Tag Archives: Denny Habecker


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.)





Denny was born and raised in Lebanon, Pennsylvania and has lived there all but 3 years of his life. His father was always involved in sports when Denny was growing up, and Denny has continued that tradition. He graduated from Lebanon High School in 1960 and got a job at Bayer Corporation in 1964 and worked there until his retirement in August, 2008. He got married in 1964 to Judy Gensemer. Judy is now a retired R.N. and they have one son who is an elementary school principal. His son and daughter-in-law have given them 3 grandsons that they are very proud of.

Denny started lifting in the spring of 1957 to build himself up for high school football. He entered a couple of bodybuilding contests in 1961 and 1962 before deciding weightlifting competitions were more fun. He competed in Olympic lifting competitions, with a few powerlifting competitions thrown in, from 1962 until 1975. Then with family commitments and other sports (volleyball, basketball) taking up his time, he didn’t compete again in weightlifting until 1984. He saw the results of the 1983 National Masters Olympic Lifting Championships and decided to start competing again. Denny entered John Vernacchio’s Eastern Masters and Tri-States Masters competitions every year and became a member of John’s Valley Forge Lifting Team. In 1989 John told him about an all-round weightlifting competition he was having. John talked him into entering it and Denny soon became hooked on all-round weightlifting.


Denny has been in every National All-rounds since 1990, 22 World All-rounds since 1991, and 20 Gold Cups since 1994, competing in Scotland, England, Australia, and New Zealand. In Olympic lifting, he has competed in 24 straight Keystone Games, 21 National Masters, 5 Pan-American Masters, 2 American Masters and 2 World Masters Championships since 1984. He also lifted in the 1992 WPA World Masters Powerlifting Championships. Denny still played volleyball, basketball, and softball in an over 40 league most of those years. He had to give up the other sports two years ago because of an arthritic hip.

Denny now trains at the New York Fitness Club in Lebanon and in his basement gym, Habecker’s Gym. He has been on the IAWA technical committee since 2000 and President of the USAWA since 2007. He has promoted the 2000 & 2007 USAWA Nationals, 2002, 2005 & 2009 IAWA World’s, 2006 & 2008 Gold Cup, and the 2004 & 2009 National Heavylift Championships. Denny was inducted into the Lebanon Valley Sports Hall of Fame in 1996, the Central Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 1998, and in 2009 was given the Kelly Cup Award for his Keystone Games accomplishments. He was the overall best lifter of the 1999 USAWA National Championships and 10 times best lifter in his age group. He has placed in the top 10 in 14 USAWA National Championships and 8 IAWA World Championships. His favorite lifts are the Arthur lift and the Pullover and Push. His 87.5 kilogram Clean and Press with Heels Together, which was done in his first All-round Meet in 1989, is still a record.

Deadlift – Middle Fingers

By Al Myers

Our USAWA President Denny Habecker getting getting a good stretch on his middle fingers doing the Middle Fingers Deadlift at the 2011 Grip Championships.

Our USAWA President Denny Habecker getting getting a good stretch on his middle fingers doing the Middle Fingers Deadlift at the 2011 Grip Championships.

The THIRD lift contested at the USAWA Grip Championships is the Deadlift – Middle Fingers.  This is a “love or hate” lift for most lifters. It’s one that has been contested before at the Grip Championships. A USAWA Grip Championship wouldn’t be complete without at least one finger lift in it. A lot of other grip competitions ignore the finger lifts as grip lifts, but not the USAWA!  Out of our over 200 officials lifts, 17 are done with an individual finger/fingers (I’ll give a prize to anyone that knows them all).

The USAWA Rule for the Deadlift – Middle Fingers is:

B7. Deadlift – Fingers, Middle

The rules of the Deadlift apply except only the middle fingers of both hands may be used. The middle fingers of both hands may grip the bar in an alternate manner. The thumb must not be in contact with the lifting fingers.

Pretty simple – just hook your middle fingers around the bar and pull!  The key is to block out the pain and the rest is easy.  I’ve written several past blogs on the Middle Finger Deadlift (you can search and read them on this website if you want to), and in a few of them I’ve mentioned what I like to call the USAWA Goerner Club. The great German Strongman Hermann Goerner claimed to have lifted 308.5 pounds in the MF Deadlift around 1925. I consider this mark the ultimate goal for the Middle Finger Deadlift. Only a few USAWA Lifters have accomplished this. This is the short list for the USAWA Goerner’s Club.

1. Kevin Fulton 400 pounds – 1999 SuperGrip Challenge
2. Ben Edwards 315 pounds – 2016 USAWA Grip Championships
3. Bill DiCiccio 309 pounds – 1994 IAWA Gold Cup

That’s IT – only three lifters.  Several others have been very close to making it in official USAWA competition (Joe Garcia 305#, Myself 305#, James Fuller 303#, and Chad Ullom 300#). But being close doesn’t get you in the club!  It doesn’t even get you a pat on the back. As much as I hate the Middle Fingers Deadlift, it really intriques me as I admire any lifter who wants to punish themselves for the fun of it.  I’ve looked through most all past USAWA meet results (but still may have missed something), so I’m pretty confident that the USAWA Goerner Club stands at three.

But yesterday I got to thinking about how much the pre-USAWA All Rounders loved the MF deadlift.  They also did the MF DL in official competitions so their results are not just some “gym story” of someone doing a big MF deadlift in training somewhere.  The precusor and inspiration for the All Rounds came from the early Missouri Valley Weightlifting Association, whereas Bill Clark promoted Odd Lift competitions for many years. Lets see how the modern age USAWA lifters match up against these old timers! The following is a list I developed from old record lists and meet results from the early days.  I only listed marks that have exceeded Goerners famous 308.5# lift.

1.  Ken McClain, Missouri 350 pounds – 1984
2.  Bill Broadnax, MSP 350 pounds – 1981
3.  Joe Nanney, USP 345 pounds – 1961
4.  Daryl Johnson, Arkansas 335 pounds – 1980
5.  Wilbur Miller, Kansas 320 pounds – 1983

That’s FIVE LIFTERS that I found! There were probably more.  It looks like the USAWA has some catching up to do.  Let’s make that happen at this weekend’s Grip Championships.

OTSM in Australia

by Al Myers

The TOP THREE at the Australian International Old Time Strongman Challenge (left to right): Denny Habecker (3rd), John Mahon (1st), and Graham Saxton (2nd).

The TOP THREE at the Australian International Old Time Strongman Challenge (left to right): Denny Habecker (3rd), John Mahon (1st), and Graham Saxton (2nd).

When I was in Australia for the IAWA Gold Cup, meet promoter John Mahon hosted the very first International Old Time Strongman Challenge following the meet.  I was very excited to see this – as OTSM was started in the USAWA 5 years ago and now other countries in IAWA are getting interested in it.  The founding concept of OTSM is to bridge strongman with All Round Weightlifting by contesting lifts/movements that were favorites of famous Old Time Strongmen and contest them by following the basic format of a weightlifting meet instead of a strongman competition. This means having lifts that can be loaded with the weight of the lifter’s choosing, and allowing 3 attempts to accomplish a max. Also as part of these OTSM lifts rule infractions in the rulebook are a minimum and a lifter is on a 1 minute clock to perform a legal lift.

This was a truly international OTSM challenge. Lifters from Australia, England and the USA took part.  The challenge had a good variety of lifts with the Anderson Squat, the Apollon’s Lift, and the People’s Deadlift being the events contested.  The venue was outside on the lawn of the Belmont Club.  It was a beautiful sunny day for the competition which added to the enjoyment of lifting. Very rarely do you get a chance to lift outside.  It’s a special moment when that does happen.

Steve Gardner was appointed the head official and I assumed the role of timekeeper.  The Anderson Squat was the first event.  John had perfect stands for this event which allowed the plates to be rested on elevated stands.  Graham “Big Red” Saxton took control early with a big 260 KG Anderson Squat! John Mahon put up the biggest Anderson Squat with a 300 KG.  For the Apollon’s Lift, Peter Phillips had made up a beautiful set of replica Apollon’s Wheels for the event.  This made this OTSM event even more authentic! Denny Habecker “Steinborned” the axle to achieve a very fine lift of 56 KG’s. Newcomer Alex Biason performed a very solid 81 kilograms in the Apollon’s Lift.  The People’s Deadlift was very exciting.  I knew beforehand several of the lifter’s would be very close in poundage and it would be a showdown for top lift. Indeed it turned out that way.  Alex hit 215 KG followed by Graham at 225.  John and Peter finished off tied with 250 KG each.

Peter Phillips performing an Apollon's Lift on a set of replica Apollon's Wheels he had made specifically for this event.

Peter Phillips performing an Apollon’s Lift on a set of replica Apollon’s Wheels he had made specifically for this event.

When all the dust settled, John Mahon came out as the overall champion, followed by Graham Saxton in second, and the USAWA OTSM reigning champion Denny Habecker in third.  I was very pleased to see  all participating countries represented in the top three in the inaugural international Old Time Strongman Challenge.  An award was given to the lifter with the top total poundage, and that also went to John with a 656 total.

I was so impressed with this event following the Gold Cup that I plan to  host the second international OTSM Challenge following the Gold Cup next year during my promotion.


2015 International OTSM Challenge
November 29th, 2015
Belmont Sports and Recreational Club
Perth, Australia

Meet Promoter: John Mahon

Head Official: Steve Gardner

Scorekeeper: Sharni Clifford

Lifts: Anderson Squat, Apollon’s Lift, People’s Deadlift

Lifter Age BWT SQ Apo DL TOT PTS
John Mahon 32 115.8 300 106 250 656 515.1
Graham Saxton 53 121.0 260 71 225 556 486.9
Denny Habecker 73 89.9 160 56 172.5 388.5 467.4
Alex Biason 48 118.2 230 81 215 526 445.6
Peter Phillips 62 104.5 120 66 250 436 443.8


Lifter of the month – Denny Habecker

by Al Myers


Denny Habecker pulling on a People's Deadlift at the 2015 USAWA OTSM Championships.

Denny Habecker pulling on a People’s Deadlift at the 2015 USAWA OTSM Championships.

The lifter of the month for September is none other than our USAWA President Denny Habecker!  Denny won BEST OVERALL LIFTER at the USAWA Old Time Strongman Championships hosted by Eric Todd.  The OTSM Championships is one of our premier promotions held every year in the USAWA.  Winning Best Lifter at any of our Championships is a “big deal” in the USAWA!  Congratulations Denny!

OTSM Championships

by Eric Todd


Group picture from the 2015 USAWA Old Time Strongman Championship (left to right): Denny Habecker, Eric Todd, Art Montini, Lance Foster

Group picture from the 2015 USAWA Old Time Strongman Championship (left to right): Denny Habecker, Eric Todd, Art Montini, Lance Foster

September 26, ET’s House of Iron and Stone played host to the fifth annual USAWA Old Time strongman Championship. Though turnout was rather small (mostly due to poor scheduling by the promoter), the lifting was fantastic and the camaraderie was even better. President Denny Habecker and his trusty sidekick Art Montini made the trip from Pennsylvania to lift. Lance Foster came all the way from from Platte City, MO, and I came all the way across the lawn from inside my house. We started off with Thor’s Hammer, which would have the smallest amount lifted of all the disciplines. Lance and I tied for top honors here, both lifting 35.5 pounds. Denny was not far behind with at record breaking lift of 25.5. In the Saxon snatch, Lance and I tied again with lifts of 80 pounds apiece. In the Apollon’s Axle, it was all Lance. At first, it appeared that he had shot himself in the foot, as he missed his first and second attempts. However, he came back on his third and nailed 165 pounds. Denny struggled with the continental, or he would have given Lance a run for his money. The final lift of the day was the People’s Deadlift. It was a battle. Art set the bar with a lift of 300, a record lift of 320, and he was still grumbling afterwards that we had let him start too light. Denny topped him with a 365, then ground out a record 375. At this point, Lance started lifting and topped out at an impressive 460. This lift ultimately allowed Lance to sneak by Art by one point for second place. Top honors, however, went to his majesty, the President, Denny Habecker. It was a beautiful day to catch up with friends and throw around some iron.


2015 USAWA OTSM Championships
ET’s House of Iron and Stone
Turney, MO
September 26th, 2015

Meet Director: Eric Todd

Scorekeeper: Eric Todd

Officials (3 official system used): Eric Todd, Lance Foster, Denny Habecker, Art Montini

Lifts: Thor’s Hammer, Saxon Snatch, Apollon’s Lift, People’s Deadlift


 LIFTER AGE BWT Thor Sax Apoll People Total Points
Denny Habecker 72 87.3 25.5 50 120 365 560.5 680.8
Lance Foster 49 149.1 35.5 80 165 460 740.5 566.7
Art Montini 87 79.1 10 25 60 300 395 565.8
Eric Todd 40 117.3 35.5 80 110 135 360.5 284.1


Denny Habecker: Saxon Snatch 60#
Denny Habecker: People’s Deadlift 375#
Art Montini: People’s Deadlift 320#

NOTES: Age in years. BWT is bodyweight in kilograms. All lifts recorded in pounds. Total is total pounds lifted. Points are adjusted points for age and bodyweight corrections.

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