Monthly Archives: December 2009

Matt Graham – The USAWA’s Grip Sensation

by Al Myers

Matt Graham pinch gripping Two York 45's in one hand and lifting the Inch Dumbbell with the other.

Roger Davis inquired last week on the USAWA Discussion Forum about the Deadlift – Fulton Bar, Ciavattone Grip.  There has been some differences in “the name” of this lift between the USAWA and the IAWA(UK).  This has lead to some records that have been put in the IAWA Record List that probably shouldn’t be there. I am not going to go into detail here regarding that discussion (check out the USAWA Discussion Forum if you are interested in this).  But the discussion lead to the phenomenal lifting of Matt Graham, of Liberal, Kansas, and his great 540# Deadlift on the Fulton Bar, done with a overhand grip at the 2001 SuperGrip Challenge, hosted by Kevin Fulton.  This is a remarkable lift, and possibly could be the highest of All-Time done in this fashion.  Matt hasn’t competed recently in any USAWA meet, but I would like to take today to highlight some of his amazing grip feats.  Several of his grip lifts done in the USAWA are the tops in the USAWA Record List.  I had the opportunity to train with Matt a few times, and he competed in my Dino Gym Challenge several times.  Matt is trained by an USAWA lifting legend, and a great grip master himself, Bob Burtzloff.  I have witnessed Matt doing several grip feats that just left me shaking my head in disbelief!!  I have seen him “snatch” the 50# Blob with one hand, close the #3 COC gripper three times in a row, and pinch grip two 45# plates and lift them high enough to place them on top of a tall barrel.

Matt is built to be a great grip lifter.  He is 6’7″ and weighed around 325# at one time (now he’s a little lighter).   He has very long fingers, and an even larger thumb in proportion. His fingers are long enough that he can Hook Grip a 2″ bar!  Not many people can do that!  Several of his grip feats are well-documented.  He competed several years at Kevin Fulton’s SuperGrip Challenge in Litchfield, Nebraska and won many of them – and he was judged by a couple of very qualified officials – Kevin Fulton and Bill Clark.  Matt is indeed the “real deal” when it comes to grip power!!

Matt Graham’s USAWA Grip Records

600# – Deadlift – 3″ Bar
455# – Deadlift – Fulton Bar, Ciavattone Grip
540# – Deadlift – Fulton Bar, Overhand Grip (with Hook)
225# – Deadlift – No Thumb, Left Arm
344# – Deadlift – Two “Inch” Dumbbells
200# – Pinch Grip

Still not convinced that Matt is the USAWA’s Grip Sensation?
Then check out this video evidence.

YouTube Video – Matt doing a 600# Deadlift with 3″ bar.

YouTube Video – Matt doing a 540# Deadlift – Fulton Bar, Overhand Grip using a Hook Grip.

YouTube Video – Matt deadlifting two Inch Dumbbells at the same time.

YouTube Video – Matt taking the Inch Dumbbell overhead with only one hand using a knee kick, outside on a windy day.

YouTube Video – Matt doing a 192#  One Arm Clean and Jerk with the Fulton Bar.

Maybe I can convince Matt to make a “comeback” at this year’s USAWA’s Grip Challenge, hosted by Ben Edwards in February?

Records Race

by Al Myers

After the recent activity of several record days and meets, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the USAWA Records Race between Denny “Prez” Habecker and Art “Man of Steel” Montini.  After Worlds, Denny was holding a slight lead over Art for most current records held in the USAWA (4 records).  It is still very close, but Denny has increased his lead over Art.  These two are WAY AHEAD of the rest of the field, and I have a feeling the battle between the two of them will continue for quite some time.  I have expanded the list from the TOP TEN to the lifters who hold over 100 USAWA current records. I’m going to call it the CENTURY CLUB, which seems appropriate since most lifters in it are approaching that age!  To date, there are 20 lifters who hold over 100  USAWA records. Special recognition goes to Scott Schmidt – the most recent addition to this elite group of lifters.

Century Club

1.   361  Denny Habecker
2.   350  Art Montini
3.   225  John McKean
4.   216  Bill Clark
5.   214  Noi Phumchona
6.   207  Dennis Mitchell
6.   207  Frank Ciavattone
8.   204  Joe Garcia
9.   201  Bob Hirsh
10.  195  Al Myers
11.  171  Howard Prechtel
12.  138  Dale Friesz
13.  137  Jim Malloy
14.  134  Ed Schock
15.  123  John Monk
16.  118  Mary McConnaughey
17.  114  Chris Waterman
18.  110  Joshua Monk
19.  106  John Vernacchio
20.  106  Scott Schmidt

Congratulations to JIM MALLOY – who just recently passed the USAWA Rules Test. Jim has now joined the ranks of a LEVEL 2 Official – which includes passing the Rules Test and having the experience of officiating in over 25 USAWA/IAWA competitions.  I want to point out that all certified officials (both level 1 and level 2) have the same authority as officials. “Level 2″ just distinguishes those who have completed both avenues in becoming an USAWA official.  I know there probably are individuals who have met the “experience requirement” to be on the list (as a Level 1 Official) and are not listed there. I have no way of knowing who these are if I am not told, especially if these individual’s involvement happened many years ago, before I got involved in the USAWA. Most old result sheets didn’t list who the Officials were even.  If this is YOU , and you have officiated in over 25 USAWA All-Round Competitions in the past,  and want to get involved again in the USAWA as an Official – PLEASE let me know and I’ll gladly put you on the list. The USAWA would LOVE to get you back into the fold!!  The “experience” route was developed in the Rule Book as a “Grandfather Clause” so those very qualified and experienced officials would not have to “start over” in getting certified as an USAWA Official. After all, these individuals have already “earned” their official status the hard way – by sitting in the judges chair for many, many hours.  The purpose of the Rules Test is about certifying NEW officials.

The JWC’s Apollon Wheels Replica

by Thom Van Vleck

Thom Van Vleck, of the JWC, takes the Apollon Wheels Replica overhead at the JWC Training Hall

Al had told me for years he was wanting to make some Apollon’s Wheels and he finally made them! The best part was he made two sets and gave one to me as a contribution to our Strongman Evangelism shows.

Lifting Al’s version of the Apollon’s Wheels were like lifting history. But that did not change the fact they were formidable pieces of equipment!

My strategy was to do an over and under grip on bar and continental it to the belt. Then, I switched to a double overhand grip and popped it in the air. I had to let go of the bar, as it will not rotate (and you don’t want it to rotate on you as it could build so much momentum it could throw you over backwards or break your wrists). Then drop under the bar and regrip it in a “rack” position. Once here, it was just a matter of completing the push press. I was so excited that once I got it overhead I did a 360 degree turn with it at arms length.

If you travel to my gym or Al’s, the Apollon’s axle is a must see!

Friedrech Wilhelm Muller

by Dennis Mitchell

A classical picture of Friedrech Wilhelm Muller (better known under his stage name of Eugen Sandow).

Friedrech Wilhelm Muller was born April 2, 1867, in Konigsberg, East Prussia. His father was a German army officer and his mother was from Russia. He also had an older brother who was a professor at the University of Gottingen. Friedrech was an excellent student, and even though he described himself as a delicate child he grew to be quite proficient as a gymnast and was a good all-round athlete. His parents had hopes for him to enter the clergy.

After his father retired from the military, he went into the jewelry business. He would take young Friedrech with him on some of his business trips. It was on a trip to Italy, when Friedrech was ten years old, that he saw the sculptures of the Roman athletes. It was from these that he first desired to get physically strong and have a well developed body.

Even though his father had been an officer in the German Army, Friedrech left East Prussia to avoid military service. He could never return or he would have been arrested for avoiding his military obligation.

He made his living by being an acrobat in the circus. It was on his second trip to London, England that he met Professor Louis Attila. Attila saw Friedrech’s great potential and coached him, and taught him how to perform as a professional strongman. He learned so well, that Attila and he traveled together performing strongman acts in various theaters, music halls, etc. It was at this time that Attila thought that Friedrech should change his name, as was the custom of most strong men performers. One story is that he took his Russian mother’s name Sandov, ( the V being pronounced as a W) and became Eugen Sandow. They had a very popular and successful strongman act. After a while Attila returned to his gym in London and Sandow continued to perform alone.

Florenz Ziegfeld saw Sandow performing his strongman act a circus side show and hired him for his own carnival show. After a wile it became apparent that people were more interested in Sandows muscles than how much he could lift, and a “Muscle display performance” was added to his show.

There was a very popular strongman act in London at that time by the name of Samson and Cyclops. At every performance they would offer one hundred English pounds to any one who could duplicate the feats performed by Cyclops, and one thousand English pounds to any one who could beat any of Samson’s feats. Sandow returned to London and with Attila watched several of their performances. When Attila felt the time was right Sandow accepted their challenge and defeated them both. Sandow was not only a very good showman but was also a very strong and capable lifter, and his reputation was made.

In 1894 Sandow once again joined with Florenze Ziegfeld and performed at the World’s Colombian Exposition, in Chicago. The only exhibit more popular than Sandow was “Little Egypt”.

Sandow was married in 1894 to Blanch Brooks Sandow. They had two daughters.

There were many different claims made as to Sandow’s measurements. I will list the ones taken by Dr.Sargent of Harvard University: height, 5’7.25″, expanded chest,47″, waist, 32.75″, thigh, 23″, upper arm, 17″, and he weighed 180 pounds.

There were many conflicting claims about his strength. He did have an official bent press of 269 pounds and an unofficial lift of 280 pounds.

Sandow’s greatest contribution was that he inspired many people to be physically fit, and taught that the average person could improve their strength and the development of their body. He ran the Sandow Institute of Physical Culture and also published Sandow’s magazine of Physical Culture and British Sport.

Eugen Sandow died on October 14, 1925. Again, there were various accounts of what caused his death, but the one generally accepted was he broke a blood vessel in his brain while lifting his car out of a ditch after an accident.

John’s B-day Record Day

by John McKean

Nature threw us one of its usual December curves with snow squalls on Saturday, which kept some away, but Sunday was sunny and clear, though cold! Art & I arrived early and weren’t sure if anyone would show up when the gym was still empty at 8:30, but we had a surprise official turn up for a workout – young Bill DiCioccio, veteran of most USAWA meets during the 90s. Then Big Ernie Beath, now at 400 pounds, “crowded” the gym all by himself! He and his mom & dad had driven their van up the previous day to slowly traverse any weather problems; traveling slow through the mountain areas, his dad said the drive from Maryland took almost 11 hours (normally 5). Then Scott & Cathy Schmidt bounced in from Cleveland – didn’t even see white stuff on the way over! Denny Habecker had given us frantic phone calls the evening before as he was almost snowed under in Lebanon, but made the drive on Sunday in record time!

Big Ernie was anxious to start and began as everyone else was just getting settled in. The drive & weather set him back just a bit, as he could “only” manage a rack jerk of 406 pounds!! He tried 426 three times, but had trouble holding the lockout!! Well, he may have been tired, but that lifting sure woke the rest of us up!! Ernie also did an EASY rack push press of 386. and a dumbbell side press of 154 that looked more like a strict stance DB press!! Denny, Art, and Kohl Hess, a promising new teen who Denny brought over, did the postal meet qualifying lifts under official judging, and set a few records while doing so! Of course ole Art ,just had to throw in a few extra lifts for records, as did the always smiling Scott Schmidt (probably smiling because his rolling barbell after the set down almost nailed me twice!). Even this old man, though not quite my birthday yet ( on the 15th I turn 64; all gifts freely accepted!!!), managed to lose the “return from retirement” rust to post a few new marks!

We managed to get done at about 12:30, so it turned out to be a very efficient session. Everyone was so enthused about the ” BIG WORKOUT” at the club, that Art & I have agreed to conduct several more throughout the calendar year. Heck, the gym is fairly vacant on Sundays, and it doesn’t cost us anything !! Besides EVERYONE does their best lifting with the shared adrenaline flowing through the air (or is that smell just our gym mold, some of which is almost older than Art??!!), and our new record certificates are already a hit! See ya all there at upcoming meets!


John’s Birthday Record Day

(and National Postal Meet Qualifier)

Ambridge VFW Barbell Club, Ambridge, PA

December 6, 2009

All lifts listed in pounds except as noted

IAWA International Officials: (3 judges on all lifts)

Art Montini, Denny Habecker, Scott Schmidt, John McKean


John McKean – 174.5 lbs., 63 years old, 60+ 80K Class

Ciavattone Deadlift                    335

One-Arm Hack (L)                     175

One-Arm Hack (R)                    215

One-DB DL (R)                         225

Hack Lift – 2″ Bar                       275

Art Montini – 181 lbs, 82 years old, 80+ 85 K Class

Clean and Press – 2″ Bar          65

2 Hands Anyhow DB/BB           60

Clean & Push Press                 80

Zercher                                     158

Ciavattone DL                           200

Denny Habecker – 200 lbs, 67 years old, 65+ 95 K Class

Clean & Push Press                148

Zercher                                     215

Ciavattone DL                          290

Scott Schmidt – 262 lbs., 57 years old, 55+ 120 K Class

Clean & Seated Press-Behind Neck             75K

Clean & Seated Press                                   80K

Vertical Bar DL – 1 bar, 1″,  (L)                      92.5K

2 Hand (1 bar) 1″ Vertical Bar Deadlift          150K

Kohl Hess – 264 lbs., 15 years old, Jr. 14-15 120 K Class

Clean & Push Press                130

Zercher                                     215

Ciavattone DL                           290

Ernie Beath – 400 lbs., 28 years old, Open 125+ Class

Jerk From Rack                             406

Push Press From Rack                386

Overhead Squat (Arms Ext)          251

RH Side Press DB                        154

LH Side Press DB                         134

Alternate Grip Clean & Press        225

Reverse Grip Clean & Press         225

1 2 3 4 5 27