Thanks for doing this interview, Jeremy! Please introduce yourself.
I was born March 16, 1983 in Mayfield, Ohio, which is about a half hour east of Cleveland.
I graduated with Bachelor of Science in Physical Education from Bowling Green State University in 2006. I was undecided at first, but I knew at a young age that I wanted to get into the Strength and Conditioning field. I learned that several collegiate strength coaches have an undergrad or graduate degree in physical education, so I decided to take that route. I have always used weight training as a means to get better in my sports and was introduced to strength training at a very young age.
What are your best lifts?
733 squat, 524 bench press, and 782lbs. deadlift. All performed in the USAPL/IPF and at 218lbs.
Most of us are lifters with day jobs. Your day job is being a strength coach. Can you tell us about it?
I am currently teaching and coaching at Carroll High School in Ft. Wayne, IN. I teach six strength and conditioning classes during the school day and am also the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for all sports programs. I usually coach a team before school and 2-3 teams after school everyday and sometimes on Saturday as well. After working a 10 to 11 hour day in the weight room with the athletes at my school, I do not get a chance to train until 8 or 9pm. Luckily my training partners have a similar schedule as me, so it works out for all of us.
Being in a training environment sounds really interesting to lots of us. What do you like and dislike about being a strength coach?
I love the kids and watching them grow and get stronger. So many athletes are doing so much better in their sports because of the work they are putting in from the weight room. It is very rewarding to be a part of their lives and watching them succeed. Also, helping other coaches understand the importance of what their athletes are doing with me in the weight room makes for some successful programs at my high school.
The only aspect I dislike is watching some of the wasted talent come in and out of my doors. It is very hard to build relationships as a strength coach because I donít have my own team. Since I work with athletes in large groups (up to 80 +) at a time, itís hard to build relationships and trust with the students. Some kids get it right away and love it; others need persuasion and lots of motivation to really get the point [of training] across.
Besides the late workouts, does your position as a strength coach affect your powerlifting at all?
I always want to be the best at everything I do. And it is very hard to balance serious coaching with serious training. I try to find the balance between both and do what I can. I just want to give my kids I coach the best opportunity to succeed everyday, but also give myself the best opportunity to succeed everyday as well. I just try to find the best balance and leave the excuses at the door. I never miss a workout, but I also do not end my coaching early to get my workout in. It makes for a very long day, but in the end it is all worth it.
Are the kids impressed that their coach is a high-level competitive powerlifter?
It depends on the individual. It definitely adds credibility to my position and I do use some of my experiences to help them out in certain situations. When I was growing up I was heavily involved in wrestling and saw that all the best Coaches (Dan Gable, John Smith, Bobby Douglas, ectÖ) were all Olympic Gold Medalists, World Champions, or at the very least had attained a high level of experience in the sport before they became coaches. I think it is really hard to train somebody to a certain level of excellence when that coach has never experienced it themselves. Some of my best coaches in my past and present were the ones that I could look up to because they could relate to what it takes to get to a championship level.
Now Iíd like to transition over into more about your lifting career. How long have you been competing? Can you tell us what titles youíve won or records you hold?
Iíve been competing since I was 18 years old, so 8 years now, but have been training with weights since as far back as I can remember. Iíve always competed in the USAPL/IPF because that is what I was introduced into and what I believe in. I have won a Teen National Title, 4 Consecutive Collegiate/Jr. National Championships, and a Menís Open in 2008. I have a few Teenage and Collegiate National Records still standing, but am still most proud of my 710 deadlift I did at age 19 and at 214lbs. Vince Anello made a big impact on my idea of what a strong deadlift was. I talked with him many times about training and getting mentally ready to deadlift before I pulled that weight.
The next biggest highlight was my 782lbs. Gold Medal deadlift at the 2008 IPF Open World Championships at 218lbs. Even though I just missed placing top 3, it was an awesome feeling to pull that weight and to win a Gold Medal for the deadlift at the IPF Worldís.
In our past discussions, youíve told me a little about your training. Would you care to share with everyone how youíve been training lately?
I was introduced to a Westside Template when I was younger (much like you started off with) because that was what the guys at my gym were using and I had no idea there was any other way to train. I believe it set up an awesome foundation with all the assistance exercises and general training format. I simply followed their speed and max effort work week in and week out with my own modifications as I grew into the sport more and more.
While I used their system year-round, Sherman Ledford of Quest Nutrition introduced me to some basic progressive routines to help me master the equipment demands of powerlifting. I had a lot of great raw strength, but did not get a high enough carry over into equipment as some of my competitors did. Sherman set up me with some basic programs the last 5-6 weeks before a meet with equipment work and it really helped.
From college in 2006 I moved to Indiana for my strength coach job and met Gabe Daniels and Big Ugly Barbell. My lifts were going up slowly from meet to meet before I moved out to Indiana. Gabe introduced heavy strong man training into my powerlifting and it really helped my bench and deadlift dramatically. Over head log pressing and a heavier speed day on my bench finally put me into 524lbs on the bench with the same equipment and in the same weight class. Gabe had me do a lot of heavy sled rows in his back yard, until I throw up or pass out, and farmerís walks (up to 350 in each hand for trips). We also started really hammering heavier box squats and general back work each day we trained. That type of work to get me out of my comfort zone was the missing link in my deadlift and I was able to make some awesome gains from that. Some people swear by deadlifting all the time to increase their deadlift, while some like to use a lot of assistance exercises to build around the deadlift, I have found success in using both methods through out the year.
Right now I am experimenting with more of a Russian and Norwegian squat routine that I got from talking to different coaches on the IPF world scene. It deals with heavy, light, and medium squatting 3 times per week. My squat is what is holding me back right now from really placing at the World Championships.
How are you modifying this training to fit your current needs as an athlete?
My schedule is crazy with my strength coach position as I often spend up to 10-11 hours daily and a few extra hours on the weekend working with athletes from all sports in our schools weight room. I just continue to bit the bullet and train as hard and as smart as I can. Iíve got great training partners that will show up late at night to workout with me, or I travel a little bit to workout with them. Some people think Iím crazy with the schedule I have, but I love working with athletes and watching them succeed in the weight room and watch them succeed more in their sport because of their work. I believe that I have not reached my limit yet and I should not be coaching anybody if I donít continue to reach my own goals and strive to become better myself!
Your most recent major contest was the 2009 World Games in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan. What did you think of that contest?
You and I both agreed that it was the greatest spectacle a powerlifter will ever experience, unless some how the sport gets into the actual Olympics. Even veteran lifters such as Brad Gillingham, Wade Hooper, and David Ricks, agree that it is the best meet that they have ever been to in all of powerlifting. You always hear different things about different events in powerlifting, but man, were the World Games awesome! It is the first time that I as a powerlifter actually felt like a real athlete and was treated like one. I wish more powerlifters could actually get to see what an amazing event it is and how important it is.
From the moment we stepped off the plane, we had people helping us and making us feel like we were elite athletes. Words are hard to describe the whole scene of not just the powerlifting, but the whole World Games in general. It was an honor to not only represent my country, but the sport of powerlifting as well.
What would you say to a novice lifter or to a lifter whoís just starting out in powerlifting?
The best piece of advice is to find a good group of guys to train with. I have had so much help from some of the best lifters and strength coaches in the world and they have all done it for free. Most great lifters are easy to talk to and as long as you show dedication, most are willing to take the time to answer e-mails, talk to, and even train with. Just put your ego aside and ask, ask, ask. I spend more time talking to other lifters about their training than I do about my own training to this day.
Do you have a favorite out of the three or is it all 3 lifts?
Deadlift. I am biased because it is my best lift, but I also think it is the only lift left in powerlifting that canít really be affected by too much equipment and really shows a lifters true strength.
What are the challenges of rising through the powerlifting ranks?
Finding out where you actually stand. It is so hard to see where you stand with all the variables that are out there in powerlifting. I think each person truly knows deep down how strong they really are and I donít make any excuses for my choices.
How driven would people say you are about being a powerlifter? How does it affect you outside of the gym?
I think people would say that I am driven to getting stronger and trying to better myself each day that I train. I do not see the point of training just to train. I have to try and get better each and every time I step into the weight room. If I donít, I stay until I make some improvement on something. I love powerlifting, strongman, Olympic weightlifting, highland games, elite level athletics, just about anything that involves the pursuit of bettering oneself. As far as outside of the gym, I think each day is a challenge and I welcome it as much as I do the iron.
You have already mentioned your training partners. Can you tell us about them?
They are some of the best in the world. Gabe Daniels has been a real blessing since I moved to Indiana in 2006. Before that I have had too many over the years to list them, but they know who they are as I have always cherished our training and always made sure they understood how much I appreciated their help.
What drives you as a lifter?
The pursuit of strength and practicing what I preach. There is no greater feeling than having a great workout with the iron. Strength truly reveals itself through character. Each and every day of my life I am in front of young athletes preaching about hard work, dedication, and what it really takes to succeed. I have to practice what I preach, period! I donít want to let them down when I go to a National or World meet, I always want to come back and tell them why I succeeded a little more each time, so they can some how take something from it to help them succeed in what it is they are doing or getting ready to do.
I think the other aspect is just my principals that I hold dear in every day life. Everyday is a challenge and you have to meet it and sometimes you actually go above it. Itís a great feeling to accomplish things on a daily/weekly/monthly/yearly basis.
Was your training any different prior to your last meet? What was different? Did it help or hurt?
My training was going awesome before the World Games in Taiwan this past year. I didnít do anything different except focus on my nutrition and recovery and man, did it pay off during training! I had talked to a few of my foreign competitors that beat me at the World Championships in Canada in November. Some of the Ukrainians and others talked about how important their nutrition and recovery methods were prior to meets. So I decided to focus on areas that I never gave as much attention to as I did the actual training. I just had blinders for about 3 months straight and for the first time my weight was actually above 220, and all my lifts were up. Getting more sleep, and setting myself up on an eating/nutritional schedule really made a difference. I didnít do anything fancy, but just gave more attention to areas I normally didnít. I also started adding in smaller workouts to bring up lagging muscle groups to just keep me focused throughout the training.
Speaking of nutrition, what is your nutrition like now?
Any and everything. I am finally getting my weight above my weight class. I just try to be smart about my daily intake of everything and really pack on the proper calories when I am training heavy. My body feels really good when I am training hard and getting enough quality calories in.
What is your view on training in equipment and learning how to use it?
Iím one of those lifters who doesnít like equipment because I canít get that much out of it as compared to others. It is part of the game and just another barrier that I will need to break through better if I really want to make the awards stand at the world championships someday.
If you were Emperor of Powerlifting, what would you change? How would Powerlifting look to you in 5 years?
In the words of William Wallace, ďUnite the ClansĒÖand we all know how that worked out for himÖ
I would make it like it used to back in the day with Kaz, Coan, Vince Anello, Don Reinhoudt, John Kuc, and Pat Casey just to name a few. I know you could find some argument with that era of powerlifting, but I absolutely love hearing or reading about how those guys trained. I think what they did was amazing and they are definitely stronger than most of the powerlifters today.
Thatís a pretty impressive list of lifters. Who is your favorite powerlifter(s)?
Some of the first lifters like I stated earlier. But if I had to pick one, it would be Dave Ricks. The guy is 50 years old, has 5 IPF World Championships, and just keeps going. I have trained with Dave, spoken many hours on the phone with him, and had the pleasure of competing with him recently on the world scene. Dave is freakishly strong raw. Iíve seen him put his squat suit on in 2 minutes, wrap his own knees, and go out and squat 744 at 181lbs. at 48 years old. Iíve also seen him bench in the upper 400ís raw for sets and reps, and he continuously pulls in the low to mid 700ís with a just singlet. His first competition was right around the time I was born (1983) and the man is still winning in todayís sport and setting records. Guys like Dave, Brad Gillingham, and Wade Hooper are an inspiration still to me as they keep competing and winning. Those are true powerlifters in my opinion. I hope to have their drive, determination, and still winning when I get to be their age.
Whatís the thing youíve learned in the last year that has had the biggest impact on your Powerlifting?
Hard work and new definitions of it. I have used the same equipment and weighed right around the same since 2006, but keep getting stronger. When I really dial in my training, sleep, nutrition, and all the odds and ends, I know that I can place at the world championships someday.
What changes are you going to have to make to go to the next level?
Really dialing in the new gear and getting my squat up. I was in second to last place at last yearís IPF Worldís after the squat and fought all the way back to finish fourth. If I can bring up to the upper 700ís, I know I will be a solid lifter on the world scene.
How far do you think you can go in this sport?
As far as I want to go. There is no better way to fight weakness than with strength.
Jeremy, thanks very much for doing this interview! Do you have anything else youíd like to say?
I would just like to thank Louie Simmons, Dave Tate, and Jim Wendler for all their years of free information. I have binders full of information that they gave out free.
To all of the more experienced powerlifters, like Vince Anello, thanks for taking the time to speak with me about their training and what it took for them to get onto that level of powerlifting. Also, thanks to anybody else who just took the time to influence a young lifter and talk about their journey in the strength game.