Monthly Archives: September 2009

Techniques for Pressing a Barrel

by George Jowett

There are several interesting ways of raising a barrel from the ground to arm’s length overhead. One way is by what Swedish athletes term the “slow hang” position. That is, you lift the barrel off the ground slowly to the position as shown in Exercise 5. There you pause a moment and with a snap move to the position in Exercise 6 and from thence to the shoulder as in Exercise 7(a), and to arm’s length overhead as in Exercise 7(b).

Another method is to pause as in Exercise 5 position and then in one movement sweep to the shoulders. This can be changed to sweeping the barrel from the ground to arm’s length overhead or to the shoulders only. Another movement which will stimulate powerful forces is to pause at the point shown in Exercise 5 and then in one movement sweep the barrel to arm’s length overhead.

Apart from the manner in which other muscles in the body will respond, the grip and the arms will obtain tremendous development through these exercises. You will not have to do much of this training before you will feel the results on the grip and in the arms. Man for man the old-time strength athlete was miles ahead of the present day athlete for grip. Rarely did one see a strength athlete of those days without a powerful and splendidly shaped pair of arms. The reason why we do not see so much grip and arm stunts today is because most of the crop of modern strength athletes are incapable. If they were equal to the tests they would perform them. A strong man is only bounded by the limitations of his own strength.

You should study carefully the illustrations accompanying these barrel exercises. I took great care when posing for them so that every detail would be caught by the artist. The finger grips and the hand positions are the most important, but overlook nothing. The stance of the legs, the position of the back and the distance when leaning back. The positions of the elbows are very important. Study them and you will find that progress will come faster to you in every way.

Credit: Molding a Mighty Grip by George Jowett, published in 1930

Bed of Nails

by Al Myers

Thom first got "comfortable" on the bed of nails, and then I asked him, "Do you really want to go through with this?"

This past weekend at the McPherson Scottish Highland Games in McPherson, Kansas my friend Thom Van Vleck and I did a noontime performance that was reminiscent of a classic old-time strongman show act – laying on a Bed of Nails!! Thom laid on the bed of nails while I broke a block of cement with a sledgehammer that was placed on his body! Thom is blessed with a thick hide, which is the only explanation how someone could actually endure something like this. When he approached me with this idea – I quickly volunteered to be the hammer man. I know now that Thom must really trust me as a friend – after all he didn’t even know if I could swing the 8# sledgehammer straight!! We warmed up “for the big event” with me striking the sledgehammer on an anvil, which was on his chest, a few times just to make sure I wouldn’t miss! (Truth be known – we didn’t even practice this beforehand which further questions our sanity). I knew I would have to make a pretty hard swing if the block was going to break – and I sure didn’t want it not to break and then having to make more than one swing!

The show turned out to be a big success! Afterwards, several spectators came up to “check out” the bed of nails to see if it was real. It was – Thom didn’t even take the points of the nails!!

I took a steady aim, brought the sledgehammer up, and then WAM!! - the block busted into many pieces!!!

Barrel Pressing

by George Jowett

Matt Tyler, of the Dino Gym, pressing a 205 pound keg (the modern version of a barrel) overhead for reps in a recent workout.

As I have remarked in this book, barrel lifting was very popular with the old-time strength athletes. For developing the fingers, hands, wrists and arms, there is nothing any better. Apart from this, barrel lifting is great for general body building. Of course, a barrel is not the handiest thing in the world to have around the house, but if a person is sincere in his search for great strength and muscular development he will always find a way to practice .

The difficulty lies in getting the barrel to the shoulder, therefore it is very necessary that the exercise be first practiced with a small nail keg or an empty regular-sized barrel. If you employ a regular-sized barrel you will find it easier to manipulate it if you will pull the barrel in close to the body, then back, and thus aid in the upward movement by allowing the barrel to roll up the body to the shoulders. From this point push the barrel to arm’s length overhead. This, in addition to developing great strength, will teach you equilibrium in lifting objects overhead as nothing else will.

Credit: Molding a Mighty Grip by George Jowett

History of the USAWA – What happened 5 years ago?

by Al Myers

(It is amazing how fast time goes sometimes – and 5 years does not seem like a long time.  The following is a summary of the USAWA September news that happened in 2004, as taken from the Strength Journal published by  Bill Clark. )

USAWA News from September, 2004

Joe Garcia, representing Clark's Gym, pulls a fire truck at the Mid-Mo Strongman Competition.

Ciavattone Best at Heavy Lift Meet

Frank Ciavattone was the best lifter at the USAWA Heavy Lift Championships, which was held in Lebanon, PA and directed  by Denny and Judy Habecker. This was a big event for Frank, as it marked his 25th anniversary of beating colon cancer. This meet was attended by 13 lifters!!  Frank finished the meet with a 1902# Hip Lift. John Vernacchio was on hand to officiate.

Mid- Mo Strongman Competition

Clark’s gym hosted their first-ever strongman competition. Helping Bill Clark in the promotion was Demetrius Davis, Sam Huff and Joe Garcia.  These events were selected – clean and push press,  burlap bag hold,  medley consisting of carrying an anvil,  a farmer’s walk, and a tire flip, bus/fire truck pull, and a stone load.

Steve Schmidt at the Knox Fair

Steve Schmidt made his second appearance at the Knox Fair in Knox, Indiana  to put on a teeth pulling performance. Steve pulled a Mack truck, weighing 18,700 pounds, with his teeth down a 50 foot course on the main street of Knox.  He also put on a bending performance – bending bars over his head and nose.  Steve even bent a half-inch bar, 4 feet long, over his lower teeth!!

Is The IAWA Age Adjustment Fair??

by Al Myers

A topic that will be discussed at this year’s World Meeting at the World Championship will be the age adjustment. This was brought up last year and an IAWA committee was formed to investigate it and present a recommendation to the meeting this year.  The membership will be called on to vote on this, whether to make a change or keep things as they are.

This subject is very interesting to me as I hear arguments from both sides. Young lifters think the older lifters get too much adjustment, while the older lifters don’t feel like they get enough.  Formulas are always hard to develop and make completely fair as there are so many variables to consider.

I did a study of my own on three lifts.  I want to emphasize THIS IS NOT THE IAWA STUDY. It is merely a study which I did to satisfy my own curiosity on this subject. I think it is important that I have this information in hand in order to make an informative vote. I just collected some numbers and did a few calculations.  I am not doing this to try to “sway votes” one way or the other.  I just wanted to see what “the numbers” really show in regard to decreased lifting performance with age.

Study of the Age Adjustment

Objective:  To collect information from age group USAWA records, make USAWA and IAWA(UK) age corrections for comparison, and determine what correction for age group records are needed in order for the age group records to be the same as the overall records.

Design: I collected information from age group USAWA records in three lifts – Bench Press Feet in Air, Hack Lift, and the Zercher Lift. I picked these three lifts for these reasons: they  evaluate all areas of overall strength -pressing, pulling and squatting, and the data base for these records was full in regard to records in all weight classes and age divisions. I calculated an average of all weight class records within an age group so bodyweight adjustments would not be a factor in this study.  I utilized this formula to determine what correction is needed in order to adjust to the average of the Overall Record.

Correction Needed = (Overall Record – Age group Record) / Age Group Record

Assumptions: I used the USAWA and IAWA(UK) age correction for the top age of each division despite the record may have been set a younger age within the division. The record list does not provide that data.

All Records listed in pounds.

Bench Press Feet in Air

Age Group
Overall Record
USAWA Correction
IAWA(UK) Correction
Correction Needed
Overall 353 353 353 0%
40-44 280 294 305 26.1%
45-49 268 295 306 31.7%
50-54 246 283 293 43.5%
55-59 228 274 274 54.8%
60-64 209 261 270 68.9%
65-69 194 252 268 82.0%
70-74 167 225 247 111.4%
75-79 141 197 223 150.4%
80-84 116 168 195 204.3%

Hack Lift

Age Group
Overall Record
USAWA Correction
IAWA(UK) Correction
Correction Needed
Overall 538 538 538 0%
40-44 465 488 507 15.7%
45-49 401 441 457 34.2%
50-54 382 439 455 40.8%
55-59 330 396 409 63.0%
60-64 320 400 413 68.1%
65-69 321 417 443 67.6%
70-74 304 410 450 77.0%
75-79 242 339 382 122.3%
80-84 168 244 282 220.2%

Zercher Lift

Age Group
Overall Record
USAWA Correction
IAWA(UK) Correction
Correction Needed
Overall 452 452 452 0%
40-44 372 391 405 21.5%
45-49 352 387 401 28.4%
50-54 339 390 403 33.3%
55-59 331 397 410 36.6%
60-64 296 370 382 52.7%
65-69 280 364 386 61.4%
70-74 246 332 364 83.7%
75-79 204 286 322 121.6%
80-84 180 261 302 151.1%


Age Group
USAWA Correction
IAWA(UK) Correction
Data Range
Data Average
Overall 0% 0% 0% 0%
40-44 5% 9% 15.7% – 26.1% 21.1%
45-49 10% 14% 28.4% – 34.2%
50-54 15% 19% 33.3% – 43.5%
55-59 20% 24% 36.6% – 63.0%
60-64 25% 29% 52.7% – 68.9%
65-69 30% 38% 61.4% – 82.0%
35% 48% 77.0% – 111.4%
75-79 40% 58% 121.6% – 150.4%
80-84 45% 68% 151.1% – 220.2%

As you can clearly see, the USAWA and the IAWA(UK) age corrections do not keep up with the performance decrease with increased age for these three lifts that where selected from the USAWA Record List.  No calculations were done to determine the statistical significance of this study.

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