Author Archives: Al Myers

IAWA World Championships

by Al Myers


This year’s World Championships meet director Denny Habecker has released the details of this years big event!  The days have been set for October 8th and 9th in Lebanon, PA.

Three lifts have been approved for each day of competition.

Day 1 lifts are:

Continental Clean
Pullover and Push
2 Hands 2″ Vertical Bar Lift

Day 2 lifts are:

Alternate Grip Clean and Press
One Hand Clean and Jerk
Ciavattone Deadlift

ENTRY FORM (PDF) – 2016 IAWA Worlds Entry Form

INFORMATION PAGE (PDF) – 2016 IAWA Worlds – info page

Heavy Lifting and Your Joints

by Larry Traub

“You know Bill (Walton), it’s what you learn after you know it all that counts” – Johnny Wooden

I started lifting at age 18 and my competitive powerlifting career started at age 22 and ended at age 60. I had it all figured out. It was going to be my fountain of youth. I would be lean, muscular, strong, and athletic until I was 70, 80, who knows. I always felt I approached my lifting in an intelligent manner. An early decision to never use performance enhancing drugs seemed to be an intelligent choice that I never forsook.

This may be heresy to some, but I was more or less a disciple of Arthur Jones in that I minimized my time in the gym, but tried to make all of my training as intense and as heavy as possible. I felt that I practiced good form with smooth and controlled motions. Most of my training for the last 20 years of my career consisted of training 2 times a week and doing one or two heavy work sets for each exercise. This was usually about 3 hours of lifting per week, so I felt good about keeping my priorities straight and having time to be a husband, a father, a teacher, and a coach. I was avoiding over training.  In my 40 plus years of training I never sustained any muscle, tendon, or ligament damage.  At 5’9″ and in my mid 40’s, I could grab a ten foot basketball rim. This was not possible in college and didn’t occur until I started squatting. I was much more successful as a masters (over 40) lifter than I was as an open lifter. I felt I did the best lifting of my life when I was 44 at the USAPL masters nationals. I pulled a 700 deadlift and had a 1700 total in the 198 lb. weight class.

In the year 2015, the year I turned 62, I accomplished something that may be more impressive. I had total replacement of both hips, both shoulders, and my right knee. That’s a lot of aftermarket parts. When they cremate my remains someone needs to make a run to the recycling center. I’m thinking the sale of that high quality stainless steel ought to cover gas money and maybe a 12 pack of Bud Light.  I had all of my joints done in one calendar year due to a very high deductible (buy one, get 4 free), but it turned out to be a very good choice and I would do it the same way again even if finances were not a factor. My everyday life is now pretty much pain free. My wife is tired of having me suddenly stop whatever I’m doing and announce that nothing hurts.  I can’t remember the last time I took ibuprofen. (I know I just claimed to be drug free, but I must confess that vitamin I was an intricate part of my training.)

The recovery for each of my surgeries was quite easy, With the exception of the knee, I would say I had less pain 10 days after each surgery than I did before. With the knee, it was more like 3 weeks, but still relatively easy. I attribute this to the fact that I never really injured any of my joints and that they were still surrounded by a lot more muscle than the average person. I simply had degenerative arthritis. My joints were simply worn out.

I am quite pleased. My competitive powerlifting is over, but I am lifting again and I still hope to take a somewhat lean, muscular, strong, athletic, and scarred body into my old age. My training is much different.  I must minimize the stress on my new joints if I want them to last the rest of my life.  I am using a super slow movement which means I take 6 seconds to do a positive motion (raise the weight) and ten seconds to do the negative (lower the weight). This reduces the amount of weight I can use, but I still follow the progressive resistance principles I always used.  I raise the weight every time I am able to complete the required number of reps. Currently, I am using 7 reps as my goal for all of my exercises and have made steady progress increasing weight.

I am using machines on almost all of my exercises, but I may eventually get back into some free weight exercise.  I am training three days a week, do one set per exercise, and complete 10 to 12 exercises. I know there are limits to how far this will take me, but right now I feel that I am making significant progress in strength and muscle gain.

Now here’s the question. Would I do it all over again? I have few regrets considering how easy and relatively painless it was to get my joints replaced, but I would definitely do some things differently given 20/20 hindsight. My accomplishments, as a powerlifter, are important to me. I wouldn’t trade the enjoyment it gave me for an arthritic free body. The real question is whether or not I could have had similar or maybe even better results with an approach that would have been less detrimental to my joints. I think so!

The first thing I would do differently is to try and take my ego out of it. I really think all athletes are ego driven, but I had a compulsion to stay very close to my maximum muscle and strength levels year round even though I only competed once or twice a year. Maybe periodically, I should have taken some real time off.  Perhaps I should have considered totally different rep schemes where I would increase the number of reps in order to minimize the weight for extended periods of time. I think that the super slow movements that I described earlier could have been incorporated into my off season and still allowed me to maintain the muscle mass that my ego required. Maybe it’s as simple as realizing that you must make adjustments as the years go by.

I would definitely search for some answers and I would encourage many of you who plan to take lifting into your later years to do the same.

P.S. I think the growing popularity of cross fit competitions and strongman contests may speed up the kind of deterioration that I experienced. The emphasis on the Olympic lifts and other explosive lifts would take more of a toll if consistently performed at very intense levels. The lack of good form I have witnessed in cross fit competitions would also be an area of concern.


Grip Championships

by Al Myers


Group picture from the 2016 USAWA Grip Championships.

Group picture from the 2016 USAWA Grip Championships.

If you would have asked me a week before the Grip Champs my prediction for the turnout – I’ll be honest here – I was worried that it might be the smallest attended Grip Champs yet.  But as it turns out this was one of the best Grip Champs the USAWA has seen yet!

Both the women’s and the men’s divisions were hotly contested.  Newcomer Emily Burchett won best lifter in her second meet in less than a month in the USAWA, over veteran lifter Mary McConnaughey. Mary still amazes me with her finger lifts. She pulled on a record attempt 200 pounds in the Middle Finger Deadlift. I remember in my first meet with Mary (close to 15 years ago!) she beat me in the Middle Finger Deadlift in total pounds – something that gave Ole Clark a good reason to kid me about.  But after watching that 200 pounds of hers go up I’m not sure if I could beat her now!  Third place went to Tressa Brooner who showed great effort after just recently having surgery on her wrists.

The Men’s division was full of great lifting all day long.  Last year’s overall USAWA Grip Champion LaVerne Myers had to lift exceptional to defend his title – which he did. He picked his lifts well and maximized his total.  Veteran USAWA grip master Ben Edwards took a solid second place overall. Ben showed us all he still has the strength in those middle fingers of his with an outstanding Middle Finger Deadlift of 315 pounds. Third place overall went to the father of the Ledaig HA club Dave Glasgow. Dave continued his streak of being the ONLY lifter that has competed in all of the USAWA Grip Championships. Dave was solid in all the lifts and put up the top Reeves Deadlift of the day at 290 pounds.

I was so glad to see all the young strong studs show up; Zach Lucas, Adam Kirchman, Vernon Cathey, and Alan English. These guys are all newcomers to the USAWA. They are loaded with lifting talent and each one left weight on the platform as they are just learning these lifts.  Each one of these guys had great attitudes and I could tell really enjoyed themselves throughout the day. Give these young bucks a little more time in the all rounds and they will be the future champions.

I was really amazed to see my ole training buddy Scott Tully show up and compete.  Scott is just coming off major surgery on his knee, that included a tendon reattachment.   I could tell Scott was lifting conservative but he still put up big marks.  He had the second best total of the day at 1130 pounds (just behind Ben’s 1160 pounds) and had the top Inch DB deadlift at 140 pounds. He tied Alan English with the top dumbbell deadlift with a lift of 325 pounds.

Lance Foster and Dean Ross added several new age group USAWA records with their lifting.  Lance took two attempts in the Wrist Curl to set a new record with a lift of 151 pounds.  He missed it the first time and then tried it again with success! Those kind of efforts are what I remember when the day is over.

I want to thank everyone who supported this competition.  I’m already excited about the Grip Championships next year!

Meet Results:

2016 Grip Championships
February 13th, 2016
Dino Gym
Abilene, Kansas

Meet Director: Al Myers

Meet Scorekeeper: Al Myers

Official (1-official system used): Al Myers

Lifts: Deadlift-Inch Dumbbell, One Arm, Curl-Wrist, Deadlift-Dumbbell, One Arm, Deadlift-Fingers, Middle, Deadlift, Reeves


Emily Burchett 24 153 75R 155 (170) 190R (205) 140 (155) 170 730 767.9
Mary McConnaughey 56 308 80R 150 165R 175 (200) 175 745 625.1
Tressa Brooner 54 129 55R 80 115R (120) 85 75 410 558.4

Successful extra attempts for records in parenthesis.


LaVerne Myers 71 238 135R 210 240L 195 255 1035 1111.5
Ben Edwards 40 218 130R 205 (225) 255R 315 255 1160 998.4
Dave Glasgow 62 258 115R 180 280R 170 290 1035 994.0
Zach Lucas 30 241 130R 220 250R 200 280 1080 872.9
Vernon Cathey 31 207 125R 165 (195) 275R (300) 195 225 985 863.5
Alan English 32 240 120R 115 325R 205 280 1045 846.6
Adam Kirchman 31 210 115R 165 (185) 275R 185 185 925 804.3
Dean Ross 73 258 80R 120 170R (190) 155 (165) 225 750 784.7
Scott Tully 40 340 140R 175 300R (325) 230 285 1130 781.7
Lance Foster 50 337 80R 140 (151) 170R (190) 225 225 840 641.3

Successful extra attempts for records in parenthesis.

BWT is bodyweight in pounds. R & L designate right and left arms. All lifts recorded in pounds. TOT is total pounds lifted. PTS are overall adjusted points corrected for age and bodyweight.


Al Myers – 49 years old, BWT 230#
Deadlift – Dumbbell, Left Arm 320#
Deadlift – Dumbbell, Right Arm 365#
Deadlift – Reeves 330#
Pinch Grip 205#
Curl – Wrist 275#

LaVerne Myers – 71 years old, BWT 240#
Pinch Grip 172#
Deadlift – Fulton Bar, Ciavattone Grip 242#
Deadlift – Fulton Bar, Left Arm 154#
Deadlift – No Thumb, Left Arm 176#
Deadlift – No Thumb, Right Arm 176#

Dean Ross – 73 years old, BWT 260#
Back Lift 1300#
Bench Press – Feet in Air 185#
Bench Press – Hands Together 155#
Bench Press – Reverse Grip 155#
Bench Press – Fulton Bar 175#

The “OW!” Factor

by John McKean

My son Rob, when in elementary school, setting an 802# Hand and Thigh record at Howard's first Gold Cup. This record has stood for 24 years now!

My son Rob, when in elementary school, setting an 802# Hand and Thigh record at Howard’s first Gold Cup. This record has stood for 24 years now!

“C’mon, little fella, do you really expect to warmup with US?!” The superheavies at an early 60s powerlifting meet had dominated one of the few olympic bars, and were not too keen to share their already heavily loaded squat rack with a barely 165#, dweeby out-of-towner. After all, they reasoned, it wasn’t their fault that the meet director had somehow assigned middleweights to the evening session; they sure didn’t want to waste energy breaking down the 455 they’d carefully built up. Since my opener out on the main platform was imminent, I had to use my charming personality and a bit of surprise to convince these rack hogs into giving me a break. Promising to take only one set, I requested they ADD a pair of 45s to the bar, and spot closely! Shocked into silence, the beefy group complied and stared blankly as I banged out 4 quick reps! Rushing to the contest stage soon after, I treated very strict judges to an easy district record, despite a hefty drop in poundage from the warmup room

However, in those pure power days of no super suits, no ultra compressing wraps, nor thick magnum belts, my “crazy” fast and heavy prep set was hardly superhuman – those reps were merely 4” QUARTER squats. Yet, as experience had taught, any sufficiently loaded partial lift not only races the ole adrenaline around, but also makes a regular, full movement exercise FEEL quite light! Perhaps as much MENTAL as physical, a monstrous overload still contracts and readies every portion of one’s body (even the brain awakens!), warming the entire musculature. Why, then, endure an energy-robbing process of excess light do-nothing sets?

Through ongoing experiments with the severe overload concept during my building years, I sought out a well known proponent with whom I had spoken to and corresponded – mighty Paul Anderson himself! It seems the World’s Strongest Man developed much of his phenomenal squatting poundage (1200+) by inserting magnum weight quarter squats in between sets of more normal full movement deep knee bends (if, indeed, 3 sets of 10 with a below parallel 800 # – no suit, wraps, nor drugs, can be considered “normal”!). Paul maintained that near limit partials only worked if one used them in direct conjunction with the actual lift that was intended to be strengthened. At that time, my competition squat had been absolutely stuck at 455, and knowing my gym mates would not appreciate two olympic bars being tied up, it was back to my home garage for four months! Of course, there was the obnoxious safety chains clanging around my 6′ exercise bar that had to be endured. I gutted out these supersets and constant loading/deloading without incident (you always have to be VERY aware with 5X+ bwt on quarter squats!). But rewards were great – during the next meet, a 500 pound state record was an easy opener!

These days my “Overload Warmup” (or “OW!”- a fitting name!) consists of our USAWA three official chain lifts – the hip lift, hand and thigh, and neck lift. Each can be seen and described on this website, in the rule book section. Easy to deploy in a garage gym, let’s just consider for now the “hand and thigh” lift. Most don’t own an official short handle and chain to do this lift, so simply rest a barbell in a power rack or on a quite high set of concrete blocks, such that it touches the upper thighs. Using an overhand grip, bury the fingers between the bar and your thighs (to LOCK them in) then just lean back slightly and stand up. Range of movement will only be ½ inch to 2 inches, and 4 to 6 reps will do the job, but will remind you why I’ve so named them (your fingers, traps, forearms, thighs, and everything else will scream “OW! OW! OW!”)!! START your workout with this movement, and any follow-up deadlift type will seem like a walk in the park! How heavy? Well, at 12 years old, my then 165 pound son Rob hefted an official pre teen world record 802 pounds that’s stood for 24 years now; more mature specialists often train with over 1100 pound hand and thighs.

Steve Schmidt just after doing a 2300# Hip Lift at the Ambridge Nationals in 1991, in taking the open Best Lifter Award.

Steve Schmidt just after doing a 2300# Hip Lift at the Ambridge Nationals in 1991, in taking the open Best Lifter Award.

Longtime friend Steve Schmidt, a hard working 5th generation farmer from Missouri, has specialized mostly on herculean chain lifts for many years now, as evidenced by massive, odd-angled scrap iron chunks and extremely thick harnesses which adorn his famous open air “chicken coop gym.” A soft spoken 215 pound USAWA competitor, Steve tops official all-round record charts with his 3515 pound harness lift, 3050# back lift, and 2520# hip lift, among others! Yet from this “OW!” training, he has always been able to enter meets which feature full movement lifts, and easily acquired “outstanding lifter” awards, even at the WORLD level (IAWA)! These days, over 60 years of age and very healthy, Steve has enjoyed exhibiting his chain and mouthpiece TEETH lifting; sometimes at fairs he’s pulled a full size 29 TON railroad car in this manner – the Guinness people love him! Even with all this heavy lifting success, Steve’s disciplined, dedicated farm work leaves little time to train; he recently told me that he merely does 5 relatively easy sets of 10 on a few chain lifts once per week (easy for HIM – his “light” warmup bar for hip lifts is a 1500 pound railroad train axle, and the harness platform STARTS at over 2500 !). A really cool book on his life and lifting is “Heart of Steel” on his website –

Got a spare corner in your garage? Set up a station or two for hip lifts, hand and thighs, neck lifts, or, heaven help ya, the teeth lift! Feel the power of “OW!” and watch poundage on all your other lifts skyrocket!And for exciting old time, super heavy, home gym training inspiration get a copy or subscription to USAWA meet promoter, Roger LaPointe’s exciting new monthly “Garage Gym Journal” (

Presidential Cup

by Al Myers


For the fifth year in a row, the now “Annual” USAWA Presidential Cup is being hosted again by our USAWA President Denny Habecker.  This is one of the CHAMPIONSHIP events hosted in the USAWA, and is the Championships of Record Days.  It follows along “the lines” of the IAWA Gold Cup – a lifter picks their best lift and contests it for a USAWA record in this prestigious record day.  After all lifters have performed their record lifts, Denny will pick the effort that impresses him the most and award that lifter the PRESIDENTIAL CUP.  Only one lifter will receive this very important award.   If time allows, lifters will have the opportunity to perform other record day lifts.  So it is a good idea to come with the BIG LIFT in mind, but also be prepared to do other lifts for record if the time allows.

Now a little “rehash” on the Presidential Cup.  These are the guidelines:

The Presidential Cup will follow along some of the same guidelines as the Gold Cup, which is the IAWA meet which recognizes outstanding performances by lifters in the lift/lifts of their choosing.  The Gold Cup started in 1991 under the direction of then-IAWA President Howard Prechtel.  However there will be some differences in the guidelines of the USAWA Presidential Cup:

  • The Presidential Cup is hosted annually by the USAWA President only.
  • Must be a USAWA member to participate.
  • A lifter may choose any official USAWA  lift/lifts (number set by the President) to set a USAWA record/records  in.
  • The lifter must open at a USAWA Record Poundage on first attempt.
  • The top performance record lift of the entire record day,  which will be chosen by the President, will be awarded the PRESIDENTIAL CUP.


USAWA Presidential Cup

Saturday, August 6th, 2016

Meet Director:  Denny Habecker

Location: Habecker’s Gym, Lebanon, PA

Lifts:  Bring your best lift for record!

Start time:  10 AM,  with weigh-ins before this

Entry Form:  None, but advance notice is required.

Denny may be reached by email –

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