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!!

TOP USAWA RECORD LIFTS IN THE JAMES LIFT

LIFTER CLASS DATE EVENT WEIGHT
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”

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