Tag Archives: USAWA Lifts

The NEW Reverse Grip Curl Lift

by Al Myers

One of the new official lifts of the USAWA that was passed at the National Meeting  is the “Curl – Reverse Grip”.  This has caused some confusion (I’ve received a couple of emails on it already) as we already HAVE that lift as one of our official USAWA lifts!  The reason for this is a simple one – our rules for the Reverse Grip Curl has been drastically different than the IAWA rules for the Reverse Grip Curl!   A while back I wrote a blog stating the differences on this:  http://www.usawa.com/curl-reverse-grip/ .   The new Curl – Reverse Grip will go by this rule, which conforms to the IAWA rule for it:

Curl – Reverse Grip:   The rules of the Rectangular Fix apply, except that once the bar reaches the midway point it does not stop fixed, but continues to the finish position in one motion.

Need to reference this rule:

D24.  Rectangular Fix

This lift starts with the lifter standing holding the bar on the thighs at arms’ length, with the palms of the hands facing the lifter. Maximum hand spacing is shoulder width. Feet placement is optional. On a command by an official to start the lift, the lifter raises the bar by bending the elbows. The bar is raised to a position in which the lower arms are at a 90 degree angle to the body and parallel to the platform. The upper arms and elbows must maintain contact with the torso throughout the lift. The wrists must stay straight. Movement of the feet, raising the heels or toes, or swaying the body is not allowed. Once the bar is motionless, an official will give a command to end the lift.

Also in this proposal included a change of name for the “previous” Reverse Grip Curl that we have been doing in the USAWA.   It will now go by this name officially: Curl – Cheat, Reverse Grip.   All records will be preserved that have been set previously and this new name will be changed in the rulebook and record list.  However, the new Reverse Grip Curl is “now open” for any new records!  Interestingly, at Worlds this year we will be performing this lift according to the IAWA rules, thus the same rule as this new lift.  That is REASON NUMBER ONE we needed to approve this new lift.  You see, there are lifts that are official in the IAWA that are not official in the USAWA (even though the USAWA has several more that are not IAWA approved). It would seem odd to perform a lift at the Worlds on our own “home turf” that is not an official lift in the USAWA.   I know it seems confusing, but hopefully with time all of these differences will be reconciled.  Progress has been made on this over the past couple of years.

In summary, the Curl – Reverse Grip follows the rule of the Rectangular Fix and the Curl – Cheat, Reverse Grip follows the rule of the Cheat Curl.  The Executive Board briefly discussed calling this new lift the Curl – Strict, Reverse Grip  but decided against it.  Who knows – with time we might need that name if we ever decide to propose a Reverse Grip Curl following the rules of the Strict Curl???  Now THAT would make things confusing!!

The James Lift

by Al Myers

Chad Ullom performing a James Lift with 125 pounds at the 2009 Dino Gym Challenge.

Recently, the James Lift has been receiving some attention in the USAWA.   At my Dino Gym Records Day a couple of months ago Bryan Benzel put up a big lift of 159 pounds.  It has also been discussed in the USAWA Discussion Forum.   This lift has not been contested very much in the USAWA, with the only actual meet it has been in was the 2009 Dino Gym Challenge.   It is a judges nightmare when it comes to the commands for this lift.  A total of FOUR COMMANDS must be given from the head official to properly execute this lift!  I believe this is the most commands for a single lift of all the official lifts in the USAWA Rule Book.  Lets do a review of the Rules for the James Lift:

A27.  James Lift

This lift combines a clean, press, and front squat.  First a clean is done according to the rules of the Clean. Once in the finishing position of the clean, an official will give a command to squat. Once in the bottom front squat position, as defined by the rules of the Squat, an official will give a command to press. The press is performed while maintaining a squat position of legal depth. The rules of the Press apply as defined in the rules of the Clean and Press. Once the bar is overhead, an official will give the lifter a command to lower the bar back to the chest. Once the bar is back to the chest, and at the lifter’s own discretion, the lifter will finish the squat according to the rules of the Front Squat. Once standing, the lifter will receive a command from an official to lower the bar to the platform. The lift ends when the bar is returned to the platform under control by the lifter.

It was brought up in the Discussion Forum why there are not IAWA World Records for this lift.  The reason is simple – the James Lift is NOT an official IAWA lift. It was first contested in the USAWA in the  postal series of 2001.  From my research, it appears this lift originated from the English All Round lifting promoter & weightlifter Tony Cook.  The first rules for the James Lift were written by him for a postal challenge between his gym and Clarks Gym in 1999.  Interestingly, his rules titled this lift the James Squat and Press, as well as including another lift in a slightly deviated form – the James Squat and Press behind Neck.  However, I have read stories of past weightlifters (way before this time) that performed this lift (but never in an official competition with set rules).  When I first heard of this lift, I thought it was probably a lift that Bill named after making longtime Clarks Gym member James Foster do it as an experiment in a training session.  But the person it is really named remains a mystery to me, and if anyone knows more behind this story please let me know. 

Another thing I found very interesting is that this lift was never officially adopted as an USAWA lift, but rather became “grandfathered in”  in subsequent Rule Books.  I have reread all of the Annual USAWA minutes and NO WHERE  is the James Lift mentioned as being presented for official lift status and voted on by the membership for approval. 

I will be very curious to see if Bryan can break the 200 pound barrier in the James Lift this year.  From his obvious great pressing ability and his remarkable shoulder flexibility for a big guy I predict that he will!!


Ed Schock 105 12/1/2002 USAWA Postal 160#
Bryan Benzel 125+ 2/12/2012 Dino RD 159#
Jason Weigle 110 12/15/2001 USAWA Postal 150#
Ed Schock 100 12/15/2001 USAWA Postal 150#
John Monk 75 12/1/2002 USAWA Postal 140#

The following is an addendum by Roger Davis from the USAWA Discussion Forum.  Roger futher describes how the James Lift originated.  I want to include his comments in this blog as they complete the historical review of the James Lift.

“As for origins (of the Name anyway) , it was a lift created by Tony Cook around 1999 in honour of his gym member Paul James, who used to show off his shoulder flexibility after making a clean by pressing the bar overhead and maintaining the full squat, all the others who tried it fell flat on their arses much to the mirth of Paul.  I think Paul was good for about 70kg on this, his press being the limiting factor not his flexibility.  The complete lift got a bit complicated, you had to clean the bar, front squat, hold the full squat position, press, complete the squat and then return the bar to the floor, thinking about the order was harder than teh actual lift !!!  This was competed in a BSAG comp, where I managed about 60kg.

regards,   just thought you would like to know the origin of the name.  Roger Davis”

French Press

by Al Myers

Chuck Cookson performing an ALL TIME best USAWA record of 207 pounds in the French Press at the 2012 Dino Gym Record Day. Take notice that Chuck has the perfect arm length to do this lift, and that his elbows are not even above his head when extended straight up!

This is an official lift of both the USAWA and the IAWA.  Amazingly, the rules are the SAME as well as the lift is named the SAME.  That is a rarity between USAWA and IAWA lifts!! However, that is about the ONLY THING I like about the French Press!  I wish I knew more about how this lift came about and who was responsible for writing the original rules on it. They must have been written by a cruel person who likes to see lifters FAIL at performing a lift! The rules for this lift are written in a way that MOST lifters can’t even perform a French Press according to them.  For a lift so simple in concept – these rules seem to me to be “over the top” for the French Press. I do know it has been around for quite a while as an all-round lift as it is represented in the old Missouri Valley Record List.  The oldest record in the Mo-Valley list is held by Homer Lewellen of Columbia, Missouri who did a French Press of 185 pounds in 1962 in the 198 class.  Other good marks in this record list were by Jim Charlton and Wayne Jackson.  I just assume they were done with the same rules as we have today, as this lift was one of the original 110.

The USAWA Rules for the French Press

A25.   French Press

The bar is brought from the platform to an overhead position by any method to assume the starting position of this lift. The lifter’s arms must be straight, the lifter standing, and the body upright before the start of the lift. Width of feet placement is optional.  Once the bar is overhead and motionless, with the lifter’s arms straight, the lift begins at the lifter’s discretion. The hand spacing on the bar must not exceed 6 inches. The palms of the hands must be facing away from the lifter. The lifter will bend the arms and lower the bar until the bar touches the base of the neck at the junction of the shoulders without lowering the upper arms. The elbows must remain above the top of the head. Once the bar is on the base of the neck, an official will give the command to press.  The elbows must not be lowered during any part of the press or it will be a disqualification. The legs must remain straight during the lift. There must not be any backbend, any bending of the knees, or movement of the feet during the lift. The heels and toes must not rise.  Once the bar has been pressed, the arms straight and the bar motionless, an official will give a command to end the lift. The bar may be lowered by any method.

READ THE ABOVE RULE CAREFULLY as I know most USAWA lifters are not familiar with the legal nuances of this lift.  As I’ve said – I don’t like the rules for the French Press.  I have done French Presses in training in the past and the exercise I do (as well as most of my training partners) is NOTHING like the French Press described above!   These rules are so restrictive that it prevents most lifters from even being capable of performing a legal French Press.  Also, it is a terrible lift to judge – invaribly a lifters elbows drop to some degree and it makes for very subjective judging.  If it is in a meet at least half of the lifters can’t even do a legal lift correctly, so the judging gets lax (and not in accordance with the written rules) just so lifters won’t “bomb out” on the lift.  The French Press has been in one National Championship (2005), and if I have any say in it, that will be the last and only one that the French Press will be in.  

However, like I said, the French Press is a great training lift for the shoulders and triceps if done differently. A wider grip, descending to only the back of the head, with a slight elbow drop allows for natural movement and normal shoulder rotation.  The 6 inch grip width creates most of the problems, especially on a straight bar.  Also, requiring the bar to touch the BASE of the neck creates issues if a lifters arm length is not of the correct proportions.  I guess I just don’t understand why the rules for the French Press are written this way when the practicality of performing it in training is so much different?  

However, at the Dino Gym Record Day I was proved wrong on many accounts when Dino Gym member Chuck Cookson performed a legal French Press of 207 pounds while maintaining PERFECT legal form.   This record of Chuck’s is the top ALL TIME in the USAWA, besting Ernie Beaths mark of 200 pounds.  I judged Chuck’s French Press and made sure it was done strictly in accordance with the rules.  He has perfect body mechanics and limb lengths to do this lift with perfection.   So – I guess I now feel the the French Press is a good lift because I know SOMEONE who can do it right! A Lot of the other USAWA lifts are also in the category of the French Press, ie Van Dam Lift, Mansfield, Zeigler, etc.   I guess I feel if someone can do them correctly and excel in them, these lifts should be available to allow these few lifters to show their abilities in these difficult lifts at record days (But NOT in meets!!).

One Hand Swing

by Roger LaPointe

Roger LaPointe, of Atomic Athletic, performing a dumbbell swing with an "old school" Jackson 80# globe dumbbell at the Ambridge Barbell Club.

Quick lifts seem to be all the rage right now, for good reason.

The One Hand Dumbbell Swing is one explosive lift you do not see a lot of, but you are really missing out if you aren’t doing it. It was one of the contest lifts in Ambridge, PA last weekend, at the Ambridge Barbell Club USAWA (All-Round) weightlifting meet.

First of all, the guys in that organization are a treasure trove of information. I had been casually training the lift for about a month. The deeper I looked at it and experimented with it, the more interesting it became. As with many All-Round Association events, I came out of the meet with a far greater understanding of the lift than when I went in. You may have noticed, that I tend to repeat lifts from one meet to the next. The idea is that in a 6 month period of time, you can then have two contests where you can show some improvement from the first to the second.


To start with, you want to lift on the most appropriate equipment. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive, but there are certain key factors to consider. Now, my favorite dumbbell at the meet was the one I used for my final attempt, which was a good one. However, if I were trying to set a record, or push my absolute limit, I would NOT have used that dumbbell. I like that dumbbell because it was an antique Jackson solid, globe head, dumbbell. It was down right cool. Yet, the grip area was much too long and unknurled.

Ideally, you want a rotating Olympic sized plate loading dumbbell with a handle that is similar diameter to an Olympic barbell. I have one in my collection that measures 1 1/4 inches in diameter and it is simply too big. The goal of a swing is not just to work your grip. A swing should be a test of your back, hips and traps. You also need to have very solid collars. There is no way I would trust little spring collars or something made of plastic. I use leather lined Spin-Lock Collars that you can crank down on.


1. Make sure you get a good grip. I also like to have the thumb side of my hand cranked in tight to the inside collar.
2. Don’t do too many swings, three should be enough. More than that and you are wasting energy and explosiveness. With your final swing you want to go up more than out with a genuine triple extension.
3. Don’t forget you can also drop under it and catch it in a split. There will be more looping of the dumbbell than in a snatch, so you will want to practice the split. You could could catch it in a quarter squat type movement, but you will probably have to jump backward to receive the dumbbell. That is possibly stronger, but chancy. I started off using that method, because of my Olympic lifting background. While that swing split is certainly different from a barbell jerk split, I am gradually switching and adapting to it.
4. Finally, lock your shoulder right into the side of your head. There is a really cool screw type motion that makes it stunningly solid.

Finally, if you are not already doing full barbell Olympic weightlifting, then start. The application of that type of training to the One Hand Dumbbell Swing is so obvious as to not even warrant discussion.

Have fun. Today is a good day to lift. Live strong.

Jefferson Lift Technique

by Al Myers

Bob Hirsh has the ALL TIME best Jefferson Lift in the USAWA, with a lift of 702 pounds in the 80KG class set at the 1996 Buckeye Record Breakers.

I received an email the other day asking a few questions regarding technique for the Jefferson Lift.  I thought this was a very appropriate question since the Jefferson Lift will be a big part of our USAWA competitions this year.  This lift will be contested in both Nationals and Worlds.   The IAWA official name for the Jefferson Lift is the Straddle Deadlift – so these two names are interchangeable. I have heard in the past this lift also called the Kennedy Lift, but that is not entirely correct.  The Kennedy Lift is a straddle lift where the bar starts at a higher position than floor level.  First, lets go over the USAWA rules for the Jefferson Lift:

18.  Jefferson Lift
This lift is also known as the Straddle Deadlift. The rules of the Deadlift apply except that the bar will be lifted between the legs, with a leg on each side of the bar. The lifter may face any direction and feet placement is optional. One hand will grip the bar in front of the lifter while the other hand will grip the bar behind the lifter. The bar may touch the insides of either leg during the lift. The heels are allowed to rise as the bar is lifted, but the feet must not change position. The bar is allowed to change directions or rotate during the lift.

I have seen two techniques for the Jefferson Lift used in competition.  I will go over both of these techniques.

1.  Shoulders Perpendicular to the Bar

In this technique, the lifter straddles the bar with a foot on each side of the bar with feet in line with the bar. As the bar is lifted, the bar will rotate to some degree at the finish position.

2. Shoulders Parallel to the Bar

In this technique, the lifter sets up for the pull with the shoulders in line with the bar. The feet are slightly off-set as they straddle the bar.  The bar comes straight up with very little rotation.

There are advantages to both styles, but I prefer technique number two for several reasons.  I feel because it takes the rotation out of the bar it allows a more direct line of pull, and an easier lockout.  Technique number one will help with the initial pull from the floor because both legs can be more involved at the start.  A problem with tech #2 is that the lead leg will be overloaded at the start, and more strain will be felt in the hamstring of the lead leg. I have pulled a hamstring in this leg before doing the Jefferson.  Another important thing is the proper feet placement with tech #2. The toe of the lead leg should be turned slightly in.  The back foot should be almost parallel to the bar.  Doing this “blocks” any bar rotation as the weight comes up. The width of stance should be of comfortable width – not too wide or too narrow.  This is important in order not to hit the inner thighs with the bar as the lift is completed.  The back hand (the one behind the lead leg) should have the knuckles facing forward, while the front hand should have knuckles facing away, using an alternate grip.  Try to keep the grip as close as comfortable as this will shorten the height the bar has to be lifted.  If done correctly with technique #2, there should be very little twisting of the body as the lift is completed.  At the end of the pull drive the shoulders up like with a deadlift.

Body mechanics play a big part in the Jefferson Lift.  Obviously, having long arms help. I have seen lifters with short arms have serious problems at lockout (OUCH!).   You are a natural at the Jefferson Lift if you can match or exceed your best deadlift.  I have seen lifters where this is the case.  The line of pull is more centered under the body with the Jefferson than a conventional deadlift.  Also, the Jefferson is a great training lift. I add it into my “pulling rotation” at least once every 6 weeks.

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