Quiz of the Week

by Al Myers

Name this USAWA Lift and who it is named after. Also, name the USAWA lifter that has lifted the most weight in this lift in an USAWA event.

Step 1 - Lift the bar behind the back

Step 2 - Roll the bar up the back onto the shoulders

Step 3 - Perform a behind the neck jerk

Winner receives an USAWA patch

Rules: First correct answer to webmaster wins, and only one answer may be given per day.

Congratulations to Chad Ullom of Topeka, Kansas for correctly identifying this lift as the Arthur Lift, named after the great old-time German strongman Arthur Saxon (and demonstrated by him in these photos). This lift requires great shoulder flexibility. The bar starts on the platform behind the lifter, and is raised behind the back until the bar is positioned above the hips (or above the belt). At this point, the lifter bends forward, and in a series of steps rolls the bar up the back until it is fixed across the shoulders. The hands are allowed to come free of the bar during this. The lifter then stands and performs a behind the neck jerk, at which time the lift is completed. Saxon is reported to have done 386 pounds in this lift, as it was witnessed by Warren Lincoln Travis. This lift was introduced to the USAWA by Art Montini – so in a way it is named after two Arthurs. The top weight ever lifted in the Arthur Lift in the USAWA was done by Chad Ullom, who lifted 297 pounds at the 2007 National Championships.

Chad Ullom performing the Arthur Lift at the 2007 National Championships

Lifter Interview – Tom Ryan

by Al Myers

Tom Ryan performing a Hip Lift.

Al: where do you currently live and what do you do for a living?

Tom: I live in Acworth, Georgia (outside Atlanta) and have lived in Georgia most of my life, being a native Atlantan. I was a college professor for decades and now teach online courses for statistics.com. I have also done some course development work for them and do occasional consulting through them. I have written four statistics books (600-page books) for my New York area publisher and expect to finish my fifth book by the end of the year. I have also done a considerable amount of additional writing, including some sports writing, such as six articles on basketball statistics within the past few years for betterbasketball.com. I enjoy doing various types of writing and a few weeks ago wrote a guest column on teaching quantitative courses that was in the Atlanta paper on May 20th. The American Statistical Association, which elected me a Fellow in 2000 (I’ve been a member since 1972), somehow found out about that article and have linked the article at their website.

Al: When did you first start weightlifting and how did you get started?

Tom: I started lifting weights in December, 1958, at the age of 13. I would have made an ideal “before” picture for a bodybuilding course ad as I was 5-7 and weighed only 107 pounds. I was all skin and bones and my father even called me “Bones”. I believe I pressed 40 pounds for 8 reps in my first workout. I was in the 8th grade at the time and there were two kids in my physical education class who couldn’t climb the rope in the gym and touch the ceiling. I was one of the two. Then I started lifting weights and did succeed (to the cheers of my fellow students), even after almost dying from whooping cough and missing a few weeks of school.

I went from “bones” to almost the other extreme, eventually reaching 305 pounds, with my highest competitive bodyweight being 296 at two contests. I did not compete when I was in my prime, as I wanted to wait until I was a national caliber lifter before I entered competition. By my mid-30s, however, I realized that was never going to happen, and that was a depressing realization because I trained very hard. Then my life changed when I wrote to Murray Levin, who ran U.S. Olympic lifting at the time, in 1981 and offered to help in any way that I could. Murray sent my letter to Bill Clark, who immediately wrote to me. Bill had a paragraph about me in his Master’s newsletter in 1982, even though I was only 36 at the time and Master’s lifting then started at age 40. Bill also sent me his Missouri Valley newsletter. This was well before the days of the USAWA but Bill had introduced me to a new world and I now had something to train for.

Tom Ryan performing the Reeves Deadlift.

Al: Was there any one person who introduced you to lifting?

Tom: No one got me started. It was pure self-motivation, being motivated by my lack of strength and muscles. As I aged and started becoming stronger, with a 289 clean and jerk in training at the age of 19, I idolized Tony Garcy, five-time national Olympic lifting champion, and followed his career very closely. I eventually met Tony at the 1966 Senior Nationals and spoke with him briefly then. Several months ago I sent him a sympathy card after the death of one of his sons and received a nice card and note from he and his wife in reply. I was also motivated by Paul Anderson, whom I met in 1972 and corresponded with during the early 1970s, as well as the late 1980s.

Al: When did you first get involved with the all-rounds? Didn’t you compete in one of the very first World Meets?

Tom: I am one of the charter members of the USAWA, as indicated by the list on page 23 of the 5/17/09 edition of the Strength Journal. I competed in my first Zercher Meet in 1987, about the time that plans to start the USAWA were being formalized, so I just naturally became a member of the USAWA. Yes, I competed in the World Meet in Plymouth Meeting, PA in 1989. I suffered a tricep injury during the Pullover and Push event that took a very long time to fully heal.

Al: What have been your favorite lifts?

Tom: Over the years my favorite lifts have been the ones that I can do, quite frankly, and that list shrinks as I age! LOL When I was much younger, I enjoyed pressing and tried different types of pressing. My best pressing performance in USAWA competition occurred at the 1989 Zercher Meet when I did a heels together military press with 200 and then pressed 210 on my last attempt but lost my balance and had to take two steps backward. Later that year I thought I had pressed 209 at the World Meet, but I expected the weight to be heavier than it was and put a bit too much body into the lift, resulting in two red lights for backbend.

Probably my lifetime best pressing, considering form, was done in training one day in 1977 when I did a wide-grip military press with 229 for 4 reps. My heels weren’t together but those were strict presses with no lower body movement at all. That was one of those magic moments when I was really “on” and knew that would never happen again. And it didn’t!

During the late 1980s and early 1990s I made some reasonable one-hand deadlifts in USAWA contests, ranging from 330 to my PR of 345. My back started “complaining” about any type of deadlift with very much weight as I moved through my 50s, so I became somewhat of a one-arm thumbless deadlift specialist, doing over 200 officially. This is the type of lift that allows grip specialists like Ben Edwards to excel. In my case, I think it is a matter of technique because my hand strength is rather ordinary. I also found that I was reasonably good at the rectangular fix, at least for my age, as I made 95 pounds at the age of 61.

Al: I know one of your interests has been the history of weightlifting. Who are some of your favorite old time strongmen?

Tom: There are people who know more about the history of weightlifting and oldetime strongmen than I do, but yes, I have been interested in these subjects for decades and began work on a book on historical strength figures in the late 1980s. I mentioned Tony Garcy previously but I would rather not think of him as “oldetime” since he is only 6 years older than me. LOL. Rather, if we think of strongmen who performed in the general vicinity of 1900, there were certain performances that I wish I could have seen. In particular, one evening in 1889 Apollon (Louis Uni) did not know that the iron bars on a gate that was part of his stage performance had been tempered by a blacksmith, who was bribed by a prankster. Unaware of this, Apollon and his massive forearms struggled to bend the bars, while his wife prodded him , assuming that he was just being lazy. Finally Apollon was able to bend the bars enough for him to slide through them, but he was totally exhausted and explained to the audience that he was unable to continue his performance. David Willoughby believed that this may have been Apollon’s greatest strength feat.

I wish I could have also seen the bent presses of Arthur Saxon. It is hard for me to believe that a man weighing only about 204 pounds could bent press close to 400. (He is credited with 370 but reportedly did 386 unofficially and supposedly attempted 409 but the weights started falling off the bar.) Bent pressing was popular in the 1940s, especially in the New York area, and although Al Beinert bent pressed 360 in the mid-1900s weighing almost 60 pounds more than Saxon, nobody has approached Saxon’s record.

It would also have been fun to meet some of the leading strongmen of centuries ago, like Thomas Topham and Giovanni Belzoni, not to mention the enigmatic giant, Angus McAskill.

Al: Do you have any special memories of any all-round weightlifting meets?

Tom: Well, I would like to forget the injuries that I sustained! LOL Yes, I certainly have fond memories of people with varied backgrounds and professions and from different parts of the country and world getting together for fun and competition. There were personal duels I had with Bill Clark at Zercher Meets, with him insisting that we compete straight up, despite our differences in age and bodyweight. It was fun seeing Steve Schmidt do harness lifts with well over 3,000 pounds, far in excess of what the rest of us did, and more recently to see his feats, either in person or on film, with bar bending and teeth lifting and pulling very heavy vehicles, as well as record-breaking repetition back lifting. Although I didn’t witness it, Joe Garcia’s hand and thigh lift with 1,910 is a tremendous accomplishment, the highest lift on record. Since I go back a long way, there were some competitions in which I saw Ed Zercher do some exhibition leg pressing when he was 80 or so. Yes, I have many fond memories.

Al: What do you think the future of the USAWA will be?

Tom: Over the years, Bill Clark had hoped that the USAWA could attract some of the strength stars of the past, but that hasn’t happened. Jim Bradford, who is now 80 and was a silver medalist in the 1952 and 1960 Olympics, has been an ardent follower, but I don’t recall him competing in any USAWA contest. There are so many official lifts that virtually everyone, regardless of physical condition, will be able to find some lifts that they can do. I would like to see more people compete, both young and old, but our numbers are dwindling, not increasing. Hopefully your considerable and praiseworthy efforts with this website, Al, will increase interest in the USAWA. We can only hope.

Al: Thank you, Tom, for participating in this interview.

Quiz of the Week

by Al Myers

In the USAWA, lifts done for repetitions may be contested in competition and for records. The ultimate record for repetitions is the TOTAL POUNDAGE, where the lifter may choose any lift and rep/set scheme, to lift the most weight within a given time frame.  The standard for this record was initially set by the great Warren Lincoln Travis in 1927 when he Back Lifted 5.5 million pounds in 3 hours, 9 minutes. This was done by doing 5500 reps with 1000 pounds.

Name the TWO USAWA LIFTERS who have exceeded this, along with their TOTAL POUNDAGE.

Steve Schmidt setting the all-time record for TOTAL POUNDAGE on December 14th, 2002

Congratulations to the Winner of this week’s quiz –  Tom Ryan of Acworth, Georgia – who correctly identified the two USAWA lifters as Steve Schmidt and Howard Prechtel. Tom had an advantage in this quiz, as he was a witness and assisted in the counting of repetitions during Steve Schmidt’s record. Howard Prechtel initially broke Travis’s record in 1982 by Back Lifting 6,066,060 pounds in 3 hours, 9 minutes. It was accomplished by doing 5460 reps with 1111 pounds. This was then upped by Steve Schmidt, on December 14th, 2002 at Clark’s Gym, in which he lifted 8,087,095 pounds in 2 hours 50 minutes. Steve was 48 years old at the time and weighed only 209 pounds. He accomplished this by lifting 1,115 pounds a total of 7253 times, using the Back Lift. Bill Clark was the official judge and counter of this Herculean effort. I was fortunate to also have witnessed this event and can attest to the stamina Steve exhibited in accomplishing this feat.  He was performing 45 reps per minute, which gave him only about 30 seconds rest per minute.  He maintained this pace for two hours!!!!  Steve broke Howard’s record in 1 hour, 57 minutes.   The conditioning required for something like this must be much the same as that of a marathon runner. I was amazed how quickly Steve recovered following this endurance record, as he did not seem out of breath at all afterwards and even joined in with us on some other record lifts.  Will this TOTAL POUNDAGE record be broken in the next 100 years?   Only time will tell…..

Habecker Is Awarded the Kelly Cup

by Al Myers

Denny Habecker is awarded the Kelly Cup.

USAWA President Denny Habecker of Lebanon Pennsylvania recently was awarded the very prestigious Kelly Cup. The Kelly Cup is the highest award given to an amateur athlete for participation in the Keystone State Summer Games in Pennsylvania. Denny was honored this past month by a special ceremony at the State Capital in Harrisburg. The late Jack Kelly was from Philidelphia and was an Olympic medalist in rowing, along with serving as President of the US Olympic Committee. This award is given to an athlete who excels in their sport in the Keystone State Games and provides a positive role model in their community. This definitely describes Denny Habecker. Denny has been involved in weightlifting for over 40 years and has participated in 23 Keystone State Games. Overall he has won 16 gold medals in weightlifting throughout his years of competing in the games. In 2008, Denny competed in the games less than 6 months following hip replacement surgery!!! Denny has been part of the leadership team for the weightlifting event, and often provides equipment for the competition. In 2008, he was also named Outstanding Athlete in Weightlifting at the games. Denny’s attitude, leadership and sportsmanship sets the standard that all athletes should aspire for.

Heavy Lift Championships

by Al Myers

Group Picture - front row left to right Al Myers, Denny Habecker, Chad Ullom back row left to right Scott Schmidt, Dale Friesz, Art Montini

Denny Habecker hosted the 2009 Heavy Lift Championships on May 16th, 2009. Only six lifters participated, but the field was full of experienced lifters. The meet was decided by my last Hip Lift, which I had to make to edge out my good friend and training partner Chad Ullom. With his encouragement, I was able to make the lift!!! However, the win was offset with a loss. I have always struggled with the Neck Lift, and I would just watch in amazement as the “Miracle Man” Dale Friesz and the “Man of Steel” Art Montini Neck Lift. They lift weights in the Neck Lift that a normal person would think impossible considering their ages and bodyweights. Once finished with the Neck Lift, and with a pain in my neck, I made the statement, “If anyone could show me how to lift 500 pounds in this lift, I will buy everyone steak dinners afterwards!!!” Well, the two of them started giving me tips and “the secret” and before I knew it I Neck Lifted 500 pounds easily, and I now feel 600 is a real possibility. I try to be a man of my word, so supper afterwards was on me!! But it was a loss I didn’t mind!!!Scott Schmidt showed everyone how much determination he has. He missed his opener in the Hip Lift – everytime with balance issues. However, even when he was out of attempts, he took an extra attempt and got it to set a new age group Hip Lift Record!!!! The Heavy Lifts are fickle, and the slightest change in body position can make several hundred pounds difference. I know Scott wasn’t totally satisfied, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the next time he Hip Lifts he goes over 2000#!!! We even had a surprise guest. Toward the end of the meet, in walks “The Living Legend” John Vernacchio. John was a fierce competitor in the earlier USAWA days, and was responsible for promoting some of the biggest meets ever in the USAWA. I really enjoyed getting to visit with him. After the meet, Judy Habecker prepared the best post-meet meal I have ever had. Denny and Judy are very gracious hosts and they did everything possible to make this day a special event for everyone.

FULL MEET RESULTS:

2009 USAWA Heavy Lift Championships

May 16th, 2009
Habecker’s Garage

Meet Director:  Denny Habecker

Scorekeeper: Judy Habecker
Loader:  Alan Schmidt and all lifters

Officials:  Three Officials used on all lifts – Denny Habecker, Art Montini, Dale Friesz, Al Myers, Chad Ullom, Scott Schmidt

Lifts:  Neck Lift, Hand and Thigh, Hip Lift

Lifter
Age
BW
Neck
H&T
Hip
Total
Points
Al Myers
42
254
405
1204
1845
3454.0
2800.6
Chad Ullom
37
230
501.8
1204
1603
3308.8
2740.0
Dale Friesz
68
178
405
405
1000
1810.0
2231.0
Art Montini
81
182
309.5
405
895
1609.5
2155.4
Denny Habecker
66
189
276.5
593
895
1764.5
2067.0
Scott Schmidt
56
266
249
1004
0
1253.0
1127.6


BW (Bodyweight) in pounds.  All lifts in pounds. Points are weight and age adjusted.

Record attempts:  Scott Schmidt 1581# in Hip Lift

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