Category Archives: USAWA Daily News

Training with Thom “THE ANVIL” Van Vleck

by Al Myers

Anvil Collection - 110# unknown, 152# Peter Wright, 190# Peter Wright

Last week I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon training at my gym with Thom “THE ANVIL” Van Vleck. We spent the entire workout training with anvils only!! I have a collection of three anvils, weighing 110, 152, and 190 pounds. You would be surprised how difficult you can make an anvil workout. Thom knows many ways how to use anvils for training. Training with anvils was very popular with old time strongmen. George Jowett, famous strongman and writer, lifted a 168 pound anvil by the horn with only one hand!!

Thom pressing my 110# anvil with one hand only!!!!

Thom is a very popular writer for MILO, and has written many articles over the past several years. One of his earliest articles was about how it was a right of passage into the JWC (Jackson Weightlifting Club) to be able to lift Grandpa Jackson’s anvil overhead!! This anvil has been passed down through the generations of the JWC, and Thom has it as a center piece in his gym today. It weighs somewhere between 150 and 200 pounds. When you enter the JWC (Thom’s gym) – be prepared to be challenged by Grandpa Jackson’s anvil!!!

The workout started out with doing some snatches, swings and French Presses with my 110# anvil. Lifting anvils is not the same as lifting barbells – an anvil is just a huge chunk of iron that is hard to grab and hold on to!!! But then, it is an exhilarating feeling to be able to master lifting such an awkward object. We are fortunate today that we have bars with roller sleeves that contain fine ball bearings, and plates that are milled perfectly, to provide upmost balance and control when lifting weights. The old time strongmen did not have this type of equipment, but made the most of what they had and still made amazing strength gains.

I managed lifting the 110# anvil, but then Thom showed me up by lifting the 110# anvil and the 152# anvil at the same time!! Now you see why he is known as Thom the Anvil??

We then progressed to doing clean and presses with the 152 pound anvil. We started out doing strict presses and finished by doing push presses with it. It is difficult to keep an anvil from “getting out in front of you” when pressing it overhead and to maintain the lockout. But the more reps we did with it the better both of us got. I then took on the 190# anvil and cleaned and pressed it several times. After this we did some one handed lifting with the anvils by gripping them by the horn – “Jowett style”. You really feel this in the forearm muscles. I have done alot of Vertical Bar lifting with a 2″ bar – but the horn of an anvil has a taper to it that makes it way more difficult!!

The next exercise we did was loading and deloading the three anvils onto platforms. This is a full body exercise. We did several “runs” of these until our backs starting cramping!! At this point I thought we would call it a workout but Thom had more in mind! We finished this 3 hour workout by carrying the 190# anvil down and back my 100 foot course (200 feet total) several times with the anvil cradled in our arms. This tested my cardiovascular endurance and left me in a heap of sweat and breathing like a race horse. Now – THAT is what you can call an ALL-ROUND workout and we didn’t even touch a barbell or dumbbell!!!

The Turkish Get Up

"It is a splendid exercise and showy feat to lie down and regain upright position holding a dumbbell overhead" - Thomas Inch

I recently received an email from Brian Brown, of Dubuque, Iowa asking the question – Why is the Turkish Get Up not an USAWA lift? Well – my answer was IT SHOULD BE!!!! This was a very popular lift among old-time strongmen. It was a favorite of such greats as Arthur Saxon, George Hackenschmidt, and Sig Klein. Thanks to Brian for providing this writeup about the Turkish Get Up.

The Turkish Get Up by Brian Brown

The Turkish Get Up is a great old-time strongman exercise in addition to being a great shoulder rehab, core building, and flexibility enhancing exercise. It also works all the muscles of the body, so it’s a great exercise to have in your arsenal in case you’re short of time for a workout.

In truth I don’t know what’s Turkish about the Get Up. I do know that you can do a Get Up with two hands or one hand. Typically the Turkish Get Up refers to the one-hand version of the Get Up. And you can use any kind of resistance you like, whether it be a dumbbell, kettlebell, barbell, sandbag, or your kid. I’ve tried it with my kids — it’s a great circus trick and they like it too!

To perform the Turkish Get Up, lie on your back with the weight overhead in one hand. While keeping your elbow locked and the weight overhead you ‘get up’ to a standing position. For competition purposes, this would be the end of the movement. But for training purposes, it’s more challenging if you then reverse the movement until you are lying back on the floor. Then you repeat for the other arm.

The basic sequence of the Turkish Get Up is as follows, to begin the movement, crunch your abs and obliques while moving the dumbbell slowly forward, then push off the floor with your free arm. If you can make it to the sitting position, you are pretty much home free! Then bring your leg opposite the weight underneath your body so that you are in a lunge position, then stand up with the weight.

There is another method whereby after you are in the sitting position, you get in the deep (seriously deep!) overhead squat position and stand up from there. But this is much more difficult than the ‘lunging’ method and requires quite a bit more flexibility and as such, less weight can be used.

Jeff Martone commented that the Turkish Get Up helped to rehab his bad shoulder. I’ve found this to be the case also. I had a delicate right shoulder from too much bench pressing and shot putting when I was in high school. When I discovered the Turkish Get Up a few years ago my shoulder problems disappeared. Also I have a friend with chronic back problems and he said that his back problems diminished remarkably after including the Turkish Get Up in his program. There is something unique to this movement in that the shoulders and hips seem to rotate around the axis underneath the weight, providing beneficial full range of motion.

I recommend sticking with low repetitions with this movement, unless you’re using it for a warm-up. Even with low reps, the Turkish Get Up can provide quite a metabolism boost. In the following video sequence I’m breaking my PR in the Turkish Get Up using 86.25 pounds (not bad for 6’2″, 188 lbs, and 36 years, if I don’t say so myself). Notice that I’m under the load for roughly 55 seconds. How many of these ‘singles’ do you think I could handle in a workout? I can almost get around a 400m track in that amount of time!

A nice, challenging, simple workout is to do the Turkish Get Up as described above, but to insert an overhead squat once you are in the standing position, then continue with the Turkish Get Up by reversing the movement to the floor, and repeating with the other arm. You could also insert a press once you are in the standing position. I also like to superset Turkish Get Ups with a heavy lower body movement like squats since I use dumbbells for the Turkish Get Up and my bar is free for another movement.

What type of resistance you prefer is up to you. Based upon my experience, a barbell is easier than a dumbbell due to the additional balance provided by the length of the bar. And a kettlebell is easier than a dumbbell because the kettlebell rides a bit lower on the arm. For me, it’s easier to get the dumbbell into position compared to a barbell or a kettlebell.

It is said that back in the day, weightlifters had to Turkish Get Up 100 pounds before they were allowed to learn the Olympic lifts. This exercise is also supposed to be a staple of cage-fighters. 100 pounds is my goal, but I’ll leave the cage fighting to the pros!

Dale Friesz – the “Miracle Man”

by Al Myers

605# Neck Lift by Dale Friesz

A Hall of Fame Biography is now available for Dale Friesz. Dale is truly an amazing individual who is an inspiration to everyone who meets him. Dale has overcome many very serious medical issues to resume not just lifting, but competition lifting!!! Dale just recently spent 9 days in the hospital for treatment of a leg infection – but I fully expect to see him lifting at this year’s World Championships in October. Whenever I have an ache or pain when I’m working out and I feel like complaining about it – I think of Dale, who has every excuse not to train but keeps at it relentlessly – and then I realize that my aches and pains aren’t all that bad!! You can always count on seeing Dale at every year’s National Championships. He is one of the charter members of the USAWA.

The King’s Stone

by Al Myers

Attempting to lift the 7000 pound Naha Stone

Just recently I was on vacation in Hawaii and had a chance to try my hand (or back!) at lifting the Naha Stone, which is located in front of the Public Library in Hilo, on the big Island of Hawaii.

The story behind the Naha Stone is a very interesting one. According to legend, King Kamehameha not only lifted this huge volcanic rock but stood it on end and flipped it over!! King Kamehameha was the first Hawaiian King to unite all the Hawaiian Islands under a single ruler. The legend goes that early in time a kahuna (or holy man) prophesied that a very strong warrior would eventually lift this stone, and upon doing so, would become a great King and Ruler over all the Hawaiian Islands. King Kamehameha was a very big man, standing over 7 feet tall and weighing over 400 pounds.

Naha Stone

I gave the Naha Stone all I could and at one point thought I heard it cracking the ground, but that was just my back. I guess I am not destined to be the next King of Hawaii!!

Update on the Middle Fingers Deadlift

by Al Myers

Since I have put up the list of the top Middle Fingers Deadlifts of All-Time, I have been informed of two more making the list. Steve Gardner, the IAWA President, and his son John Gardner have both lifted 330 pounds in the Middle Fingers Deadlift!!!  This is the updated list.

Top List for the Middle Fingers Deadlift

1. 411 pounds by John McLoughlin.  Done at the German-American Athletic
Club in New York City in 1954.
2. 403 Pounds by David Horne.
3. 400 Pounds by Kevin Fulton.  Done at the 1994 Super Grip Challenge.
4. 345 Pounds by Sam Cox.  Done at the Dino Gym in Abilene, Kansas
in 2009.
5. 340 Pounds by Chuck Cookson.  Done at the Dino Gym in Abilene, Kansas
in 2009.
6. 330 Pounds by Steve Sherwood.  Done at the 1992 British Grip
330 Pounds by Steve Gardner.
330 Pounds by John Gardner.
9. 309 Pounds by Bill DiCioccio Sr.  Done at the 1994 Gold Cup.

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