Tag Archives: Warren Lincoln Travis

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.

Kennedy Lift

by Al Myers

Here's an Old Time Strongman performing a variation of the Kennedy Lift by utilizing a Hand and Thigh Bar attached to a regular bar.

I’ve received  a few questions regarding the nature of the “Kennedy Lift” following my announcement of the Dino Gym Challenge, which includes a lift by this name.  It was one of the lifts that Warren Lincoln Travis included in his “Challenge to the World”, in which he challenges 20 repetitions at 700 pounds in 10 seconds.  In his Challenge WLT  calls it instead the Two Hand Grip Lift, but it is the same lift.  Other sources  originally called it  the Hands Alone Lift.  I’m sure the reason for this name was to different it from the Hand and Thigh Lift – meaning no parts of the implement should be touching the body besides the hands (thus Hands Alone), as illustrated in the picture with this story.

The Kennedy Lift is nothing more than a partial Jefferson Lift (or straddle deadlift).   I’ve  heard lifters in the past refer to the Jefferson Lift AS the Kennedy Lift , but this is only partially true (pun intended).  The Kennedy Lift is done by straddling the weight with the lift being close to lockout.  The range of movement is reported to be several inches to just clearing the floor, depending on sources.  The Kennedy is not an official lift of the USAWA, but is one worthy of it.  It will be performed in the Dino Gym Challenge as an exhibition lift that will count in the meet scoring (allowed under the rules of the USAWA). If it is well received by those in attendance, I may submit it for lift approval in the USAWA.  It has the “history” to be an official All Round   lift for sure. 

I had to do some “digging” in my files to find a good reference to the origins of the Kennedy Lift. Some of the information on the internet is not entirely true, so I had to make some decisions as to what I thought were the facts.   The following piece was written by Warren Lincoln Travis, titled “My 40 years with the World’s Strongest Men”, in which he talks about how the Kennedy Lift came to be.  I tend to believe what WLT says in his writings, and here it is:

About forty years ago, at the height of the new wave of strong man popularity, the late Richard K. Fox, then publisher of the Police Gazette, the leading sporting journal of America, had a 1000 pound dumb-bell cast, but it was not in the shape of the dumbbells today.  It was more like a massive block of iron.  He offered a very valuable gold medal and title to the first man to lift this 1000 pound weight.  At that time there was a man known as James Walter Kennedy who was athletically inclined and developed.  He was an oarsman and general athlete, leaning, however, more toward the strong man. He was about 6 feet tall and weighed around 190 pounds, had jet black curly hair and moustache and at a time was a special officer at the Globe Museum at 298-300 Bowery, New York City.  Kennedy took a notion that he could lift this 1000 pound dumbbell with his hands and he began to train with a big whiskey cask, not using whiskey in it, but water, sand and rock as he gained strength.  In other words, he used the Milo Bar Bell system of gradually increasing weight as he improved in his strength.  The first time he tried lifting the 1000 pound weight he failed but some time later he succeeded.  His style was to straddle the weight and have one hand in front of his body grasping the weight and the other hand grasping it in the rear of his body, this position being known as the Hands Alone Lift.  His body was erect with the exception that the knees were bent about 2 or 3 inches. – by Warren Lincoln Travis

I envision the technique to be very similar to how most lift the Dinnie Stones, using the straddle style.  I think it very fitting that the origins of this lift was described by Warren Lincoln Travis, and must have been one he appreciated, as he included it in his “Challenge to the World”.  James Walter Kennedy was 29 years old when he accomplished winning this challenge set forth by Richard K. Fox. He came from Quincy, Illinois. The date of this strongman debut of the Kennedy Lift was January 25th, 1890.  The “1000 pound dumbbell” was actually a 1030 pound solid iron block with handles affixed to the top 24 inches from the ground.

At the Dino Challenge we will be using a bar set up on blocks so weight can be added to that of  a lifters’ preference and the rules of the USAWA can be followed in adding weight over three attempts.  It will be done according to the rules of the Jefferson Lift, except the bar will be at a higher position than the floor. The bar height will be a set height (yet to be determined) so that it will NOT  just be a “lockout lift” like the Heavy Lifts are.

Dino Gym Challenge

by Al Myers


“Presenting a Challenge Left by Warren Lincoln Travis”

The Coney Island Strongman, Warren Lincoln Travis.

Warren Lincoln Travis has always been one of my favorite Old Time Strongmen. WLT was the consummate circus Old Time Strongman, performing strength shows at the World’s Circus Side Show in Coney Island for over 25 years. He was one of the few strongmen of that era to keep his strength exhibitions in the United States.  In an interview with Sig Klein, Travis told him that he had many opportunities to travel abroad and perform, but had made a promise to his mother that he would not travel overseas to Europe!  Showdowns with other famous strongmen of that era, like Sandow and Saxon, never materialized for Travis.  At one time a match between Saxon and Travis about happened when Saxon was in New York performing for the Ringling Brothers Circus. WLT trained hard for that encounter.  WLT declared that he knew he could never beat Arthur Saxon in the Bent Press or the Foot Press, but was confidant he could out do him in the Harness Lift, Back Lift, and the Finger Lifts. 

WLT was also a strongman who excelled in competitive all round lifting.  He loved the one arm lifts, and was truly an all round weightlifter in addition to a strongman.  Some of his best all round lifts were: Pullover and Press 290 pounds, Bent Press 270 pounds, Clean and Jerk with Dumbbells 229 pounds, Dumbbell Curl 170 pounds, and two dumbbells Continental Jerk 260 pounds.

Travis was most known for his endurance lifting.  He set several records for repetition-lifting in the Back Lift and Harness Lift.  Part of WLT’s legacy is that he left a 10 lift “Challenge to the World” that he completed.  This challenge was left in his will, with the first person to accomplish it after his death receiving his prized jewel-studded belt!  No one has accomplished this “challenge” yet!  It has some hard stipulations – in addition to performing the 10 challenge lifts one must do the entire challenge in under 30 minutes and succeed with it for 10 straight years!!!  The basis of  the lifts for this year’s Dino Challenge comes from WLT’s “10 Lift  Challenge to the World”.

Warren Lincoln Travis – Challenge to the World

1. Take a 100 pound barbell from the floor with both hands, and press it overhead 10 times while seated (must be done in 30 seconds)
2. Take a pair of 90 pound dumbbells from the side of the body to the shoulders, and press it to arms length overhead.
3. Teeth lift from the floor, hands behind neck, 350 pounds.
4. Finger Lift from the floor 350 pounds with one finger, eight times in five seconds.
5. Finger lift from the floor 560 pounds with one finger once.
6. Two hand grip lift, straddling the weight, 700 pounds twenty times in ten seconds.
7. Hand and Thigh Lift 1600 pounds once.
8. Back Lift 3660 pounds once.
9. Harness Lift 3580 pounds once.
10. Back Lift 2000 pounds, 250 times in seven minutes.

Warren Lincoln Travis was born as Roland Morgan in Brooklyn (he was adopted), New York on February 21st, 1875.  He died July 13th, 1941.


Meet Director:  Al Myers, phone #785-479-2264
Meet Date:  Saturday, January 18th, 2014, 10 AM – 4 PM
Location: Dino Gym, 1126 Eden Road, Abilene, Kansas, 67410
Sanction: USAWA, must be a member to compete
Weigh-ins: 9-10 AM day of the meet
Divisions: Mens and Womens
Awards: None
Entry: There is no entry form and no entry fee, but I must be told a week in advance if you plan to attend. I will have a teeth bit available for use – but it will shared by all and may not be to your mouth size. I recommend you bring your own to use if this is an issue to you.


Teeth Lift
Finger Lift – Middle Finger
Kennedy Lift
Harness Lift
Back Lift

These were 5 of Warren Lincoln Travis’s favorite lifts.  This meet will allow you to see how you “stack up” against one of the best U.S. Old Time Strongmen in history.  If anyone wants to attempt to duplicate the “10 Lift Challenge” that WLT left as his legacy – please let me know and I’ll make arrangements for it.

Warren Lincoln Travis – The Day the Weights Won

By Al Myers

The newspaper’s headlines read, “Weights He Lifted Crush a Strongman.”

Warren Lincoln Travis was the ultimate strongman performer. Here he is posing with some of the implements he would use in his strength shows.

I always love a good story.  Especially a story where the hero is faced with overwhelming obstacles that he must overcome to maintain or regain his previous status.  I know what you are thinking – Al must have a soft spot for sappy movies that have predictable endings. Well, I admit I always enjoy them more than I think I would.  But I pretend to let my wife think I only watch those kind of movies with her for her sake, and let on that I would have really preferred another action thriller movie!  This is the kind of story that would make a good movie,  and has your typical “feel good” outcome that is expected out of a “tear-jerker”. It pits the human body against iron. Flesh against steel.  Bone against metal. This is a story about a man that faced death at the mercy of weights and barbells that he was trying to lift.

Enough dramatic prelude!  I’m not writing a novel!!  Let me get straight to my story. I recently found  a news clipping from the NY Times, dated May 13 1908.  This clipping details the day the famous strongman, Warren Lincoln Travis, nearly lost his life at the hands of the weight he was trying to lift. He was only 27 years old at the time.

It all started when a janitor for the Brooklyn Athletic Club went to work one day and found our hero, Warren Lincoln Travis, lying under 1 1/2 tons of barbell plates, bars, dumbbells and even pieces of gymnastic equipment. Travis was unconscious.  The janitor quickly recruited some help and “unburied” Travis  from this heap of iron.  They rushed him to the hospital.  Upon a doctors examination, Travis had many lacerations, bruises,  possible internal injuries, and a dislocated hip.  The doctor was quoted as saying, “he will probably die”.

However, after a while, Travis regained consciousness and was able to tell his story.  He had been in training for an upcoming strength show, and was planning on doing a big Back Lift for the performance.  He wanted to lift a big platform loaded with people.  The previous times training this stunt he was able to get gym members to sit on his platform, but this day he arrived at the gym early and he found himself alone, with no other gym members around to use as his “live weight”.  So instead of waiting, Travis started loading anything he could find in the gym on his platform, which was supported by two sawhorses. Due to the weight probably being “unbalanced”, one of the sawhorses broke upon Travis placing it down after a rep.  This caused the other sawhorse to tip over, driving Travis to the floor covered by a piece of wood and around 3000 pounds of weight.  He couldn’t move to free himself and was trapped for at least half an hour before he was rescued.  The story referred to him being “senseless” when they found him, which I take as being unconscious.   This NY Times story also commented that this was the second time within a year that Travis had been hospitalized.  The other time was when Travis was doing a stunt in which an automobile was driven OVER HIM, but the driver got the wheels over his rib cage, breaking several ribs in the process!!!

But this story has a happy ending. Travis went on to an illustrious strongman career and became,  without a doubt, one of the most recognized American Strongmen of the early 1900’s.  He was more than just a strongman – I would also  say he was an early day stuntman.  Many of his performances had a high element of risk in them.  He was not afraid of becoming injured in order “to put on his show of strength”.  This accident didn’t hinder him in his pursuit of Back Lifting.  Most of his best Back Lifting was done after this accident.  On this day the weights may have won, but in the end Warren Lincoln Travis was victorious!

Travis lifting his Dumbbell

by Al Myers

Warren Lincoln Travis and his dumbbell.

The saga of the Warren Lincoln Travis Dumbbell wouldn’t be complete without a picture of Travis with it.  Travis lifted his huge dumbbell for many years, as this picture shows him posing with it in his older days.  Travis continued to lift big poundages in the hip, harness, and back lift into his 50’s and 60’s.  Several times Travis announced his retirement from strongman performances, but he could never stay away long and made  numerous “comebacks”.  He was 52 years old when he did his historic 5.5 million pound “total poundage” lift in 1927.  Travis is best known as a Heavy Lifter – but when he was younger did some very impressive All-Round Weight Lifting.  He excelled in Finger Lifting, as well as other grip feats.

This famous dumbbell of Warren Lincoln Travis was “one of many props” used by him in his acts.

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