Tag Archives: Hack Lift

The REAL Hack Lift

by Al Myers

Demonstration of the REAL Hack Lift!

Yesterdays story on the Hackenschmidt Floor Press opened up another topic for me (the Hack Lift) which I briefly discussed, but I think needs a little more discussion.  George “Hack” Hackenschmidt has been often tied to the naming of the Hack Lift.  As I stated yesterday, I feel this is slightly incorrect as the term “hack” comes from the German word “hacke” in abbreviated form.  I have read several sources supporting this feeling.  In the USAWA Discussion Forum yesterday Dan Wagman provided an excellent post on this argument, which I feel should be repeated here.  These are Dan’s words:

I’m excited about trying the Hack FP and really liked the fact that Al went beyond just sharing the proposed rules in his latest blog. To that point, I’d like to add some info regarding the origin of calling a lift the Hack-something-or-another. I grew up in Germany and am fluent in all respects in that language and two dialects, so I can speak with some authority regarding the potential root of the name of the Hack-lifts.

Al is somewhat correct in that the German word “Hacke” can be used to denote a heel. However, this is commonly only used in southern German dialect. The proper German word for heel is “Ferse.” A Hacke is indeed an axe, pickaxe, or mattock type tool.

Now, there’s another consideration to bear in mind. It is highly uncommon in Germany to shorten names as we do in America. Joseph would be Joseph, not Joe; Alfred would be Alfred, not Al; Schmidtbleicher would be just that, not Smitty; and most certainly nobody in Germany would’ve called Hackenschmidt Hack. He was Estonian, where many Estonians are of German descent, and based on his name, I’d surmise he was one of them, so I would therefore venture to guess that he wasn’t ever called Hack there, either.

So where does that leave us? Since he spent most of his life living in London, and since it is also fairly common in British English to shorten names, I would venture to guess that he was just called Hack over there and since he was so good at the deadlift from behind the body, that lift was just called the Hack deadlift, though some sources also called it the Hack squat.

Hope this didn’t end up boring y’all, I just think this stuff is interesting as all heck.

Daniel (my German name )

George Hackenschmidt was very well-known for doing the Hack Lift and he was very good at it. That alone gives “his name” some bearing into the naming of this lift as the Hack Lift.  I won’t deny him that.  But the way he did the Hack Lift is VERY MUCH different than the way we do it under the USAWA/IAWA rules.  I’m going to quote the famous strength historian David Willoughby here on the description of the REAL Hack Lift, so it won’t be construed by my own interpretation.  This is straight from his book The Super Athletes:

George Hackenschmidt of Russia, performed 50 consecutive “Hacke” (or “Hocke”) lifts with 50 kilos (110 3/4 pounds).  This feat was done in front of the famous German weight-trainer, Theodor Siebert, at Alsleben, Germany, Feb. 15, 1902.  “Hack” also performed a single lift in the same style with 85 kilos (187 1/4 pounds).  The latter was equal to a flat-footed squat with about 522 pounds on the shoulders.  The “Hacke” lift is performed by knee-bending on the toes while holding a barbell with the hands together behind the hips, thus leaving the back muscles out of the effort and doing all the work with the legs.

WOW – as if the Hack Lift isn’t hard enough to do the way we do it!  Hack was doing them on his toes with the hands together!  I have read other reports describing the original Hack Lift, and as well as the hands being together, the heels were together as well. That would make it near-impossible for most lifters to even grab the bar that way. I was intrigued by the German meaning of the word Hocke. Again, Dan came to my rescue in the USAWA Discussion Forum and gave this reply:

Yes, Hocke is also a German word. It refers to what we might consider crouching down or when you without weight go into a deep squat where your hamstrings touch your calves. You know, the sort of “move” you do when you **** in the woods.

Since you sort of hock down when you do a Hack sq/dl, it’s also feasible that this is where the name came from. But I would have to guess no on that one, too. The reason I say this is because Hackenschmidt didn’t seem to have spent a lot of time in Germany at all and because he lived primarily in London. With that in mind, and of course without knowing for sure, I would guess that people would just see him do stuff, whether he was the first to do it or not, and they’d probably go something like, “Hey, what’s Hack doing there? Let’s try that…” and then they just ended up calling the lift the Hack-whatever.

Regardless, personally, I like thinking of it as being a reference to Hackenschmidt. The dude was stout as all heck and had a body that people today, even when saucing, couldn’t get. And let’s not even talk about his strength and dominance in wrestling. He was from an era when men were men and it motivates me to do a Hack when thinking of him as opposed to my heel.

Dan summed things up very well in his last sentence when he said,  “he was from an era when men were men and it motivates me to do a Hack when thinking of him as opposed to my heel.”   I feel the same way – and because of that I’ll always feel that the Hack Lift was partly named that way in memory of him.

Hack Squats for Olympic Lifting

by Roger LaPointe

Roger LaPointe getting ready to pull a Hack Lift.

The old school strongmen had some really innovative ways of training. Sometimes you did a lift to force someone to learn technique, they just happened to get strong at the same time.

Where did I read about this one? I have no idea. Yet, I remember reading that a deadlift, which “started from the floor and behind the calves” was helpful in learning the clean. Whoever wrote that was absolutely correct.

Use the same barbell that you will be using to do your cleans. Use the same hand position on the bar. Here are some of the things that the Hack Lift will force you to do.

1. High Chest
2. Narrow grip will make you have narrow foot position off the floor
3. Curling your wrists
4. Pulling the bar back

Try doing three hack lifts then immediately do three power cleans with those ideas in mind.

Don’t worry. You do not even have to do super heavy weight in the Hack Lift to get those benefits for your cleans.

Live strong,
Roger LaPointe



My Interview with Frank Ciavattone – Part 1

by Al Myers

Recently at the World Championships I got the great honor of getting the opportunity to compete with Frank Ciavattone again. It has been several years since Frank has been able to compete because of various injuries, with the last one being a hip replacement. Frank is a true Pioneer in the Sport of All-Round Weightlifting and contains a wealth of information. He is also 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.

Frank Ciavattone performing a One Arm Hack Lift at the 2005 USAWA National Championships. I'm standing behind him watching and learning. Frank has the top USAWA lift of All-Time in this lift at 402 pounds.

Al: Where do you current live and what do you do for a living?

Frank: I live at 204 East St. E. Walpole, MA 02032. I am a self-employed Excavator Contractor two-thirds of the season and a Heavy Snow Remover the remaining time.

Al: When did you first start weightlifting and how did you get started?

Frank: I started to lift after I received a 75lb. weight set for Christmas in 1966. My uncle Ralph (my godfather) was a bodybuilder in the early 1950’s. He actually placed 5th in the 1951 Mr. Boston Contest. Plus my dad was a Marine during the Korean War and was a Power Shovel operator (steam shovel). Running this type of equipment makes you strong. I remember how big, calloused and strong his hands were. No doubt they were my inspiration.

Al: What got you started in All-Round Weightlifting?

Frank: I trained for many years (1971 to 1988) with my coach Joe Mills of The Central Falls Weightlifting Club in Central Falls, R.I. Joe trained some of the best Olympic lifters in the country and the world, such as Mark Cameron and Bob Bednarski. Joe did this with respect and honesty. I was always very close to Joe and he knew I would never make it as a World champ in Olympic lifting. He suggested to me to work the lifts that I could out lift all the other lifters from the club in and go for the best there ever was. His only suggestion was stay around 275lbs. or less. I never ever got the drug speech from him as he knew my family and how we were raised and the rest is history. I also had some tremendous help from Bill Clark, John Vernacchio, and Howard Prechtel. I met Bill at the 1984 American Championships in Conn. He told me how they do Allround lifting in Missouri and sent me newsletters to see the records and THEN another sparkplug lit. I’ve got all his newsletters ever since. I basically was a charter member in 1988 but due to a personal problem could not go to England. 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!

Denny Habecker

by Al Myers

Denny Habecker performing a Hack Lift.

A Hall of Fame Biography is now available for Denny Habecker. Denny is the current USAWA President and has been the biggest USAWA meet promoter for the past several years. He is the meet director for this year’s IAWA World Championships, which is going to be held in Lebanon, Pennsylvania on October 3rd and 4th, 2009.  Denny puts on top quality meets and this is one you don’t want to miss!!!