Tag Archives: JWC

Merry Christmas from the JWC!

by Thom Van Vleck

Me driving my Ol' Truck in the Christmas parade pulling our float.

Recently the Jackson Weightlifting Club had a float in the Kirksville Kiwanis Christmas Parade.  The take collections for warm hats, gloves, and scarves for the needy and we added to their collection. We decorated up the truck and trailer and my kids got about a dozen friends to walk in the parade, hand out candy, and ride on the trailer that was covered in lights and loaded with boxes wrapped to look like presents.  Sure, the “presents” were really my boxes used for weight training but it looked good!

My lovely wife rode on the trailer. She has been my personal Christmas present that I've gotten to wake up to every year for nearly 3 decades!

What you can’t see is my two oldest were carrying a JWC banner to lead our group and all the kids handing out candy along the side.  A bonus was it was Ethan Van Vleck’s birthday so we all went out for a birthday dinner afterwards.

We are a small town but I'd guess about 500 folks were out for the parade! And Santa was even there....though he looks suspiciously familiar...like someone I know.

The Jackson Weightlifting Club has been a part of my family’s life for over 75 years and 4 generations.  What you see is the 5th generation.  The JWC is much more than just lifting weights.  So, from the JWC family to your family….Merry CHRISTmas and a happy 2015!  As my Grandpa Dalton Jackson, the founder of the club would ALWAYS say, “The best is yet to come”!   Amen!

Quality over Quantity

by Thom Van Vleck

I love being in the gym.  When I first caught the “iron bug” I’d spend hours in the Jackson Weightlifing Club gym.  While I would always be training….not all that time was working out.  I recall reading a story about Paul Anderson.  He would rest for up to 15 minutes between sets while visiting with others or other distractions.  I know I often found myself doing the same thing.  I would visit, read lifting magazines, or be writing down stuff related to my workout.  I was putting value in the quantity of time in the gym over the quality of my time.

I know I’ve been guilty of doing a certain number of sets for a certain number of sets for the simple reason my work out plan called for it.  Most of us go into the gym with a plan.  I have often found myself looking to hit certain benchmarks and success was measured on getting those sets and reps.  I was happy if I made my “goals”.   I was putting value in the quantity of sets, reps, and poundages over the quality of sets, reps, and poundages.

A couple years ago I decided to start focusing on the quality of my workouts.  As I started to use that as a measure over quantity I found myself very lacking.  I found that I could take a weight and lift it….or I could LIFT IT LIKE I MEANT IT!   I also began to notice that I was wasting a lot of time just being in the gym and not doing things that had a direct impact on my lifting.  Oh…you know….like actually lifting weights!   So my re-dedication  involved assessing every part of my work out by constantly asking myself one question, “Is what I’m doing adding quality to my workout or is it just quantity?”.

I began to notice several things.  I started to make gains again.  I lost weight.  I got in better cardio shape (my workouts much faster), I got more done in less time which meant I was working out more and most of all my attitude towards my workouts improved as it re-energized me and gave me confidence in the idea that what I was doing was going to help make me stronger.

So, the next time you work out you might want to ask yourself, “Quality..or Quantity”?

Four Corners

by Thom Van Vleck

The Jackson Weightlifting Club has been a big part of my life.  As those who know me will already be aware it was started by my grandfather Dalton Jackson in 1928.  It was just him and some friends who were interested in weightlifting.  They never competed.  They were interested in training to get better, be stronger, healthier, and maybe impress some girls!  The club wasn’t official then, just friends.

Then in 1957 he got my Uncles, Wayne and Phil Jackson into lifting.  Wayne eventually won the Teenage Nationals in Olympic lifting and was a 4 time Missouri State Olympic lifting champion and won the powerlifting title once.  Phil won some meets as well but got more into bodybuilding and was in Muscular Development one time and in Strength and Health another time.  Phil got an “official” club going with a logo they wore on their lifting suits when in competition and they actually achieved something quite remarkable.  They won two state team titles in Olympic lifting against clubs in St. Louis and Kansas City.  Not bad for a little club from a little town.  They charged dues and opened a key gym as well.  At one time it had almost 30 members and had Phil not joined the Air Force (he was due to be drafted anyways) and left for four years I wonder where the club would have went.

As it was, the club kind of played out and by 1971 it was all but gone.  I joined my Uncle Wayne starting in 1977 with my own training and the “key gym” was again started in 1980.  We soon had about 20 members and had a couple of guys competing at the state level in powerlifting.  In 1982 I joined the Marines and soon the club died again.

Then, in 1988, I got back into hard training.  Slowly, I revived the concept of the JWC and in 1992 started competing again.  I had a few guys that traveled with me and we were mostly “unofficial” but we were a group of guys that lifted, traveled to meets, and shared a love of the iron.

In 1997 I had a chance to do a strongman show with Omega Force.  I invited my buddy Brian Kerby and we did 6 shows in 4 days in St. Louis including one final event that was the warm up for the US Nationals Strongman Contest at the Family Arena in St. Charles.  There were several thousand people there.  Brian and I were invited to travel to Austrailia and New Zealand with Omega Force but we had full time jobs, families….but we became open to the idea of doing strongman shows as part of an evangelism effort and decided to start a local group of our own.

We were trying to come up with a “catch” name for our group when Brian came to me and said that he thought we should go by the name “Jackson Weightlifting Club”.  At that time it really got me to thinking of what the club was really about.  I will say that since then we have done over 250 shows that have reached out to over 25,000 people plus we have directed about 20 lifting meets (including the USAWA Nationals) and at a couple dozen Highland Games and Strongman Contests.  But the club was something much deeper than that for me.

As I explored in my mind and heart what the club was all about I came up with what I call the “Four Corners” of the JWC foundation.  These four cornerstones are what everything the JWC does is built upon.

Faith:  First comes Faith.  The JWC exists because of the Christian Principles laid down by my grandfather and passed on to each subsequent generation.  The most importan principle being faith.  Faith is the belief in something with strong conviction.  My own interpretation is that it gives us the ability to believe in something even when the evidence seems to be against it.  Faith is important in lifting because it takes a long time and  lot of work to make progress in lifting.  You have to have faith in yourself, your lifting program, and believe it will pay off.  Many fail in lifting because they didn’t have faith.  To me it is most important.

Honor:  Honor has several meanings and the one I intend means having integrity.  There is a Viking poem I have hanging in my gym that talks about how everything can be taken away from you.  You can lose you fortune, your family, even your life.  But the one thing that NO ONE can take from you, only you can give away, is your Honor.  It is your reputation.  It is a core value in my family and thus the JWC.

Strength:  This word implies being strong.  But strong in what?  My use of this word in the JWC is that it strength goes beyond the physical state.  I know that lifting weights gives me strength.  Sure, I become stronger, but I also gain strength to endure.  I gain emotional and mental strength.  Most of all I gain spiritual strength from having goals and achieving them leading to a belief in myself and what I can accomplish in all things through hard work and sweat equity.

Wisdom:  Wisdom is last on the list but it’s still important.  Wisdom to me it the ability use intelligence for a greater end.  It is the ability to use knowledge with good judgement, common sense, and prudence.  I want to gain knowledge but if I can’t find the best way to use it then I have failed.  Lifting smart brings me success.  The best lifting routine will give you the greatest results with the least effort and the least chance of injury.  Weightlifting quantifies that result and makes it easier for me to be wise in all things in life.  Even when the results aren’t as easy to quantify I know wisdom is at work.

Over the years, at our strongman evangelism shows, these core values were at the base of our messages.  While our shows often focused on Christ and were at Churches and Bible Camps we often did shows at schools and community gatherings that focused on citizenship, staying off drugs, and other more secular topics.  We never denied who we were, Christians, but the “four corners” were always there.

I hope that some day another generation in my family picks up the JWC flag. That is my next goal in life, passing this tradition on.  The JWC has produced many champions and contest winners, but it is most proud of who those people were rather than their athletic accomplishments.  It always has been and hopefully always will be!

All Round Mountaineering

by Thom Van Vleck

Chad atop the mountain!

After the recent Highland Games Masters World Championships Chad Ullom joined me on a “Mountaineering” expedition.  Last time I made a pretty epic climb but this time we took it a little easier after such a tough, three day competition. It is my opinion that a true “all rounder” should be in shape to do pretty much whatever he wants.  I enjoy hiking and hill climbing.

We had rented a house that overlooked Loch Ness.  Honestly, it was the best place I’ve ever stayed.  About as stereotypical Scotland as you could get and the views were spectacular.  While we were up above the Loch we were far from the top and that became Chad and I’s goal.  We heard you could see for 50 miles in every direction.  We set out up a road that met a trail.  The trail was was through woods and fairly steep.  We reached a logging road and after some discussion picked a route.  As we got above the tree line we were in fields covered with heather and rocks.

We were hoping for good weather as the view promised to be spectacular….but a heavy fog (or maybe it was clouds!) rolled in.  I’m glad we took layers as the wind picked up and it was very damp.  While the long distance view was ruined, it was still pretty interesting to pick you way down a trail in that heavy fog.  If you didn’t pay attention you could get easily turned around.

Thom Van Vleck at the top.

We ended up hiking down the other side and picking our way through several trails in the Abraichian Forest.  We ran across deep woods, unusual mushrooms as big as dinner plates and some bright red and some orange.  We saw an illicit Whiskey still reproduction (the Scottish version of a moonshine still).  There were glacial tills filled with rocks and we even saw some Scottish Red Deer.

As always, I had a bit of a side mission as well.  In 1971 my mother gave me my first bible.  Then for Christmas in 1978 by grandfather Dalton (Jackson Weightlifting Club founder) gave me a bible.  They were both small versions but have meant a lot to me because they are symbolic of the Christian principles I was taught and have come to embrace.  I know Christ is my savior and I’m a better man for it.  So, I brought those bibles along and laid them out at the top of the peak.

Two Bibles given to me by my mother and grandfather setting at the top of the mountain.

I can’t believe I’ve been to Scotland three times….and I can’t say I won’t again.  I’m sure there are many beautiful places in the world but there is so much I haven’t seen there and it’s a “sure thing” I’ll like it versus and unknown place.  Plus, the family history connection and the highland games are hard to beat.  I’ve already got a “next mountain” planned when I make it back.

The Gada: Part III

by Thom Van Vleck

Dalton would do any kind of movement he did with a dumbbell with his modified "Gada" or "Indian Club" dumbbells.

In part three I said I’d get to how you would train Dalton Jackson style with the Gada.  I first want to explain to you that his is not intended to be a comprehensive training program.  It is very simply what I remember seeing my grandfather do.  Upon reviewing his notes and memories of our talks I know that he studied Arthur Saxon, Eugene Sandow, Sig Klien, Earle Liederman, The Great Gama, and Charles Atlas.  These 5 weren’t the only ones, but I would say most of his training came from these men.  I know he ordered courses from Klien (I still have it and it’s autographed!), Liederman, and Atlas.  What you are getting are my recollections of what he did that I know know to be related to the Gada.

The first was basic dumbbell work.  Very simple, Dalton would do any kind of dumbbell work using these “off set” dumbbells you see in the photo above.  The photo has him doing some basic dumbbell presses with the weight “top heavy”.  He also would switch it to make it bottom heavy. I recall when he retired at 65 he worked hard for the next 7 years and got in tremendous shape.  His goal was to duplicate some feats of strength at age 75 he had done at 50 and he came very close!  His body weight was at least 220lbs around age 70 but my Uncle Phil says he got as heavy as 240lbs!  All I know is I recall his forearms being so large that they made his upper arm look small.  I believe using the “gada” style dumbbells helped in that development.  So I would do presses, various curls, cleans, snatches, top heavy, bottom heavy….he was a big believer in mixing his workout up so he rarely did the same thing twice.

The book that the illustration of Kehoe is from.

The next thing I recall is your basic Indian Club swings.  I didn’t see him do this often but he would do one or two and get them rotating around.  This involved swing the clubs around and I believe he mostly did this to loosen his shoulders up.  I wish I had paid more attention to the specifics but I do know this, I found an illustration in his notes that he had cut out of some magazine long ago that had an illustration of Sim Kehoe doing “Figure no. 5″ from his book “Indian Club Exercises” which can be found online.

Specialized work.  My grandfather believe that his training should closely follow what he was trying to get better at.  For him this was never a contest so it was life events.  For example if winter was coming he would load a long barbell and do “snow shovel” movements, 5 reps left, then 5 reps right.  He always wanted to be balanced!  A few years ago I know Al Myers made an implement that mimicked the sheaf toss movement and it was bar like a pitch fork that could have plates loaded on the “business” end.  I remember Dalton told me that he had a “corn shucking” working for when he shucked corn by hand!  He would use his offset dumbbells whenever they suited this purpose.

Another “quirk” to my grandfather’s training was that he would always load his left hand a little heavier.  Regardless if it were the “Gada” dumbbells or a barbell or dumbbells.  He told me that his left side was always weaker and needed more work since his right side got more work on the job and doing chores.  To this day I keep his old barbell set loaded in my gym in such a fashion.  I’ve never heard of anyone training that way.

I wish I’d paid more attention.  To this day I’ll see something and think, “I saw Pop do that!”.  As I remember stuff I try and write it down.  He wrote volumes of journals and I go through them occasionally and find things I missed or didn’t connect the dots at the time.  He often wrote in a sort of short hand that makes him a tough read sometimes.  In a way it’s like finding a little treasure every time I revisit!  I hope you have enjoyed my three part series and find some time to try a “Gada” out in your training program!

1 2 3 16