Monthly Archives: January 2010

Phil Pfister

by Thom Van Vleck

Phil Pfister and Thom Van Vleck

I first met Phil Pfister in 2002 in St. Louis. Phil is, of course, the 2006 winner of the World’s Strongest man. I was there helping Randy Richey and his Omega Force Strongman Evangelism Team. The team was serving as a sort of “half time” entertainment between events along with John Brookfield. Evidently, Phil had done some strongman evangelism work with Randy and he came over and hung out with us a couple of times. When we first met, he shook my hand and I actually felt his thumb and fingers meet on the back of my hand! His hands are enormous! I got to write a small piece in MILO on that meet and complimented Phil on not only winning two events, but how he donated the individual event bonus of $100 to the children’s charity the event was benefitting.

The next year, Omega Force was an even bigger part of the show and so was I. The final day ended up in the Family Arena with some 3,000 spectators and Fox Sports Midwest recording the show. It was as big a production as I can recall ever being a part of and I was allowed full access as I was part of it. Phil hung around with us as he knew Randy and we got to visit between events and we cheered him on when he took his turn. At one point, before we did our show, Phil came and joined our prayer circle and as he stepped in he laid his arm around me and it was then I first noticed how big he really is, his size is deceptive on television. He seems much bigger in real life and I think he’s taller than his listed 6’6”. Later, he walked up behind me and put his hand on my shoulder and it literally felt like a baseball glove enveloping my shoulder.

It was not until this year that I got to see Phil again. It was at the Arnold Expo in Columbus, Ohio and again I was with Randy Richey and Omega Force. Again, when Phil was free he came over and hung out with us. At one point he brought Mark Henry with him. They stayed and watched one of our performances. Randy has an 800lb log he lifts in his shows. At one point Randy asked Phil to autograph his log. Phil took a pen, traced his baseball mitt sized hand on the log and signed it.

Phil is obviously a little bit of an introvert that tries very hard to be outgoing. The result is that he can seem a little stand-offish as he gazes away and avoids direct eye contact. This, combined with his intimidating size (I’m 6’3 and 300lbs and he makes me feel little) can sometimes make people feel a little put off. But the reality is Phil has a huge heart and after you are around him a little you realize he just wants to fit in….but it’s hard to fit in when you are so BIG! Phil is a great guy and I’m proud to call him my friend!

Meeting Louis Cyr

by John McKean

Statue of Louis Cyr in Montreal

While attending the 1987 Master’s Pan Am weightlifting championships ( I believe I was 41 at the time and had trimmed down to 132 # -too much aerobics!), my friend & driver John Harrison and I got slightly lost in the suburb of Montreal between the meet venue and our hotel. This was the third or fourth time we had become lost in that sprawling city during that exciting weekend! Since the hotel was only about 2 miles away, we knew we couldn’t be that far off course! Another group of lifters were following us back and, of course, they didn’t know exactly where we were either. So we pulled off beside a tiny park to check the map. As we got out of the cars some one pointed over and exclaimed “Look at that!! Isn’t that Louis Cyr?!” We all eyeballed the massive, well weathered statue and couldn’t miss the inscription! We lifters were like school kids over this find! Was this the neighborhood that Cyr himself once roamed?

In case anyone is not sure, Cyr is the big one in the background and the tiny figure in the bottom right in a similar pose (I think at that bodyweight I had the advantage in shape & definition over ole Louie for this pose-off!!) is yours truly! I captioned the photo as ” Louis Cyr asking John for All-Round training advice!”

Later we asked our Canadian hosts ( who did one heck of a job in hosting this big event) about the statue and they seemed completely mystified, not knowing of its existence. Since that time, in fact, NO ONE who I’ve ever heard of has seen this really cool statue! We couldn’t even locate it again ourselves when describing it to other lifters back at the hotel. Thank goodness we took the photo! I thought it would be neat to display this since the recent article appeared in a recent Daily News below.( the pic since has inspired me to bulk up!!).

IAWA Gold Cup

Gold Cup Date is Announced

by Al Myers

2010 Gold Cup Meet Director Frank Ciavattone

The date for the 2010 Gold Cup has been announced.  It will be held on November 6th, 2010 in Walpole, Massachusetts. Longtime USAWA promoter and top All-Time All-Round Heavyweight Frank Ciavattone will be the meet director.  It is great to have Frank promote another prestigious meet.  Frank has promoted two National Championships (1996 and 1998) and knows how to put on a great meet. The USAWA membership needs to really support the Gold Cup when it is in the United States – so put this date on your calendar now!  Frank has given us more than enough notice on this so lets not let him down.



The Foot Press

by Al Myers

Dave Glasgow lifting over 1000# in the Foot Press at the Dino Gym Challenge

Recently at the Dino Gym Challenge we performed an “exhibition lift” that was a very popular Old Time Strongman performance feat. I initially termed it the “Plank Support”, but the proper name for the lift we did in the meet should be the “Foot Press”. This lift has never been contested before (in modern times at least) so I had some uncertainty in how the event would go. The difference between a Plank Support and a Foot Press is this – in the Plank Support the legs are already locked as weight is added to the feet while with the Foot Press the weight is pushed up with the legs/hip to lockout. Both of these were favorites of Arthur Saxon, and it is reported that he did 3200# in both. Saxon would lay on his back while a heavy plank was placed on his feet in which weight (often in the form of people) was loaded onto the plank. He did “a little extra” with his act in that once the weight was loaded and supported he would slightly unlock his knees and then leg press it out again. So in a sense he was doing both a Plank Support and Foot Press at the same time! Other strongman didn’t unlock their legs when doing this stunt. He also didn’t use any hand supports, thus maintaining balance with his feet only! The rules for the Foot Press as was done at the Dino Gym Challenge is as follows:

Rules for Foot Press

An apparatus is used in which weight is loaded onto the feet only while the lifter is laying on his/her back on the floor/platform with the legs vertical and perpendicular to the floor. The apparatus used must allow the weight to rise without providing any leverage to the lift, but may be guided in a tract. It is also acceptable to use a plank resting on support platforms. The lift starts at the lifter’s discretion. Hands may be placed on the legs or any part of the apparatus, but must not be used to push directly against the weight being lifted. The weight lifted must clear the supports and be held motionless, at which time an official will give a command to end the lift.

The following is a story told and written by Sig Klein, “When Arthur Saxon came to this country to fill an engagement with the Ringling Brothers Circus, weightlifters in and around New York thought here was the athlete for Warren Lincoln Travis to meet in competition. For reasons never made clear to me, this match never materialized, although Travis trained for the match that was being talked about. He told me that he could never hope to equal Saxon in the Bent Press or on the Foot Press, but he trained on these lifts nonetheless. Travis spoke to Saxon about the Foot Press and I will tell you what transpired regarding this lift. Travis asked Saxon if a contest was to be arranged and the Foot Press was one of the tests, if he, Saxon, would agree to allow Travis to do his lift with the plank resting on two trestles and iron placed on the plank. Saxon, who had his two brothers trained and a group of men who were placed on this plank in perfect order by the brothers, agreed to allow Travis to do anything that he desired. Travis said that this was the way Saxon acted about most any lift. He was very fair and would agree to most any kind of arrangements for a contest as long as Saxon could get a contest. Travis had the greatest respect for Arthur Saxon and told me that in an overhead weightlifting contest Saxon could beat him but that Travis hoped to defeat Saxon on the Back and Harness and Finger Lifts.”

I was very impressed with this lift and everyone at the meet seemed to enjoy it. It is a lift that can be done in almost any gym. All it takes is a Vertical Leg Press Machine or a Power Rack in which a plank could be placed across the supports. The Foot Press is the Heavy Lift version of the Leg Press. There are a couple of Leg Press Lifts as official USAWA lifts, but they are full range of motion lifts and nothing like the Foot Press. I am going to present this lift to the USAWA Executive Board for new lift approval so hopefully, the next time the Foot Press is done it can be “official” and records can be set in it.

The Unsupported Leg Press

by Thom Van Vleck

Ed Zercher performing an Unsupported Leg Press. In 1952, Ed Zercher did 200 reps with 250 pounds in 7 minutes, 30 seconds. In 1962, Ed Zercher did 10 reps with 605 pounds.

Recently I did a story on the “Zercher Lift” and “Zercher Squat” for Milo Magazine. I had been looking for a good picture of Ed Zercher doing a Zercher lift when I came across this photo (supplied to me by Al Myers). It is really quite a picture and you will find it in the rule book illustrating how to do the “Leg Press-Unsupported”. If you go into the average gym today and ask about the leg press, you will likely be pointed towards the “leg sled” or some variation of it which involves using the legs to press a sled loaded with weights at what is typically a 45 degree angle. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll find a leg press that is vertical where you lay under it and press the weight straight up in the air. But by USAWA standards, these lifts are not a true LEG PRESS!!!!

The rule book lists the rules as such:

D19. Leg Press – Unsupported

The lifter will lay on the platform, with the back, shoulders, and buttocks flat on the lifting surface. Padding, such as a towel or mat, may be placed under the lifter’s body, but must not exceed one-half inch in thickness. The bar will then be placed on the lifter’s feet by spotters, with the legs straight and the legs positioned at a 90 degree angle to the platform. Boots with heels are allowed to be worn. The spotters must not touch the lifter’s legs, the bar, or plates during the lift. Once the bar is motionless and under control, an official will give a command to start the lift. The lifter will bend the knees to lower the bar until the top of the thighs touch the torso, and will then recover and straighten the legs. The hands must not be braced or touching the legs during the lift. The lift ends on command. The bar may be removed from the lifter’s feet by spotters.

I recall doing these as part of my early training program in the late 70’s when I was a teen. I did these in a power rack, lying in the rack and taking the weight out like you would for a standing press out of the rack…..just with my feet! I did them with the pins in so I wouldn’t drop the weight on my self and close enough to the rack itself that if I lost my balance I’d drive the bar into the rack and press it up against the uprights for leverage (not really good on the bar and it’s always a must the power rack is secured to the floor if you are going to attempt this!). I didn’t do them because I was “old school”, I did them because I had no leg press to use in the first place. I learned them from my Uncle Wayne who learned them from Wilbur Miller.

I fell the unsupported Leg Press can have a lot of added benefits. First, you have the “feel” of a free weight. I’ve always felt the balance involved in a free weight lift makes one more athletic than any machine type lift. Second, you won’t likely use more weight than you can handle. Third, it will hit your legs more than your hips….at least it did mine. And finally, fourth, you will be familiar with the lift should you go to a USAWA meet that contests it some time.

There is also a variation on the Leg Press in the USAWA rule book called the Leg Press – Self Loaded. The rules of the Leg Press – Unsupported apply except the bar must be loaded onto the feet from the platform by the lifter only. The lifter may do so in any manner, but must not be assisted. I’ve never tried this one, but it sounds interesting and difficult….which could explain why I can’t find a single record on it! Like everything in the USAWA….it’s not the easy way!

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