Preacher’s legs shock sports world

TV preacher Pat Robertson claims to have leg pressed 2,000 pounds. Wow, that’s a lot of weight. Can it be true? Is a 76 year-old faith-healer really stronger than every weightlifter and bodybuilder in the Cayman Islands? Can a man who looks like Yoda actually be one of the planet’s most hardcore iron men?

For those who may not know who Pat Robertson is, he’s one of those millionaire preachers always asking people for money on TV. He is a slightly more sophisticated version of Benny Hinn. Robertson routinely ‘cures’ AIDS, cancer, arthritis, etc. (To be precise, he says he is granted instant divine knowledge of ‘healings’ and then passes on the information to the formerly suffering via television.) Robertson is the one who took a page from Osama bin Laden’s playbook and said somebody needs to nuke the US State Dept. building. He’s the man of God who called for the assassination of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez. The 9-11 attacks were partly the work of the ‘gay agenda’, says Robertson, and he once declared that evangelical Christians in America are suffering today no less than the Jews did in Nazi Germany. Yeah, Reverend Robertson sounds like a reasonable and credible guy to me, so why should anyone question his claim of leg pressing 2,000 pounds?

Well, given the track record of faith-healers, a teeny bit of skepticism may be wise here. At the very least, somebody should inspect the weights to make sure they aren’t hollow. (Don’t laugh. Read The Faith Healers, by James Randi, to learn just how clever some faith-healers can be at conning people.)

A web search for ‘world record leg press’ doesn’t dig up much. The reason is because leg press prowess is pathetic. Real heavy-lifters don’t go around boasting about how much they can leg press. If they tried it, their peers would laugh at them. Leg presses can be productive for building quadriceps but often this exercise machine is a refuge for those who are afraid to squat. Squats are the true measure of lower-body strength. Leg presses tend to be ego-builders for the na├»ve because anyone can pile up a bunch of plates and make it move.

Hey, I wouldn’t want to suggest that a televangelist faith-healer would ever mislead people in order to make money, but I have to say this silly boast seems a little suspicious.

Robertson is now pushing his own protein shake so of course he wants to show everyone just how well his ‘age-defying’ recipe works. Hey, we can’t fault him for trying to drum up business or website traffic. One can never accumulate enough wealth here on Earth, right Pat?

By the way, Robertson might want to be careful with all this talk about extraordinary feats of strength. Some heathen scientist might see it as evidence of the continuing evolution of our species. Yikes! I know you don’t want to go there, Brother Pat.

Okay, now for the soft underbelly of Robertson’s claim: He doesn’t do proper leg presses! A video clip on his CBN website shows Pat cranking out leg press reps with a lot of weight (although nothing near 2,000 pounds) and he pushes his legs with his hands. Even more significant, however, is his very shallow range of motion. He moves the weight no more than a few inches each rep. The secular word for this is ‘cheating’.

In fairness, any 76 year-old man who is in the gym lifting weights deserves praise no matter how heavy or light the weights are. Weight training is something relatively few people do but everyone should. Lifting weights can mean the difference between sitting on a porch while your bones turn to chalk or strolling around Disney World with your great-grandkids one day.

Given Robertson’s reputation as a whacko, comedians are always ready to pounce when he serves up a gem like this. So he is sure to become punch-line fodder once again. While I would never discourage anyone from making fun of him, I would, however, caution against calling him an outright liar on this particular claim. You would be surprised how much weight you or anyone else can move on the leg press. I doubt it, but maybe he really did load up a leg press machine with every weight plate in the gym, have his church choir climb on top and then crank out a couple of baby-reps. Doing a proper repetition with tremendous weight is no easy feat, but moving a lot of weight plates a few inches on a leg press machine is within reach of most people. For example, you can grab just about anyone off the street (assuming they have a pulse and two femur bones) and they would be able to move 300 or 400 pounds a few inches. With a few months of half-hearted training I’m confident I could coach any couch potato well beyond 600 pounds (for a Pat-style rep of three or four inches, of course).

We also have to consider the possibility that Robertson actually may be gifted with superhuman strength. After all, wouldn’t he have to be one strong dude just to be able to lift his mail bag after all those little old ladies send him half their Social Security checks each month? Imagine the weight. Heck, just carrying his bank statements around the office must give him a biceps pump far better than any set of barbell curls ever could. Yeah, I’m betting Pat is packing some quality beef beneath those very expensive suits he wears.

If Robertson wants to be the next Charles Atlas then he ought to go about it the right way and earn his way on to the pages of the Guinness Book of World Records. They probably already have an established category for holy men with something to prove. But it won’t be easy.

An Indian guru named Sri Chinmoy, 75, supposedly lifted 200,873 pounds (about 98 tons more than Robertson’s leg press) with some bizarre contraption on a stage in New York City in 2004. Better drink some more protein shakes, Pat, you’ve got competition.

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