The Bully

by Thom Van Vleck

I recently read a story about an author who tracked down a kid that had been a bully to him in his youth.  He talked about how his father had died and he was placed in a private boarding school.  His one connection to his father was a wrist watch that he carried around and he talked about how the watch “transported” him back to a happier time….until the bully took it from him and threw it out a window!  The story tracked how this bully impacted the author’s life and then his mission to find this bully again.  The story took a familiar turn from one of revenge to one of looking at how his reaction to the bully made him stronger.

I have a “bully” story.  I imagine most of us do.  Considering my size now you might think that I was a big kid.  I was not.  I was actually one of the smallest boys in grade school.   Tommy (aka Shorty) was the only one smaller among my small, rural school that had less than 20 in my class.  I was shy, I was very sensitive, and let’s be honest…..a big bullseye for a bully.  From around the 2nd grade to the 6th grade Bryan was my bully and he made my life hell.  All the usual stories but one sets it up quite well.

We were on the play ground in the 3rd grade.  My Dad’s advice was to stand up to him.  He said bully’s were usually cowards and if you stood up to them they would respect you and back down.  So I tried it.  I got beat up and to make matters worse the teacher made the bully stand up in front of the class and apologize to me.  It was right out of a movie, but as he offered his most sincere apology and the teacher turned around he looked right at me and smashed his fist in his hand and mouthed the word, “LATER”.   Later was on the bus…..I lost count how many times I got punched.

In the 6th grade he recruited me to join his minions.  My initiation was to punch a girl in the back of the head.  I was at an important decision point in my life.  Become like him and join him or hold true to my own beliefs and stand up to him.  I refused and while I’d like to tell you that I beat him up on the spot and lived happily ever after that’s not what happened.  He beat me up….again….and again I went home crying.  He was simply physically superior to me.

Like a lot of kids I turned to weight lifting.  I have to admit, one of my primary motivators was to some day look up Ol’ Bryan and give him a taste of his own medicine.  We moved just far enough south I changed schools and while the two schools were very close this meant I didn’t have to deal with Bryan much.  Soon I graduated and went in the Marines.  Genetics and hard work kicked in and I was soon pretty big…and I like to think I got pretty strong!  Bryan became a memory.

So, about a decade goes by and I was at a bar in town watching football with a couple of friends.  One was my buddy Jay who also attended both schools.  I brought up Bryan the Bully and told him about how I motivated myself to lift weights with the thought of punching Bryan right on the nose.   To my surprise Jay said, “Well, here’s your chance, he’s sitting right over there!”.  I looked over and there was this guy who had once physically been several inches taller and 20 or 30 lbs heavier….now was about 5’7″ and maybe 165lbs.  At that time I was 6’3″ and well over 300lbs.

Jay did not like Brian and wanted to have a little fun.   I have to admit I was thinking about having a little fun myself.  After all, revenge is a dish best served cold.  Jay walked up and began talking.  He and Bryan had went to high school together whereas I don’t think Bryan saw me much after the 6th grade.  My full beard and long hair I’m sure added to the change.  The tables had turned!

Jay began to remind Bryan of who I was, in a teasing way….giving him hints until he figured it out.  When he realized who I was his eyes got really big and that’s when Jay dropped the punch line.  “You know, Bryan, that Thom told me he started lifting weights so that some day he could look you up and beat the holy living sh!t out of you!”.  Well, the look on his face was priceless and worth it.  But the reality is I’m not a bully.

It was at that bar I found out that Bryan’s father was an alcoholic and abused him.  His father also got caught up in a check kiting scheme and lost everything including the family farm.  Bryan was the classic bully.  He was in pain but took his pain out on others.

I actually owed Bryan a bit of a thanks.  You see, he motivated me.  I know for a fact that there many times in my youth I would think goofing off was a better option than lifting weights but I wanted to be ready for the next bully.  So I lifted.  I did a lot of heavy bag and speed bag work as a teen as the gym was also set up for boxing.  Many times Bryan’s face was on that bag!

We all have negative things happen to us.  Everyone will be bullied at some point.  But to me, the real question is are you going to allow yourself to be bullied.  Some things can’t be helped but the biggest mistake one can make is when they allow what can be helped to be taken out of their hands.  Now when I think of the word bully the first thing that comes to my mind is Teddy Roosevelt.  BULLY FOR YOU!

Colorado RB

Dan Wagman is back in action, performing a USAWA record lift in the Wrist Curl! (photo courtesy Dan Wagman)

By Dan Wagman, PhD, CSCS

MEET REPORT:  2014 Colorado Record Breaker

On December 27, 2014 four lifters got together at Denver Martial Arts (DMA) for record-breaking attempts in varied types of all-round lifts. Jarrod Fobes, our meet director, trains and teaches martial arts at DMA and they have a weight room in the basement that’s equipped with the essentials, so I had to bring some of my all-round toys. Prior to commencing the Record Breaker, Ruth Jackson and I “warmed up” via maximal efforts in the Postal National lifts. Although the results of all lifters across the country competing in this Postal event will be posted soon, I’m happy to report that Ruth’s pullover and push broke the USAWA record by a large margin, as did my deadlift-dumbbell-one arm-left.

I suppose I was the one to start the Record Breaker festivities because immediately after pulling the deadlift-dumbbell-one arm-left for the Postal I pulled the same weight with my right arm, thus registering the first Record Breaker lift of the day. After Ruth completed her Postal lifts she transitioned smoothly into her Record Breaker attempts while meet director Jarrod Fobes and new USAWA member Marcus Lucero were going through the record book in an effort to determine which lifts to choose for record attempts.

Ruth seems to have never-ending passion for lifting weights and putting scientific training to the test on the platform. Besides the three Postal lifts, she broke records in 17 additional lifts. Although women-specific research into an athlete’s muscles does account for why a woman could do so many maximal attempts more easily than a man, I’m amazed that she has the psychological wherewithal to do so. After the meet Ruth explained that she was most proud of her finger and grip lifts. She recalled that it was exactly two years ago that she first met Jarrod when he put on a Record Breaker. At the current event she was able to increase her strength in the little finger lift by nearly 20 pounds, in the ring finger lift by 12 pounds, and in the middle finger lift by 34 pounds. She was also stoked about taking her dealift-no thumbs-overhand from 155 pounds to 175 pounds.

Ruth is a perfect example of how shedding old training fiction from one’s programming and replacing it with new science-based information can result in unparalleled and continuous gains, but there can also be a dark side to doing so. You see, I had employed one of the latest science-based training methods referred to as Intra-Set Rest or simply ISR.* In addition, since there was no need to travel the day prior to the meet I was able to train most of my competitive lifts heavily the day prior. As a result I ended up severely underestimating my strength in most of my lifts. To illustrate, my deadlift-dumbbell-one arm ended up being 35 pounds over what I had thought I could do. In the deadlift-middle finger I had projected a training gain of about 10 to 15 pounds over the record I set a year ago but ended up turning an almost 40-pound increase into repping weight and running out of attempts. The situation was similar with almost all other lifts. Bear in mind that in general terms, these training approaches take the knowledge exercise scientists have acquired about neuromuscular physiology to provide you with something akin to a rubber band effect in which your gains slingshot ahead (in science lingo referred to as supercompensation, a term often misapplied and misunderstood when training for it). The dark side of this, however, is that it’s difficult to know exactly by how many pounds your performance will slingshot ahead on competition day. That, however, is a downside I can live with. Heil science!

Jarrod’s passion for martial arts is undeniable and it has resulted in a world championship win. But he’s one of those guys who understands to what extent lifting weights can enhance his performance on the mat. And when he approaches the weights, he does so as if all Norse warrior gods are behind him. Sadly, a back injury has prevented him from training to the extent that he’s used to and thus he tried to keep his record attempts to only four lifts. Despite his lack of training, his Turkish get up with a barbell was smooth and solid and it seemed as though he derived the most pleasure out of quickly getting a feel for Thor’s hammer, a lift he’s never done before. His 40.5-pound attempt shows that with more practice he’s going to turn that lift into “Jarrod’s Mjölnir.”**

Showing up out of the blue was Marcus Lucero. Initially, as Ruth and I started with our Postal lifts, I got the impression that he was one of the martial arts guys who just got done training upstairs and wanted to see what all the yelling, grunting, and groaning—mainly by Ruth—was all about. Turns out, however, that he’s been an avid reader of old-time strongmen and one book/article made reference to USAWA, he learned about the Colorado Record Breaker, and decided to head down to Denver from northern Colorado to see what all-round is all about. Jarrod was very welcoming and gave Marcus a quick primer on the basics, then they both started to sift through the record and rule books. Marcus was, in my estimation, a bit overwhelmed by all of the possibilities in all-round. As he seemed to contemplate his approach he was helpful in loading the bars for us and decided that the dumbbell side press would be his first lift. Unfortunately he got out of the grove in his first attempt at 84 pounds. Yet after some rest he came back and smoked it. His dumbbell Turkish get up was so smooth, you’d think that’s the way he gets out of bed every morning. He revealed to us that he’s had some practice through wrestling in a similar movement. He then decided to join Jarrod in tossing Thor’s hammer, but although he was able to register a USAWA record, the requisite coordination and balancing strength in his wrist proved a real challenge. Although he’s a much quieter and reserved lifter than Jarrod and I, he seemed to have enjoyed the challenge and I hope to see him in many more USAWA meets.

I’d like to thank the owners of DMA for allowing us to lift in clouds of chalk and Jarrod for putting on another Record Breaker. And the fact that Ruth and Jarrod also judged is much appreciated. Till next time…

*Disclaimer: Implementing ISR is a complicated process in which you need to manipulate all training variables based on physiological adaptation patterns specific to your goals. Without doing so you’ll end up like the guy who wants a faster truck, throws in a 600 hp engine, and wonders why he keeps snapping axles and his driveline, and why his stock tranni ends up on the asphalt behind him. Thus, simply “doing ISR” will prove ineffective on one end of the spectrum and injurious on the other.

** Mjölnir is the name Thor gave his hammer.

MEET RESULTS:

Colorado Record Breaker
Denver, Colorado
December 27th, 2014

Meet Director:  Jarrod Fobes

Officials (1 official system used); Jarrod Fobes, Ruth Jackson

Lifts: Record Day Session

Ruth Jackson – 53 years old, 106 KG BWT
Bench Press – Reverse Grip: 100#
Deadlift – No Thumbs, Overhand Grip: 175#
Curl – Wrist: 115#
Deadlift – Dumbbell, Left Hand: 170#
Press – Dumbbell, Left Hand: 40#
Clean and Press – Fulton Bar: 73#
Clean and Push Press – Fulton Bar: 83#
Thor’s Hammer: 20.5#
Finger Lift – Little, Left: 28.8#
Finger Lift – Little, Right: 33.8#
Finger Lift – Ring, Left: 48.8#
Finger Lift – Ring, Right: 48.8#
Finger Lift – Middle, Left: 68.8#
Finger Lift – Middle, Right: 78.8#
Pinch Grip – Left Hand: 50.4#
Pinch Grip – Right Hand: 55.4#
Teeth Lift: 52.8#

Jarrod Fobes – 37 years old, 197# BWT
Bench Press – Left Arm: 95#
Turkish Get Up: 96#
Abdominal Raise: 45#
Thor’s Hammer: 40.5#

Dan Wagman – Open Age Class, 185# BWT
Deadlift – Middle Fingers: 275#
Deadlift – No Thumbs, Overhand Grip: 345#
Bentover Row: 320#
Deadlift – Dumbbell, Right Arm: 350#
Curl – Wrist: 275#

Markus Lucero – 23 years old, 170# BWT
Side Press – Right: 84#
Thor’s Hammer: 35.5#
Turkish Get Up: 119#

Art’s Birthday Bash

by Al Myers

2015 is barely underway and in the mail today I received a sanction request from Art Montini announcing his 2015 Annual Birthday Bash! Art’s Birthday Bash is the longest running sanctioned event in the USAWA (besides our Nationals). Last year Art celebrated his 87th birthday and he’s already in training for year number 88. He likes to celebrate his birthday every year by hosting a record day in conjunction with it! So come prepared to break a few records and share a little birthday cake with Art (or donuts, as we all know Art likes his donuts!).

I should mention that this meet is still over 10 months away!! That’s giving some advance notice. There are those in the organization who should “take note” of Art’s punctuality in getting his sanction request in this early, and realize that if someone ”pushing 90″ doesn’t have a problem meeting the ”6 week notice” you  sure don’t have an excuse.

MEET DETAILS:

Art’s Birthday Bash
Ambridge VFW BBC
1098 Duss Avenue
Ambridge, PA 15003

DATE: Sunday, October 18th, 2015

LIFTS: Record Day (max 5 lifts)

A New Year!

by Thom Van Vleck

I know it’s kind of a thing that most of us who lift regularly get fed up with the New Years resolution bunch crowding into the gym and bugging us for training advice that they’ll never use.  At least that’s my perspective but let’s look at this positively.

First of all, when is the best time to be in the gym?  WINTER.  I am mainly a highland games thrower which means as soon as it’s nice out until it’s too cold and snowy I’m out throwing every chance I get.  But even when I was a regular lifter winter was a great time to be in the gym.  It was too dark outside by the time I got off work to do much so why not retreat to the gym.  I generally come out of the busy holidays having traveled, went to a dozen or so parties (most for work or I wouldn’t go!) and find myself in January with a lot of time on my hands.  GYM TIME!

Second, when the New Year’s warriors come seeking advice or crowding the gym I look at it as an opportunity AND a compliment.  It’s a chance to have a positive impact on others and reach out to that one in a thousand that will actually take off with it.  I recall a 15 year old kid coming to the gym.  He had to keep all his clothes on, his wallet and keys in his pocket, to break 100lbs.  He bugged the crap out of me for advice.  More of it was seeking affirmation and motivation than actually lifting advice.  I remember being annoyed as can be….but I did it.  And many years later he made the cover of Powerlifting USA and sent me an autographed copy thanking me for my help.  He pulled more than quadruple bodyweight at 160lbs in the deadlift.  Now I take it as my duty to help others and a compliment they would think I could even help them.

Last, It’s just a great time for a new start.  I have notice in my life time that I have set 100’s of goals, probably more like 1000’s of goals.  And I’ve made very few of them.  My Uncle Phil used to tell me that it’s better to set goals that are almost unreachable because when you set them too low we tend to quit trying when we reach them.  I hear people complaining that they get tired of hearing about all these “New Year’s resolutions” that nobody will keep.  Well, out of a 100, even if just ONE makes that goal then I say keep at it.  Otherwise, what do you say, roll over and quit!

So, as this New Year begins I look forward to the new faces, the questions, and that one guy….that will make the cover of PL USA someday!

Merry Christmas from the JWC!

by Thom Van Vleck

Me driving my Ol' Truck in the Christmas parade pulling our float.

Recently the Jackson Weightlifting Club had a float in the Kirksville Kiwanis Christmas Parade.  The take collections for warm hats, gloves, and scarves for the needy and we added to their collection. We decorated up the truck and trailer and my kids got about a dozen friends to walk in the parade, hand out candy, and ride on the trailer that was covered in lights and loaded with boxes wrapped to look like presents.  Sure, the “presents” were really my boxes used for weight training but it looked good!

My lovely wife rode on the trailer. She has been my personal Christmas present that I've gotten to wake up to every year for nearly 3 decades!

What you can’t see is my two oldest were carrying a JWC banner to lead our group and all the kids handing out candy along the side.  A bonus was it was Ethan Van Vleck’s birthday so we all went out for a birthday dinner afterwards.

We are a small town but I'd guess about 500 folks were out for the parade! And Santa was even there....though he looks suspiciously familiar...like someone I know.

The Jackson Weightlifting Club has been a part of my family’s life for over 75 years and 4 generations.  What you see is the 5th generation.  The JWC is much more than just lifting weights.  So, from the JWC family to your family….Merry CHRISTmas and a happy 2015!  As my Grandpa Dalton Jackson, the founder of the club would ALWAYS say, “The best is yet to come”!   Amen!

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