Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Weaver Stick - George R. Weaver

Figure One

Figure Two

The Weaver Stick

by George R. Weaver

In his rating of various lifts for merit David Willoughby has listed the records of John Grimek and Paul Von Boeckmann in the Weaver Stick Lift. The world’s record in the Harness Lift is about 4,000 lbs. The world’s record in the Weaver Stick Lift is about 10 lbs. A slight difference!

“But what in thunder is the Weaver Stick?” you ask. As a matter of fact, the name was applied to it by Siegmund Klein, because of my efforts to popularize this test of forearm strength.

It all began many years ago, when strong-men used to test their strength of “wrist” by lifting a broom horizontally from the floor by grasping the end of the handle, with a light weight placed on the straw of the broom. The ability to lift a 5 lb. brick in this way denotes unusual “wrist” strength. It occurred to the late Paul Von Boeckmann to make this test more accurate by suspending the weight from an exact point on the stick, and measuring an exact distance from that point to the front of the hand. The distance he decided on was 3 feet, or 36 inches. In this manner he finally succeeded in lifting a weight of 10¼ lbs.

Being curious as to how this compared with the ability of the leading modern lifters, I made several sticks, and tested some 40 lifters and athletes. The results were extremely interesting. But before I reveal them, I must tell you how to make a Weaver Stick, and how to lift with it.

Obtain a mop handle, about one inch in diameter, and saw it to a length of 42 inches. Half an inch from one end cut a notch. Exactly 36 inches from the center of the notch, circle the stick with a line. I suggest you cut a knifeline, which you can then ink with a pen. Get two metal right-angles at a hardware store, and screw them into the top and bottom sides of the stick so that the rear edges of the right-angles come exactly to the inked knifeline. (The top side of the stick is the side where the notch is cut.) If one angle has one screw-hole, and the other angle has two screw-holes, the screws will not conflict. You can shave the top and bottom of the stick a little with a knife at these places to make a flatter base for the angle. This leaves a “handle” just 5½ inches long, which you can tape to a thickness that suits your hand and affords a good grip. A reference to the photos should make the above details clear.

The two photos showing John Gallagher using the stick demonstrate the proper method of lifting. The weight is hung by a cord from the notch, the stick is placed on a stool or bench in the manner shown in Figure One, and the handle is grasped with the front of the hand against the metal guards which prevent the hand from going over the 36-inch line and thus “cheating.” Then the stick is lifted free of the chair as shown in Figure Two.

It is important that the following rules be observed. The stick must be lifted parallel to the floor, and not with the weighted end tilted downward. Above all, the stick must be lifted straight up from the chair; there must be no rocking of the stick on the chair before lifting. The lifting hand and arm must remain free of the body. And the heel of the hand must remain on top of the stick; if the hand twists around under the stick the lift is no good and cannot be counted. The stick, when lifted, need not be held for any length of time, but it must be clearly lifted free of the stool (an inch is enough) and held in control (one second is enough).

This lift may also be made by turning the back on the weight and grasping the stick with the little-finger toward the weight, instead of with the thumb toward the weight. More weight can be lifted in this manner. More weight can be lifted in this manner. When lifting with the back toward the weight, the body may be bent forward as the lift is made.

The Forward Lift tests the strength of the forearm muscles that abduct the wrist. My tests with the stick reveal how disproportionate is the strength of many lifters. Thus John Protasel was extremely strong in the Backward Lift which tests the strength of the forearm muscles that adduct the wrist; but he was mediocre in the Forward Lift. Siegmund Klein was considerably stronger in the Backward Lift than in the Forward Lift. On the other hand, Paul Von Boeckmann himself was relatively much stronger in the Forward Lift.

Then again, Steve Gob, who can lift extraordinary weights in the flat-footed squat, was unable to lift 5 lbs. on the Weaver Stick. More remarkable yet, Warren Lincoln Travis, who was not only exceptional in Back Lifting with a platform but who also possessed great ability in feats of grip strength, was unable to lift more than 4½ lbs. on the Weaver Stick. Lou Leonard, wrestling instructor at Bothner’s Gymnasium, could not budge 3 lbs. One fascinating thing about this lift is that you never can tell in advance whether any particular person is going to be wonderful at it or very poor. Testing people is full of surprises. Tony Sansone, for instance, lifted more with his right hand than did the mighty Henry Steinborn, famous weight-lifting champion of the Alan Calvert era.

The most extraordinary ability I discovered among those I tested was that of John Grimek. Upon first being shown the stick, he succeeded in lifting 9⅜ lbs. in the Forward Lift, right hand. I had planned for him to attempt a world’s record after a few weeks of practice, but when the time came an injury prevented any serious right-handed lifting. However, lifting with his left hand, he made a wonderful record of exactly 10 lbs. Meanwhile, John Protasel had made a record of 12½ lbs. in the Backward Lift, right hand. I may say that Siegmund Klein had several Weaver Sticks made and obtained a special set of weights, ready for visiting strong-men who wish to try this test at his gymnasium.

The best records so far have been as follows:

Forward Lift, right hand – Paul Von Boeckmann, 10¾ lbs.

Forward Lift, left hand – John Grimek, 10 pounds.

Backward Lift, right hand – John Protasel, 12½ lbs.

Backward Lift, left hand – John Grimek, 11 ½lbs.

David Willoughby has estimated the poundage-possibility of this lift in relation to the Two Hands Clean & Jerk as follows:

Forward Lift, right hand – .02664

Forward Lift, left hand – .02505

Backward Lift, right hand – .03730

Backward Lift, left hand – .03506

It is therefore possible for us to rate performances in this lift, in accordance with the lifter’s muscular size (or weight-height), but using the above ratios and Table 2 of Willoughby’s Weightlifting Records and their Merits, in the April/May 1945 issue of Your Physique magazine. Only two lifts so far made better than 75%. As Willoughby mentioned in his article, any lift rating over 75% is very good, anything over 80% is extraordinary and anything over 85% is simply terrific.

It would certainly be interesting to know what such strong-men as Hermann Goerner, Louis Uni (Apollon), John Marx, Arthur Saxon, Primo Carnera, Joseph Nordquest, Ernest Cadine, Clevio Massimo, Arthur Dandurand, and the famous movie-athlete Maciste could perform in this lift.

My suggestion is that every barbell gymnasium should have a Weaver Stick as part of its strength-testing equipment. But be sure to perform this lift correctly, in accordance with the instructions previously given, as it is possible to “cheat” in this lift, and this would not offer a fair test of strength of the muscles involved. And be sure to use weights that have been tested for accuracy on a reliable scale, since a little weight means a great deal in any leverage stunt of this nature. One final warning: do not try this lift too frequently or you may develop a lame wrist. And if you do not succeed in lifting a certain weight after a couple of attempts, you had better quit until next time, as the wrist and forearm tire very quickly under the strain of this lift.

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