Was Tom Platz’s crazy feat a hoax?

Muscle & Fitness USA - - FLEX - BY MIKE CARL­SON

Twenty-six years ago, two ti­tans met in a leg­endary con­test of strength that some ex­perts find dif­fi­cult to be­lieve.

THE 1993 FIBO TRADE show in Cologne, Ger­many, was the lo­ca­tion of one of the most in­trigu­ing yet un­der­re­ported con­tests in the his­tory of body­build­ing. It fea­tured IFBB body­builder Tom Platz, known as “the Golden Ea­gle” and “Quadzilla,” fac­ing off against pow­er­lift­ing leg­end Dr. Fred Hat­field (aka “Dr. Squat”) in a squat com­pe­ti­tion that would be in­for­mally dubbed “the Great Amer­i­can Squat-off.” Though many de­tails of the con­test have been lost to his­tory, we do know that it had two com­po­nents: a one-rep max fol­lowed by max reps with 525 pounds.

Some of the num­bers are a bit fuzzy, but this we do know: Hat­field was the first man to ever break 1,000 pounds on the squat, while Platz is con­sid­ered to have the best legs in the his­tory of body­build­ing, with a savage work ethic and a ded­i­ca­tion to the squat that bor­dered on re­li­gious zealotry. Hat­field’s record-break­ing squat oc­curred six years ear­lier, right around the time of Platz’s last IFBB con­test. FIBO has long been the largest fit­ness gath­er­ing across the pond, Europe’s ver­sion of the Arnold Sports Fes­ti­val. In front of an es­ti­mated 10,000 spec­ta­tors, Hat­field cruised to a vic­tory in the one-rep max, putting up 855 pounds to Platz’s 765 pounds. Then it was Platz’s turn to shine. With 525 pounds on his back, the Golden Ea­gle hit 23 pic­ture

per­fect reps, more than dou­ble what Hat­field man­aged.


As years pass, the idea of a re­tired 200-pound body­builder squat­ting 525 pounds for 23 reps seems less and less plau­si­ble to main­stream au­di­ences. It’s doubt­ful many mod­ern Mr. Olympia com­peti­tors, even the ones who weigh 50 or 60 pounds more than Platz did, could come close to his to­tal. In 2016, for ex­am­ple, pow­er­lift­ing cham­pion and two-time World’s Strong­est Man Bill Kaz­maier, who had been on­stage as a spot­ter dur­ing the Platz-Hat­field squat con­test, stated at a sem­i­nar that he thought Platz had used fake weights. He cited the lack of bend in the bar and ap­pre­cia­ble degra­da­tion of Platz’s squat form as ev­i­dence. He’s not the only one who has had his doubts. “Platz was a freak, but that was

ob­vi­ous BS,” says Scott Mar­shall, former body­builder and pow­er­lifter and owner of Mus­cle Un­der­ground gym in Chatsworth, CA. “With 525 pounds, the bar will flex at the bot­tom, but in the video it is hardly bend­ing. Look at his tempo. Look how fast the ec­cen­tric phase of his squat is. And with 525 pounds he coiled right out of the hole. I don’t care how strong he is, you wouldn’t re­coil out of there with­out the bar bend­ing like crazy. I’m not bash­ing Platz. I love the guy; I think if any­one could have done that, he could have. But I would bet money that was not 525 pounds.”

A num­ber of fac­tors lend cre­dence to Platz’s lift. For one, former IFBB com­peti­tor Lee Priest has gone on record to say that he per­son­ally saw Platz squat 500 pounds for 20 reps on more than one oc­ca­sion. Take into ac­count Platz’s ma­ni­a­cal train­ing fo­cus and his high-rep work­outs, and the feat be­gins to seem more plau­si­ble.

“I don’t think it’s fake at all,” says Pat David­son, Ph.D., an ex­er­cise physiologi­st and former world-level strong­man com­peti­tor. “A guy I work with is a body­builder, and I have seen him do over 20 ass-to-grass per­fect reps with 450 pounds. And he’s no Tom Platz. Tom Platz is leg­endary. Tom Platz is a god. He would do work­outs where he would squat un­til he would cry.

Some­one at that level, in a big mo­ment, could find that headspace where he could do the im­pos­si­ble.”

Brian Richard­son, M.S., owner of Dy­namic Fit­ness in Te­mec­ula, CA, sees Platz as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from an era of body­build­ing when the ath­letes placed a high value on de­vel­op­ing strength, and hy­per­tro­phy was achieved mainly through sheer vol­ume. “Platz is the def­i­ni­tion of train­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. He has a lot of years and a lot of vol­ume. Think about his neu­ro­mus­cu­lar ef­fi­ciency. His abil­ity to con­tract the right mus­cles, in the right or­der, at the right speed, keeps him from leak­ing force and get­ting as tired as some­one who is equally as strong but has not de­vel­oped neu­ro­mus­cu­lar ef­fi­ciency,” says Richard­son. “In other words, the more reps he has ‘grooved’ into his cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem, the less en­ergy he has to use.”

For Jay Ash­man, strength


coach and owner of Kansas

City Barbell in Kansas City, MO, it’s al­most too hard of a call to make. But the grainy, im­per­fect YouTube video of Platz’s lift leaves him with a dif­fer­ent thought than pon­der­ing the use of fake weights.

“I think events like this should be more com­mon. I would like to see this hap­pen more and more at con­tests like the Arnold. It would be fun,” Ash­man says. “Peo­ple get in­volved in their sport too much and not in the ac­tual train­ing aspect of it. Let’s go out and have fun!”

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