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Interview: Pro Strongman Dan Harrison, from Japan

If somehow you’ve never heard of Dan, he’s probably the strongest person you don’t know about! Some accomplishments to his name include: Pro Strongman, 2000+ Lb Raw Powerlifting Totals, an 860 Lb official Squat in competition, 900+ Lb Deadlifts, and now Armwrestling.

We are very proud to introduce to you Dan Harrison, straight from Japan!

LIFT: To start off, tell us a bit about your early years. What got you started lifting, and what were the first memorable lifts that come to mind?

I had my very first workout at age 14 with my dad, I moved in with him and saw his set of dumbbells in the garage, then demanded he show me how to use them. From the first workout I knew I’d be doing this for the rest of my life. I was also very lucky because my grandmother, Ruby, took me down to Venice Beach all the time to workout at Gold’s Gym Venice during the mid 90s. I got to meet all of the monster bodybuilders of that era. I even had Bolo Yeung spot me on a set of squats! As a sophomore, loading up 335 on the squat rack and being laughed at by the seniors was especially cool, because after I did a set of 5 deep reps nobody was laughing. The weight room coach and I had a race to a 365 squat, winner gets a Big Mac. Let’s just say I had a nice lunch that day! Ultimate Orange was still legal so I took it all the time and just went gonzo in the gym at 6am all the time.

LIFT: Did you have your mind set on where you wanted to be, or who you wanted to become from the beginning? Did somebody influence you?

Muscle and Fitness magazine was my only source of inspiration in the beginning, but that was back when it was AWESOME. All the top bodybuilders were on the cover, and it always had badass training articles. I remember the first one I saw had a big picture of Rich Gaspari, and I just lost my mind. I was always extremely driven to be the best I could be, so I always looked at the other kids in school with wonder as they went off on weekends to get drunk, high, and went to Tijuana all the time (I lived in Chula Vista, about a 15 minute drive to the border). Fat kids had my scorn and pity, like how could you live with yourself being such a dumpy turd? I didn’t know anything about Strongman until late 2004, I really didn’t get on fire for Powerlifting until 2008, and my inferno of passion for Armwrestling was born in 2012.

LIFT: What motivates you, and what is it about lifting that you are so passionate about?

Before I got into Strongman I don’t know how I would have answered that question, but since I began it has always been to do Odd’s show (Fitexpo), get to the WSM qualifier shows (Super Series, now Giants Live), and make it to WSM. Other goals have came and been vanquished along the way, like when I became hell bent on a 405 incline press, 800 raw squat, then an 800 and then 900 deadlift. Now along with the Strongman goal is Armwrestling… I have a DEEP passion for that GREAT sport and I would feel like a failure if I did not take that as far as possible too. Strongman and Armwrestling can, and have began to take me around the world, which is another amazing reason to keep getting better. From a few bad quad pops this year I have decided to sort of back off from squats/lunges in favor of just focusing on getting that huge deadlift better than ever, and building as much upper body power as I can for Armwrestling and Strongman. Besides, when my deadlift goes up my squat ALWAYS does too, but that is NOT true the other way around (for me).

LIFT: How were you introduced into Strongman, powerlifting, and now Armwrestling?

I met Josh Bryant in a personal training class in 2004 who introduced me to The Freak Factory, a group of amateur strongmen out of Downey, CA. With them I learned what the true meaning of pain and suffering in a strongman training setting truly meant. Bryant also introduced me to Odd Haugen, who became my main trainer, mentor, friend, teacher, and for about 8 months in 2008, roommate! In 2008 I decided to get into Powerlifting to become a better Strongman, so I contacted Steve Denison of the USPF (now USPA) and signed up for a meet that was held in 2 weeks. Had a BLAST and kept competing! Armwrestling was sort of a slow evolution, I had gotten more and more interested in it after shaming some guys in a bar in Japan (in front of all their girls), and talking to a bunch of friends about it. I found Jonathan Hoffman on an Armwrestling message board (left handed FREAK!!!), we quickly became pals and I trained with him as often as I could. Armwrestling in a competitive setting just rang my bell like crazy, I won my first tournament and now I’m 100% hooked. It’s so new and fresh for me too, and it is such an international sport!! I’m doing a big televised Armwrestling tournament in Korea this December!!!

After Dan's First Stongman Workout, 2004

After Dan’s First Stongman Workout, 2004

LIFT: What activities do you do outside lifting? I hear you have an interest in 80’s metal.

Who doesn’t like 80s metal? Outside lifting, ummmm…. well between Strongman and Armwrestling, my job, living in a new country, learning the language as well as all the ins and outs of public transportation in Japan, I am pretty mentally busy. I like going to Osaka or Okayama to go to bars and clubs, and I’m still sort of getting accustomed to how things are around here.

LIFT: As a basic outline, how do you train now?

Right now I’m doing twice a week… I have a big gym in Tsuyama City where I do all my barbell stuff, then I have some very heavy bands and “Fat Gripz” that I do most of my Armwrestling work with, as well as some shoulder work during the week. I could *never* recover benching heavy once a week, nor could I survive deadlift conventional once a week, so right now I am doing my bench work one Saturday, then the opposite Saturday all my deadlift/lower body work. My frequency is super low compared to a lot of guys, but I am looking better than ever, and my strength is awesome right now. I have been having some bad quad problems this year, as well as some repeated glute strains, so I am just going to cool it with the crazy squat training and just work on deadlifts again. After all, my squat goes up on its own when the DL goes up, and in Strongman, deadlift is king. I like deadlifts standing on a 6” block, they build a ton of leg power as well as all of the deadlifting muscles. They also tear up the lats and rear delts pretty amazingly.

LIFT: Your training seems to have a lot of single repetition work. Do you use repetitions, and accessory work as well?

I always did rep work only with isolation movements, but I’m starting to experiment with doing one maybe 2 down sets of 10 or so reps after my main very heavy set.

LIFT: When people say “singles only test strength, not build it”, do you agree?

No. Singles build absolute power and absolute explosiveness if you do them right. It has been said before, “you can’t lift a heavy weight slowly.” When you do singles it forces you to give 150%, and that will build the upper limit of your max output better than anything. My best lifts and how quickly I increased power are evidence of that.


LIFT: I’ve seen you mention trying out some crazy training approaches that worked for you, that you’d never recommend to anyone else. What’s the most crazy example that worked, and would you still not recommend it?

I’ve actually come around on that. The last few people I’ve trained, I have them do the same stuff I do and they get great results. If I can turn a flabby Vietnamese girl into a much more fit looking 110 Lb powerlifting machine doing the EXACT exercises I do (albeit with somewhat higher reps, like 5s sometimes), then it can work for anybody.

LIFT: Do you push for progress and personal records as hard as possible every session, or do you have planned back off periods?

Yeah I always push for new records. If you’re overtrained or don’t feel right, it’s probably just better to stay home and keep eating.

LIFT: Have you found it to be possible to set up training for Strongman, powerlifting, and Armwrestling, in a way that they all work together?

When I have trained specifically for powerlifting meets (training the big 3 often), everything goes to hell. Complete hell. My low back just cannot take squat (full powerlifting stance squat) and deadlift work in the same training cycle. Same with benching, if I do all this narrow grip stuff with bands and higher rep stuff with a lot of overhead work, I hit PRs in flat bench press. When I do a good amount of comp grip flat benching, my numbers take a dump. So basically when I am training for Strongman is when my powerlifts seem to increase the most! Armwrestling is just something to train one extra day of the week, just don’t do it too close to a bench day and you’ll be fine. Funny enough, my best powerlifting meets always ended up happening a week after big strongman shows! I call it double peaking.

LIFT: Let’s talk briefly about squats. What were some of your biggest breakthroughs to increase progress, finding your foot position, and what kind of accessory works best?

Like Captain Kirk said, always videotape your training and competitions! I was having trouble finding my best squat stance, so I just kept watching the videos of when I did my best squats, and when I did my crappy ones, and realized what I was doing in the bad ones. Then I was always in my best position after that! Barbell lunges were probably my biggest help, but I have had so many quad issues the past year that I am going to have to say goodbye to those. All the banded box squats taught me how to EXPLODE out of the hole, too.

804 Lb Squat

804 Lb Squat

LIFT: The band tension you train with is huge. What is your rule of thumb when setting up band tension, and why do you use it [band tension]?

When just the empty bar feels pretty hard, I’ve got the right amount. I don’t use bands now for lower body work. When I did banded speed box squats I ALWAYS alternated weekly between bar on back and SSB.

LIFT: How did you put about 200 pounds onto your deadlift in such a short period of time, especially while already being at an advanced level?

It wasn’t really 200 lbs, it was more like 150, but yeah, still. My squat was going up quickly, but it didn’t seem to be making my deadlift fly up at nearly the same pace. I was using more squat variations than deadlift for my max effort movements, and my friends kept talking crap because I still hadn’t pulled an 800 deadlift, and I really didn’t know where my DL was at, with straps. I decided to really focus on it and decided on a good handful of max effort movements to really beef up my floor pull. Half of them being sumo, by the way. I missed 800 3 times before I finally hit it, but when I did blow it up it was smooth and had no hitching. 4 weeks later I did a rough 850, and then 4 weeks after that I did a pretty smooth 881 with a slight ramp at the top. I was so close to the big 9-0-0 that I just gave it everything a week later and it happened! On my speed day I just did the banded box squats, and on max day I always did a DL variation. Doing this still made my squat go up so I just kept it that way, improving up to a 925 floor DL (with straps, hitch), 875 beltless floor deadlift, and 800 beltless deadlift standing on a 6” block, until my back took a dump in mid 2011 from too many super banded max effort box squats without a belt. I was really pushing things hard when I really could have used 2 or 3 weeks of zero training.


LIFT: You’ve made a huge amount of mass gain from when you first started lifting. Did you have any trouble gaining weight? Do you have any special weight-gaining breakthroughs that really helped?

Weight gain came in bursts for me. When I started Strongman training I was 215… I became a 3-4x a week regular at Hometown Buffet where I’d hit after work and eat until I nearly died. That combined with Strongman training just blew me up so fast. I sort of peaked, give or take, 10 lbs here and there at around 280. Then when I got into Westside training to really focus on my powerlifts I had another huge spike, like 50 lbs! Just got huge and strong all over and became a new me!

LIFT: What kind of advice would you give to beginners who are looking to get bigger and stronger?

Don’t deadlift more often than once every 2 weeks, alternate front and back squat every week, and do weighted pullups and standing dumbbell military presses. Nutrition is simple, eat your meat, carbs, and animal/dairy fats. Take a multivitamin and creatine, and get 8 hours of sleep every night! Find someone with Powerlifting experience to train with, you will waste so much time until you do this! Don’t be one of those idiots who thinks they know how to lift from watching Youtube videos!

LIFT: Anything different for intermediate or advanced lifters?

More singles! The longer I’m lifting heavy weights it seems the less and less exercises are relevant for me. Of course in Westside I did a million exercises at first, but as time went by and I stagnated from time to time, I would usually throw a bunch out, find new ones, and stick to the ones that worked.

LIFT: How has your training been in Japan? Have you had any struggles come up?

Nope! The gym I have here is a REAL old school 70’s style gym, they have everything I need. I was of course worried about having my training and supplement needs met, but I have friends here who helped me out with all of that so I am set! The only “problem” now is every workout turning into a photo shoot!


Strongman Challenge in Japan

LIFT: What about nutrition? How much do you eat, grams of protein per day?

I stopped using whey protein in favor of solid food and I’ve been fine. I use 10g creatine a day, tons of vitamin C, and a good multivitamin. I also take tons of stimulants before training of course. Mainly just caffeine pills! I don’t count grams of anything, I can sense pretty easily if I need more fat, protein, or carbs at any given time. I have a very affordable store by my apartment here, and I get TONS of fresh pork, milk, bread, and noodles for super cheap. A big piece of pork with noodles and a quart of extra fatty Japanese milk is infinitely better than a scoop of protein powder (with who knows what in it).

LIFT: Do you do anything specific for injury prevention or rehab?

If I keep hurting myself on a certain exercise I just dump the exercise, not worth it. I will roll on a very hard softball when I know I have knots somewhere. I make sure to do a good warmup, and for lower body that means walking lunges back and forth, and side to side. Literally every time I skip that, I strain something. 100% of the time. It is unreal, I was an idiot and skipped it last week, glute strain.

LIFT: How do you flip the switch and turn up the focus and intensity like you do? What goes through your mind?

It’s something that’s always just below the surface, but over the years I’ve learned to harness it and bring it out when I need to. Sometimes I really do need a hard slap in the face to bring out that last 10% of rage for a max deadlift or squat. I love watching Kaz’s videos, and I always felt I had that level of rage inside me before making a lift. It’s not putting on a face or acting crazy, it’s summoning the truest part of my soul in order to accomplish something impossible by mortal means. It is cleansing and amazing afterward, especially when the successful lift is made in an official setting.

LIFT: What are your future plans in strength sports? Continue with all three, WSM, powerlifting, and armwrestling? Or try something new, like pro wrestling in Japan?

All of the above……..

LIFT: If you could only choose one strength sport to compete in, what would it be and why?

My heart is probably more in Armwrestling, but I would feel like a huge turd if I didn’t realize my true potential in Strongman; because I am a goal oriented person and once I am hell bent on something it is very difficult for me to stop chasing it, no matter how long it takes. I know guys who began Strongman training and were at WSM in 2 years. Good for them. I can’t control anybody else, I have to look at myself in the mirror every day and know that I am giving it my very best and doing whatever it takes to get where I want to be, no matter what.

Thank you Dan for taking the time to do this interview. We wish you good luck in Japan, and in all your future endeavors.

Be sure to subscribe to Dan’s youtube if you haven’t already to follow his training, and journey through Japan.


Eric Spoto: The Man Behind the Bench Press World Record

Eric Spoto is arguably the best bench presser of all time. He recently set the all time world record raw bench press at an incredible 722 pounds! Furthermore, he was able to accomplish this at only his third powerlifting competition!

In this in depth interview Spoto talks with us about his training, recovery, injury prevention, and more!

LIFT: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, give us a little background?

I am 36 years old, 5’11”, and 315 Lb.  Born and raised in Long Island, New York. I currently live in Las Vegas, Nevada, where I train a select group of people and am an avid stock trader.

LIFT: We’ve heard many people refer to you as “Vanilla Gorilla”, where and how did you pick up this nickname?

I friend of mine and training partner came up with it about 10 years ago. He would call me “Vanilla Gorilla” and “Honkey Kong”. I guess the Vanilla Gorilla name just stuck.

vanilla gorilla

LIFT: You seem well known in the arm wrestling community, what made you decide to put arm wrestling on hold and pursue bench pressing?

I was training pretty serious for arm wrestling and bench press at the same time, but my arms, especially my elbows took too much of a beating. I had to decide to focus on one. I made the decision based on the fact that arm wrestlers stay extremely completive in there late 50’s, where it seems raw bench pressers strength starts decreasing in their early to mid 40’s.

LIFT: At what point did you decide to pursue the bench press world record?

I would say about 5 years ago I made the conscious decision to train as hard as I could, and really focus on the bench press. I wanted to see what I was capable of. 700 Lb always seemed like a mythical number to me, and I knew very few select people had done it, but I had my doubts if I would be able to get to that elite level. I figured if I trained my ass off, whatever weight I ended up benching I would have no regrets because I gave it my best effort.

LIFT: How much did you bench press in the very beginning?

Wow that’s a tough one. I was 11 with those funny plastic gray weights, maybe 100 Lb. I remember 225 Lb for the first time. 2 plates was a really big deal for me, I was in 8th grade.

eric spoto2

LIFT: When did you hit your first 600lb bench?

I was 27.

LIFT: What did your training consist of for your preparation to break the raw bench press record?

Monday: Heavy Bench

135×15, 135×10, 225×10, 315×10, 405×5, 495×3, 585×1, 635×1, 675×1, 705×1, 705×1

3board press – 705×3, 735×3


Tuesday: Heavy Upper Back

Chest supported row – Hammer Strength 10 sets 12 plates – set up just like negative of bench press.

Rear Delts – 3 sets Face Pulls with Cable and Rope, Reverse Pec deck 3 sets.


Wednesday: OFF


Thursday: Rep Bench Day

3 sets with 405-500  15-20 reps per set.

Some triple board work, more reps  2 sets 600 10 reps.

Standing Shoulder Press – 3 sets 315x 10


Friday: Rotator Cuff, prehab, rehab movements, bands, etc.


Saturday: OFF


Sunday: OFF

LIFT: What have you changed, if anything, in training for the 722 Lb world record since your first world record bench attempt?

I started doing more singles to help me feel more comfortable with setting up for just one good clean rep. Stan Efferding definitely was a big influence in me doing more singles. I guess it’s not bad to have a Powerlifting Legend as a training partner.

eric spoto

LIFT: How do you set up your assistance work? Do you do anything specific for back and shoulders?

For back I like to emulate the exact motion of the negative in the bench press. A chest supported back machine works best for that. Shoulders, I like overhead press, standing and seated.

LIFT: Many people discredited your strength in the beginning, why did you decide to wait until a 700 Lb bench to compete?

700 was that number in my head I always wanted to hit. I wanted to hit 700 before I ever even thought of a competition. It just worked out that there happened to be a competition in Las Vegas at the same time I was in that 700 range. I was getting a little bit of a push from some of my training partners to do a meet, so it just happened to be perfect timing.

LIFT: During your lifting career, what was your biggest bench press break through?

Learning to bench press like a powerlifter. Elbows tight, shoulder blades back, chest up, and drive those legs as hard as possible.

LIFT: What are your thoughts on recovery? Are there certain things you put emphasis on?

Recovery is without a doubt one of the most important components of increasing strength. Sleep and nutrition are the cornerstones of recovery. If you don’t get enough quality calories or sleep, you will not be able to recover at your optimum level.

LIFT: Do you do anything specific for injury prevention?

Injury prevention is always a concern when you talk about weight training.  Especially with bench press, once you get in that 500 Lb plus range your chances of injury really start to increase. I am a big proponent in being extremely warm when I get to my work sets. I might even lose 1-2% of weight on my top end sets in training, but I feel the positives outweigh the negatives. I will never do more than a 90 pound jump with pounds or 110 Kg with kilo plates. I don’t do work sets until I feel warm and ready, no matter how many sets or reps it takes. I rarely do forced reps. I have noticed during a forced rep you are more likely to break form and increase the chance of injury. I also like to use bands for pull aparts and get those rotators warm and ready for heavy benching. The most important part of injury prevention is to be fully hydrated. Just look at Pro Bodybuilders when they are leading up to a show and are really dry. They use half of their normal weight in training, and have been known to still pull or tear a muscle.

spoto forearms

Spoto’s 19.5 inch forearms!

LIFT: What is your food intake and diet like? Do you do anything specific to stay at a certain weight?

I don’t track anything except protein intake. I try to get a minimum of 300 grams of high quality protein per day. Leading up to a meet I try to increase it to as much as I can intake. I know I get plenty of carbs, so that’s never a concern, and high quality fats, nuts, avocados, and olive oil. It’s all about meat, eggs, and milk if you want to get strong. Complete high quality proteins are going to be the cornerstone of anyone who wants to get strong.

LIFT: Are you planning on getting back into arm wrestling now that you’ve accomplished the bench press world record?

I do plan on getting back to arm wrestling at some point. I don’t think 722 is the best I am capable of. I would like to see what I am able to hit before focusing on AW. Plus, with the resurgence of raw lifting I see the bench record getting pushed up to the 750 range, so that 722 is definitely not holding up for too long.

eric spoto arm wrestling

LIFT: Was it a hard transition to go from arm wrestling to powerlifting? What are the biggest differences between the two?

They are night and day. Almost nothing is similar, except for they both require strength. Arm Wrestling (AW) is verse an opponent, their particular AW style will effect how you go about that match. Arm Wrestling is a chess match, so many different little things are going on just with grip, let alone the match. Different AW moves counter other moves, and technique and execution of those moves determines the winner at the highest level most of the time. Arm Wrestling Strength is hand, wrist, bicep, then everything else is secondary. Legs are basically useless so it’s just wasted weight that will put you in a higher weight class.

Powerlifting is just you and the weights. It really doesn’t matter where you lift the weight, 500 Lb is 500 Lb no matter what location. Where AW can really focus on just a couple sport specific muscles, a 3 lift powerlifter has to be strong everywhere, if they have one weak point it will effect their whole total.

LIFT: You mentioned previously you would like to hit a 1000 Lb shirted bench. Now that you have the raw world record, do you have any plans to move to equipped and try to set records there as well?

I do still have plans to start some geared bench work, but I’m still not at that point. I would like to hit a couple more raw meets before I change my focus to geared lifting.

LIFT: Everyone’s curious, what are your max squat and deadlift? Do you ever plan on doing a full powerlifting meet?

I am in the process of physical therapy, testing squat with light numbers, and seeing if my lower back is going to be able to handle it. I haven’t maxed in over a decade.

LIFT: What drives you to keep going, and pushing through your hardest times?

I love to train, it is the greatest stress reliever in the world. If powerlifting competitions didn’t exist, I would still be doing the exact same thing, training the exact same way, to push my limits and see what I am capable of lifting.  It also helps to have good strong training partners that will always keep pushing you during those days when you don’t have that killer instinct.

LIFT: How does it feel to be the best raw bencher, ever?

I would say I am ONE of the best benchers ever, but who is to say Jennifer Thompson’s 300 Lb at 132, or Jeremy Hoornstra’s 661 Lb at 242, just to name a few, doesn’t make them the best bencher. I am happy to be considered one of the best Bench Pressers in the world.

After a successful 722 Lb Raw Bench

After a successful 722 Lb Raw Bench

Spoto’s 722 Lb World Record Bench Press

Spoto’s 0 – 600 Lb Bench in 30 Seconds

Getting to Know Ray Williams

Ray Williams recently came out of nowhere squatting a mind blowing 905 pounds, completely raw! Amazingly, this was only his second competition! In this in-depth interview, Ray reminds us just how powerful simple training and consistency can be.

LIFT: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? What are your current best lifts?

I am 26 years old. I have two sons by the name of Tae’Sean Williams and Daniel Singleton, and a daughter SaRaya Williams. I am married to a wonderful Georgia woman named Reunda Williams. I coach football at Itawamba Community College in Fulton, Mississippi, and at the moment my best squat is 905 lbs, best bench is 525 lbs in the gym, best deadlift is 700 lbs.

LIFT: How long have you been training? And what made you just recently start competing?

I don’t know if you can call what I was doing training. I was just lifting weights, and one day my brother (William Burrell) calls me and tells me that he had competed in the Alabama State Championship. That got my wheels turning, so I switched my training from just lifting weights to a more powerlifting style of training. My daughter is my motivation, I feel like what a better way to honor her memory than to compete for her.

LIFT: How much did you squat when you first started squatting properly?

I was squatting easily in the 700’s when I started competition style squatting.

LIFT: How quickly did you progress through the weights?

I progress slowly, only because I am not a fan of just doing big weight all the time. I feel like the best way to do big weight is to master what you can do at the time. Yes, there are a lot of people who disagree with how I train, but at the same time what works for me, works for me. Lately, I have gotten some advice from people that has helped me in reaching my goal of a Raw 1,000 lbs squat.

LIFT: What kind of training styles have you used in the past, and how did you like them?


As I stated earlier I don’t call what I do training, I just go and workout. I don’t go to the gym with the mindset that I am going to work on my squat today. I just go in, and lift weights like I always have. This is fun to me right now, and I don’t want it to become a chore, so I just do what I have always been doing.


LIFT: Will you always be a Raw (unequipped) powerlifter?

Yes, I like the challenge of knowing that it’s just me and the weight.

LIFT: Have you ever had to overcome any chronic injuries?

Yes, right now I am still nursing a pectoral strain, and my hips and quads are always sore, but I have to get my work in.

LIFT: I’ll assume your favorite lift is the squat. Why do you love the squat so much?

To me squat and bench are the hardest two lifts, because the weight is on top of you. I look at it like, if I go down with it, I am going to give my all to see that I stand up with it.

LIFT: In your mind, what are the common traits of a great squatter? What does it take?

Honestly, I have no idea, because I have seen guys who were different in every way be good at squatting. But if I had to guess it’s just the will not to be beat by the weight. The guys who finds a way when the weight is just too heavy, and still get the set done.

LIFT: What’s the story on Reddit sending your gym a squat bar so you could fit more weights on the bar?

I have the bar, and the first time I maxed out with it we could only fit 885 on the bar, but we got it done.

LIFT: Your goal is to squat 1000 pounds at nationals this year, what comes next?

Breaking the world record of 1,025.

905Lb Squat

905Lb Squat

Ok, lets go over some in-depth squat questions…

LIFT: Do you ever deal with pains, such as knee pains from squatting such massive weights?

No, I have not experienced any knee pain at all (knocks on wood).

LIFT: Do you do any type of assistance work for your squat?

I just make sure I train the other major muscles groups such as abs, and my lower back, because if your core is weak you will bomb on squat.

LIFT: Do you use bands or chains during your training?

No, I would like to, but the gym I workout in does not have those amenities.

LIFT: How do you keep your squat constantly progressing, what do you do when you stall?

As I stated before, master what you can do now, then move on. The way I workout, I never really stall because I don’t progress until I have mastered the weight I am on.



LIFT: What do you feel the best stance is for a squat?

I really don’t have a certain stance. I just pick the weight up and go.

LIFT: What about bar position, have you played around with high bar and low bar?

I have been doing high bar squat since I stepped into the weight room. I don’t know any other way.

LIFT: Toes forward or out? Does it matter?

I have to point my toes out because that’s also how I walk; with my toes pointed out. Toes forward just feels weird to me, because my toes naturally point out.


Thanks Ray for taking the time do to this interview with us, and we wish you good luck on your journey to squatting 1000 pounds, and smashing the world record! We are looking forward to watching you at this years USAPL raw nationals in July!


If that wasn’t enough, and you want some more, check out another recent interview of Ray over at 70’S BIG!


Ray smashed a 905 pound squat at only his second meet in February of this year. It was red lighted since he didn’t wait for the rack command. He wanted to attempt 1000 pounds, but they ran out of plates.

Here he is hitting an easy and deep 860 pound record breaking squat.

And here is his idea of “playing around”. Squatting 855 pounds.

Be sure to subscribe to his youtube channel at:


Meet the Hines Brothers

Jeremy and Jordan Hines are some of the strongest brothers around! With Jeremy boasting a huge 565 pound raw bench, and Jordan totaling 1763 at 250 pounds in competition, they mean business! Learn how they manage to pull all of this off… drug free!

LIFT: Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves. Give us a little background on your accomplishments thus far in your lifting careers. 

Jeremy: I’m 6’3”, 26 years old, and weigh between 270 and 280lbs. I’m a licensed physical therapist assistant with three kids, Jade (6), Dean (4), and Jayce (1). My best gym lifts are a 740lb squat, 540lb paused bench, 565lb touch and go bench, and 780lb deadlift, while in competition my best squat is 738lbs, bench is 507lbs, and deadlift is 727lbs for a meet total of 1973lbs. Competed in the 308’s but weighed 287lbs the day of the meet.


Jordan: I’m 23 years old, right about 6’ tall, and usually weigh somewhere between 220-240lbs. I’m a certified Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator, working the midnight shift. Best gym lifts: 685lb Squat, 460lb paused Bench, 485lb touch and go Bench, 660lb Deadlift. In competition I’ve squatted 661lbs, benched 451lbs, and deadlifted 650lbs for a 1763lb total at 250lbs body weight.

LIFT: How did you originally get started lifting? At what point did you choose to pursue powerlifting?

Jeremy: I started lifting at 11 years old because my older brother Jesse got me into it.



Jordan: I had two older brothers that I looked up to a lot, and a cousin that used to train with us that wasn’t much older than me. I was always the youngest out of everyone that has ever trained with us, so for myself, I always felt like I had something to prove. It was actually nice having the cousin that was about my age, seemed like we were switching back and forth every other week passing each other up on a lift. That helped a lot early on because Jeremy’s always been a good deal stronger than me. So, having someone on my level I could battle it out with on a regular basis really pushed me to surpass a lot of plateaus early in my lifting career.


Both: Powerlifting is just something we were always doing from the start, even without knowing it. We were always fascinated with hitting one rep maxes. To the extent, back when we didn’t know any better we were maxing out every workout regardless of how we felt. Training the bench, deadlift, and squat has always been how we’ve measured our strength. There’s really nothing that’s more satisfying than hitting a PR on one of the big three lifts. Too bad the satisfaction never really lasts because we’ll be back in the gym shortly after, pushing ourselves harder than ever to reach that next 5lb increment.

LIFT: How does training with each other affect your lifting and goals? How important is it to have a good partner?

Both: This is probably one of the most important things. We’ve been training together for the last 11 to 12 years, and being able to see your training partner steadily progress really makes you step up your game. Some people have to go look for motivation, but that’s one thing we’ve always had. You may be feeling like you’re down and out, then you look over and see your brother jacking up PR after PR, and you’re just thinking to yourself, “I better quit fucking around because he’s making me look bad.” But, to us, it’s never been about trying to outdo the other, we both have our highs and lows, it’s about giving each other that extra drive to push through current limitations and continue to make progress. We’ve had a number of people train with us throughout the years, friends and family both, and the majority of them moved on to do other things. So, it’s nice to have that constant out there, that one person that you know will be fighting tooth and nail to make gains no matter what and help push you to the next level of strength.

LIFT: What is your training style, and how does it differ from your brother?

Jeremy: I have two lifting days that are done every five to six days. There’s a bench day that will be done on the first day in the week, and there’s a Squat/Deadlift day that will be done about 2 to 3 days after benching. Then you just repeat after that. For bench there’s two different variations that I do. On my main bench day I’ll do pauses with a wide grip. The rep scheme I follow is 3, 2, 1, 5, 5. An example workout might look something like this: 405×3, 455×2, 500×1, 425x2x5 all paused reps. On my secondary bench day I’ll do close grip benches for 3 sets of 5 reps with the same weight. For assistance, I usually do 5 sets of 10 on barbell curls and 3-5 sets of light barbell shoulder raises.

On our squat and deadlift day we alternate them each workout. We’ll train one of the lifts up to a heavy single, and the other lift we’ll work up to a top set of 5 reps.

Jordan: My routine is pretty much the same as Jeremy’s. But, I don’t use the wide grip. I usually put my ring finger on the ring as I’ve found that going any wider really beats up my chest and front delts a lot quicker.  But I guess I just feel stronger and have better stability with the narrower grip more than anything else.

Generally if we’re training for a meet our routine will be almost identical, if not, it may differ a bit depending on whatever the goal may be.



LIFT: What advice would you give to a beginner lifter who just wants to get bigger and stronger? Would you point them to a strength based routine, or a bodybuilding routine?

Both: To get bigger and stronger they’d need a combination of both. Emphasize powerlifting, but also do basic movements to build muscle size and strength. Learn how your body responds to different training methods, then find the routine that works best for you and stick with it. Really focus on getting enough rest between workouts, keep food intake high, and above all, stay consistent with training.

LIFT: How about an intermediate lifter wanting to become advanced in the field of powerlifting, but has had some slow progress?

Both: Once again, find a powerlifting program that works for them. Emphasize rest and recovery. Cycle each lift and after peaking out, start over with the same program but up the weights a bit to the point when you finish you’ll be topping out with a new PR. If they’re not making progress, they need to think about what it is that’s holding them back. Whether it be, a lack of consistent training, overtraining, or food intake. Any one of these things could be hindering their progress. Find the problem and make the necessary adjustments to fix it.

Jeremy 540Lbs

Jeremy 540Lbs

LIFT: Do you see eye to eye on all things surrounding training?

Both: We’re both on the same page when it comes to lifting. Our preference is raw drug free powerlifting.

LIFT: Why do you choose to be drug free? Will you always be drug free?

Jeremy: I’ll always be drug free. I don’t want to be dependent on drugs for my strength. I don’t even like really taking any supplements other than protein and food. I don’t want to take drugs to compete at a higher level. And, when it comes down to it, I lift for me. I’m not gonna be influenced by anybody to change the way I lift.


Jordan: Yeah, I’ll always stay drug free as well. Being natural I can always harness most of my strength at any given time. Honestly, I can’t stand coming into a workout now and even doing 5lbs less than what I planned. So, having to cycle on and off drugs and trying to deal with the lows people experience with would drive me insane. Also, I like to be able to show people it’s possible to be really strong naturally. Am I going to be stronger than the strongest guy on sauce? Hell no. But, as of right now, I still have plenty of room to grow naturally and that’s what I know how to do best.

LIFT: Tell us about your home gym. What you have there, what you train with, how you get by with what you have. Does it affect your programming at all?

Both: Over the years, we’ve built our training routine around what we have. We think it’s helped us more than anything by using mainly free weights. We don’t waste our time on exercises that don’t do a whole lot, if anything for our powerlifts. It’s about sticking to the basics and that’s always worked best for us. We don’t box squat, bench with boards, or deadlift standing on a couple 45lb plates. Not saying that others haven’t had success with training those lifts that way, but we’ve always stuck to our principles. If we want to bench more, we’re going to train the bench full range and cycle through a training routine, while sticking to the concepts of rest, nutrition, and consistent training. The same goes for the squat and deadlift, train the lift you’re trying to get better at.

We got a decent amount of stuff in our home gym, which we call ‘The Weight Shack.’ There’s well over 1000lbs in plates, a Texas Power Bar, Texas Squat Bar, Texas Deadlift Bar, Westside Barbell Bompetition Bench, power rack, ez bar, preacher curl, dumbbells, smith machine and some chalk.

Jordan 685Lbs

Jordan 685Lbs

LIFT: What kind of dieting do you follow? Do you do any cardio or anything outside of the gym?

Jeremy: Don’t necessarily lift for health, we lift to get stronger. As far as dieting goes, when trying to get bigger and stronger while remaining natural, I eat a lot all of the time. You really have to keep your intake up to maintain and make strength gains consistently.


Jordan: I’m pretty much the same way when I’m training for strength, and especially a meet. Eat anything and everything, all day long. Another thing that I really emphasize myself is staying hydrated. I’ve had problems in the past trying to lift being dehydrated and it usually always results in a poor training session or an injury. So, make sure you’re prepared before you set foot in the gym.

LIFT: What is your favorite lift and why?

Jeremy: I like all three powerlifts equally. They all need to be strong and well balanced.


Jordan: I like the bench the most probably because that was the first lift I ever did. Regardless of that, I still train all three lifts with the same intensity. Any deficiencies can cripple your three lift total in a meet, so everything needs to be strong.

Jeremy 765Lbs

Jeremy 765Lbs

LIFT: Who has influenced you the most throughout your lifting career thus far, and what did you learn from them?

Both: Each other, we learn something new from each other nearly every session. Watching someone with the same kind of desire and dedication has been invaluable throughout the years.  We’ve fed off of each other’s lifting and always seem to improve. The most important things we’ve learned over the years are to keep training basic, make sure to get plenty of recovery and food, and we’ve learned to tweak our training programs in a way that combines all of our experience and knowledge together to achieve maximum gains.

LIFT: What are your goals for the upcoming year?

Jeremy: If I get a chance I’d like to total 2000lbs raw, drug free in a meet. Also, I’d like to deadlift 800lbs raw in training.


Jordan: I have an upcoming meet where I’ll be benching only, I’d like to beat my best meet bench of 451lbs, despite weighing about 25lbs less. Also, this has to be the year I bench 500lbs raw touch and go! And, what the heck, I’m not too far off of a 700lb squat and deadlift so you can throw those in there too.



LIFT: Do you have any thoughts on powerlifting that you’d like to mention? Improvements or changes?

Jeremy: I’m not really going to offer an improvements or changes. I think everybody should find their own preference for training. Satisfy yourself and reach your goals. Don’t be influenced by other peoples training. If you’re content with what you’re doing that’s all that matters.

Check out Jordan’s latest 460Lb bench at 1:33 and Jeremy’s 540Lb bench at 2:17:

Here’s Jeremy working up to a 780Lb deadlift only a few days ago:

Here is their latest meet video where Jeremy totaled 1973Lbs and Jordan totaled 1763Lbs:

Be sure to check out and subscribe to their youtube channel at:

You can also follow Jeremy’s training at: 

Ben Rice Interview

 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.


“Strongest Apple” Strongman Competition

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.

605 LB Squat

605 LB Squat

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.

733 LB Raw Deadlift at WABLD Worlds

733 LB Raw Deadlift at WABLD Worlds

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

Matthew Sohmer Interview

Matt Sohmer recently became the youngest person to ever squat 800 pounds raw, no knee wraps. At the time of this interview he has totaled 1835 without equipment, at only 19 years old. He is one of the greatest squatters of his generation.

LIFT: Matt, can you tell us a little about yourself, give us a little background?

At 4 years old I started playing football. It was playing football where I found my love for lifting. I played up until I was 18 years old. I was starting defensive linemen for my high school football team and I was recruited by several colleges and universities D1-D3. I started at D-line as a freshman in college. In highschool I tore my ACL, PCL, and my meniscus in my left knee. I decided against the surgery and rehabbed the knee all by my self. During one of my games in college I received a late hit that injured my left knee again, ending my football career. After that season I rehabbed my knee yet again by squatting and training my butt off. Still to this day I have no ACL, PCL, or meniscus in my left knee.


LIFT: What is your height, weight, and best lifts?

I am 5’9 and weigh between 265 and 270

My best lifts are

Squat: 800 pounds

Bench: 310 pounds

Deadlift: 738 pounds


LIFT: What first attracted you to Powerlifting?

I always enjoyed lifting for football because I was good at it; I saw a Powerlifting competition near my house back in December 2011. I decided to do it and I broke all of their teenage records at 242 and have loved it ever since.


LIFT: Your deadlift stance seems to be a hot topic, how do you feel this stance benefits you, and do you see yourself changing things up in the future?

I get a lot of comments about my deadlift stance. I think it benefits me quite well because it mirrors my squat stance. With it I am using both my legs and my back which allows me to lift more. The only thing that prevents me from lifting what I’m capable of is my grip, which I am working on to increase my deadlift.

Matt pulling an easy 670 pounds in his signature stance

Matt pulling an easy 670 pounds in his signature stance


LIFT: You train and compete raw with no wraps, at any point in the future are you planning on wearing wraps or any other supportive equipment?

I take great pride in lifting raw. I will never use any supportive gear like squat suits, bench shirts, or deadlift suits. I feel that some geared lifting has become so far fetched these days. However, with the condition of my knees I might use knee wraps when I am much, much older.


LIFT: Who has the most influence on your lifting?

I wouldn’t say just one person as influenced me, I’ve had many people who have supported me and helped me since the beginning.

These people include My Uncle Carl Caleca (Former USA Olympic Weightlifter), Jonathan Bernor, Richard Seibert, Josh Bryant, and Dave Mansfield.


LIFT: What is it that drives you as a lifter and keeps you going?

Myself, I am dedicated and driven to become the best, and I will push myself to the limit to accomplish it.

Some people my age have been powerlifting for years now. I have only been powerlifting/competing for a year. Once I start to really get into the groove of things and fixing my weak points, I don’t think there’s anyone that will catch me.


LIFT: With all your accomplishments so far, what’s your most memorable moment?

Becoming the youngest person in history to squat 800 pounds raw without wraps. It is a great feeling knowing that I have done something no one else has ever done.


LIFT: Every great lifter has goals, what are yours for this upcoming year?

My goal is to squat 865 pounds raw at 19 years old, breaking the Drug-Free & Open w/o knee wraps record. Also, I want to deadlift 800 pounds and total over 2,000 pounds.

Screen Shot 2013-03-05 at 1.40.16 AM

800 LB Squat

LIFT: Many people say that you could become the best squatter in history. What do you think of that?

I am very happy that people actually think that of me. When I first heard it, it gave me this incredible fire which drives me that much more. There were a lot a great squatters before me, like Kirk Karwoski, who is arguably the best squatter ever. It is an amazing feeling to know that one day people think you will achieve this greatness. However, when my career is over, I just don’t want to be known as a “one trick pony”, meaning I don’t just want to be known as a great squatter. I want to be known as a great overall lifter.


LIFT: What meets do you have planned for the future?

I will be competing in Sultans of the Squat on May 2nd (Which is an invite for the worlds top raw squatters), AAU nationals on June 16th, AAU Junior Olympics in July (I will also be doing a Strongman competition while I am there), and the 100% Raw invitational meet in August.

I might do other meets in between or after these dates.


LIFT: Who do you think is your biggest competition right now?

I’d have to say Eric Lilliebridge, he’s in my weight class, and arguably the best Raw lifter right now.


LIFT: Is there anything you would change in powerlifting if you could?

I would like to see all federations come up with a standard, or universal lifting format for records. There’s just too many federations and too many different types of records.


Matt on his local news

LIFT: When its all said and done, what feats of strength are you looking to accomplish in your lifting career?

Squat 1,000 pounds raw, deadlift 1,000 pounds raw, and beat the all time raw total record.

I also want to compete in Strongman competitions. I love pulling trucks and flipping tires and all that good stuff.


I want to thank you Matt, for doing this great interview with us, and congratulations on your incredible 800 pound raw squat. We all look forward to watching you hit bigger numbers as your lifting career pans out.

Before you go, you may want to check out this video of Matt’s latest competition. Including his 800 pound squat.

Jesse Norris Interview

Jesse Norris recently shocked the Powerlifting world when he put up a huge 1850 lb. raw total in the 198 lb. class. In doing so, he broke several all-time world records. He has the highest no-wraps squat in the 198’s and the highest total. Furthermore, Jesse is only 19 years old and set these records in arguably the most strict conditions possible. That is, in the USAPL federation.

LIFT: Welcome Jesse, before we get started, why don’t you give us a short background on yourself?

Well, My name Is Jesse Norris, I’ve grown up in Nampa, Idaho and lived here all my life. I Train at Genesis Fitness. Primarily I’ve always lifted on my own, I started training with coaches and team members. But as time has passed I’ve found that you can only really count on yourself. So by training on my own I get to know my own body, my own limits and how to push myself.


LIFT: How long have you been training, and when did you get started?

I’ve been training consistently for the last 6 years. I started young just lifting things but I actually started in the weight room at 13 years old in my Middle school gym class.


LIFT: In the beginning, who or what inspired you to start training?

Well my older brother always was bigger, and I looked up to that. Trying to match him throughout the years. But what really got me into power lifting was a friend who noticed me in the gym and said I should try it out.


LIFT: How do you keep such strong motivation? What does training mean to you?

Well I guess starting out I always just wanted to look good and be strong. But where I’m now, to keep motivating myself I set goals and when I achieve them I have to look down at it and tell myself I can be better. I won’t stop until I’m the best, even then I’ll keep pushing on. Training is my life and everything I do revolves around it. There is no day off. It’s a great outlet for stress and other daily frustrations which makes me love it more.


LIFT: I hear you are going to be in the “Animal Cage” this year. What is the event, and do you have any predictions on how you will do?

Well I have been invited, and I plan on doing the Deadlift Exhibition. I’ll be competing on March 3rd at 2pm. I plan to hit between a 775lb-800lb deadlift raw.

750lb Deadlift

Jesse’s 3rd Attempt 750lb Deadlift

LIFT: If you could give your followers just one “secret”, or one tip on strength training success, what would it be?

Well I would tell them, don’t pay attention to those above you, and focus on you. Know your limits and set your own goals. From there, just continue to hit personal records and strive to be the best in every aspect of your life.


LIFT: How long did you compete equipped? Do you train equipped anymore or have plans on going back?

I’ve trained equipped for 4 years, on and off of course. But I’m planning to go back eventually and play around with it. But I feel like there is more respect in the RAW aspect of lifting. There is no way around the true strength.


LIFT: Can you give us a quick breakdown of what your training is like?

Well I train every day of the week. Monday is heavy deadlifts, and heavy bench. Tuesday would be front squats and overhead log press. Wednesday normally consists of prowler, tire flips and farmer carries. Thursday would be deadlifts again with an axle bar and off of a 3″ platform, focusing more on technique and speed. Along with this I do normal bench with pause. Friday is conditioning again with prowler, tire and farmers. Saturday is heavy squats and heavy bench. Sunday = conditioning once more.


LIFT: What training routine has given you the best gains?

My current routine, whatever it is I’m doing is working the best for me! Mixing up strength training with strongman. I’ve followed the Shieko program and that worked well for me before.


LIFT: You sometimes train more than once a day, what is the reason for this? How do you program for twice a day training?

If I train more then once a day its simply because I’m bored! The gym is my home and basically I don’t follow any strict program. I go in and do what I feel my body needs work on and lay off muscle groups that are fatigued.


LIFT: Do you feel strongman training aids “The Big Three” powerlifts?

I feel like strongman works your core much more, which is key on these big lifts. And just changing up the norm can really break you out of a plateau. It keeps things interesting and gets you well conditioned if you do right.


LIFT: How do you approach heavy lifts and mentally prepare for a big lift?

I really just get in a gut check moment, “This is what I’ve been training for, so get there and do it”.


LIFT: What is your “mental checklist”, or form queues, going through your head before a 700 lb squat?

My biggest checklist is stay tight and hit your depth. My mind really goes blank and body goes numb before a heavy lift like this so there isn’t much thinking going on.


LIFT: How about the deadlift?

Once gain stay tight, speed off the floor, lockout, and even though it feels heavy don’t give up.


LIFT: You seem well composed, and calm. How amped up do you need to be for lifts like this?

I’m nervous on the inside, but try not to show much of any emotions. I’ve trained, I know what the goal is. Just go out there and hit, I don’t like to get all amped up.


LIFT: I hear rumor you’ve never taken a day off, is this true?

I’ve taken days off before, but here the last couple months, I haven’t been able to do it. Makes me feel guilty or that I’m not doing everything I can be.


LIFT: Tell us about the footwear you use in competition, and why you use it?

I use the VS squat shoes; these have a solid heel, which is elevated making it a little easier to hit depth on the squat. I may wear this on bench or I wear converse which have a flat sole. The lower I can get to the ground on a deadlift the better, which is why I wear the flat shoe.


LIFT: How do you stay lean year around?

I really just keep a consistent diet and training program. A lot of conditioning and eat right.


LIFT: What is your philosophy on diet? How much, and what do you eat on a given day?

Well I don’t track everything like I should. I cook up enough chicken and vegetables to last me about 4-5 meals. My main thing is to just feel content, don’t stuff myself or starve. Then weigh myself daily to kind of keep track of where I’m at. No certain diet or macros I try follow. Get in as much protein as possible, least amount of fats and clean carbs.


LIFT: Are you a fan of supplements?

I think supplements become helpful at a certain point. I like preworkouts because they help to push me through some intense workouts! Then BCAA’s, Glutamine and protein are great for muscle growth and recovery. Those are the main ones for me!


LIFT: Some say you have the potential to be the next Ed Coan (arguably the best powerlifter in history), how do you respond to something like that?

I honestly don’t know how to respond. Those are some big shoes to fill, and if I’m close to that I can’t recognize it. I don’t like to compare myself with others; I just want to be the best me I can be. But I have mad respect for Ed and any lifter out there. I’m just here to do the best I can do.


LIFT: With all that being said, what is it that you do differently from other lifters to stand out?

I believe its all the training. I’ve started young, I’ve been standing solo for awhile doing my thing because nobody really understands why. I don’t go out and party, drink, smoke, there is no excuse. I think that’s going to be the biggest difference which separates me from them.


700lb Squat

Jesse’s 3rd Attempt 700lb Squat

LIFT: What are your future lifting plans and goals both short, and long term?

My biggest goal right now, which I plan to hit in June if possible, would be to hit 10x my bodyweight raw in the 195lb division. After that, I just want to continue to grow.


LIFT: What changes would you like to see in powerlifting? What problems do you see?

Well powerlifting isn’t the most well known sport. I wish it would get a little more recognition because it is hard on the body just like any other professional sport, and it takes some real dedication. That’s all I really have as to any problems and what I would like to see change.


LIFT: Do you have anything else you’d like to add before we wrap it up?

To anyone reading this, I just want to say that you are the one who decides your own limits in life. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and cannot do. Set goals and lay out steps of how you are going to get there. 🙂


Thanks, Jesse for taking the time to talk with us. We wish you the best of luck with 10x bodyweight, totally raw and we look forward to what you have in store for us in the future.

Jesse’s 1850lb total at 198 – 19 years old

Pete Rubish Interview

Pete Rubish is one of the strongest young powerlifters around, and he is without a doubt the most intense. His popularity ignited through youtube and he quickly became known for his massive deadlifts and through the roof intensity. We are proud to introduce to you, Pete Rubish.

LIFT: Can you tell us a little about yourself, give us a little background?

I’m six feet tall, 230 pounds, and have been competing in the 242 pound weight class for powerlifting. My best lifts in competition are a 661 pound squat with no knee wraps, a 352 pound bench press, and a 777 pound deadlift. As far as injuries, I’ve torn just about every muscle in my body and I just accept them as part of the deal when you’re pushing your body so hard. In high school, I tried just about every sport, but didn’t really take to any of them in the way I enjoyed lifting heavy weight and seeing my physique change.

768 Pounds

768 Pounds

LIFT: When did the idea of beginning powerlifting first enter your mind?

I actually did my first competition when I was 17 years old and I didn’t really like it. I took two years off before I began competing again, but I was only doing deadlift only competitions. This year I got back into doing full meets. I’ve done a bodybuilding show and ran marathons, but powerlifting is my favorite thing to compete in now.

LIFT: Have you had to overcome any obstacles with your training? If so, how?

The only real obstacles I’ve had to overcome would be the frequent injuries that are so common in this sport. Every lifter who’s approaching the top of the rankings in his weight class realizes this is just another aspect of the sport that you have to learn to work around. There’s almost never a time where I don’t have something strained/torn, but I find ways to work around it. For instance, I just tore my lat deadlifting, so I plan to do a ton of squatting to maintain my lower body strength and even come back and hit a deadlift PR once I’m healthy again.

LIFT: As a quick example for those who don’t know, what does your normal training look like?

It’s usually just four days a week. I’ll squat on Monday, bench on Tuesday, deadlift on Thursday, and bench again on Friday.

That’s the generic template I follow. Each training session is centered around one of those lifts and involves working up to heavy triples, doubles, or singles. Then, I usually do a ton of assistance work. Skull crushers and db shoulder presses for bench, glute-ham raises, speed deads, barbell rows, and pulldowns for deadlifts, and front squats for squats.

LIFT: I notice you train and compete without a belt frequently. This is not all that common, what are your thoughts on belts? What would your recommendation be regarding belts to the average powerlifter?

I think belts are fine and don’t aid the lifter all that much. You maybe get thirty pounds max out of a belt as opposed to not having one. But I like to train without one early on in my training cycles leading up to meets to build up my core strength. And then I’ll start wearing one about five weeks out from the meet and see my numbers just take-off. It’s as if I’m building that base first, and then incorporating it in to get the max benefit.

661 Lb Squat with no knee wraps

661 Lb Squat with no knee wraps

LIFT: You’re known as one of the most intense lifters around. What goes through your mind before a heavy deadlift or PR attempt?

Honestly, I wouldn’t even be able to repeat some of the things that run through my mind before a big squat or deadlift attempt. It usually involves going to a deep part of my mind that rarely gets tapped into and channeling some very personal thoughts. A great motivator is to think about someone hurting someone you care about and you’ll just want to destroy everything in sight. That’s as much as I’ll say on that one. But I will tell you, anger is the greatest motivator and will allow you to lift the most weight you’re capable of lifting. It’s a very powerful tool.

LIFT: How do you keep your intensity so high, so frequently in training sessions? Any tips for sending intensity through the roof?

I just channel deep, very personal thoughts and think about some of the problems in my everyday life, or people who have talked bad about me, screwed me over, or in general, despise me. That usually does the trick for getting some motivation to be intense. And then I can’t lift without some angry rap or metal. Music is key and I wish meet promoters would place a bigger emphasis on it at meets. Music needs to be played louder at meets and there needs to be a better selection.

LIFT: In the past, it appears you would attempt deadlifting a new one rep max PR almost weekly. What’s your experience on this training style and the overtraining argument?

It’s a bad idea and I wouldn’t recommend it. You’ll just get to a point where you’re spinning your wheels and end up getting very frustrated. It’s best to rotate movements or rep ranges and try to improve that way. Maxes are so tempting to do all the time, and I have to hold back a lot, but maxing every week on the same movement is not an effective way to improve over the long-haul.

LIFT: You’ve made an incredible amount of progress in the last couple years, what do you feel are the key factors to progressing like this?

Start mixing one pound of ground beef and a box of four cheese rice a roni and eating like three of those a day. That will get you stronger first of all. But other than that, just consistency really. Yeah, there are some tough times and days I just want to give up, but consistency is what will deliver the results over time.

Eric Lilliebridge is a great example of this. For roughly two years he was stuck around 800 on deadlift, but this year he hit 850 in training.

LIFT: You recently had a deadlift injury at Pro Gym and sprung back very quickly. How’s rehab going, and how do you go about dealing with these kinds of injuries?

That injury is completely healed up, but my lat just recently was the latest thing to go. You just have to train around the injuries. If you can’t deadlift, that means you’re just going to have to squat more. If you strain a pec, that just means you’re going to have to do more overhead pressing and skull crushers.


LIFT: In another interview you referenced eating cleaner. Have you seen benefits from the new diet switch? If so, what benefits?

Based on my experiences, once you diet off the fat, it’s much easier to keep it off when you go back to eating the way you were in the past (aka – not clean). I dieted down to 220 eating super strict, but am now eating much more caloric and unhealthy foods and my weight is back around 230, but I’m still very lean. Strength will drop off on super strict diets, but once you start eating normal again after the diet, strength will go through the roof and you’ll put on so much quality mass. That’s the biggest thing I’ve noticed. I’m just blowing up in size in the last two weeks to an extent I’ve never experienced before.

LIFT: What feats of strength are you looking to accomplish in the next couple years?

I just really want to focus on a huge meet coming up in September in Louisville, Kentucky. It’s an invite only, with big cash payouts. I think the field is only sixteen or so competitors. I’m looking to go 755 on squat, 440 on bench, and 830 on deadlift at that meet. My short-term goal right now is to squat 700 with no wraps by the end of February.

LIFT: What powerlifter do you feel has influenced you the most?

The entire Lilliebridge family has been a big reason for my powerlifting success. Not only are these guys some of the strongest in the world, they are literally the nicest, most helpful people you will ever meet. It doesn’t matter who you are, they’ll help anyone who needs it at meets, in training, in dealing with injuries, advice, etc. They’ve always been there for me whenever I needed it and for that I can’t thank them enough. They are truly class acts and some of the strongest lifters in the world.

Besides them, I would say Dan Green is who I look up to most. This is a guy who does twenty-five pound water cuts for weigh-ins, which is incredibly draining and difficult. So for that alone, I respect him immensely. But then you look at the numbers he’s hitting in the 220 class and it’s downright scary. 800+ pound squats, 500+ pound benches, and 850+ deadlifts. And on top of all that, he’s absolutely shredded. He has a bodybuilder type physique.

One last guy I have to talk about is Brandon Lilly. I met him out at the Sacramento Meet and he stole the show out of all the guys who were brought in. I like what he’s doing for the sport and the way he’s marketing it to the general public. He’s making a push towards seeing more raw lifting and leaner lifters and that’s the same trend I’m trying to bring forth.

LIFT: What are your most memorable lifting moments thus far?

My 800 pound deadlift in training has to be one of my favorite lifting moments, but my trip out to Sacramento to compete at Supertraining Gym has to be the pinnacle for me. To be invited to compete with such an elite list of lifters and to perform as well as I did, it will always be one of my favorite memories. I met so many great people, had a great time out there, and would love to do it again. Hopefully, it will be repeated in 2013. I would love to get the chance to go back.

LIFT: Where do see yourself with lifting in a few years?

I see myself competing in the 242 pound class, absolutely shredded, with the look of a bodybuilder, and a 2200 total. And I plan to market this sport hard to be more appealing to the general public and start getting some recognition.

Pete Rubish 815x2

815 Lbs, 2nd rep.

LIFT: Do you have any meets planned for the upcoming year?

I have the SPF Pro AM in Oswego, Illinois planned for March 16. UPA Nationals is sometime in late April. I have that huge Louisville Meet in September, and then hopefully I’ll be back out in Sacramento in November competing at Supertraining Gym.

LIFT: What would you like to see change in powerlifting, and what do you feel needs to be done to move forward?

I just really want to see leaner, more aesthetically appealing physiques for the sake of changing the public’s perception. That alone would be a huge step, but I also feel we have to get away from geared lifting as people can’t relate to that. People want to know how much you bench without having to ask if you were wearing a double or singly ply bench shirt.


Pete Rubish 1763 LB Total – Backyard Meet of the Century Super Training Gym


Pete’s Youtube Channel:

Pete’s Facebook Page:

Chris Hickson Interview

LIFT: Can you tell us a little about yourself, give us a little background? (Injuries, issues you have overcome, etc)

I come from an athletic background, growing up I was constantly doing something with sports. I started working out with weights as early as 8 or 9 years old, and faintly remember doing 500 decline situps a day for a period of time while being in 3rd grade.

During my elementary years is where I developed much of the discipline I have today that I use with weight training and powerlifting. As I got older I began seeing strongman competitions on t.v. more often and it always caught my eye as something I could do. I began training and competed in my first strongman contest when I was a freshman in high school. I got extremely big for that and eventually reached my peak weight of 290+ lbs following my sophomore year. I then decided to dial back my strength endeavors and pursue basketball more seriously for my last two years of high school. The endurance training aspect of basketball made me very small, and I ended up graduating high school at around 180lbs at nearly 6’3.

After high school I took up powerlifting seriously, and made very good gains. With in the year following high school I gained nearly 100-200lbs on major powerlifts. Since then I have been making slower gains and dealing with occasional injuries. I have had both my pecs torn, and deformed, so that can really hinder my bench training, and I have tore/pulled either hamstring 5 times. To overcome this I simply rehab it and put it in the back of my head. Thinking too much when performing heavy lifts following a hamstring tear can be an obstacle to get over but eventually I am able to overcome this each time.


LIFT: What are your other hobbies or interests?

I still enjoy basketball a lot. Try not to play too much as it really does not help with strength and is extremely catabolic.


LIFT: What made you decide to pursue powerlifting?

I’ve always trained around powerlifters and I like the weight class aspect of the sport. Also Being strong is very fun 🙂


LIFT: What does your training look like?

My training is constantly changing depending on when I have a meet coming or what is my current goal or purpose for training. I usually squat or deadlift heavy every Saturday with the Pro gym powerlifitng team, and that stays pretty consistent throughout the year.


LIFT: Are you planning to focus your training around deadlifts?

Yes and no. When I train my squat It only helps my deadlift really so i may not be getting as many deadlift days in when I gotta have heavy squat days too, but they really go hand and hand.


LIFT: What assistance exercises do you feel have the most carry over to deadlifts?

Depending of course where a persons weakness is, I think RDL’s, deficit pulls, and squats for reps to be great deadlift assistance exercises. I have done others as well such as seated rows, pullups and ham curls, but the first three seem to have the greatest effect.


LIFT: Do you do any other forms of exercise outside of the gym?

I do sled drags at home pretty often, I feel these are great for injury prevention and mobility. The more often the better really. Right now the cold kinda makes it suck though (Illinois winter).


LIFT: How do feel having a training partner(s) affects your lifting?

Having solid training partners only helps really, training at Pro gym with the Lilliebridges (Eric, Ernie Jr., Ernie Sr.) is a great environment, and now having Pete Rubish and George Leeman there more often. Hard not to get stronger with some of the best powerlifters in the country all going to the same gym.


LIFT: What is your mindset before approaching a new personal record?

I prefer to be hyped up as much as possible and be as confident as possible. I tell myself to make the lift look as easy as I can.


LIFT: What is your diet like?

My diet is really healthy. I don’t eat much junk food at all and have a slow enough metabolism that just eating more healthy carbs can put weight on me I don’t really need to go to crazy. Usually the week or two before a meet I will eat anything I want though and gain 10-20lbs.


LIFT: Do you feel there is a powerlifter that has influenced you and your training the most?

No I never have tried imitating anyone in any aspect of training. I understand that everyone is different, what works for one may not work at all for another.


LIFT: What are your most memorable moments thus far?

Getting an 800 deadlift in a meet was a great moment. The meet was kinda last minute, and I didn’t train for it, and went in and pulled 800 with some lbs in the tank too.


LIFT: What drives you as a lifter?

Making progress and being better than yesterday whether leaner or stronger or faster. Just my desire of getting better and being better in someway always drives me.


LIFT: What are your goals for the upcoming year?

My goals for the year are to squat over 750lbs and deadlift over 850lbs. My next meet will most likely be March 16th at Progym in Oswego IL.


LIFT: Is there anything you would like to see change in powerlifting?

The emphasis on being huge to the point of not taking care of yourself, or personal health is something I would like to seen change a little. I would like to see more leaner, and healthier powerlifters.


Chris Hickson’s 800lb Deadlift at 238lb 18y/o:

Chris’ Youtube Channel:

Chris’ Website:

Chris’ Facebook Fanpage:

Brandon Lilly Interview

LIFT: Can you introduce your self and tell us a little bit about you?

I am the creator of the Cube Method, and currently train at Berea Barbell in Berea, KY. I have trained at some of the world’s best powerlifting gyms including Westside Barbell, Lexen Xtreme, and Guerrilla Squad Barbell. As of this publishing I hold the number one ranking in both the 308, and Super Heavy Weight Raw, with Knee Wraps, divisions with 2105 lbs. (308), and 2204 lbs. (SHW, which is also tied for 16th All-Time regardless of weight class). i also hold the number six ranking with 2530 lbs. amongst Multi-Ply Lifters.

I love to read, I am extremely interested in history, and I love biographies. I don’t watch very much TV, but I do admit if it’s on I am hooked to the Food Network. I like cooking, and finding good restaurants in places you wouldn’t expect. I like most sports, and I love Micro-Brewed beer.

I am 6’0 tall, and I weigh anywhere from 305-325 lbs. Currently 305.

My best lifts raw are 826 lbs. in the squat, 573 lbs. in the bench, and 804 lbs. in the deadlift. Best Multi-Ply Lifts are 1005 lbs. squat, 820 lbs. bench.

Surprisingly my background in athletics began with basketball, and soccer earning honors on the Soccer pitch, it was my quest for a scholarship that lead me to the weight room, beginning my strength journey. After high school I took my talents to Berea College in Berea, KY and was a successful Track and Field athlete in both the Shot Put, and the Hammer. Coached by Hall of Fame Mike Johnson, I was further encouraged to pursue weight training, which is how I discovered powerlifting. I started doing well in the gym and lost interest in anything else but that. The rest is history.

Since creating the Cube Method and watching it evolve with my own training, my teammates, and my trainees, I have dedicated myself to making others better.


LIFT: What makes the cube method different from other training methods?

I have been training the Cube for the last year. It allowed me to hit my greatest total in gear at 2530 lbs., and then in a 6 month window I totaled 2105, then 2138, and most recently 2204 raw with knee wraps. The great thing about the Cube is it is a building template. The only pressure to hit a PR in the squat, bench, or deadlift falls on the platform. So for your entire cycle you are trying to hit PR’s for reps, on odd exercises, just anything that shows progress, and that is what prepares you for meet day. It’s the idea of building the perfect weapon then shooting it.


LIFT: Your e-book on the cube method will be released soon. When and where will individuals be able to purchase it?

My e-book will be available Dec. 11th, 2012. It will be available for purchase through


LIFT: What made you make the switch from geared to raw lifting?

It wasn’t so much of a switch as it was that I had stopped training how I used to, and started doing “bodybuilding” type training to fix some weaknesses. I tried some squats and deadlifts raw and it shocked me how weak I had gotten. I decided right then I needed to do better and what better motivation than a meet? I set a goal and ran with it.


LIFT: What accessory movements do you feel have had the most carry over to the main lifts?

  • Squat- The squat, nothing else builds it up like squatting.
  • Bench- I love floor presses they help me a lot.
  • Dead- I firmly believe in Snatch Grip Deadlifts. Since adding these my deadlift has gone from 725 to 804 raw.


LIFT: What are your most memorable lifting moments thus far?

To date it has to be doing the XPC Semi-Final Raw, and The Supertraining meet Raw back to back weekends and PR’ing in both.


LIFT: What powerlifter do you feel has influenced you the most?

From an icon type approach, Bill Kazmaier, Doug Young, and Chuck Vogelpohl. Those guys are my heroes. I trained with Chuck and he never became anything less, it only furthered him as a legend in my mind.


LIFT: What feat of strength are you looking to accomplish (in the future)?

I want to be well rounded. I want people to respect that I love all aspects of strength, and I want to compete in strongman again, the Highland games, and a dream of mine is to do a weightlifting competition.


LIFT: What lift are you most proud of?

Definitely the 804 deadlift. I was told by many I would never get that one… Well, I did.


LIFT: What qualities do you feel make a top lifter?

It’s nothing tangible, it is something inside, a self-respect/self-hatred that pushes you onward. Also an undying devotion to it. I have been lifting for nearly 15 years, and sometimes wrongfully I have put powerlifting as a priority. Just be consistent with your workouts, and never miss.


LIFT: What would you like to see change in powerlifting?

I want strength to be the focus again. Not trying to gain more pounds on your total by gaining weight, and getting tighter gear. Get stronger and the lifts will go up as well. I love this sport and want it to grow.


LIFT: Do you have any meets planned for the upcoming year?

I will do 2-3 meets. I haven’t made solid plans thus far but The Arnold is first up and I’m qualified for it so I will most likely be there.


Brandon’s Super Training Meet November 3, 2012

Brandon’s Youtube:

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