Tag Archives: JWC

Variations on the Press

by Thom Van Vleck

I have written about the Press several times before.  My Uncle Wayne Jackson loved doing the Olympic Clean and Press.  As a matter of fact, when they dropped the lift Wayne never competed again in an Olympic lifting contest.  He eventually did 370lbs out of the rack.  I also saw him strict press 330lbs out of the rack.

So wait a minute, you say.  I thought you said he pressed 370?  Well, he did.  Here’s the thing.  The way I was taught there were three variations of the Press.  This is not to be confused with the USAWA rules for pressing movements.  I am listing these to make a point regarding training, not setting a record.

1.  The Push Press.  With the weight racked on the collar bone and you would then dip with knees and hips and then extend to drive the weight overhead while finishing pressing out with only the shoulders and arms with no recovery (rebending the knees or it was then a push jerk). A very quick movement that might slow down at the finish.

2.  The Strict Press.  You held the weight racked on the collar bone and with NO knee bend or drive with anything other than the shoulders and arms you would press the weight overhead.  A very slow and methodical movement if you are using near max weights.

3.  The Olympic Press. Similar to the Push press but with no knee bend.  However, hip drive would be employed to get a “heave” off the chest after sinking with the weight once it was across the collar bone.  Of course the reason the Olympic press was dropped was it started out as a strict press then the rules were relaxed to the point it became more of a push press and impossible to judge.  My Uncle became so proficient at the sinking or “slumping” and the hip drive he actually could Olympic Press as much as he could Push Press!

Over the years I have used all three in my training.  I think most people have used the Push press and the strict press but not many have used the Olympic Press.  I would guess most would simply say that Olympic press was a cheating press or a poor push press and not see any additional value in the Olympic press.

It is my opinion that the Olympic press helps develop hip drive.  It makes you really focus on engaging the hips and I think that’s really important not only in weightlifting but in many athletic events as well.  Mastering that small range of motion can add to a power clean, to a fast baseball pitch, and maybe most importantly to throwing events such as the shot put, discus, highland games and others.

Be sure and focus on the hip drive!  When I’m done training these I can really feel the fatigue in my hips.  A “pro tip” from my Uncle Wayne was he said when he would get set to press he would focus on flexing his glutes hard.

Give it a try and see what you think.  Let me know!

The 1964 Missouri State Champ!

by Thom Van Vleck

Wayne Gardner holding the 1964 State Champ trophy and a copy of the Obituary of his good friend Wayne Smith.

Wayne Gardner holding the 1964 State Champ trophy and a copy of the Obituary of his good friend Wayne Smith.

Recently I visited an old friend and member of the JWC, Wayne Gardner.  Wayne had been a member of the Jackson Weightlifting Club in the 1960’s and had them moved away for a job in Kansas City.  Wayne continued to lift competitively into his 50’s and lifted often in the old Odd Lifting days that preceded the USAWA.

I was looking at all of Gardner’s trophies and he told me there was one that was extra special to him.  It was one that he didn’t win but was given to him because he should have won it.  It was for the 165lb weight class of the 1964 Missouri State Championships.

The story goes like this.  When I was growing up there was a club member (and a former USAWA member and odd lifter) named Wayne Smith.  Smith lifted with the JWC and was on the two time State Team Champs.  Now, no disrespect to Smith as he was a great lifter and chin up champ.  But Olympic lifting was not his best area of lifting.  Gardner was a great Oly lifter and in 1964 they ended up in the same weight class.

Gardner had won the previous year.  He was the favorite to repeat.  As the meet progressed a funny thing happened.  Everyone bombed out except Gardner and Smith!  Going into the last lift, the Clean & Jerk, Gardner needed only a 135lbs to seal his second stated championship.  Smith came up and told him to take it a seal the win.  Gardner didn’t like the idea of taking such a light weight so he stuck with his original opener of 240lbs.  Smith finished his C&J’s and then waited on Gardner.  Who promptly BOMBED OUT!

Smith ended up with his only state championship.  He was pretty happy about it even if the other members kidded him for years about it being by default.  Many times I remember Smith retorting with, “Yeah, but I did what I had to do…to bad those other guys didn’t”!

Close up of the trophy

Close up of the trophy

Over the years Gardner and Smith remained great friends and then a few years ago Smith passed away.  It was a sad day for the JWC.  Gardner went to Smith’s family and asked if he could have that trophy and promised to give it a good home.  So they did and now after all these years it was in Gardner’s hands.

As Gardner recounted the story to me that I’ve heard a hundred times it took on a new meaning.  It was obvious to me this was more about friendship and less about a piece of metal mounted on wood.  A tear came to his eye as he finished knowing that Smith is no longer around to share in the moment.  Which considering Gardner was a Marine and one of the toughest guys I’ve ever known was saying much about how much it meant to him.  I’m pretty sure knowing him all my life I never saw him shed a tear before.

So that’s the story of a long forgotten state championship upon which a lifetime of friendship was built!

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!

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