Edited by: Strength Oldschool
* Note: This is an old interview from 25 March, 2009.
Today we interview Derek Poundstone. Lately he has been tearing up the strongman scene with some extremely impressive performances winning both the St Patty’s Day event and American Pro Nationals as well as helping Team USA secure their first win against “Team World” proving that the USA is coming into it’s own again!
Hey Derek, first off I’d like to congratulate you on a great year so far! You have been kicking it into high gear lately. Especially impressive is that all this is after a major back injury.
Thanks Mike, as most people that know anything about me already know, the back injury has pushed me to prove to myself that I still can compete. It forced me to look at my training and realized that what I had done for years might need a second look. In the first few weeks, I spent hours and hours thinking about how to train differently. I fine tuned my training and took a more scientific approach. I looked at my weaknesses and tried to improve upon them. After the St. Patts competition in Columbia, SC I knew my new approach to training was a success. I continued what I was doing and what happened May 25th and 26th was the end result of all my work in and out of the gym.
Tell us some stats:
- Age: 25
- Height: 6’1″
- Weight: 310 lbs
- Occupation: Police Officer
- Years Lifting: 12
- Years Strongman: 4
- Years Competing: 4 (I took two years off from 04 – 06)
What got you into lifting?
My brother got a weight bench for his 16th birthday ( I was 13). I was really interested in working out and used to lift odd objects while playing around outside. The workout bench was the next step.
Where you always strong or did you have to work at it?
When I was a younger teenager, I was very strong for my size. I’ve always been very strong but strength never came easy. By the time I was 18 I had been training already for five years.
What got you into strongman?
A powerlifting friend of mine kept urging me to compete in Unequipped Powerlifting. After over a year of his constant pushing, I decided to give it a go. My first competition I set a DL record for the junior 275-LB class of the ADAU. From there I got a flyer for an ADAU event in Pittsburgh, PA. On the back of the flyer was an ad for a NASS sanctioned SM event held by Gary Udit called Beast of the East. This was my first competition and I won. Here I met Ben Lambosis, the NY State Rep. I trained with Ben a few times where I met Gerard Benderoth. The rest is history!!
What where some of your earlier workouts like?
My first contest I never touched any SM implements. I got a chance to mess around with a tire and conans wheel a few times with Ben Lambosis in NY several years back but all in all I never really trained SM events but for a few times here and there until I met Tom and April Ciaffaglione in Nov of 05.
What were some of your first lifts (best worst weights etc..)?
My first strongman lifts were always in competition. I think my best 10″ log back in 03 at the Beast of the East held in Pittsburgh. I hit a 280 lb 8 or 10″ log for 3 or 4, clean then press for reps. In the very same competition I deadlifted 500 for 13 reps. I weighted about 275 at the time. In the beginning I didn’t have any very poor lifts. By the time I started strongman, I had already been competing in powerlifting for about 2 years and held 4 National Records in the junior class. I have always thought my overhead was sub-par though. This is the reason I’ve been focusing on OHP so much over the past year.
What do you think is more important, genetics or hard work?
Hard work without a doubt. A true testament to that was watching the 105 kg pro’s compete in Philly at Nats a few weeks back. They were moving very impressive weight and to think they give up usually 100 lbs to the top heavyweight pro’s. This is not to say the 105 guys aren’t genetically gifted. All of the guys are in tip top shape and very strong lb for lb. Most of them just don’t have the genetics to hold over 300 lbs on their frames. I Think the 105’s are true freaks. Anyone that’s seem them compete in person would agree!!
Who are some of the people that have influenced your training?
My friend Dave Petro taught me a lot about Powerlifting techniques and principles. Ben Lambosis was the first guy to really introduce me to strongman training. Tom and April helped push me back into strongman training after my hiatus.
What did you learn from them?
Dave was integral and helping me develop the power needed in strongman. Ben was again integral in just introducing strongman training to me. April and Tom have helped me with the more technical stuff and also been a great support!!
Can you be a little more specific about what you learned from:
Ben: Ben originally introduced me to strongman training. When I first got into the sport, everything was home made. Ben was one of those guys that had a big 700 lb tire (or 2) in his back yard. He also had a home made conans wheel, a plaster of paris stone along with a large handled plate loaded dumbbell. I drove over 2 hours to his place in Middletown, NY (at the time) to train a few events in preparation for my second contest, Bens NY Battle of the Bad Ass. I trained there a few times and this is where I first met Girard Benderoth.
Dave: Dave is the guy responsible for igniting the fire in me to compete. I trained with him since I was a teenager weighing 250 lbs. Dave pushed me to start deadlifitng as I was scared to try. I heard so many horror stories about lower back injuries. Dave helped teach me proper technique and within a few weeks I was pulling 500 lbs. Dave saw my potential and invited me to attend his first PLing meet (He was in him 50’s at the time). After watching him compete, I was very intrigued. After a bit more pushing and prodding, I did my first unequipped PLing meet in 2001. I’ve been hooked on competing ever since. To this day I still train with Dave!
April and Tom: April got my phone number from Dione back in 2004 when she and Tom became the CT state reps. April called and asked me to train with this “great” armature named Tom McClure that her and her husband, Tom C, had discovered. At the time, I had already received my Pro card but was just out of the Police Academy and suffered a 15 lb weight loss from all the running and improper nutrition (this was a live in academy, like boot camp). I ended up moving and losing touch with April as I continued to train and regain back most of my body weight and strength. Another year had gone by and the itch to compete was ever growing. I called Dione and got Aprils phone number. I contacted April and learned that CT now had another Pro, Tom McClure. I made arraignments to train with both Toms and April. That following Saturday, I met Tom C, April, Tom M, Kevin, Chris and a few other guys in Nov of 2005. I was in awe of Tom M’s sheer size!! I was used to being the big guy but that soon changed. I trained with CT Strength for my first contest back from retirement down in Florida. The rest is history. Tom and April open their home to me, Tom M and several other athletes every weekend. They are a great support for all THEIR athletes!!
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned about training?
Lifting heavy all the time is not going to get you stronger! Training for strength is very scientific and when all else fails, REST!!
Tell us a little about the back injury:
I suffered herniation to my L4/L5 disk in addition to a massive hematoma developing on my spine (blood clot) while attempting a 805 deadlift just two weeks out from IFSA Worlds.
The combination of the herniation and hematoma had me in excruciating pain as all thoughts of ever competing went out the window. I could hardly walk and stand the pain the following days after the injury!
I had no surgery, I was scheduled to have a procedure where my Dr wanted to use a needle to suck out the hematoma that developed from the herniation/prolapse. In addition to pulling out the blood, my dr wanted to go in and deposit a medication for pain management. Its been quite a few years so I don’t recall the exact medications but I do recall the procedures required a live x-ray to watch the needle as the Dr maneuvered it near my spinal cord.
The risk for the procedure was paralysis. At this point I decided not to get the procedures done with the support of my GP but against the wished of my neurosurgeon. A year ago my neurosurgeon wanted to do a study on me to find out how I was able to recover to the level I did after he was sure I’d never be able to continue with training at the level I did, let alone be competitive at the top of the sport. All in all I don’t know what factors are responsible to my recovery, I can only surmise. I know that after I injured my back while preparing for the 06 IFSA Worlds, I didn’t feel sorry for myself, I was in the gym a week later benching and preparing for a bench press competition held the week I was due to do IFSA worlds.
I had to have help getting the 45 lb plates on the bar. I ended up winning the competition BTW. As far as training, within three weeks I was deadlifting with a trap bar out of the rack. I was in a lot of pain for months but couldn’t live with not training. At this point in my life I purchased a truck that I began to race to keep my mind off the “what ifs” surrounding my injury.
In the end I was able to come back stronger but I still live with pain. Usually two to three times a year I’ll end up having a relapse of the injury. IT feels almost like when I originally injured my back but will last a day of two. I don’t know what causes this but it usually requires me to do nothing but rest for a day or two then I’m fine. I don’t know what causes this, my Dr feels its inflammation from re-aggrivating the injured disk. Funny thing to note, deadlifting doesn’t bother my back as much as squats. This is the reason I will deadlift heavy more often then squats. The problem with injuring my back is now I have another hobby, I never kicked the racing bug and now have a Viper I cant help but put stupid amounts of money into!!
Do you believe you set yourself up for the injury by overtraining or being dehydrated or do you think it was a fluke?
I think the combination of so many heavy competitions and my already injured back with a little overtraining led to the injury. TO explain further, I did last years America’s Strongest Man which was ungodly heavy and suffered a torn tendon in my foot. While getting the foot checked out, I had an MRI done on my back due to lower back pain after the contest. I learned in addition to a torn tendon in my foot, I had a bulging disk at L4/L5. I went on to compete in the Ukraine 9 days later, then off to Lithuania a month after that. I was trying to prep myself mentally for IFSA Worlds and wanted to nail 805 after pulling 765 for a double. I think the combination of getting overzealous before IFSA Worlds and too many competitions were the culprits.
What was rehab like?
Slow and steady. At first I could only bench so I thought what better then to do a bench press competition. At first I could hardly pick up the 45lb plates and load them on the bar. I got a few training sessions in before the competition which was two weeks after my injury. I won the competition which was a nice motivator. It took me about a month before I could do any lower back work. I started with slow hyper extensions and in a few weeks I was doing very light deadlifting. I started back up with some heavier Trap Bar Deadlifts once I became more confident in my lower back. By the beginning of 07′ I was back doing most strongman event training but stayed away from deadlifting but for once a month. I found after a hard day of pulling that my back would kill me. Before the St. Patts competition, I only deadlifted maybe three times and still managed to pull 800 lbs in the competition. This was what I needed to realize my back was going to be OK!
Q/ Could you explain your thoughts / training as far as cardiovascular work is concerned?
I’m a big fan of cardio, more specifically interval training which consists of anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes of all out exertion followed by a recovery period where the resistance is only cut by about 50%. I feel this has the best carryover for strongman, its aids in overall condition, specifically getting used to pushing yourself 100% for the time frame we usually do in strongman and recovering quickly.
Q/ Ever pressed any stones? What do you use for the cardio? Treadmill, elliptical…?
I’ve pressed the “alcan” aluminum blocks from IFSA and have a tombstone I press on occasion. As far as the cardio, I stay away from treadmills, its a bit hard an my knees and also isn’t really difficult enough unless you increase the incline to a rediculouse level. In that case when I’m finished with the interval, the treadmill takes forever to lower just a few notches. I prefer ellipticals and stair steppers as the resistrance can be quickly adjusted. I specifically run a speed program under the “hills plus” button.
Q/ I just watched you again on ESPN during the 08′ Strongman and I was blown away at how dominate you truly were. During the truck pull your arms looked like they were gonna explode they were so big! What do they measure? Please don’t tell me you never measure them, you got to have some of the biggest guns on the planet!
Thanks bro but I have far from the “biggest guns on the planet”. I’m slightly ashamed to admit that I actually measured my arms about a week ago out of curiosity! Untill last week, I hadn’t measured them for about 3 years or so as I really dont care what they measure. I’ve been asked this several times and I prefer to say “I dont know”, but since that would be a lie, I’ll just tell ya that they are over 20″.
Being a strength athlete, I’ve been criticized quite a bit for training arms and having arm development so its a bit of a soar subject hence the reason for the vague answer. I will ahve to admit that I have never had any trouble putting size on my arms and am sure if I trained them a bit more specifically I could add more size. As I’ve always said about all the things I “could” improve”, this would come at a cost that would upset the balance I’ve created that I believe makes me what you would refer to as a “dominant strongman”. I appreciate your interest though!
As you know I’ve been following your workouts for quite a while now and I’ve noticed you do a lot more gym training than event training. Could you elaborate on your reasoning behind your workouts?
For half my life now I’ve been training with weights, its just second nature at this point. For the most part, weight training never has bothered my joints, connective tissue and muscles. Events on the other hand take a lot out of you. I have one event day a week that I focus on three to four events. Event training as a whole takes a lot out of you. To keep healthy and try and stay injury free, I feel once per week is plenty. As far as standard weight training, it is the necessary foundation to overall athleticism. Overall power and strength can be developed with standard weight training and event training is merely mastering the given apparatus.
I as well as a few people on the forum have had some bicep pulls in the past when training biceps early in the week and stones and/or tire later in the week. Jesse has said he rarely trains biceps because he would have to cut down on his event training what are your feelings about this approach (this is not to start a debate by the way)?
This is a good example of two very different approached to strongman training. I understand Jesse’s way of thinking and know a lot of guys who would concur. I on the other hand feel that by training every muscle possible, I will strengthen it and be better prepared to handle any given event. By this I mean, there’s only so much training you can do in a week. I cant possible train half the possible events so I choose the train each body part. Here’s a good example; In Philly on day two, I was chosen to do the arm over arm pull against Vasyl. I wanted Nick to keep his grip strong for the 400 lb farmers in the medley and I figured I’d give it a go. Now I know for sure Vasyl trains arm over arm pull as this was in Ukraine’s Worlds Strongest Nation last year and why would they have an event that the Ukrainians don’t train in their own competition. I, on the other hand, have only done an arm over arm pull once, and that was in the Ukraine last year. Vasyl was first up on the pull in Philly and pulled the Hummer H3 and the Ford F150 80′ in 27 seconds flat. On my turn, I gave the truck one hard pull they rowed the thing the rest of the distance with just arms and upper back. I tied Vasyl and was very surprised at my performance considering my hand speed was leaving a lot to be desired. On the tie braker Vasyl hit 24.xx second and I was in the 26’s. The only reason I could keep up with someone of the caliber of Vasyl on an event that I never train is due to my training philosophy. I train every muscle to be both strong and very conditioned. This is why I feel something like curls is necessary.
What is your current training split like?
Monday: Shoulders, traps and abs
Tuesday: Arms and cardio
Wednesday: Usually off
Thursday: Lower body (squats and deadlift)
Friday: Chest and back every other week
Saturday: Event training with CT Strength.
You said Friday is chest and back every other week yet you train everything else weekly. Please explain:
Chest and Upper back are hit in so many other movements I find I rather skip it occasionally. I don’t stick to a true EOW schedule, I just tend to go without training these muscles but for 2 maybe three times a month. I do however feel that Chest and benching is very important for strongman contrary to what others have said, I just have a hard time working it into my schedule. See below question for further detail.
If you train events the day after chest and back doesn’t it hold back your weights especially on ohp type stuff?
In competition, your not just focusing on just one lift or body part in that one, two and sometime three day competition. You are going to be soar and tired with some portion of your body pre-exhausted at some point during the competition. I don’t have my schedule arranged this way on purpose its just that I feel my schedule will work the best for me. That being said, I feel its an obstacle that will only help me rather then hurt me. For instance, I will use my 280 lb log clean and press for 13 reps at Nationals as an example. The Log Press was on day two, after already having a DL for reps, stones, the block press medley and the Yoke and Sled drag from day one and the car DL and hold on day two. My back and grip was a little worked over as you can imagine but this did not affect my performance in the least bit on the Clean and OHP. This is why I train the way I train. I train not to have the biggest lifts, but to be in the best possible condition I can be in while maintaining as much power as humanly possible. I liken this to the likes of the great running legend Steve Prefontain. He believed in front running. He felt that if he could set the pace a little higher then the other runners were used to, they could not beat him. Steve would start the race in the front which wastes more energy. Steve would set the pace for the race then rely on his conditioning. Competitors often ran outta their groove to keep up with Steve and when they went to make their move at the end, they were to tired from trying to keep up. Steve’s famous quote is “A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more. Nobody is going to win a 5,000 meter race after running an easy 2 miles. Not with me. If I lose forcing the pace all the way, well, at least I can live with myself.” This is a way unconventional way of thinking in running, even today. I happen to love this philosophy. I recovery very quickly from events, so I try and make sure I push myself so hard that I set the bar at a unreachable height for most competitors. You compete at a whole other level when you feel fresh and ready for each event. I had plenty opportunity at Nationals to put it on cruise control and take a few 3rds, 4ths or 5ths but decided that once I was out in front, I would stay their. This is another or Steve’s quotes that I try and live by “Someone may beat me, but they are going to have to bleed to do it.”
Do you have certain events you train all the time or do you rotate events from week to week?
I will train any given weakness until I can make it a strength. For instance, log press was always a weakness but I made it to a strength at Americas Strongest Man as I smashed the existing World Record of 10 reps with the 280-LB log. I also alternate farmers one week and yoke the following to try and take it easy on my joints. I try and do stones no more then twice a month as they seem to also require a long recovery. I try and pick and choose my events wisely.
You said overhead press was a weakness and yet you surpassed the record for clean and press for reps. What turned it around and what tips can you give those of us with pressing problems?
Again, I took a more scientific approach to overhead pressing for reps. Realizing that there are more factors in clean and pressing each rep then just the overhead press. With a 280-LB log, seldom do my shoulders fail before I just get winded. I found a more efficient way to press the log from the lap without a jerk.
I found the jerk wasted way too much energy by utilizing the legs. Jerking, however, does make the press easier. So I began adjusting my log pressing technique by pressing from the lap and making the overhead portion of the press strict. By doing this, my shoulders would fail just as I reached the limit of my conditioning. For a heavy log, I still press in three motions, floor to lap, lap to shoulders then shoulders to lockout overhead.
This was how I was able to become a more efficient presser. Now I would say my raw shoulder power is amongst the top in the sport so I’ll go into detail on how I brought up the raw strength. I think again my increase in power in the shoulders has to do with my approach to training. I just simply thought, “where do I and everyone else fail when pressing a heavy weight overhead”. This is a simple question in my opinion.
I always found that I and most other guys and gals that workout are weak just as you’re clearing the forehead with the bar, axle, log etc…. This goes for seated and standing overhead pressing. With standing presses it’s a bit higher, like a few inches above your head. This so happens to be where the triceps kick in and your delts are at their weakest angle. Go ahead and mimic the movement while sitting at your computer desk. See how your shoulders are in a position where they're at a mechanical disadvantage.
Also your tris start to engage big time at this point of the press. Once you clear this awkward position, you can push your head through and the delts can engage more. So what I did was to work on increasing my triceps power. I didn’t just do things like close grip benches but relied on movements like floor presses, JM presses, skull crushers from all angles etc….. In addition, I’m not scared to bench heavy. This was the reason for my torn pec last year before the Arnold classic. In addition to the triceps and heavy bench work, I simply pressed more than most do, this is the reason why you seldom see my OHP get weaker throughout a contest. Mondays are my shoulder day. I start out with come sort of clean and press.
Any implement I want from axle to a block. After 2 sets, either heavy for singles or doubles or light for a million reps, I follow up with a supplementary press. I’ll do things like seated presses with no back support with a log or axle, regular military presses, standing strict presses etc…. I follow this up with shrugs and either a side lateral or a crucifix hold.
You have managed to get your deadlift back up to where it was prior to injury. What have you done differently to get back to such a high level and stay injury free?
I now train my entire lower body on one day rather then having a separate leg day and lower back day. I was constantly squatting and deadlifting heavy every week. This took a toll. Now I mix squats and deadlifts in a single workout. I do several different types of squats mixed with several different types of deadlifting. One week my focus is deadlifting, the following week I focus on squats.
Q/ How do you normally train your squat and deadlift? And what type of routine really helped you increase them, do you follow a powerlifting cycle for those two lifts?
I’m not too sure what you mean by powerlifting cycle but here’s my approach. I train squats and deadlifts in the same day to allow more recovery for my lower back during the week. I will focus on deadlifts as my first lift about 75 – 80% of the time. Usually I don’t to over 8 reps or so with deadlifts as this is what starts to aggravate my injury.
I tend to do a cycle of raw deadlifting, followed by a few weeks of squatting first then pulling with a suit for several weeks before I go back to deadlifting first again, this time with a suit. I like to keep my training fresh and keep my body guessing! As far as squats, if I’m deadlifting heavy then I do high rep squats (either front or rear) and vice versa. I occasionally use a squat suit when I have a desire to increase my squat or if I have an event where I will need to either squat or where squatting will be beneficial.
Q/ How do you mentally prepare for competitions and just workouts in general?
As I prepare for a contest I tend to sacrifice things like my social life, drinking beer etc…. I think about all that I’ve sacrificed including herniating a disk in my back training for strongman and all the pain I put myself through. I know that all it comes down to that one moment. Contest at this level are won by meer inches, thousandths of a second and a few lbs. This is what I think about!! Plus I’ve been thinking about the stone dropping in WSM last year, that get's me fired up!!
Do you plan out a training cycle and follow some type of planned progression or do you just go into the gym and do whatever you just happen to feel on that particular day?
As you probably have figured out by now Mike, I put a lot of thought into my training. Depending on the upcoming contest, I focus my training around a few regular lifts and a few Strongman lifts in preparation for that given competition. This is not to say that I can’t just compete at the drop of a hat in a given competition, I can just maximize my performance by adjusting my training for the next competition.
How do you go about planning out a training cycle? Please be as detailed as possible…do you figure out where you want to be on your gym lifts and just try and add say 10 lbs a week or do you have some type of % template or something?
My philosophy on training is very scientific but when it comes down to what I do in the gym, it’s a bit more balls to the wall. I focus on lifts that will improve my events. I keep my rep scheme at 4-30 rep. I try and stay very varied so at one given time I can hit a nice 1RM or rep out a given weight for say 30 reps. I think this is the total package that will excel in SM. How many times do you see a 1RM lift? But think of all the events that require multiple repetitions. Think about things like truck pulling, arm-over-arm pulling, yoke walking, stones etc…. All of these movements in contest are higher “rep” type movements. I see little reason to lift for a 1RM on a weekly basis. I do 1RM lifts on occasion to judge my peak output but I try to keep it to a minimum. This is not to say I train lightly. For instance, on something like behind the neck jerks, I will tend to do 405 for 6 or 8 reps rather then 495 for a single. To much risk for injury as I proved last year when trying a 805 deadlift two weeks out from worlds. Now this entire philosophy will change after worlds when I will start preparing for the Arnold Classic next March. I will start incorporating a lot more 1RM movements and cut my conditioning work down quite a bit to facilitate a much heavier body weight (perhaps 325 lbs). But this is a rare occasion as IFSA events are very heavy but the Arnold takes the cake as far as heavy contests go!!
You have managed to stay very lean while carrying a ton of muscle. Is it harder for you to gain muscle or stay lean?
I’ve always been on the lean side and have never focused directly on trying to stay lean, it’s just a product of the type of training I do. I’ve been focusing a lot on conditioning in general since my injury.
Hey Derek what does a guy your size training for pure strength and mass eat in the run of a day?
I eat 7 – 8 meals per day and try to get approximately 500 grams of protein, 400 – 500 grams of carbs, and approximately 100 grams of fat just as a starting point and depending on what competition I’m training for and what my goals are, for example.. Am I trying to stay lean and keep my speed and recovery up or do I just want to focus on putting a ton of weight and get as powerful as possible? From this base I go from there.
Generally while at work I eat three meals, I’m sure to get my protein intake by making chicken puree shakes. The chicken puree starts out as frozen chicken breasts. I boil 2 lbs of the chicken breast in water before work (usually the night before) for about 30 minutes. I then cool the chicken and place the four or five breasts (2lbs) into a high-powered blender filled to the 35 – 40 oz line with water. I blend the chicken on high until it becomes a medium consistency fluid that is drinkable (about a minute). Once done, the 2 lbs of chicken and water make about 40 oz of drinkable puree. I drink 20 oz for two meals at work.
So here’s what a sample day was for the last few months while prepping for the Arnold (note the very high caloric intake) –
Wake up 5:45 AM,
6:00 AM I have protein shake with three scoops of Probolic Protein with 2 cups milk;
8:30 AM I would do a breakfast sandwich from a local dinner consisting of sausage, 2 eggs and cheese with a small side of breakfast potatoes;
at about 11:00 AM I would have half my chicken shake with a PB&J sandwich;
at 1:00 PM I’d do the other half of the chicken shake with a banana and/or yogurt;
at 3:00 PM I’m home from work (I work from 6:30 AM – 2:30 PM most of the year but in the summer months and all of for the past three years I worked from 10:30 PM – 6:30 AM) and would have another Probolic Protein shake again with 2 cups milk and 3 scoops protein (sometimes 2 scoops if I’m not too hungry);
at 3:30 I’d start sipping on my Dark Rage as I leave for the gym. I’ll typically train for 2 – 3 hours then take a dark matter while I’m still at the gym before I do cardio or if no cardio, I’ll have it as soon as I’m done training.
I usually get home around 6:30 – 7:30 PM, I’ll eat once I get hungry after the Dark Matter (about 30 minutes after arriving home). After the gym Kristin, my girlfriend and right hand, will make me a steak (usually 14 – 18 oz NY strip or Ribeye) with a potato or some all Natural Mac n Cheese or just over a lb of chicken.
Depending on how late I eat, I’ll sometimes get 2 more meals in but usually just have a shake at 9:45 before I go to bed. If dinner was at 6:30 or I was off from the gym and ate around 5 or so, I’ll have a piece of chicken around 8 or so, maybe by itself or when really trying to pack on the size I’ll have ice-cream with it. In the middle of the night I will get up and have either a bowl of cereal or protein shake 3 or 4 times per week.
Q/ What is your diet like on the actual day of competition?
I will typically eat more pasta and carbs due usually to the general lack of appetite from not training for a few days and trying to keep my calories up. My work and training schedule is such that when I go away for a comp, I typically will gain weight the few days before. For instance while training for the Arnold I was at a high of 323 lbs two weeks out but on the Wednesday before, I was down to 318.
The day of the contest I was 325 and on the Sunday after I was 316! For WSM I stayed right at 312 for the two weeks. Here’s an interesting point, I took a cruise to the eastern Caribbean last April and started off weighing my normal 312's when we set sail and by the fourth day I was up to 328!! Its very obvious by my low bf% and what took place at the Arnold and while on the cruise that I could stand to eat a bit more calories. That being said I scheduled a cruise a month before the Mohegan Sun contest to try and get up to 330+. I want to see how I feel competing at this weight as I start planning on how I want to come into Fortissums. I think I’m the only guy really that changes their diet, training and general shape so much depending on the contest.
Q/ Do you think doing deep narrow stance squats help strongman better or wide power squats, or do you do both?
I dont “prefer” any one movement over another. Strongman is just what the title suggests, being as strong as possible to best perform any one of the crazy events we do. That being said, I dont back squat too often due to my back injury, it tends to aggrivate the injury. That being said, I am just now starting to do more back squats as I used to rely mostly on front squats. Narrow squats and both wide squats have their place, it depends on where you are comfortable and what suit you use if any. Hope this helps!!
Q/ Do you remember how much you were squatting and deadlifting when you were 19? The freaks like Arild Haugen and Kevin Nee in strongman are crazy.
My un-equipped numbers were around a 675 deadlift and 585 lbs squat. By the time I was 19 I was only squatting and deadlifting for about a year. Prior to that I only did smith machine squats and leg presses.
Q/ I was wondering how big is your waist? You seem to still have a nice physique with a small waist to go along with your immense power. Most of the guys on the circuit are huge but with big waists and no shape. My other part to this question is do you look this way by choice or is it something you also work at like getting strong. I am trying to climb closer to the 300 mark but I do not want my shape and especially my waist to get out of control. Thanks!
I think my waist is in the ballpark of 36″. As far as staying lean, it was never by choice when I first started getting big into powerlifting and strongman. Growing up my mother was very strict with when and what my brother and I ate. Because of such a clean diet and good genetics, I believe I have very few fat cells. I can't remember a time in my life went I couldn't see my abs, even at 330 lbs.
I’ve never really been able to put on fat, even when Ive tried. At this point in my life though I actually train to stay in shape. By this I dont mean I try and stay lean, I just try and stay conditioned by doing cardio, high volume sets and super sets. A byproduct of the volume and training I do is I burn so many calories, just maintaiing my weight is very difficult, despite the huge UNO pizza, about 2000 calories, just before bedtime. Its very normal for me to eat such an insane number of calories before bed yet I still stay very lean.
What are some tips you can give us on each of the following:
Yoke – Right now, this is my worst event. I’ve neglected training heavy yoke since my back injury for fear of the extreme compression forces on my spine. Only advice I can really give is to have a very tight belt!
Farmers – Grip takes time to heal. Don’t over do grip exercises. All I really train for grip is farmers. I do add some other grip movements on days when I don’t do farmers, usually rolling thunder or plate pinches.
Stones – Attack each stone, precious seconds are lost in the transition from one stone to the next.
Arm over Arm – I’ve never really trained this event. I do feel it comes down to strong and conditioned biceps and upper back more then anything. Once the weight apparatus is moving, you need to keep it moving by just rowing with your arms and upper back.
Tire – There are many schools of thought on how to best flip a tire. I like to drive more into the tire. This way is much slower then exploding up but in a long flip I can last the entire course.
Deadlift – Maybe I’m not the best guy to talk about proper deadlift form, but here goes anyway. I’ve been trying to incorporate more quads into the first part of the pull rather then so much back. I now TRY to keep my body more upright which takes more stress off the lower back and transfers it to the thighs. To build thigh strength I’ve been focusing more on front squats. I’ve only gone heavy on back squats once since my injury, that was three weeks ago!!
Axle – I think the key to a heavy axle is a efficient continental clean. If you struggle to much on the clean, you will be way to outta breath for the press.
Log – I think the key to a good log press is very strong triceps. Seldom do I see guys failing at the bottom of the press. Usually its at the midway point or just shy of lock out. Log lockouts are a great addition to any shoulder session.
Grip – As I said with farmers, grip is very easily over taxed and should be trained frequently with moderate volume.
Truck pull – STAY LOW
Overtraining – There’s been some talk in a post recently that there is no such thing as overtraining, just lack of recovering. This is true but at what point do you fail to recover. Everyone has a limit to how much they can recover in a given day. To be successful you need to find your limit and realize the signs and symptoms of overtraining. They are, high heart rate when you wake in the morning, lethergy, achy joints and lack of appetite to name a few. You might exhibit all or only one of these signs. The best way to prevent overtraining/under recovering is to listen to you body.
Peaking for a contest – This is something I’m not sure I wanna let the cat outta the bag yet on yet!! Just kidding, I take a lot of principles from powerlifting mixed with my own personal experience to peak for a contest. Peaking for a contest is just as much mental as it is physical. I stop all deadlifting 14 or so days out and squatting 10 or so days out. The week before the contest I will train lightly but will have one heavy shoulder session with either free weights or some sort of SM implement 6 or 7 days before the competition. The week before the competition I stop all weight lifting and only do cardio and abs 6 and five days out. I stop the cardio and abs 4 days out from the contest, then its just eat and rest! This was something that took me several years of competing in powerlifting and strongman to master. At first I felt so weak not lifting heavy for so long. Once I overcame this fear, I started to listen to my body. I found that my joints and lower back begin to ache a bit the last week before the contest. I feel this is from lack of endorphins from not training heavy. For example, before St. Pats the pain in my lower back was so significant that I was worried if I would be able to compete. The day of the contest, I spent time warming up as my beck felt a little looser but still a bit soar. During the competition the pain completely subsided and my back strength was 100+%. The next day my back felt great and after the competition I was still feeling great. This leads me to believe that I am correct with the assumption that the pain is my joints healing up from the time off.
I used the time off to reflect on my training and develop my focus. The day of the competition, I’m a caged animal just waiting to get out!!
Give us some comments on the following athletes:
Very athletic and consistent athlete. He’s responsible for the shift of the competitors into more trained athletes rather then just static strong guys.
Incredibly big and powerful. I never thought I’d see a big 400 lb guy move so fast! Zadrunas is also a very nice and personal guy.
The guys got huge hands, no really! I met him at the Northeast Strongman Showdown in Wilmington, MA before I won my pro card. I shook his hand and was in awe! Also a nice guy.
Jesse Marunde ( R.I.P ): Sept. 14. 1979 - July. 25. 2007
Jesse seems to be a very calculating and methodical person. I first met him at a Vitamin Shoppe here in CT with Marius. I told Jesse I was scheduled to compete with him in South Carolina at the St. Patts festival (great annual show BTW!!). He was cool and spent several minutes talking to me. Everyone in line waiting for his autograph was so jealous!!
He’s a young guy but been around in the sport for a while. I trained with Kevin a few times back in 03/04 while getting ready for the Northeast Regional Strongman Showdown in Wilmington, MA. I won the Heavies and my pro card and Kevin won the lights as a teenager! He was very strong then and only stronger now!
5 letter word, rhymes with “feast”! You get the point, Tom is Americas Answer to The Big “Z”! We’ve been training together for over a year and a half and the guys never ceases to amaze me. To those that haven’t seen him in person, he is huge and hold every bit of 340 lbs of muscle very easily! He will go far in the sport, mark my words!
I love watching old clips of Kaz, he is just an absolute animal. Intensity that has only been achieved by very few in the sport. I had a chance to speak with him at the Mohegan Sun at 06’2 WSMSS and I was star struck to say the least! What an awesome guy!
Jon Pall Sigmarsson:
A true athlete and when I said Kaz had an intensity achieved by few, John Pal is one of the few! He and Kaz are what Strongman is about. Crowd interaction, intensity and unbelievable power. John Pal had a true iron will!!
Magnus Ver Magnusson:
A true dominant Strongman! I’ve had several encounters with Magnus Ver as he has been the head judge in many of my contests. When I first really met him last year in Tulsa, OK, I couldn’t believe my eyes. To be in the presence of a man that I used to be in aw of when I was growing up and would see Strongman on ESPN!! He’s always been very helpful and a true class act. I really enjoy that he’s still in Strongman today as a judge, he’s got a lot to offer the sport still!
Jouka was WSM when I first started really getting into working out and watching Strongman back in the late 90’s. The power he had was so impressive as he won at a body weight of around 270 lbs! The key to his success was his consistency, he did well on almost every single event!
What do you think of the WSM / IFSA split?
The split is a shame and I hope the sport can capitalize upon it. All I want to do for one is compete, I don’t care what federation! The rules each federation has banning athletes that makes the switch is like punishment. I chose IFSA because I feel it has the strongest athletes TOTAL. I think there is a ton of talent in WSM its just not across the board. I will say this however, the US athletes need to stick together. Look what we are doing as a whole in the sport. Two Americans recently beat Marius and our domination of the sport is soon to follow. I know because I see it. Look at the young talent, Travis Ortmeyer, Kevin Nee, Brian Shaw, Jason Bergmann, Marshall White, Josh Thigpen, Dave Ostlund etc…. We need to compete in American Contests as a priority, that is what will make the sport legitimate in out own country! This piedly turnout in ASC events of 12 and 15 guys is a joke (Nats qualifiers at that!!). Where are all 50+ heavy weight pro’s?? We will only get better if we challenge each other!! People will stop and notice when you get the likes of Pfister, Marunde, Nee, Ortmeyer, Ostlund and Thigpen in one show! This is what we need, this is what will get us noticed!! Egos aside, big deal, you gotta pay for your hotel or flight and aren’t treated like you might in an international contest. If we have great showings at ASC events, we will one day have the luxuries of international contests here in the states! Sponsors will line up!!
Thanks again for taking the time out to give such well thought out answers for your strongman family here at Marunde-Muscle. We really appreciate the effort and will be following your career closely!