Tag Archives: USAWA

Founding USAWA Principles

by Al Myers

I’ve been appreciating the comments on the USAWA Discussion Forum recently in regards to ET’s editorial story the other day about problems and issues the USAWA faces in stimulating new memberships.   I have to admit – most of ET’s sentiments I have felt at some time or another.  Our organization is very unique in several ways compared to other lifting organizations.  Some of the comments in the forum suggested ideas that sure sound good on paper (and would mimic the policies of other established lifting organizations), but they go against the founding principles of the USAWA.  I know there are several new members to the USAWA that are not “in tune” to the historical philosophies of the USAWA, so I want to go over them today.  These were foundation Principles of the USAWA, established by Bill Clark and the initial founding members of the USAWA 26 years ago when the initial USAWA bylaws were written.  These ideas were the groundwork of the USAWA, and have been maintained throughout  the years.   Here they are – the 5 founding principles of the USAWA:

1.  Contest lifts not currently contested in other lifting organizations.

The concept of the “all -rounds” was to offer a competitive avenue for contesting lifts not being offered by other lifting organizations, ie powerlifting and Olympic lifting.  These means the Bench Press, Squat, Deadlift, Clean and Jerk, and the Snatch are not eligible to be USAWA lifts.  This statement is and has been the VERY FIRST rule in the USAWA rulebook since the beginning.  The intention here was to offer competition in lifts “outside” of the other forms of lifting – and to recognize what was called the “odd lifts”.  The idea of this is to have an organization that is not just another form of powerlifting or Olympic lifting.

2.  Drug Free Organization

From the beginning drug free competition within the USAWA was a goal.  Drug Free competition is only insured by actually having drug testing occur.  I know at times in the past this had to be questioned (adequate drug testing), but now we have one of the best drug testing programs of any lifting organization.  We test at many meets, and a wide range of lifters are tested. 

3.  Use of minimal supportive equipment.

The initial intention of the USAWA was to have an organization that only included the use of a belt. No wraps, no suits, no anything else.  But this principle was compromised with the addition of wrist wraps within a couple of years.  The argument for wrist wraps was for wrist protection doing one arm swings, not wrist support.  This “opened the door” to allowing wrist wraps for all lifts.  Next came the use of knee wraps for the squats.  However, the USAWA for the most part has maintained this original principle and has not allowed the wide range of supportive equipment that is now available to the lifters.  

4.  Age and bodyweight corrections.

From the beginning, the idea in the USAWA was to have all competitors competing against each other with formula adjustments.  This includes using the Lynch Formula to correct for bodyweight, and the Age Allowance Percent for age correction.   I won’t get into my views here on whether I feel these corrections are “fair” – but just making the point that this was an original principle that the USAWA was founded on.

5.  Affiliate with IAWA for World Competitions.

From the day of the official organization of the USAWA, the IAWA was formed as well to give international competition.  However, the USAWA has always had their own set of working bylaws separate from the IAWA.    With time things have “evolved” within the USAWA to have some differences between the USAWA and the IAWA(UK), but integrity was kept in the main rules and concepts which has allowed this peaceful union over the past 26 years.   It is important  that when changes are made in the USAWA, we must always remember our IAWA affiliation and how this may affect our relationship within IAWA.  Making changes about  “little things” within the USAWA is one thing – but when “big issues” are addressed the decision is much larger than the USAWA.   The last thing we want to do is damage our IAWA affiliation.

I may not fully agree with  all of these founding principles of the USAWA – but I will support them because they are what our organization was formed from.  Much like the articles in the United States Constitution  – they were set for a reason by our founding fathers and should be respected and not changed or challenged.     I just wanted to write this editorial because I know people often wonder how I stand on these issues.  Well, the above Founding Principles are “set in concrete” in my opinion and should not be changed  EVER within the USAWA.  If we do change them we might as well change our name as well – because we wouldn’t be the same USAWA that our founding fathers envisoned for us.

Where do we go?

by Eric Todd

The USAWA has been around for 26 years.  To my knowledge, there is no other governing body for all-round lifting in the USA, and only a small splinter group in the UK outside of our world organization, the IAWA.  Anybody who is anybody in all-round in America is a member of the USAWA.  So why is it, that after 26 years we still have fewer than 100 members?  I believe there are several reasons behind this, which I will address in this essay.  So, we need to decide if we like the status quo.  If not, do we want to grow, and if so, how?

People do not like to get out of their comfort zone.  In most of the other strength disciplines, there are a handful of movements that you must become proficient at.  So, an individual may find one area that he excels in, and stick with that.  I would say the vast majority of competitors find one discipline they are comfortable in and then do not deviate from it  The USAWA has over 200 lifts to tackle, some of them quite unorthodox.  So, most lifters choose to stick to their bench press meets, or Oly lifting, or even strongman in order not to risk failure in competing at something they are not familiar with.  I would argue that the USAWA has something for everyone, so most anyone can find success in all-round.  In addition to that, I would argue that in order to be a true strength athlete, you need to get outside your comfort zone.  My forte was always strongman, but I would compete in powerlifting, all-round, highland, and even an oly meet just to challenge myself, to broaden my horizons, to grow, and to be a true strength athlete.  All-round pretty much affords you that opportunity all blanketed in one organization.

There is not a lot of glamour in all-round.  Our meets, including our championships and national meets are held in small gyms or  at people’s private facilities, and the crowd of spectators is a handful of family members.  There are no magazine covers, no opportunity to “go pro”, no money, no live streams, and often not even a cheap plastic trophy to lug with you when you go home.  Definitely not the place for trophy hunters. 

People in the US have not been exposed to all-round.  People recognize the benchpress, squat and deadlift of powerlifting.  They are familiar with the men in kilts “flipping telephone poles” in highland games.  They have seen the mighty men during the Olympics snatch and clean and jerk.  They have come across world’s strongest man on ESPN whilst flipping through channels.  So, if I compete in one of those disciplines, they have a frame of reference to what I am doing. The VAST majority of people have never heard of all-round.  Nor have they ever heard of a Steinborn or a harness lift.  Unfortunately, if they were to read the requirements of a few of our lifts, they would probably have no desire to try them.

Furthermore, we are a raw, drug tested organization.  There is no possible way to artificially inflate your numbers in the USAWA.  There are  people whose egos cannot handle lifting less than what they were able to do when artificially aided.

One last reason I will mention that I feel we struggle to draw competitors is “the formula”.  I know I have walked away from my share of meets irritated by it.  I have out-lifted people by 1000 and more pounds in a meet, only to be beaten by “the formula”.  If you are  a 300+ pound behemoth,  you will struggle to find great success in all-round.  Though I understand the need for a formula to compare across divisions, I feel that we lose a lot of the bigger lifters because  of ours. 

So, the question remains-do we want to grow?  I spoke with Al about this on an occasion or two.  My opinion is this, take it for what it is worth.  We do not want to grow at all costs.  Growth is good, but we don’t just need more lifters.  We need more of the “right” lifters.  When I started competing in strongman, it was a small organization.  The competitors knew and respected each other.  We competed hard against each other, but would root for the other guy because we respected him and wanted to beat him at his best.   We would travel to train with each other, eat dinner with each other, email or call each other about training, competitions, etc.  This is kind of how I feel all-round is in its current state.    You go to a meet, and it is like a family reunion.  The guys you are competing with have probably been tested, and even if it has been a while, you know their character well enough at this point to know they are clean.  You are treated with respect amongst the lifters as well as within the organization.  When strongman started growing, it eventually drew some individuals I did not like being around.  Not collectively, but there was a lot more than before.  There was a lot more narcicism, more ego-centrism.  It became much less a brotherhood, and more just a sport. 

So, growth can be a double edged sword.  I know I hate to see meets that get only 2 or 3 lifters or have to be cancelled for lack of competitors.  And with so few competitors in our pool, this is going to happen. I would like for every meet to have 15+ competitors, competition within the divisions, and awards for the competitors.  I would love to see increased membership numbers helping us increase our organization financially.  But do we want to sacrifice the integrity of our sport as well the great camaraderie within to accomplish this? 

I, for one, do not have any answers.  However, I am interested to see what you all say.  I am just hoping to create some dialogue that could potentially  serve to help guide our direction into the future.

JWC Redesigned Logo

by Thom Van Vleck

The New JWC logo.

The Jackson Weightlifting Club is one of the oldest Clubs in the USAWA…and that’s saying a lot because there are some old clubs!  To me, what sets the JWC apart is it very much is a family club.  Sure, there are lots of non family members, but the core has been my family and for over 85 years there has been a member of my family at the lead.  While I hope that continues, I just hope it’s around another 85 years regardless of who is running it!  I am pretty proud to keep the tradition going of lifting for not only strength of body, but strength of mind, spirit, and character.  That’s why on the logo below that adorns the front of the shirt it says “Strength, Faith, Honor, and Wisdom”.  I would say that lifting is more about life than winning awards for the JWC…..but awards are nice, too!

Logo that's on the front of the new JWC shirts

The anvil that is on the both sides is a silhouette of the Original “Grandpa Jackson” Anvil that sits in my gym.  Many will remember the story I’ve probably told too many times of my Great Grandfather lifting that anvil to impress his kids, then my grandfather turning to weight training to achieve that same feat….then that turning into a tradition of lifting in our family.  And yes, 1928 was the year my grandfather started lifting with his future brother in law and his friends that led to the formation of the the JWC.  While the name “Jackson Weightlifting Club” wasn’t coined until 1957, I consider 1928 as the date the idea was born…..which was more important than the name.  That idea was a man could use weights to make himself better in all ways….not just physical strength.

The "old" logo in use since the 90's.

The Logo drawn by my Uncle Phil in the late 50's that inspired all the future logos.

Here are the old logos just to let you compare.  I have tried to stay true to the original as I want to always honor those that came before me and paved the way.  I know I’ve shared the symbolism of it before, but since I’ve made an update, I wanted to share again.  I plan on having the shirts available at my Highland Games in October and the Old Time Strongman Championships this fall (looking at a December date).  So if you like them, come and compete and get one as a meet shirt!  I know a shirt won’t make my lift more (well….unless it was a bench shirt…but who likes those!)…but when I wear this shirt, I feel extra inspired to not let the tradition down!

Joe the Turk Meet POSTPONED!

by Thom Van Vleck

The Joe the Turk meet set for the Macomb Salvation Army Gym for this weekend has been postponed due to a terrible flood in the gym.  They are still cleaning up and the decision was made to postpone the meet.   Updates will be given regarding a “make up date” at a later time.

Here is a story on the devastation and how you can help our brothers and sisters out!

Last fall I went over to help judge a meet in Macomb, Illinios.  It was the “Macomb Fall Record Breakers” meet and was being put on my Tim Piper.  Tim needed some help and I was glad to help out.  He was also donating some weights to the weightlifting club I am the staff adviser for at the University I work at (the Osteoblasters Weightlifting Club).  I had never been to the Salvation Army Gym in Macomb and was quite pleased when I got there!  It was “Old School” with tons of old equipment, platforms to do “REAL” lifting off of, and tons of trophies and pictures from some 40 years of operation.  It was a gym that any USAWA member would have loved to train in and every “Planet Fitness” members nightmare!  The “Salvation Army Gym” is also a USAWA official club and are currently in good standing.  That’s why it was such sad news to hear that the recent heavy rains had flooded the gym which is located in the basement of the local Salvation Army.

At least 2 feet of water filled the gym!

There were plenty of pictures on facebook but sometimes when you have been somewhere you can appreciate just how bad something is.  This particular club had a huge number of photos that went from floor to ceiling in some areas and a lot of equipment that ended up under water.   Here are some photos to give you a “before” and “after” perspective.

Here is a "before photo" with Tim Piper spotting Whitney.

The same corner of the gym underwater!

The clean up has begun and the water has been pumped out.  I understand they are taking photos that were water damaged and trying to scan them to make new ones.  There will no doubt be a lot of work left to do and I’m unsure if there was any insurance.  Most insurance won’t pay for flooding anyway unless you have a special flood policy and most don’t as it’s expensive and I’m sure a Salvation Army couldn’t afford it.

The water has been pumped out, leaving a huge mess!

Keep these guys in your thoughts and prayers.  This isn’t some fancy, high dollar gym….it’s a Salvation Army!  If you can help them out by either providing labor or sending a donation I’m sure it would be appreciated!  This gym needs to go on as it provides a workout area for many who couldn’t afford it otherwise.  It’s the type of place I got started in when I couldn’t afford the fancy gym membership!  I’m sure many of you can relate.  Plus, Tim and Dawn are such great people who work so hard to bring meets and weight training to others.  Let’s help’em out!  You can send a donation to Tim Piper at: Tim Piper, 15401 E. 1750th Street, Macomb, IL 61455 or you can call him at 309 221 0276.

Wilbur Miller

by Al Myers

Wilbur Miller pulling a 725# deadlift in York in 1965 (above), and then close to 50 years later pulling a 457# deadlift in 2012 at the Dino Gym (below).

Anyone involved with the All-Rounds in the midwest knows “the name” of Wilbur Miller.   I am very fortunate to know Wilbur personally, and he has been to my gym several times now.  He is an ICON amongst past strength athletes in the state of Kansas, and if I was voting,  I would vote him as the GREATEST ALL ROUND STRENGTH ATHLETE ever from the state of Kansas.  I know that’s saying alot, as there have been several others worthy of this distinction as well.  The reason I’m “putting my vote” on Wilbur is his diversity in strength and how he excelled in each discipline, whether it was Olympic Lifting, Powerlifting,  Grip, or All Round.  Recently, Wilbur was at the Dino Gym when some of the guys were doing Strongman, and he  commented to me how he wished that was around when he was younger.  I’m betting if it was, and Wilbur competed in Strongman – he would have excelled in that as well!

I’m glad to see Wilbur back into “action” in the USAWA.   The USAWA has alot to thank Wilbur Miller for.  He was a big part of the “grassroot movement” that started the USAWA and the IAWA.  At the time (late 60’s to mid 80’s), there were no organized associations for All Round Weightlifting like we have now with the USAWA, and the only option for this type of lifting (then known primarily as Odd Lifting) was within the Missouri Valley Region IV by Bill Clark promotions.  Wilbur often took part in these, and set at the time many Region IV records.   These records did not transfer into the modern day USAWA record book.   But if they did – many of Wilbur’s records would STILL be standing.

A little over a year ago, Thom Van Vleck wrote a nice biography about Wilbur for MILO (December 2011, Volume 19, Number 3).   I’ve told Thom that I thought this was one of his best Milo stories ever, but I know I am biased because of the respect I have for Wilbur and what he has done for All Round Weightlifting.  I want to highlight just a few of the things that Thom revealed about Wilbur in that story. However, if you are interested I recommend you order that issue of MILO, and it is worth it just for Thom’s story alone.

Wilbur was born in 1932 in Cimarron, Kansas.   That is the reason he acquired the nickname of “the Cimarron Kid”.  He was a gifted High School athlete – excelling in all sports.  It’s hard to believe but Wilbur ran the mile in Highschool.  He ran a best of 4 minutes, 33.6 seconds. In the state finals, he placed third behind two runners, Wes Santee and Billy Tidwell, who both went on to International Fame as World Class milers (that tidbit of trivia was not in Thom’s story, but rather told to me by Bill Clark).  Wilbur became interested in lifting at the age of 23, after injuring his back in a horse riding accident.  What started out  as physical therapy to recover from an injury turned into passion that lead to lifting greatness!  Wilbur was always known for having outstanding technique.  Thom titled his MILO story this way “Wilbur Miller: Lifting Perfection” because Wilbur was well-known for having perfect lifting technique.  Wilbur had a “story book” lifting career that propelled him into the Powerlifting Hall of Fame and the Weightlifting Hall of Fame.  My feeling is the only thing missing is that he should also be in the All Round (USAWA)  Hall of Fame!  After all, it was lifters like him (and a few others) that set the “groundwork” for the future of the USAWA.  Wilbur stills trains on York bars and plates that he purchased when he was a young man. I have a picture displayed in the Dino Gym that is “personally autographed” by Wilbur.  It is one of my favorites.  One of the reasons for this is that is because the bar is “fully loaded” with straps holding the plates on because there wasn’t enough room for the collars!  At the time the main plates available were Deep Dish York 45’s with wide-flanged rims which took up a lot of room on the bar.  Thom made this comment in his story which I think is worth repeating, “Some have claimed that the reason York quit making the deep-dish 4 and went to a thinner, sleeker version was because of Wilbur’s ability to max out the amount of weight on the bar with his monster deadlifts.”   Thom then went onto to say, “How would you like to be the reason the biggest maker of weights in the US had to change its design!”

This is that "autographed picture" in the Dino Gym that shows the plates loaded to the end of the bar!

Wilbur’s best lifts in competition were: 725# deadlift, 320# clean and press, 320# snatch (split-style), and a 385# clean and jerk.  Wilbur often competed in the 240-250 lb bodyweight range, which often put him as very light heavyweight because this was at the time that the heavyweight class started at 110 kilograms.  He often gave up over 100 pounds bodyweight to his competitors!  His 725 pound deadlift was an All Time Deadlift record at the time, and was done in 1965 in York, Pennsylvania.  He weighed 245 pounds in that meet.  I did some research on his best All Round lifts and this is what I found from an old Region VI Missouri Valley Record List.  Below is just a few of his records at the time:

Middle Fingers Deadlift 320 pounds  (1983)
Hack Lift 650 pounds (1963)
Jefferson Lift 650 pounds (1963)
2-Dumbbell Deadlift 520 pounds (1984)
Strict Curl 180 pounds (1964)
Abdominal Raise 105 pounds (1962)
Miller Clean and Jerk 135 pounds (1979)

That last lift mentioned, the Miller Clean and Jerk, was named after Wilbur by Bill Clark in 1979.  It is that “dreaded lift” where a Clean and Jerk is performed by the middle fingers only!  It is a very painful lift!   Someday I will get Wilbur to demonstrate this lifted named after him for a picture.  I asked him to do it for me this past year, but he said it’s been awhile since he did it and he wanted to “train it” for a while before the photo op! I bet he’ll match his “bar and two plates’ for me like he did over 30 years ago!!!

Wilbur Miller (left) and USAWA President Denny Habecker (right) at the 2012 Dino Gym Challenge.

Wilbur currently has 7 records in the USAWA.  Like I said, those earlier Mo-Valley records didn’t carry over so these are records he has set recently.  All of them are in the 75-79 age group, 100-105 kg weight class.  I would like to see the lifter that can break these marks!!!

12″ Base Deadlift 457 pounds (100kg class)
12″ Base Deadlift 450 pounds (105kg class)
Deadlift – Ciavattone Grip 397 pounds (100kg class)
Deadlift – Ciavattone Grip 350 pounds (105kg class)
Deadlift – Heels Together 419 pounds (100kg class)
Deadlift – Heels Together 400 pounds (105kg class)
12″ Base Squat 320 pounds (100kg class)

I have MANY MORE things and stories I could tell about Wilbur here, but I don’t want my story to be longer than the one Thom did for MILO (another reminder – BUY that issue!).  I want to close this by saying a few words about Wilbur as a person.  He is an extremely modest and humble person and it takes a bit to get him to talk about his accomplishments in the lifting game.   It is very obvious that he truly loves weightlifting and the people involved in it.  When he’s been at the Dino Gym, he’s “all smiles” and just loves to be part of day.  He’s always offering words of encouragement to the other lifters. In today’s world of BIG EGOS and SELF PROMOTERS, there are  few around anymore like Wilbur Miller who lifts  for the “love of the sport”.  I consider him a great weightlifting role model and I try everyday to have the attitude and character that he has shown.

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