KOB philosophy.  I have also had to listen to him sleep.  That guy can fall asleep before his head hits the pillow and his snoring will rattle window panes.  I also know that he follows the eating part religously, eating copious amounts of red meat in one sitting.  As for the sex part, you would have to ask his wife or Kevin McAllister as I do know Kevin invited him to “sleep” over one weekend when Kev’s wife was out of town.

COMING TOMORROW – THE DETAILS OF THE KOB TRAINING SYSTEM

CREDIT:  Braemar Stone Tablet, Volume #3, Issue #1

Just for Laughs – Dave Glasgow is “My Personal Stalker”

by Thom Van Vleck

(Webmasters note:  This was written by Thom 10 years ago in the Bramaer Stone Tablet, but I think he was on to something.  Since I have just reread this, I have taken notice that Dave is “lurking” in the background of several pictures I have of Thom.  IS THIS JUST A COINCIDENCE??? )

Thom Van Vleck (right) and his stalker Dave Glasgow (left).

I am writing this to make everyone aware that Dave Glasgow is stalking me, and just in case he is successful and I am found dead under “mysterious” circumstances.  You may be next.

1.   I am judging the Mid-America Masters in 2002.   Dave is throwing the 22lb hammer and I am safely behind the cage carefully watching him for any transgression of the rules.  Suddenly, the hammer head comes off the handle and it punctures the cage hitting me in my ankle.  The impact tattooed the pattern of my sock into the ball of my ankle.  Luckily, my “cat like” reflexes allowed me to move before the hammer took my whole leg off causing me to bleed to death.  I’m not sure how Dave got that hammer head to come off at that precise moment, but he’s old and crafty (esp. old).  Then, and I’m not sure how he did it, but when I got home my water heater had burst flooding my house.  I’m not sure how he drove 185 miles to my house and sabotaged my water heater (after all, it was only 20 years old and barely half covered with rust), but he did it and got back to KC in between throws.

I took this picture a few weeks ago at the Ledaig Record Breaker. I didn't notice it at the time, but doesn't it look like Dave is "eyeballing" Thom? But then again do I blame him - I would be doing the same if Thom was carrying on a private conversation with MY WIFE! (photo by Al Myers)

2.  At that time, I was thinking it just a coincidence.  However, as I read through an old issue of Dan DeWelt’s old magazine I spied a picture of me throwing the stone.  Not that it was unusual that there was a picture of me, a top notch athlete (I would say world class, but I don’t like to brag….my wife once told me that…. but she stuttered at the end which made it sound like she said “World class ass”, but that was just a stutter… I’m sure).  At any rate, as I admired the picture of myself and the fine form I was demonstrating I saw it.  There he was, Dave Glasgow, standing in the background staring at me.  Obviously, he was casing me out at that early time, but I had been unaware.  But now I was on to him.

After a hot day throwing at the Ledaig Highland Games, Thom stripped down and cooled off in the tank. Of course I had to take his picture. But wait.... I think I recognize that kilt in the background!!!! Is it the stalker??? (photo by Al Myers)

3.   I began to notice Dave was everywhere.  It seemed that nearly half the highland games I went to, Dave was there, too.   Obviously this was getting serious.  He was following me.  But I had to be cool, and not let him know I was onto him.  I needed to keep the element of surprise on my side.  I told only a few my suspicions, but they all obviously agreed.  When I pointed out the picture of Dave “stalking” me, Steve Scott looked at me and laughed (obviously to keep from arousing suspicions) and said, “Oh, sure, obviously”.  And then he quickly left and didn’t talk to me again all day, which I am sure was to keep from arousing suspicions.

4.  Most recently, Dave came up to my HASA championships.  Sure, he was acting so nice, giving me a pitch fork, custom made, and acting as a judge for me.  But I was on to him.  However, Dave is a crafty one.  I was able to keep him in my sites all day, but the bastard waited until I was asleep.  He came out and sabotaged my sewer line that night causing my basement to flood.  Then, just to rub salt in the wound, he came out to my house to “visit” me and then when I went to show him my basement workout area only to find it flooded, he pretended he didn’t know a thing and actually tried to help me fix it.  Oh sure, he seems like a nice guy, but let this be your warning.  Dave Glasgow is a Stalker!!!!!!!!!!!

CREDIT:  The Braemar Stone Tablet, Volume #4 Issue #4

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Just for Laughs: Gym Etiquette Part 2

by Thom Van Vleck

Here is the rest of the list of Gym Etiquette that I made fun of last issue.

7.  Don’t hog the drinking fountain.  “If you have seven people waiting in line behind you, don’t start filling up your two gallon jug,” St. Michael says.

Thom sez: You want some water, pansy?  Then come and get it ’cause it’s cold, tasty, and quite satisfying here at the head of the line!!!  And my gallon jug ain’t full yet!

(Webmasters note:  and THAT explains why you are always ALSO standing in line for the toilet instead of lifting!)

8.  Observe the gym’s time limits on the cardiovascular equipment. Many clubs restrict you to 20 or 30 minutes on the treadmills, bikes, and stairclimbers during rush hour.

Thom sez:  Cardio-what? Never heard of it.  Oh, that.  Well that’s why God invented the internal combustion engine and the elevator.  I did enough “cardio” in the Marine Corps to last me for the rest of my life.  I did my lungs enough of a favor by never smoking. 

(Webmasters note:  Your satire is starting to rival that of Bill Clark!!!)

9.  Return your weights to the rack.  If you leave dumbbells on the floor, someone may trip over them, or the weights may roll onto someone’s toes.  Be sure to place them back in their proper spots.  No one should have to waste 10 minutes hunting for the 15 pound dumbbells, only to find them sitting between the 40s and the 50s.

Thom sez:  I usually find the hundreds right were I left them the last time I used them, but for the guy looking for the 15’s…..well he can just consider that part of his cardio work!!! 

10.   Exercise courtesy in the locker room.  Don’t take up three lockers and spread your clothing over an entire bench, forcing other people to put on their socks while standing up.  “People will rip off their sweaty clothes and run into the shower, leaving their undergarments all over the place,” St. Micheal says.

Thom sez:  I can’t help it if my shoulders are that wide (or my butt), but they really should make those damn lockers bigger.  And any one that uses the term “undergarments” needs to be pimp slapped.  Do you think “St. Micheal” is his real name or is it Ernie Abramowitz who had to go Hollywood to get some respect?

(Webmasters note:  I got a good story about a guy I know who would leave his dirty “undergarments” laying around at other people’s houses. He would just go home and leave his stinky undershorts under the bed.  But I’m not going to give out his name as to avoid embarrassment. )

11.   Be courteous in exercise classes.  Don’t show up late or distract the class by creating your own workout routine.  And play nice! ” In New York City, people will get in fights over spinning bikes,” Gostigian says. “It turns into a boxing class instead of a cycling class”

Thom sez:  One time my uncle was challenged by a boxer who told him he was going to teach him a lesson that weightlifting makes you slow.  My uncle waited until the other guy put his gloves on and then kicked his A$$ bare fisted WWF style.  I assume this part of New York City is not Greenwich Village. And PLEASE…..exercise class…. do I need to comment?

12.   Watch where you’re going.  “People are oblivious to what’s going on around them, “St. Micheal says.  “Sometimes when I’m doing lateral movements for my shoulders, someone will walk right by me and I’ll almost hit them. Weight lifting should not be a contact sport”.

Thom sez:  These are just getting better and better.  So are you then supposed to turn around and say, “Pardon me, but do you have any Grey Poupon?” Where I come from the guy lifting has the right of way if you are dumb enough to walk under a 500 lb squat then please say hello to the accountant on the first floor when the bar drops on your little pin head and rams it down there. 

TRUE STORY:  I used to work out with this guy that owned the gym we worked out in so he could abuse the hell out of his own equipment.  One day he was doing deadlifts (on the second story of an old warehouse converted to office space) and dropping them from arms length at the end of each rep.  Since he could DL over 700 lbs he was hitting a 5.6 on the richter scale.  Suddenly this little old lady showed up madder than a wet hen and covered in bits of plaster.  It seems that the landlord had finally rented the downstairs office space right below the lifting platform.  The new drop ceiling they had just put in had collapsed on this lady and her first client.  The office was a mess and my buddy was less than sorry.  Nothing like having a dozen muscle heads coming down just to laugh at your misfortune.  The landlord had warned her that there was a gym upstairs and that it might bet a “little” loud sometimes.  I guess her client was pretty shook up and ran out.

CREDIT: Braemar Stone Tablet, Volume #3, Issue #2

Just for Laughs: Lifting Etiquette

by Thom Van Vleck

I found this list for gym “etiquette” on the internet.  As if it is not funny enough by itself, I have added my own comments.

1.  Don’t sit on a machine you’re using or when you’re between sets.  Let a fellow gym member “work in” (alternate) with you.  If someone else is using equipment that you have your eye on, feel free to say, “Mind if I work in with you?” It’s perfectly acceptable for you to change the weight setting or seat level; just be sure to restore them after your set. 

Thom sez:  First, if you’re using machines that is your first problem.  Second, if you did and some guy wants to work in then he better have the nads to say something better than “mind if I work in with you?” I would pimp slap him.

2.  Keep your grunting to a minimum.  Sure, a weight room isn’t a public library, but it’s not a championship wrestling arena, either. “Some of these guys scream like it’s the equivalent of male childbirth,” Gostigian says.  Loud noises not only distract other gym members but alert them to the fact that you’re lifting more weight than you can handle.

Thom sez:   I thought the whole idea of lifting weights was to lift more than you can handle so that you get stronger.  While I laugh at guys who grunt and groan with 225 on the squat I am pretty sure that I am not going to mess with the guy that screams while slamming 600 for 5.  I expect loud noises at a gym like I expect dead bats at an Ozzy Osbourne concert.  If you don’t like it, then don’t go and get a nordic track or one of those bowflex things. 

(webmaster’s comments:  The use of illustrations such as an Ozzy Osbourne concert, nordic track, and bowflex really shows your age Thom! But I do want to hear more about the concept of male childbirth. )

3.  Don’t tote around your gym bag.  That’s what lockers are for. “Gym bags on the floor are a hazard,” St. Michael says, ” Plus they take up space, and the gym’s crowded enough as it is.”

Thom sez:  My gym bag is my armor and weapons supply.  It is a part of me.  I knew a cop that carried a 9 mm in his gym bag (not sure why).  Besides, locker rooms aren’t safe.

4.  Don’t drop your weights.  When you’re finished using a set of dumbbells, gently place them on the ground. “I’ve seen people drop their dumbbells from four feet in the air,” Tucson trainer Steve Canis says.  “It’s a macho thing.” It’s also a dangerous thing; the weights can bounce around and break someone’s toes.

Thom sez: Good Lord!!!!!  You try setting a 600 pound deadlift down like a feather or a pair of 100 pound dumbbells after a set of cheat curls.  I don’t know about you, but I give it all to the lift with little regard to leave a little to treat the weights like fine china.

(webmaster’s comments:  dumbbell cheat curls????  REALLY???  You do those????)

5.  Keep your sweat to yourself.  Carry a towel and wipe off the equipment when you’re finished.  “Some people leave a puddle of sweat on the bench they’ve just used – it’s disgusting,” Gostigian says.

Thom sez:  Sweating….in the gym… how uncouth.  How are you supposed to clean it up when you ain’t got your gym bag?  I guess you could cover your body in “Secret”.

(webmaster’s comments:  I’ve lifted with you before, and the use of a little deodorant would help a little with your BO.  It doesn’t make you less of a man to abandon the smell.)

6.  Unload your weight bar.  Don’t assume that the next person who comes along has the ability or desire to clean up after you.  “A lot of guys leave heavy weight plates on a barbell and then walk away,” Gostigian says. “But for most people, just lifting those 45 pound weights is a challenge.” By the same token, a guy bench pressing 225 pounds isn’t going to want to bother removing someone’s 10 pound weight plates.

Thom sez:  If somebody leaves the bar loaded up, then that’s wrong, but if I ever walk into the gym and say, “Hey, who left these 10’s on the bar?” Who’s going to claim that?  Maybe the 13 year old in the corner mortified beyond belief?  “Hey, kid, maxin’ out again??”

NEXT ISSUE, PART TWO  OF GYM ETIQUETTE.

CREDIT:  Braemar Stone Tablet, Volume #3, Issue #1

Lack of News

by Al Myers

Everyone was amazed when Thom opened with a World Record attempt in the sheep toss.

The “dog days” of summer are upon us, and with that has come a lull in USAWA News.  We have hashed over the National Championships enough already, and it’s time to put that behind us.  I have said all I can say about the changes that were instigated at the Annual National Meeting.  I must be going through a “writers block” because for the first time I can’t think of any interesting topics to write about.  Not that my stories are all that interesting anyhow, but at least they fill the pages of the USAWA Daily News with something.   I really thought by now I would be receiving “stories by the bucket loads” from those wanting to see their words of wisdom in print on this website and I could just sit back and be the editor, and enjoy the “good life” of being in charge of what makes it to the press!  It doesn’t seem to be working out that way, and now I could use a break.  So until things pick up (and they will with the busy fall all round schedule in front of us) I’m going to be doing a couple weeks of “reruns” here in the USAWA Daily News.  AND NO – I’m not going to be that lazy to rerun prior website stories, but instead some old articles that were in the Braemar Stone Tablet.  The BST (short for Braemar Stone Tablet) was a newsletter published for around a half dozen years by none other than Thom Van Vleck covering several subjects of interest, with the intent being on the Highland Games.  It often contained good stories on training that could be applied to an All Rounder, stories covering different Highland Games, and stories containing Thom’s  attempts at humor (I found some of them funny, but then I share Thom’s sense of humor!!).  I even asked Thom if this would be acceptable to him for me to “rerun” these stories, and he has given me his permission to do so.  It was big of me to ask, because when it comes to Thom  I usually don’t  do that!   For those 25 people who were subscribers to the BST I apologize for this redundancy of material, and if you want to take a couple weeks break from the USAWA Website as well as me, you have my permission. 

Consider this a “vacation” for the USAWA Daily News.

Training with Friends

by Al Myers

Thom and I lifting the previous "unliftable" Combine Axle on a Tuesday night workout.

I am very fortunate by having great training partners.   We may only all train together as a full group a couple of times per week, but these are the days I look forward to the most.   A good training partner will bring out the best in you (and vice versa a bad training partner will pull you down), because during the workout you don’t want to let them down by giving nothing but your best effort.  I do several of my weekly workouts by myself, and I can tell you from experience, when “things are going good” you can have great workouts by yourself, it is just on those days that you are not feeling in top form that your workouts will suffer when training by yourself.  The Dino Gym is a family – we support each other even when one of us is not having our best day, and usually before the workout is over, the workout takes a turn for the better and this lifter ends up having a great workout.  This is what good training partners should do – help one another and in turn get that extra encouragement back when needed.  Often when one of us is getting ready for a big lift or set, everyone will stop lifting and just spend all our energy supporting the lifter on the platform.  I get “a rush” when someone else gets a big lift or personal record, just as if I had done it myself!

This past week I got to work out with my good friend Thom Van Vleck.  Thom and I only get to train together once or twice per year because Thom lives 8 hours from me (he says it is only 6 hours, but I don’t believe him).  We put aside our rival gym differences when training together, and ALWAYS have a great workout.  Just recently I acquired a very large combine axle with a solid shaft of over 3.5 inches.  My father found it in his scrape iron pile and  brought it down to me using his front end loader tractor, and dumped it in front of the gym.  It was much larger than what I had imagined, and I  knew that it would beyond what any normal man could lift, so I didn’t even weigh it.  I “guessed” it to be in the 800-1200# range based on the strain it was putting on the loader when it was set down.   Several gym guys have looked at it, including many strongman who showed up for my strongman competition a couple of weeks ago.  You KNOW it must have been an intimidating sight because it was in front of the gym for 3 weeks and NOT ONCE did anyone put their hands on it, or try to lift it.  When Thom and I started our workout, I TOLD Thom that we were going to lift that HUGE combine axle tonight, as a joint 2 man team.  I was trying to portray confidence that we could do it, but secretly I had my doubts (especially with his end, haha).  On top of the weight, the grip was going to be problem.  Thom agreed (because he knew I would not let him forget about wimping out if he didn’t).  We warmed up with some heavy Trap Bar Deadlifts, and then took our shot at being the first to lift what seemed previously like an unliftable object.  Relief soon rushed though our muscles as it came to lockout without an overdose of strain on either of our parts. 

Experiences and memories like this is what has me “hooked” on weight training.  So there is my advice of the day – enjoy your workouts, enjoy your training partners, and take the time to test your strength in unusual ways.  And THAT is what it should be all about!

Bobby Dodd

Bobby Dodd doing his favorite lift, the deadlift

by Thom Van Vleck

Bobby Dodd has been a friend of mine for many years.  Al Myers has known Bobby even longer, throwing with him in the late 80’s.   Bobby has been a friend of all strength sports since I have known him.  I know for a fact if he lived near some all rounders he’d take a keen interest in the USAWA.  I wanted to give the guy some credit for his amazing career in strength sports.

Bobby Dodd is a legend in Highland Games Athletics in the United States.  Not only as an athlete, though he has competed in probably more states in the U.S. and provinces in Canada than any other thrower ever, but as a true friend to the sport.  This has all been done with his usual quiet reserve letting his actions speak for him over words.  His contributions rival any other and I thought it was time he was recognized for his impact.

Bobby Dodd’s involvement in Scottish Highland Games Athletics has spanned over 40 years. His parents were born in Scotland and he was exposed the Highland Games at an early age.  He told me that when he was getting out of the Navy he made a “to do” list and turning a caber was in the top ten.  This led to his first foray into competition was in 1969 at the Santa Monica Highland Games where he walked on for a caber only event and he found himself hooked on the sport.  He realized right away he needed to get stronger and this led to his powerlifting career.

Bobby Dodd throwing in the Scottish Highland Games

The real reason that I wanted to write this story is to convey what a sportsman Bobby is and his valuable contribution to the sport he loves.  His influence goes beyond competition, judging, or the equipment he sells.  He has made many friends, brought so many into the sport he loves, but most importantly has set a standard of sportsmanship for all who have followed that has become part of why many enjoy the competitions today.  Some simply show up and compete and enjoy the fruits of the hard work put into making things happen.  Others work hard to make it happen.  Bobby has done it all!

Bobby began competing in Scottish Athletics in 1980.  His favorite event was the hammer throw.  But he found equipment hard to come by.  As a result, he contacted a local foundry about making some hammer heads for his personal use.  The expense was in making the mold and once the mold was made it was a cheaper process to make more, so Bobby started selling them to recoup the cost of the mold.  Eventually, this led to the development of Mjolnir hammers and a complete line of throwing weights for distance and height for the Games.   This endeavor was called “Hevy Gear”.   Bobby has had his equipment used at well over 100 highland Games in North America, and even Iceland and New Zealand.

Bobby, like many of us, first started giving back to the sport by judging. He first judged in 1984.  He did this off and on for many years and became an SAAA certified judge in 1997.  Since that time Bobby has judged at the Pro World Championships, Women’s World championships, Masters World Championships, North American Championships and numerous other Games from the local and regional level.

Bill Anderson (r) is one of the greatest Highland Games throwers of all time and maybe the greatest hammer thrower of all time. Bobby (l) sponsored the combined Scottish Hammers trophy for the Masters World Championships and named it after Bill. This was taken a the Masters World Championships in Scotland.

In 2004, I traveled to compete in my first Masters World Championships.  When we arrived, there was a mix up on judges and we were short. Since many of the athletes there were also certified judges or had years of experience, they asked for volunteers.  I recall thinking I had travelled half way across the country and didn’t want to miss out on the competition, but  Bobby, who was there to compete, offered to judge.   He sacrificed so others could throw!  I’ll never forget that and it’s just one example of how Bobby has given back to the sport that has given him so much.

I have another more personal connection with Bobby.  That is being a United States Marine.  Bobby was in the Navy and often having a military service connection makes for close friendships.  It has not escaped my notice that Bobby wears the Marine Corp tartan proudly and supports servicemen and women whenever he can.

Bill Scruggs, one of the founding members of the Masters World Championships in Highland Games, told me that Bobby was very supportive in the early days of the MWC.  Bobby not only donated hammers to be used, he developed the Master’s Hammer Aggregate trophy.  It was a traveling trophy awarded based on the aggregate of both heavy and light hammers thrown in the MWC.  While this award is no longer contested, it led to the current aggregate system used in the MWC to determine the best overall hammer thrower, weight for distance thrower, and stone putter.  Bobby has sponsored many other awards to further the sport.

Ryan Vierra, multi Pro World Champion in Scottish Highland Games, said:

“I consider Bobby Dodd one of the most influential people of our sport, past and present. Bobby has provided his valuable time to consult with games, and countless hours judging, as well as providing games all over the world with standardized equipment. When I started the games in 1987 Bobby was one of the athletes that welcomed me into the sport and I consider him a great friend and key asset to the future of our sport.”

Sean Betz, 2008 Pro World Highland Games Champ said:

“ Bobby is a great guy who always is in tune of what’s going on in the sport of highland games.  He takes a lot of pride is his equipment.  One of things I will always remember about Bobby is how he e-mailed me about his deadlift program.  Bobby had just been getting done with cancer treatment and is getting up there in age.   I was shocked as he is still up in the 400lb range for deadlifts and was very serious about increasing it.  A true highland games warrior and a great heart for the sport and for people.”

I competed at the North American Championships near Seattle, Washington in 2010 and Bobby was a judge there.  After the games were over, we enjoyed a libation together and talked about our love for the sport.  Bobby pulled out a huge scrap book.  I expected that it would be full of his own exploits, but instead it had dozens, maybe hundreds, of newspaper clippings of some the greatest ever to turn a caber!  He called it his “History of the Highland Games” and it’s a work in progress.

I was speaking with Steve Conway, the Athletic Director of the Caledonian Club of San Francisco Highland Games (one of the oldest and biggest Games in North America) about Bobby.  Steve talked about throwing with Bobby and Mike Qutermous starting in the early 80’s and the fun they had.  He also pointed out how the CCSF Games had used Dodd’s equipment for years and wondered out loud how many world records and games records had been set with Bobby’s equipment.  Steve also pointed out that Bobby often donated awards and equipment and donated women’s weights often just to get a Games to add women’s events!

Two photos, both of Cindy and Bobby Dodd. One in 1971 and the other in 2009. Over 40 years of Highland Games attendance!

Whenever Bobby Dodd’s name was mentioned, I heard words like “friend”, “mainstay”, “heart” and “influential”.  Sometimes those that do the most aren’t recognized for their efforts. Bobby Dodd one of those guys.  It would be my hope to be more like Bobby.  I want to give back more than I take from the sport I love, make lots of friends, and have a lot of fun in the process.

Omega Force: Christian Strongman Team

By Thom Van Vleck

Randy Richey: Founding Member of Omega Force.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big Muscles or Strong Muscles?

 by Thom Van Vleck

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

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

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

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

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

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

Habeckers Gym: Club of the Year

by Al Myers

Habeckers Gym won the 2010 USAWA Club of the Year Award. (left to right): Denny Habecker, Al Myers, and Thom Van Vleck.

The only USAWA Award that was preannounced before the awards banquet was the 2010 USAWA Club of the Year.  However, I still think a few words should be said about Habeckers Gym, which is the USAWA Club of the Year for 2010.  Habeckers Gym is a club ran by our USAWA President Denny Habecker. Points are generated throughout the year for various activities and events that add to a club’s total, with the club gathering the most points declared the Club of the Year.  The previous year’s Club of the Year is not eligible, but has the honorable distinction of presenting the award to the new winner.  I was honored (the Dino Gym was the 2009 USAWA Club of the Year) to be able to make this presentation to Denny and Habeckers Gym.  Our club program has grown considerable this past year with many new clubs involved, thus the competition for this award is getting stronger.   I really believe the future success of the USAWA hinges on increased club activity, and Habeckers Gym is the example to follow. 

As I said, several factors play into gathering points for a clubs total.  Club membership is a big part of it.  Each USAWA member that lists on their membership application the club they are part of adds one point to the tally.  Habeckers membership during 2010 included these 5 members: Denny Habecker, Judy Habecker, Barry Bryan, Andrew Hess, and Kohl Hess.   Points are also accrued for those club members that participate in the big events – Worlds, Nationals, and the Gold Cup.  Promoting sanctioned events and competitions also gain points for the award total, and bonus points are earned for putting on big events which the Habeckers did in 2010 with the promotion of the National Championship.  

A runner-up Club of the Year Award was also given.  Again for the second year in a row, Ambridge VFW BBC was the recipient.

Al Myers: Leadership Award

by Thom Van Vleck

Leadership Award Winners (left to right): Al Myers, Thom Van Vleck

This years leadership award went to Al Myers.  I won’t mention who was 2nd….Ok, maybe it was me.  But I must have been a distant second in the voting because Al had quite a year last year and was well deserving of this honor.

Bill Clark was the heart and soul of the USAWA for many years.  For over 40 years some member of my family was getting his newsletters.  Having done a newsletter myself for several years I KNOW the work and cost involved.  Al took over the secretary job from Bill and has upheld the high standard Bill set.  There is no doubt that for years Bill kept the USAWA going and now that mantle has fallen on Al.  Bill brought his unique skill set to the job and so has Al.  It’s like comparing apples and oranges, each one is great in their own way.  Let’s focus on some of the things that led me to vote for Al, and I’m sure others for the same reason.

First, the website.  Back in the day, I got several newsletters.  They were the way to go.  I can recall when a First Class stamp was 6 cents…now it’s 7 times that amount!  Al realized that newsletters were becoming more and more impractical and a website with daily news on it was a necessity.  He also realized that the news needed to be updated daily so that people who check back daily and keep interest up.  I’m not saying websites are better than newsletters (honestly, I enjoyed the paper in my hand reading it during a workout) it’s just more practical in this day and age.  With the younger people, they are used to fast updates, fresh news, early and often and a website is the only way you are going to do that.  Al also recruited some top notch writers (ahem….) to help him out.  He knew people would get tired of just meet reports, so get in some variety and step outside just USAWA news from time to time.  This has also shown the light of day to quite a few stories that would have never been read otherwise.  One in particular was Larry Traub’s story on “Things I Hate about the Sport I Love”.

Second, getting others involved.  Al contacted me one day and asked if I would be interested in hosting the USAWA Nationals.  He wanted a new location for the meet in the hopes that the variety might help attendance.  I knew this was a big job, but I also knew Al would not leave me hanging so I accepted.  Al has talked many of us into going to meets that we might otherwise not attended.  That’s what leadership is all about.

Third, providing equipment.  Al has produced much of the apparatus needed to perform all the various lifts in his gym.  I wonder how many records have been set at the Dino Gym?  I also wonder how many records have been set on equipment that Al made?  So he not only provides  opportunities for setting records in his own gym he has made equipment that has been used in other gyms to set USAWA records.  For example, last year he had a writing contest and the prize (and several were provided) was a thick DB handle to to the DB walk.

Finally, Al will make you feel good about yourself.  Al is a great friend to many of us and I know I appreciate that.  Often, as lifters, we should be encouraging one another and often we do not do this as much as we should.  I believe Al has encourage many and again that is the mark of leadership.

I am excited to see what will happen to the USAWA under Al’s leadership.  For many years Ol’ Clark kept things going, now Al is keeping things going.  I hope he sticks around a long as Bill did!

Rudy Bletscher & Mike Murdock: Sportsmanship Award

by Al Myers

Rudy Bletscher receiving the Co-Award for sportsmanship. (left to right): Rudy Bletscher, Al Myers, and Thom Van Vleck. Missing from this picture is the other Sportsmanship Award Winner Mike Murdock.

For this first time ever we had a tie in a vote for an USAWA Special Award, so this year a Co-Award was given on behalf of the USAWA in regards to the Sportsmanship Award.  The two award winners were a great selection, because both of these guys have “gone at it”  in competition with each other this past  year and have done so in a most fitting style, showing utmost sportsmanship towards each other.  The Sportsmanship Award goes to Rudy Bletscher and Mike Murdock.  Mike had to leave early following the banquet before the Awards Ceremony, so I wasn’t able to get his picture taken receiving his Award as I had hoped, but I did get one of Rudy and the surprise look on his face when he received it.  

I have enjoyed watching Mike and Rudy compete against each other throughout this past year.  They are both pretty close in age, bodyweight, and strength so it always makes an interesting competition.  They seem to go “back and forth” in beating each other from one competition to the next, but the both of them always enjoy each others “competitive company” as they do so and don’t seem to mind when they come out on “the short end of the stick”.  These guys understand what its all about, and always seem to really enjoy themselves at meets.  Both of them are tremendously supportive of the other lifters, and it is a pleasure being around them at meets.  One of the things I remember about them from this past year was when they teamed up together to form a duo for Team Nationals.   They were a formidable team!  As they did the team lifts neither one of them wanted to let the other one down so they pushed themselves as hard as I have seen!  I’m hoping they will form a team again this year at Team Nationals.  In fact, I’m going to hold onto Mike’s award till then so maybe I can finally get my picture of them together as Co-Sportsmanship Award Winners of the year!

Larry Traub: Newcomer Award

by Al Myers

Larry Traub won the voting for the USAWA Newcomer Award. (left to right): Larry Traub, Al Myers, and Thom Van Vleck.

The Newcomer Award is an award given on behalf of the USAWA to recognize someone who has just become involved in the USAWA.   This year’s Newcomer Award Winner made “a big splash” in the USAWA by not only winning this award, but also the OVERALL BEST LIFTER in his very first USAWA National Championships!  Larry Traub is the man I’m talking about – and remember his name because you will be hearing much more of it in the future!  It wouldn’t be fair of me to call Larry “a rookie” just because he won our Newcomer Award, because Larry’s one of the most experienced lifters I know.  He has been involved in coaching his entire life and has knowledge of the iron-game that few have.  He is a very technical lifter, and I know with a little more time, will become a master of all the All-Round lifts.   He lifts as part of the Ledaig Heavy Athletics Club, which without a doubt, will be in the running for next years USAWA Club of the Year.  Larry first competed in the USAWA at the USAWA Grip Championships in 2010, and this past spring promoted his first USAWA competition.  Congratulations Larry and welcome to the USAWA!

Chad Ullom: Athlete of the Year

by Al Myers

Chad Ullom was awarded the 2010 USAWA Athlete of the Year at the awards banquet. (left to right): Chad Ullom, Al Myers, & Thom Van Vleck

After our banquet following the National Meet, we had the Awards Ceremony.  Included in this ceremony was the presentation of the Special Awards that were given on behalf of the USAWA to individuals that have shown excellence within the USAWA during this past year.  The recipients of these Special Awards were chosen and voted on by the USAWA membership.   I feel that makes receiving one of these awards all that more special, because you know that your peers in the organization were the ones who chose you.   The “highest award” that the USAWA recognizes is the Athlete of the Year, which is our version of a MVP award.  This year it went to a very deserving lifter – Chad Ullom.   Chad has had an outstanding year of competitions within the USAWA.   He placed second overall at last years National Championship, and then went on to win OVERALL BEST LIFTER at the IAWA World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland last fall.  All together, Chad competed in 14 USAWA events during the year 2010.  (YES – that’s 14 events and not a typo!).   There are not very many lifters that compete in that many events over a 5 year period – but Chad did it all in ONE YEAR!  I want to give you a quick run-down of his successes in 2010, and after I do this NO ONE would question why he is our ATHLETE OF THE YEAR.  He started the year off by winning the Dino Gym Challenge  which was the first USAWA event of the year (so he also has the distinction of winning the first meet of the year as well).  After competing in the Grip Challenge and the Dino Gym Record Day, he joined the Dino Gym Team at the Club Challenge in Ambridge and helped out the team to victory.  After this, he competed in a couple of postals (Goddard Postal & Eastern Open) and then onto his second place overall finish at the 2010 National Championships.  After that, he competed in the Ledaig Record Day before competing in Team Nationals, where he was part of the winning overall team.  After his crowning win at the World Championships, he competed in the World Postal Meet as a team member of the Dino Gym (which won the overall team title).  He finished the year off by competing in the JWC Record Breakers (where he set 18 USAWA Records) and then off to the Gold Cup in Boston, and finishing with competing in the National Postal Meet.   Now that’s a resume!! 

Congratulations Chad – you have had a year of successful competitions that would be hard for anyone to follow!

2011 Nationals: Behind the Scenes!

by Thom Van Vleck

If it wasn't for my wife Kelly, we would have missed out on the cake!

If you’ve ever run a meet before you know the work that is involved in it and how “Murphy’s Law” can and will apply.  I thought I would share a few of the “behind the scenes” stories.

The Venue Change

Some time ago I had secured the Rieger Armory for our meet.  This is the home of our local Army National Guard.  It is a great venue and I was pleased to get it.  Plus, it had air conditioning!   Two weeks out I called up to “confirm” the date and the time I could start moving things in.  It was at this time I found out they were on their annual two weeks of active duty.  I left a message to call me back.  The Tuesday before the meet I got the call and I found out they were being put on “standby” due to flooding and they were “commandeering” the armory!  At that point, the scramble was on.  I had several back ups, but the big issue you run into with more of the better locations is insurance.  I used to hold things on city owned property and they would sponsor the event and we would fall under their umbrella coverage….but no more (I suppose a special thanks goes to frivolous lawsuits).  As I made calls and found most were already booked, I narrowed it down to two places.  One with air conditioning that would basically be like lifting in a warehouse (it was an auction house) or the Willard School Gym where we ended up which had no air conditioning.  I checked the long range forecast and saw a high of 77 with a low of 59 the night before.  I borrowed a huge fan and rolled the dice.  The next weekend the forecast was for mid 90’s and that gym would have been miserable!  That worked out great in the end.  It was not the first time I lost my venue last minute….probably not the last….always have a back up plan!!!

The Shirts

I love Sunbrite laundry.  The Hettinger family that runs it have been really good to me, it’s one of the few family owned, locally owned business in Kirksville and I try to keep as many of my $$$ locally as I can.  But Josh Hettinger always seems to run up until the last minute with the shirts I order from him.  I have to say this, he ALWAYS comes thru…..but he has to admit….he did bring the shirts in Saturday morning and that gives the meet director high blood pressure.  The first event I EVER ran my shirt guy (not Sunbrite….this guy later went our of business and for good reason) showed up at NOON with my shirts and they were screwed up.  This was after me going by repeatedly trying to proof them and get him to get them done.  ”Checks in the Mail” comes to mind!

The Awards

For the last several years I have bought 2lb anvils from Grizzly tools.  They were unique awards and symbolic of Grandpa Jackson’s anvil that led to my grandfather starting his weightlifting career in the first place.  I went to order more and found out they were no longer selling them!  So I scrambled on the internet to find a replacement and finally did.  However, when I ordered them they were placed on back order!  The sales rep assured me I’d have them on time for the meet (again “Checks in the mail” comes to mind) and sure enough a few days before the meet they came in!  This did not help my blood pressure!

The Cake

This was pretty minor compared to the other things, but my wife suggested we make a “USAWA” cake for the banquet.  I liked the idea and had Al send me the USAWA logo digital file.  He had no idea what I was going to do with it, I thought it would be a nice surprise.  Well, I forgot to order it!  After all, I was already worried about the venue, shirts, and awards!   So, my wife jumped in and took charge and literally ordered the cake on Saturday morning!  She picked it up that afternoon!  Clutch play on her part.

Last minute equipment issues

I had in my mind using some 1″ bars I had for the DB Snatch.  Al called me and said he assumed I had some Oly style handles.  I did not so he stopped at a sporting goods store in Topeka to pick a couple up.  The thick bar was one Al had made and was too heavy for some to open with.  So I sent John O’Brien on a quick run home to get a lighter one that I had meant to bring, but forgot.  I think I sent him a “list” of things to get, but you always seem to forget something!

The Weather

Those that were there will recall that right before the meet started that a storm blew in.  It was not a bad storm but it had plenty of lightning and was dumping ran like crazy.  I had a couple people who were not from the midwest kind of concerned about tornadoes and rightfully so.  But then the roof started to leak!!!!  I had visions of the roof starting to leak all over and ruining the meet!  The funny part is that I run a lot of outdoor strongman and Highland Games….I was thinking before hand that the weather would be no concern since we were inside!  Boy, was I wrong.  Luckily, the ran stopped and so did the leaky roof!

Other than that…haha….the meet ran fine!  I considered it a success and I hope those attended had a great experience!  Again, you never pull these things off alone and if I didn’t have an understanding wife first and foremost, this would never have happened.

Continental to Chest: It’s not a Clean!

 by Thom Van Vleck

The mid point of the Continental to Chest.

The Continental to Chest (Fulton bar) will be contested at the 2011 USAWA Nationals hosted by the Jackson Weightlifting Club.  Let’s get familiar with the rules:

A23.  Continental to Chest

The lifter starts with the bar on the platform in front of the lifter and raises it by any method of the lifter’s choosing onto the lifter’s chest above the pectoral muscle. The bar may be raised in one or a series of movements and may come to rest, be lowered, or make contact with any part of the legs and body during the lift. However, the bar must not be upended into any position on the body. Hand spacing and grip are of the lifter’s choosing and may be altered on the bar during the lift. The hands may be removed from the bar during the lift. The bar may come to rest on the lifter’s belt. A towel may be placed in the belt for the bar to rest on.  Touching the platform with a knee or the buttocks is permissible.  It is a disqualification for the bar or plates to touch the platform before the finish of the lift.   Once the lifter’s legs are straightened, the lifter’s body erect, the feet parallel and in line with the torso, the bar motionless, an official will give a command to lower the bar. The lift ends when the bar is placed on the platform under
control by the lifter.

F.  Fulton Bar (2” Bar) Lifts
Fulton Bar Lifts are approved for all bar lifts using a Fulton Bar and the rules of the individual lifts. 

 

We wanted to have one Fulton bar (or thick bar) lift and the Continental to Chest happens to be it.

In the past, this lift has often been referred to as the “Continental Clean”.  This was a pet peeve of  former USAWA secretary Bill Clark.  He would point out that the “Clean” refers to lifting the bar “cleanly” from the floor to the chest.  So, saying “Continental Clean” is an oxymoron……kind of like “near miss” or “alone together”.   Everyone knows what you mean but it really doesn’t make sense!

There’s a deeper story on how the Continental got it’s name.  In the early days of lifting, the British were often in competition with the French and German lifters (or Continental Europe, which did not include the British Isles).  The British took pride in how strictly they would lift the bar “cleanly” to the chest and would make fun of how the French and German would bounce the bar up anyway they could and the would refer to that method as the “Continental Style” in a negative fashion.  Later, the British were instrumental in the early lifting rules and the continental style was phased out and the clean style was accepted for major lifting competitions.  But the USAWA keeps the style alive and well!

So study the rules and get ready for some Continental action!

Can you Cheat on the Cheat Curl?

 by Thom Van Vleck

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

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

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

Currently, the USAWA rules state:

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

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

Ravenswood Formula

Thom Van Vleck flashes the "Red Light" at USAWA Heavy Lift Nationals as Head Judge Denny Habecker looks for the call. USAWA officials have a lot more to do than judging the lifts. There's a lot of math involved as well!

by Thom Van Vleck

I know we’ve probably overdone the talk on formulas to rate lifting performances, but here’s one more.  I got a copy of Peary Radar’s Lifting News (Sept. 1965) and notice a story on page 20 titled “A New Simplified Formula for Accurate Rating of Lifting Performances”.  This formula was being touted as an easy way to determine the best lifter.  Evidently, before calculators, the “long hand”  or “slide rule” multiplication using the “Hoffman Formula” often resulted on errors and hard feelings when the errors were revealed later.  As a result, the Ravenswood Formula was developed.

I’ll stop right here and say I’m not pushing this to be used by the USAWA nor do I know if it favors heavier lifters (which I’m not sure why anyone would think I would want that….well…maybe I would “like” that). This is just an interesting piece of lifting history from a time when formulas in lifting seemed to be quite the hot topic.

Laverne Myers and Denny Habecker have passed stringent testing to become USAWA officials

The Ravenswood Formula sought to remove the error prone difficulty of multiplication and replace it with the simplicity of adding two numbers together.  You were give two tables which are quite lengthy.  Table “A” had a bodyweight coefficient which went from 110lbs to 370lbs and Table “B” had a “Total” or lift poundage coefficient which went from 105lbs to 2550lbs.  You simply took the lifters weight and found the corresponding coefficient in Table A (a 4 digit number) and added it to the corresponding weight lifted/coefficient in table B (again, a 4 digit number).  The theory being that this formula was much more simple and less prone to a mathematical error.  You have to take the developer’s word that it’s “fair” or should I say “Accurate” as he does in the title.  The developer was Stanley Gorajczyk.  Not sure where “Ravenswood” came from….maybe easier to pronounce that “Gorajczyk”!   Stanley was an Olympic lifter who got 5th in the 1967 Senior Nationals, so he was a pretty decent lifter as well.

Al Myers looks like he's trying to talk Head Judge Denny Habecker into a good call, but really Denny is busy "doing the math" and calculating the winner using the formula!

I just found it another interesting part of lifting history and went with earlier articles on this website that discussed weightlifting formulas.   If you are interested in the tables let me know.  It might be interesting to compare the outcomes of this formula to others!

Jackson Weightlifting Club Logo

by Thom Van Vleck

The modern JWC Logo.

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

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

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

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

The fancy JWC logo.

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

The Long Journey to York Barbell: Part II

by Thom Van Vleck

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

The current York Gym

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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