Tag Archives: John McKean


By John McKean

The late, great Jack LaLanne, truly an all-round lifter& athlete if there ever was one, discovered a very similar nutrition approach that he once wrote  greatly improved his training energy and recuperation!

The late, great Jack LaLanne, truly an all-round lifter& athlete if there ever was one, discovered a very similar nutrition approach that he once wrote greatly improved his training energy and recuperation!

Ole pal, Chris Waterman, always the consummate USAWA competitor, was carefully concentrating through set after set in his usual perfect form. I finally had to remind him, tongue-in-cheek, that this was a National Championship, not a mere WORKOUT; of course, from our long time friendship throughout many of these big All-Round events, there just HAD to be some spirited razzing involved! Such as, he was working harder before first attempts on the official lifting platform than I train all week long at home! Or that suggesting, since this was his “comeback” meet after his being absent from competition for years, that maybe he shouldn’t make up for missed training all in one morning! Yes, I was greeted by good natured Chris’ chuckle & friendly smile as he recalled meets from the 90s, to inspire his very accurate account, “Yeah, yeah, I remember – you guys from Ambridge never warm up at all!!”

Truth was, at this 2017 Nationals, I had to hide the fact that, by golly, I just didn’t have any ENERGY to warmup!! Months of low calorie dieting to get down to 154 pounds bwt, left only a little hope that official attempts, even relatively light, would have the muster to go up at all! Naturally, I did feel better at the reduced weight, but sure “ran out of gas” when approaching some of the record poundage lifts I’d planned.

Now, I wanted to maintain trimness following the contest, but wished to search for a better eating plan that would go well with all-round’s intensive style of training. Surprisingly, I discovered a very detailed, scientific (yet interesting) approach to nutrition about 2 weeks later. I’ve been using the easily implemented plan ever since, and never have those low cal diet cravings that often haunted me as wife Marilyn baked her famous brownies, banana bread, and cookies!! In fact, at times on my new program I’ve felt overstuffed from a few meals, while my training energy is reaching new heights! Yet I’m still LOSING even a few more pounds!

The book I refer to is Dr. Michael VanDerschelden’s ” The Scientific Approach To Intermittent Fasting.” But, wait, don’t panic, this concept is NOT one of food deprivation at all, but rather one of eating two very good, solid meals per day, using about 16 hours (mostly overnight) between these hearty feedings! That “intermittent” time period is the “fasting” part, with main meals of your own choosing, selecting between a majority of proteins and fats. Steaks, eggs, nuts, fish, and chicken are all fair game; this author’s “diet” does not consist of suffering through endless carrot sticks nor tasteless salads. Basically, just skip breakfast! Or as I like to employ for my two meals – make it BRUNCH (9-11AM) and LINNER (3-5 PM). Just go with water, coffee, or tea for the 16 hours in between.

The mind blowing factor of Dr. Mike’s eating plan is the book’s extensive display of scientific studies to show its benefits. Such as a significant PROVEN reduction in fat tissue mass, blood pressure, and heart rate. Sound sleep, mental clarity, and training energy is greatly enhanced! To me, and probably all USAWA lifters with our beloved drug free approach, the doc shows conclusive evidence that his eating plan, according to the American College of Cardiology, will provide a NATURAL increase of human growth hormone in men by an astounding 2000%!! To me, if little else is provided (though 12 chapters and 280 pages shows MUCH more benefit!) this new HGH “supplementation” will encourage me to eat nothing other than “Brunch and Linner”!

Be sure to check out Dr. VanDershchelden’s  book on Amazon or your local bookseller – you’ll enjoy his easygoing, interesting style of writing and the many documented facts. And actually LEARN what effect various nutrition patterns have toward intensive weight training (the author actually states the case for short, high intensity workouts instead of long aerobic procedures). Heck, I’m finding this easy-to-implement way of eating is working superbly for an “early middle ager” like me (well, maybe not the increased mental clarity part!); just maybe I’ll actually join a “kid” like Chris Waterman on the warmup platform next year!!

My Nationals Weekend

By Al Myers

This is my monster Northern Pike I caught in Canada the week before the meet!

This is my monster Northern Pike I caught in Canada the week before the meet!

This is not intended to be a meet report, but rather “my take” on the Nationals Weekend. First of all, it was a busy week for me as I was on a fly-in fishing trip for trophy Northern Pike way up North in Canada before I even got to Cleveland.  I was worried that I was gonna wear myself out before the meet with all the big fish I caught up there.  Plus, the all you can eat delicious home-style meals served at night (along with the big breakfasts and shore lunches) that I was never going to make weight at the meet.  Well, reeling in those big Pike must have loosened up my shoulders a bit instead, and working hard all day on the lake must have burned more calories than I predicted as I did make my weight class at the meet and was able to do a token clean and push press with my bum shoulders to get a mark in it.

Upon arriving Friday evening from a flight from Saskatoon to Cleveland (luckily it was on schedule) I was greeted at the airport by 3 young Dino Gym lifters who were making their first National Meet appearance. These guys made the 15 hour drive to lift with only 2 stops (oh to be young with a large bladder).  I was greeted with a sign at the airport that said, “Welcome back from rehab, Big Al”. Thus the fun begins.

We all stayed at a lodge in Vermilion that my buddy John McKean had arranged.  John and his family were staying there, and it was right on Lake Erie.  Truly a beautiful place. I had made plans to fish with John after the meet, and believe it or not, John had promised me that he would show me his secret fishing spot. More on that later.

The boys relaxing at the lodge before the meet.

The boys relaxing at the lodge before the meet.

I can’t say enough about the work meet promoters Bob Geib and Scott Schmidt did for this meet.  They ran into problems two weeks before the meet with the venue location in Vermilion being cancelled on them.  Luckily they were able to secure a meet venue at the West Park YMCA in Cleveland at the last minute. And I’m glad they found this spot.  This YMCA was the location of many All Round meets in the past, including past Nationals, put on by Howard Prechtel.  To say it contained USAWA history puts it mildly.  I was honored to be able to lift there.

The weekend of lifting went super smooth.  Everything was on schedule and everyone seemed to have a super time.  Alot of the USAWA veterans were on hand with a fine mix of newcomers to Nationals.  Several registered clubs were represented – Dino Gym, Habeckers Gym, Schmidt Barbell Club, Ambridge Barbell Club, and Frank’s Barbell Club.  One thing that impresses me with our organization is how everyone “jumps in” and helps.  We had a great group of seasoned officials (Frank Ciavattone, Dennis Mitchell, Denny Habecker, Scott Schmidt, LaVerne Myers, and Randy Smith) who officiated both days.  These guys are the “best of the best” amongst USAWA officials which is what we want for our Nationals.  John McKean and myself did the announcing duties, and Judy did the scorekeeping.  Plus what a great group of loaders we had.  Young Aidan Habecker loaded all weekend as well as lifting and what a great job he did!!!  He took charge of the loads and seemed to know exactly what plates needed put on.  Also, got to mention Franklin and Ryan for all the hard work they did, as well as others.  Not a single misload all weekend!

The only injury we had (unfortunately there seems to always be one at Nationals) was newcomer Tim Moore from Cleveland. Tim is a power house and a great guy and I sure hope to see him again in a USAWA meet. He tore his bicep on the second day doing the One Arm Clean and Jerk.  I’ve since heard from Scott that he has had surgery to repair it and is now on the mend.  If it wasn’t for this injury he would have been in contention for a top spot overall.

I was SO GLAD to see Chris Waterman in the meet. I lifted with Chris over 10 years ago in the USAWA at Nationals.  Chris lifted exceptionally (placing 3rd Overall) and looks in fantastic shape. Obviously he hasn’t laid off the weights in his sabbatical from USAWA competition.  The women’s division had two very veteran lifters – Susan Sees and Kathy Schmidt.  In the end Susan pulled out the Overall Best Womens Lifter (her third, other two were 2015 and 2012).  It was great to see the perennial Nationals competitior Randy Smith there.  I always enjoy lifting with Randy (as well as having a few drinks afterwards with him!).  We had a great time catching up on things.  Randy never seems to change – he looks and lifts the same today as he did 15 years ago when we first met.

Art continues to amaze us with his lifting.  Art, along with Dennis Mitchell, both compete in the 85-89 age group. These two guys really impress me how they have been so consistent with their lifting year after year and never missing the National Championships.  Dennis has competed in more USAWA Nationals than anyone in history, a mark I don’t see being broke. That will be a topic for another story in the future.

My dad LaVerne rounded out the Dino Gym Team at Nationals.  After the first lift, the 1 hand VB lift, in which he had the top mark of the meet, he earned the nickname from “the boys” as Pa Vice Grips.

Hanging out with Scott at his home gym!

Hanging out with Scott at his home gym!

After the lifting on Saturday Scott Schmidt invited me over to his house and to see his home gym.  When me and “the boys” got there Kathy had a table full of delicious snacks to welcome us. Thank you Kathy!!!!  Scott then showed us his home gym, which is an unbelievable home training facility. I spent 30 minutes just looking at his gym decor.  I really like to see home gyms as they are very unique and often reflect the personality of the owner.  All Round home gyms are much different than any commercial gym, and Scott’s is one of the best I’ve seen.

The Dino Gym Team - Brandon Rein, Cody Lokken, Cale Dunlap, Al Myers, and LaVerne Myers

The Dino Gym Team – Brandon Rein, Cody Lokken, Cale Dunlap, Al Myers, and LaVerne Myers

I was very excited to see the new Dino Gym guys lift (Cale, Cody, and Brandon).  A funny remark John made at the meet announcing, after he was having a hard time keeping them recognized, was that they seem to “be from the same litter.”  That drew laughter from the crowd.   These young lifters have just started to lift at the Dino Gym and all show great promise.  I felt the pressure of being their coach, and just wanted them to lift well and enjoy the experience.  Friday night before the meet back at the lodge I was visiting with John and told him I better go visit with these young lifters and give them a talk to “settle their pre-meet nerves”.  Put it this way – when I got to the beach where they were hanging out they seemed pretty relaxed drinking bourbon and smoking cigars so the talk wasn’t needed.  Then I started to worry that they were following my example too much!

Bob and Scott planned an exceptional banquet following the meet. It was at a place called the West Park Station.  We got there really early, which was nice, as we were able to enjoy the live band and a few Yuenglings on tap outside on a back patio.  I spent a hour telling “the boys” Chad stories. He’s now a legend in their minds. The banquet food was outstanding and it was a buffet (the only way to go after a meet!). The Awards Ceremony was the highlight of the evening.  The meet awards were outstanding. Plus we gave out the USAWA Yearly Awards at that time.  They let us use the microphone that broadcasted over the entire restaurant – so everyone there heard what was going on!  I noticed people not even associated with our group clapping and cheering.  I was joined in the presentation with Scott and Bob, Frank, and an impromptu surprise speech by Brandon.  A very special moment for me that evening was Frank presenting me the Howard Prechtel Plaque.  Every year, in Howard’s memory we present an annual traveling plaque to someone who the previous years recipient feels is worthy of it for their contributions to the USAWA for the prior year. Frank was last years selection. I’ll be honored next year when I can pass this tribute plaque along to someone else.

Fishing with John McKean!

Fishing with John McKean!

The next day, as promised, John took me, my dad LaVerne, and “the boys” to his secret fishing spot.  I wish he would have told me to wear raingear.  John is a master fisherman and ties his own jigs.   These things look like the real thing and the fish can’t resist them! It wasn’t long before we had caught several fish, including a really nice catfish caught by Brandon. I was picking John’s brain on the art of jigging, and luckily John is one who likes to talk so I was getting some of his secrets out of him. It was a great time but the wind kept picking up till all of us were soaking wet, from head to toe.  As John put it, “it was battle conditions!”

The boys eyes were open wide when the feast was served!

The boys eyes were open wide when the feast was served!

The next day we made the long drive home, all in one day but with more stops than two. We made a sightseeing stop in Indianapolis at the Indy Speedway ( “the boys” are big Nascar fans) and at my favorite BBQ place in Columbia, Missouri for supper. I ordered up a large feast fit for Kings, and then as the last bit of coaching I did for the weekend, made the boys eat it all.  Great times!!!!!

The “OW!” Factor

by John McKean

My son Rob, when in elementary school, setting an 802# Hand and Thigh record at Howard's first Gold Cup. This record has stood for 24 years now!

My son Rob, when in elementary school, setting an 802# Hand and Thigh record at Howard’s first Gold Cup. This record has stood for 24 years now!

“C’mon, little fella, do you really expect to warmup with US?!” The superheavies at an early 60s powerlifting meet had dominated one of the few olympic bars, and were not too keen to share their already heavily loaded squat rack with a barely 165#, dweeby out-of-towner. After all, they reasoned, it wasn’t their fault that the meet director had somehow assigned middleweights to the evening session; they sure didn’t want to waste energy breaking down the 455 they’d carefully built up. Since my opener out on the main platform was imminent, I had to use my charming personality and a bit of surprise to convince these rack hogs into giving me a break. Promising to take only one set, I requested they ADD a pair of 45s to the bar, and spot closely! Shocked into silence, the beefy group complied and stared blankly as I banged out 4 quick reps! Rushing to the contest stage soon after, I treated very strict judges to an easy district record, despite a hefty drop in poundage from the warmup room

However, in those pure power days of no super suits, no ultra compressing wraps, nor thick magnum belts, my “crazy” fast and heavy prep set was hardly superhuman – those reps were merely 4” QUARTER squats. Yet, as experience had taught, any sufficiently loaded partial lift not only races the ole adrenaline around, but also makes a regular, full movement exercise FEEL quite light! Perhaps as much MENTAL as physical, a monstrous overload still contracts and readies every portion of one’s body (even the brain awakens!), warming the entire musculature. Why, then, endure an energy-robbing process of excess light do-nothing sets?

Through ongoing experiments with the severe overload concept during my building years, I sought out a well known proponent with whom I had spoken to and corresponded – mighty Paul Anderson himself! It seems the World’s Strongest Man developed much of his phenomenal squatting poundage (1200+) by inserting magnum weight quarter squats in between sets of more normal full movement deep knee bends (if, indeed, 3 sets of 10 with a below parallel 800 # – no suit, wraps, nor drugs, can be considered “normal”!). Paul maintained that near limit partials only worked if one used them in direct conjunction with the actual lift that was intended to be strengthened. At that time, my competition squat had been absolutely stuck at 455, and knowing my gym mates would not appreciate two olympic bars being tied up, it was back to my home garage for four months! Of course, there was the obnoxious safety chains clanging around my 6′ exercise bar that had to be endured. I gutted out these supersets and constant loading/deloading without incident (you always have to be VERY aware with 5X+ bwt on quarter squats!). But rewards were great – during the next meet, a 500 pound state record was an easy opener!

These days my “Overload Warmup” (or “OW!”- a fitting name!) consists of our USAWA three official chain lifts – the hip lift, hand and thigh, and neck lift. Each can be seen and described on this website, in the rule book section. Easy to deploy in a garage gym, let’s just consider for now the “hand and thigh” lift. Most don’t own an official short handle and chain to do this lift, so simply rest a barbell in a power rack or on a quite high set of concrete blocks, such that it touches the upper thighs. Using an overhand grip, bury the fingers between the bar and your thighs (to LOCK them in) then just lean back slightly and stand up. Range of movement will only be ½ inch to 2 inches, and 4 to 6 reps will do the job, but will remind you why I’ve so named them (your fingers, traps, forearms, thighs, and everything else will scream “OW! OW! OW!”)!! START your workout with this movement, and any follow-up deadlift type will seem like a walk in the park! How heavy? Well, at 12 years old, my then 165 pound son Rob hefted an official pre teen world record 802 pounds that’s stood for 24 years now; more mature specialists often train with over 1100 pound hand and thighs.

Steve Schmidt just after doing a 2300# Hip Lift at the Ambridge Nationals in 1991, in taking the open Best Lifter Award.

Steve Schmidt just after doing a 2300# Hip Lift at the Ambridge Nationals in 1991, in taking the open Best Lifter Award.

Longtime friend Steve Schmidt, a hard working 5th generation farmer from Missouri, has specialized mostly on herculean chain lifts for many years now, as evidenced by massive, odd-angled scrap iron chunks and extremely thick harnesses which adorn his famous open air “chicken coop gym.” A soft spoken 215 pound USAWA competitor, Steve tops official all-round record charts with his 3515 pound harness lift, 3050# back lift, and 2520# hip lift, among others! Yet from this “OW!” training, he has always been able to enter meets which feature full movement lifts, and easily acquired “outstanding lifter” awards, even at the WORLD level (IAWA)! These days, over 60 years of age and very healthy, Steve has enjoyed exhibiting his chain and mouthpiece TEETH lifting; sometimes at fairs he’s pulled a full size 29 TON railroad car in this manner – the Guinness people love him! Even with all this heavy lifting success, Steve’s disciplined, dedicated farm work leaves little time to train; he recently told me that he merely does 5 relatively easy sets of 10 on a few chain lifts once per week (easy for HIM – his “light” warmup bar for hip lifts is a 1500 pound railroad train axle, and the harness platform STARTS at over 2500 !). A really cool book on his life and lifting is “Heart of Steel” on his website – www.steveschmidtmo.com

Got a spare corner in your garage? Set up a station or two for hip lifts, hand and thighs, neck lifts, or, heaven help ya, the teeth lift! Feel the power of “OW!” and watch poundage on all your other lifts skyrocket!And for exciting old time, super heavy, home gym training inspiration get a copy or subscription to USAWA meet promoter, Roger LaPointe’s exciting new monthly “Garage Gym Journal” (www.atomicathletic.com)

Deadlift-Dumbbell, One Arm

by Al Myers

John McKean performing a One Arm Dumbbell Deadlift at the 2010 IAWA Gold Cup in Boston.

John McKean performing a One Arm Dumbbell Deadlift at the 2010 IAWA Gold Cup in Boston.

The third lift contested at the 2016 USAWA Grip Championships will be the Deadlift – Dumbbell, One Arm.  The name of this lift is pretty explanatory – it’s a deadlift using a dumbbell with the use of only one arm.  The choice of arm to use is up to you so pick the one you’re strongest with.  And remember you must stay with the arm you start with throughout all attempts.  I was once at at meet where a lifter tried to switch arms on his last attempt, and when told he couldn’t do that replied, “I was saving me strong arm for the hard lift!”.

The rules of the Deadlift – One Arm with barbell are followed by this lift.

E12. Deadlift – Dumbbell, One Arm

The rules of the Bar Deadlift – One arm apply except one dumbbell is used. The dumbbell may be placed to the side of the lifter or the lifter may straddle the dumbbell. The dumbbell may touch the lifter’s legs during and at the completion of the lift as long as the dumbbell is not supported by the body. If the dumbbell is loadable, the plates used may have a maximum diameter of 18 inches.

At the Grip Champs we will use a loadable dumbbell so we can add larger diameter plates.  The dumbbell handle will be a USAWA regulation handle.  For those unfamiliar with the rules of the One Arm Deadlift with bar, the main things to remember is to finish with straight legs, non-lifting hand removed from the body at finish, and center line of bar higher than the knees.  You do not need to be standing upright upon completion.  Once the lifter and implement is motionless, a down command will be given by the head official.

The One Rep Pump

by John McKean

Serge Reding

Serge Reding

Leaping very high into the air, toes pointed perfectly, crisp coordinated form, with pinpoint precision and speed, I’d have awarded a perfect score of “10” to the would-be ballerina!! Well, at least, to this 309 pound “ballerina” who possessed over 20” bulging, ballistic-powered calves!! You see, I’d just witnessed the phenomenal, densely muscled Serge Reding perform a textbook squat snatch with an extremely heavy barbell (he eventually snatched 402 pounds!) at the 1970 World Championships in Columbus, Ohio. He was obviously a pleased and happy man during this victory jump, and almost outdid the legendary Alexeev for the overall title!

My excitement was on a different level. Never had I seen such pure pulling power as developed by this 5’7” human tank. Nor anyone, anywhere so thickly muscled, as the obvious outcome of longtime pulling dedication! Heck, later, after that day’s lifting, a Mr. World, or some such physique event, was scheduled with featured competitors Olivia, Schwartzenegger, Columbu, etc. However, after being absolutely blown away by Serge Reding, I told my wife we were heading back home immediately (I had highly motivated TRAINING to do!) because NOBODY, no matter what titles held, could look as physically and functionally impressive as the Belgian Blockbuster!!

Upon further reading, it seems ole Serge also once deadlifted 771 pounds – with no training whatsoever on that lift! Hmmm, maybe I should have done more olympic lifting in my teens, rather than jumping right into powerlifting. Still, it proved then that it’s never too late to add a few pulling movements. But it was much later, as a master’s age lifter, that the wonderful world of all-round weightlifting competition (I.A.W.A.) provided a huge variety of on ground and off ground pulls. Events such as straddle lifts, hacks, continental cleans, hang snatches, single arm swings and various positioned one handed heaves, etc., etc., went a long way toward making up for a misspent youth!!

Yet it wasn’t until former U.S.A.W.A. President, Cleveland’s late, great Howard Prechtel, showed me a unique, relatively obscure lift favored by old timer Herman Goerner, that my old bod started to “feel” much how Serge Reding “looked”! That is, upon performing this platform-up pull, every muscle fiber and tendon went into serious tension mode; a rich feeling during the delightful strain suggesting my body was being turned inside out!

The pull in question is the two barbell deadlift. Yep, an olympic barbell at right and left, hook gripped and grabbed from the exact centers, then a slow, torturous stand up. Certainly, SLOW motion is a key due to balance issues, but the nature of the lift also supplies a sustained TOTAL BODY ISOMETRIC contraction of everything from toes to nose for support! I’ve long maintained that ALL max weight lifting works the musculature entirely, through the iso effect of holding heavy barbells, and that ONE heavy lift is superior to any long term scheme of sets & reps!! You’ll have to actually try a near limit two barbell deadlift to understand, but literally ONE rep yields a very efficient, entire body “flush”! (Please forgive the bodybuilding terms!! Yet just as Reding displayed, the ultimate form of “posing” is under the duress of crimson-faced struggling with something extremely heavy! His 21” arms certainly looked sufficiently “flexed” with the the eye-popping overhead pressing performance of an official 502 pounds! Check Youtube).

Why not go to an easier loading trap bar or 2 dumbbell deadlifts? Well, one can position himself far better with 2 moveable barbells to the sides; while a trap bar offers a fixed hold and seems so far more restricting. Personally, I can always achieve higher poundage with two barbells than a trap bar, or with clumsier dumbbells. Plus the grip work is intense, and it’s a genuine thrill to pull & hold TWO heavily loaded 7 foot bars!

These days, in early middle age (70!), I often think I could just live with the TBD alone as a complete exercise program, just working up to a top single. Yeah, a few other favorite contest exercises are still retained because there’s always all-round meets approaching, but none of those secondary movements provide that one rep “pump” instilled by the iso effect of hefting 2 big bars. I swear that the lift actually “irons out,” for the duration of supporting it, all the “old man body wrinkles” life has somehow given me!

Garage trainees, try some! You are certainly in a better place to load and pick up 2 parallel bars than in a commercial gym or even within the friendlier confines of a competition oriented “pit.” Trust me, you don’t want the unnecessary attention when devoting time to train this rather strange movement! Nor do you deserve the fearful stares as super effort 2 bar deadlifts threaten to explode your face and neck when all the hidden veins and tendons come springing forth!

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