Captain Kirk

Dec 31st, 2011

Category: Fitness

Captain Kirk

El Capitan

Captain Kirk preparing to squat 1,000 pounds. This video cannot be embedded, but clicking on the image above will take you to YouTube to watch it. I promise it will be worth your time.

Above is one of my favorite squatting videos, although, to be honest, my list of favorite videos seems to be continually expanding. The video features the legendary Kirk Karwoski, known as Captain Kirk. Karwoski is among the greatest powerlifters in the history of the sport. His accomplishments include a world record 455 kg (1,003 lb) squat set in competition in 1995. Karwoski competed in the 125 kg (275 lb) weight class of the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) and his record, set over 15 years ago, still stands.  He also won seven national and six international championships at the IPF.

Kirk was known not only for his incredible accomplishments on the platform, but also for his outsized personality. He trained with extraordinary intensity and focus and was widely regarded as being all but insane. Ed Coan, who is arguably the greatest  powerlifter of all time, was asked in an interview, "What is the craziest thing you have seen in powerlifting?" He replied, "Kirk Karwoski." Karwoksi gave an interview a few years ago and had this to say:

I would like to comment on motivation. Most power lifters share some common defects, as a whole, for whatever reason, we LOVE to punish, beat, and torture ourselves beyond the limits of mind and body. It is our spirit that prevails. This defect of intelligence and sensibility pushes us on to the next level, makes us better and stronger. We all have lifted sick and badly hurt. When this subject comes up with normal people and other meatheads, we all have the prideful smile when we talk about lifting with a 100 degree temperature or a torn groin. Thank God that therapy doesn’t work on us.

Before we sign off for the evening, let’s discuss the video above. In it, we see Karwoski squat 1,000 pounds for a double. This truly astounding feat of strength was accomplished using a single ply squat suit, a set of knee wraps, and a belt. If talk of single-ply squat suits does not ring a bell, I discuss the particulars of equipped vs. non-equipped lifting in an earlier post. An important point to note is that suits available to Karwoski in the early 90s provided considerably less assistance than do the suits available now.

Kirk unracks the 1,000 pound barbell and walks it out of the squat stands. A very common sight in powerlifting today is a device called a monolift. This is type of squat stand that allows the lifter to unrack the bar while the supports are swung out of the way and the lifter can stay in place to begin the squat without ever moving their feet. Walking the bar out is a difficult thing and I think it is cool.

Karwoski squats the both reps deeply, with the first one coming up very quickly. I don’t know how you can stand up that fast with 1,000 pounds on your back, but he managed to do it. The second rep comes up a little more slowly, but was never in doubt. All of the onlookers in the gym are yelling loudly, but when his spotters want to rack the weight before Karwoski does, he screams, "I want to hold it!" The room quiets down while his cowed spotters back away until Kirk is ready for the set to be finished. It’s a pretty funny moment and helps to illuminate Karwoski’s ferocious approach to lifting. The man was intense.

Have a great 2012.

DISCUSSION 2 Comments

  1. Greg H December 31, 2011 at 7:47 pm

     This is probably an ignorant question, Tom; and I know those ply suits make you walk like some John Wayne based transformer. But looking at these super power-lifting guys, I  wonder what else those bodies are good for.

    Count me in for the 15th.

    Greg

  2. TomC December 31, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    Being a super heavyweight powerlifter is not the holy grail of health or fitness, nor is training while badly injured a wise idea. However, Kirk is still around and still a really strong dude. Being a competitive athlete at a high level is generally pretty rough on the body and being great at powerlifting probably precludes being good at a whole bunch of other things.

    There are exceptions to that, however. Shane Hamman, who probably weighed north of 300 pounds, went from being a powerlifter in the IPF (who set the all-time world record in the squat at 1,008 pounds) to become an Olympic weightlifter. He competed for the US in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics. He apparently had a three foot vertical jump and could do a standing backflip.

    I just really like Kirk yelling at the end of the video.