Tag Archives: Frank Ciavattone

The Hand and Thigh

By Eric Todd

Big Frank Ciavattone doing a big hand and thigh.  Frank has not only promoted the Heavy Lift Championships in the past, he is a four time Heavy Lift Champion!

Big Frank Ciavattone doing a big hand and thigh. Frank has not only promoted the Heavy Lift Championships in the past, he is a four time Heavy Lift Champion!

With the Heavy lift Championship just a few short months away, I am going to continue on with my series on the Heavy Lifts.  The last article on the series focussed on the first lift we will be contesting at the event, the neck lift.  This one will focus on the second lift in the order of the meet, the Hand and Thigh Lift.  The hand and thigh lift is a quite old lift.  It was a favorite of many old timers, and was done by many of them including Louis Cyr and Warren Lincoln Travis.

Quite a bit more should be lifted in the hand and thigh than in the neck lift.  The heaviest neck lift is around 1000 pounds, while the heaviest hand and thigh is over 1900, by Joe Garcia.  However, that is quite an outlier, as most of the rest of the best hand and thighers in the USAWA are in the 1500-1600s. The rules of the Hand and Thigh in the rulebook are as follows:

A Heavy Lift Bar is used in this lift. A hand bar is also used, which must not exceed 28 inches in length and 1 inch in diameter. The hand bar will have an adjustable chain and hook attached to it in the center so it may be attached to the Heavy Lift Bar. No knurling is allowed on the hand bar. The lifter assumes a position with the Heavy Lift Bar in front of the lifter, or the lifter may straddle it. The feet must be parallel and in line with the torso. Width of feet placement is optional. The feet must not move during the lift, but the heels and toes may rise. The lifter may adjust the chain length to his/her preference prior to the lift. The hand bar must be in the lifter’s grasp and will lie across the thighs. The hands must remain on the hand bar and must not change position during the lift. The lift begins at the lifter’s discretion. The lifter is allowed one test lift to check the balance of the weight and to make adjustments to the chain length. The lifter will stand or lean back to lift the weights from the platform. The shoulders and torso do not have to be upright upon the finish of the lift. The legs must straighten, but the knees do not need to be locked. Once the weight is motionless, and the plates on both ends of the bar are off the platform at the same time, an official will give a command to end the lift.

So, I have seen the hand and thigh done with both feet in front of the bar and also straddling the bar.  That being said, from what I have seen,  far better poundages are done with both feet in front of the bar.  I like a flat sole, such as wrestling shoes for the hand and thigh (as well as all the heavy lifts for that matter) though I am not sure if that offers any advantages or not.  Some people, me included, like to stand on a platform of sorts to complete the lift.  It seems to give you better leverage to complete the lift.  My platform comes by way of a few sawed off 4×4 timbers. Stance is optional, but I prefer a rather narrow one.  I like my shins just a few inches behind the bar so my knees can float over the bar when I bend them to dig my knuckles into the top of my thighs.  Grip is optional, but I would suggest double overhand with the thumbs in line with the fingers.  You do not need your thumb to lock in the bar, as your thighs serve in that capacity, so I have been more successful with keeping them over the top of the bar. Once you have the bar locked into your thighs, lean way back, looking up, and drive back on your heels.  The first few times I did this, I had someone spotting me from behind, because I felt I may fall over.  I never have, though.  As soon as both sides are off the platform simultaneously, you will get the down command.  As you can see in the rules, if your chain length is wrong or you are off center and only one side comes up, you do have the opportunity to make one adjustment.

Not unlike the neck lift there is no absolute substitute for actually doing the hand and thigh to train for the hand and thigh.  The technique takes some getting used to in order to become proficient at it to maximize your poundages. However, there are some movements that doing help strengthen your connective tissue.  Strong connective tissue (such as tendons and ligaments) is crucial to heavy lifting.  You could halfway simulate an hand and thigh with heavy partial barbell pulls in a rack.  You could also play with heavy squat lockouts or heavy partials on the leg press to help build strength in your connective tissue.

Check out this video of Jim Malloy performing a 1200# Hand and Thigh at the 1991 National Championships, and keep training for the Heavy Lift Championship!



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.)





Frank Ciavattone lives in Walpole, Massachusetts. He is a self-employed Excavator Contractor two-thirds of the season and a Heavy Snow Remover the remaining time. He started to lift weights after he received a 75lb. weight set for Christmas in 1966. Frank’s uncle Ralph was a bodybuilder in the early 1950’s who placed 5th in the 1951 Mr. Boston Contest. Frank’s dad was a Marine during the Korean War and was a Power Shovel operator (steam shovel). These two men were Frank’s early inspiration to take up weight training.

Frank trained for many years (1971 to 1988) with his coach Joe Mills of The Central Falls Weightlifting Club in Central Falls, Rhode Island. Frank started out doing some Olympic lifting but soon found out that he had tremendous potential with All-Round Weightlifting. It was at this time that he got help from Bill Clark, John Vernacchio, and Howard Prechtel – all of which were very accomplished and experienced All-Round Weightlifters. Frank was a charter member of the USAWA, and competed in the organization from the start. Frank is a very sincere and honest person who always gives thanks to those who help him. He commented, ” John & Howard gave me endless phone time on educating me how to do a lot of the lifts before upcoming contests. I can not leave without mentioning Frank Gancarz and Ed Jubinville (both deceased) who played a big part in making me feel Allround lifting was just as important as life itself! To these MEN I truly admire and respect and I thank them from the bottom of my HEART! ”

Frank was also involved in meet promotions. He was the Meet Director for several National Championships (1996, 1998 and 2016) and World Championships (1993, 2000, and 2014) in both All-Round Weightlifting and The Heavy Lifts. His most memorable All-Round meet was definitely the 1st one in 1993, in his home town of Norwood/Walpole, Massachusetts. Frank had his family, friends, the towns people, and lifters from other countries all together in one meet. Frank said, “With that combination it was a week of comradeship, competitiveness, and support. The rest was a true celebration of what this sport is by bringing a half dozen countries together as human beings. This is a time I will always cherish in my heart.” One of his most cherish meet wins was winning the Outstanding Lifter Title at the 2005 World Heavy Lift Championships in front of his home town Norwood/Walpole. Regarding this, Frank said, “I was in the 275lb. class. I gave the award to my daughter Domenique. That was a Hallmark moment for me.”

Frank has lifted overseas in 6 World Championships and 1 Millennium Gold Cup for a total of 7 trips. When in Scotland at the 1995 IAWA World Championships Frank achieved something no other American had ever done previously. This story is best told in his own words, “The Dinnie Stones story got started by Willie Wright and his team wanting me to go north and give them a try! They offered to take time off from work and take me. For this I said yes and would give it my best shot. Well after lifting in 2 day competition with 10 lifts at the 1996 World Championships, and the 9th lift being a 507lb. right hand- 1 arm deadlift, I was beat. After the meet we all got ready for the banquet, which anyone who’s ever lifted in Scotland know their banquets are right up there with the best of them. Well around midnight Willie informed me that the mini-bus was leaving at 5 a.m. sharp, tomorrow morning with about a 4 or 5 hour drive. The next day everything goes on schedule and we arrive there with a full mini-bus. I never saw the stones in person before but have to say I was overwhelmed at them. They were both chained to the wall, and it was drizzling out. Everything had a film of water over it, and the marble size piece of chalk I brought was disintegrated. So I found an area not so wet and dug my hands through the dirt to dry them up and it helped. At this point I picked up the little stone right and left, then I did the same to the big stone. Well now I thought I did it. They all yelled NO – do the 2 stones together. Since they were chained to the wall I decided to keep my 2 feet together since the stones were close to the wall. It was hard for me to straddle them and definitely too tight to have one on each side. So finally on my 1st. attempt I reached down and slowly stood up, and stood there while Willie Wright gave his down signal. I was in another world as I felt like I could not put them down. I got an IAWA World record certificate and the honors of being the 1st. US citizen to lift up the stones without straps or other assistance. Also to be one of few to lift them feet together. I am not sure who the others are. The truth to all this is I lifted them fatigued, never seen them before, and never trained to lift them. No excuses – just got of the bus and within 5 minutes lifted both of the ground. I did it my way!!!!!!”


Franks favorite lifts are the three Ciavattone lifts, the One Arm Deadlift and the Neck Lift. He also excelled at these lift and set many USAWA records in them. His records are One Arm Hack Lift -right hand 402 1/5 pounds, One Arm Deadlift – right hand 562 1/5 pounds, One Arm Ciavattone Lift – right hand 331 pounds, Neck Lift 808 pounds, Hand and Thigh 1610 pounds, and a Hip Lift of 2515 pounds. Frank has won 15 IAWA World Championships, 14 USAWA National Championships, 3 Heavy Lift World Championships, and 5 USAWA Heavy Lift National Championships. Frank was the Overall Best Master lifter at the 1998 National Championships. He has placed in the top 10 Overall at 9 National Championships.

There is more to Frank than just being one of the best All-Round Weightlifters of All-Time. He is a man of integrity and outstanding character. He always is willing to help those who need it, and is the perfect role model for the young generation of lifters. When asked what advice he would have for a new lifer, this is what Frank said, “Stay away from any artificial way of getting ahead. Hard, hard, hard work is what got me to do the best I could without jeopardizing my number one thing in my life, FAMILY. Keep your priorities in the right order. This formula keeps everyone happy and supportive.” I would say this sums up Frank Ciavattone.

Frank is a true Pioneer in the Sport of All-Round Weightlifting. He is the ultimate sportsman by demonstrating that a big man can be very strong without the use of drugs, showing that strength comes from within, and displays the unselfish attitude of always helping out his fellow competitors.

Heavy Lift Championships

By Al Myers


This picture of Frank doing a heavy Harness Lift hangs on the wall of Frank's Barbell Club. I took a picture of it the last time I was at his gym because it answers a basis question. What do you do when you lift so much the bar isn't big enough? Well - you tape on more!!!

This picture of Frank doing a heavy Harness Lift hangs on the wall of Frank’s Barbell Club. I took a picture of it the last time I was at his gym because it answers a basic question. What do you do when you lift so much the bar isn’t big enough? Well – you tape on more!!!

The Heavy Lift Championships are heading back to Boston!  And what better place than the home of the Super Bowl Champs New England Patriots! (had to throw that in for you Rocky! haha) The meet has just been sanctioned for May 13th, 2017.  The co-meet promoters for this Championships are Mark Raymond and Rocky Morrison.  The Walpole area of Boston has always been a “hotbed” of heavy lifting with the chain lifts.  The meet will be held at Frank’s Barbell Club.  Frank is legendary as a heavy lifter and has all the equipment needed. Frank has promoted several Heavy Lift Championships through the years (2013, 2005, 2002, 1999, 1998 ).  Frank has also won the OVERALL BEST LIFTER at 5 of these Championships (2005, 2004, 2002, 1999, & 1998). That’s a heavy resume!  I was at Frank’s last promotion of the Heavy Lift Championships in 2013.  It was an unbelievable event.  I know Mark and Rocky will put on an event that will be just as good.  I noticed from the entry form and announcement that there will be a backyard cookout afterwards. That alone is worth going for!

The deadline for entry is April 22nd. Please get your entry in on time so they know how many lifters to plan for.


Entry Form 2017 Heavy Lift Championships

In Howard’s Memory

by Al Myers

Bob Geib (left) presenting the Howard Prechtel Memorial Plaque to Nationals meet promoter Frank Ciavattone (right).

Bob Geib (left) presenting the Howard Prechtel Memorial Plaque to Nationals meet promoter Frank Ciavattone (right).

One of the touching moments of our USAWA Nationals Championships in Boston was when Bob Geib presented Frank Ciavattone and the USAWA the beautiful plaque that he had made years ago to honor the memory of his friend and mentor Howard Prechtel. Bob gives Howard all the credit for his involvement in weightlifting and the USAWA.  After Howard’s death Bob had this special tribute plaque made which he carried with him at all times to USAWA events.  He always found a prominent place to display it during the competitions. It has a picture of Howard engraved on it, so it always felt to me that Howard was watching over us while we lifted.  I know this plaque had special sentimental value to Bob and this had to be a hard decision turning it over to the organization. But as Bob said as he presented the plaque, “I feel I should be sharing this plaque and Howard’s legacy with the USAWA and not keeping it all to myself.”  I promise that we will keep it in safe hands, and that it will always be part of the USAWA competitions.

National Championships

by Al Myers



Frank Ciavattone (left) and Jeff Ciavattone (right) had the highest One Arm Ciavattone Grip Deadlifts of the meet, a lift named after Frank. Frank finished with 115 KG with Jeff right behind him at 110 KG (photo courtesy of Cara Ciavattone Collins)

Frank Ciavattone (left) and Jeff Ciavattone (right) had the highest One Arm Ciavattone Grip Deadlifts of the meet, a lift named after Frank. Frank finished with 115 KG with Jeff right behind him at 110 KG (photo courtesy of Cara Ciavattone Collins)

One thing I can always count on is that Frank Ciavattone will promote an outstanding meet! Frank promoted the USAWA National Championships last weekend, and it was one of the smoothest ran National Meets we have ever had.  We had 19 lifters (4 women and 15 men) compete over the course of 6 lifts on one platform and one day, and was finished by 5 oclock!

There was an extremely tight race for the women’s overall.  Cassie Morrison edged out her friend Lindsey Beary on her last lift in the Trap Bar Deadlift. Only 2 adjusted points separeted them when it was done. Susan Sees was very close behind them by 10 points, and Jessica Hopps only 30 points back. On any given day any of these gals could have taken the overall!

Joe Ciavattone Jr. won the Men’s Best Overall Lifter title over James Fuller. Joe Jr. had several lifts he really excelled at – his big 105K Heels Together Clean and Press and his 4th attempt in the Continental Snatch at 93KG. James lifted very solid all day finishing with a personal record in the Trap Bar Deadlift at 277.5KG. Randy Smith finished 3rd overall despite hurting his elbow on the Cheat Curl and finishing the day not full strength.  Joe Ciavattone Sr. also got injured on the Cheat Curl, hurting his shoulder. But after a trip to the ER was able to make it back with his arm in a sling as the meet was winding down.  Jeff Ciavattone seems to get bigger and stronger each time I see him!  He lifted very well even though he told me with his work schedule he has not been able to train recently! Jeff and his dad Frank had a great showdown in the One Arm Ciavattone Grip Deadlift, with Jeff making 110KG and Frank making 115KG.  Big Frank still amazes me with his gripping strength!

Newcomer to Frank’s Barbell Club Rocky Morrison came in 5th Overall, which is quite an accomplishment in his first Nationals.  I really enjoyed meeting and visiting with Rocky.  He will be a great addition to our organization.  Dino Gym member Dean Ross made the longest drive to Boston, driving over 1000 miles from Oklahoma. Dean came into this meet as strong as I’ve seen him.  He finished with a great 162.5KG Trap Bar Deadlift.

Several lifters were not able to take all the lifts as they are recovering from injuries and/or surgeries. This included Frank, Chad Ullom, Denny Habecker, and Aidan. However, they still performed very well in the lifts they did and supported our biggest meet of the year.  For that – they need applauded!

I want to really thank Frank, his family, and his club for all the work they did in putting on this Championships.  The loaders did a great job and helped make the meet move along at the pace it did.  The food the night before and after the meet was fantastic!  Frank knows how to be a great host!

Meet Results:

2016 USAWA National Championships
Balch School
Norwood, MA
June 25th, 2016

Meet Director: Frank Ciavattone

Announcer: Al Myers

Scorekeeper: Chad Ullom

Officials (3 official system used): Joe Ciavattone Sr., Denny Habecker, Frank Ciavattone, Dennis Mitchell, Chad Ullom

Loaders: Peter Vouno, Wade Marchand, Cream McDonald, Matt Traitti

Lifts: Continental Snatch, Cheat Curl, Clean and Press-Heels Together, Pullover and Press, Deadlift-Ciavattone Grip One Arm, Trap Bar Deadlift


Cassie Morrison 20 192  35 37.5 31.5 40 47.5-R 120 311.5 284.3
Lindsey Beary 20 188 35 40 37.5 40 52.5-R 100 305 282.5
Susan Sees 53 219 25 35 35 45 42.5-R 100 282.5 273.4
Jessica Hopps 32 187 30 30 30 37.5 55-R 85 267.5 248.3

Extra Lifts for Record:
Lindsey Beary: DL-CG, Right Arm 57.5
Lindsey Beary: Continental Snatch 40
Susan Sees: DL-CG, Right Arm 45


Joe CiavattoneJr. 23 215 85  92.5 105 125 90-R 240 737.5 633.7
James Fuller 44 250 80 105 75 100 100-R 277.5 737.5 613.7
Randy Smith 61 198 57.5 75 50 60 90-R 150 482.5 528.4
Jeff Ciavattone 36 259 72.5 85 67.5  95 110-R 240 670 521.8
Rocky Morrison 54 295 55 67.5 65 80 85-R 215 567.5 477.4
Dean Ross 73 257 35 57.5 40 70 70-L 162.5 435 455.7
James Morrison 17 160 40 50 45 60 60-R 147.5 402.5 431.0
Art Montini 88 172 20 32.5 25 45 55-L 90 267.5 388.1
Dennis Mitchell 84 150 13.5 33 10.5 35 43-L 90 225 346.5
Bob Geib 73 268 25 30 35 0 60-R 100 250 256.4
Joe CiavattoneSr. 47 230 70 72.5 142.5 127.2
Frank Ciavattone 61 302 115-R 115 101.5
Denny Habecker 73 192 80 —- 80 98.0
Chad Ullom 44 249 100-L 100 83.5
Aidan Habecker 12 120 22.5 22.5 37.3

Extra Lifts for Record:
Joe Ciavattone Jr: Continental Snatch 93

Notes: BWT is bodyweight in pounds. All lifts recorded in kilograms. R and L designate right and left arms. TOT is total kilograms lifted. PTS are overall points adjusted for bodyweight and age.

Best Lifter Awards:
Women Senior 20-39: Cassie Morrison
Woman Master 40+: Susan Sees
Mens Master 40-44: James Fuller
Mens Master 45-49: Joe Ciavattone Sr.
Mens Master 50-54: Rocky Morrison
Mens Master 60-64: Randy Smith
Mens Master 70-74: Dean Ross
Mens Master 80-84: Dennis Mitchell
Mens Master 85-89: Art Montini
Mens Junior: James Morrison
Mens Senior 20-39: Joe Ciavattone Jr.
Womens Overall Best Lifter: Cassie Morrison
Mens Overall Best Lifter: Joe Ciavattone Jr.
Best Club: Frank’s Barbell Club

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