LIFT: Just to start off, can you tell us a bit about your achievements to date?
Many of my achievements are more about personal goals being reached, but some notable moments of my lifting career would include totaling 1746@195 Raw with wraps with a 661 squat 352 bench and 733 deadlift all drug free, 5 WABDL deadlifting world championship victories, an invitation to the NAS nationals after winning my first strongman show, and of course 3 years of sponsorship with animal pak and universal nutrition.
LIFT: What is your story on how you first started lifting?
In Jr High my P.E. class would get to go the the weight room 1 day a week. I was instantly drawn to the prospect of being able to build myself up. I began researching everything I could about lifting and started to come in after school. I was not very good at it when I first started, but that only drove me to work harder and defy my circumstance.
LIFT: Why do you choose powerlifting over other lifting sports?
I love the simplicity in it’s premise. It’s as basic as you can get. Let’s take 3 lifts to effectively test your bodies maximal strength output. Now let’s have you do them all in one day and the person who does the most wins. There is no real room for argument, everyone knows the lifts going in and can practice them to get proficient. There are only 3 of them so you don’t have to divide your focus and try to become a jack of all trades, and the winner is inarguably the one who does the most. Simple, mathematic, easy to track, and pure. I love this sport.
LIFT: You’ve done strongman in the past, any plans to revisit that again?
I really enjoyed my adventure into strongman, and while I would love to do it again there are still a few Powerlifting goals that I want to achieve first. But once those goals are reached I would love to pursue a LW strongman pro card.
LIFT: What is your job outside of training? What are your future life plans?
I am currently a resident assistant at central Washington University. I have been doing this job for 4 years and have had the opportunity to affect the first year experience for many incoming freshmen over the course of that time. After college I would love to pursue opening my own training facility with a group of likeminded individuals and helping others reach their goals.
LIFT: Do you have any other hobbies outside of lifting?
I study vocal performance and spend a lot of my time singing in various groups, and choirs, as well as participating in opera, and musical theatre productions. I also write and arrange my own music and do performances around campus. I have a few musical performances on my youtube channel as well.
LIFT: What does keeping natural mean to you, and why do you continue to compete drug-free?
I consider “natural” to be defined as choosing to pursue your goals without the use of anabolics. I harbor no ill will towards my brothers and sisters in the sport who choose to take a different path, but I would much rather pursue my goals while remaining drug free. The achievements I truly care about in this sport are all far more personal than public and they are all based around being able to see what I can achieve with what I have been given naturally.
LIFT: Do you diet to stay within your weight class, and do you have plans on changing weight classes any time soon?
For a year or so I decided that I was going to bulk hard and put on as much weight as possible and try to get my numbers to really
jump. I went from about 197 lbs to 230 planning to compete as a 220 and did get quite a bit stronger. But then I decided I wanted to still compete as a 198 and so I dieted down for it and felt much better. I don’t like being very heavy, it makes other things in my life a challenge and now I tend to stay within 5-10 lbs of my class in the off season. My plan is to stay at 198 until I can no longer make the class within a 2 week cut.
LIFT: Any special diet tips?
My body responds best to high protein high fat and moderate carb schemes. I drink a lot of milk, eat a lot of peanut butter, meats, and green vegetables to get most of my calories in. I always have a jar of peanut butter with me and will eat a few spoonfuls whenever I start to feel hungry.
LIFT: What kind of programming do you find you respond best to?
My body reacts the best to frequency and volume at moderate intensities. The more opportunities I get to perform the lifts the better, and whenever I find a new imbalance or weakness I kill it by using high volume accessories picked to address it. An example of this would be how I addressed my bench weakness by adding in 8 sets of 10 pushdowns supersetted with facepulls to every session for a few months.
LIFT: So, you have a good amount of experience with some pretty high volume and high frequency training. As far as adaptation to training, do you feel there is an upper limit for a powerlifter aka “overtraining”?
I am a firm believer in the body’s ability to adapt to stimulus. And I also think that overtraining is a term that is thrown around much more often than it should be. Is there a true upper limit, yes if you could add volume, frequency, and weight at the same pace week after week people would be squatting tons right now; however, I do feel as though with careful programming you can get as close to your adaptation threshold as possible, and then change things around and start the process again. As I get closer to my physical upper limits I feel like I will eventually revert back to a more reactive training style, and utilize an RPE scale so that I can work to my capacity for the day as opposed to comparing everyday to my all time best performance.
LIFT: How do you deal with the crowded gym while following strict programming? Do you sometimes switch exercise order, or sit it out and wait before getting the equipment you need?
I generally do not switch exercise order, I will always ask to work in. I don’t mind sharing a bar or a space, but I don’t like altering my plan because someone else wants to get stronger that day as well.
LIFT: How do you block out all that chaos going on in your gym? Do you ever draw an audience?
You have to mentally condition yourself to deal with the crowd. It takes some getting used to when you are training in a facility that is not accustomed to seeing really heavy lifting going on. I used to draw more of a deliberate audience, but now more people here know me and stare from more of a distance. I would prefer to lift alone but you have to work with what you have.
LIFT: Despite the chaos, you seem to be a goal-oriented lifter, how does one set reasonable goals and make a plan to obtain them?
Without a goal I don’t see much reason to subject someone’s body to as much discomfort as I do. The thing I love most about this sport as opposed to other strength sports is that it is easy to track and monitor progress. You only have 3 lifts that really matter and they are better when your number goes higher. As far as setting goals I always say you have to better yourself first and worry about competition with others never. You can never control what someone else does, but if you set your sights on bringing your best then you generally don’t have the chance to worry about it.
LIFT: You lifted equipped in the past. What made you switch to lifting unequipped now, and do you have plans to compete equipped in the future?
I was introduced to the geared aspect of the sport first, and was under the impression that it was the way that everyone trained and competed. A few years in I started to learn more about raw divisions and fell in love with the pursuit and the purity of building real strength. If I start getting too beat up in the future I may add some single ply gear to allow me to continue to compete but I will never be interested in multiply lifting.
LIFT: Do you feel lifting equipped had any effect on your current raw strength?
The gear tends to hide weaknesses while lifting raw exposes them. I will always view raw Powerlifting as the most honest test of actual strength.
LIFT: Some consider you a deadlift specialist, so what advice would you give an average lifter who’s looking to improve their deadlift?
Practice it! So many people think that your deadlift will grow on its own, I am obviously a frequency and volume guy, but the reason that I am is because the more often you perform a lift the more opportunity you have to perfect your technique. Relying on brute strength has a much lower potential strength ceiling than adding brute strength to impeccable technique.
LIFT: In your videos you mentioned “old habits” referring to your squats. What were those habits, and what have you done to correct them and make new habits?
I have always struggled with keeping my torso upright and relying on my back to bail me out of some poor technique attempts. Recently I have changed some positioning at the start of my lift to set myself up for a better squat. I make sure my back is tight, my head is neutral and driven into the bar and I have my hips under me at the start. My squat has looked better in the last few weeks than it has in the last few years.
LIFT: What goals have you set for yourself this year, and when are we going to see you compete next?
Competition schedules are tough to develop and plan at this stage in school for me, but I would like to get a full meet around June. As far as goals I want to bring my squat up and make it more consistent, I want to close in on a 400 lb bench, and finally put together a full meet and display the total that I know I am capable of. My biggest goal is to remain injury free, if I can manage that, then the others will likely come together.
LIFT: Last but not least, if anything, what would you like to see change in powerlifting?
I would like to see more of a unification of the federations. With so many around there is no real chance for the sport to grow. If every fed has a different standard for judging, and drug testing, a different national and world championship with totally separate record books, it is pretty tough to get real comparisons of the best lifters in the world. As long as this separation exists then the sport will continue to remain in the shadows behind the other strength sports that are more unified.
Here is Ben pulling an easy 733 pounds at 195 in November 2012 at the WABLD Worlds:
If you haven’t heard Ben sing, here he is performing Hallelujah:
You can subscribe to his youtube channel HERE