• Interview with Blaine Sumner

      Hi Blaine! Thanks for doing this interview with me. Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
      Thanks for the opportunity, Mike! My name is Blaine Sumner and I originally hail from the mountains of Conifer, CO. I currently reside in Gillette, WY where I work as a Petroleum Engineer for an Oil and Gas Exploration company (Devon Energy). I played football, wrestling, and lacrosse since I was very young and started lifting weights in high school for football. I was a tall, skinny kid as a freshman – 6’0” 145 lbs. I really enjoyed the lifting for football and the results you could get from hard work, so my senior year I wanted to prepare for college football by getting bigger and stronger. I ended up graduating high school at 6’2” 250 lbs. When looking for somebody to help get me stronger, I found Rocky Mountain Lifting Club in Aurora, CO. The gym is owned and ran by Dan and Jen Gaudreau. It was here I really learned about proper lifting technique, nutrition, rest, and recovery. Dan and Jen are still my powerlifting support crew with my parents. I then attended the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, CO where I played football and graduated with my Bachelor’s in Petroleum Engineering. I began work on my Master’s in Engineering and Technology Management. Now I spend most of my time working, lifting, and fishing.

      Blaine, thanks for doing this interview! You’ve been on quite the competitive hot streak lately with some big wins. For those who don’t know what you’ve been up to, can you give us the highlights from your recent contests?
      The last two contests I competed in was the IPF Raw World Cup on June 17th in Stockholm followed by the USAPL Men’s Nationals (Geared) the next weekend on June 24th. I won the Raw World Cup going 827/474/705. I also won the Men’s Nationals going 1,003/689/705 and taking home the Best Lifter award. Both contests I was SHW (264+ lbs).

      Congrats! That’s some pretty awesome work. Which achievement has meant the most to you?
      Winning the Raw Worlds has by far been my favorite achievement. Being on top of the podium with the flag behind me and National Anthem playing gave me gooses bumps like I’ve never had in my life.

      No doubt! Few people get to experience something like that. Congratulations again! Looking forward, which contests are you planning on doing?
      My next contest is the USAPL Raw Nationals in Killeen, TX on August 5th, then the IPF World Championship (Geared) on November 4th.
      [Note to reader: Blaine injured his quad training for Raw Nationals and wisely decided to withdraw from the contest so he could focus his efforts on the World Championships in November. If he is able to win that contest, he will have won both raw and equipped world championships in the same year]

      A while back we heard a lot about your pro football prospects. Now I have to ask… what ever happened with the NFL?
      It is a long story but I will try to tell you the condensed version. I had NFL scouts visiting me my senior year and playing in the NFL had always been a dream. I spent 8 months focusing solely on preparing my body and mind for the NFL. I did the Pro Day’s and set the NFL Testing Record for bench press by pressing 225 lbs. 52 times (55 but 3 were taken away) and also the KEI Explosive Index. I also had agility and jumping results that were off the charts for my size and position. I had one of the biggest agent’s in the business and things were looking very good. It was the year of the lockout and that made things tough for a D2 football player. The draft experts and draft websites had me going as high as the 5th round. Before communication was cut off with teams I had a verbal agreement with the Eagles but contracts could not be signed. When signing time came around, the Eagles had backed out but the Redskins came calling. We had agreed to terms and I was set to be there for training camp but they had backed out at the last minute and told me their roster was full. I had measurables and interviews that were superb but I did not have great football technique. This was something I never developed playing D2 ball where I could get away with just strength. With the shortened off season training camps, and no rookie mini camps, the teams thought that with such little time I would not be able to learn the NFL technique as quickly as someone who played D1 ball. UFL/CFL/AFL opportunities rolled in but I had a disgust for professional football politics and realized I was happier to begin my career and start powerlifting full time.

      Do you have any plans on making another run at playing in the NFL?
      I do not have any plans on making another run. I have abused my body enough playing college ball and reading stories on permanent brain damage these ex-NFL players are experiencing; I am content with this.

      Switching gears for a minute… Let’s talk about your training. What kind of training plan do you follow? Particularly, tell us how you built that incredible squat strength!
      My first training program came from Dan Gaudreau and I would consider it Linear Periodization. I used this program for a long time and had great gains. I began doing my own programming and writing and really enjoyed that side of training. I still use his as a base, but also pulled something from RTS. I will write my program for the next meet and look at how many weeks I have (recently it has been an average of 3 weeks/meet so it was mostly just maintain). Depending on how far out I am – I use a variety of rep ranges. If I am more than 8 weeks out, I will do high reps (8) and work my way down as a meet approaches. The big difference in what I started doing (pulled from RTS), instead of using your current 1 rep max for an entire 16 week period, it changed every week. For each set, I would guess how many reps I had in the tank and project a 1 rep max. For example, if I squatted 800 X 3 and thought I had 2 more, I would use my max formula and predict 800 X 5. I would average all my sets and each week use this new “predicted max” as my basis for the % I was using. So as the weeks progressed and I would be getting stronger, the weights would increase rather than be based on a max from months ago. I have been working with Josh Bryant lately on my bench and he has helped a lot. I was weak off the chest so he has had me doing more pause work and dead benches. The deadlift is challenging for me and always a work in progress!

      So you obviously have no trouble competing raw and equipped. You seamlessly switched between the two of them, even to the point of winning IPF gold in the inaugural Classic World Cup in Stockholm one weekend to winning USAPL Men’s Nationals with single ply equipment the following weekend. How do you stay so good at both disciplines at the same time?
      Good question. It is because when I first started lifting for football – and all through college. I would lift heavy all the time, and a lot extra outside of our required workouts. I never took breaks or just tried to “maintain” during the season – I was always trying to get stronger. And during football gear was never used in training. Because of this, I never learned how to peak for a meet so I feel that any day of the year, I could walk into the gym and hit about the same numbers raw; I always feel ready to go. The gear also compliments raw nicely and could be considered overload. Every time in training that I use gear, I always work up to about 85% of my raw max before putting on any gear. And when I take the gear off I work back down raw. So in my training I’m always going heavy in both disciplines.

      Your approach to squatting is really aggressive. While I tend to coach a more controlled approach, your method is obviously extremely effective for you. What does the aggression do for you and what are you thinking about as you approach the squat bar?
      The squat has always reminded me of football – coiling up in the stance, then exploding out aggressively. And when I played football, I would be very aggressive, hyped up, and thrive on adrenaline. I get the same way for squats. I actually don’t think about ANYTHING. No cues – nothing. Sometimes they can even throw me off. I just like to get fired up, slap my legs to desensitize them, hit the bar on my back to desensitize the weight, walk back fast, come down and explode up. It sounds simple but I spent a lot of time analyzing my form and focusing more on form when I was coming up in the sport so now I don’t have to think about anything.

      Do you have training partners? Do they squat aggressively as well?
      Gillette, WY is actually a great place to be a powerlifter. There are a lot of guys who train the powerlifts and just train to be strong rather than look pretty so there is good support. I have 3 consistent training partners: Derek Lang, Bill Collins, and Brian Ferguson. Derek competed at Men’s Nationals and will be a bad man to compete with in the future in the 105 kg class. Bill is a Master’s lifter who has an IPF Master’s gold to his name. Derek is an aggressive squatter in his approach and Bill is a little more focused.

      Do your training partners do all the same training that you do or is there individualization?
      They are all coal miners so it makes training tough. They work the strangest schedules and I cannot keep up with it. We try to hit the same lifts on the same days as each other but it doesn’t always work out but we are always there to help spot on heavy days. Bill is old fashioned and used to train very simple and hard with no deload and it is what the other guys came to know. Since I moved here I’ve taught them about deloading, backing off, training smart, and programming and it has helped them a lot.

      What is one thing you learned or re-learned at a recent contest?
      Absolutely learned that you HAVE to train your squats deep. It is a must. I always trained my raw squats deep but found a new meaning of “breaking parallel” in Sweden. And I know you found this new meaning too. But in the suit I had always been right around parallel, figuring meet day it will just fall in place. But then you get into the warm up room and start wondering – are these deep enough! I think it is crucial to bury your training squats so you are able to go into the meet with full confidence.

      What’s something about you that people should know?
      I like to tell people I grew up without TV until just before I moved away for college. My parents thought it was better for my brother and I to be outside playing or competing and do more productive things when we were at home.

      What kind of achievements are you looking to accomplish in Powerlifting? What are some of your goals?
      I would like to win a few more raw world championships, and a few geared world championships – ideally in the same year multiple times. The IPF World Championships are in Denver in 2014 and I really want to win that in my hometown. I’d like to put the Squat and Total World Records out of reach like Siders did. I will always lift weights but I know I can’t do it forever. Injuries happen and I don’t want to be this big forever. But right now I can’t sacrifice losing any bodyweight because it would mean strength loss.

      Do you think you’ll ever try a strongman competition?
      I would definitely like to and it might be something I could get into after powerlifting. I think my athletic background would be an advantage – maybe enough to make up for a poor deadlift! I doubt I would try one during my powerlifting career for risk of an injury.

      Who were some of your role models in sports in general or Powerlifting in particular?
      That is a funny question – I had people I respected and admired but I didn’t have idols because I wanted to be my own person. But I always enjoyed watching Dan & Jen train and learning from them. And my dad was my training partner through high school all the way until last year and a great role model. I have enjoyed watching Gillingham and how he has become stronger even as he ages and his pull is ridiculous. Also great to see someone so strong at his age and totally clean.

      Blaine, thanks for hanging out and chatting with me for a bit. Is there anything I missed or anything you’d like to say before we go?
      I am eternally grateful to Dan & Jen for bringing me up in the sport and instilling all the right principles in me. My parents have been the two most supportive people in the world and couldn’t have done it without them. I have also been incredibly fortunate to get help from Pete & Derek at Titan. They are by far the best gear company in the world and know more things about equipment than anyone out there. Dan from Con-Cret has also been a huge help and is very honest and puts out some great supplements. I also really enjoyed talking and competing with you in Sweden! You are a legend in this sport from your achievements and RTS and it was awesome seeing people from around the world flock to you like a celebrity in Stockholm. You have an incredible deadlift and I look forward to watching you progress!