Monthly Archives: December 2011

Inspiration for the Inman?

By Thom Van Vleck

In Indonesia, men walk down into Mount Ijen, an active volcano, to haul out sulfur. They will carry an average of 100kg out for several kilometers as a way to make a living.

One of the most diabolical lifts in the USAWA is the Inman Mile.  It’s so different you have to wonder where Jerry Inman came up with the idea for this! Let’s review the rules:

D17.  Inman Mile
The lifter will take a bar onto the shoulders with a weight equal to 150 per cent of the lifter’s bodyweight. The lifter will then carry this weight a distance of one mile. Gait is optional.  Stopping to rest is allowed, but neither the lifter nor the weight may be supported in any manner.  The bar must not be touched by any assistants once the mile has begun or it will be a disqualification. The bar must stay on the back the entire mile. The lifter may be handed refreshments during the mile. Records will be kept for time.

It’s different to say the least.  I often wonder where someone could have come up with such a test of strength and I have even questioned if this is more endurance than strength.

The other day I was watching a travel show.  I enjoy seeing different parts of the world.  In this one they were talking about men in Indonesia who go down into and active volcano called Mount Ijen.  They load up baskets with sulfur and haul them up and out of the volcano.  They make it a point to spend as little time as possible in the volcano because of poisonous gas so usually once they are loaded they beat a hasty path out!  They claimed they would not rest until they got out of the volcano and this was “well over a kilometer”.  Their loads average around 100kg or 220lbs.  I would estimate these men weigh in the neighborhood of 150lbs on average.  The should some of them with their shirts off and they had unbelievable trap development, I assume from letting the weight ride on the shoulders.

It got me to thinking…..was this the inspiration for the Inman mile?  Maybe someone can tell me what it is and while this likely is not…you can certainly see where it could be!   If it is, I’m glad they didn’t include dodging poisonous gas and it being all uphill in the rules….this seems hard enough!  I think this lift is safe from any records from me but I’d like to see it done.

Hack Squats for Olympic Lifting

by Roger LaPointe

Roger LaPointe getting ready to pull a Hack Lift.

The old school strongmen had some really innovative ways of training. Sometimes you did a lift to force someone to learn technique, they just happened to get strong at the same time.

Where did I read about this one? I have no idea. Yet, I remember reading that a deadlift, which “started from the floor and behind the calves” was helpful in learning the clean. Whoever wrote that was absolutely correct.

Use the same barbell that you will be using to do your cleans. Use the same hand position on the bar. Here are some of the things that the Hack Lift will force you to do.

1. High Chest
2. Narrow grip will make you have narrow foot position off the floor
3. Curling your wrists
4. Pulling the bar back

Try doing three hack lifts then immediately do three power cleans with those ideas in mind.

Don’t worry. You do not even have to do super heavy weight in the Hack Lift to get those benefits for your cleans.

Live strong,
Roger LaPointe



One Arm Clean & Jerk

by Thom Van Vleck

Bob Burtzloff, one of the greatest of all time on the one arm Clean & Jerk. You can tell that Bob is lifting this from a racked position, one of the two ways to complete the lift.

The USAWA National Championships have been set for Las Vegas, Nevada next June.  One of the lifts that will be contest is the One Arm Clean & Jerk.  This lift is a difficult lift so you can’t start working on this one too early!  This lift takes a lot of balance, strength, and flexibility that not all lifters may have without some practice.  Let’s take a look at the rules:

The rules of the Clean and Jerk apply with these exceptions. Only one arm is used to perform the lift. The bar is gripped in the center by one handand may be cleaned in front or cleaned to the side. Any grip may be used by the lifter. The bar must be cleaned to the same shoulder as the lifting arm in a single movement. During the clean, the bar must not touch any part of the legs or torso.  In receiving the bar at the shoulder, the bar must not make contact or rest on the shoulder or chest opposite to the lifting arm. The center of the sternum is the line of lineation.  The non-liftinghand may be supported on the thigh or knee of either leg but must not contact the bar, platform, or lifting arm during the lift or it will be a disqualification. With a single distinct effort the lifter will jerk the bar to arms length above the head. The non-lifting hand must be clear of the body upon completion of the lift.  The bar may be in any degree of rotation when overhead. Once the bar is overhead motionless, the lifter’s body in an upright position, the feet parallel and in line with the torso, an official will give a command to lower the bar. Both hands may be used to lower the bar. The lift ends when the bar is returned to the platform under control.

So, assuming you know the basic rules of the Clean & Jerk, you are ready to do a One Arm Clean & Jerk.  Now, there are two ways that I know of to complete this lift.  One involves pulling the bar into a rack position and jerking it out of that rack position just like a regular two hand Clean & Jerk.  Another is to lift the bar and catch it to the side with the bar at a 90 degree angle to the body, this method may work best for those who lack flexibility.  Below is a great photo of Bob Burtzloff showing that method.

Bob Burtzloff setting the Best One Arm Clean and Jerk Record in the USAWA. This was done at the 2004 Dino Gym Challenge with a lift of 175 pounds.

Now, one final word of advice.  I know when I was a kid, I did some one arm cleans.  I was taught, to pull high and then use the free arm to help rack the bar.  In other words, you ended up in a position at the finish where it looked like you had done a two hand Clean, but the bar had popped free of one hand.  This is NOT ALLOWED in the rules.  The first time I thought of attempting this lift I did not read the rules carefully and this impacted my lifting considerably.  Not only did I not lift what I had planned, but I was not prepared to lift in any other way.  So learn it, practice it and we’ll see you in VEGAS!!!!!


by John McKean

“Oooh, Hon, how sweet – you remembered the nickname my family gave me when I was young!” purred my wife, Marilyn.

I noticed she was staring at a crumpled piece of paper I’d recently started scribbling on, that carried only the title “MIM.” So, thinking quickly, I replied “Yep, ya caught me. I was just penning you a little love note!” For certainly I would’ve lost this year’s batch of her famous Christmas cookies had I mentioned that the note was the nickname, and to be the recording  of my current training routine, which stood for “Monkey In the Middle”!!

John McKean training a backdown set, or as he calls it, a monkey set, with added band tension.

The MIM style workout refers to the middle-weight sets or “monkey,” and is my latest version of the “backdown set.” I learned about backdowns during the 1960s from famous Pittsburgh powerlifter Bob Weaver. Big Bob was one of our first National superheavyweight champions, using his 365 pound bulk to establish the U.S. record total and a national squat record of 807 – long before supersuits or other supportive gear, and when judging was STRICT. Bob typically would start his training squats with a set of 5 with 135 pounds on the bar, and add a pair of 45s for every set thereafter, until it stopped him. Then he’d reduce to a couple of hundred pounds lighter and bang out a few FAST sets – this was, of course, the backdown work. By the way, an amusing incident of his progressive training – Bob most often didn’t pay attention to the total amount of weight continually stacked on and once found, after the fact,  his final set to be 855; yes, he got stuck with no spotters around. But, the experienced squatter had a trick he used for such emergencies – he’d quickly frog-hop forward and shove the bar backwards (he taught this to me – it really worked and was actually more reliable and safer than half awake spotters!). Trouble was, ole Bob had his back to a big window on the second floor of the Oakland (uptown Pittsburgh) YMHA – it went right through the glass and a massively loaded, plate clanging Olympic set tumbled to the sidewalk below! Fortunately, the horrific crash was on a small, little used side street at night, so no one was nearby! Not that any of their cars were parked down there either, but the Y’s directors weren’t exactly laughing!

Anyway, MY “backdown” is what I consider the MAIN building set(done as “rest-pause” singles), as this is where I place bands over the barbell for “speed singles.” Usually used for training our various all-round deadlift type lifts, I begin a session with a non banded double using a medium weight, go to a heavy single (not a limit but enough to cause a bit of a strain!), then backdown to a weight right in the middle of those two sets for band work. I start these “monkey sets” with a normal initial pull, but then try to accelerate through the finish. These sets actually feel springy and easy, since they follow the heavy single for the day, yet are actually more resistant due to the extra band stress. Since they begin easier off the floor, I am able to “trick” the body into a harder, faster  lift!  Each subsequent middle weight single seem to become more vigorous and speedier! An important footnote – if I’d not use a heavy free weight single beforehand, the monkey speed singles couldn’t be performed as efficiently with quite as much weight.

Pavel's new book EASY STRENGTH

However, don’t go crazy with band speed singles.  I find 2 to, at most, 5 banded-bar singles will do the job. In fact, in the brand new book EASY STRENGTH by Pavel and Dan John (Dragon Door Publications), Pavel mentions a similar banded deadlift routine that I’d once  given him. He wrote that the speed singles seemed just too easy and merely 5 of them were probably only good for old men (like me!!). But after his first workout he learned the hard way that this is a MINIMUM quantity, high quality routine (he stuck to 5 or 6 thereafter and claimed he was so strong with such little work that it seemed like “cheating”!). For that matter, throughout the entire EASY STRENGTH text the authors continually stress the extreme value of employing minimum reps and sets for optimum strength gains. It’s one of the few teaching tools  that elaborate on TRUE strength strategies for athletes, as the old time lifters employed – our all-round forefathers!          

“By the way, Hubby,” cooed Marilyn. “What were you gonna tell me in your love note?”

“OH,” said I. “Just those three little words you always like to hear!”

“Really?” she gushed.

“Yep,” I whispered, ” Bake them cookies!”

I never learn.

The Worlds Strongest Man

by Dennis Mitchell

Vasily Alekseyev

There have been many men who claimed to be the worlds strongest man. Vasiliy Ivanovich Alekseyev was born January. 7,1942 in the village of Pokrovo-Shishkino, Soviet Union. During his reign as heavy weight world and Olympic champion he was the world’s strongest man. He was never a small or sickly child. At the age of 12 he was working as a lumberjack, and at the age of 14, he stood 6′ tall and weighed 200 pounds. He started training with weights at the age of 18 under the guidance of Rudolf Plyukfueldor, his first and only coach. Most of his career  he coached himself. He stated that he had no set program, trained when he wanted to and how he wanted to. Often his workouts were quite unorthodox.

In 1970 he competed in his first world championships, held in Columbus Ohio, U.S.A. At this meet he became the first person to clean and jerk over 500 pounds (501.5). In 1971 he continued setting records, setting 27 world records. He continued setting records, and winning a total of eight world championships and two Olympics. Over the next seven years he set a total 80 world records, including a 1,322.76 pound total (600 Kg.) In his prime he stood 6’1″ tall and weighed 357 pounds. His best lifts were, a 521.39 pound press, a 418.87 pound snatch, and a 564.38 pound clean and jerk.

After his competition days were over he coached for a while but soon left this. Alekseyev passed away November 25, 2011, at the age of 69, in a Munich Germany hospital where he was being treated for a heart condition.

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