Power Lifter Weighs His Odds : 22-Year-Old Sets His Sights on Kansas City Meet

Times Staff Writer

Need a lift?

Look no farther than the San Pedro Peninsula YMCA where 157-pound Jeffrey Moore regularly lifts 500-pound barbells and does 300-pound bench presses.

Pound for pound Moore has been the best power lifter around for several years. This week in Kansas City he hopes to lift his way to national prominence in the U.S Powerlifting Federation Natural Nationals, a first-time meet that includes drug testing.

Moore, for whom power lifting has been a labor of love since high school, recently won the Western regional title in Denver to qualify for the national meet. He began setting records almost as soon as he began power lifting at 16 and has held every California weight-class record along the way.

Now 22, Moore says everything is coming together at the right time for him to claim a national title--and without steroids.

As shown by his three-lift total in Denver, Moore can compete with the best. (His totals were 501 1/2 in the squat, 297 1/2 in bench press and 529 in the deadlift.) But he says it is his aggressiveness and mental approach that make him a contender in Kansas City.

"It's technique and experience but it's all tied in with the mental (aspect)," he said. "I want to win. I don't want less than No. 1, I'm not in it to do less than that. But if I go in and do 100% and get beat, it still means something. I'm doing it drug-free, I'm doing it all on my own. That's all you can do.

"I know I'm good enough to make it to the top. Then there are guys that will want to take my position--it's going to be tough to take. 'Cause I know my body."

Moore got into lifting while training for football. As a 5-foot-6, 125-pound sophomore at San Pedro High he was a second-stringer who felt he should have been playing more. While in training for football the next summer he came in contact with power lifters who introduced him to the sport and took him to a contest.

Goodby, football.

"I was hooked," he said. "I was very competitive right away. I want to win. The football team wasn't winning, and it's frustrating when you're willing to give 100% and sacrifice your body and some guys aren't. Now it's an individual effort. It means more to me. I don't have to rely on anybody."

Moore started out in the 132-pound division and now competes in the 75-kilogram (roughly 165 pounds) class. In 1985 he held the weight-class state records in all three lifts. In his only other national competition he placed fourth in the American Drug-Free Powerlifters Assn. nationals (there are four federations).

At his weight, Moore doesn't look the part of a powerful weight lifter. Unlike body builders, power lifters aren't particularly sculpted. Unlike Olympic-style lifters, Moore doesn't have the barrel chest or huge belly. For power lifters, who don't have to lift the weight over their heads, most of their drive comes from the legs and back. It's not until Moore chalks his arms and legs, takes his cross-handed stance on the bar and deadlifts 500-plus pounds, or squats with 500 pounds across his shoulders, that his tremendous leg strength is apparent.

Moore says it is the combination of six years of training, technique and experience that makes him confident in a competition.

"I know who I've got to compete against and I know what they lift," he said. "I do my homework. I study them. Five pounds can win it. Body weight can win it. Technique can win it. That's where an experienced lifter and coach can get an advantage. That's where my experience comes in."

Moore generally directs his own training, but when a competition is near he huddles with Ken Nakada, an Olympic-style lifter, and takes him to meets as a coach.

In competition lifters get three tries in each category and can get a fourth if they're going for a national record.

"At a meet I don't want to have to think about anything but the lift," Moore said. "I let Ken handle all the distractions."

And, Moore said, there can be multiple distractions, including a lot of strategy and psyching maneuvers. "It's like poker," he said. "But you've got to hold your bluff. Then if it's a PR (personal record) you get wired. You're pumped. It gets exciting."

In a recent meet Moore said he vaulted from fourth to second on the strength of his final lift. His best lifts are the platform events--squat and deadlift--while his bench press is weakest, though competitive. Moore's best lifts ever were 525 in the squat and 540 in the deadlift. He hopes to hit 535 in Kansas City. "I know I'm good for it," he said.

Moore generally trains five days a week, hitting the gym after work as an electrician. His travel expenses are supplemented by a San Pedro neighbor, Jack Bergstrom, and he gets some sponsorship as well as free medical care from the National Health Chiropractors in San Pedro.

Moore will travel to Kansas City with two other local lifters, Nick Burch (heavyweight) and Anthony Miletta (181). Since this is the first "natural" meet sponsored by the USPF, winners will be considered national record holders. For even more incentive, Moore likes the trophies that are being offered. The winners' trophies weigh 60 pounds. Second and third-place trophies weight 30.

"It's not going to be easy," Moore said.

In a sport where steroid use is common to build muscle, Moore has competed drug-free from the start and exhibits contempt for thoses seeking what he considers an illegal and unethical advantage. "I don't even take vitamins anymore," he said.

"You have to be honest with yourself. I want an advantage--but not with steroids. I know my body better than the guys on steroids and hormones. That's not a human being anymore. That's Frankenstein. It's impressive to see 'em do 1,000-pound deadlifts, but that's not them lifting, it's the steroids."

Moore, who has refined his workouts from four hours to a more streamlined--and, he says, effective--60 to 90 minutes, works with several younger lifters at the San Pedro YMCA. Moore said not everyone agrees with his methods, but he's happy to help other lifters "as long as they're drug-free."

Moore said if he had remained in a team sport he would still have the same approach, would still be a team player who plays to win. "I want to be an asset," he said.

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