Think about 900 pounds.
There’s a good chance you haven’t, and why would you? It’s an odd weight — it has heft, but not the popular roundness of a half-ton (1,000 pounds). There are no movies, songs, books or trending hashtags about 900 pounds.
Even in the saying, the gorilla only weighs in at 800.
But in the deadlifting world — a world of 100-pound dumbbells and 45-pound plates — 900 pounds means everything. When lifted, it’s the weight of world records, legends and powerlifting immortality.
It’s the world Orlando Maximus Green lives in, and soon could be one he dominates.
“I’ve done 900 from the floor before but never in competition,” Green said. “I actually have to do it in competition and it will put me at the top of my weight class (242 pounds). There’s a guy named Ed Coan, a world champion, and his record has been standing for 20 years. I would have to break his 887 (pounds) to break the record of a legend. I’m the only person who came close to beating it.”
Yeah, but what is it like lifting that much weight?
“It’s actually like … ummm … I think it’s like … it’s really hard to describe,” Green said, who legally added Maximus to his name a few months back. “But it’s a satisfying feeling when you are able to pick up that much weight. After I’ve done the lift I’ll look back at it and stare at the bar and I’ll say, ‘Wow, how did I actually do that?’” (laughs)
Later this month Green, a 37-year-old Athenian and 1995 graduate of Clarke Central High School, travels to Arkhangelsk, Russia to compete in the Battle of Champions, an annual powerlifting competition gathering the best bench pressers and deadlifters in the world. Green is one of only 16 deadlifters competing (just three from the U.S.), a list including Icelandic strongman Benedikt Magnusson, a 370-pound man who holds the overall deadlift record of 1,015 pounds. Green was invited to Arkhangelsk by the event’s promoters, who marveled at his YouTube videos.
“One of the Russian guys, he’s a Facebook fan of mine, wrote about me in a Russian newspaper and he gave me an invite,” Green said. “He asked would I be willing to come to compete there when normally you have to wait two years to get into this competition. You get put on a waiting list and it has to go in front of a board of judges, but he just gave me an invite by watching my videos. . . He said I have to be there because I’m the number one person on the flight.”
It is there where Green seeks to make a world record mark, a mark he’s been flirting with for the past few years. In February 2011 he lifted 865 pounds in competition, and nine months later just missed lifting a record 890 poundsafter the skin on his hands tore off during the competition. In the video of the latter lift, Green’s face shows a flash of excitement, then disappointment as the red light blinks to note the lift didn’t count.
A top lifter believes it’s only a matter of time until one does.
“What separates him from other people is he’s willing to work a little harder and his mental aspect,” said Josh Bryant, a champion strongman and personal fitness trainer of some of the world’s elite powerlifters, who provided training for Green in the past four years. “He’s fearless and that’s huge because there’s plenty of people that are talented but they don’t have the heart and the desire … I think he can break every world record. On paper he’s not lacking anything.”
Watching Green’s various training videos elicits curiosity (this doesn’t look like a powerlifting gym), amazement (did he just one arm a 225-pound barbell six times?) and wonder (how does he lift the bar so quickly?). These three elements add to Green’s mystique and in part explain why he’s so successful.
Start with curiosity. Green ran his own gym in Oconee County a few years back, but for a good portion of his training over the years he found a home at the Y. Yes, that’s right, one of the premier deadlifters in the world does the bulk of training at the Athens YMCA.
Of course the Athens Y, the third oldest in the U.S., has been the hub for some of the Classic City’s most well-known athletic figures. Fred Birchmore, the man famous for riding a bicycle around the world, worked out regularly at the Y for 90 years. Clarke Central’s legendary football coach Billy Henderson has gone to the Y every day for the past four decades.
As for Green, when he’s not seeing clients as one of the Y’s approved personal trainers, he’s working through a regimen not normally seen in the Y’s main weight room.
“I do most of the training on my own, most by myself,” Green said. “Every now and then I have a guy who rides on my coattails but mainly I’m on own.”
Which takes us to amazement. Joining the one-armed 225-pound barbells are power rows (lifting the arms into the body) multiple times at 455 pounds, pull ups while strapped to 100-pound dumbbells, and pull down repetitions of 200 pounds each until failure. For Green this can be 30 times.
It all leads to the deadlift.
“The reason I like the deadlift is it’s the most you can measure strength with,” Green said. “Deadlift is the one exercise where there’s a lot of technique and power. It’s the king of all lifts.”
And in it, Green has found a style of wonder all his own. Instead of a standard lift where the lifter stretches their hands on the bar and slowly pulls up using the legs for strength, Green swiftly hits the bar and works to rip it off the ground in one fell swoop. He does this raw, meaning he doesn’t wear any support or lift suits.
“He has a pretty unorthodox technique but it works really well for somebody who is as explosive as he is,” Bryant said. “You can’t compare the best people in the world to what the average powerlifter does. Furthermore, his technique is a little more risky and there’s a little more chance of injury involved, but when you’re the best in the world it’s different than if you’re just lifting for general fitness.
“A lot of people when they’re in top power fields, they’ll say world record this or that but it’s like boxing, there’s tons of different federations,” Bryant continued. “When we say Orlando is the best in the world, like in 2011, he’s at the highest level in his weight class. That’s for every single federation. That’s not like he was best out of 10 guys, it means everybody. He’s still out lifting the guys in suits.”
When Green started out, he didn’t want to be like Ed Coan, he had a more famous man in mind.
“I used to watch Arnold Schwarzenegger, he was my inspiration,” he said. “I have always said I wanted to be the size of Arnold, but then I wanted a little bit more, so then I saw I was stronger than the particular things inside the gym you can use, so I started gearing toward strongman, like picking up awkward objects.”
In strongman, competitors lift and move unusual items in events meant to test strength disciplines – placing 350-pound round stones on high pillars, flopping 700-pound tires, or throwing kegs over 14-foot walls. Green excelled at the events, using his ability in the deadlift to move up the North American Strongman Association ranks. In the 2009 Georgia’s Strongest Man Christmas Classic, he finished middle of the pack but won the deadlift with a pull of 760 pounds. A year later at the Northwest Georgia Muscle’s Strongest Man, Green took third in his weight class, once again winning the deadlift (surprise).
But early 2012 brought a huge setback, as Green suffered a petella tendon rupture in his left knee during training. The injury put his strongman competitions on hold, a hold that continues while the injury works to heal. But because of Green’s distinct deadlift technique, where his back takes the bulk of the pressure instead of the knee, his deadlift training has encountered only a slight bump. Six months after the injury, Green was lifting 806 pounds. Last year he was up to 845, and just last month he picked up 925 pounds off blocks.
Sure, it was on blocks. It was also 925 pounds.
“I still have a lot of stiffness in it and low flexibility but I still push as if I have 100 percent,” Green said. “I just try to get the most out of it as I can.”
Which leads to Russia.
Arkhangelsk, a city on the Northern Dvina River in northwest Russia, has hosted the Battle of Champions (“It’s like the Olympics for them,” Green said) for the past five years, and it attracts the best in the world. Joining Green and Magnusson are a holder of eight powerlifting records in his 275-pound weight class (Konstantins Konstantinovs, who lifted 939 pounds without a belt) and five-time world champion Brandon Cass, called the Mr. Olympia of powerlifting. There’s $100,000 in prize money to be shared by the winners, with bonuses paid if world records are broken.
Organizers of the meet have special plans for Green, wanting him to do photo shoots, autograph signings and lead a seminar showcasing his technique and form.
It will be the biggest event in Green’s deadlift career, but one he should be right at home in.
“What people don’t take into account a lot of times is there are plenty of strong guys at lighter weight classes, but even if he was a super heavyweight he’d still be one of the best in the world,” Bryant said of Green. “If he was 400 pounds and didn’t get one iota stronger, he’d still be of the best lifters in the world.”
He leaves June 15 with the competition beginning on the 21st.
Until that time, Green is camped out at the Y, preparing himself to make a record lift in a place he’s never been.
“I surprise myself doing certain lifts,” he said. “I’ll visualize the lift and think if somebody else can do it, I can do it too.”
At some point, though, he might be the only person who can.