Tag Archives: Eric Todd

Crucifix Primer

by Eric Todd

Eric Todd and his USAWA record performance in the Crucifix, with a lift of 140 pounds.

Eric Todd and his USAWA record performance in the Crucifix, with a lift of 140 pounds. (photo and caption courtesy of Al Myers)

I first found the USAWA around my second year of strongman competitions. I was gung ho to compete, and there was a hiatus between strongman meets within driving distance for me. So I stumbled upon the old USAWA website where I found the “Deanna Springs Memorial” meet held at Clark’s Gym in Columbia, MO. The meet featured the crucifix lift, which I knew was contested in some strongman meets. So I went and competed. I found out soon that there were some differences in the way the lift is contested in the USAWA from how it looks in strongman competitions. In strongman meets, you get implements of a certain weight to the crucifix position, and then you hold them there for time. Your time stops when a judge determines your position no longer meets the criteria for crucifix (i.e. Arms drop, elbows bend, etc.) In the USAWA, you pick the weight. The rules read as follows:

Two evenly loaded dumbbells or kettlebells are used for this lift. The lift begins at the lifter’s discretion. The dumbbells are taken to arms’ length overhead with the palms of the hands facing each other and dumbbells touching. The lifter must bring the feet together so the heels are together and touching. The body must be upright at the start of the lift. Once in this position, an official will give the command to start the lift. The lifter will then lower the dumbbells to the side with arms’ straight and palms up. Elbows must be fully locked. The lifter may lean back to any extent when lowering the dumbbells. The wrists do not need to be held straight. The legs must remain straight and knees locked throughout the lift. The heels must remain together and the heels and toes must not rise during the lift. Once the arms are parallel to the platform, and the dumbbells motionless, an official will give a command to end the lift. (Myers, A. (Ed.). (2014). USAWA Official Rulebook (8th ed., p. E8). Holland, Kansas: Al Myers)

Well, as it turns out, I wound up being decent at both versions. I hold several records in the discipline in the USAWA, and held the amateur national record in strongman. So, I thought I would write a brief primer on the finer details of completing the lift.

Clean the dumbbells to your shoulders. As I press them overhead, I like to turn them so that the palms are facing when they reach arm’s length.   At this point, I bring my heels together. Hook one slightly behind the other to ensure they do not come apart. When the official gives the command to begin the start of the lift, begin the decent of the dumbbells SLOWLY. As you lower the dumbbells, look up and lay back as far as you can. This will keep the dumbbells parallel with the floor. Squeeze your glutes in order to give you stability whilst laying back. Try to take the strain across your pecs as best as you can to give you the most strength possible.   It is up to you to: A) Know when you have reached parallel or B) Have someone tell you. This is not the job of the judge. When you near this point, slow down, and when you reach it, stop. You will only have to hold it still briefly, but it will feel like an eternity. Wait for the official’s down call. Once you hear that, you have the lift. Congrats!

As the crucifix has been both on the record book, and now as our official insignia (though I question whose likeness they used) it is a staple of all-round lifting, thus one to take pride in doing right.

Don’t Foul It Up!

By Eric Todd

Lance Foster bending skillets!

Lance Foster bending skillets!

Last month, myself and a few of my strongman confederates  (USAWA member Lance Foster among them) were blessed with being able to perform once again for the kids of Camp Quality. Camp Quality is a Camp for children who have cancer.  We have done this show several times before, and it is always a humbling experience.  This year was no exception.

We lifted axles with truck tires, bent nails, tore phone books and decks of cards, bent steel bars, and broke padlocks and concrete blocks.  I even did a teeth lift with a 180ish# atlas stone using my Al Myers constructed teeth bit.  The show went off without a hitch.

Upon completion of the show, one of the directors got on the mic to give us accolades for all we had done for the camp throughout the years from these shows, to raising money for them with “The Gus Lohman Memorial Strongman Challenge”, to my being a companion for a camper there 20 years ago.

It was my experience as a companion that committed me to helping out the cause there at Camp Quality.  I went into the experience not really knowing what to expect.  My camper was a little guy about 14 years old.  He was just out of chemo, so he was bald and weak, and had to report to the nurse’s station intermittently throughout the day.  However, because of his condition we were given a golf cart to navigate the campgrounds on for the week.

The week came and went.  There were many activities offered for the campers.  It had the capacity to be a tremendous experience.  However, my camper was unable to do some, and did not have the strength or energy for others.  When I said goodbye to him at the end of the week as he boarded the big yellow schoolbus, I felt as if he had not really gotten much out of his week with me at camp. I wished I could  have done more.

That following spring the phone rang.  It was a representative of Camp Quality with the sad news that my camper had succumb to his cancer.  His visitation/funeral was that week.  They wondered if I   would attend one, or if they should send another representative from Camp Quality.  I felt it was my job, so I went.  When I got to the visitation, the line was immense, winding out of the church, down a sidewalk, and out into the parking lot.  This gave me a long time to ponder what I would say to his parents.  I had never met them.  I had only spent a week with their son in what seemed to be an experience that could not have been that enjoyable for him.

Finally I got to the front of the line.  I had to tell the parents who I was.  When I said I had been their son’s companion at Camp that year, the mother’s eyes lit up.  She said, “Wait here!”  So I waited.  When she returned, she handed me the handbill for his funeral.  As I turned it over, I saw the picture of him and I that was taken at Camp Quality.  She told me, “When he got back from camp, all he could talk about was the big, strong guy who was his companion this year.”  I walked away from this day very humbled.  I guess the moral of this story is that you maybe never really know when you are making a difference, whether it be for the good or the bad.  You never know who is looking to you to see how you handle yourself or to you as a role model.  So, don’t foul it up!

Eric Todd Lifetime Certification

by Al Myers

Eric Todd becomes a Level 2 USAWA Official at York Barbell.

Eric Todd becomes a Level 2 USAWA Official at York Barbell.

Eric Todd has just earned his Lifetime Certification as an USAWA Official by completing his 25th officiating duty at the 2015 USAWA National Championships.  This now makes Eric a Level 2 Official (highest officiating rank) in the USAWA.  Eric now joins 13 other Level 2 officials in our organization!  Congrats to Eric for this great accomplishment in the USAWA!

The Race

By Eric Todd

I remember the race very clearly. I was in the 8th grade and had been lifting weights for a spell, when a couple of my school chums became interested in the iron as well. Both were rather athletic. One was the biggest guy in our grade, the star tackle on our junior high football team. The other was smaller than I, but very little body fat, and very strong for his size. Anyhow, the bigger of the two went with his grandparents to Sam’s Club where they had a membership and purchased a weight bench and a 300 pound iron weight set. As they both lived in town, they were able to spend time working out together on this new toy.

At this time, it was known that I was the strongest kid in class. I could do more pull-ups, sit-ups, and pull-ups than anyone else in gym class. I was our starting fullback and linebacker, and was winning most of my wrestling matches this year. And it was this particular year that we got a new head football coach, also our PE teacher, who was invested in weight training. So I was able to demonstrate my physical superiority in gym class every couple weeks when he had us train on the universal in the boy’s locker room. It was about half way through the school year when “the race” began. Our coach decided it was time to bring in a real bench and show us proper technique during PE. After a couple times of practice, he had everyone get a one rep max. It was a fine day for me. Out of all the 8th graders in Cameron, I had the top mark of 200 pounds. However, our star tackle was close behind at 185. And when we figured the best pound for pound, the other guy was right behind me as well.

Well, the race was on. They kept training on their super slick Wal-Mart Iron, and I kept lifting on my second hand plastic clad sand weights on the milking floor. Every time one of us hit a new benchmark, the other’s phone would ring. I maintained my lead for a while. But one day the phone rang. I couldn’t believe my ears. The bigger guy hit a 215, and the smaller fellow surpassed me on pound per pound percentage. I tried to be a good sport, congratulating them on a job well done, but when I hung up the phone, I felt a rage in my heart. I had to get back to the top. I did the only thing I could think of. I went out to the milk barn. I upped my training intensity. My focus was rock solid. After I won the small fry state championship in wrestling that year, I was able to spend more time in the milk barn. Later that spring, after track practice, we were at the field house and I decided to see what I had (I could always do more on an iron set than I could with sand for whatever reason). I hit a solid 225#, putting me back ahead either way you looked at it. And there I stayed.

One day after school, I went over to the house where they trained with both fellows. They wanted to show me a neat trick. It was one they had used to take me down earlier that year. They were putting a full roll of paper towels on their chest to bounce the weight off of when they were bench pressing. While this method was a fine training tool (known as towel bench) in the old “Bigger, Faster, Stronger” program, it was a partial movement that they had beaten me with!

However, any way you look at it, it was by being brought down that motivated me to dig in, and fight to be the best. If I had not received that call, I might have been content just resting at the top of the hill. Funny thing about that weight set, too. They gave up training weights after a couple years, and sold the set to another friend of mine. He gave it up after another year or two. I think it was about my freshman year in college, that I inherited that old Sam’s Club iron weight set. It was the first real iron I owned, and it is still part of my collection.

My Gyms

by Eric Todd

I expect everyone has an aptitude for something. Everyone else in my immediate family has an aptitude for art or music. About as far as my aptitude for anything artistic goes, however, is listening to songs on the radio in my truck. I always leaned more to the physical side of things. It is not that I was a dummy. When in elementary, I was selected for our school’s gifted program…twice. Yep, that’s right, I may have been the only two time quitter of Parkview Elementary’s “independent Study”. It was supposed to be challenging, yes? No, it was boring and caused me to miss recess and PE. So I quit. However, they saw the intellectual giant that I was, and made the exception to try and get me back in a couple years later. My parents thought maybe being a bit older would help, so I was back in. Still boring, and I was still missing PE and recess. On top of that, it was in an old turn of the century school with dim lighting and lockers and desks that smelled of old bologna sandwiches. After I quit again, they said I could not return. OK by me!

Through the years I have trained in a number of environments. Some, just on a visit, and some played the role as “my” gym for a while. I started off at home. At three, I started to run with my dad. I saw him take off, and did not want to be left behind. I put on my mud boots and took chase. I think that day, he ran about a mile. I ran about a third of that. Mom and Dad were impressed, and I kept on chasing him, day after day. My distances would increase, and my speed would improve. Why was I doing it though? I guess because my dad was, and maybe I was just born with something that made it appeal to me.

For whatever reason, I always had a love for strength. I was always asking my dad to flex for me. I would assume it got tiresome to him. I remember going to see The Shepherd of the Hills play in Branson, MO. In the story, “Young Matt” lifted a steam engine so his dad could work on it. We would visit the site during the daytime, and I would try and lift the steam engine. I think I gave it my first try at 5 years old. I never was able to get that thing off the ground. But, I was lifting everything else: the edges of furniture, rocks, logs, etc. One time Grandpa cut a couple old locust trees that were out past the old outhouse near our home. I spent hours pretending the cut branches were weights and I was a weightlifter.

I grew up wrestling with dad. I was a rough and tumble boy, and I liked it when dad would get on the floor to tussle with me. I started probably about as young as when I could walk, and we would grapple often. When I was nine, we were talking to this guy at church. He was a custodian at a nearby school. He told us of a small fry wrestling club that practiced there. I had no idea that it was something you could do competitively against people your own age, and I was immediately in love with the idea. It was about the time I started wrestling, that dad got me lifting. At first, he just made me a 10# dumbbell out of some old sand weights and showed me a one arm curl and a one arm standing press. I added these to my regiment of pushups, sit-ups and running. I did this routine almost every night. After I had started getting a bit of a foundation, I started working out in the milkbarn with dad. This was my first “gym” We had a concrete weight set that we would do curls, military presses, and floor presses on the concrete milking floor. That is, until I was at a junk sale at the salebarn. There was a weightlifting bench at it, and I had the winning bid of $1.75. From then on, we benched in style. After seeing Rocky IV, I filled a gunny sack with rocks and sand and hung it from one of the pulleys on the ceiling. I had my first lat pull machine.

When I was in high school, I would lift both at home and at the school. The school gym came in two forms. There was an old universal ,a “good girl” machine, a “bad girl” machine, and an old apparatus called a leaper that was like a squat machine for improving your vertical leap. These items were in the boys locker room at the school. Then down the road at the field house, there was a better weight room with power racks, benches, bumper plates, etc.

When I want to college at Missouri Valley, their weightroom was unimpressive. I was able to get OK workouts there, but they would only let you do “safety squats”. I mean actual safety squats where you hold onto the rack and use your arms and upper back to help pull yourself back up into an upright position. Their selling point when they first showed me the weightroom was 4 “back tracks”. They said there were five of them in the nation, and MO Valley had four of them, with Bo Jackson owning the other. Just so you know, that if there are only five of such a groundbreaking piece of equipment out there, and no other colleges have jumped on the bandwagon, there is probably a reason why. They were an absolute piece of crap , and doing them was an absolute waste of time.

After my fourth year of wrestling I was out of eligibility, but I had to go a fifth year to complete my degree. Well, for individuals who were not on sports teams, you could normally get a workout in in the school weightroom at around midnight. As I usually enjoy sleeping at that hour, I went to get a membership at the local YMCA. Since I had no money, it was only like $10 a month. And since my wrestling career at Valley was over, I had lots of free time. So, I spent most of it lifting at the Y.

During the summers, me and my brother would get a membership at “Camelot Fun and Fitness” in Cameron to work out together. The only place in town, it was as lame as it sounds. The weights were right there with the cardio equipment. There was a Metallica cassette tape in a tape deck, but as soon as you turned it on, the old ladies on the treadmill turned up Oprah a little louder. You would turn up Metallica just so you could hear it, but they would soon poke at the remote until Oprah drowned it out. Not exactly a place to get hardcore. So we started using membership fees to buy bits and pieces of equipment at a time.

Upon graduation, I got a teaching and coaching gig at Excelsior Springs. They had a decent weightroom there, and I spent lots of time after school and/or practice in there. While I still enjoyed lifting, something was missing. I was going through the motions. Why was I lifting? Was it just cause I always had? I had always lifted to get strong so I could excel at wrestling, I felt. Well, I was done wrestling. I needed something new. I found strongman. This was something that came rather naturally to me. Meanwhile I took a position at Kearney School District. While they had a nice weightroom, I soon decided I would be better served just taking my workouts at home. I had been accumulating equipment for a number of years, and had a decent setup in my basement. So, for I time I split where I was training. One day, however, I was in the school weightroom after track practice. I was going for a top end overhead press. Unfortunately, there was a group of high school kids from another sports team in there jacking about. Their coach was in there with them and in on the fun, so I did not feel it was my place to reprimand them. After 4 or 5 misses, I was fed up. I couldn’t perform in that atmosphere. So I left, and never looked back.

I went back to my home gym full time. Eventually, I built my tin can barn and moved all my strongman stuff (as well as some weightlifting stuff) out there. So, now I have two gyms! I take most of my weekday gym workouts in my basement gym, and my weekend workouts take place in the barn. So, I guess I kinda came full circle. I started off my weightlifting career about a mile from where I train now. I have been lots of different places, and weight is weight. I have loved lifting it everywhere, in whatever form, from sand filled to iron, to stone. It has become a part of me. I still cannot paint a picture. I still cannot play an instrument (well, I do play a mean “Old Suzanna” on the mouth harp). And though I enjoy eating a bologna sandwich as much as the next guy, the smell of those lockers still haunt me. But I can lift me some weights!

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