by Al Myers
Last month when Thom wrote that “controversial” story on the Shoulder Drop I thought maybe there would be some hotly discussed forum debate on it – but there wasn’t!!! I guess that goes to show that the Shoulder Drop is not an All Round Lift that warrants attention, and most lifters really don’t care “one way or the other” what the rules dictate on it. I was not really surprised by this. The Shoulder Drop is one of those Official Lifts of the USAWA and the IAWA that is rarely performed, and only at a handful of record days. There has been only a handful of records ever set in it.
I was intrigued by Thom’s history of the Shoulder Drop, as it was an old lift he learned from his Grandfather Dalton Jackson. I’ve spent a lot of time researching old time all round lifts – and there is very little information of the Shoulder Drop being a lift performed by lifters 100 plus years ago. It does not have the rich historical significance of lifts like the Steinborn Lift, Jefferson Lift, the One Arm Deadlift, and others. In fact, important old time strength writers like George Jowett and WA Pullom didn’t discuss it in their writings, which included many rules and regulations of the many lifts at the time. The Shoulder Drop appears to have originated as an USAWA/IAWA lift.
I did “some digging’ in my USAWA archives and found just a little as to the origins of the Shoulder Drop in the USAWA. This following is from the February 1st, 1990 issue of the Strength Journal (Vol. 1, No. 3) written by journal editor Bill Clark.
Two new lifts were approved by the board on January 20. They were the Travis Lift and the Shoulder Drop. The rules for each:
The bar must be cleaned either to the chest and then to the shoulders or may be cleaned directly to the shoulders. Once the bar is motionless and held by both hands at the shoulders, the official will give the command to drop. The hands are removed and the bar either dropped or shrugged from the shoulders at the moment of hand release. The bar then must be caught at arm’s length behind the body. Once it is held motionless at arm’s length behind the body, the referee will give the command, “down”, thus completing the lift. The weight may not be rolled down the back, but must be dropped. Balancing the bar on the shoulders while placing the hands in position prior to the drop is not allowed. Also – the body must be erect before the command to stop.
Bill then went on to state that the Shoulder Drop was nominated by Dr. Jim Clark of Houston, Texas. This was a specialty lift of Dr. Clark, who was reported to be capable of big poundages in the Shoulder Drop. However, looking over the record list I see no mention of his name which tells me that he never did complete an official Shoulder Drop in the USAWA.
In reading these initial rules, do you see something missing??? I sure do – there is no mention that the legs must be straight throughout, only that the body must be “erect” before the official’s down command, or as worded, “command to stop”. Now that is interesting to me! So it appears that Thom is not left lost out in the right field bleachers eating popcorn by himself here with his argument of allowing knee bend. This initial Shoulder Drop rule supports Thom’s cause!
When did the Shoulder Drop rule change to require straight legs throughout???? Who knows. There is no mention of it is subsequent meeting minutes that a vote was ever taken. However, the “straight leg requirement” was put into the initial 2002 USAWA Rulebook, as well as the IAWA(UK) Rulebook. Maybe a vote was taken at a meeting sometime and due to sloppy minute taking, was never recorded. Or maybe the “straight leg requirement” was just added as an afterthought by the rulebook editor with no vote approval???
It is obvious that the Shoulder Drop was not in the initial list of official USAWA/IAWA lifts since it was added in 1990 (3 years after the formation of the USAWA/IAWA). I have performed the Shoulder Drop on a few occasions and I do agree with Thom that allowing leg bend with the lift would make it much safer (and more enjoyable to practice). Maybe if the Shoulder Drop rule was changed to allow knee bend it would become a more popular All Round lift?
Let your “voice be heard” on this controversial (haha, said tongue-in-cheek) topic in the USAWA Discussion Forum. If enough support is gathered – it may be time to make a change in the rules of the Shoulder Drop.