Tag Archives: USAWA Rules

Da Rules

by Thom Van Vleck

Let’s start off the new year right with some controversy!  I don’t think it’s controversial but I imagine some will.

When my kids were younger they liked to watch a kids’ show called the “Fairly Odd Parents” which was a play off of “Fairy God Parents”.  In the show a boy had two fairy god parents that would help him out in various situations.  The show often centered around him getting himself into trouble then wishing his way out of it.  However, if he could simply wish his way out, then that wouldn’t be much of a show.  There were rules he had to follow.  In the show there was a book called “Da Rules” and it would inevitable appear whenever he would try and make a wish that would easily end the whole show in the first couple of minutes, but then having to follow the rules would lead to a full half hour of hilarity.  The rules were enforced by the leader of the god parents.  Namely, Jorgen von Strangle who was built like Arnold Swarzenegger and suspiciously had an Austrian accent.  Jorgen enforced the rules like a German SS storm trooper and because of this was often the primary protagonist in most every episode due to his inability to bend the rules to any given situation.

Let me set up my “street cred” (what qualifies me as an “expert”….I know…BIG DEAL.  But I do what people to understand my history and that this is based on decades of experience and observations.  My family has lifted in Bill Clark run “odd lift meets” since the 50’s and I lifted in my first odd lift meet in 1979.  I am also a Level 2 Lifetime certified official in the USAWA.  I passed my test on the first try (and that’s a HARD test!).  I have judged in the required 25 competitions to achieve the Level 2 status.  I got Clark’s newsletter for decades and even had a bunch for the 60’s that I gave to Al to complete his collection.  I have followed this for a LONG TIME.

So, get to the point, you may ask!  Well, here’s my thoughts.  There have been times where I have sat around with guys and discussed the membership of the USAWA.  You would think it would be a big deal!  It seems perfect for many lifters that don’t have the leverages to be a great Olympic lifter or pure strength to be a great Powerlifter.  I know over the years it has amazed me how you can take a guy that is mediocre in lifting but he (or she) will have this one lift (or two) that they are flat out AMAZING at.  So why don’t we have people flocking to the sport.  I think I know why.

Da Rules.

I know we need rules.  There needs to be structure.  But when does the structure become a road block?  We try and create a system that is objective, but because humans are involved it’s doomed to always be subjective no matter what we do.

Some years ago I took my brother to watch his first Olympic lifting meet.  Art Tarwater was the head judge.  He’s been Olympic lifting and judging meets for over 50 years.   A great friend of lifting and a great lifter.  He’s also a stickler for  the rules.  If you get a lift when he’s judging, you did it according to the rules and that’s no joke.  He KNOWS every infraction.  So, my brother is watching this meet and about 50% of the lifts that were completed were turned down.  Press outs, catching the clean below the clavicals, elbow touch to the knee….on and on.  My brother kept asking what was wrong with this lift or that.  At one point Tarwater told the lifter to put the weight down as he has made an infraction on the clean and not to bother on the jerk.  My brother (who is almost a dozen years younger than me and this is important as I think he represents the mind set of a younger generation) finally made the comment “THIS IS STUPID…..THOSE ARE GOOD LIFTS”.

Now, let’s get into the meat of my point.  There are times when rules are enforced properly and then times when they are NOT.  There are many reasons for this but here is one I’ve seen repeatedly in the USAWA (and might get me in trouble with some guys).  First, let me say I haven’t gotten a speeding ticket in over 20 years (more than I can say for Al Myers).  Is it because I don’t speed?  Heck no!  I speed all the time.  I get pulled over, too.  But I get warnings.  My daughter, who is 16, got pulled over the other day….she got a ticket.  I bet you dollars to doughnuts (pun intended) that cops give younger people less warnings and more tickets than older guys.  Why?  Because they want them to learn a lesson.  I see that same thing with judges in our sport….in all lifting sports and event he Highland Games.  Heck, even in the Pro sports the old veteran gets the calls against the rookie every time!

I think we, as judges, have good intentions when we red light certain infractions.  But what I think has happened is younger guys come in and do a meet or two and leave with a bad taste in their mouth and that stop coming.  Then we are left with this core group that never grows and we are slowly aging ourselves out of existence.  I would also say there has been a time or two I have wondered if the intentions WEREN’T good and the judge WANTED to run off the lifter.  Yes, I said it and I stand by that statement.  We are all human.

So let me end with this.  I would challenge the members of the USAWA to encourage some young lifters to get into the sport and I would ask you to challenge yourself as a judge to look at these guys and know that they are learning and if an infraction did not help them in completing the lift then warn them before red lighting them (and I understand that’s not “Da Rules”….but a judge by definition forms an opinion or conclusion about “if” something fits the law…..otherwise we would be called “Police” who ENFORCE the law).  An example would be dropping the weight after the conclusion of the lift.  For many lifters this is part of lifting.  They just don’t know and need to learn.  Police officers give a ticket for the infraction, a judge forms an opinion and comes to a conclusion as to what the intent of the law was and if the event fit that intent or if the event intended to subvert the law.

Otherwise, we appear rigid and controlling and who wants to be a part of that.  I can tell you the younger generation does not.  They see Jorgen von Strangle as the enemy.

Shoulder Drop Rules

by Thom Van Vleck

Time for me to stir some controversy!  Okay, so many years ago my grandfather Dalton Jackson taught me the shoulder drop.  He told me it was how the “old timers” did it.  First, let’s review the USAWA rules for the Shoulder Drop.

Shoulder Drop: The bar is first cleaned and placed at the base of the neck to start this lift. Feet placement is optional. Once the lifter is upright, and the bar motionless, an official will give a command to start the lift. The lifter will then release the grip on the bar, allowing the bar to drop from the shoulders behind the back. The bar must not be rolled down the back or arms. The lifter must catch the bar in the hands at arms’ length behind the back. The legs must remain straight throughout the lift. The lift ends on command by an official when the bar is controlled in the hands by the lifter.

The way my grandfather taught me was exactly the same as above except of one key thing.  My grandfather would bend his knees as he caught the bar and “shock absorb” the weight.  Obviously, much more can be handled in this way.  You can “feel” the weight hit the hands and then this allows time to “grab” while you sink with the weight.  The locked knees method becomes a guessing game and using much weight at all easily results on spinal strain, busted knuckles, and in some cases (like Chad Ullom) getting what amounts to a “horse collar” tackle by the weight!

First of all, I would like to know the history on this rule.  I’m not saying it’s wrong, I would just like to know where it comes from. My grandfather got all of his information through magazines or 2nd hand so he could have easily gotten this wrong.  But I have tried to research this to no avail.  So if anyone out there knows more about this let me know.

Second of all, unless there is some historic reason for the knees to be kept locked, I would like to see the rule changed to allow for bent knees.  I would argue a lot less injuries would result with greater poundages used and the lift would become more skill based.

Third…if there is a historical reason for the locked knees then I would like to submit a new lift at the next meeting.  The Jackson Shoulder Drop, which would allow for the bent knees.

I know, what’s the big deal!  The shoulder drop is an obscure lift and rarely done.  But I can tell you that my Grandfather did it often.  He did a lift where he would clean the weight, press it overhead, lower it behind the neck, shoulder drop it, and set it on the platform.  He eventually did 135lbs this way which was pretty good for a guy that could barely press much more than that at the time!  So, if you know anything about this lift other than what’s in the rule book please get on the forum and let me know.  Also, let me know if you have a beef with me submitting a new lift that would allow a knee bend and why.

Teeth Lifting

by Al Myers

Art Montini Teeth Lifting at the 2013 USAWA Presidential Cup in Lebanon, PA.

Since the announcement of the Teeth Lift in the Dino Challenge in January it has received some discussion in the USAWA discussion  forum.  Probably the “most talk” the Teeth Lift has ever received in the USAWA!   The inclusion of the Teeth Lift in the WLT Dino Challenge will be the first time the Teeth Lift has been  contested in a USAWA competition.  To date it has only been contested by a few lifters in Record Days.   Here’s a little “refresher” on the USAWA rules of the Teeth Lift:

USAWA Rule I19. Teeth Lift

The setup for this lift requires a mouthpiece fitted to the lifter’s bite, a connecting chain, and a Vertical Bar to load plates to. The hands may not touch the mouthpiece, chain, or Vertical Bar during the lift. The lift begins at the lifter’s discretion. The weight may accidentally touch the legs during the lift, but the connecting chain must not touch any part of the body. The hands may brace on the legs and body during the lift, but must be free from the body upon completion of the lift. The width of feet placement is optional, but the feet must be parallel and in line with the torso. The feet must not move during the lift, but the heels and toes may rise. The lifter must lift the weight by the jaws clenched on the mouthpiece only, by extending upward. The legs must be straight upon completion of the lift, but the body does not need to be erect. Once the weight is clear of the platform and motionless, an official will give a command to end the lift.

The rules are pretty straight-forward, and are similar to many other official USAWA rules for other lifts.  The critical things are – hands off legs at completion, legs straight, and weight clear of the platform.  The thing that makes Teeth Lifting a challenge is finding a Teeth Bit that one can use.  It’s not like this is a piece of lifting equipment that is readily available to buy nowadays!!  However, in the “lifting days of the past” it was easy to buy a Teeth Bit.  Virtually every issue of old “Muscular Development” had ads in the back with them for sale.  I would say the popularity of Teeth Lifting really went downhill by the mid 70’s.  Now if you want a Teeth Bit you have to have it custom made for you, or make one yourself.  It’s important that it fits “your bite” – not only for teeth protection but to give you the tightest fit for lifting more weight.

This is an ad for a Teeth Bit in an old issue of Muscular Development.

I’ve been lucky to see “the best” in the USAWA teeth lifting in action.  Years ago I was at the meet in Clark’s Gym when Steve Schmidt did his “record smashing” Teeth Lift of 390 pounds, which is the highest Teeth Lift record in the USAWA record list. I witnessed Steve exceed 300 pounds SEVERAL TIMES in the Teeth Lift.   The ole ironmaster Art Montini has the most Teeth Lift records “on the books”, and has been teeth lifting for years.  In August Art used the Teeth Lift to win the USAWA Presidential Cup with a fine lift of 107 pounds at over 85 years old!!!  Art is one of the few teeth lifters that have WORN OUT teeth bits thru years of use!  Just this year Art made himself a new teeth bit.

The legendary strongman Warren Lincoln Travis was quite the Teeth Lifter, and the best of his day.  Willoughby in his book “Super Athletes” reported him lifting 311 pounds in the Teeth Lift in Brooklyn, NY in 1918.  This was considered the unofficial WORLD RECORD for over 80 years!!!! That is until Steve Schmidt exceeded it several times in the mid-2000’s!!!  I consider Steve’s Teeth Lift record of 390 lbs. (which was done with the hands behind back, as was Travis’s) as the unofficial overall World Record in the Teeth Lift now. Maybe this Dino Challenge in January will bring Steve Schmidt out of competition retirement.  Especially since it contains ALL of his best lifts!!!!! I would love to see him in action teeth lifting again.

Fulton Bar Debate Continued

by Al Myers

Kevin Fulton performing a Deadlift - Fulton Bar of 555 pounds at the 2001 Old Settlers Classic.

I said I had more to say on this subject – so here it is. As most know, the USAWA has different  names than the IAWA(UK) for several of the same All Round Lifts.  There are also MANY rule differences between the USAWA Rulebook and the IAWA(UK) Rulebook.  The Deadlift – Fulton Bar, Ciavattone Grip is just one of many, with the main difference being the IAWA(UK) allows the Fulton Bar to be hooked gripped whereas the USAWA does not.  This does not apply to most lifters, but for those few that have big hands and long fingers it makes a HUGE difference. 

Before the 2009 USAWA Rulebook, some USAWA lifts had different names as well (which most still didn’t match the IAWA-UK names).  However, several lifts were renamed to give a more clear naming that properly described the lift being done.   I think this was a good thing.  It was at this time the Deadlift – Fulton Bar, Ciavattone Grip become an official USAWA lift for the first time even though it had been contested several times in competition before this. 

I’m sure there are those that ask, “Why was this rule written this way, requiring a Ciavattone Grip?”.  Especially in the light that the IAWA(UK) already had a lift in their Rulebook with a comparable lift.  I am going to explain that, as I was a big part of this “updated USAWA Rulebook”.  The most important thing in establishing rules for any lift is this question – WHAT WAS THE INTENT OF THE LIFT?  The Deadlift – Ciavattone Grip (which the IAWA-UK calls the Two Hands Ciavattone Deadlift) was originally called the Two Hands Ciavattone Lift in the USAWA Rulebook.   This lift was introduced to the All Rounds by Frank Ciavattone, and it’s intent was to test the lifter in a overhand grip deadlift, without the use of a hook.  For most lifters, the limitation is the grip since a hook grip can not be used.  I know for myself that it amounts to close to 200 pounds difference in comparison to a overhand deadlift which I’m allowed to hook.   The lift Deadlift – Fulton Bar, Ciavattone Grip is an extension of that lift, with the difference being a Fulton Bar is substituted for a regular bar.  This change makes it even more of a grip lift, which is the INTENT of the lift. It’s meant to be a grip lift.  I would argue that by allowing a hook grip this intent is taken away.  Most grip competitions that use a 2″ bar for overhand deadlifting DO NOT allow a hook grip to be used for that EXACT REASON (like the recent Visegrip Viking Grip Competition at the LA Fit Expo where Mike Burke lifted an unbelievable 235 kilograms!). 

It is obvious to me that there was no clear communication between the USAWA and the IAWA(UK) on this lift when the rules were written.   I say this because the ORIGINAL RULE for the USAWA Two Hand Fulton Deadlift was for a lift that allowed an alternate grip on a Fulton Bar under the rules of a deadlift (so hooking is allowed). The IAWA(UK)’s original rule for the exact same name, Two Hands Fulton Deadlift, was an entirely different lift requiring an overhand grip!  That’s a major difference, and one in which I think the IAWA(UK) got wrong.  Back to intent, the original Fulton Deadlift was intended to be done with an alternate grip on a Fulton Bar.  This is supported by the original rule in the USAWA Rulebook (along with the picture of Kevin Fulton originally performing it this way!).

Back to lift names, I will say the USAWA Rulebook definitely has clearer and more descriptive names than the IAWA(UK) Rulebook.  Anyone who reads the name Deadlift – Fulton Bar, Ciavattone Grip knows EXACTLY what is expected out of the lift by the name alone.  You really don’t even need to read the rules for it.  However, the IAWA(UK) name of Two Hands Fulton Deadlift can be misleading.   You MUST read the rule to fully understand what is expected out of the lift, and even then, it DOES NOT state whether a hook grip is allowed or not.  You just have to “assume” a hook is allowed, because it doesn’t say you can’t.  Assumptions have no place in a rulebook.  Rules should be clear and precise, and after reading a rule one should know EXACTLY what is allowed.  This also applies to the naming of the deadlift with a Fulton Bar allowing an alternate grip.  The USAWA has this lift named Deadlift – Fulton Bar.  That name is very clear – rules of the deadlift using a Fulton Bar.  The IAWA(UK) calls this lift Two Hands Deadlift – 2 Inch Bar, which is clear in name description, but leads to confusion as to why it is different than the other lift, the Two Hands Fulton Deadlift?  I remember this happening several years ago in the IAWA World Postal Meet hosted by the Australians.  One of the lifts contested was listed this way – Fulton Dead Lift with Smooth Bar. Well, when the results were turned in a couple of Americans performed the lift using an alternate grip instead of an overhand grip as intended.  Innocent mistake if you ask me considering the ambiguous naming of the lift.  These kind of things would NOT happen if all lifts had more descriptive names given to them.

I’m sure some of you are thinking that all this is just nonsense – and we should “just lift” and not worry about things.  But I want to see things improve to a point where we don’t have the problems associated with this kind of confusion between the USAWA and the IAWA(UK).   Which brings me to my next task of the day – of contacting World Record Registrar Chris Bass and telling him that the my listed IAWA  WORLD RECORD in the Two Hands Fulton Deadlift of 215.5 kilograms was actually done with an alternate grip!!!   Point made.

The Fulton Bar Debate

by Al Myers

This is a picture of Matt Graham pulling a 2" Bar Overhand Deadlift of 540 pounds at the 2001 SuperGrip Challenge hosted by Kevin Fulton. (photo courtesy of Dan Wagman, who was there and competed in the meet as well).

I always enjoy a good discussion/debate on anything All-Round in nature.  Well, these past couple of weeks there has been a very interesting discussion in the USAWA Discussion Forum regarding the Fulton Bar.  If you have missed it – before you read today’s story it might be worthwhile to check it out so you will be “up to speed” on the subject.  I usually try to stay neutral in my writings, and give out just the facts and stuff.  But today I’m going to include a few of my opinions of the subject as well.  So be prepared!  I’m also going to “highlight” a few of the things that have been discussed in the forum, and then give an editorial on them. I plan to “go beyond” any comments I made in my forum replies.  I will also not “name any names” as the opinions expressed here are strictly mine.  Read the forum if you want that other information.

I also will keep this story as to what actually applies to the USAWA/IAWA.  A little history on the Fulton Bar is in order first.  Most know that the Fulton Bar is named after grip-sensation, All-Round Weightlifting Champion Kevin Fulton.  Most DON’T know that originally the name was given to a dumbbell lift with a 2″ diameter handle.  Over 3 years ago I wrote a blog covering this (http://www.usawa.com/the-fulton-dumbbell-deadlift/), but I’m going to repeat a piece of it here as well, as this story needs to be told more than once:

Back in the early 80’s at a odd lifting meet in Liberal, Kansas, meet director Bob Burtzloffincluded a thick-handled dumbbell deadlift in the contest. This dumbbell had a smooth 2 inch diameter handle. Wilbur Miller, the “Cimarron Kid” and Kansas lifting legend, was the hands on favorite to win this event. Wilbur has huge hands with long fingers and was very rarely beaten in any lifting event that involved grip strength. But this day was one of those rare days – when a young farm boy from Nebraska by the name of Kevin Fulton pulled off the upset! Upon Fulton’s winning – Bill Clark announced that this lift would be forever named the Fulton Lift. This eventually lead to the naming of the 2″ bar as the Fulton Bar along with the Fulton Dumbbell. As for Wilbur – upon the finish of the event he went back to the warm-up area and proceeded to pull more on this lift than he did in competition. He went home knowing that he may not have won the event on this day, but with the satisfaction of knowing he would next time!

The naming of the 2″ bar as the Fulton Bar in the USAWA became named that way later.  I have checked back in old meet results, and to the best of my research have determined that the first Fulton Bar lifts done in the USAWA were performed in 1995.  Bob Hirsh, USAWA Hall of Famer, performed lifts at a couple of record days (Arts Birthday Bash & the Buckeye Record Breakers) using the Fulton Bar. He was one of the first record-setters.  At this point these lifts were called numerous things, like Fulton Deadlift with knuckles front, Fulton Deadlift Reverse Grip, Fulton Deadlift with Overgrip,  or Fulton Deadlift with alternate grip. Nothing was consistent.  The Fulton Bar Lifts really never “took off” in the USAWA till 1999 when Kevin Fulton started using the Fulton Bar  in his annual SuperGrip Challenges in Litchfield, Nebraska.  Now the story gets real interesting.  In the beginning in the USAWA the deadlift with the Fulton Bar using an Alternate Grip was called the Two Hands Fulton Deadlift!  Exactly the same name that the IAWA(UK) uses today to refer to the lift where an overhand grip (with hook) is used on the 2 inch bar!!!  This is backed up in several reliable sources – ie old entry forms, meet results, and even in the initial USAWA Rulebook!!!!

This comes directly from the 2003 USAWA Rulebook Edition (which is considered the original USAWA rulebook):

F23. Two-Hand Fulton Deadlift- The rules of the deadlift apply with two exceptions. 1.  The bar must be at least 1-15/16 inches in diameter. 2.  Foot placing is optional.  The hook grip is allowed. 

Nothing is mentioned about a Ciavattone Grip being used, or having the knuckles forward.  So you see – confusion in the naming of these lifts went back to the very  beginning. The USAWA lift Deadlift – Fulton Bar, Ciavattone Grip was not placed in the USAWA rulebook till the 2009 Edition.  However, it was contested several times in USAWA competition before then and records were being kept in it, which makes no sense to me because if it was not official in the Rulebook with established approved written rules then it shouldn’t be present in the Official Record List.  But back then the  USAWA operated like the Wild West – no written law and the guy with the fastest draw was named Sheriff.  Policies seemed to change on a whim and the town folks weren’t asked.

Which brings us to the TOP ALL-TIME Deadlift – Fulton Bar, Ciavattone Grip in the USAWA Record List. This GREAT RECORD is held by Matt Graham with a 540 lb. lift performed at the 2001 SuperGrip Challenge held at Kevin Fulton’s place.  However, he did this lift by using a hook grip on the 2″ bar!!!!  I have knowledge of this from very several reliable sources (including from Matt!).  First of all, anyone who can hook grip a Fulton Bar is in a “class of their own” as most can’t even touch fingers on it.   I’m going to defend Matt here.  First of all, when he did it it WAS NOT against any USAWA Rule, and is not his fault at all that it is now in the USAWA Record List.  The lift was listed in the meet results as “2” deadlift overhand”, and the meet results were typed by Kevin Fulton himself.   Kevin was too humble to even identify the lift correctly (ie Fulton Deadlift) that beared his name in the results !!!   The problem arises when these results were put into the record list without a proper rule in place first.  With no official rule – the lift is just an exhibition lift with the rules set at the moment by the meet director, which may change the next time the lift is contested.  Of course, there could have been others that “hooked” the Fulton Bar in this meet (I doubt it!) and set USAWA records as well, but because it was not 540 pounds no one notices.  This includes other meets as well during that time  period. Again, the first written USAWA rule for the Deadlift – Fulton Bar, Ciavattone Grip came out in the 2009 Rulebook (3rd Edition) and these previous records just got “incorporated” into  the Record List under the new name. 

I know I have gotten extremely “long winded” with all this, and I’m sure most have quit reading by now. But I’ve just covered some of the history of the Fulton Bar and I haven’t even GOT to my opinions yet!!!  I still have MUCH MORE I could say on this subject, but I guess I better save it for another day….

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