by David P. Willoughby
One of the most remarkable strongmen – in point of physique, at any rate – was the late Karl Moerke, of
Moerke was born in
Perhaps Moerke’s greatest amateur victory was in 1920, when he won first place in the world’s weightlifting championship held in
Moerke’s best amateur lifting records were as follows: right hand snatch, 187 pounds; right hand continental jerk, 248 pounds; two hands snatch, 231 pounds, two hands military press, 259 pounds; two hands continental push, 308 pounds; and two hands continental jerk, 374 pounds. Since most of these lifts were made about 1913, when Moerke was 20, and since he dept in more or less steady training for some years after that, it is probable that he made the following lifts which are claimed for him as a professional: two hands military press, 265 pounds; two hand continental jerk, 386 pounds officially and 405 pounds unofficially; squat (bounce style), 650 pounds; and two hands dead lift, 650 pounds. Karl Moerke and Henry Steinborn were contemporary rivals in the squat; but due to his short, short, exceedingly thick legs, Moerke was not able to bend past the thighs horizontal position. Accordingly, his lift of 650 pounds would probably have been reduced to not more than 590 pounds if it had been performed in Steinborn’s “all the way down” style. Even so, if we allow this 590 pounds and figure that Moerke’s maximum muscular bodyweight was the figure given in the following paragraph, his lift (if performed in 1920) would have the phenomenal rating of 98.2%, which would make it the best squat, relative to weight/height ever performed!
As previously mentioned, Moerke at 5 feet 2 inches was almost dwarf-like in stature, considering the immensity of his bodily girths and his bodyweight. At that height and at a weight of 220 pounds (in 1920), some of his girth measurements as given by the German trainer Jacob Dirsherl were as follow: right upper are, flexed, 18.1 inches; right forearm, 14.2 inches; wrists, 7.65 inches; thighs, about 28 inches; and calves, 17.5 inches. Later on, when weighing 245 pounds, his calves measured 18.5 inches and his thighs 29.5 inches. A 29.5 inch thigh at 5 feet 2 inches would be equivalent, on a man 6 feet tall, to a thigh of 34 ¼ inches!
As would be expected in view of his corpulency, Moerke was a big eater, although strangely in contrast to most of his fellow countrymen, he drank no beer. On one of his visits to a friend’s home in
After remaining in the