Iron Warrior Record Day

By Dan Wagman, PhD, CSCS


Dan Wagman pulling 726 pounds in the Kennedy Lift!

Dan Wagman pulling 726 pounds in the Kennedy Lift!

On August 27, Denver’s Iron Warrior Gym hosted another USAWA Record Day. This gym’s perfect for all-round as it’s spacious, has several platforms, and tons of weights. Still, it’s obvious that the people training and coaching there aren’t familiar with the diversity of strength tests all-round offers. This time three lifters attempted to rewrite the record book while RJ Jackson and Jarrod Fobes judged.

Daryl Jackson, a University of Colorado student, has a varied martial arts background and is relatively new to all-round, though he was named Lifter of the Month in April, 2017. Considering how demanding his studies are, he thought it best to only contest two of his favorite lifts, the pull-up and chin-up. He started with the pull-up where he was successful with a new record of 95 pounds and missed 105. He wasn’t happy with that because he was hoping for 110 but I suspect that the super strict nature of pulling required by USAWA impacted how much he could lift; he missed his first two tries at 95 pounds on technicalities. But he kept his spirits high, supinated his grip, and gave the chin-up all he had. He missed his first attempt with 90 pounds, got it on his second, and had just enough energy left to declare, “I’m smoked. I’m done.”

RJ tasked her co-meet director Jarrod with judging her lifts. Of the five lifts she chose, the one she was most psyched about was the deadlift—index-finger. An aspect of concern to her were the types of injuries seen in this lift, “I was worried about the potential of snapping a tendon or ligament in my finger,” she explained. A few years back she set the USAWA record in that lift to establish a high standard. Then she dug deep in to training science, finger anatomy and physiology, and developed a training approach that allowed her to increase her record by 25 pounds; “I’m just amazed at how much strength I was able to gain with just those two fingers,” she told Jarrod.

Another lift RJ was excited about was the dumbbell-to-shoulder. Al Myers wrote a recent blog entry about it, unfortunately only one female—and a 13-year old at that—has met this challenge. So RJ thought it time to test herself and she smoked 75 pounds on her first attempt. To my dismay she decided to leave it at that. I really would’ve enjoyed seeing her throw around 100+ pounds. Next time, right?!

As to me, I was fortunate in being able to rotate between RJ and Jarrod for judging. Since I rely exclusively on the latest scientific developments in training and competition, I enjoy a decided advantage over those who prefer myth and conjecture. And so I seek out challenges beyond other competitors or the record book. For this Record Day I decided to see if I could devise a science-based training regimen that would allow me to break the Open deadlift—index-finger and middle-finger records in the same meet and in so doing also exceed the Open IAWA records, all while remaining injury free. I was successful on both counts with my index-finger but failed within inches of lockout to unofficially break the world record with my middle-fingers.

But that Al Myers and his darn blogs….Well into my training for the finger-deadlift-challenge I read Al’s blog entry on the Kennedy Lift. This lift I had never done and so I reasoned that it would constitute a great personal challenge to crank out some big weight with only three weeks of training left. To meet the challenge of putting resistance training research to the test I had to figure out how to most effectively manipulate all training variables so that in a short period of time I could lift a maximal amountof weight while, again, remaining injury free—this latter point has become most important to me over the 30+ years I’ve been competing in various strength sports. Principles of physiology dictate that I needed to focus primarily on having my nervous system learn the new movement; strength development had to be secondary. To do so with maximum effect I trained the Kennedy eight times in three weeks and manipulated all remaining training variables in very specific ways. Very quickly, however, I realized that I just might have challenged myself beyond what’s reasonable…

Dan almost made 331 pounds with his middle fingers! He had it close to lockout when his fingers gave way!

Dan almost made 331 pounds with his middle fingers! He had it close to lockout when his fingers gave way!

Due to the high frequency of training the Kennedy it invariably fell a few times on the same day as my finger deadlift work. Since I trained the finger deadlifts first, the result was drastically reduced grip strength for the Kennedy. But based on the many biomechanics studies focused on grip strength and training studies about maximizing gains in the type of muscle contraction unique to the vast majority of grip-strength tests, I wasn’t deterred; I knew the approach would generate supercompensation. In addition, to aid in grip strength recovery between finger deadlifts and the Kennedy I decided to throw in the press-dumbbell as an “intermission” for my main challenges.

Upon warming up for the Kennedy it became apparent that I had made tremendous gains in strength; my opener and second attempt were smoke. So I decided to give 766 a ride to break Al’s (yes, THAT Al) all-time record. But what good are strong legs, a strong back, and perfect technique if you can’t hold on to the bar? Despite the awesome gains made, grip strength remained the weak link in the Kennedy chain. Nevertheless—Hail Science!

Meet Results:

Iron Warrior Record Day
Iron Warrior Gym
Denver, Colorado
Sunday, August 27th, 2017

Meet Directors: RJ Jackson & Jarrod Fobes

Lifts: Record Day

RJ Jackson – 1 Official Jarrod Fobes
Daryl Jackson – 1 Official RJ Jackson
Dan Wagman – 2 Officials Jarrod Fobes & RJ Jackson

RJ Jackson – F, 55 years old, 105.8 lbs. BWT
Dumbbell to Shoulder: 75 lbs.
Seated Press, from Rack: 70 lbs.
Side Press – Dumbbell, Right: 40 lbs.
Deadlift – Index Fingers: 105 lbs.
Side Press – Dumbbell, Left: 35 lbs.

Daryl Jackson – M, 27 years old, 152 lbs. BWT
Pull Up: 95 lbs.
Chin Up: 90 lbs.

Dan Wagman – M, Open Class, 182.6 lbs. BWT
Deadlift – Index Fingers: 216 lbs.
Deadlift – Middle Fingers: 316 lbs.
Press – Dumbbell, Left: 101 lbs.
Press – Dumbbell, Right: 101 lbs.
Kennedy Lift: 726 lbs.