The Randall Lift

by John McKean

“GOOD MORNING!” was my response to son Sean’s query as to exactly what kind of rubber band longstrength warmup maneuver I was doing.

“Hey, I’ve been up for two hours now,” curtly replied the 29-year-old. “The hearing is apparently going quickly, old man!  So what the heck kind of exercise is that, anyhow?”

“GOOD MORNING!” I responded.

“Geez,” howled Sean. “Senility is taking hold, too!”

Then I proceeded to give the sarcastic youth an iron game history lesson – the astounding story of Bruce Randall.  During the 1950s Randall, a U.S. Marine, decided to bulk up to play football on his base team.  He had access to perhaps the best weight room in the Armed Forces, and a superb coach in Chief Petty Officer Walter Metzler.  Bruce found he gained bodyweight amazingly quickly as the Marine Corps supplied tons of free food (yes, a breakfast of 28 eggs, two loaves of toasted bread, several quarts of milk, and “extras” could get you “grand-slammed” out of Denny’s in a hurry), and his strength on basic all-round lifts skyrocketed.  Soon Bruce forgot all about football, deciding he loved lifting far more; he challenged himself to see just how big and strong he could get.  A little more than a year later he was up to 401 pounds bodyweight, with some equally huge training lifts such as a 392 pound military press off a rack, 45 degree incline clean and press of 410, 2100 pound half squat, and a 228 pound curl.

Bruce Randall showed a very symmetrical physique when he won Mr. Universe.

However, Bruce was a bit uncomfortable carrying around such bulk and, after leaving the Marines, actually did not have the free, unending food supply!  So, never say die, he decided to discover what muscle hid beneath the flab and planned to enter the prestigious NAABA Mr. Universe event in London, England.  One day at a New York gym, an infamous bodybuilding “trainer of champions” told him to his face, “NEVER!”  Of course, 28 months later Randall became one of the biggest, shapeliest, and most defined contestants ever in winning the 1959 Mr. Universe (222 pounds bodyweight)!  Incidentally, the bodybuilding mogul approached him shortly thereafter for a cover photo/story – Bruce smiled, waved his finger, and replied, “NEVER!”

Of interest to us in the USAWA, Bruce Randall did not employ standard bodybuilding exercises or routines, but had a natural inclination to heavy, always progressing standing presses, dumbbell bench presses,  hack lifts, bent over rows, curls, and deadlifts.  All OUR stuff!  And his workouts were extremely sensible, rarely more than 3 sets of 3 to 6 reps for 4 or 5 lifts, even when at lower bodyweight and keying in on big time physique events.  His upper arm size alone, with some of the most magnificent triceps ever, was indicative of results from extremely heavy presses, curls (100+ pound dumbbells) and French presses (a rarely contested all-round event).

Randall’s most famous lift, however, was the GOOD MORNING. Bruce specialized on this unconventional movement since, at first, he could squat almost nothing after breaking his leg in 7 places during a nasty accident (not lifting related).

As he approached his most efficient bodyweight of 380, Bruce had worked to a typical Good Morning session of 3 sets of 3 to 5 reps with 565!  His top single was 685, back parallel to the floor, and a bare miss with a mind blowing 750 because the weight unexpectedly shifted!

To show the strengthening effects of the Good Morning, Bruce performed only 9 random singles in the squat over the months leading up to his bulkiest,  yet achieved an easy, deep 680.  And his deadlift hit 770.   Both powerlifts were certainly world class during the 50s – without ever training them!

Bruce Randall executing his famous Good Morning lift with BIG WEIGHT!

In light of the recent inception of “strongman lifts,” I’d like to propose the “Randall Lift.” Certainly this event should rank right up there with the rack-based “Anderson Squat.”  For, you see, Bruce Randall didn’t achieve his 685 Good Morning in the strict format of our USAWA rulebook.  His lift often used a cambered bar and always bent knees.  But he did get his torso parallel to the floor, even with a (necessary) rounded back.  Heck, as Al Myers once pointed out, it’s near impossible anyway to judge (or do!) a Good Morning with completely straight legs and back.  But I believe this lift’s inclusion will be an important tribute to a legendary, almost forgotten, true ALL-ROUNDER.

Typing this during early evening, Sean zoomed past, heading toward our garage gym.  “What’s up, kiddo?” I questioned.

“GOOD MORNING!” he yelled.  “I’m gonna be Mr. Universe!”

Yes, senility strikes early in this family!