Tag Archives: Wilbur Miller

No Stupid Lifts, Just Stupid Lifters

by Thom Van Vleck

Wilbur Miller doing a barbell leg press

Recently I got kind of sore at a guy for criticizing a leg press done by my friend Wilbur Miller.  Wilbur and my Uncle Wayne had some epic battles back in the day and while Wilbur won the overall in every meet he was never able to beat my Uncle in the Clean and Press.  Wayne took great pride in that as Wilbur was, in his mind, the greatest of his era.  I have written an article for MILO magazine on Wilbur and he continues to be involved in the USAWA to this day.

So this picture came up and this guy took it for face value and called it “Stupid”.  Well, I let him have it.  I was probably too harsh but I knew the story behind this photo.  The guy also said that if this was a good lift then you would see people doing it everywhere.  First of all, Wilbur usually did his lifting in an old York Power Rack where he could leg press in a rack with a very tight gap.  I did leg pressed that way early in my training as well.  Second of all, this photo was take out of the rack to demonstrate the lift.  Third, Wilbur did them because he didn’t have a proper leg press or leg sled.  It might be stupid to do this lift if you had a good leg press or out of a power rack….but it was dang smart to do them when Wilbur had some back issues and wanted to work his legs hard and he had no other recourse.

This got me to thinking about all the name calling and commentary from know-it-all lifters on the internet.  And to be honest, I’ve been one, too and I regret it.  A quick glance and you might think a lot of lifts would be useless or even dangerous.  But the reality is there are no stupid lift…only stupid lifters!

I would contend that ANY lift that can be done could have a useful purpose at some point of any lifters career.  Maybe because of injury, or an unusual weakness, or a lack of proper equipment.  Over the years I have made it a point to train with many of the best lifters in the country and I have found that almost ALL of the best have all kinds of unusual lifts they have developed that fits their needs.  Those same lifts, in the wrong context, could be disastrous to others.

Many times I have had a lifter tell me of a lift they do and my initial reaction is to roll my eyes and shake my head.  But in my 35 plus years of lifting there have been countless times I’ve ended up adopting that lift for my own needs.  So, my point is don’t judge, keep your mind open, and be like a U. S. Marine: “Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome”.   In other words….don’t be stupid!

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:

LIFT RECORD
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!!!

LIFT RECORD
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.

Top Performances of 2012 – PART 2

by Al Myers

Now it’s time to finish the  count down of the TOP PERFORMANCES of 2012! 

5.  Bryan Benzel and his 355 pound Apollons Lift.

Bryan Benzel performing the Apollons Lift at the 2012 Battle in the Barn.

Bryan “THE BIG YOUNG BULL” Benzel made his “name known” at ET’s Battle in the Barn OTSM meet last spring.  Included in the list of events was the Apollons Lift, which represents the performance done by the old time strongman Louis Uni, aka Apollon.  Apollon lifted his famous Apollon’s Wheels, which weighed 366#, overhead in his show performances.   The Bull  about  beat the mark set by the mighty Apollon!

4.  Adam Glass lifting 822 pounds in the Dinnie Lift at the Minneapolis Meet.

Adam Glass performing the Dinnie Lift at the 2012 Minneapolis Meet.

Adam Glass is, without a doubt, a WORLD CLASS grip man.  I am so glad that I was able to see this performance of his first-hand, because if not, I don’t know if I would have truly believed that he could lift so much in the Dinnie Lift.   Hopefully someday Adam will have an opportunity to attempt the actual stones – because if we are taking bets I’m going to place my bet on him that he’ll lift them!

3.  Dan Wagman’s 359 pound Steinborn Lift at Worlds.

Dan Wagman performing the Steinborn Lift in route to winning the Overall Best Lifter at the 2012 IAWA World Championships in Salina, Kansas.

I’ve known Dan “PURE POWER” Wagman for several years, and know what an outstanding lifter he is.  I had the feeling that the OVERALL CHAMPION of the 2012 Worlds was going to come down to a battle between him and my training buddy Chad.  I felt Chad’s “ace in the hole” was going to be the Steinborn Lift, and a lift that he might be able to distance himself from Dan.  However, this was not to be (even though Chad put up his All Time best Steinborn of 202.5kg) when Dan put up a huge Steinborn Lift of 359 pounds.  I was not expecting this out of Dan – and in turn quite surprised me – and that is why it made my ranking of number 3 of impressive lifts of 2012.

2.  Wilbur Miller’s 457# 12 inch base Deadlift.

Wilbur Miller (left) and Denny Habecker (right) at the Dino Gym.

It’s been years since Wilbur Miller was nicknamed the Cimarron Kid, but at an age of 79 he still lifts like a kid!  This amazing deadlift of his has to be regarded as one of the best performances of ALL-TIME in the USAWA as well.  

1.  Eric “ET” Todd and the monsterous WORLD RECORD Neck Lift of 1030 pounds!

Eric Todd performing his World Record Neck Lift at the 2012 IAWA World Championships.

This was the most impressive lift in the USAWA for 2012. I’m sure most everyone would agree with me on this.   Following the World Championships, Eric and Chad Ullom engaged each other in an “one on one” Neck Lift Challenge to determine who the best neck lifter was.  Both guys eclipsed the 1000 pound barrier in a climatic fashion, and in doing so, set the new mark for Neck Lifting.  I would like to think that both of these guys learned everything they know about Neck Lifting from me – but I know that isn’t true! (but I did make both of their neck harnesses which might have helped them a little bit…)  

HONERABLE MENTION FOR NUMBER ONE –

1.  Chad “THE CHAMP” Ullom lifting the Dinnie Stones for 25 reps! I giving this Honorable Mention Number One because this was not a competition lift – but done within the realms of an IAWA event.

Chad Ullom lifting the Dinnie Stone.

The day after the Gold Cup in Glasgow several of us made a visit to lift the Dinnie Stones. Chad was only hoping to become the FIFTH American to ever lift the stones unassisted (without straps) when he set up for his first attempt.  However, the stones came up with EASE!  It looked like he was warming up with a 135# deadlift!  After that he decided to test himself for total reps and finished with 25 unassisted reps with the Dinnie Stones, the most by anyone in a single day (done along with Mark Haydock of England).  It was a remarkable display of strength.  His performance must have shocked the stone lifting community because afterwards he endured much criticism for this performance along with a personal attack on his character (which included being called a numpkie – I had to ask an English friend what that meant!!  haha ) .  Most of this was fueled by envy and jealousy to discredit him (along with Mark) and to try to take away from their great display of  Dinnie stone lifting.  However, both of these guys showed what class they have by not publicly responding to these personal attacks and proved to me (and others) that they are honorable  individuals.   That’s all I’m going to say about that – I don’t have the time or energy  to deal with the HATERS.

I do want to point out with all this that it was me that suggested they stop at 25 reps to mark the 25th anniversary of IAWA. That was NEVER a goal of theirs going into this day.  They could have done another 25-50 reps if they really wanted to.  Chad’s hands were not the least bit damaged, and his 25th rep was as strong as his first. His grip was not slipping at all and he could have done many more reps.  He looked to me that he was just getting “warmed up”!!  However,  lunch time was upon us and I had to think of some way to get them to stop. I was getting hungry and the fish and chips at the Potarch Hotel were calling to me!!

Building Bigger Legs

By Roger LaPointe

Wilbur Miller knows the value of building leg strength through squatting. He just recently did a 320 pound 12 inch base squat at the Dino Gyms Record Day at the age of 79!

The secret to building bigger legs is really knowing the tools of the trade. You simply don’t build a skyscraper without a solid foundation. To build that foundation you need the right tools.

I had a great conversation, which did result in a sale, with a very high level basketball coach. As you might expect, he is dealing with very tall men who really are not built to be weightlifters. Yet, they do need the strength and explosiveness in their legs that serious weightlifting will bring them. We talked about the various bars I personally use, unsurprisingly, they are the same type of bars he uses, with slight variations. I regularly use an Olympic weightlifting bar with super smooth rotation, a stiff thick bar, a shrug/trap type bar, and a safety squat bar. At a height of 5 foot 3 inches, I am using them somewhat differently than his potential NBA recruits.

These are the exercises you need to do for building big and explosive legs:
1. Back Squats
2. Clean Pulls or, better yet, Power Cleans
3. A grip building exercise, such as Thick Bar Deadlifts
4. Front squat type movement – for some coaching situations, based on sport, facility resources, and/or body type – shrug bar deadlifts or a safety squat bar squats will be best

Now you need to apply these correctly.

Live strong,
Roger LaPointe

PS. If you can possibly get there, you need to come to the Atomic Athletic Great Black Swamp Olde Time Strongman Picnic. The real draw is the other people who attend. We have had coaches from the worlds of: football, track & field, basketball, mma, wrestling, cycling, boxing and a wide variety of other sports. This is your chance to pick their brains. Don’t miss it. Who knows, they might surprise you and try to pick your brain…

LESSONS

BY DAVE GLASGOW

WILBUR MILLER TRAINED ALL-ROUND LIFTS ALONG WITH OLYMPIC LIFTS AND POWER LIFTS.

I DON’T SUPPOSE THERE IS ONE OF US THAT, AT ONE TIME OR ANOTHER, DON’T THINK, “GEE, IF I HAD ONLY KNOWN THAT BACK WHEN….” OR “I SURE WISH I WAS YOUNGER.”  FOLLOWING MY WORKOUT LAST EVENING, I HAD SUCH A MOMENT.  YOU SEE, WHEN I FIRST STARTED LIFTING, IN THE LATE ‘60s, EARLY ‘70s, POWER LIFTING WAS MAKING A BIG ENTRANCE.  BY THE TIME I LEFT COLLEGE IN THE MID ‘70s, IT WAS KING.  FOR STRENGTH ATHLETES, IT WAS POWERLIFTING AND THE REST BE DAMNED.  OR SO I THOUGHT…  THIS IS WHERE THE LESSON SHOULD HAVE STARTED, BUT WAS LOST IN THE TRANSLATION.  THIS WAS ESPECIALLY TRUE TO ME, A KID IN HIS EARLY 20s., AND NOT A BIT ‘HEAD STRONG’ , I MIGHT ADD.

IN AN ATTEMPT TO ‘EDUCATE’ MYSELF, I SUBSCRIBED TO ‘IRONMAN’ MAGAZINE.   THOSE OF YOU IN MY AGE GROUP WILL REMEMBER PERRY AND MABLE RADER AND THE VERY, EXCELLENT PUBLICATION THEY PUT OUT.  (TO MY MIND, THIS MONTHLY CHRONCILE HAS YET TO BE MATCHED.  YES, I UNDERSTAND THIS IS GOING TO START A RIFF; HOWEVER, THAT IS MY OPINION.  THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A MORE DIVERSIFIED AND UNBIASED MAGAZINE, BEFORE OR SINCE.)  I DISTINCTLY REMEMBER PASSING OVER THE OLD TIME STRONGMAN ARTICLES, SKIMMING THE OLY LIFT STORIES AND INSTRUCTIONAL ADVICE TO GET TO THE POWERLIFTING SECTION. WHAT WERE THESE OLD GUYS FROM THE TURN OF THE CENTURY GOING TO TEACH ME?  HOW COULD OLY LIFTING POSSIBLY HELP ME?  I CAN ONLY SHAKE MY HEAD, NOW. WHAT A MISTAKE!!  I HAD ALL THE INFORMATION I NEEDED RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME BUT I CHOSE TO TOTALLY DISREGARD IT.  ALL THAT WAS IMPORTANT WAS A BIG BENCH PRESS.  ‘WHAT CAN YA  BENCH??’, WAS THE COMMON PHRASE BACK THEN.  AS I KNOW NOW, THE CATCH PHRASE SHOULD HAVE BEEN, ‘WHAT CAN YA SQUAT OR DEADLIFT??’

THE MORE I GET INVOLVED IN THE USAWA, THE MORE I REALIZE THAT I, TOTALLY, MISSED THE BOAT.  THERE ARE SO MANY LIFTS THAT INVOLVE STRENGTH, ATHLETICISM AND POWER THAT IF ONE BECOMES ‘STALE’, IT WOULD CERTAINLY BE THE FAULT OF THE TRAINEE FOR NOT IMPLEMENTING THESE MIRIADE OF LIFTS.  IT JUST STANDS TO REASON THAT AN INCREASE IN OVERALL BODY STRENGTH WILL ONLY INCREASE THE ABILITY TO PERFORM ANY OTHER LIFT TO A HIGHER DEGREE.  HOW CAN ONE GO WRONG DOING SNATCHES, CLEANS, OVERHEAD PRESSES (WHICH I TOTALLY AVOIDED IN MY IGNORANCE), ONE HANDED LIFTS, DUMBBELL WORK…….MY GOD, THE LIST IS ENDLESS.  FROM TIME TO TIME, I HAVE BEEN ASKED BY SOMEONE TO SET UP A ‘PROGRAM’ FOR THEM.  WHILE I AM ALWAYS QUICK TO HELP, I HAVE GOTTEN INTO THE HABIT OF TELLING THE INDIVIDUAL TO DO THEIR OWN RESEARCH AND GET BACK WITH ME.  IT IS AT THIS TIME THAT I WILL TELL MY OWN STORY AND STRONGLY ENCOURAGE THAT PERSON TO MAKE HIS WORKOUTS WELL ‘ROUNDED’ AND DYNAMIC.  I NEVER FAIL TO CAUTION THEM TO BE CAREFUL THEY DON’T FALL IN THE SAME RUT I DID.

MAYBE THOSE ‘OLD TIMERS’ HAD SOME LESSONS TO TEACH, AFTER ALL!!

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