Lee Moran And the Thousand Pound Squat


Who was the first man to legitimately squat 1,000 lbs.? Its a simple question, with a disputed answer. As covered previously on this site, Dave Waddington was credited with a 1,013 lbs. squat in 1981. There was just one problem. No officials had seen Dave’s efforts, meaning that his squat although impressive, was relegated to hearsay.

It took until 1984 for an official 1,000 lbs. squat to hit the record books and despite what you may have guessed, it wasn’t Waddington who did it.

Enter Lee Moran

For the uninformed, Lee Moran was one of the most impressive US powerlifters during the 1980s. Exploding onto the scene seemingly from nowhere during the 1983 Nationals, Moran quickly made a name for himself within the sport. Topping the scales anywhere between 280 and 300 lbs., Moran’s pushed seemingly impossible weights with an intensity that was either enviable or downright reckless. A point we shall be returning to.

Trying to piece together a biography of Moran is a tricky enterprise. In interviews with his friends, we learn of Moran’s membership and affiliation with the Hell’s Angels, who in the words of Moran’s friend Sonny Barger

are not the girl scouts or civic minded members of the Rotary Club – this rough, tough outfit is made up of rough tough alpha males and Lee’s membership spoke volumes about his attitude and approach towards life itself

In interviews with the man himself, we’re presented with a more moderate and affable picture. Take for example Moran’s interview with Reid Hall in 1985 when Lee was at the height of his fame:

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.

In the case of Moran, it’s important to consider these two aspects on his life. One, an alpha male dominated world and the other a fairly carefree and breezy attitude towards life. Despite what Moran’s interview may have indicated, it was his alpha side which reached the platform.

The Battle of the Squat

As recounted by Dr. Squat himself (Fred Hatfield) in 1984, the 1984 Senior National Powerlifting Championships in Dayton saw the first real duel for the 1,000 lbs. squat. The contenders? Dave Haddington, the favourite and Lee Moran, the new kid on the block.

In front of a pack crowd, Waddington and Moran put on a show for the ages. Seeking to establish his dominance early on, Waddington attempted an opening 942 lbs. squat. Though squatting down and raising back up, Waddington missed the lift on depth. The second attempt proved equally unsuccessful, as was his final attempt at 953 lbs. Despite being tipped as the favourite,  Waddington had failed on all three attempts, thereby leaving the door wide open for Lee Moran to make history. The Hell’s Angel did all that, and then some.
Backing out of the racks with the 953 lbs. which proved too much for Waddington, Moran began his descent. It was a decent depth, the judges were happy and Moran seemed in control of the weight. 3/4 of the way back up however, things changed. Moran blacked out, falling forward and had the misfortune of cracking his head on the back of the bar. Cue pandemonium.
Now unconscious, Moran had to be revived with smelling salts. Conscious, Moran was asked if he wanted to quit, his response? According to his friend Barger, it was “No fucking way!”. Despite having nearly severed his tongue (he bit it when he fell unconscious), Moran coolly completed the 953lbs. squat the second time around.
Buoyed by his success, Moran now lined up for the big one, 1,003 lbs. Backing out from the rack, members of the crowd watched in anticipation as the bar bent across Moran’s broad frame. Would this be it? Nope.
According to the official report,
one collar popped off the bar, almost as if it were shot from a gun. Hundred pound plates flew off that end, stressing the other collar which popped loose as well, releasing plates in that direction and causing spotters and officials to run for cover. The bar, now overloaded to one side, rocketed up off Moran’s back and flew through the air, a deadly missle which splintered the stage as it landed.
It was a scary start to a world record and many believed Moran was blessed to have survived unscathed. Given that the plates moved as if shot from a gun, it was a miracle everyone survived unscathed.

Somehow undeterred, Moran pushed on and words can’t do justice to the end result.

Moran had done it, much to the delight and one suspects relief of the crowd!

How did he do it?

Aside from having a level of bravery (or recklessness depending on your opinion) akin to a Greek hero, Moran seems to have followed a fairly standard progression routine. See his 1985 Routine for beginners here for example.


Though setting this remarkable record in 1984, Moran appears to have faded somewhat from public memory. The great man passed away in his 40s in 1999 and despite his fascinating life, we’re yet to get a biography capable of doing him justice.

Just in case anyone doubted Moran’s Hell’s Angels connection, his tombstone puts that argument to rest.


As always… Happy Lifting!


5 thoughts on “Lee Moran And the Thousand Pound Squat

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  1. Hey Conor – great article, thanks for this. You’re spot on – he had a fascinating life. Lee was my uncle (fun fact: it was my dad’s bar where he met my Aunt Charlene). Really enjoyed reading that interview from 1985, that’s so him! His fans didn’t forget him at all, he’d even hear from gyms in Africa. Uncle Lee continued to have a colorful life after powerlifting, like doing security for A-listers filming in the Bay Area. More impressively, his door was always open for his nieces & nephews and we could watch any scary movie we wanted (he really did love Stephen King!) As you say, no biography is capable of doing him justice – but this article is one of the best I’ve seen yet!

    1. Hey Julia,

      Thanks so much for stopping by. I’m always nervous when a family member comments as it’s often impossible to do justice to someone! Glad to hear he left you with some amazing memories (although I’m not sure about the scary movies!).

      If you were ever interested in sharing I’d love to hear more about Lee from you!

      Best wishes and have a great day 🙂

  2. Lee Moran had a great sense of humor. Lee could find the humor in just about any situation. I met Lee @ Iron Island gym in Alameda. I actually met his wife Charlene first @ Iron Island gym. It was my first time working out there & Charlene was in the office.One of my last memories of Lee & Charlene was a thursday nite @ Gino’s. Lee & Charlene had dinner @ booth 42 & I was their server. They had a great time & so did I.

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