Monthly Archives: June 2009

Middle Atlantic Postal

by Al Myers

Middle Atlantic Open Postal Meet
June 2009

Meet Director:  John Wilmot

Lifts:  Clean and Press – Reverse Grip, Continental Snatch, Hack Lift

Lifter Age BWT C&P Snatch Hack Total Points
Al Myers
42 255 220 198 573 991 802.19
Orie Barnett
48 227 170 110 405 685 622.33
John  Wilmot
62 213 110 100 300 510 541.74

BWT – Bodyweight in pounds. All lifts in pounds. Points are age and bodyweight adjusted.

Best Overall Lifter    Al Myers

Is the Van Dam Lift impossible?

by Al Myers

So you think the Van Dam Lift is impossible???  Rob Van Dam, of wrestling fame, is responsible for this lift being in the USAWA Rule Book and to this date he has been the only one to perform the Van Dam Lift.  For those who are unfamiliar with the Van Dam Lift – it involves lifting a heavy dumbbell from the floor to the waist while maintaining the full splits with each foot/leg supported on a bench . Rob Van Dam demonstrated this lift with a dumbbell of 166 pounds. For those who still don’t believe it – it can be viewed on this YouTube Video and was officiated by USAWA officials.

Steve Freides, at 149 pounds, one arm pressing a Kettlebell of 53 pounds while maintaining the full splits.

Now along comes Steve Freides, of Ridgewood New Jersey, who just may be the second person to accomplish the Van Dam Lift. Steve started out childhood suffering from severe asthma and allergies, to enduring a severe back injury as an adult that left him bedridden for several months and unable to walk without limping for over a year.  At this point in his life,  Steve decided to forget about his physical setbacks and took up an aggressive exercise program involving daily stretching and training with Kettlebells. He also runs, swims and bicycles.  He has even entered several powerlifting meets, setting some deadlifting records in the process.  Steve is a certified Personal Trainer by the National Strength and Conditioning Association and was certified as a Russian Kettlebell Challenge Instructor by Pavel Tsatsouline.  He received his RKC Level 2 certification in 2007.

Now the question remains – will Steve enter an All-Round Weightlifting Record Day and be the only person to do the impossible Van Dam Lift besides the man himself, Rob Van Dam?  Lets hope it happens!!!!!!

Joe Garcia and the Hand & Thigh

by Al Myers

A Hall of Fame Biography is now available for Joe Garcia.  Joe is famous for his Hand and Thigh Lifting – and holds the all-time record in this lift by lifting 1910 pounds! Not only has he lifted more than anyone in the history of the USAWA, but also of All Time, even exceeding the Hand and Thigh Lifts of the old time strongmen.

Joe Garcia with the Hand and Thigh Lift

Quiz Question: Name the lifter whose all-time record was broken by Joe Garcia, and the weight of the previous record.

Rules of contest: 1 answer per day, first correct answer to webmaster wins

Winner receives a USAWA Patch!!!!

Mike McBride, of Columbia Missouri, correctly answered the quiz. The

previous Hand and Thigh Lift record holder was the New Jersey Strongman,  Jack Walsh.  He did a Hand and Thigh Lift of 1900 pounds in 1950 at Trenton, New Jersey.  This beat the previous record held by Louis Cyr of Canada, who had a Hand and Thigh Lift of 1897 pounds, set in 1896.  Will it be another 50 years before Joe Garcia’s Hand and Thigh Lift record is broken?

Highlights of the National Meeting

by Al Myers

After the chalk settled, and the lifters full from a BBQ of burgers and chicken, the USAWA membership sat down to have the National Meeting, presided over by USAWA President Denny Habecker. Several issues were on the agenda this year that if voted “yes on” could change the direction of the USAWA and the future of the organization. The first item brought up was the review of the bylaws. The USAWA has been working with bylaws that were developed when the organization began in 1987. In this time no changes have ever been made to the bylaws, despite the fact that the USAWA has been operating in a different fashion from what the original bylaws outlined. Much of this was the result of the failure of the USAWA to grow in numbers – and the original bylaws were written with the idea that the USAWA was going to be a large organization and thus would require complex governing bylaws. After a short discussion, a committee was formed to re-write the bylaws. Members of this committee are Tim Piper, Joe Garcia and myself. The next item brought to the floor was the process of Hall of Fame Induction. The previous system was a point system in which an individual must accumulate 1000 points, and upon reaching this number, would automatically be the Hall of Fame. One person was designated to keep track of everyone’s points. This system ceased to work when the individual in charge of it retired and no one took it over, and thus no one has been inducted since 2003. I presented a new Hall of Fame Induction form to the membership based on a nomination process whereas an individual would nominate someone and be the one responsible for figuring the nominees points, taking the pressure off of one individual. No motion was made to accept this new form. Again, a committee was formed to investigate this process and to report to the membership at next years annual meeting. The Hall of Fame committee consists of Denny Habecker, Dennis Mitchell, and Dale Friesz. The next item was a review of the Officials’ Test. Discussion included that the current rules test is too long and is discouraging people from taking it. As of now, only 8 individuals have taken the rules test in the past 3 years. This was countered by discussion pointing out the importance of having an extensive rules test with stringent criteria in order to become a qualified official, much like other sports organizations. Also included in this was reasons why a practical exam should be implemented. No motions were made. Joe Garcia volunteered to be the Officials’ Chairman. The next item was the approval of the new Rule Book. The Rule Book was updated and expanded on this spring, and was reviewed by several people. The approval of the Rule Book passed unanimously. The motion was amended to include a date of August 1st for the new Rule Book to take effect. The reason given for this was to give time so people could be made aware of it that do not have access to a computer. The proposed Rule Book has been available on the website for the past 6 weeks. The next item brought up was a review of the drug testing policy. Much concern was voiced by the membership about the considerable expense the testing program is costing the organization, and that other cheaper testing programs should be looked at. Amongst the discussion was the importance of maintaining an extensive quality testing program, which this program has done, and having outside individuals doing the testing instead of doing the testing in-house. A motion was made by Chad Ullom to continue with our current testing program and it passed by majority vote. The next item discussed was the future of the Strength Journal, which is published by Bill Clark. Bill Clark announced that he was resigning as publisher of the Journal, effective at the end of the year. Discussion included trying to convince Bill to have a change of mind, but it was to no avail. The next agenda item was election of officers. It started with Bill Clark announcing that he was resigning as Secretary/Treasurer after over 20 years in this capacity. A motion was then made by Bill Clark nominating Denny Habecker for President, myself as Secretary/Treasurer and Chad Ullom as Vice President. The motion was seconded by Randy Smith and passed unanimously. Included in this motion was that the new officers would take office at the beginning of 2010 to allow time for transition. The next item was a review of the record keeping process. Discussion included the possibility of having the Record List put on the website. Joe Garcia, the Official Record Keeper expressed concerns over bandwidth and whether this would be possible with the new website. This was discussed and agreed upon that it needed to be looked into further before the Record List would be put on the website. Joe and I agreed that we will work together on getting the Record List on the website. The next item was a review of the website. Discussion amongst the membership included wanting to have a message board, and being able to register online for membership and sanctioning. Next up was a review of club memberships and the discussion of team awards. In the past, club awards have been given out but this ceased when club memberships declined. As of now, the USAWA has 4 registered clubs. The membership agreed that this was not enough clubs to have an club award program. Next item up was a discussion of insurance. As of now, the USAWA does not provide insurance for sanctioned meets, nor has an insurance policy that would allow meet directors to purchase insurance for meets. Meet Directors must find their own insurance, or just go with out. Discussion included having this looked into and what the costs would be to the organization. No motions were made and no committee formed. The next agenda item was a review of the age adjustment, and whether the point correction was fair. This issue was brought up at the IAWA meeting last fall. Dennis Mitchell presented a survey done by the IAWA committee that was formed to study this. The study showed 1 percent was somewhat fair up to the age of 60, but after the age of 60 performance decrease was more rapid than 1 percent. Concerns were expressed by the membership that increasing the age adjustment for lifters over 60 may deter new young lifters from joining the USAWA. The majority of the membership felt that no change should be made, and this should be the USAWA recommendation to IAWA at the IAWA meeting in October. The next item was an issue brought forward by the Technical Committee concerning whether using the Zercher Lift in the Continental to Belt should continue to be allowed. This issue was brought up at the last IAWA Meeting requesting that the Continental to Belt should be divided into two lifts – the Continental to Belt and the Continental to Belt Anyhow. Discussion among members felt that by the definition of a continental using a Zercher Lift to get the bar to the belt is within the description of a continental, and there would be no point in separating them. This was also the recommendation of the Technical Committee. Next up was a discussion involving whether we should remain part of the IAWA, or join with the BSAG. Membership voiced overwhelming support of IAWA, and after a very short discussion, no motions were made. The next item was a motion made by Bill Clark naming the Overall Best Lifter Award at Nationals the Monahan Award, in honor and memory of Rex Monahan. It passed unanimously. The last item was asking for bids for the 2010 National Championships. Denny Habecker put in the only bid, and it was accepted unanimously.

National Championships

by Ben Edwards

Pictured front row left to right: Rudy Bletscher, Denny Habecker, Art Montini, Dale Friesz, Dennis Mitchell Pictured back row left to right: Charlie Scott, Randy Smith, Tim Piper, Ben Edwards, Joe Garcia, Al Myers,Chad Ullom

Special thanks goes out to my wonderful wife Carrie. She willingly acted as my chauffeur, masseuse, coach, cheerleader, scorekeeper, photographer, and trusted adviser for the entire day. That gave me an unfair advantage over anyone else who didn’t have that kind of support system. I’m a very lucky man to have her in my corner.

At 6 o’clock in the morning, on June 20th, we set out with all the food and other supplemental supplies I would need for a day spent competing at the 2009 USAWA Nationals.

The destination was Al Myers’ Dino Gym in Holland, Kansas. I’ve been there three times previously, but each time I go there is always something I see that I missed on my previous visits to the gym.

The Dino Gym is the best-equipped gym I’ve ever encountered. That’s not an exaggeration either.

Al is a former Highland Games champion, so there is a good deal of Highland Games training equipment at his gym and a training field dedicated to the Highland Games.

Al hosts both strongman and all-round weightlifting contests in his gym too, so both of those disciplines are well represented.

The Dino Gym has everything. From a full set of round strongman training stones to a set of power stairs implements and more farmer’s walk devices than I could keep track of.

I was more worried about the drug testing than the contest itself. Not because I had anything to hide, but because I have a notoriously shy bladder, haha. The drug testers were both very nice and patient guys. The direct-observation tester managed to put me at ease and I luckily gave a sample without holding all the other competitors up for half the day.

After the urine test was completed and that was out of the way, I began mingling with the other competitors and greeting the guys I had already met and some of the guys I hadn’t met yet.

The last time I competed in an all-round contest at the Dino Gym (not counting the Record Day since it’s essentially a contest between me and the record book) was 2006. So it had been 3 years since I had seen most of the guys I had previously met at Al’s gym.

Coming to the Dino Gym and being greeted by Al Myers is always such a pleasure. He makes everyone feel like they’re the only person in the room when he’s talking to you. He is the kind of lifter who can do any physical task very well. He’s athletic, moves fluidly and with great power, and can accelerate heavy weights in the blink of an eye. When he’s focused on a big lift and psyches himself up for it – it’s time to get out of the way and let him lift!

I will never forget getting “drafted” by Al to provide a safety-spot for the most impressive lift I’ve ever seen in person – his 1,000lb Roman Chair Situp that he achieved at his Record Day back in February.

Jason Payne was spotting one side of the ridiculously-loaded bar and I was on the other side. I was sweating bullets because I was not nearly as strong as Jason and I felt the need to bow out and try to decline the spot request.

Well, there was no denying Al when he said he knew I could do it! I bucked up and realized there was no way I was going to deny Al a shot at a possibly once-in-a-lifetime world record attempt like that. He nailed the lift and it’s in the record books now. Quite frankly, I doubt anyone will want to even attempt to come close to that number in the near future.

The mindset it would take to even believe a lift like that is possible is something that I hope to one day achieve. Al is definitely one of the most influential lifters that I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with. He proves the adage about the mind being able to take the body places where it arguably might not necessarily want to go.

Al is always a gentleman – even when he’s psyched and ready to tear up the weights. The determination on his face shines through and everyone watching holds their breath in anticipation of witnessing something special happen on the platform. They were not disappointed, because Al won the Overall, Open, and Masters categories at the contest! Congrats Al, and thanks again for a great day of camaraderie and fun!

Al’s 73-year old father-in-law, Rudy, is a tremendously nice guy. My wife and I had a blast talking with him throughout the contest. He matched me pound-for-pound on the backlift! And to be honest, he had more in the tank on that lift – although he modestly tried to convince me that the lift was hard for him – even though he made it look easy. He also managed to make the Pullover and Press look pretty smooth. Something that I was not able to do. Rudy was awarded the title of Best Lifter in the 70 to 74-year old category. I’m not sure how much he beat the previous Backlift record in his age and weight class, but it had to be by a huge margin.

My wife and I also spent some time talking with Charlie Scott and his charming wife. Charlie was unfamiliar with some of the lifts but he did a great job – and broke some records throughout the contest. I was really surprised when Charlie’s wife happened to mention that he was 74. I estimated his age at most to be around 65, so he was in the company of the other Masters lifters at the contest that filled their sports bottles from the Fountain of Youth and Strength.

Meeting competitors that I had only previously read about is something that I’ll remember fondly for the rest of my lifting career.

The youngest competitor was 32-year old Mike McBride. His consistently strong performances netted him 2nd place overall. This was the first time Mike and I met – although I believe we have traded a few USAWA records back and forth over the past few years. Mike is ferociously strong on all the basic lifts and I don’t think he even specializes on the grip events – so that’s humbling to think he matches or outperforms me on some of the lifts that I have dedicated 9 years of my training to.

I want to mention how nice it was to see Ian Reel again. I last saw him at the 2006 Dino Challenge, where he was already a very strong young man. I think he was 16 years old then and was easily out-lifting me in every event. He was leaner and more muscular this time. Now he’s a college thrower and seems to be as strong as he ever was, but at a lighter bodyweight. Ian is as nice and humble as he is strong – two qualities that are not wasted on me and my wife.

Ian wanted to see me take a shot at chest-crushing Al’s #4 gripper with 2 hands, so I obliged him by shutting it that way. After I did that, he absentmindedly picked up a #2 gripper, and then slammed the handles together with ease! I was very impressed and asked him if he trained with the grippers. Modestly shaking his head, Ian told me that he didn’t train with the grippers – but it’s obvious that the training he does for his throwing focus is astonishingly effective at building a high level of hand strength.

I look forward to seeing Ian compete in an all-round competition again – and maybe one day I can convince him to enter a grip contest. I know he’d do well even though he’s not a grip specialist.

It’s always good to see Joe Garcia. He gave me some really good tips on moving my feet faster on the split part of the jerk, and kept coaching me to bend my knees more than an inch on the One-Hand Snatch. Joe is a wealth of training information and we were very close in strength on all the events until the backlift – where he left me far behind in the dust.

Chad Ullom was quite a bit leaner and lighter in bodyweight than the last time I saw him at the 2006 Dino Challenge. His prodigious strength was still there in full force and he won the One-Hand Snatch with 155lbs and tied Al for 1st on the Axle Clean and Jerk with 255lbs. Chad’s the type of guy that is as quick to congratulate a guy that lifted 100s of pounds less in a contest as he is to congratulate the guy who won the event. That means a lot to a mid-pack lifter and it motivates me to continue plugging away and getting stronger – all while retaining my humility.

I hadn’t met Tim Piper yet but I had seen his name in the record book and for a very good reason. He’s very athletic and has the fastest foot speed I’ve ever seen on the split jerk part of the Axle Clean and Jerk. My wife was very impressed by his athleticism, and so was I. He was also humble and modest about his lifting abilities. Tim was about 30 pounds lighter than me but stronger on a few of the lifts.

Randy Smith and I had never met until this contest. I had seen his name many times in the record books, because a few of his records were in events that I specialized on for a while. He is a super nice guy and a pleasure to talk to about lifting in general and other miscellaneous topics.

His wife was very nice too, although I don’t remember her name offhand. Randy is very impressive for a few reasons. His lean frame is capable of some big lifts. He’s also kind of quiet and unassuming, so he might surprise a few people that expect the best lifters to be slightly more vocal than the mid-pack guys or the beginners. Randy was far superior to me in every lift but the Pullover and Press. And I think that was only because his arms seemed to be a half-foot longer than mine.

I not only aspire to be as strong as Randy when I’m 54 years old – I aspire to be as strong as him at any age! He was awarded the Best Lifter title in the 55 to 59-year old category.

Scott Tully is a big, nice guy. He was the scorekeeper for the entire contest and was also very patient with me because each time I walked away from the platform – whether it was a successful attempt or a failure – I forgot each time to let him know what my subsequent attempt was going to be. Each time I belatedly remembered to go up to the score table, he smiled and told me it was no big deal when I apologized about forgetting to give my next attempt. I think it was a little case of the nerves for me. Even though I’ve competed in about a dozen strength contests, this was my first USAWA Nationals.

Darren Barnhart was one of the loaders who selflessly loaded and unloaded tons of weight all through the long day of competition. Thanks Darren! He’s also the Dino Gym record holder in the 2” Vertical Bar lift – with 229lbs. Heck of a lift under the USAWA rules! I tried to take that gym record back in February – but came up short a few times. Was able to pull the weight up, but couldn’t stop the rotation of the bar.

Ryan Batchman was the second loader, and he spent the entire day alongside Darren loading and unloading. I sincerely think that these guys had the hardest day of anyone there. I’d take competing any day over moving the tremendous amount of weight that these guys did. Bending and stooping over about 8 hours must’ve made them wake up feeling like they’d been hit by a bus the next day. Ryan was a solid guy and looked like he could’ve done 50% over any lift I did that day.

Thanks for loading all day Ryan and Darren! I – and all the lifters – also appreciated the care Darren and Ryan took to make sure that the bars were properly aligned on the 2-Barbell Deadlift. It is a seemingly small gesture, but it makes a big difference when you’re tired and want to conserve every bit of strength for a PR attempt.

The three judges were Bill Clark, Thom Van Vleck, and Mark Mitchell. I’ve met all three guys before and enjoy their company immensely. Bill had his game face on since he was the head judge. But he still managed to give me some very good advice on a few of the lifts. I did manage to pull my head out of the sand and take his advice and put it to good use too. So all was not lost. Thanks guys – judging is one of the most important parts of the day since it’s a Nationals competition.

Thom looked a bit different since he didn’t have the same beard that he did back in 2006. I really want to make it out to one of his Highland Games one of these days. I wish I had more time to talk to him after the contest because I really did want to pick his brain on a few training issues relating to the my desire to try out the Highland Games events.

It was really nice to see Mark Mitchell again too. He looked quite a bit lighter than the last time I saw him too. I think his back issues are healed up and that’s fantastic news too. I remember that he is beastly strong.

Before this contest, Denny Habecker was another lifter that I had only read about. Denny is 66 years old and won the Best Lifter title in the 65-69 year-old category. What impressed me the most about him was the fact that he took the time to give me some pointers on the Pullover and Press – a lift that he just happens to be a phenomenal performer in.

I listened with rapt attention when he gave me some pointers. I would’ve given him my full attention even if I hadn’t just watched him Pullover and Press 195lbs! For those that haven’t experienced the difficulty of this lift, suffice it to say that 195lbs would be respectable in any gym even if you were 20 years old and weighed 250lbs. Since he was under 200lbs and three times older, it was exponentially more impressive to watch him put on a Pullover and Press clinic. Thanks again for the help Denny! His big Pullover and Press might be my vote for the impressive lift of the entire contest.

Dennis Mitchell was awarded the Best Lifter award in the 75 to 79-year old category. The lift I was most impressed by was his 750lb Backlift – at 161lbs bodyweight – and 77 years old. I didn’t get to talk to Dennis more than just a “hello” here and there.

Wish I would’ve taken the time to go up and introduce myself though, because his is another name that I’ve read about on multiple occasions but never had the chance to meet until this contest.

I have a remarkable ability to remember records (numbers), so I have to remember not to walk up to someone I’ve never met and risk looking like the “Rain Man” when I quote from memory one of their records down to the pound.

Dale Friesz was another lifter that I recognized the name, but had never met him before the contest. I also didn’t get to talk to Dale very much – but I watched his 2-Barbell Deadlift pretty closely because I liked his style of almost stiff-leg deadlifting the weight up to lockout. I think that style is better suited to counter the balance issues I had with that event. I’ve already started integrating some stiff-leg barbell deadlifts into my workouts at home since watching Dale’s performance. Thanks Dale!

Art Montini, 81 years old, was awarded the title of Best Lifter in the 80 to 84-year old category. Art is built like a fireplug – and has the power and strength to back up that impressive build.

It’s obvious when seeing him for the first time that he’s one of those guys that’s just built for lifting heavy stuff. I’ve read a lot about Art, possibly more than any other lifter in the USAWA, so I really enjoyed watching him in action.

I wanted to talk to Art more than the little bit I managed to, but he was very approachable and friendly, so I should’ve just gone up more and chatted him up. I didn’t want to throw him off of his game plan by talking endlessly about lifting though.

There were no female competitors at this competition, which surprised me since I’ve seen some superb female lifters over the years. I’m not sure if it’s a lack of female USAWA members right now, but I think everyone would like to see the ladies well-represented at next year’s USAWA Nationals! I’ll start working on trying to get my wife interested in training and competing next year. Come on ladies, break a bunch of records next year!

There is nothing that I would change if I was able to repeat the experience of the 2009 USAWA Nationals again. I enjoyed my entire day. From the 90-minute drive to Al’s Gym, to the day spent gawking at the incredible amount of Iron Game paraphernalia lining the walls.

I tried to be more bold with my 1st and 2nd attempts too and I think that paid off with some significantly higher results than I would’ve secured had I gone with my usual extremely conservative 1st attempts. I went 16 for 18 at the final count.

I look forward to competing again next year – and I will be training very hard to secure a final placing a little higher than this year’s performance.

Congratulations to all the lifters in the 2009 USAWA Nationals! Thanks again to the loaders and the judges! Thanks also to the family and friends who made the trip and cheered on their respective lifters!

Until next year.


2009 USAWA National Championships
Dino Gym, Abilene, Kansas
June 20th, 2009

Meet Director:  Al Myers

Lifts:  Snatch – one arm, Cheat Curl, Clean & Jerk – Fulton Bar, Pullover and Press, Deadlift – 2 bars, Backlift

Officials (3 official system used):  Bill Clark, Thom Van Vleck, Mark Mitchell

Loaders: Darren Barnhart, Ryan Batchman

Scorekeeper:  Scott Tully

Al Myers
145 R
Mike McBride
135 L
Chad Ullom
155 R
Joe Garcia
95 R 155
Randy Smith
100 R
Rudy Bletscher
55 R
100 100
Denny Habecker
70 R
Ben Edwards
115 R
Art Montini
35 L
Tim Piper
105 L
Charlie Scott
50 R
Dennis Mitchell
30 R
Dale Friesz
27.5 R

Notes:  All lifts in pounds. BWT = bodyweight, WAP = Weight Adjusted Points, AAP = Age Adjusted Points

Extra Attempts for records:
Chad Ullom  Pullover and Press 311 lbs.
Joe Garcia  Deadlift – 2 bars 350 lbs.
Dennis Mitchell  Snatch – one arm 30 lbs. (Left), Cheat Curl 83.5 lbs., Deadlift – 2 bars 200 lbs.

Best Lifter Awards:
Best Lifter Overall                   Al Myers
Best Lifter Open                     Al Myers
Best Lifter Master                   Al Myers
Best Lifter 20-39 Age Group     Mike McBride
Best Lifter 40-44 Age Group     Al Myers
Best Lifter 50-54 Age Group     Randy Smith
Best Lifter 55-59 Age Group     Joe Garcia
Best Lifter 65-69 Age Group     Denny Habecker
Best Lifter 70-74 Age Group     Rudy Bletscher
Best Lifter 75-79 Age Group     Dennis Mitchell
Best Lifter 80-84 Age Group     Art Montini

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