Tag Archives: Tom Ryan

Reeves Lift vs. the Rim Lift

By Al Myers

Tom Ryan, with his long arms, loved the Reeves Lift!

The late Tom Ryan, with his long arms, loved the Reeves Lift!

One of the lifts contested this weekend at the Dino Gym Challenge is the Reeves Lift, modeled after a favorite lift of the famous bodybuilder and actor Steve Reeves. He loved this lift as he felt it enhanced his famous lat spread.  I recently received an email asking about the required bar length for the Reeves Lift, and asking if a shorter bar could be used.  This got me to thinking about the Rules of the Reeves Lift, and how it compares to the IAWA(UK) Lift the Rim Lift. Interestingly, the Reeves Lift is ONLY a USAWA lift while the Rim Lift is ONLY an IAWA(UK) lift with the big difference being the length of bar required.  Let’s rehash the rules of each:

RULE FOR USAWA LIFT:  Deadlift – Reeves

The rules of the Deadlift apply with these exceptions. The lift starts by the lifter gripping one plate on each side of the bar.  The flanges of the plates may be turned outwards to provide a better gripping surface. A regulation bar of legal length must be used.  There are no width specifications of the flanges of the lifting plates. Weight is added to the bar with smaller diameter plates so the lifter always has just one plate per side to grip.


The lifter will deadlift, hacklift or straddle a loaded barbell whilst holding only the rims of the discs. The maximum sized discs for the is lift are 18 inches. On the inside the discs must be flat and smooth, and on the outside the rim cannot be deeper than 1inch. The lifter must not grasp any handles, holes or specially prepared areas, only the thumbs on the smooth inside and the fingers on the outside rim. Any bar can be used as the distance between the collars is optional. Whatever style of lift the lifter chooses the lift will always be finished in the correct fashion, with an erect posture. On completion the referee will signal to replace the bar.

Causes for Failure:
The causes for failure for the deadlift, hacklift or straddle will apply, depending on the style elected.
Failure to achieve the correct fully erect finishing posture.
Lowering/replacing the bar before the referees signal.

As you can see these are two completely different lifts, with the Reeves Lift being a much more difficult lift. Now you do have some choices in picking a “good bar” for the Reeves Lift. The USAWA  has definite rules for USAWA regulation bars (that hasn’t always been the case however in the earlier days of the USAWA). Looking in the USAWA Rulebook you find these rules as it applies to USAWA regulation bars:

VI. Equipment 16. The bar must meet the following specifications.

  • The bar must have a minimum diameter of 25 millimeters or 1 inch.
  • The bar must have a maximum diameter of 1.25”.
  • The sleeves of the bar must have a minimum diameter of 50 millimeters or 1.96 inches.
  • The minimum distance between the inside collars is 51 inches.
  • The maximum distance between the inside collars is 58 inches.
  • The minimum total length of the bar must not be less than 7 feet. An exception to this is when lifts are done where the combined weight of the bar and the plates does not exceed 20 kilograms or 45 pounds, whereas a lighter and shorter bar may be used. Another exception is allowing a lighter and shorter bar to be used for women, older lifters and junior lifters.
  • The maximum total length of the bar must not exceed 8 ½ feet.
  • All bars must be marked with a clear indication of the bar’s weight if the bar’s weight is not 45 pounds or 20 kilograms.
  • The bar may contain knurling on any parts of it.
  • For one hand lifts, the bar must contain knurling in the center of the bar.
  • The bar must be straight.
  • The sleeves of the bar are allowed to revolve.

So obviously having a bar closer in length to the inside collars of 51 inches is preferred over the maximum distance of inside collars at 58 inches. The GOOD NEWS for the lifters this weekend at the Dino Gym Challenge is that I have made a speciality regulation bar for the Reeves Lift which has a short “collar to collar” length. However, you still need the finger strength to hold onto the plates and this only helps with reaching the plates.  Not everyone has the long “wing span” of Tom Ryan!!

Dino Gym Challenge

by Al Myers


“Tom Ryan Memorial Meet”

A year ago we lost a very good friend and longtime supporter in the USAWA with the passing of Tom Ryan. I had known Tom for over 15 years and often communicated with him via emails weekly. He would help me with any historical question involving weightlifting as he seemed to remember everything from his time in the iron game. I often invited him to the Dino Gym for one of my competitions but his health prevented it in his later years. He told me many times that “if he could” he would make the trip to my place from his home near Atlanta.

So I’ve decided this year we will honor Tom in dedicating the Dino Gym Challenge to him.  I was initially going to have this years meet as a tribute to John Grimek.  I had even decided on lifts – picking some of Grimek’s pet lifts for the meet. But the other day working out I got to thinking about Tom and his passion for the All Rounds, and this lead to me making the change for this year.   John Grimek was one of Tom Ryan’s heros in the sport.  I knew Tom well enough that I know this would have amused him greatly in my chosing him over the great John Grimek!

I picked five of Tom’s favorite lifts for the meet, and ones he still holds USAWA records in. I’ve been fortunate to have witnessed many of them myself as years ago he would travel to Clark’s Gym for meets and record days that I was at.   Tom still holds close to 25 USAWA records.  He has outstanding records in the Weaver Stick (7 pounds), the One handed thumbless deadlift (254 pounds), and the Rectangular Fix (95 pounds done over the age of 60).  It will take some great lifting at the Dino Challenge to see any of these marks of Tom’s exceeded.


Meet Director:            Al Myers and the Dino Gym 785-479-2264

Meet Date:                 Saturday, January 27th, 2018  1:00 PM – 5:00 PM

Location:                    Dino Gym, 1126 Eden Road, Abilene, KS 67410

Sanction:                    U.S.A.W.A Memberships cards can be purchased on meet day

Weigh-ins:                  12:00 -1:00 PM the day of the meet

Divisions:                   Juniors, Women, Masters, and Open

Awards:                      None

Entry:                         None – but please notify me in advance if you plan to attend


Weaver Stick

Rectangular Fix

Deadlift – No Thumb, One Hand

Reeves Deadlift

Hip Lift

The lifts will be done is this order. After the meet there will be time for record day lifts.

Interview with Tom Ryan

By Al Myers

(webmasters note: The following interview with Tom Ryan was done on June 3rd, 2009.  I normally don’t rerun USAWA blog stories but with Tom’s recent passing I would like to “air” this one again as a lot of newcomers to the website might not have seen it.  Tom was a very unique and eccentric person and his personality comes through in this interview. He was a good friend, and I will miss our weekly email exchanges.)

Tom Ryan watching as Barry Bryan does a 1500 pound Hip Lift at a meet in John Vernacchio's Gym in 1989.

Tom Ryan watching as Barry Bryan does a 1500 pound Hip Lift at a meet in John Vernacchio’s Gym in 1989.

Al: where do you currently live and what do you do for a living?

Tom: I live in Acworth, Georgia (outside Atlanta) and have lived in Georgia most of my life, being a native Atlantan. I was a college professor for decades and now teach online courses for statistics.com. I have also done some course development work for them and do occasional consulting through them. I have written four statistics books (600-page books) for my New York area publisher and expect to finish my fifth book by the end of the year. I have also done a considerable amount of additional writing, including some sports writing, such as six articles on basketball statistics within the past few years for betterbasketball.com. I enjoy doing various types of writing and a few weeks ago wrote a guest column on teaching quantitative courses that was in the Atlanta paper on May 20th. The American Statistical Association, which elected me a Fellow in 2000 (I’ve been a member since 1972), somehow found out about that article and have linked the article at their website.

Al: When did you first start weightlifting and how did you get started?

Tom: I started lifting weights in December, 1958, at the age of 13. I would have made an ideal “before” picture for a bodybuilding course ad as I was 5-7 and weighed only 107 pounds. I was all skin and bones and my father even called me “Bones”. I believe I pressed 40 pounds for 8 reps in my first workout. I was in the 8th grade at the time and there were two kids in my physical education class who couldn’t climb the rope in the gym and touch the ceiling. I was one of the two. Then I started lifting weights and did succeed (to the cheers of my fellow students), even after almost dying from whooping cough and missing a few weeks of school.

I went from “bones” to almost the other extreme, eventually reaching 305 pounds, with my highest competitive bodyweight being 296 at two contests. I did not compete when I was in my prime, as I wanted to wait until I was a national caliber lifter before I entered competition. By my mid-30s, however, I realized that was never going to happen, and that was a depressing realization because I trained very hard. Then my life changed when I wrote to Murray Levin, who ran U.S. Olympic lifting at the time, in 1981 and offered to help in any way that I could. Murray sent my letter to Bill Clark, who immediately wrote to me. Bill had a paragraph about me in his Master’s newsletter in 1982, even though I was only 36 at the time and Master’s lifting then started at age 40. Bill also sent me his Missouri Valley newsletter. This was well before the days of the USAWA but Bill had introduced me to a new world and I now had something to train for.

Al: Was there any one person who introduced you to lifting?

Tom: No one got me started. It was pure self-motivation, being motivated by my lack of strength and muscles. As I aged and started becoming stronger, with a 289 clean and jerk in training at the age of 19, I idolized Tony Garcy, five-time national Olympic lifting champion, and followed his career very closely. I eventually met Tony at the 1966 Senior Nationals and spoke with him briefly then. Several months ago I sent him a sympathy card after the death of one of his sons and received a nice card and note from he and his wife in reply. I was also motivated by Paul Anderson, whom I met in 1972 and corresponded with during the early 1970s, as well as the late 1980s.

Al: When did you first get involved with the all-rounds? Didn’t you compete in one of the very first World Meets?

Tom: I am one of the charter members of the USAWA, as indicated by the list on page 23 of the 5/17/09 edition of the Strength Journal. I competed in my first Zercher Meet in 1987, about the time that plans to start the USAWA were being formalized, so I just naturally became a member of the USAWA. Yes, I competed in the World Meet in Plymouth Meeting, PA in 1989. I suffered a tricep injury during the Pullover and Push event that took a very long time to fully heal.

Al: What have been your favorite lifts?

Tom: Over the years my favorite lifts have been the ones that I can do, quite frankly, and that list shrinks as I age! LOL When I was much younger, I enjoyed pressing and tried different types of pressing. My best pressing performance in USAWA competition occurred at the 1989 Zercher Meet when I did a heels together military press with 200 and then pressed 210 on my last attempt but lost my balance and had to take two steps backward. Later that year I thought I had pressed 209 at the World Meet, but I expected the weight to be heavier than it was and put a bit too much body into the lift, resulting in two red lights for backbend.

Probably my lifetime best pressing, considering form, was done in training one day in 1977 when I did a wide-grip military press with 229 for 4 reps. My heels weren’t together but those were strict presses with no lower body movement at all. That was one of those magic moments when I was really “on” and knew that would never happen again. And it didn’t!

During the late 1980s and early 1990s I made some reasonable one-hand deadlifts in USAWA contests, ranging from 330 to my PR of 345. My back started “complaining” about any type of deadlift with very much weight as I moved through my 50s, so I became somewhat of a one-arm thumbless deadlift specialist, doing over 200 officially. This is the type of lift that allows grip specialists like Ben Edwards to excel. In my case, I think it is a matter of technique because my hand strength is rather ordinary. I also found that I was reasonably good at the rectangular fix, at least for my age, as I made 95 pounds at the age of 61.

Al: I know one of your interests has been the history of weightlifting. Who are some of your favorite old time strongmen?

Tom: There are people who know more about the history of weightlifting and oldetime strongmen than I do, but yes, I have been interested in these subjects for decades and began work on a book on historical strength figures in the late 1980s. I mentioned Tony Garcy previously but I would rather not think of him as “oldetime” since he is only 6 years older than me. LOL. Rather, if we think of strongmen who performed in the general vicinity of 1900, there were certain performances that I wish I could have seen. In particular, one evening in 1889 Apollon (Louis Uni) did not know that the iron bars on a gate that was part of his stage performance had been tempered by a blacksmith, who was bribed by a prankster. Unaware of this, Apollon and his massive forearms struggled to bend the bars, while his wife prodded him , assuming that he was just being lazy. Finally Apollon was able to bend the bars enough for him to slide through them, but he was totally exhausted and explained to the audience that he was unable to continue his performance. David Willoughby believed that this may have been Apollon’s greatest strength feat.

I wish I could have also seen the bent presses of Arthur Saxon. It is hard for me to believe that a man weighing only about 204 pounds could bent press close to 400. (He is credited with 370 but reportedly did 386 unofficially and supposedly attempted 409 but the weights started falling off the bar.) Bent pressing was popular in the 1940s, especially in the New York area, and although Al Beinert bent pressed 360 in the mid-1900s weighing almost 60 pounds more than Saxon, nobody has approached Saxon’s record.

It would also have been fun to meet some of the leading strongmen of centuries ago, like Thomas Topham and Giovanni Belzoni, not to mention the enigmatic giant, Angus McAskill.

Al: Do you have any special memories of any all-round weightlifting meets?

Tom: Well, I would like to forget the injuries that I sustained! LOL Yes, I certainly have fond memories of people with varied backgrounds and professions and from different parts of the country and world getting together for fun and competition. There were personal duels I had with Bill Clark at Zercher Meets, with him insisting that we compete straight up, despite our differences in age and bodyweight. It was fun seeing Steve Schmidt do harness lifts with well over 3,000 pounds, far in excess of what the rest of us did, and more recently to see his feats, either in person or on film, with bar bending and teeth lifting and pulling very heavy vehicles, as well as record-breaking repetition back lifting. Although I didn’t witness it, Joe Garcia’s hand and thigh lift with 1,910 is a tremendous accomplishment, the highest lift on record. Since I go back a long way, there were some competitions in which I saw Ed Zercher do some exhibition leg pressing when he was 80 or so. Yes, I have many fond memories.

Al: What do you think the future of the USAWA will be?

Tom: Over the years, Bill Clark had hoped that the USAWA could attract some of the strength stars of the past, but that hasn’t happened. Jim Bradford, who is now 80 and was a silver medalist in the 1952 and 1960 Olympics, has been an ardent follower, but I don’t recall him competing in any USAWA contest. There are so many official lifts that virtually everyone, regardless of physical condition, will be able to find some lifts that they can do. I would like to see more people compete, both young and old, but our numbers are dwindling, not increasing. Hopefully your considerable and praiseworthy efforts with this website, Al, will increase interest in the USAWA. We can only hope.

Al: Thank you, Tom, for participating in this interview.

My Start With Weightlifting

By Tom Ryan

(Webmasters note: The following is a post the late Tom Ryan made to the USAWA Discussion Forum a couple of years ago detailing an interesting story about his early days of lifting. I found this story very intriguing  and humorous, as we all have stories of training mishaps when we started our pursuit of weight training. Enjoy!)

Undoubtedly many weightlifters have some strange tales about their early training, including me.

Although I started training when I was 13, it wasn’t possible to train regularly when I was participating in other sports, especially when I was running my legs off on a basketball court. After the basketball season ended during my junior year in high school, Bill Shaw, Bob Dial, Don Hallman, and I started training in the basement of Bill’s house, with me supplying most of the weights. Bill, a senior, had been my basketball teammate and the other two were a year younger than me.

Even though I was very skinny at the end of the season (maybe a shade over 6-2 and 165 pounds), I had enough strength to shoulder 470 from squat stands, back out with it and do a set of quarter squats. One day Mike Boling, a 10th grader who supposedly had benched 250 weighing 150 (not too shabby in 1962!) came by to watch us train. My training partners had said my depth on the quarter squats had been less than before, and since we had somewhat of a celebrity bencher in attendance, I went down further than I had previously on my first quarter squat rep.

Well, I went down too far and kept going down. Real fast, like falling down an elevator shaft since the weight far exceeded what I could have handled in a full squat. It took only a few seconds so there wasn’t time for my life to flash before my eyes, but when Bob saw me going down, he said he thought that was going to be the end of me! The bar went flying over my head and crashed to the floor, with the force catapulting me a few feet backward and I landed on my butt.

Then Bill’s life almost flashed before his eyes when he saw the chip that had been knocked out of the floor and he thought about his father’s reaction when he came home from work. So a quick repair job was necessary!

That was performed and then we started thinking about building a power rack so as to prevent any more accidents. I would bet that power racks were few and far between in 1962. I’m not sure when York started selling theirs, but I would guess around 1959.

We made ours out of wood and it was easily transportable. I ended up with it when our training gang broke up. Over time I had to replace parts of the rack, but I believe I still had the original base in 1993. Then I moved to Australia in January, 1994, where I spent the next 2.5 years. Untreated wood cannot be taken into Australia, so I had to say goodbye to my rack, which was a bit shaky by then anyway. Upon arriving in Australia, I had a carpenter build me a rack, and that is the one that I still use today.

I haven’t seen Shaw, Dial, or Hallman in 47 years, but if I ran into one of them today, I wouldn’t be surprised if he said “Hello TR 470″ because that was the nickname they gave me after my “near death” experience.

Passing of Tom Ryan

By Al Myers

The 2016 USAWA Year in Review is a tribute to the life of Tom Ryan.

The 2016 USAWA Year in Review is a tribute to the life of Tom Ryan.

These blogs are always the saddest for me to write. Especially when I’m writing one about a friend that has died.  But I’m doing it – as I feel that Tom deserves a tribute from us because of his influences and contributions he has made to the USAWA.

Tom Ryan was born on April 23rd, 1945 and died on December 1st, 2016. He had been involved with weightlifting his entire life.  He started out with focusing on Olympic Lifting, and then these past 25 years his main interest was All Round Weightlifting. He competed in the pre-USAWA days in all round lifting, and primarily in the first few years of the USAWA. He did lift in a few record days later on.  I have had the opportunity to lift with Tom on a few occasions.

Tom and I had a great email relationship.  We would exchange emails almost weekly, often discussing matters of all round weightlifting, training, or news within the organization.  I could always count on Tom calling something to my attention if he noticed something on the USAWA website that he thought wasn’t correct. I really appreciated that as I knew the best interests of the USAWA were always in his heart.  Tom was an extreme intellectual and a person who wanted details being correct. He had a PhD as a statistician and spent a good part of his professional life writing statistics books, teaching, and editing statistics books. He was a great writer as well. He had written several articles for magazines and newsletters through his life in both his professional life and for weightlifting.  When we did the big USAWA Rulebook rewrite in 2009 I had Tom proofread it.  He found over 100 corrections! He used his knowledge of statistics to evaluate weightlifting formulas. I remember him telling me that he once served on an Olympic Weightlifting committee to decide whether Masters Weightlifting should use the Sinclair Formula or the Malone Formula.

Tom was a great weightlifting historian.  He served as a moderator for Joe Roark’s Iron History Forum for a number of years.  Tom had a great interest in Paul Anderson.  He wrote several articles about Paul Anderson. Tom lived near Atlanta in his later years and the Paul Anderson Youth Home is nearby in Vidalia.  I always told him I was going to come to Atlanta and see him and then we could go to the Youth Home together.  That was a trip I was never able to make which I now regret.

Tom has several records in the USAWA which he was very proud of. He still holds over 20 USAWA Records (over 50 at one time).  Among these include his Weaver Stick record of 7 pounds (which I was there to witness), his one arm thumbless deadlift of 254 pounds (still one of the top All Times lifts), a 345# one arm deadlift (done at the 93 Zercher Classic), and a 95# Rectangular Fix.  Tom’s last USAWA meet was the 2006 Goerner Deadlift.

Even as his health declined in the past few years, he still stay committed to his training program. He had trained at home most all of his life.  He once told me that he had plenty of self-motivation to train alone, and that he liked to train in total silence by himself.  We would often email visit about his training program.  Just a few months before he died he was still training the seated one arm deadlift with a dumbbell. He was up to a 281 pound dumbbell which he said he could lift and hold for 30 seconds. His last training goal was to lift a 300 pound dumbbell while seated!

I will sure miss Tom. He was a major contributor to the USAWA Discussion Forum. I’m sure all of us will miss his page long topic posts, which often read more like an article on the subject instead of a comment.  Many times I would try to get him to write a website blog following one of his forum posts, but the feeling I got from him was that he had said all he wanted on the subject in the forum!

If anyone has stories or memories of Tom and would like to share them on the website, please send them to me. I am dedicating the 2016 USAWA Year in Review to Tom.  We will keep his memory alive in the USAWA.

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