Shoulder Drop Rules

by Thom Van Vleck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Stupid Lifts, Just Stupid Lifters

by Thom Van Vleck

Wilbur Miller doing a barbell leg press

Recently I got kind of sore at a guy for criticizing a leg press done by my friend Wilbur Miller.  Wilbur and my Uncle Wayne had some epic battles back in the day and while Wilbur won the overall in every meet he was never able to beat my Uncle in the Clean and Press.  Wayne took great pride in that as Wilbur was, in his mind, the greatest of his era.  I have written an article for MILO magazine on Wilbur and he continues to be involved in the USAWA to this day.

So this picture came up and this guy took it for face value and called it “Stupid”.  Well, I let him have it.  I was probably too harsh but I knew the story behind this photo.  The guy also said that if this was a good lift then you would see people doing it everywhere.  First of all, Wilbur usually did his lifting in an old York Power Rack where he could leg press in a rack with a very tight gap.  I did leg pressed that way early in my training as well.  Second of all, this photo was take out of the rack to demonstrate the lift.  Third, Wilbur did them because he didn’t have a proper leg press or leg sled.  It might be stupid to do this lift if you had a good leg press or out of a power rack….but it was dang smart to do them when Wilbur had some back issues and wanted to work his legs hard and he had no other recourse.

This got me to thinking about all the name calling and commentary from know-it-all lifters on the internet.  And to be honest, I’ve been one, too and I regret it.  A quick glance and you might think a lot of lifts would be useless or even dangerous.  But the reality is there are no stupid lift…only stupid lifters!

I would contend that ANY lift that can be done could have a useful purpose at some point of any lifters career.  Maybe because of injury, or an unusual weakness, or a lack of proper equipment.  Over the years I have made it a point to train with many of the best lifters in the country and I have found that almost ALL of the best have all kinds of unusual lifts they have developed that fits their needs.  Those same lifts, in the wrong context, could be disastrous to others.

Many times I have had a lifter tell me of a lift they do and my initial reaction is to roll my eyes and shake my head.  But in my 35 plus years of lifting there have been countless times I’ve ended up adopting that lift for my own needs.  So, my point is don’t judge, keep your mind open, and be like a U. S. Marine: “Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome”.   In other words….don’t be stupid!

Phumchaona Lift

by Al Myers

Noi Phumchaona performing a Clean and Press at the 1999 IAWA World Championships in Australia.

The USAWA is full of odd and weird all round lifts.  Some have been performed rarely – and some NEVER!  Well, at my Dino Days Record Days one of these lifts was performed for USAWA Record for the first time.  It took someone as odd as the lift itself to finally make this happen in the USAWA (and that is supposed to be a compliment!). Anyone with normal sense would have passed on attempting this lift for record.

Jesse Jobe, of the Jobe’s Steel Jungle, performed a Phumchaona Lift of 840 pounds.  This is the FIRST and ONLY record lift established in the Phumchaona Lift. I appreciate lifters like Jesse bringing recognition to the “less popular” lifts in the USAWA by performing them in record days.  If you look hard in the Rule Book and compare it to the Record List you will find there are a few other USAWA lifts that have never been performed for record.  I know which ones they are – but I’ll leave it up to you to figure out the ones!

The Phumchaona Lift was named after Noi Phumchaona, the most celebrated female USAWA lifter in history.  Noi was the OVERALL BEST LIFTER at the USAWA Nationals four times (2002, 1999, 1998, & 1997).  She was married to the legendary Hall of Famer Howard Prechtel.  Together they made a dynamic husband/wife duo, and their presence was at most every major competition during the 1990’s and early 2000’s. Together they have more USAWA/IAWA Championships than any other husband/wife combo in the history of our organization. The Phumchaona Lift is an official lift of the USAWA only (not an IAWA lift).

The rules for the Phumchaona Lift are as follows:

I14. Phumchaona Lift

This lift combines a Hip Lift and a Clean and Press with two dumbbells. The rules of the Hip Lift and Clean and Press – 2 Dumbbells apply with these exceptions. The lifter gets in position for a Hip Lift holding two dumbbells at arms’ length by the sides. The dumbbells may be cleaned and pressed before, during, or after the Hip Lift. Any combination of movements is allowed. The only command from an official during this lift will be a command to end the lift when both the Hip Lift and the Clean and Press with two dumbbells are completed.

As you can see, this is a extremely difficult lift which combines a heavy lift and a dumbbell lift.  It is definitely a “one of a kind” lift.  The interesting thing is that there is not a documented case of Noi actually performing this lift.  I have done some research on when this lift originated – and I am at a dead end. I even went to the effort of contacting several of the “long in the tooth” USAWA members to give me input for this story,  and I’ve only received one email response back in which he didn’t have anything to add.  So this makes the Phumchaona Lift an all-round mystery for now.

1000 BLOGS!

by Al Myers

It’s hard to believe – but this is the 1000th blog of the USAWA Daily News.  That’s alot of All Round Weightlifting news over the past 3-4 years.  The first blog was a meet report of the 2009 Dino Gym Challenge – whereas the big news was Steve Schmidt hitting over a 3000 pound Back Lift and Chad Ullom performing a 200# Zeigler Clean.   The first few months were pretty slow on news, but since then the pace has been picked up.  We have had months over 30 stories, and most months have been over 20 stories. 

I have greatly appreciated the support that others have given me in this website endeavor.  The format of this website allows for member participation, which includes articles for publishing as the front page news of the USAWA Daily News.  Guys like Thom Van Vleck, Roger LaPointe, Dave Glasgow, Dennis Mitchell, John McKean,  and Steve Gardner have submitted several stories apiece over the years which I appreciate.  I don’t mind writing the majority, but the “voice of the organization” should be more than just me, especially since there’s WAY BETTER journalists than myself!!!  When I set this website up, I envisioned there being several writers, preferably at least one from each club, that would submit club news so everyone could keep up with what was going on throughout the entire organization. 

Let’s start the countdown to 2000!!!

The NEW Reverse Grip Curl Lift

by Al Myers

One of the new official lifts of the USAWA that was passed at the National Meeting  is the “Curl – Reverse Grip”.  This has caused some confusion (I’ve received a couple of emails on it already) as we already HAVE that lift as one of our official USAWA lifts!  The reason for this is a simple one – our rules for the Reverse Grip Curl has been drastically different than the IAWA rules for the Reverse Grip Curl!   A while back I wrote a blog stating the differences on this: .   The new Curl – Reverse Grip will go by this rule, which conforms to the IAWA rule for it:

Curl – Reverse Grip:   The rules of the Rectangular Fix apply, except that once the bar reaches the midway point it does not stop fixed, but continues to the finish position in one motion.

Need to reference this rule:

D24.  Rectangular Fix

This lift starts with the lifter standing holding the bar on the thighs at arms’ length, with the palms of the hands facing the lifter. Maximum hand spacing is shoulder width. Feet placement is optional. On a command by an official to start the lift, the lifter raises the bar by bending the elbows. The bar is raised to a position in which the lower arms are at a 90 degree angle to the body and parallel to the platform. The upper arms and elbows must maintain contact with the torso throughout the lift. The wrists must stay straight. Movement of the feet, raising the heels or toes, or swaying the body is not allowed. Once the bar is motionless, an official will give a command to end the lift.

Also in this proposal included a change of name for the “previous” Reverse Grip Curl that we have been doing in the USAWA.   It will now go by this name officially: Curl – Cheat, Reverse Grip.   All records will be preserved that have been set previously and this new name will be changed in the rulebook and record list.  However, the new Reverse Grip Curl is “now open” for any new records!  Interestingly, at Worlds this year we will be performing this lift according to the IAWA rules, thus the same rule as this new lift.  That is REASON NUMBER ONE we needed to approve this new lift.  You see, there are lifts that are official in the IAWA that are not official in the USAWA (even though the USAWA has several more that are not IAWA approved). It would seem odd to perform a lift at the Worlds on our own “home turf” that is not an official lift in the USAWA.   I know it seems confusing, but hopefully with time all of these differences will be reconciled.  Progress has been made on this over the past couple of years.

In summary, the Curl – Reverse Grip follows the rule of the Rectangular Fix and the Curl – Cheat, Reverse Grip follows the rule of the Cheat Curl.  The Executive Board briefly discussed calling this new lift the Curl – Strict, Reverse Grip  but decided against it.  Who knows – with time we might need that name if we ever decide to propose a Reverse Grip Curl following the rules of the Strict Curl???  Now THAT would make things confusing!!

The James Lift

by Al Myers

Chad Ullom performing a James Lift with 125 pounds at the 2009 Dino Gym Challenge.

Recently, the James Lift has been receiving some attention in the USAWA.   At my Dino Gym Records Day a couple of months ago Bryan Benzel put up a big lift of 159 pounds.  It has also been discussed in the USAWA Discussion Forum.   This lift has not been contested very much in the USAWA, with the only actual meet it has been in was the 2009 Dino Gym Challenge.   It is a judges nightmare when it comes to the commands for this lift.  A total of FOUR COMMANDS must be given from the head official to properly execute this lift!  I believe this is the most commands for a single lift of all the official lifts in the USAWA Rule Book.  Lets do a review of the Rules for the James Lift:

A27.  James Lift

This lift combines a clean, press, and front squat.  First a clean is done according to the rules of the Clean. Once in the finishing position of the clean, an official will give a command to squat. Once in the bottom front squat position, as defined by the rules of the Squat, an official will give a command to press. The press is performed while maintaining a squat position of legal depth. The rules of the Press apply as defined in the rules of the Clean and Press. Once the bar is overhead, an official will give the lifter a command to lower the bar back to the chest. Once the bar is back to the chest, and at the lifter’s own discretion, the lifter will finish the squat according to the rules of the Front Squat. Once standing, the lifter will receive a command from an official to lower the bar to the platform. The lift ends when the bar is returned to the platform under control by the lifter.

It was brought up in the Discussion Forum why there are not IAWA World Records for this lift.  The reason is simple – the James Lift is NOT an official IAWA lift. It was first contested in the USAWA in the  postal series of 2001.  From my research, it appears this lift originated from the English All Round lifting promoter & weightlifter Tony Cook.  The first rules for the James Lift were written by him for a postal challenge between his gym and Clarks Gym in 1999.  Interestingly, his rules titled this lift the James Squat and Press, as well as including another lift in a slightly deviated form – the James Squat and Press behind Neck.  However, I have read stories of past weightlifters (way before this time) that performed this lift (but never in an official competition with set rules).  When I first heard of this lift, I thought it was probably a lift that Bill named after making longtime Clarks Gym member James Foster do it as an experiment in a training session.  But the person it is really named remains a mystery to me, and if anyone knows more behind this story please let me know. 

Another thing I found very interesting is that this lift was never officially adopted as an USAWA lift, but rather became “grandfathered in”  in subsequent Rule Books.  I have reread all of the Annual USAWA minutes and NO WHERE  is the James Lift mentioned as being presented for official lift status and voted on by the membership for approval. 

I will be very curious to see if Bryan can break the 200 pound barrier in the James Lift this year.  From his obvious great pressing ability and his remarkable shoulder flexibility for a big guy I predict that he will!!


Ed Schock 105 12/1/2002 USAWA Postal 160#
Bryan Benzel 125+ 2/12/2012 Dino RD 159#
Jason Weigle 110 12/15/2001 USAWA Postal 150#
Ed Schock 100 12/15/2001 USAWA Postal 150#
John Monk 75 12/1/2002 USAWA Postal 140#

The following is an addendum by Roger Davis from the USAWA Discussion Forum.  Roger futher describes how the James Lift originated.  I want to include his comments in this blog as they complete the historical review of the James Lift.

“As for origins (of the Name anyway) , it was a lift created by Tony Cook around 1999 in honour of his gym member Paul James, who used to show off his shoulder flexibility after making a clean by pressing the bar overhead and maintaining the full squat, all the others who tried it fell flat on their arses much to the mirth of Paul.  I think Paul was good for about 70kg on this, his press being the limiting factor not his flexibility.  The complete lift got a bit complicated, you had to clean the bar, front squat, hold the full squat position, press, complete the squat and then return the bar to the floor, thinking about the order was harder than teh actual lift !!!  This was competed in a BSAG comp, where I managed about 60kg.

regards,   just thought you would like to know the origin of the name.  Roger Davis”

French Press

by Al Myers

Chuck Cookson performing an ALL TIME best USAWA record of 207 pounds in the French Press at the 2012 Dino Gym Record Day. Take notice that Chuck has the perfect arm length to do this lift, and that his elbows are not even above his head when extended straight up!

This is an official lift of both the USAWA and the IAWA.  Amazingly, the rules are the SAME as well as the lift is named the SAME.  That is a rarity between USAWA and IAWA lifts!! However, that is about the ONLY THING I like about the French Press!  I wish I knew more about how this lift came about and who was responsible for writing the original rules on it. They must have been written by a cruel person who likes to see lifters FAIL at performing a lift! The rules for this lift are written in a way that MOST lifters can’t even perform a French Press according to them.  For a lift so simple in concept – these rules seem to me to be “over the top” for the French Press. I do know it has been around for quite a while as an all-round lift as it is represented in the old Missouri Valley Record List.  The oldest record in the Mo-Valley list is held by Homer Lewellen of Columbia, Missouri who did a French Press of 185 pounds in 1962 in the 198 class.  Other good marks in this record list were by Jim Charlton and Wayne Jackson.  I just assume they were done with the same rules as we have today, as this lift was one of the original 110.

The USAWA Rules for the French Press

A25.   French Press

The bar is brought from the platform to an overhead position by any method to assume the starting position of this lift. The lifter’s arms must be straight, the lifter standing, and the body upright before the start of the lift. Width of feet placement is optional.  Once the bar is overhead and motionless, with the lifter’s arms straight, the lift begins at the lifter’s discretion. The hand spacing on the bar must not exceed 6 inches. The palms of the hands must be facing away from the lifter. The lifter will bend the arms and lower the bar until the bar touches the base of the neck at the junction of the shoulders without lowering the upper arms. The elbows must remain above the top of the head. Once the bar is on the base of the neck, an official will give the command to press.  The elbows must not be lowered during any part of the press or it will be a disqualification. The legs must remain straight during the lift. There must not be any backbend, any bending of the knees, or movement of the feet during the lift. The heels and toes must not rise.  Once the bar has been pressed, the arms straight and the bar motionless, an official will give a command to end the lift. The bar may be lowered by any method.

READ THE ABOVE RULE CAREFULLY as I know most USAWA lifters are not familiar with the legal nuances of this lift.  As I’ve said – I don’t like the rules for the French Press.  I have done French Presses in training in the past and the exercise I do (as well as most of my training partners) is NOTHING like the French Press described above!   These rules are so restrictive that it prevents most lifters from even being capable of performing a legal French Press.  Also, it is a terrible lift to judge – invaribly a lifters elbows drop to some degree and it makes for very subjective judging.  If it is in a meet at least half of the lifters can’t even do a legal lift correctly, so the judging gets lax (and not in accordance with the written rules) just so lifters won’t “bomb out” on the lift.  The French Press has been in one National Championship (2005), and if I have any say in it, that will be the last and only one that the French Press will be in.  

However, like I said, the French Press is a great training lift for the shoulders and triceps if done differently. A wider grip, descending to only the back of the head, with a slight elbow drop allows for natural movement and normal shoulder rotation.  The 6 inch grip width creates most of the problems, especially on a straight bar.  Also, requiring the bar to touch the BASE of the neck creates issues if a lifters arm length is not of the correct proportions.  I guess I just don’t understand why the rules for the French Press are written this way when the practicality of performing it in training is so much different?  

However, at the Dino Gym Record Day I was proved wrong on many accounts when Dino Gym member Chuck Cookson performed a legal French Press of 207 pounds while maintaining PERFECT legal form.   This record of Chuck’s is the top ALL TIME in the USAWA, besting Ernie Beaths mark of 200 pounds.  I judged Chuck’s French Press and made sure it was done strictly in accordance with the rules.  He has perfect body mechanics and limb lengths to do this lift with perfection.   So – I guess I now feel the the French Press is a good lift because I know SOMEONE who can do it right! A Lot of the other USAWA lifts are also in the category of the French Press, ie Van Dam Lift, Mansfield, Zeigler, etc.   I guess I feel if someone can do them correctly and excel in them, these lifts should be available to allow these few lifters to show their abilities in these difficult lifts at record days (But NOT in meets!!).

One Hand Swing

by Roger LaPointe

Roger LaPointe, of Atomic Athletic, performing a dumbbell swing with an "old school" Jackson 80# globe dumbbell at the Ambridge Barbell Club.

Quick lifts seem to be all the rage right now, for good reason.

The One Hand Dumbbell Swing is one explosive lift you do not see a lot of, but you are really missing out if you aren’t doing it. It was one of the contest lifts in Ambridge, PA last weekend, at the Ambridge Barbell Club USAWA (All-Round) weightlifting meet.

First of all, the guys in that organization are a treasure trove of information. I had been casually training the lift for about a month. The deeper I looked at it and experimented with it, the more interesting it became. As with many All-Round Association events, I came out of the meet with a far greater understanding of the lift than when I went in. You may have noticed, that I tend to repeat lifts from one meet to the next. The idea is that in a 6 month period of time, you can then have two contests where you can show some improvement from the first to the second.


To start with, you want to lift on the most appropriate equipment. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive, but there are certain key factors to consider. Now, my favorite dumbbell at the meet was the one I used for my final attempt, which was a good one. However, if I were trying to set a record, or push my absolute limit, I would NOT have used that dumbbell. I like that dumbbell because it was an antique Jackson solid, globe head, dumbbell. It was down right cool. Yet, the grip area was much too long and unknurled.

Ideally, you want a rotating Olympic sized plate loading dumbbell with a handle that is similar diameter to an Olympic barbell. I have one in my collection that measures 1 1/4 inches in diameter and it is simply too big. The goal of a swing is not just to work your grip. A swing should be a test of your back, hips and traps. You also need to have very solid collars. There is no way I would trust little spring collars or something made of plastic. I use leather lined Spin-Lock Collars that you can crank down on.


1. Make sure you get a good grip. I also like to have the thumb side of my hand cranked in tight to the inside collar.
2. Don’t do too many swings, three should be enough. More than that and you are wasting energy and explosiveness. With your final swing you want to go up more than out with a genuine triple extension.
3. Don’t forget you can also drop under it and catch it in a split. There will be more looping of the dumbbell than in a snatch, so you will want to practice the split. You could could catch it in a quarter squat type movement, but you will probably have to jump backward to receive the dumbbell. That is possibly stronger, but chancy. I started off using that method, because of my Olympic lifting background. While that swing split is certainly different from a barbell jerk split, I am gradually switching and adapting to it.
4. Finally, lock your shoulder right into the side of your head. There is a really cool screw type motion that makes it stunningly solid.

Finally, if you are not already doing full barbell Olympic weightlifting, then start. The application of that type of training to the One Hand Dumbbell Swing is so obvious as to not even warrant discussion.

Have fun. Today is a good day to lift. Live strong.

Jefferson Lift Technique

by Al Myers

Bob Hirsh has the ALL TIME best Jefferson Lift in the USAWA, with a lift of 702 pounds in the 80KG class set at the 1996 Buckeye Record Breakers.

I received an email the other day asking a few questions regarding technique for the Jefferson Lift.  I thought this was a very appropriate question since the Jefferson Lift will be a big part of our USAWA competitions this year.  This lift will be contested in both Nationals and Worlds.   The IAWA official name for the Jefferson Lift is the Straddle Deadlift – so these two names are interchangeable. I have heard in the past this lift also called the Kennedy Lift, but that is not entirely correct.  The Kennedy Lift is a straddle lift where the bar starts at a higher position than floor level.  First, lets go over the USAWA rules for the Jefferson Lift:

18.  Jefferson Lift
This lift is also known as the Straddle Deadlift. The rules of the Deadlift apply except that the bar will be lifted between the legs, with a leg on each side of the bar. The lifter may face any direction and feet placement is optional. One hand will grip the bar in front of the lifter while the other hand will grip the bar behind the lifter. The bar may touch the insides of either leg during the lift. The heels are allowed to rise as the bar is lifted, but the feet must not change position. The bar is allowed to change directions or rotate during the lift.

I have seen two techniques for the Jefferson Lift used in competition.  I will go over both of these techniques.

1.  Shoulders Perpendicular to the Bar

In this technique, the lifter straddles the bar with a foot on each side of the bar with feet in line with the bar. As the bar is lifted, the bar will rotate to some degree at the finish position.

2. Shoulders Parallel to the Bar

In this technique, the lifter sets up for the pull with the shoulders in line with the bar. The feet are slightly off-set as they straddle the bar.  The bar comes straight up with very little rotation.

There are advantages to both styles, but I prefer technique number two for several reasons.  I feel because it takes the rotation out of the bar it allows a more direct line of pull, and an easier lockout.  Technique number one will help with the initial pull from the floor because both legs can be more involved at the start.  A problem with tech #2 is that the lead leg will be overloaded at the start, and more strain will be felt in the hamstring of the lead leg. I have pulled a hamstring in this leg before doing the Jefferson.  Another important thing is the proper feet placement with tech #2. The toe of the lead leg should be turned slightly in.  The back foot should be almost parallel to the bar.  Doing this “blocks” any bar rotation as the weight comes up. The width of stance should be of comfortable width – not too wide or too narrow.  This is important in order not to hit the inner thighs with the bar as the lift is completed.  The back hand (the one behind the lead leg) should have the knuckles facing forward, while the front hand should have knuckles facing away, using an alternate grip.  Try to keep the grip as close as comfortable as this will shorten the height the bar has to be lifted.  If done correctly with technique #2, there should be very little twisting of the body as the lift is completed.  At the end of the pull drive the shoulders up like with a deadlift.

Body mechanics play a big part in the Jefferson Lift.  Obviously, having long arms help. I have seen lifters with short arms have serious problems at lockout (OUCH!).   You are a natural at the Jefferson Lift if you can match or exceed your best deadlift.  I have seen lifters where this is the case.  The line of pull is more centered under the body with the Jefferson than a conventional deadlift.  Also, the Jefferson is a great training lift. I add it into my “pulling rotation” at least once every 6 weeks.

One Arm Clean & Jerk

by Thom Van Vleck

Bob Burtzloff, one of the greatest of all time on the one arm Clean & Jerk. You can tell that Bob is lifting this from a racked position, one of the two ways to complete the lift.

The USAWA National Championships have been set for Las Vegas, Nevada next June.  One of the lifts that will be contest is the One Arm Clean & Jerk.  This lift is a difficult lift so you can’t start working on this one too early!  This lift takes a lot of balance, strength, and flexibility that not all lifters may have without some practice.  Let’s take a look at the rules:

The rules of the Clean and Jerk apply with these exceptions. Only one arm is used to perform the lift. The bar is gripped in the center by one handand may be cleaned in front or cleaned to the side. Any grip may be used by the lifter. The bar must be cleaned to the same shoulder as the lifting arm in a single movement. During the clean, the bar must not touch any part of the legs or torso.  In receiving the bar at the shoulder, the bar must not make contact or rest on the shoulder or chest opposite to the lifting arm. The center of the sternum is the line of lineation.  The non-liftinghand may be supported on the thigh or knee of either leg but must not contact the bar, platform, or lifting arm during the lift or it will be a disqualification. With a single distinct effort the lifter will jerk the bar to arms length above the head. The non-lifting hand must be clear of the body upon completion of the lift.  The bar may be in any degree of rotation when overhead. Once the bar is overhead motionless, the lifter’s body in an upright position, the feet parallel and in line with the torso, an official will give a command to lower the bar. Both hands may be used to lower the bar. The lift ends when the bar is returned to the platform under control.

So, assuming you know the basic rules of the Clean & Jerk, you are ready to do a One Arm Clean & Jerk.  Now, there are two ways that I know of to complete this lift.  One involves pulling the bar into a rack position and jerking it out of that rack position just like a regular two hand Clean & Jerk.  Another is to lift the bar and catch it to the side with the bar at a 90 degree angle to the body, this method may work best for those who lack flexibility.  Below is a great photo of Bob Burtzloff showing that method.

Bob Burtzloff setting the Best One Arm Clean and Jerk Record in the USAWA. This was done at the 2004 Dino Gym Challenge with a lift of 175 pounds.

Now, one final word of advice.  I know when I was a kid, I did some one arm cleans.  I was taught, to pull high and then use the free arm to help rack the bar.  In other words, you ended up in a position at the finish where it looked like you had done a two hand Clean, but the bar had popped free of one hand.  This is NOT ALLOWED in the rules.  The first time I thought of attempting this lift I did not read the rules carefully and this impacted my lifting considerably.  Not only did I not lift what I had planned, but I was not prepared to lift in any other way.  So learn it, practice it and we’ll see you in VEGAS!!!!!

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”.

Old Time Strongman

by Al Myers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inman Mile

by Al Myers

Dino Gym member Adam Kirchman training the Yoke Walk with 650 pounds over a 100 foot course in a recent workout. Adam would be my choice among gym members who would have the best chance of achieving the Inman Mile.

Recently I have had some email correspondance with a lifter interested in the Inman Mile.  Of course the first question EVER asked regarding this event is - ”HAS IT EVER BEEN DONE?”  The Inman Mile is definitely unlike all of the other official lifts of the USAWA.  First of all, it can hardly be called a lift. It is the only official lift in the USAWA Rule Book where poundage is not listed in the record list.  Instead, this event is for TIME.  Let’s start with a review of the rules:

USAWA Rules for the Inman Mile

The lifter will take a bar onto the shoulders with a weight equal to 150 per cent of the lifter’s bodyweight. The lifter will then carry this weight a distance of one mile. Gait is optional.  Stopping to rest is allowed, but neither the lifter nor the weight may be supported in any manner.  The bar must not be touched by any assistants once the mile has begun or it will be a disqualification. The bar must stay on the back the entire mile. The lifter may be handed refreshments during the mile. Records will be kept for time. 

Now to the answer whether it has ever been done.  IT HAS NOT (at least not officially in the USAWA).  Since it has not been completed EVER no records are recorded for it in both the USAWA and IAWA Record Lists.  The rules specifically state that “records will be kept for time”.  A good attempt at this doesn’t get you a record for distance.  You must finish the Mile.  I have received several emails in the past asking about this novelty event in the USAWA.   I have always responded that if the person in question could succeed with the Inman Mile  (maybe a little video proof would need to be provided to me), I would do whatever was needed in order to help them get this listed as an “official record” in our organization.  Even if this included me getting on a plane and flying to the coast for the weekend,  or enlisting someone I know in the area who is an active reputable official for the USAWA to go there and witness and officiate it.  I also have said that accomplishing the Inman Mile would have to be considered as one of the BEST STRENGTH FEATS ever done in the USAWA.  I really hope someday someone does accomplish it.  I have enough sense to know that this is something I could NEVER DO, so “that person” will not be me.  I know lifters who have tried, and some who I thought might have a chance, but in all instances they failed miserably.   The limit is always maintaining the bar on the shoulders.  As you tire, the bar slips down the back, and once this happens the hope for the mile is lost. 

As I already said, I consider this a novelty lift in the USAWA.  We have a few others in our list of official lifts that would fit this category as well.  There has been talk of eliminating some of these obscure lifts that no one can do from the USAWA list of official lifts in the past, but truthfully, I don’t think that is a good idea.  I say this because eventually someone WILL do them, and when they do, it will become something to talk about!  I receive as many inquistive emails regarding these lifts as the others.   I guess you could call it curiosity appeal – and it turn gives exposure to the USAWA.

If you do an internet search on the Inman Mile you will see it “pop up” several times.   Often it appears in forums, where this “challenge” is mentioned by someone.  I even found talk of it in some backpacking forums. I KNOW the USAWA is the root behind all this, as we are the ones who in a sense, created the Inman Mile.  However, no one knows “the story” behind the Inman Mile besides maybe only a few of us.  I wouldn’t know it if it wasn’t for person responsible for naming it telling me!  And that person is NONE OTHER than the FATHER of the USAWA Bill Clark.  So I plan to tell it here for the first time on the internet.  Bill named this lift after Jerry Inman, a powerlifter who was originally from Billings, Missouri  (and a leader in a well known powerlifting club at the time – the Billings Barbell Club).  The time frame of this was the  late 1970s and early 1980s.  Jerry was a marine (and it would take a hard-headed marine to come up with something this grueling).  For a while, he lived in Olathe, Kansas.  When he found Bill Clark’s gym in Columbia, Missouri he was introduced to all-round weightlifting by Bill.   When Jerry Inman told Bill he thought he could walk a mile with a bar loaded to 150%  of his bodyweight on his back, it inspired Bill to name this event after him.  Jerry was never successful with this quest, but his mindset of THINKING he could do it and the effort of taking on the impossible, lead to this mysterious event to be forever named after him!   His best effort of 246 yards in 1979 is recorded in an old Missouri Valley Newsletter .  Jerry was a fit 148# powerlifting  marine, in the prime of his life when he tried also.  It would take someone like that to even have a remote chance of being successful with the Inman Mile. But when it does happen – I want to be there firsthand to watch it!

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!

Rules for the Anderson Squat

by Thom Van Vleck

The Anderson Squat: Old Time Strongman lift

Let’s take a look at one of the new lifts for the Old Time Strongman Nationals to be held Oct. 16 at the JWC Training Hall in Kirksville, Missouri.  First, let’s review what the “Old Time Strongman” is before we talk about this brand new lift.  Old Time Strongman in the USAWA will included lifts popularized or used by strongmen of years past.  The lifts must be loadable (So the bar can be loaded to any weight so any skill level can make the lift and not just have a heavy apparatus with a set weight).    The idea is that you will have a strongman contest that can be contested by a wide variety of skill levels and ages.

Today’s focus is on the “Anderson Squat”.  Paul Anderson, one of the greatest strongmen of all time, was famous for his leg strength.  Ol’ Paul had a lot of unorthodox training techniques often born out of necessity (in other words, “he didn’t have the proper equipment so he just rigged something up and lifted it!”).  One of the more famous lifts he employed was squatting barrels filled with junk from a hole in the ground.  The story goes Paul loaded it and dug a hole deep enough he could get under it and do a partial squat.  He would then throw some dirt in the hole, slowly filling it up, so that he would have to get a little lower each time to complete the lift.  I found a great photo of Paul doing the lift and evidently that day he was short on iron so a couple of pretty girls volunteered!  Don’t worry, if we run low on weights at the meet, I’ll be happy to climb on top for extra weight!

USAWA Rules for the Anderson Squat

 A squat (with a standard Olympic bar) done from a dead stop from a height not over two thirds the height of the lifter.  Squat is completed when the knees are locked and the lifter is standing erect.  Time limit of 1 minute is given for each attempt meaning the lifter may reset as many times as necessary to complete the lift.  Knee wraps or knee sleeves will be allowed.  An official will give a command to end the lift.

The uniqueness of this event is doing a squat from a dead stop.  It is also the challenge of it!  It will be interesting to see what kind of numbers we can put up in this event….and I don’t think Paul will have anything to worry about in regards to anyone coming close to breaking his records in this style of lifting.

Rules for the Anderson Press

by Thom Van Vleck

Paul Anderson with a 450lb Continental Clean & Press. This photo approximates the starting point of the "Anderson Press" event at the Old Time Strongman Nationals.

The first ever USAWA Old Time Strongman National Championship will be held at the JWC Training Hall on October 16, 2011.  One of the new lifts to be contested will be the “Anderson Press”.  Big Paul Anderson, arguably the strongest man that ever lived, used to do some pretty unique training lifts and often rigged things up to work on what he felt were his weaknesses. One lift he came up with was to hang a barbell from a tree with a chain and do partial lockout presses.  This lift was the inspiration for the lift to be contested in October!

USAWA Rules for the Anderson Press

Press (with a standard Olympic bar) will be done from a dead stop position in the power rack from a height no greater than the height of the lifter when standing erect.  Lifter may “bow” back to press the weight but must keep knees locked.  The lift ends when the lifter is upright, arms locked, and demonstrates control of the weight. The lifter may press in an uneven manner and unlock unevenly. It is not a disqualification if the bar is lowered during the press, and afterwards the press resumes. The feet are not allowed to move. However, the lifter may raise the heels or toes during the press.  Time limit of 1 minute is given for each attempt meaning the lifter may reset as many times as necessary to complete the lift.  An official will give a command to end the lift.

You will notice the rules are a lot more relaxed compared to other USAWA lifts.  The idea is that the lifter will be able to handle big weights and it will be pretty evident to any spectators if they get the lift or not.  I know that when I’ve attended meets I have spent a lot of time explaining to spectators that are not familiar with lifting why a completed lift did not count.  While this could still happen, it’s a lot less likely and I think that’s part of the appeal of the the “Old Time Strongman” concept.  It’s more spectator friendly and forgiving to the lifter!   As a result, this type of meet may attract a whole new type of strength athlete to the USAWA that will then try the traditional meets as well.  At least that’s my opinion.  Hope you can make it in October!

Bent Press

by Thom Van Vleck

Wayne Smith, JWC member and All Round legend, performing a Bent Press while still in the Navy in Hawaii at Tommy Kono's Gym

The Bent Press is a very unusual lift.  It is difficult for just anyone to perform even with an empty bar, but with practice fantastic poundage’s can be lifted as evidenced by men such as Arthur Saxon (370lbs officially and 385 unofficially).  In the USAWA I believe that Bob Burtzloff was the finest bent presser our organization has seen.  Bob had the top Bent Press in the Missouri Valley All-Round Record List with an official competition lift of 209 pounds in 1985.  In 1984 I saw Bob do a 225lb Bent Press at Sailor’s Gym in Wichita after an old odd lift meet and was told at that time he had done 253lbs.  Al Myers has told me that Bob’s best training Bent Press was 275 pounds!   Just recently at the Heavy Lift Championships in York, PA I witnessed the heaviest Bent Press that has been done officially in the USAWA.  David Whitley joined the USAWA following the meet with the sole intent of doing a record Bent Press.  He performed a 137 pound Bent Press with the bar using both arms. To me, it looked like he could have done much more but just settled for setting the All Time record on this day. Dennis Mitchell has been the most proficient Bent Presser in the history of the USAWA. At the age of over 60, Dennis performed a Bent Press of 88 pounds weighing only around 175 pounds.  Dennis has the most USAWA Records in the Bent Press, totalling over 25 in number.  He has told me that his best Bent Press when he was younger was 175 pounds, which was bodyweight.  That is quite impressive and should be the goal of anyone wanting to achieve excellence in the Bent Press.    The Bent Press has been criticized as a dangerous lift by some,  and lauded as a great lift by others.  If done properly, I feel it is not dangerous at all.

Newcomer to the USAWA, David Whitley does 137 pounds in the Bent Press for the All Time best mark in the USAWA.

Here are the USAWA rules on the lift:

The lift begins at the lifter’s discretion. The bar may be taken from the platform to the shoulder in any manner. This may be done with a one arm clean, or with two hands, or stood on end and taken onto the shoulder using one or two hands. The bar will then be gripped in the center by one hand with the bar parallel to the platform. Once the lifter is in a standing position, with the bar held at the shoulder, the body is bent forward and sideways while the bar remains in a stationary position.  This bending away is continued until the lifting arm becomes straight.  The body will be in a bent over position at this point of the lift. The bar is allowed to rotate in any direction during the lift. The non-lifting arm may rest on the body or legs during the lift.  Width of feet placement is optional.  The lifting elbow may be brought into contact with the hip during the lift. Once the bar is locked out and the lifting arm straight, the lifter may stand when ready. The lifter may use the non-lifting arm as support on the knee or thigh. The lifting arm must remain straight once locked out. The lift will end on command from an official when the lifter is upright, the feet parallel and in line with the torso, the non-lifting hand free from the body, and the bar overhead and motionless.

Al reprinted a great story by Arthur Saxon in the USAWA news titled “What it feels like to lift 350 pounds with one hand” and I recommend going back and reading that one if you missed it or re-reading it if you have an interest in this lift.  Personally, I believe the Bent Press is an exercise that if done properly (and getting flexible enough to do it properly) is very beneficial.  But trying to just go to the gym and “do it” could lead you to real injury trouble.  So, read the rules, watch some videos, try to find someone like Dennis, Bob, or David who are proficient at it to coach you and then “GET AFTER IT”!

Zercher Lift: A Missouri Original

 by Thom Van Vleck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deadlift – 12″ Base

 by Thom Van Vleck

Wilbur Miller doing a partial deadlift, but still demonstrating the proper foot placement for the 12" base dead lift

Let’s talk about the 12″ Base Deadlift.   This lift will be contested in the upcoming USAWA 2011 Nationals held by the Jackson Weightlifting Club in Kirksville, Missouri on June 28th.  Make sure you know the rules!

The USAWA Rule Book says:

B1.  Deadlift – 12 inch Base
The rules of the Deadlift apply except that the maximum width of foot placing must not exceed 12 inches between the inside of the lifter’s heels. It is recommended that a 12 inch space be marked on the platform by a drawn line or tape.
Now, just to cover all the bases, let’s cover the rules for the Deadlift just to be sure we all understand it:
A.   Deadlift
The bar will be placed on the platform at the lifter’s feet, directly in front of the lifter. The lifter will grip the bar with both hands with any grip and any hand spacing. The lifter may use an alternate grip in which the palms of the hands are opposed. The lift begins at the lifter’s discretion.  The bar may be uneven during the ascent, but it must finish evenly.  The bar may touch the legs during the ascent, but must not be rested on the legs, bounced, hitched, or lowered. Width of feet placement is optional, but the feet must be parallel and in line with the torso. Heels and toes may rise during the lift, but foot placing must not change.  No substance of any kind may be applied to the legs. When the legs are straight, the arms are straight, the shoulders erect, the bar motionless, the lifter will receive a command from an official to lower the bar.  The bar must be returned to the platform under control for the lift to be complete.

Pretty straight forward!  At the Nationals this year we WILL have tape on the floor to help the lifters and judges make the call.

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!

Pullover and Push: Old School “Bench Pressing”

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

by Thom Van Vleck

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

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

A35.  Pullover and Push

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

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

Can you Cheat on the Cheat Curl?

 by Thom Van Vleck

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

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

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

Currently, the USAWA rules state:

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

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

Dumbbell Snatch

by Thom Van Vleck

USAWA Secretary Al Myers has the top Dumbbell Snatch in the Record List with this 146# lift at the 2010 Club Challenge.

Let’s take a look at the Dumbbell Snatch which is one of the lifts contested at the 2011 USAWA Nationals being held by the Jackson Weightilifting Club in Kirksville, Missouri on June 25th.  I have listed three rules because one references the other.  If you want the “quick” version, scroll down!

E18.  Snatch – Dumbbell, One Arm
The rules of the Bar Snatch – One Arm apply except one evenly loaded dumbbell is used. The dumbbell may start at any position on the platform. The dumbbell is allowed to rotate during the lift and may finish in any degree of rotation.

A45. Snatch – One Arm

The rules of the Snatch apply with these exceptions. Only one arm is used to perform the lift. The bar is gripped in the center with one hand using any grip, but the palm of the hand must be facing the lifter at the beginning of the lift. The non-lifting hand may be braced or supported on the thigh or knee of either leg but must not contact the bar, platform, or lifting arm during the lift or it will be a disqualification. The non-lifting hand must be clear of the body upon completion of the lift. The bar may be in any degree of rotation during the lift and upon the finish of the lift.  Once the bar is overhead motionless, the lifter’s body in an upright position, the lifting arm straight with a locked elbow, the feet parallel and in line with the torso, an official will give a command to lower the bar. The lift ends when the bar is returned to the platform under control. It is acceptable to use two hands in lowering the bar.

D.  Snatch

The bar will be placed on the platform, in front of the lifter’s feet.  The lifter will grip the bar with the palms of the hands facing the lifter, and then in one single and continuous movement lift the bar overhead to arm’s length. The lifter may choose any width of hand spacing.   The lift begins at the lifter’s discretion. The lifter may drop under the bar as it goes overhead, using a squat-style catch in which the legs are bent, or a split-style catch in which the legs are split. The lifter may also choose to drop only slightly, using a power-style catch. The bar may touch the lifter’s thighs and body during the lift. The feet may move during the lift.  No other part of the body other than the feet may touch the platform during the lift.  The turning over of the wrists must not take place until the bar has passed the top of the lifter’s head.  The bar must not touch the head, stop, or be pressed as it goes to an overhead position. The lifter will recover and stand when ready, from the squat or split position, to an upright standing position.  The bar must be maintained in a final motionless position overhead, with arms and legs fully extended, and the feet parallel and in line with the torso.  At this time, a command from an official is given to return the bar to the platform. The lift ends when the bar is brought back to the platform under control by the lifter.

WOW!  Did you get all that!  Here’s the short version:

Grip the dumbbell and take it overhead in one movement and catch it at arms length with the elbow locked, no press out.  You can drop under it anyway you want as long as nothing touches the floor but your feet.  The free hand may brace against the thigh or torso but may not touch the other hand and once you recover, this is important, the free hand must be away from the body.  Finally, you can go left or right handed, your choice at Nationals!

Continental Clean and Jerk

by Al Myers

USAWA Hall of Famer Jim Malloy performing a Continental to Chest and Jerk. Or is he doing a Continental Clean and Jerk?

One of the lifts that is going to be contested next November at the 2011  IAWA World Championships in Perth, Australia is the Continental Clean and Jerk.  Or is it the Continental to Chest and Jerk, as described in the USAWA Rulebook??    At first glance, one would think these are the same lift, just with different names.  I know I did.  But in comparing the IAWA(UK)  rules for the Continental Clean and Jerk and the USAWA rules for the Continental to Chest and Jerk I found SEVERAL DIFFERENCES.  The Continental Clean and Jerk is NOT an USAWA Lift and the Continental to Chest and Jerk is NOT an IAWA lift.  I know – that’s confusing!!

The USAWA Rule for the Continental to Chest and Jerk:

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.

A24. Continental to Chest and Jerk

The rules of the Continental to Chest apply for the first part of this lift. Once the bar is in the proper position on the chest, a jerk or behind the neck jerk is performed. The rules of the Jerk or Jerk-Behind Neck apply.

The IAWA(UK)  Rule for the Continental Clean and Jerk:


The bar will be lifted from the floor, coming to rest in the finish position for the clean. The difference between the continental and the regular clean is the fact that it can be raised by any method of the lifters choice, other than upending the bar into position. The bar may be raised in one or a series of movements, it may come to rest, be re-lowered, and make contact with any part of the legs or body during the lift. Touching the lifting surface with any part of the knees or buttocks is permissible. The grip is optional and may be altered during the lift. The signal to replace the bar will be given when the lifter is motionless in the finished clean position, the bar gripped with both hands, body erect, legs braced and feet parallel and in line with the torso. A supportive belt with a folded towel or similar material placed inside it and at the front, may be used to assist the lifter, who may choose to clean the bar from the belt.

Causes for Failure:

1 Allowing the bar to make contact with the lifting surface during the lift.

2 Failure to maintain the finish position, bar on upper chest, legs braced and feet parallel and in line with the torso.

3 Lowering or replacing the bar before the referees signal.


The rules of performance for the continental clean apply to the clean part of the lift, and the rules of performance for the jerk apply to the jerk part of the lift, except that the jerk can be done from a position in front or behind the neck, it is the lifters choice. There is no limit to the number of attempts made to clean or jerk the bar, once it is lifted from the floor. The lift may also finish with a press out.

Causes for Failure:

1 The causes for failure are the same as for the continental clean, and the jerk, except that it is the lifters choice to jerk from a front or behind the neck position.

After reading these two rule descriptions it is pretty easy to see the differences.  The USAWA only applies the use of “continental” to getting the bar to the chest, whereas the IAWA rule allows even the Jerk to be “continentaled”.   Taking  multiple attempts at the Jerk and allowing a press out (which is a direct rules violation of a Jerk,  but then again the use of the term continental to describe a clean is also a direct violation of the definition of  a clean) definitely makes the IAWA version of this lift  a much easier method than the USAWA version.  I might add that the IAWA version definitely will make the judging easier on interpreting the lockout!!!

I’m not interested in debating which is the “correct” rule for this lift.  But I will say that these are two distinct different lifts.  I just want everyone from the USAWA who plans to compete in next years IAWA Championships to be aware of this before they get there.  It seems every year at the World Championships I am presented with a different IAWA  rule for a lift that I was not aware of beforehand, because we (the USAWA) have slightly different rules on several lifts.  This frustrates me because  I consider myself  “in the know” on the rulebook.   Why do these differences persist?  After all, all the rules for the lifts started with ONE WRITTEN RULE in the original rulebook from 1987.  The IAWA(UK) developed their rulebook from these rules and the USAWA developed our rulebook from these original rules.  As of now, there IS NOT a specific IAWA Rulebook, rather we use the IAWA(UK) Rulebook for the IAWA Rules.  Unlike us (the USAWA), the IAWA(UK) have only made changes (besides editing and clarifications) based on membership votes at the IAWA Annual General Meetings, which contains representation of all countries involved in IAWA.  We have made changes in the USAWA Rulebook based on membership votes at the USAWA Annual Meetings.  The IAWA(UK) have maintained their rulebook this way so ONLY IAWA rules and lifts will be in play in the UK.  This is the reason we have lifts in the USAWA that the English do not, as we have approved them at USAWA meetings and these same lifts were turned down (or not presented) at IAWA meetings by membership vote.  The IAWA(UK) only accepts new lifts and rule changes into their rulebook that are accepted at the world meetings.

I won’t go into my opinion on these matters, but I hope in the future we will work better together in at least having consistent rules in the individual lifts.  I know it will take time to identify and resolve all issues, but at least I feel we are taking steps in the right direction.

One Hand Snatch

by Arthur Saxon

Position 1 - One Hand Snatch

Place yourself in position 1 (see illustration), and as you pull strongly with the right hand and shoulder, press as hard as you can with the left hand on the left knee.  Then when the weight has reached a fair height, dip beneath same, the eyes to be all the time on the weight.  The secret of this lift is to use as many muscles as possible at the same time, that is, you press with your legs, pull with your arm, and push with the disengaged one, also pull with the shoulder and jerk with the back, suddenly, when the weight is over your head, dipping beneath same, and throwing it a little to the back.  There are two positions possible in snatching the weight, either of which are good, and both of which I will describe.

Position 2 - One Hand Snatch

One is to keep the body perpendicular and dip cleanly beneath the weight, the other is to suddenly fall to one side as in the bent press, when the bar is about the height of your head, and so place a straight arm beneath the weight, after which you recover to an erect position.  The benefit and advantage in this latter position being, given a a man who is enormously strong and a good side presser, if his arm should not go in the first attempt quite straight, then he may finish up the last inch or two by the body press, that is if no objection be made by referee or opponents in competition.  A variation of this is to snatch the bell overhead with two hands instead on one, the hands being held the same distance apart as in the double-handed barbell lift.  Those anxious to practice the single-handed lift all the way, as in the English Amateur Championship Competition, will find my instructions as to the snatch are, in reversed, directly applicable to the initial pull-in to the shoulder.  All that you have to do is place your hand on the bar with the palm to the front instead of to the back, then pull the bell up to the chest, stepping back with the left leg if pulling in with the right hand, and exerting as many muscles as possible as described.

NOTE:  – In all these positions where the weight is lifted to the shoulder from off the ground, the arm must NOT be bent at the first portion of the pull.

CREDIT:  The Development of Physical Power by Arthur Saxon

The 10 Worst Lifts in the USAWA

by Al Myers

Ok, I’m getting tired of Thom getting all the recognition for his  “human interest” stories involving his weightlifting life experiences, while the deep  thought-provoking technical stories I write (which require actual research)  get ignored (I actually wonder if anyone EVEN read my last one on the fairness of the Lynch Formula).   It’s time I step up my game – and put a little controversy in what I write!!   The truth is that I really don’t like to OFFEND anyone, and thus my avoidance of any story that may seem offensive.  On the other hand, Thom doesn’t care if he gets hate mail!  He even reads it with a smile on his face. That is what makes him a much better columnist than myself – but TIMES ARE A CHANGING and I’m going to try to “stir the pot” a little with this story.  Here it goes – and I hope AT LEAST one person gets offended and makes a derogatory comment about this story on the USAWA Discussion Forum (and that’s NOT counting YOU Thom).

The Ziegler Clean even makes "The Champ" Chad Ullom look like a clown, despite the fact that he has lifted the most weight ever in this lift. But who really cares about that? All you see is that silly little plate balancing on the top of his head.

1.  French Press – Definitely the WORST  lift in our list of lifts.  That is why I’m listing it first.  Whoever wrote the original rule for this lift must have been a cynic.  Why else would the rules of this lift be written in such a way that it is impossible to perform and COMPLETELY different than how it is performed in the gym by EVERYONE else that trains it?  Judging this lift is even worse.  Did the bar touch the neck? Did the elbows drop?  The answers are always NO and YES. I have YET to see this lift performed the way our rules call for it to be done.  Any lift that has rules so subjective  that it would require instant replay in slow motion  to make an official  judgement needs to be RE-WRITTEN.

2. Press – Dumbbell, One Arm – This lift was just in the World Championships and after what I saw there  it now makes my list of Ten Worse.  The IAWA rules require the center of the rod of the dumbbell be no higher than the clavicle.  Obvious the person who decided on this rule knew NOTHING about human anatomy.  Do most lifters know where the clavicle is?  From watching the judging,  it was obvious the judges don’t.  I have a copy of Gray’s Anatomy, I’ll send you a picture. It is MUCH lower than the top of the shoulder. Practically no one  started the dumbbell this low (myself included!). Also, what’s up with all  the side pressing when doing a dumbbell press?  That’s not supposed to be allowed – we got ANOTHER LIFT for that one!  The bottom line – this lift is performed and officiated differently than how the rules are written so SOMETHING should change to “keep it real”!

3.  Deadlift – Stiff-legged - Another impossible lift to judge.   Judging is ALWAYS very subjective and lifters will bend their legs and get the lift passed.  And I can’t figure out WHY sumo deadlifting is allowed in the rules – it seems to defeat the purpose of a stiff legged deadlift.

4.  Ziegler Clean – Come on, this lift is just ridiculous.  Balancing a plate on your head while you do a clean?  When I first heard of this lift I thought the person telling me about it must be joking.  No one would really want to train for THAT!?!  Lifts like this make a mockery of All-Round Weightlifting, and you got to know people probably LAUGH at us when we report on the Zeigler Clean.

5.  Van Dam Lift – This lift got approved for one reason – us “selling out” for publicity that we never got. Did we really think Rob Van Dam and his professional  wrasslin’ buddies were going to start lifting in our All-Round Meets?   We should be ashamed of ourselves for approving this lift.

6.   Inman Mile – Carry 150% of your bodyweight in the form of a bar across your shoulders for 1 mile??  Give me a break – even the person it was named after couldn’t do THAT!!   This is just another “official lift” that makes us look like a goofy weightlifting organization.

7.  Lano Lift – I respect the fact that lifts are named after someone deserving.  I have met Jack, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he proposed this lift as a joke  just to see if the membership was gullible enough to approve it.  How many different movements are in the Lano Lift?    I can’t keep track of them!  Who would REALLY want to do this?  It is the lift with the longest written rule in the USAWA Rulebook.  Even Jack has never  set a record in this lift that carries his name.  That should tell you something.

8.   Phumchaona Lift – Another screwball lift named after a famous USAWA lifter.  This lift requires you to clean and press a pair of dumbbells WHILE doing a Hip Lift!!  Like THAT is going to be better than your max Hip Lift.  If I was going to do this lift, I would use a pair of 1/2 pound dumbbells and after doing my MAX Hip Lift just raise up my arms.  This “official lift” is so stupid NO ONE  has EVER done it.  That’s right – NO ONE!!

9.  Carter Lift – The only thing more ridiculous than clean and pressing a pair of dumbbells while doing a Hip Lift is SQUATTING a bar while Hip Lifting.  But I’ll give John credit – the picture of himself  performing this lift in our Rulebook  does look IMPRESSIVE, and at LEAST he had the courage to perform his lift in public.

10.  Weaver Stick – Absolutely IMPOSSIBLE to judge fairly.  The arm is NEVER straight, and it only takes a tiny little bend to add a few pounds to this lift.  The records in this lift really are meaningless.   Now STRAP your arm to a fixed pole and THEN see what you can do in the Weaver Stick.  That’s the way it should be done.

**** The above controversial comments are mine alone,  and may not reflect the opinions of the USAWA membership.  Please direct your hate mail to me and not to Thom Van Vleck****

USAWA in Print: Book Review

by Thom Van Vleck

Steve Scott and John Saylor's latest book promotes USAWA members and USAWA lifts.

I recently got an issue of Steve Scott’s latest book.  He wrote it with John Saylor, a well respected martial arts instructor and Champion.  Steve sent me an autographed copy because of what was inside.  I’ll get to that in a moment.  First, let me tell you about Steve.

Steve is one of my best friends and someone I admire greatly.  When I first met Steve he was a top master’s thrower in Scottish Highland Games and was running Highland Games in KC.  Because of Steve, I became friends with Al Myers and Chad Ullom and was introduced to the sport that I’ve enjoyed my greatest athletic success.  For that, I’m very grateful.  Steve’s wife, Becky, also was a top thrower and always at his side in any project he took on.  I then found out that Highland Games were just the tip of the iceberg as far as Steve & Becky were concerned.

Steve was, and still is, a top Judo coach.  He has a widely respected club in Kansas City called the Welcome Mat that has been in operation since 1969.  It has produced National, Pan American,  and World Champs as well as some of the elite men and women in our fighting forces and a Secret Service Agent that was on George W. Bush’s personal detail.  Becky was a National, Pan Am, and World Champ and Steve once told me that Becky could have been an Olympic Champion but back then women did not compete in Judo in the Olympics!

Over the years, Steve has written over a dozen books on martial arts, training, coaching and this one is his best to date in my opinion.  It has a very broad appeal.  My Uncle, Phil Jackson, who is, in my opinion, the most knowledgeable person I ever met in regards to weight training, once told me that the hardest sport all the way around was boxing.  It was mentally, physically, and emotionally draining.  I would say the same applies to all combat sports.  You have to be tough and that comes from how you train.  Steve, with John Saylor, has (in my opinion) created the ultimate resource on Combat training.

This book is HUGE and full of all types of training.   There are over 300 pages of illustrated exercises.  There are detailed explanations of not only how to do the lift, but how to properly train and utilized the lift to fix a weakness. There are workout routines and tons of advice.   I would say that if you wanted to do some off season conditioning for USAWA lifting or Highland Games, this book would be a valuable resource.

Now, I’ll tell you why mine was autographed.  Inside were pictures of me, Al Myers, and Chad Ullom demonstrating some lifts.  Appropriately, it was in the “OLD SCHOOL” training section.  Steve  talks about training wisdom that came from Bill Clark,  and his book even contains an exercise that is a variation of the “Inman Mile”!  I knew Steve had requested the photos, but I had no idea what a first class product he was producing.

The “Vert Bar” Deadlift

by Thom Van Vleck

Rudy Bletscher performing the 2 Bar Vertical Bar Deadlift at the Club Challenge last March.

Recently, I was talking to my Uncle Phil Jackson, the second generation leader of the Jackson Weightlifting Club and I told him about the “Straight Weight Challenge”.  Phil has been my coach and training guru since day one.  He once told me that it was no use to think I could ever know more than him about training because he had learned it all and he had “forgotten more than I would ever  know”.  I said there were 5 lifts involved and named them off.  When I got to the Vertical Bar Deadlift he paused and in his usual “old school coach” fashion said, “Well! I guess I’m gonna have to ask….what the he!! is a Vertical BAR!”.

Here’s the USAWA Rule book on the Vertical Bar Deadlift, more specifically, the 2 bar lift which is what we’ll be doing in the Straight Weight Challenge:

H24. Vertical Bar Deadlift – 2 Bars, 1”

The setup for this lift requires two Vertical Bars, which is a bar of one inch diameter with a maximum length of 18 inches. A collar or plate must be tightly fastened or welded to the bottom so plates may be added to the bars. No knurling is allowed on the bars. The lifter must start with the bars on each side of the lifter. Width of feet placement is optional, but the feet must be parallel and in line with the torso. Feet must not move during the lift, but the heels and toes may rise. Each bar may be gripped by any grip near the top of the Vertical Bars. The forearms are not allowed to touch the bars. The lifting hands or weight may accidentally touch the lifter’s body or legs during the lift, provided that it does not aid in the lift. The lift begins at the lifter’s discretion. The body must then straighten, lifting the Vertical Bars from the platform. The legs must be straight and knees locked and the body upright at the completion of the lift. Any rotation of the bars must be completely stopped. Once the weight is motionless, an official will give a command to end the lift.

Phil then asked me why I added the Vert Bar Deadlift to the contest.  I’m pretty sure he was asking because he has always been pretty critical of my grip strength (and my use of straps from time to time) and thinking, “If he isn’t good at it, why is he adding it”.  Well, to me, a good USAWA meet has to have at least one lift that tests grip in some way and, to be honest, the vert bar is one of my better gripping events.  It helps that my other two team members that have phenomenal grip!

I know that the Dino Gym has answered the challenge for the Straight Weight Challenge, I hope another club will step up!  After seeing the picture of Tully hitting that very impressive 330 Push Press….this will be a close contest!

The Push Press – From Rack

by Al Myers

Scott Tully, of the Dino Gym, training the Push Press from Rack with 330 pounds in preparation for the Straight Weight Postal Challenge.

One of the lifts that will be “tested” at the Straight Weight Postal Challenge hosted this month by Thom Van Vleck is the Push Press from a Rack.  I want to “highlight” some of the rules for this lift.  The USAWA Rule book defines the rules for this lift as:

The rules of the Press – From Rack apply with these exceptions. The heels and toes may rise during the press. However, the feet must not move. The legs may bend during the press to initiate upward movement, but the legs must straighten simultaneously with the completion of the press.

The USAWA rules for the Press from the rack are as follows:

The lifter may take the bar from a rack, stands, or supports. The bar must be positioned on the chest as defined by the rules of the Clean prior to the start of the lift. The lifter must step back from the rack at least 2 steps. Once the bar and lifter are motionless, an official will give a command to press. The press is done according to the rules of the Press as defined in the rules of the Clean and Press. An official will give a command to lower the bar. Upon completion, spotters may assist the lifter in returning the bar to the rack.

As you can see, the rules are pretty straight forward for this lift.  One rule that I want to point out is “the legs must straighten simultaneously with the completion of the press”.   You can not  “catch” the weight overhead with your arms straight and  legs bent. That is not allowed.  This is a Push Press – not a Push Jerk.  Also, unlike a strict press, the heels are allowed to rise when doing a Push Press.  This DOES NOT mean the feet can move from their original position!  The bar MUST be held overhead until a down command is given by an official.

Thom has proposed this postal meet to find the STRONGEST team, not the best formula adjusted team.   There will be NO formulas used (bodyweight adjustments or age adjustments) in determining the best 3 person team.  Just the “total weight” lifted!!  This is the time, and opportunity,  for those supporting this idea to enter a USAWA competition where formulas can not be used as an excuse not to enter all-round weightlifting meets!   Results must be sent to Thom by the end of August to participate.

Definition of a Clean

by Al Myers

Longtime USAWA veteran Jim Malloy properly demonstrates how to "catch" a Clean.

The Clean is a lift that is not contested by itself in the USAWA as an Official Lift, but is a big part of several other lifts.  Lifts like the Clean and Press, Clean and Seated Press, Clean and Push Press, and the Clean and Press – 2 Dumbbells are very common lifts contested in the USAWA.  We (the USAWA) define a Clean differently than what is commonly referred to as a  “Clean” in gyms all over the country.   The USAWA Rulebook clearly outlines the Rules for the Clean:

The bar will be placed on the platform, in front of the lifter’s feet. The lifter will grip the bar with the palms of the hands facing the lifter, and then in one single and continuous movement lift the bar to the chest. The lifter may choose any width of hand spacing. The lift begins at the lifter’s discretion. The lifter may drop under the bar as it goes to the chest, using a squat-style catch in which the legs are bent, or a split-style catch in which the legs split. The lifter may also choose to drop only slightly, using a power-style catch. The bar may touch the lifter’s thighs and body during the lift. The bar must come to rest on the clavicles or on the chest above the pectoral muscle in a smooth continuous movement with arms bent. The feet may move during the lift. The elbows and the upper arms must not touch the knees or legs during the lift or it will be a disqualification. No other part of the body other than the feet may touch the platform during the lift. The lifter will recover and stand when ready, from the squat or split position, to an upright standing position. The legs must be straight with the feet parallel and in line with the torso. Once in this position with the bar motionless and under control, the clean portion of the lift is finished.

As you can see from this Rule Description  the bar must go from “the floor to the chest” in one motion.  Also,  you can not support the bar on the body during a Clean as that is a violation, as outlined in the General Rules of the Lifts in the USAWA Rulebook. Section IX.3 states, “Neither the body nor the equipment may support a weight in any manner during a lift.” Of course if the Individual Rules of a Lift state exceptions then they over-ride General Rules.  This is the case with this lift, The Continental to Chest, which in some ways is similar to a Clean.  The beginning and end of the Clean and the  Continental to Chest is the same – it is just what happens in between that is different!   This is where the confusion arises.  Continental is even defined in the USAWA Rulebook in the Glossary.  It states, “Continental – This means that the lift may be done in any manner, with minimal restrictions.  The bar may stop, be lowered, be supported by the body, or be lifted unevenly. The hands do not need to stay on the bar and any grip may be used.” In other words – ANYTHING GOES!!

So, a lift from the platform can be called either a Clean or a Continental.  It can not be called BOTH!  And please don’t use the terminology “Continental Clean” to describe a lift  – that is a misnomer due to  being a conflict of description between  both words. The USAWA has adopted the “modern day” rules of the Clean.  Look back in history and you will see the Rules of the Clean were more difficult than what we use now.  The word Clean, was first used because it applied to the bar being taken to the shoulders clean, or clear, of the body.  In other words – no touching of the legs on the way up!!  How many proficient Olympic Lifters do you see keeping the bar “away” from the body?  NONE!! Our Rules of the Clean allow the bar to touch the legs or body without it being a rules infraction.

When the USAWA Rulebook was updated last year, several of the lift names changed to better reflect how the lifts were performed.  In example, the “Two Hands Standing Press” was changed to the “Clean and Press”.  The new updated Rulebook (the 4th Edition which will be released  the first of August) will have some added rule descriptions as it applies to a Dumbbell Clean.  This will be added, “Both dumbbells must be cleaned at the same time and in one motion from the platform to the shoulders. It is an infraction to clean the dumbbells from the hang position”.  THAT is the way it has always SUPPOSED to have been but I wonder how many times, because it wasn’t laid out clearly in the Rulebook, this rule of the clean has been  violated.  I’m willing to bet that several records have been recorded in the USAWA Record List where the dumbbell/or dumbbells were taken to the shoulders using a Hang Clean.  Here is an example that I am sure even some “seasoned officials” have been confused on.  Both are one arm dumbbell lifts in which the dumbbell needs to be taken to the shoulder first in order to perform the lift.  What is the difference in taking the dumbbell to the shoulder between the “Clean and Jerk – Dumbbell, One Arm” and the “Press – Dumbbell, One Arm”?  You should now know this if you have been reading and following what I have described above.  In the first lift the dumbbell needs to be Cleaned correctly, while in the second lift the dumbbell can be taken to the shoulder in any manner, even using BOTH HANDS. Our previous Rulebooks called these two lifts the “One Hand Clean and Jerk with Dumbbell” and the “One Hand Dumbbell Press”.  It would be easy to see how the name “One Hand Dumbbell Press” could imply that ONLY ONE  HAND must be used throughout, which is not the case.

Our Rulebook is far from being perfect.  However, it is far better written now than before.  If we continue to update and correct it every year with issues like this  brought up during the year, it will only get better.

Updated Rulebook and New Bylaws

by Al Myers

The USAWA Rulebook 4th Edition

The updated Rulebook (Edition 4) and new Bylaws are now available on the website.  Both can be found in the header line of the website.  This section also contains a document titled “2010 Rulebook Changes/New Approved Lifts”.  This is the new information added to the previous Rulebook (Edition 3).  I included this so if you already have a previous Rulebook and don’t want to buy or print off a new one you could simply just add these pages to your Rulebook.

I  added some new pictures to the Rulebook (the print-off doesn’t have these).  So if you want to see who made it you’ll have to open up the new Rulebook and have a look! The Rulebook is now 91 pages long, contains rules for all 164 Official lifts, and contains 94 pictures of 55 lifters.  The new USAWA Bylaws are also available now on the website.  These new bylaws were prepared this past year by the Bylaw committee of Joe Garcia, Tim Piper, and myself.  They were approved by the membership at the 2010 Annual Meeting. These new Bylaws replaced the non-functioning bylaws that were originally written in 1987, which were  never updated to reflect how the USAWA has evolved in the past 20 years.  The new USAWA Bylaws reflect how our organization has been functioning in recent years.  The only “new thing”  in them is the formation of a 5-person Executive Board that will govern the USAWA throughout the year.  Membership will still have final say on the majority of issues, and decisions made by membership vote at the Annual Meeting will continue to make the ultimate decisions on issues.  Please take the time to look over the bylaws on the website.

I will have “hard copies” of the Rulebook for sale again.  These copies will also contain the Bylaws.  The book will sell for $30 (including postage).  Let me know if you want one.  I am only going to print off copies for what I have orders for to prevent unnecessary carry-over.  I plan to have a printing by the end of August and again the first of the year.

New Lift – the Turkish Get-Up

The starting position for the Turkish Get-Up.

by Al Myers

This is the only new USAWA lift approved at Nationals that I haven’t highlighted yet with a story.   It is a very unique lift in many ways.   The Turkish Get-Up  is NOT really a new lift as it was a favorite with old-time strongmen, and has been around forever.  It at times was called the “One Arm Get-Up”, and often trained by lifters that also specialized in wrestling, gymnastics or hand-balancing. Guys like Sig Klein loved it.  I first heard of the Turkish Get-Up several years ago when I read Brooks Kubik’s book Dinosaur Training.  In it he described the benefits of this exercise – how it strengthens the stabilizer muscles, improves flexibility, and  increases core strength.  The book mentions the old-time strongman Otto Arco and how he could do a Turkish Get-Up with MORE than his own bodyweight.  That is impressive!

During the rise from the platform, the lifting arm must remain straight.

We have two similar USAWA lifts to the Turkish Get Up – the Half Gardner and Full Gardner.  However, the Turkish Get-Up is a different lift in a couple of ways.  The TGU starts on the floor – the Gardner lifts start standing.  The TGU requires the use of a dumbbell or kettlebell – the Gardner lifts require use of a bar.  It is the “missing link” to the Gardner Lifts. I have mentioned this before but I am going to repeat it again.  This formula “sums” up these three lifts:

Full Gardner = Half Gardner + Turkish Get-Up

Last weekend at the Ledaig Record Day, several of us got to be the first ones to put a Turkish Get-Up record in the USAWA Record List.  This included  Dave Glasgow, Amber Glasgow, Chad Ullom and myself.  The TGU is a very popular exercise for trainees outside of the All-Round crowd.  Just “goggle” Turkish Get-Up and you will see what I am talking about.  The Cross-Fit trainees love this exercise!  But now since the TGU is an official lift of the USAWA, we are the ONLY weightlifting organization that maintains records for it.

Chad Ullom demonstrating the steps of a Turkish Get-Up with a 70 pound kettlebell at the Ledaig Record Day.

The Rules for the Turkish Get-Up

A dumbbell or kettlebell is used for this lift. The lift begins with the lifter lying on his/her back on the platform holding the implement in one hand above the body with a straight arm perpendicular to the platform. Once in this position, an official will give the command to start the lift. The lifter must rise to a standing position, holding the implement overhead with a straight arm throughout. The lifting arm must stay perpendicular to the lifting platform. The lifter may use the free hand to brace against the body or the platform during the execution of the lift, but must not touch the implement or the lifting arm. The implement may rotate in any direction. Once standing with the implement overhead, the implement motionless and the lifter’s feet in line with the body, an official will give a command to end the lift.

The Turkish Get-Up will be included in the updated USAWA Rulebook coming the first of August!

New Lifts – The Chin Up and Pull Up

by Al Myers

Pull Ups have always been a popular training exercise, as illustrated by this picture of Franco Columbo in Arnold's book Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding.

Last spring, Dave Glasgow asked me why the Chin Up and Pull Up were not All-Round Lifts.  I didn’t have an answer for him.  It would seem logical that two of the oldest exercises known to man should be included amongst our All-Round  lifts.  We have over 200 lifts and I can’t  imagine why these two had been left out.  Early day All-Rounders often performed exercises involving body weight movements, and the Chin Up and Pull Up  were usually part of their training program.  So I told Dave to propose them for new lift approval, write the rules for them and hopefully, the membership would vote to accept them. I was glad to see this happen at the National Meeting, as they were accepted. These two common exercises can now be listed in the USAWA Rulebook and Record List alongside other more obscure lifts like the Zeigler Clean and the Scott Lift.  Now records can be established officially in the Chin Up and Pull Up. Bill Clark once told me that one of the purposes of the USAWA is to provide an official competition for a lifter to perform a lift in which he/she specializes in that is not available in other organizations.  Well, I can tell you this  – the Chin Up and Pull Up have been contested from the playgrounds to the prisons for decades.  It is about time an organization wants to oversee them as “official lifts”.

Practically ever gym has a Chin Up bar, and most lifters have trained these two lifts at least at some point in their life.  Dave had these words to say about these two lifts in drumming up support for their approval, “The Pull Up/Chin Up has long been a staple of the strength community and is a valid test of upper body strength.  The basic Pull Up is an exercise that involves multiple muscles of the upper back and arms to work in coordination with one another in order for the exercise to be executed.”

The Rules for the Pull Up

The crossbar used shall be a straight bar with a diameter between 1 inches and 2 inches. The width of hand placement on the crossbar shall be at the discretion of the lifter. The lifter may use any platform necessary to reach the crossbar. The bar is to be grasped with the palms facing away from the body. The weight shall be affixed to the lifter by way of hanging the weight on a belt attached to the waist of the lifter. The lift will begin on command from an official when the lifter is hanging at arms’ length from the crossbar, motionless, and with feet completely off the floor or any support. The lifter must then pull the body to the crossbar to a position where the point of the chin is above the crossbar. Once motionless, the lifter will receive a command that ends the lift. No “kipping” (the motion of excessive kicking of the legs to obtain a mechanical advantage) is allowed. The weight of the lifter is NOT to be included in the total weight lifted.

The Rules for the Chin Up

The rules of the Pull Up apply, with the exception that the palms of the hands must be facing toward the body of lifter.

Both of these lifts will be added to the 4th Edition of  the USAWA Rulebook, which will be available August 1st.

Chin Up Trivia: John Davis, at a body weight of 177 pounds, did a Chin Up with 171 pounds of extra weight attached to him in 1938!

Best Crucifix Lifts of All-Time

by Al Myers

Eric Todd and his USAWA record performance in the Crucifix, with a lift of 140 pounds at the 2005 Deanna Springs Memorial Meet.

I think it is only appropriate to HIGHLIGHT the best lifts ever in the Crucifix since it is our signature lift, as demonstrated by the USAWA logo.  The rules of the Crucifix are often misunderstood.  People will  assume it is the same as other similar lifts like the Iron Cross, Muscle Out or Side Lateral, but the Crucifix Lift is much different. The USAWA Rules of the Crucifix Lift is as follows:

Two evenly loaded dumbbells or kettlebells are used for this lift. The lift begins at the lifter’s discretion. The dumbbells are taken to arms’ length overhead with the palms of the hands facing each other and dumbbells touching. The lifter must bring the feet together so the heels are together and touching. The body must be upright at the start of the lift. Once in this position, an official will give the command to start the lift. The lifter will then lower the dumbbells to the side with arms’ straight and palms up. Elbows must be fully locked. The lifter may lean back to any extent when lowering the dumbbells. The wrists do not need to be held straight. The legs must remain straight and knees locked throughout the lift. The heels must remain together and the heels and toes must not rise during the lift. Once the arms are parallel to the platform, and the dumbbells motionless, an official will give a command to end the lift.

The best All-Time USAWA lift in the Crucifix is held by Eric Todd, with a lift of 140 pounds performed at the 2005 Deanna Springs Memorial Meet in the 110K Class.  This lift was judged under the strict judging of Bill Clark.  Eric holds a couple of other weight group records with lifts of 130 pounds and 120 pounds, so he is the REAL DEAL when it comes to the Crucifix Lift.  I have competed several times in meets with Eric when the Crucifix was being contested, and I am always amazed at what he does. Only four other USAWA lifters have ever done over 100 pounds – these being Sam Huff, Mike McBride, Bill Spayd, and Ed Schock (who has the top Master Lift in the Crucifix at 100  pounds). The top teenager in the Crucifix is Abe Smith, who did 70 pounds. Amokor Ollennuking has the top female lift in the USAWA with a lift of 60 pounds.

The famous picture of Joe Southard, performing a Crucifix Lift of 130 pounds in 1963.

What is the best Crucifix in history?  I did some research and their are several “claims” but most seem to have not been verified.  I consider Louis Cyr to be the best in history.  Cyr did a Crucifix with 94 pounds in the right hand, and 88 pounds in the left, for a total weight of 182 pounds. Marvin Eder and Doug Hepburn both were credited with a “Crucifix- like lift” of 100 pounds per hand, but were judged “less than strict”.  Among Old-Time Strongmen, George Hackenschmidt did a Crucifix 0f 180 pounds in 1902.  But even Hackenschmidt said in his own words that it was performed “in a less strictly correct style”.

One thing is certain – the description and rules of the Crucifix has been different throughout history, and not always conforming with today’s set USAWA rules. Actually, the USAWA rules make the Crucifix as difficult as possible with these criteria: heels being together throughout, elbows fully locked at finish, and the lift being completed upon official’s command, thus requiring the weight to be momentarily paused. Joe Southard, the great Illinois All-Rounder, did 130# in the Crucifix at 165# bodyweight in 1963.  This was considered the World Record for quite some time for a competitive Crucifix Lift. The picture of Joe Southard doing this record became well known to USAWA lifters, as it graced the cover of our Rule Book for several years.  But look at the picture closely – and you will notice the dumbbells Southard was using were not loaded evenly on both ends, which would not comply with  today’s USAWA Rules. How much that would help I have no idea. Another couple of lifters who excelled at the Crucifix in the Mo-Valley All-Rounds (before the USAWA was formed) was Steve Schmidt (110# Crucifix at 220# BW in 1985) and Bob Burtzloff (100# Crucifix at HWT in 1982).  Both of these lifts were officiated under the same rules as we use today.

The Crucifix has only been performed in one meet in the USAWA these past few years, and that is the Deanna Springs Memorial Meet, hosted by Bill Clark.  It is in the Deanna Meet EVERY year, as the events in that meet don’t change. The Crucifix Lift is the perfect example of a true “odd lift”, and for this reason makes a great “poster lift” for the USAWA .

Bill Clark and the Zercher Lift

by Al Myers

The founding father of the USAWA, Bill Clark, making a 405 pound Zercher Lift.

I recently found this picture of our USAWA  founder, Bill Clark, performing one of his favorite lifts, the Zercher Lift.  The Zercher Lift was named after the famous old time Missouri strongman Ed Zercher. This picture was taken in the early 1960’s at a meet at the Leavenworth Prison, which Bill was promoting.  Bill’s best lifetime Zercher Lift was 455 pounds – which would still be the best at most USAWA meets today. In a true Zercher Lift, the bar is taken from the platform, and not from a rack or stands. Notice that Bill is not even wearing a belt!

Rules for the Gardner Lifts

by Al Myers

(The following are the USAWA Rules for the Full and Half Gardner Lifts, taken from the USAWA Rulebook)

D11. Gardner – Full

The first part of this lift is to perform a Half Gardner according to the rules of the Gardner – Half. Once in the finished position on the platform of the Half Gardner, an official will give the command to rise. The lifter must not rise before the command or it will be a disqualification. The rules of the Gardner –Half apply to the rise as well. Once the lifter is standing upright, with the bar motionless at arm’s length overhead, the feet parallel and in line with the torso, an official will give a command to lower the bar. The bar may be in any degree of rotation when overhead. The bar must be returned to the platform under control by the lifter to complete the lift. It is acceptable to use both hands to lower the bar.

D12. Gardner – Half

The lifter may put the bar overhead into the starting position by any method, except upending the bar. This may be done using a One-Arm Clean and Jerk, One-Arm Snatch, pushing the bar overhead in one hand using both hands, putting the bar overhead with two hands and then moving it to one hand, etc. The bar is gripped in the center. The start position is when the bar is held motionless overhead with a straight arm, the lifter’s body upright with legs straight, and the feet parallel and in line with the torso. The non-lifting hand must be free from the body. Once in this position, an official will give a command to start the lift. The lifter will then lower the body to a lying position on the lifters back on the platform by any method, ending with the bar held at arm’s length overhead. The lifting arm must remain straight throughout the entire lift. When the lifter is in the lying position on the platform, the shoulders, legs, hips, head and non-lifting arm must all be in contact with the platform. The bar or plates must not make contact with the platform during the lift. The bar must be under control at all times. The non-lifting hand may be placed on the platform for support during the lift. The bar is allowed to have a slight tilt to it during the lift, as long as the lifter has the bar under control. The bar is allowed to rotate during the lift and may be in any degree of rotation when the lift is complete. Once the lifter is in the proper position lying on the platform, with the lifting arm straight and the bar motionless, an official will give a command to end the lift. The lifter may use both hands to lower the bar or spotters may assist in removing the bar.


by Al Myers

James Gardner doing a Half Gardner at the 2008 IAWA World Championships. James is the master of this lift which carries his name - and successfully lifted 176 pounds at a bodyweight of only 87.5 kilograms in front of IAWA Officials.

After the article regarding the Turkish Get Up (TGU) last month, I received a couple of emails from All-Round lifters reminding me of the similarities between the the Turkish Get Up and the Official IAWA and USAWA All-Round Lifts – the Gardner Lifts. Steve Gardner presented this lift to the IAWA World Council Meeting in Cleveland in 1995 for new lift approval, and the council not only approved the lift but named it after him!!!! In fact, there are two Gardner lifts – the Half Gardner and the Full Gardner.

However, there are some differences between the Turkish Get Up and the Gardner Lifts. In the Gardner Lifts, the lift starts at the top, while the TGU starts lying on the floor. The Gardner lifts allow only the use of a barbell, while the TGU allows the use of any implement – bar, dumbbell, or kettlebell. The Half Gardner Lift ends when the lifter is lying on the platform on his/her back, with the bar held in a single, straight arm overhead under control. In a sense – the starting position for the Turkish Get Up. In the Full Gardner Lift, once a Half Gardner is completed, the lifter receives a command to “Get Up” and return to the standing position with the bar overhead. So – part of the Full Gardner involves doing a Turkish Get Up. This sequence of lifts is easily summed up with this formula:

Full Gardner = Half Gardner + Turkish Get Up

These lifts are more difficult than just standing and lying down with weights. There is technique involved with steps taken in lying down and standing that helps in making these lifts easier to perform. It is important to first learn the “steps” and then follow the same step pattern each time. These lifts also involve flexibility – especially with the shoulder. It is a good lift for any age. I was amazed by Art Montini at last year’s World Championship when he did a Half Gardner of 39 pounds – and Art is over 80 years of age!! Most guys his age have difficulty getting out of bed and tying their own shoes. Art is living proof that weight training is indeed the “fountain of youth”!!!

History of the One Arm Dumbbell Swing

by Al Myers

Chad Ullom has the Top One Arm Dumbbell Swing ever done in the USAWA with a lift of 143 pounds. This was accomplished at the 2007 IAWA World Championships in New Zealand.

The One Arm (or one-hand as it was originally known as) Dumbbell Swing has been contested in weightlifting competitions as far back as the late 1800’s.  In the early days, One Arm Swings were often done with Kettlebells. The USAWA rules only allow the use of dumbbells today.

There were originally two basic styles of One Arm Swings – the Classic French Style and the British Style.  The French Style was the technique used first in the late 1800’s to early 1930’s, whereas the British Style became more popular after 1920.  The differences between the two styles are significant. The French Style used equally loaded, balanced dumbbells and when swung overhead used a straight arm throughout. The British Style allowed the use of “Backhang” and the bending of the lifting arm.

Backhang is allowed by the USAWA Rules when doing Swings. What is Backhang? Backhang is the unequal loading of a dumbbell where more weight is put on the back end of the dumbbell prior to the lift. The USAWA rules allow backhang up to 10 kilograms or 22 pounds.  Several of the old time strongmen would use backhang up to 40 pounds!! Once you master the technique using  Backhang, it is possible to lift more in the One Arm Swing than with an equally loaded dumbbell.

The One Arm Dumbbell Swing

by Al Myers

My training partner Chad Ullom and I just spent a training session training the One Arm Dumbbell Swing. This is a lift not well understood today, but at one time was a very popular lift among old time strongmen. One arm lifts were once trained as much as two arm lifts – but not anymore. The USAWA rules for the One Arm Dumbell Swing are quite simple – but certain things must be done for a Dumbbell Swing to be “legal”. These include:

- once the dumbbell leaves the platform it must be in continual motion until lockout

- the rod of the dumbbell must maintain a 90 degree angle to the body

- the non-lifting hand must not touch the lifting arm or dumbbell

- the arm must be straight in receiving the dumbbell overhead – in other words – NO PRESS OUT

- the lift ends on command once the feet are in line and the dumbbell is in control overhead

Al Myers with a 145 pound Dumbbell Swing.

There are two styles that are used the most when doing an One Arm Dumbbell Swing. I use the more traditional style of “swinging” the dumbbell between my legs once to gain momentum to propel it overhead. Chad uses a “snatch style” where he takes it from the floor overhead in one motion and drops under the dumbbell when he catches it overhead. This is difficult in the sense that the hand is turned different than a Dumbbell Snatch. The USAWA Rules allow the lifting arm to bend during the lift and the feet to move.

Top Ten All-Time USAWA One Arm Dumbbell Swings

1. 143 Pounds Chad Ullom
140 Pounds Mike McBride
140 Pounds Frank Ciavattone
4. 121 Pounds Al Myers
5. 120 Pounds Ed Schock
120 Pounds Jim Goviannini
120 Pounds Abe Smith
120 Pounds Robert English
9. 115 Pounds Scott Schmidt
115 Pounds Jason Weigle

Coming SoonThe Top Ten One Arm Dumbbell Swings of All-Time.

Will any of these USAWA lifters make the list?