by Paul Leonard
Rory Leidelmeyer and Paul Leonard
I arrived in California to begin my post college lifting career in the summer of 1991. Unlike my dreams of Venice Beach that I had seen so many times in Pumping Iron, I ended up with friends in Whittier. I couch surfed while I sought employment. As my luck would have it, our apartment was approximately 500 feet from a gym called Iron Rac. Iron Rac had opened a year earlier, after the original hardcore gym in the area, Uptown Gym, had been seized by the government for illegal activity.
Iron Rac Gym was what I would picture a California gym to be with floor to ceiling windows, well equipped, and with plenty of strong, serious lifters. At this time in my life I had lifted with some very large human beings and seen plenty others, but nothing would prepare me for the day I first saw Rory Leidelmeyer. Rory was a bodybuilder of considerable fame in that realm, but I had never seen anything like him in my life. Rory, who is approximately my height of 6’2” was literally drowning in muscle tissue. I would estimate Rory weighed about 330lbs with 22 inch arms and legs at least 32” or greater around the quads. Rory was dressed in grey sweat clothing that was straining at every seam to contain muscles that I had never seen developed.
Rory came in, went behind the desk area where owner Rodney Cosack was manning the shop, and engaged in conversation. To this day, I have never seen any more muscular person, nor have I seen a person with such stature carry himself in such a low key, humble manner. I did not get to know Rory well during that time period, but in 1995 when I returned to the area to train at the re-opened Uptown Gym I got to become friends with Rory at that time. I had a very close friend, a dyed in the wool powerlifter, who swore he saw Rory bench 600 raw in 1992. Knowing both men, I believe them. In the late 90s I did see Rory do impressive things such as easy and strict seated alternate dumbbell curls with 100lb dumbbells as well as strict bent over rows with 405. Today, Rory’s instagram is a source of inspiration as he continues to defy gravity and age. Check it out and be amazed.
In 1992 I was training at Wright’s Gym in the San Fernando Valley. I did not care for that gym or that area and the final straw was when the owner approached me and asked me to refrain from passing gas while working out. At that time in my life, I was a fledgling 275er who ate anything I could. I was disgusted with owner Chris Kostas’ gas free request so I left that gym and moved out of the valley, which I hated. Ever wonder why you never heard of any great lifters from Wright’s gym, which thankfully closed in the mid-90s.
American Eagle Gym had a very unremarkable appearance from the street. Located in Norwalk, this compact gym was the training home to a number of serious bodybuilders as well as amazing bench pressers CT Fletcher and Richard Schoenberger. Rich was kind enough to write me a program and provide me with very structured guidance. CT always seemed to be having the most fun of anyone in the gym, although Richard was a close second. Those two huge men had so much joy in pushing up there benches over the 600 lb barrier. It was not uncommon for CT to cross the street to patronize the Burger Basket while the rest of us trained.
By late 1993, I discovered the Westside Barbell Conjugate Training Methods and I began training in a manner that led me to three top 5 finishes at the National Powerlifting Championships from 1998 to 2003. That tale will be told shortly.
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