Tag Archives: JWC

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!

Big T’s Birthday Bash OTSM

by Thom Van Vleck

As many know by now I turned 50 years of age.  When this was coming up my wife asked me what I would like to do on my birthday.  I have two interests and from those interests come most of my friends.  They are the Scottish Highland Games and Weightlifting.  I thought about it long and hard and I knew that if I could have anything I wanted it would be to have my friends at my home and throwing and lifting being a part of that.  So, the first Saturday after my birthday (my actual birthday was May 28th and the meet was May 31st) I hosted a Highland Games and an Old Time Strong Man USAWA meet.

The Highland Games came first thing in the morning.  Like the USAWA there are age groups in the Highland Games with records for eight traditional events.  Moving up a class gave me an opportunity to do something that I had not done in nearly 10 years which was set a World Record.  I had a group of 4 masters that included myself, 8 time Master’s World Champ Jim Spalding, 8 time Master’s World Champ Bill Leffler (who broke his own 60-64 age group record in the 28lb Weight for Distance at the meet), and USAWA member Dean Ross who is a 2 time MWC Champ himself!

Now, bear with me as I do a little self promotion.  I spent the last two years trying to rebuild my strength base with an eye on setting the Weight Over Bar World record as well as going top ten in all the events.  So here’s a not-so-short story on that:

My best event is the Weight Over Bar.  I love this event and it plays right to my strength.  I have done what seems like a million power cleans in my life and I think all that work paid off as the WOB event involves pulling a 42lb weight over a cross bar for height.  Much like the pole vault or high jump the bar will go up and the greatest height wins.  I broke and rebroke the WR in this event in 2005 when I was in the 40-44 age group.  In the 45-49 age group I ended with the 2nd best all time throw…but no record.  I made it a goal to work this event and try and break this record.  This was a two year plan.  When it came time for that event I had the beginning of a nasty callous tear on my right throwing hand.  If it went I knew it would seriously screw up my goal as my grip would be compromised.  So I decided to not do as many warm ups and jump to a higher starting height which was 17ft.  I started with the standing style (they keep records for the standing style and the “open” or spinning style) and easily cleared 17ft.  I then jumped to 17ft 10in which was a half inch better than the current best by Mark McDonald of Scotland.  You get three attempts at each height and I missed my first two!  Disaster!  Not warming up on the event was causing me some problems!  I took a moment and got dialed back in and rolled it over!  So, one record down and one to go.  Had I missed that I would NOT have been able to attempt the second one so that was very critical.  I then moved the bar up to 18ft 6in which would at least give me the second best all time WOB with the spin style and it would give me a warm up before going up to the record attempt.  This was usually an easy height for me but my grip was giving me problems.  It was hot and muggy and my grip just felt “greasy” and that didn’t make me feel confident.  Usually this height would be a cinch but instead I missed it two times and again found myself behind the proverbial “8 ball” needing to get my third throw to even have a shot at the open WOB record.  I got some words of encouragement and was able to make that third throw but now I had to jump a foot to 19’6″ to set the break the record held by Jeff Loosle.  That’s a huge jump and I was not real confident after my struggles.  I went through my mental approach, visualizing my throws, going through my mental check list of what points to hit and lined up for the toss.  I hit it perfectly and knew it, but I also wondered if this would be enough!  I looked up and watched as the weight literally rolled over the bar!  I then felt a searing pain in my hand and looked down to see I had blown my callous wide open!  Glad it waited!  A two year journey had been fulfilled.  Thanks for bearing with me in that “totally unrelated to the USAWA” news.

Now on to the meet report!

We started with the new “unofficial” lift of OTSM which is “Thor’s Hammer”.  I was curious how this event would play out.  Would it be too dangerous?  Would it be too hard to judge?   When you have a new event you just don’t know until you test it out.  Art Montini was the brave soul that started us out.  I had a warm up bar set up as well and everyone was trying out different things.  You quickly realize that you can’t handle as much as you think and adjustments were being made.  Dean Ross jumped in next followed by Mike Murdock and Denny Habecker.  Art ended with 15lbs, Dean and Mike at 20lbs, and Denny at 25lbs before John O’Brien and Eric Todd jumped in at 30lbs.  I had done 40lbs in the one time I practice this event and figured I’d just start there.  John made 35lbs and Eric finished with a successful 40lb attempt.  I felt a little sheepish jumping in after those two were done and was wondering if I had made a tactical error in not taking an earlier attempt.  However, my nerves were calmed when I hit the 40 and I was able to finish with 45lbs.  Not often I lead over those two guys at any point in a meet and I knew they’d crush me later but I have to admit it was a nice birthday present to beat two guys I have so much respect for even if it were just one lift!

We next went to the Cyr lift.  Again Art led us off and got the party started.  Again Art, Mike, Dean, and Denny took their turns.  Art and Mike finished with 30lbs, Dean with 65lbs, and Denny at 85lbs.   I started with John’s starting lift which was 125lbs.  It was so tough I decided to end there.  John went on to tie his own USAWA best in this lift with 140lbs before missing 150lbs on a third.  Eric stole the show at this point and opened at 150lbs.  He then jumped to 170lbs and then made 180lbs.  This is special as he’s had an injured elbow that needed surgery.  So it was nice to see Eric pushing big weights again!

We ended with the Dumbbell to the shoulder.  I love this lift and had to fight Al Myers to even consider it.  I think it’s a really unique event and the small crown of spectators really seemed to enjoy watching this lift.  I think for spectators the slow, methodical style of this lift and the simplicity of the rules allows them to cheer and follow along as the lifter struggles to complete the lift.  However, for the lifter, this is one of the more painful lifts I have ever done and my sternum was sore for days after!  Art edged out Mike Murdock with a 60lb effort to Mike’s 50lbs.  Dean edged Denny with 130lbs to a 100lbs effort.  I opened with 200lbs then jumped to 235lbs which would be a personal best for me in competition.  After getting that I retired and set back to watch John and Eric battle it out!  They both made my best attempt of 235lbs look easy and jumped to 265lbs.  Both made it with some effort and then both jumped to 300lbs  This would tie the all time best in this event by Chris Anderson.  300lbs would also be a 35lb contest PR for Eric and 30lb contest PR for John.  So quite a jump.  Both athletes looked like they were wrestling a bear but both ended up successful!  Eric called for 305lbs which was all I could fit on my bar.  This was twice Eric has maxed out my equipment with the last time being on the Dinnie Stones.  John said he’d had enough so it was just Eric for the 4th and final attempt.  By now the Highland Games were completely over and my gym was filled to over flowing.  Eric  pulled the Dumbbell in and then tried to get a solid set on his belt to continental it up.  He seemed to slip on this a couple times and I was wondering if he were going to get it.  As soon as he got a solid set up on his belt I think we all knew that Eric was not going to fail but there was this little detail of finishing a very painful lift!  Eric bounced it up until Mike Murdock gave him the down signal.  I mention the fact Mike was judging as he is one of the toughest judges I’ve seen and if he says you got it….YOU GOT IT WITHOUT QUESTION!

It’s always nice to end a meet on a successful lift that breaks a record!  Several records were broken and I believe the Thor’s Hammer is an OTSM event that’s here to stay!  Everyone seemed to like it and after we were done the highland games throwers came to the platform to give it a go and this went on for another hour!

I had said I was going to crown two champions.  The overall weight lifted regardless of age or bodyweight and then the formula winner.  Eric Todd won the overall weight lifted with 525lbs.  John O’Brien was 2nd and I was third.  The age and weight adjust rankings go like this:  Eric 410.97 and still first, John 374.65 and still second, Thom 340.31 and still third.  Now we have a change.  Dean and Denny now flip at 4th and 5th with Denny at 251.33 and Dean at 220.92.  Art and Mike maintain their placings with Art’s adjusted total at 149.14 to Mike’s 128.23.


(age/weight/class)   Thor’s Hammer    Cyr Lift   Dumbbell to Shoulder   Total

Mike Murdock (74/180lb) 20lbs            30lbs (record)     50lbs (record)      100lbs

Art Montini (86/175lb)       15lbs             30lbs (record)    60lbs (record)      105lbs

Denny Habecker (71/195lb)25lbs            85lbs (record)     100lbs                   210lbs

Dean Ross (71/266lbs)         22.5lbs        65lbs (record)    130lbs (record)  217.5lbs

Thom Van Vleck (50/275lbs)45lbs        125lbs (record)    235lbs (record)  405lbs

John O’Brien (45/285lbs)   35lbs          140lbs                  300lbs (record)   475lbs

Eric Todd (39/257lbs)            40lbs          180lbs (record)  305lbs (record)    525lbs

Thanks to everyone that came and made my Birthday so much fun and a success.  I appreciate the guys being patient and waiting on the Highland Games to be over before we started the lifting.  A special award to Dean Ross who was the only guy that did both other than me!

Big T’s OTSM (First Update)

by Thom Van Vleck

I have some more information on OTSM being held at the Jackson Weightlifting Club.  Entry info and a link to the first story on the meet can be found under the USAWA Future Events section.

This meet will be held outside weather permitting.  If the weather is bad, we’ll move it inside.  Each lifter will be given the chance to look at the records and attempt one record attempt on a lift outside the competition once the meet is completed.  Additional records will be up to there being time.  I wanted to mention this in case there was anyone coming that planned on trying some record attempts.

I thought I might catch some flack regarding my decision to have two champs.  One based on the formulas and the other based solely on most weight lifted.  So far not a peep.  I think it will be interesting to see if they are different!  Just so you know, it’s not my plan to do this with the OTSM Championships.

In addition, This meet will happen regardless of the turn out.  The idea of having this in conjunction with a Highland Games meet is I hope to get some new members to sign up.  You will notice I don’t have a deadline.  All comers!  So don’t worry about the meet being cancelled due to low turnout.  THIS WILL HAPPEN!

Finally, bring some shade, sunscreen, and a folding chair.  It’s pretty wide open at my place so shade is tough to find.  I don’t sunburn and don’t notice it….but we’ve toasted a few of the fair skinned lifters and throwers at my place!

Hope to see you there!


by Thom Van Vleck

I’ve told a story recently and reference a nickname for my Uncle Wayne Jackson.  I wanted to tell about where that came from.

A couple of years ago I hosted the USAWA Nationals.  Wayne was able to make it and was kind of a guest of honor.  At one point Al Myers noticed I called him “Staggo” and asked me about it.  As everyone that knows me, knows ALL TOO WELL, there’s a story behind that!

When I first started training at age 15 it was with my Uncle Wayne Jackson.  It was kind of a tradition to make up nicknames back in the day.  Often it was something that started out as an insult but over time became a badge of honor.  I go to a Lutheran Church and we are taught about how the Catholics used to make fun of us and called us “Lutherans” as an insult.  Now we wear it with honor.

I tended to favor the deadlift…because I was good at the deadlift.  Like a lot of young guys I tended to train what I was good at and ignore what I was bad at…which was pretty much everything else!  My Uncle Phil was the type of guy to cut right to the chase but Wayne was the type to try and use some subtle remark to get his point across.  I think he knew I had a pretty fragile self esteem so just telling me the way I was training was pretty stupid might have dealt me a blow….and I might have quit training.

So one day Wayne started calling me Bob Peoples.  If you don’t know who Bob People’s was, he was very much a deadlift specialist and I was on my way to becoming one, too.  Every time I would start pulling Wayne would say, “Well, there goes Bob People’s again” or he might say, “So is Bob deadlifting again today”.  He made his point and I started to diversify my training.  But I also had to get him back.

Wayne was kind of sensitive about his weight, considering he spent most of his life over 300lbs!  I once asked him how much he weighed at his heaviest and he told me 339 and A HALF.  I then asked, “So when you weighed 340…what were your best lifts”.  Wayne looked at me dead serious and said, “Tommy!  I NEVER weighed 340″.  He also would emphasize that a give weight was “in his street clothes” as if to say “I don’t actually weigh that much, I’m much lighter with my clothes off”!  We all have a weakness and that was his.  Now to exploit it!

We were watching one of the early World’s Strongest Man contests and there was a competitor from Holland named Staggo Piszko.  This guy was huge…and ROUND!  It was made more pronounced by the fact he had this little guy that was his “trainer” or “coach” that was dwarfed by him and kept running around him like he was on fire.  My Uncle kept chuckling every time he saw him.  So for the last 30 years it stuck!  And like many nicknames, what started out as a snappy comeback and a good-natured “ribbing” ended up being a badge of honor.

Many times I called up Wayne and said this line:

“HEY, STAGGO!  …..and he’ll be Staggo to me forever!

Better than Gold

by Thom Van Vleck

The medal my Uncle Wayne gave me.

I was recently at an event and one of the other competitors reached over and pull out a medal I had hanging around my neck.  He wanted to know what it represented.  It is a medal that I’ve worn in every competition I’ve been in or at least been on between lifts or events.  It’s been dipped in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico, the North Sea, the Irish Sea, Mississippi River, Columbia River, Missouri River….even Loch Ness and other places I have traveled and competed.

It is a medal my Uncle Wayne Jackson won the year I was born. The story goes that he went to the meet and won this medal.  He would have been around 21 years old and in the midst of a great run of winning Olympic lifting events in the Midwest that included a Teenage National Title and 5 Missouri State Championships.  Wayne came back from the meet ready to show off his “winnings”.  He had been unable to reach anyone by phone and since this was the days before answering machines and cell phones….if you weren’t there to answer the phone you missed the call!  So he had not been able to tell anyone about winning.

When Wayne arrived at home the house was empty and there was no note or other information on where everyone had went!  He was a little concerned and a little disappointed that he had not been able to share his victory with his family.  Then my Grandmother showed up and told him that he needed to get down to the hospital as his sister had her baby.  Which was me of course!  He told me I had upstaged him!

Reverse side with the 1964

From as early as I can remember my Uncle Wayne was a part of my life.  As a kid he would pick me up and throw me high in the air.  We would wrestle and he would take me out hunting arrowheads.  He never had any children of his own and he became a second father to me.  My kids are like his grand kids.  Obviously, he’s the main reason I got into weight training and in doing so he may have saved my life.  At the least, my life has been much better for getting into lifting.  Over the years he is the first person I call after a contest and he’s also kept up to date on my workouts.  He’s always quick with a compliment and slow to criticize.  He has also been an inspiration to me for his faith in God and using his strength not to intimidate others but protect those that needed protecting.

There came a time when he wanted me to have this medal.  I’m sure it’s not worth much but it’s priceless to me.  It represents our friendship and love for one another.  It represents a passing of the torch in the Jackson Weightlifting Club.  It reminds me of him and when he’s not able to be there with me I feel like he’s there.  It is better than gold to me.

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