Let’s Review: The Kennedy Lift

by Thom Van Vleck

Al Myers doing a Kennedy Lift.

Al Myers doing a Kennedy Lift.

With the Old Time Strongman Championships coming up September 9th at ET’s House of Iron and Stone I thought it might be a good time to review the lifts.  Eric Todd picked 4 lifts from the OTSM list.  Today let’s revisit one of those, the Kennedy Lift. First of all Al Myers did a great article on it’s history.  Here’s a link to it: Kennedy Lift

So the rules are as follows:

H9. Kennedy Lift

This is a partial lift using a straddle stance on the bar, where the bar height must not be over 18” from the platform (measured to the bottom of the bar). The plates or bar may be supported on stands, rack supports, or blocks to obtain this height. The lifter must have the bar between the legs, as defined by the rules of the Jefferson Lift. Lifting straps or any other gripping aid is not allowed. It is NOT an infraction to drag the bar up the legs, bounce the bar up the legs, or support the bar on the legs during the lift (hitching). A one minute time limit is allowed for the lifter to make a legal lift, during which time a lifter may make multiple tries. Once the lifter is totally upright and the bar motionless, an official will give the command to end the lift.

Al sums this lift up nicely when he said, “I envision the technique to be very similar to how most lift the Dinnie Stones, using a straddle style.”  The lift is very much a “Continental” version of a partial Jefferson (or Straddle) deadlift.  In that it can be bounced, drug, up or “hitched”

If you want to see the current records here is a list:

AGE M/F CLASS RECORD LIFTER
14 M 80 500 Kressly, Logan
45 M 110 750 Myers, Al
45 M 125+ 500 Foster, Lance
50 M 125+ 365 Foster, Lance
55 M 70 405 Freides, Steve
60 M 80 325 Santangelo, Stephen
60 M 95 675 Traub, Larry
60 M 100 315 Garcia, Joe
60 M 129 525 Glasgow, Dave
65 M 80 405 McKean, John
70 M 90 225 Habecker, Denny
70 M 125 400 Ross, Dean
80 M 80 225 Durante, Richard
80 M 105 315 Clark, Bill
ALL M 70 405 Freides, Steve
ALL M 80 500 Kressly, Logan
ALL M 90 225 Habecker, Denny
ALL M 95 675 Traub, Larry
ALL M 100 315 Garcia, Joe
ALL M 105 315 Clark, Bill
ALL M 110 750 Myers, Al
ALL M 120 525 Glasgow, Dave
ALL M 125 400 Ross, Dean
ALL M 125+ 550 Kressly, Doug

As you can see this is a great opportunity to be added to the record list.  I hope to see you there!

HOF BIO – BILL CLARK

By Al Myers

(Webmasters Note: Over the next month I will be running a series of biography blogs covering all past USAWA Hall of Fame members.  These bios will be added to the history section, under Hall of Fame.)

HALL OF FAME BIOGRAPHY

Bill Clark – CLASS OF 1999

BillClarkHOF1

Bill Clark

William Merle Clark was born in Clinton, Missouri on August 18th, 1932.  He graduated from Clinton High School in 1949, and then spent three years in the U.S. Army (1951-1954), including a year in Korea.  Bill graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism in 1958, and worked briefly on the sports desk of the Lexington Kentucky Leader.  He returned to Columbia Missouri in 1958, where he has lived since.  Bill married Dolores Denny on August 11th, 1955 and they have five children and five grandchildren. He was a full-time major league baseball scout for 36 years (1968-2003).  He retired from baseball at the end of the 2003 season and has been a columnist for the Columbia Daily Tribune since March of 2004.  Bill has written for numerous baseball publications through the years and even worked as a sports reporter in the baseball off-season.  He has officiated over 20 sports from the junior high school level to the international level from 1949 until today.  He wrote the original Powerlifting and All-Round Weightlifting rule books and is currently writing a book about the fun of officiating more than 10,000 athletic contests.  As a member of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) weightlifting committee (1959-1990), he was responsible for the origin of the following:

– Powerlifting as a separate sport (1964)
– Masters lifting, both Olympic Lifting and Powerlifting (1973)
– Held the first womens only Powerlifting and Olympic meets which gave the   start to women’s competitive lifting (1976)
– Introduced prison weightlifting and the acceptance of inmates as full AAU members (1966). Held the first prison weightlifting postal competition (1962)
– Created the odd lifting record book (1961)
– Formation of the USAWA and the IAWA (began in 1983, finalized in 1986)
– Wrote the first USAWA and IAWA Rule Book (1986)

Bill started weightlifting in 1959 when his boxing team was looking for an off-season sport.  There was not a state meet at the time, so he held the very first one in Columbia in 1959.  He held the Junior Nationals and the National Teenage Championships in Columbia from 1962-1964, including the “Mr.” contests for each, along with numerous state and regional meets both in Columbia and in many prisons throughout the Midwest.  He has directed over 100 meets under USAWA sanction at his gym, Clark’s Championship Gym, including the USAWA National Championships in 1995, 1997, and 2001.  Bill has been the sole sponsor of the Showme State Games Powerlifting Meet since 1988.  Both Bill and Dolores are in the Missouri State Games Volunteer Hall of Fame.  He has had a commercial gym in Columbia since 1987, which is one of very few commercial gyms in the country that specializes in All-Round Weightlifting.   Bill was the first President of the IAWA and was the Secretary of the USAWA since the beginning till 2009. He is responsible for starting the drug testing program and the certification of officials in the USAWA.  Bill has published a weightlifting newsletter since 1960, which now is over its 50th year!  For the first 20 years of the USAWA Bill was the editor and publisher of the publication “The Strength Journal”. At that time it was the sole source of information regarding All-Round Weightlifting in the US.   Bill’s main contribution to weightlifting was the origin of the masters program.  The idea came to the table in 1973 at the AAU convention, and was approved by a laugh with the mention of old people wanting  to lift and compete.  In 1974, only four lifters  entered the National Masters Meet – Jim Witt, Jack Lano, Wilbur Miller, and Bill Clark.  The Meet was cancelled that year.  In 1975, the meet was held in Columbia with 15 entries.  Today, the masters program is found in 70 nations and accepted without question.  Master lifters outnumber open lifters in the US today.  Bill was one of a half-dozen people who brought Powerlifting to the committee floor of the AAU in 1962, and saw it approved two years later as a sport by the AAU.  Today, Powerlifting has expanded far beyond Olympic Lifting as a sport.  In 1976, Bill violated the IWF rules which limited lifting to males only, and worded a sanction which made a combined Power/Olympic lifting competition into an all-female meet.  It broke the gender barrier and women’s weightlifting was off and running.  Bill commented, “In retrospect, I take pride in being the driving force to establish Powerlifting, women’s lifting, prison lifting, master’s lifting, odd lifting – and seeing them all grow and prosper.”  Bill holds over 200 records in the USAWA, with most of them occurring after multiple joint replacements. Bill said, “I do take pride in my hip and harness lifts that were done after four joints – both knees and both hips – were totally replaced and being able to remain competitive with the youngsters in the finger lifts. Age and replacements have slowed the competitive urge today, particularly with the loss of cartilage in both the upper and lower spine.”  In his earlier years, Bill was best known and seldom beaten in the Zercher and Steinborn lifts, once doing 460# in the Zercher and 455# in the Steinborn on the same day.  There has not been an USAWA member since capable of doing this.  When asked if he had any special memories of a competition, Bill replied, ” The one I most remember was in 1994 in Middletown  Pennsylvania when I made a hip lift with 1400 pounds, less than five months after I had a double joint replacement – the right knee and the right hip on the the same day – a double only a few have tried!”  Bill Clark will always be known as the “Founder of All-Round Weightlifting”, and his influences and contributions to the iron game will forever be felt.  His last comment was this, “It has been a good 50 year run in the weight game. I’m now looking for time to go through voluminous files and to do a book I’ve promised myself for years, titled, An Irreverent History of Weightlifting.”

Kettlebanding

By John Mckean

Steve Angell, one of IAWA's strongest ever, displays his own idea of leg training with handled weights on the Dinnie Stones!

Steve Angell, one of IAWA’s strongest ever, displays his own idea of leg training with handled weights on the Dinnie Stones!

Sooo, a Crossfitter and an All-Rounder walk into a bar (a healthful juice bar, of course!). The Crossfit fan can’t help but notice that the IAWA guy is a well seasoned muscular behemoth, yet strolling gracefully, being propelled by amazingly thick thighs. Mr. CF queries, “Really been hitting those “GOBLET squats,” mate??? You know, those modern leg lifts where you hold a fairly heavy kettlebell at chest height and do front squats.” Chuckling, England’s legendary Steve Angell replied, “Heck, that mild conditioning exercise won’t do anything toward building real body power, unless someone happens to construct me a 200K goblet!”

Seriously, though, big Steve did once try a few goblet squats. He’d been doing wrist curls with a 78K globe dumbbell, then flipped the chunk of iron onto his chest to see what this recent fitness fuss was all about. But as one who has officially straddle lifted 680 pounds and Zerchered 555, this tiny gobble seemed less than nothing. Mr. Angell concluded that such iron ball squats, often weighing less than 40K, would be ok for perhaps a few thin, developing teenagers or most “personal trainers,” but would never supply ample resistance for any serious weightlifter.

SAngellFor a 70/70 (wt. class/age group!) guy like myself, with each thigh smaller than one of Steve Angell’s huge arms, I’m not about to search for a 440 pound kettlebell just to START progression as Steve would enjoy doing! But his comments did get me thinking of new off-day, or “active rest,” heavy exercise apart from normal all-round workouts. Somewhere around the house, I reasoned, were a few various kettlebells, which I always considered to be just glorified “HANDLES with weight,” probably being used as doorstops. However, with sufficient numbers and strengths of rubber flex bands inserted through that ample handle space it would be simple to build almost any variable resistance that anyone could care for in an exercise! So, derived from a past practice of placing bands over barbells to create a heavier pressure, continuous tension lift, I developed my new experimental combo – “KETTLEBANDS”!

Well, it turns out that all I needed was the rather sturdy, oblong curved handle of the weighty old globes for the new format of flex band lifting to quickly prove its efficiency! Not only did the extra resistant apparatus cut reps way down to yield planned high intensity training, but at times, with proper banding, had the lift stalling before completion – a true isometric hold. Essentially, I had created a non structured “power rack” that I could use in my living room!! It also became an exciting challenge to develop new & unusual exercises that would benefit from kettlebanding.

One of my favorite new movements is the close grip bent over row – grasp the handle with overhand, underhand, or even cross grip (my favorite!), tramp on the inserted horizontal draped flex bands at your feet (adjust your foot spacing so just enough rubber will allow the lift to begin), and merely do some high tension pulls for 4 reps. Add another band for a follow-up set and just row to mid level (the stubborn additional stretch will stop you!) and hold 3 reps for a few seconds each, for max+ work! Another nifty manuever that seems to be positively influencing my more standard all-round lifts is the Straddle (or Jefferson) lift with a kettleband directly between the legs; again, determine the proper length of band to stand on, left and right, secure a cross grip on the hefty handle then simply rise steadily under this newfound form of tension. You can use heavier ‘bells and more or thicker flex bands here. If you get stuck, hang on for a while and enjoy the isometric! Of course, various forms of curls are a natural while using the combo equipment, and a unique application to the floor press – one or two handed – can be done by placing a band under your lower back, through the handle, with the other band end placed behind your neck; this one is great to quickly reach an iso-hold level which soon proves to be a “burning” method to overload the triceps! I’ll let imagination and ingenuity develop others for your own particular needs and interests!

No kettlebells around the house or gym? Simply obtain one of Al Myers’ sturdy iron rings (or stack two together for better gripping), place it on the center handle of a standard plate loading dumbbell, and build sufficient weight on both sides around it. Remember, it need not be all that heavy – most resistance should come from flex bands! Oh, a dumbbell will tilt and dangle a bit, but one’s fist will hold secure against the inside plate to steady the proceedings, while ring circumference will allow more space and freedom than a short db handle for a firm cross grip. One hand lifts and hook grips can come into play. But any style ring hold offers its own unique feel, challenge, and enjoyable performance. After all, ole supreme physical culturist Steve Angell didn’t complain as he 20 repped with those rings secured on the famous Dinnie stones (combined weight of 785 pounds)! But, hey, just imagine – had Steve carried a few flex bands to Scotland with him, he could’ve saved himself a ton of time by achieving the same workload with only 4 reps!!

HOF BIO – John Grimek

By Al Myers

(Webmasters Note: Over the next month I will be running a series of biography blogs covering all past USAWA Hall of Fame members.  These bios will be added to the history section, under Hall of Fame.)

HALL OF FAME BIOGRAPHY

JOHN GRIMEK – CLASS OF 1993

GrimekHOF1John Grimek – This photo is from the cover of the February, 1969 issue of Muscular Development.

John Grimek was born June 17, 1910 in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. He got his interest in weightlifting and body building from his older brother George. John stated that his brother was bigger and stronger than he was, but just didn’t have the interest in the Iron Game that he had. John’s first competition in weightlifting was in 1934 where he took a first place as a heavy weight in New Jersey with a total of 710 pounds. Later that same year he entered his first National meet in Brooklyn. His press of 242.5 pounds was the highest of the meet. However he failed to total due to his lack of training in the snatch and clean and jerk. The following year he placed second to Bill Good in a five lift meet with a total of 1,072 pounds. The five lifts were the one hand snatch, the clean and jerk which had to be done with the opposite hand used in the snatch, the two hands press, snatch and the clean and jerk.

John then moved to York PA. to improve his training. In the 1936 National meet in Philadelphia he pressed 285.5 pounds, snatched 220 pounds, and clean and jerked 308 pounds. He placed first in the heavy weight class while weighing just two pounds over the light heavy limit. His press was a National record. Later the same year he competed in the Olympics in Germany. Though he did not place he lifted more than any other American lifter. In 1937 he reduced to the light heavy weight class for the Sr. National meet in Detroit. In this meet he was to light and was not at his best. But in 1938 he won the Jr. National meet with an 810 pound total in the light heavy weight class. At this time, before physique contest were added to the lifting meets, John continued to compete in lifting. In 1938 still lifting as a light heavy weight he made a total of 830 pounds. (261 press, 245 snatch, and a 325 clean and jerk). John’s best meet was in the 1940 Sr. National meet held in Madison Square Garden, where he did a 285 pound press, snatched 250 pounds and a clean and jerk of 325 pounds. He placed third behind Steve Stanko and Louis Abele. However he did win the Mr. America physique contest, and at this point decided to put his efforts into body building.

In 1941 he once again won the Mr. America contest. The AAU then made a rule that once you won the Mr. America contest you could not enter it again. The first Mr. Universe contest was held in 1947. John could not enter because the AAU said that he was a professional because of his work with the York Barbell Co. However the 1948 contest was open to both amateurs and professionals and he became Mr. Universe. In 1949 he won the Mr. USA contest in a highly publicized meet as it had become a battle between the IFBB organization and the York Barbell organization.

John died November 24 1998, having never been defeated in a body building contest.

The Husafell Stone

Thom Van Vleck by Pastor Snorri's goat pens in Iceland

Thom Van Vleck by Pastor Snorri’s goat pens in Iceland

By Thom Van Vleck

I recently took a trip to Iceland for a Highland Games competition.  While there I went to take a try at the Husafell Stone.  The Husafell Stone is a lifting stone of 409lbs located near Husafell, Iceland.  I think it’s history is well recorded in other better articles and most strength fans know of it so I wanted to focus on my day with the Husafell Stone.

I had been in Iceland for nearly two weeks.  I had competed in the Masters World Championships of Highland Games in Hafnarfjordur, Iceland for two days and then circled the entire island.  I had saved the Husafell for the last day so if I did try and lift it and I got hurt then it wouldn’t ruin the entire vacation!  Most of all I just wanted to visit an stone that I had heard and read about for the past 25 years that has been lifted by some of the greatest strength athletes of all time.

So that last day Michelle and I drove up a valley called Reykholtsdalur.  It is a valley sparsely populated now but historically a very significant area.  As we went along we stopped at various places and visited ancient settlements and new ones that span a 1000 years of Iceland history.  As we drove East houses became more and more sparse and the country more rugged.  I had an image in my mind of mountains and a distant glacier with a mountain stream nearby with waterfalls. I pictured very few trees and lots and lots of rocks.  The final location of the stone did not disappoint.  It didn’t hurt that we had great weather.  It was about 60 degrees and sunny.

One of the three Challenges is to set the stone on a corner of the pen.

One of the three Challenges is to set the stone on a corner of the pen.

As we pulled up I immediately saw the goat pens where the stone was located.  I parked nearby and stepped outside.  Michelle walked with me to the pens and even though there were no shortage of huge rocks lying around I immediately knew which one was the pen slab!

As I stopped and looked at it lying on the ground I could see traces of lifting chalk and maybe a little tacky.  On the ground it was not that imposing. It is basalt and basalt is a very dense stone which means it’s heavier than it looks!  It is a triangular, flat stone and very dark, almost black.  As I turned it on it’s side I found out how heavy it really was!

Michelle took some photos while I warmed up.  I lifted some smaller stones for practice.  I put on one of my oldest Jackson Weightlifting Club shirts. I also slipped on my trusty old belt that I’ve had for almost 30 years.  I was not as apprehensive as I thought I would be. I think I’m at an age where I feel comfortable with what I’ve done.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like to lose a battle.  I just felt a comfortable confidence.  I was honestly just happy to be there!

Michelle and I by Dettifoss.  It's the largest waterfall in Iceland and in all of Europe!

Michelle and I by Dettifoss. It’s the largest waterfall in Iceland and in all of Europe!

I went about the various challenges.  There were a few hikers that went by as there is a trail that heads up the nearby stream.  One came over to see what I was doing and watched a bit.  I felt a little embarrassed to be honest.  It was like a private moment.  Kind of like trying a personal best in the gym verses a lift in competitions with witnesses.  There’s a part of me that wanted this to be just me and the stone.

I spent a solid 2 hours there.  I met a lot of failure in the process.  Trying to figure out hand holds, dealing with some fatigue after 12 days on the road and going on hikes, and getting my 53 year old body to do what I wanted it to do.  In the end I felt successful.  Though I’m sure some might feel I didn’t do it “legit”.  I would compare any lifting I did to a “continental” versus a “clean”.  I was just happy to be there!

Iceland!

Iceland!

There was a moment I was just leaning against the pens and looking down the valley.  I had an unobstructed view.  Over my right shoulder were mountains, over my left was a distant glacier, to my left was the ravine filled with waterfalls that fed the nearby stream.  To my right was Husafell and the forest of evergreens that obscured it.  Directly in front of me was Pastor Snorri’s farm and a small Church.  It was very quiet.  The sun felt warm and the air crisp.  The only drawback was a few midges that felt it important to let you know they were there.  It was a good day to be alive.

Michelle and I walked over to the nearby Lutheran Church.  It was a small, stone Church with a small cemetery filled with birch trees stunted by the harshness of Iceland.  The Church was surprisingly open and we were able to go inside.  You could tell it was still an active Church.  The baptismal font, the communion cup, and the alter were roughly carved out of native stone.  It was a beautiful, simple place that made me feel as close to God as the most amazing Churches I’ve visited and believe me, I’ve been to some amazing pieces of architecture.

Finally it came time to go.  I was not sad.  I felt like my trip was a success and part of me would carry the moment with me forever.  So it’s not like I’ll ever really leave.  Lifting has given me and excuse to travel to some amazing places but I think the best  thing of all is it has fed my earthly spirit.    The next day my forearms were bruised and my back was stiff.  It felt great!

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