Monthly Archives: September 2010

Chris James – Strength Athlete Extraordinaire

by Malcolm Whyatt, D.Phy., M.A.I.C, Historian of Physical Culture

Chris James, of 201 Margam Road, Margam, Port Talbot, S. Wales UK SA132AB

Chris was born 29th July 1970 and is married to Paula and they have 3 children. I first heard about Chris in 1998. I had been judging a contest and afterwards, a member of the audience thought I might be interested in a young man who was setting some remarkable feats of strength. Also, that he had recently nearly lost his life.

Chris James with the Millennium Dumbbell. The Millennium Dumbbell weighs 226 pounds. The hand grip circumference is 7 3/4 inches. The hand grip diameter is 2 3/8 inches and the handle is 3 inches. This picture was taken at the OHF Hall of Fame Dinner in 2002.

As the founder of the Oscar Heidenstam Foundation one of our awards is the Dr.Tom Temperley award. This is for those who having suffered trauma, continue to inspire others by outstanding endeavour. From my initial enquiries it was clear that Chris was a more than worthy honouree.

In December 1998 late at night, he was walking home with a friend when an unknown assailant stabbed Chris in the lumbar spine. The 9 inch knife missed his kidneys and spleen but the repair to his Colon and abdominal wall, left a scar from his pubic bone to the sternum. The surgeon said it was a million to one chance that he wasn’t killed and only his muscle density saved him. A normal person would almost certainly not be alive today. 8 weeks later he was back in light training and 3 weeks later, March 1999, we honoured Chris at the 8th annual OHF Hall of Fame Dinner. He impressed everyone by his refreshing modesty and surprised me on the night when I enquired about his hand grip strength. Quite casually he picked up the No:3 IronMind Captains of Crush Gripper and with audible clicks closed them for 3 reps with either hand!

At the 9th OHF Dinner 2000, Chris who at the time weighed 16st 4lbs, cleaned two handed the Thomas Inch Dumbell and single handed, push pressed it over head at 11.30pm. The first man in history to do so and witnessed by David Webster, myself and 60 of 179 guests. Earlier in the evening, he had also cleaned and single handed pressed John Citrones’ famous 112lbs blacksmiths anvil and did 20reps with the ships 92lbs anchor! Just for a laugh, Chris also cleaned & pressed his father overhead for 15 reps. (All above is on OHF Video No:6) His father Eddy, born 1944, share the same birthday 29th July and who won the 1994 Drug Free world power lifting championship and recently on the dead lift, did 11 reps with 400lb (age 59yrs, weight 12stone (210lbs), height 5ft 8inches). His father Wilf Len James, was a famous strongman and mentioned David Websters’ book Sons of Samson.

Chris James clean and pressing John Citrone's famous Blacksmiths Anvil, which weighs 115 pounds. This picture was taken at the OHF Hall of Fame Dinner in 2000.

At 13yrs Chris trained in his garden, became the schools boxing champ and a Karate black belt. He works at a Steel Foundry and where workmen often ask him to try lifting various items. Two examples are that he cleaned and did 10 reps with a 2inch diameter railway axle weighing 260bs and with either of his little fingers, curled a locomotive coupling; which normally takes two men to lift. Chris trains at local a youth club Tai Bach (little House); which has 3,000lbs of Olympic & free weights plus block weights, scrap iron, axles, chains etc.

He is 6ft tall and varies his bodyweight from 16 stone to 21stone Absolutely DRUG FREE he doesn’t use a lifting belt, wraps or other aids. He follows the world of weights with passion and is an avid reader of olde-time strength feats. His main interest is unusual strength lifts; usually for reps and to emulate the feats of Arthur Saxon, Hermann Gӧrner, Louis Cyr, Doug Hepburn and Marvin Eder et al. Seeing is believing! I have a video of Chris in training. His incredible feats almost defies description. Chris James Strength Athlete Extraordinaire.


All lifts witnessed with many on film and photographed.  Doesn’t use weightlifting belt, straps or other aids. Equipment used: Dumbells, 2 inch diameter bars – main plates 25lbs, Olympic Barbells, 2 inch diameter bar, Pinch Grip, Thumb & first two fingers, Block weight 80lbs – 4ins thick – 6ins wide – 12ins long

PINCH GRIP BLOCK WEIGHT –  80lbs carried 15yards – clean and press – either hand

PINCH GRIP WEIGHT PLATE –  75lbs clean and press – either hand


ONE HANDED DUMBELL SWING  –  180lbs (Louis Cyr used a 1inch diameter)

ONE HANDED DUMBELL SWING –  110lbs x 48 reps



ONE HANDED BARBELL FARMERS WALK – 350lbs (carried suit case style)

BARBELL FARMERS WALK – One in each hand 300lbs each (carried suit case style), 2 home made oxyacetylene bottles each weighing 165lbs plus 135lbs iron blocks welded on side!

SEATED DUMBELL PRESS – 150lbs x 5 140lbs x 8

STANDING DUMBELL CLEAN & PUSH PRESS – 160lbs x 2 150lbs x 7 140lbs x 12 125lbs x 21 either hand

INCLINE DUMBELL PRESS – 175lbs x 10 x 3 sets

CHINS (full hang) –  200lbs x 4 150lbs x 8

TWO FINGER CHINS – 110lbs x 8

PARALLEL BAR DIPS – 242lbs x 8

ONE HANDED DEADLIFT (overhand grip) – 500lbs x 2 400lbs x 10

STRAIGHT LEGGED DEADLIFTS (overhand grip) – 500lbs x 20

DEADLIFT (overhand grip) – 660lbs x 5

DEADLIFT FROM KNEES (overhand grip) – 1,100lbs x 3

BENCH PRESS – 505lbs x 8 460lbs x 6 420lbs x 10 400lbs x 20 308lbs x 40


INCLINE DUMBELL BENCH PRESS  – 175lbs dumbells 10 x 3 sets

STRAIGHT ARM PULLOVER (strict) – 166lbs x 8 (bodyweight 14st 4lbs)

BARBELL CURL (Strict with back against wall) – 210lbs (bodyweight 14st 4lbs)

BARBELL CURL (loose style) – 220lbs x 5 (bodyweight 14st 4lbs)

EZ BAR CURL – 315lbs!

BENT OVER BARBELL ROWS – 400lbs x 5 x 4 sets 360lbs x 5 x 4 sets

BARBELL PUSH PRESS off rack Awesome! – 410lbs x 3 310lbs x 10 250lbs x 20

SQUAT (lift from the bottom of power rack) – 650lbs x 3 580lbs x 10 410lbs x 20

HALF SQUAT – 770lbs x 18 (to protect knees – does not specialise on the squat )



880lb Barbell at rack high pin – just short of lock out – Press to Lock out and hold (same as John Grimek)

200lb Kit bag of sand plus two 56lbs coal weights inside (312lbs) – Clean and shoulder

Two 125lbs Olympic barbells. Clean one with left hand – bend down, clean the other with right hand, stand up and press both overhead.

The Chain (Die Kette) one of Hermann Gӧrner favourites. One hand dumbell snatch swing, followed by one hand press, followed by a curl or clean to shoulder and then another press. Starting at 50lbs working up to 180lbs – either hand.

One hand barbell snatch Right hand snatch to across left shoulder or left hand snatch to across right shoulder. Start weight 220lbs working up to 232lbs and Chris makes it look easy – either hand.

Continental & Push Press Behind Neck – a favourite of Arthur Saxon. 330lb barbell 2inch thick – hack lift with palms away from body – bend over lift bar to lumbar spine, roll bar to upper back – change to normal hand grip – push bar to nape of neck – Stand up Push press behind neck to lock out – lower bar to neck – push press over head – lower to front of shoulders – lower to floor.

Absolutely awesome! and no W/L belt! This is on film.

Malcolm Whyatt D.Phy., M.A.I.C 12 Nimrod Drive Hereford HR1 1UG England Tel:(01432) 358 339 Tel int +44 (0) 1432) 358 339

Alfred Monte Woolaston – AKA Monte Saldo

by Dennis Mitchell

Monte Saldo - displaying a very muscular pose

Alfred Monte Woolaston was born in 1879 in Highgate, London England.  His father, Fredrick Woolaston was a shoe manufacturer, a Methodist preacher, and a faith healer.  Alfred developed an interest in strength at an early age and in his early teens was a member of the London weightlifting club, where he came in contact with many notable lifters.  His family encouraged him, especially his uncle a police inspector, who being very prominent socially, managed to arrange for him to become an apprentice to Eugene Sandow at Sandow’s gym.  Alfred was a hard worker and not only improved his strength, but learned much about performing, while helping Sandow in his stage performances.

In 1900 Alfred teamed up with Ronco, an Italian strongman, and they became “Ronco and Monte” ( Alfred was now known as Monte Saldo ) and opened at the Cafe Chantant, Crystal Palace,  where they were very successful.  After their engagement at the Crystal Palace they went on a tour of Europe where their act so impressed an English theatrical agent they got a six month contract to appear at the Royal Aquarium in Westminster, London.  This was during the “Golden Years of Strongmen”.  It was common for strongmen performers to offer large amounts of money to their spectators if they could duplicate any of their feats of strength.  While they never had to pay anyone, their challenges did result in setting up a contest between Monte and a lifter named Charles Russell.  Russell was the British amateur 140 pound champion.  Russell could not duplicate any of Monte’s stage lifts, however he did challenge Monte to the five lifts used in amateur competition.  Monte accepted the challenge, even though he did not train on these lifts and Russell was the winner.  Monte learned his lesson and never went into another contest until he trained on the contest lifts.  Ronco and Monte’s act was so successful their performance was extended beyond the six months.  At the end of their engagement at the Royal Aquarium, Ronco and Monte ended their partnership.  Ronco went back to Italy and Monte and his brother Frank formed their own act and performed in Dresden, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Saxony, Prague and in Parism where they were regulars at Professor Desbonnet’s gym.  During a performance in Hamburg they were offered a full season contract by Frank Glennister to perform at the London Pavilion.  It was at the Pavilion that Monte would support a car, with passengers, in the support known as “The Tomb of Hercules”.  An amazing feat for a man weighing only 144 pounds.  For a time Monte did a solo act, but in 1906 he and his brother Frank joined up again to perform a new act called “The Sculptor’s Dream” .  The act began with the sculptor admiring his latest work, a statue of a muscular athlete.  The statue was placed before a mirror so that the audience could see both it’s front and back.  The sculptor, tired from his work fell asleep on the studio couch.  At this point the statue came to life and went through a series of poses in front of the mirror so the audience could view both the front and back of the statue.  Suddenly the statue reached through the mirror and pulled out his reflection (his brother Frank) and they did acrobatics, hand to hand balancing, lifting each other and wrestling, all synchronized to music.  As the sculptor woke up the statue and his reflection returned to their original position as the act ended.

Next in the career of Monty, he teamed up with William Bankier (Apollo) and opened the Apollo Academy in London. Their Academy attracted many of the famous lifters and wrestlers of that time.  It was at the Academy that Arthur Saxon did a bent press with 386 pounds.  It was weighed and witnessed by the editor of Health and Strength magazine, Bill Klein, also John Murry and William Bankier (Apollo).  Monte was hailed as one of the best trainers, and next teamed up with Max Sick, who was professionally known as Maxick.  Together they marketed the Maxaldo Method of Muscle Control which was a method of training using no equipment, to improve muscle development, speed and stamina.  The name was later changed to Maxalding, and the course was sold  into the 1970’s.

Monte was active in organizing the British Amateur Weightlifting Association, (BAWLA) and served on the committee for professional lifters.  Monte weighed 144 pounds, stood 5’5″, had a 17″ neck, 45.5″ chest, 16″ arms, 13″ forearms, 30″ waste, 23″ thighs and 15,5″ calves.  He could bent press 230 pounds and was the first man in England to do a one arm swing with more than body weight, doing 150 pounds.  He is credited with showing that the swing was best done with a dumbbell loaded unevenly, with more weight on the back end of the bell.

Monte was a very well educated man.  He was a very good musician, and was fluent in several languages.  World war II was very devastating for Monte’s family.  His wife was killed during a bombing raid on London.  Monty and his daughter, Theresa, were seriously injured, and his son was killed during the invasion of Europe.  Monty never fully recovered from his injuries and the loss of his wife and son.  He passed away at the age of seventy in 1949.

USAWA in Print: Book Review

by Thom Van Vleck

Steve Scott and John Saylor's latest book promotes USAWA members and USAWA lifts.

I recently got an issue of Steve Scott’s latest book.  He wrote it with John Saylor, a well respected martial arts instructor and Champion.  Steve sent me an autographed copy because of what was inside.  I’ll get to that in a moment.  First, let me tell you about Steve.

Steve is one of my best friends and someone I admire greatly.  When I first met Steve he was a top master’s thrower in Scottish Highland Games and was running Highland Games in KC.  Because of Steve, I became friends with Al Myers and Chad Ullom and was introduced to the sport that I’ve enjoyed my greatest athletic success.  For that, I’m very grateful.  Steve’s wife, Becky, also was a top thrower and always at his side in any project he took on.  I then found out that Highland Games were just the tip of the iceberg as far as Steve & Becky were concerned.

Steve was, and still is, a top Judo coach.  He has a widely respected club in Kansas City called the Welcome Mat that has been in operation since 1969.  It has produced National, Pan American,  and World Champs as well as some of the elite men and women in our fighting forces and a Secret Service Agent that was on George W. Bush’s personal detail.  Becky was a National, Pan Am, and World Champ and Steve once told me that Becky could have been an Olympic Champion but back then women did not compete in Judo in the Olympics!

Over the years, Steve has written over a dozen books on martial arts, training, coaching and this one is his best to date in my opinion.  It has a very broad appeal.  My Uncle, Phil Jackson, who is, in my opinion, the most knowledgeable person I ever met in regards to weight training, once told me that the hardest sport all the way around was boxing.  It was mentally, physically, and emotionally draining.  I would say the same applies to all combat sports.  You have to be tough and that comes from how you train.  Steve, with John Saylor, has (in my opinion) created the ultimate resource on Combat training.

This book is HUGE and full of all types of training.   There are over 300 pages of illustrated exercises.  There are detailed explanations of not only how to do the lift, but how to properly train and utilized the lift to fix a weakness. There are workout routines and tons of advice.   I would say that if you wanted to do some off season conditioning for USAWA lifting or Highland Games, this book would be a valuable resource.

Now, I’ll tell you why mine was autographed.  Inside were pictures of me, Al Myers, and Chad Ullom demonstrating some lifts.  Appropriately, it was in the “OLD SCHOOL” training section.  Steve  talks about training wisdom that came from Bill Clark,  and his book even contains an exercise that is a variation of the “Inman Mile”!  I knew Steve had requested the photos, but I had no idea what a first class product he was producing.

Summary of USAWA Team Records

by Al Myers

Two Man Deadlift of 661 pounds by Roy Mason (on left, 76 years old and 151 pounds) and Bill Decker (on right, 76 years old and 161 pounds). This Team Deadlift record was set on January 29th, 1994 at the Texas Deadlift Classic. (photo courtesy of the Meet Director Joe McCoy)

I knew alot of USAWA Team Records were set last weekend at Team Nationals, but I didn’t realize it was the MOST EVER team records set in one day in the history of the USAWA!  A total of 16 USAWA Team Records were set.  The previous best was 12 Team Records set at the 2005 Deadliest Duo Competition, which was slightly ahead of the the 2009 Team Nationals which had 10 records set.   The Team Record List is not near the length of the Individual Record list – only 98 records are recorded for Team Lifts versus over 9000 records for Individual Lifts.  That’s a tad over 1% represented by Team Records in the Total Record List!

This review of Team Records lead to many questions I had – of which I’m going to share the answers with you.

1.  Who has the oldest record in the Team Record List?

Joe McCoy and Bill Drybread teamed up to set several Team Records at the 1989 Nationals Record Day, on June 26th, 1989.  They currently hold together 9 Team Records in these lifts: Team Deadlift, Team Snatch & Clean, Team Snatch and Clean, 1 hand, Team Snatch – One Arm, and Team Clean and Press.

2.  How many 2-Person (man and woman) records are there in the Team Record List?

Only three  2-Person Teams have any records.  In 1996, John McKean teamed with Diane Burger to set a record in the Team Clean and Press at Art’s Birthday Bash.  In 1995, Kerry Clark teamed with Dale Spry to set a 2-Person Team Record in the Deadlift, with a pull of 500 pounds, set at the ’95 Nationals in Columbia, Missouri. In 2001 at Art’s Birthday Bash, John McKean teamed with Lynne Burnell to lift 405 pounds in the 2-Person Team Jefferson Lift.

3.  Has there ever been any 2-Women Teams set records?

At the 2000 Buckeye Record Breaker, Noi Phumchaona and Anna Holter set the first 2-Women Team Record with 309 pound Team Deadlift.  At the 2003 Buckeye Record Breaker, Carolyn Anderson and Montia Wade teamed up to pull a Team Deadlift of 220 pounds.

4.  Which Team is the Oldest in the Record List?

That honor goes to Roy Mason and Bill Decker, who teamed up for a Team Deadlift in the 75 year old age division at the 1994 Texas Deadlift Classic.

5. Which Team is the Youngest in Record List?

In 1991, the brothers Robbie and Sean McKean teamed up in the 10 year old age division and performed a 265 pound Team Deadlift.

6.  Which Team has the MOST records?

Chad and I have the most at 13 records.  Second place goes to the team of Joe McCoy and Bill Drybread with 9 records.  Third place is a tie with 8 records, with the team of Thom Van Vleck and John O’Brien and the team of Mike Murdock and Rudy Bletscher.

7.  How many different lifts have been contested as Team Lifts?

There has been 21 different lifts contested as Team Lifts.

8.  Which lift has been contested the MOST as a Team Lift?

The Team Deadlift is the most contested Team Lift.

9.  Which Team has lifted the MOST weight in any Team Lift?

That was set this year at the 2010 Team Nationals  when Chad and I lifted 1100 pounds in the 2-Man Trap Bar Deadlift, but that might not last long as I have heard the rumor that the Team Hip Lift may be contested at next year’s Team Nationals.

Dinnie Stones: Who Was Really First?

Jack Shanks, second (or third) to lift the stones without straps

by Thom Van Vleck

I have to admit, I don’t have the patience to do pure research.  The long hours required make my eyes glaze over.  When I read, it goes like this:  I pull a book off a shelf, thumb through it, find something interesting, read it until I get bored, then move on.  As a result, I gather information in bits and pieces and it kind of becomes like a puzzle to me.  Waiting for the next piece to make the overall picture more clear.  I have a lot of “puzzles” going on at once and I kind of like it that way.

As of late, one of these puzzles has been focused on Dave Webster and the Dinnie Stones.  I had wrote most recently about “Darth Vader” lifting the stones and that the article in Ironman was not really clear if Dave Prowse (Darth) lifted the stones with straps or without.  That article was written in the 70’s.  Last night I was reading Webster’s book ” Scottish Highland Games” that was printed in 1973.  In it, he makes the statement on page 131 of Prowse’s feat, “A good feat, but Dave wore hand straps which make a great difference”.

Dave then goes on and details what was certainly the second lifting (if not the third….I’ll explain that later) of the stones without straps.  Now, I realize that Gordon Dinnie, a descendent of Donald, has a website ( that details lifts, but if you read Webster’s book you find some details that don’t match up….making for an interesting “puzzle”.  These are the details I’m going to focus on.  My intention is not to point out mistakes, because these aren’t mistakes.  My intention is to provide information where I have found it and let you decide.

In Webster’s book he credits Jack Shanks, from Ireland, with lifting the Dinnie Stones “correctly”.  Which Webster explains as lifting both stones with no straps.  What I find funny is that in my mind “correctly” would be to lift the stones and carry them the width (not the length) of the bridge.  However, “correctly” seems to have come to mean simply lifting the stones….or carrying them the prescribed distance!  Gordon Dinnie’s website seems to confirm Shanks feat, but gives him credit with carrying the stones the equivalent distance, which Webster makes no mention of.  Gordon Dinnie also credits Imlach Shearer with lifting the stone assisted two years earlier and unassisted the same year as Shanks (1973).  What Gordon Dinnie does not make explicitly clear is if Shearer did the unassisted lift before or after Shanks.  I say this because Gordon may not have considered Shearer’s feat the same if he simply lifted them while Shanks carried them!

Now,  earlier I mention Jack Shanks being possibly the third man to lift the stones “correctly”.  Webster states in his book that in 1955 in Aberdeen at the “Highland Fling” a 78 year old man named James Law came forward and stated he lifted both stones in 1911, but did not carry them.  So, perhaps he was the second, after Dinnie, to life the stones “correctly”….or perhaps some other man, after a hard days work and a few brews in the Potarch Inn, lifted those stones on a bet or whim and their feat and name is lost to history.  Not to much of a stretch to believe that could have happened!

Then there is the story of when Louis Cyr came to visit Dinnie and they visited the stones.  Dinnie picked up the smaller stone and then carried it a distance.  Cyr did the same and beat Dinnie’s distance.  Webster points out that Dinnie was 63 years old at the time and Cyr was much younger and in his prime, but Webster seems to be clear that Cyr did not lift both.  Webster also tells of a man named William McCombie Smith would regularly lift the bigger stone unassisted and was the only man to do this.  Webster then states that after that, Henry Gray and John Gallagher also lifted the big stone unassisted before Prowse came along.

Another story involved Bill Bangert.  A man from Missouri often credited with bringing Scottish athletics to America and beginning the modern “wave ” of success it has had the past 40 years.  Bangert made a ring and harness to carry the stones that undoubtedly made the feat much easier…..and he received a little grief then and since then for this “cheat lift”.  But he did carry the stones across the road and back and I don’t think he tried to claim he did any more than that!

On another “final” note (at least until I read some more!).  I also read that at one time one of the rings broke and a different ring was attached.  It was not clear which one (the smaller or the larger one) but if it were the smaller ring….that changed the dynamics dramatically.  I lifted each stone individually with straps and that small ring was considerably more difficult.  Then there is the concern that the stones are being slowly chipped away and who knows how much weight they have lost, being dropped over and over.   Maybe they will soon be place in protected custody like the original Apollon’s Railroad Car Wheels, where nobody will ever lift them again!  In which case, we may not ever know  who was first, but we may know who was LAST!

1 2 3 6