Athletes & Celebrities

Muscle Motivation: Iron Power

Rory Koonce Jr. wasn't supposed to be able to move, never mind lift. He didn't get the message.


Rory Koonce Jr. was born critically underweight—at one pound, 13 ounces—and afflicted with cerebral palsy. “I was told that I wouldn’t be able to see. I was told that my brain wasn’t going to function right. I was told that my left side was going to be completely useless,” he says. “Turns out that none of that was true.”

Koonce grew up idolizing Schwarzenegger and Ferrigno, and started lifting by the time he was 10 years old, the same time he decided he wouldn’t be confined to a wheelchair any longer.

Later, he wrestled in high school and took martial arts lessons, never letting his disorder get the best of him. And though cerebral palsy has limited his movements, Koonce has more than made due. “The past 25 years [his age] have been a personal mission of mine to see how far I could push myself,” he says.

Koonce's Best Barbell Curl is 220 Pounds.

Since 2009, Koonce has been an active powerlifter in the World Natural Powerlifting Federation, and a Muscle­ Pharm team member. The power curl is his signature lift, which he performs from a wheelchair—the only person on record in powerlifting to do so. “The cerebral palsy plays a factor with my balance,” he says. “Where normal people would have the stabilization to do certain things, I do not.”

Still, it’s hard to say this has done much to limit Koonce’s lifts. His best barbell curl is 220 pounds! Koonce plans to get into wheelchair bodybuilding in early 2015, after competing in his 2014 powerlifting meets. With his degrees in personal training and sports nutrition, and his will to overcome the odds, his personal motto couldn’t be more apt: “The impossible is possible.”