Monday, July 28, 2008

Lee Moran - Redd Hall

Lee Moran
by Redd Hall (1985)

Lee Moran is at the top of the powerlifting world, having won two major titles back to back – the Senior National and the World Powerlifting Championships. He also holds the official World squat record at an incredible 1003 pounds.

Various magazines have covered these contests often featuring one particular photo of Lee with blood on his face. As physique great Robby Robinson says, “The magazines want pictures of blood and guts and you killing yourself.”

But what about the real Lee Moran, the man behind the titles? He’s been called a “mystery man.” What is he really like? Is he more than blood and guts?

When I arrived at Iron Island Gym in Alameda, California, Lee was talking with two of the many hardcore bodybuilders and powerlifters who train there. I recognized him from his pictures – solidly built, with curly black hair and short beard. A good-looking man, he has an ever-present smile, shoulders and arms bulging out of his sweats and a humungous barrel chest. While the word humungous is often bandied about, it’s an accurate term when applied to Lee.

It was interesting to see the expression on people’s faces as they looked at him and talked to him – a mixture of admiration, adulation and incredulity. It seems like everyone wanted to talk to him, and Lee spoke freely with everyone, his conversations often interspersed with laughter.

“I want to squat like you!” one of the men exclaimed enthusiastically. Lee laughed, but then went into a serious, short discussion about training.

“I like to help people in the gym,” said Lee. Lots of people come up to me and ask for information. If I have time, I sit down and talk to them. I remember when I did the same thing with people higher up in the sport than me, and some of them snubbed me or told me B.S. It seemed like they were scared to give their secrets away. I’m not. It’s bound to happen that someone better than you is going to come along. Every generation gets stronger and smarter. So I like to help out when I can, and I always give straightforward answers.”

“Good,” I said, “because I have several questions.”

Q. First, what are your statistics?

A. I’m 29, I weigh 300 pounds now but usually compete at 315, and I’m 6’3” (laughing) – hey, you’re not writing that are you? I’m 5’8”. My arms are 21 ½ inches, chest 56 and thighs 33 cold.

Why do you think you’re called the mystery man?

Because I basically came out of nowhere. The 1983 Nationals was my first national competition. I was up against well-known guys like Waddington and Kenady, but nobody knew anything about me.

How were you, as a newcomer to major competition, able to sweep both the Nationals and the World Championships?

Because I was ready. I’ve been training for some time and preparing seriously for the titles for the past few years. When I was little I didn’t want a bike like everyone else. I always wanted to work out. My dad was in the service, and I went with him to the gyms on the different bases where he was stationed. I loved being around the gyms and training. Then about four years ago, I started thinking seriously about trying for the titles, so I began training really heavy and preparing myself mentally for what I had to do.

What is your training routine like?

I do three-days-on and one-day-off.

Day 1: Squat and Legs.
I start with high bar squats, then do some hack squats, hamstring curls and calf work. I also do some ab work, mostly crunches.

Day 2: Bench Press and Assistance Work
I bench press mainly, but I also do cambered bar bench presses, pec deck work and hammer curls. Then I do more abs.

Day 3: Deadlift and Back.
I do deadlifts and T-bar rows, cable rows, behind-neck presses, side laterals and dumbell curls. Also more abs if I feel like it.

Do you work at the same intensity all the time?

No. I start my cycle 12 weeks before a contest – or if there’s no contest, I set a cycle going anyhow to give myself something to work toward. The closer I get to the contest, the harder I train, gradually increasing the weight each week. It’s all planned.

Do you supplement your training with any aerobics or jogging?

A sea turtle lives to be 500 years old and never jogs anyplace . . .

How would you describe your training style?

Avant garde (laughing). Actually, I’d call it heavy, basic and short. I’m in the gym for an hour or an hour and a half at the most and I’m through. You hear about guys being in the gym for two or three hours, but if you watch them, most of that is down time. They’re walking around and socializing. I don’t do that. If you train for one hour and put everything you’ve got into what you’re doing, that’s enough. You couldn’t train for three hours straight as hard as I work out. You’d be a physical wreck.

What are your favorite foods?

Oooh! Do you have another pencil? It runs in cycles. Maybe for a few weeks I’ll crave cheese omelets and then lasagna for a few weeks. Once I went on a baked potato frenzy. I like linguica at least once a week. I guess my real favorite is rice with linguica and diced onions and peas – I’ll have that two or three times a week. And oranges. There’s nothing better than an ice-cold orange.

You don’t diet like a bodybuilder?

No – it’s not quite the same. I don’t have to worry about the quantity of what I eat because I’m in the superheavyweight class. I am careful about the balance of my food – getting protein and carbs and keeping down the fat content. I like fresh fruit and vegetables, I don’t eat candy or chocolate bars – sugar can make you go up and come down, and I try to stay at an even keel. I read labels too. If they don’t list the protein and carbohydrate content, I won’t buy.

What about your personal life?

I’m very lucky there. I have a lovely wife, Charlene. She’s great, she’s pretty and she puts up with me. I met her at a club here in Alameda – her sister’s husband owns it – when I was a bouncer and she was collecting money at the door.

Do you have any outside interests?

Oh yeah, several . My dog, Monday night football, time at the bar with the boys one night a week, reading – especially Stephen King or Joseph Wambaugh, sports movies like Rocky, barbecues and houseboat parties. I’ve missed a lot of parties, though. You have to make sacrifices.

How would you describe your personality?

Magnetic! Don’t put that down. Please! I’m pretty carefree, I try not to let a lot of stuff bother me.

That’s reflected in your attitude towards powerlifting, isn’t it?

Yes. I love the sport, and before a contest I think about it 24 hours a day. But on the other hand, it’s just a game. It’s not a matter of life and death, as some people seem to think. You’ll see guys who come in second or third and sit around the bar and pout. Not me.

What did you win from your titles?

A medal and a plaque to hang on the wall. No money.

None? Then how do you make a living?

I go to Contra Costa College under the GI bill, so I get some money every month there. I also work at Iron Island Gym part time, and I do occasional exhibitions and shows. My wife works, too. For a while I had a job at a packing plant, but it involved a lot of nonstop lifting and moving stuff for eight hours straight. The pace was pretty relentless. I found that it interfered with my training. You have to choose a job carefully if you’re serious about your training. It can’t involve a lot of physical labor that would drain your energy.

What are your goals?

I want to get as much as I can out of the sport of powerlifting. I enjoy the competition and the travel. Maybe I’ll compete in one more National and one more World Championship, then I figure I’ll get the respect I’m due. Another record would be good too. I’ve squatted 1003, so realistically I figure I could make 1052 the next time around. Later on, perhaps I’ll get a nine-to-five job in electronic technology, which is my major in school right now. It’ll also be good to have more time for home life.

Last question – do you have any advice for up-and-coming powerlifters?

Sure! Set your goals and do what you can to achieve them. No matter how unrealistic your goals may seem to someone else, what counts is what’s realistic to you. When I told guys years ago that I’d squat 1000, they laughed. They laughed! But I did it.

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