Frederick C. Hatfield, ‘Dr. Deadlift’, Powerlifting USA, Vol 10 No 4. Novemeber/1986


It’s a little known fact that the eruption of Mr. St. Helens, and the continuing subterranean growls in the area, are purely mythic.  What really happened up there in the land of perpetual rain and majestic mountains was that Doyle Kenady took a heavier than normal deadlift workout.  It’s not a coincidence that those after-rumblings ceased on a certain day in April of this year.

You see, Mountain Man (a.k.a “Saskwatch” or Grizzly Bear”) Kenady finally made good on his pledge of several years ago by becoming the first quasi-human to show guts enough to pull over 900 pounds from Mother Earth’s unyielding grasp, under official record-breaking scrutiny and, O’l Mom was ticked at being beaten.
However you view the volcanic episodes in Oregon, it’s certain that Kenady’s mighty feat of strength had something to do with it.  It had to.  But let’s take it from the top… and I don’t mean Mt. St. Helens’.

First, stop a moment and think about this amazing lift.  How long did NASA, with all its intelligence and funding, work to move that sort of payload two feet off the ground?  I mean, let’s keep a proper perspective!

Doyle Kenady isn’t your average powerlifting person.  His laid-back demeanor and easy going manner are offset by 305 pounds of rug-covered muscle that accented by a back a couple of axe handles wide.  When he’s on the lifting platform he’s dead serious, as in deadlift.

Most importantly, he’s not particularly suited for deadlifting, except for that back, of course, because great deadlifters typically have short torsos and monkey-like arms.  Doyle has to pull the weight up to his crotch, for example, while other great deadlifters like Jim Cash and Lamar Gant only pull to slightly above the knees before they’re fully erect.

That’s not to say that deadlifters like Cash and Gant aren’t worthy of our praise.  They are, but there can be only one Doctor of the Deadlift, and that’s the guy who pulls the most weight, under official circumstances.  The one creature in all creation meritous of that distinguished title, Dr. Deadlift, is Doyle Kanady.

Oh, there will be some detractors who will claim that pound-for-pound there have been better deadlifters.  Some of them may be remembered a few years from now, but no one, friends, no one will forget the man who pulled the greatest official record deadlift in history.

In case you’re interested the table shows how the greats stack up.  After reading that, I’ll tell you the particulars of why Mother Nature got so mad this past April.

Weight Class Name of Lifter USPF Record IPF Record Schwartz Points Pound for Pound
114 Hideki Inaba 518 492.88 4.54
114 John Redding 485 461.48 4.25
123 Lamar Gant 638 558.12 5.19
123 Lamar Gant 638 558.12 5.19
132 Lamar Gant 661 537.26 5.01
132 Lamar Gant 661 537.26 5.01
148 Bob Bridges 683 495.72 4.61
148 Raimo Valineva 688 499.35 4.64
165 John Inzer 722 479.77 4.38
165 Eric Coppin 716 475.78 4.34
181 Ed Coan 791 489.87 4.37
181 Veli Kumpuniemi 786.5 487.08 4.34
198 Ed Coan 860 502.77 4.34
198 Walter Thomas 821 480.53 4.15
220 Jim Cash 832 460.93 3.78
220 Jim Cash 832 460.93 3.78
242 John Kuc 870 466.76 3.78
242 John Kuc 870 466.76 3.78
275 Scott Warman 860.7 441.81 3.09
275 Terry McCormick 848 441.81 3.09
SHW Doyle Kenady 903 454.66 2.93
SHW Bill Kazmaier 886 439.13 2.73

The date:  April 6th, 1986.  The place:  Waikiki Beach.  The occasion:  Gus Rethwisch’s annual affair, now called the Budweiser Record Breakers Invitational Powerlifting Championships.  Present:  Some the greatest powerlifters, prettiest girls, and best built men in the world today; all peaked for the performance of their respective specialties.
Some great lifts were made in the squat and bench at this meet, but as the immortal Rickey Dale Crain, on of powerlifting’s colorful champions, once said “The contest ain’t over ‘til the bar is on the floor.”


There are so many asides to this story; it’s going to be hard for me to finish it.  I’ll tell you just two of those asides.  The first one had to do with how most great lifts are performed, and how Kenady’s differed from all of them.

Take Ted Arcidi’s massive bench press of 705 pounds.  As it happened, that bench, which was heavier by a staggering 28 pounds than any ever done in history, was basically done as a single lift.  Aricidi did token squatting and deadlifting just to stay in the contest, in accordance with the rules.  The point is that Aricidi’s bench was the only lift he did with any intensity.

That bench really turned the crowd on that day back in 1985, and it set the lifting community on its ear.  It was truly a great lift, but Doyle’s lift will take a special place in the history of great lifts because he did his record buster after massive attempts in the squat and bench press only minutes before.  His deadlift was done under the most trying of circumstances possible, under near crippling conditions of fatigue.
Moreover, it was his third attempt that cracked the 900 pound barrier.  Imagine!  Two attempts in the squat, one of which was over 900 pounds; three attempts in the bench press, all over 500 pounds; then two attempts over 830 pounds in the deadlift before pulling the heaviest, official record breaking deadlift of mankind to an erect standing position.

I tell you, if an updated version of the Old Testament were ever written, Doyle’s name would take the place of Samson’s, so prodigious a feat was his third attempt.
A stunned, almost quiet crowd of 3500 spectators watched as Kenady bent his huge frame forward, characteristically rolled the massive Appollon wheels back and forth a few times and then stood up with the weight in his hands as easily as you or I would stand up out of a chair.  Moments later they roared.  Doyle in his usual and inimitable fashion gave the crowd a half-wave and strode nonchalantly offstage.

Time for the second aside that I promised.

Several weeks earlier, I happened to take a workout with Doyle.  I  had spent the weekend with my friend and colleague, Dr. Pat O’Shea at Oregon State University, and Doyle traveled over to say hello and grab a workout at the University’s well-equipped weight room.

Spurred to push harder than ever in my deadlift by the presence of one of history’s greatest and most knowledgeable deadlifters, I loaded 825 pounds on the bar, hoping that I wouldn’t hurt myself, make a fool out of myself, and perhaps get a few words of wisdom from Dr. Deadlift on how I may improve my historically abysmal pull.  To my surprise, I pulled the 825 easily.  It was a full 25 pounds more than I had ever pulled before.  Most importantly, Doyle said it looked pretty good technically.

Then came the real surprise.  Happy with my performance, I sat down and watched while Doyle finished warming up on the same weight I was proud to pull.  Then, after successful  sets of three reps with 850 and 880, Doyle loaded 895 on the bar.  Dam!  Bam!  Bam!  Tree reps!  It was then that Mount St. Helens began to get a bit squeamish, or so Local folk believe.  I know better.

So how come Doyle couldn’t do more than his record – shattering 903 deadlift in Hawaii?  Surely three reps with 895 equate to more than a single with only eight pounds more!  Notwithstanding the fact that when he did his triple with 895, that’s all he did – no squats or benches before hand to sap his strength levels.

Back in Hawaii, Doyle requested a fourth attempt.  The loaders obligingly (though somewhat perplexed) loaded 920 pounds onto the bar.  Now, Doyle isn’t one to make excuses for missing a lift, so let me take this opportunity to gripe a bit for him.  First, he had to follow himself, which means that according to the rules he had to take his fourth attempt before he was even close to adequately recovered fro the 903 pull.  Couple that problem with one of the official’s loud countdown of the seconds remaining on the stopwatch, and you can see why Doyle’s concentration wasn’t there, and thus the 920 only went slightly above Doyle’s knees.

No matter that he missed the 920.  He had already exceeded the World Record deadlift of 886 pounds set by the great Bill Kazmaier a few years before.  With seeming ease and overt non-chalance, Doyle Kenady had immortalized himself.

Three final observations.

No one has ever written adequately about Doyle’s incredible feats of strength.  I don’t know why, but am proud to be the first.  There will doubtless be many more to follow.

Kenady isn’t through yet, at age 40, he as many years of record breaking left in him.

Mount St. Helens is quiet now.  For the Time Being.

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