Throwback Thursday

Hope everyone’s week is going well. There’s a wealth of information that’s been posted here on the site in past years, so I thought it might be good to highlight some of the finer articles from the past. Some of these posts are very informative, while others are both humorous and informative. Here’s a video that falls into the latter category from a few years ago, Gant shows us how to properly load your bowl at a Mongolian BBQ restaurant.


Mike Interviews Pro Strongman Andrew Palmer



Mike: Tell us a bit about yourself.

Andrew: I am a 6’5”, 375 lb., 33 year old Software Engineer.  I was born and raised in Burbank, OH but I live in Seattle, WA now.  I also spent a few years in Dayton, OH and Louisville, KY.  As of now though I consider Seattle home and can’t imagine leaving.

Mike: Have you always been into strength sports?

Andrew: Sort of. I grew up watching World’s Strongest Man all the time as a kid and I loved lifting weights in high school but I never had any interest in competing or following it seriously until years later.  It took me getting tremendously out of shape after working 18 months of 60 hour weeks at a job in Louisville to get me off of my ass (literally) and into the gym with the goal of competing in my first strongman contest.

Mike: How long have you been a Pro and how did you get into strongman?

Andrew: As I said above I was really out of shape and just decided to pick a sport I thought my body would be OK at and start training.  I got my pro card almost exactly 2 years after starting to lift weights again, and 18 months after my first contest. I worked insanely hard those first two years doing tremendous, and arguably stupid, amounts of work.

Mike: What kind of training split/program do you use for training? What are some of your PR’s?

Andrew: My training split will vary a lot depending on my goals at the time.  If I am aiming to bring up my deadlift or press I may do only 3 days a week with a fairly standard powerlifting split.  If I am trying to fix a strongman specific implement I will restructure toward that.  I try not to talk about PR’s, they only matter in contest and always vary between training and contest.  I will say this though, the last year every single number of mine has continuously either risen or gotten faster and I plan for that to continue for a long time.

Mike: Where do you train? Do you train alone, with a steady group of people?

Andrew: I train at Seattle Strength and Power, Todd Christensen’s gym in downtown Seattle, WA. I don’t have specific training partners on a daily basis but I am always getting help, spots, advice, or knowledge from Todd C, Pete Marcoff (who taught me every event, especially stones), or the other ladies and gentleman who train there.

Mike: What is your diet like?  

Andrew: Big. I try to eat healthy most meals but I start to lose weight eating 6 large healthy meals so I tend to mix in some serious food that most people would be horrified by. Think a quart of ice cream with a cup of peanut butter on top of it.  I like to take healthy meals and just add tons of PB and call it a day.  I tend to eat tons of ground beef and chicken breast, along with some pile of tasty veggies and maybe some cheese and a tortilla or some rice for most of my meals.

Mike: What has been your favorite moment as a competitive strongman?

Andrew: California’s Strongest Man June of 2009.  The stone load.  No one else had even come close to finishing the 300-470 stone series.  When I loaded it (fairly easily) the crowd lost its mind.  The contest was in a beer garden so the crowd was especially loud.  All contests should have alcohol being served to the crowd.

Mike: What are your goals in the sport? 

Andrew: To get better, to win, and to get as much attention to the sport as I can.  Other than those goals I don’t see any reason to compete.  I also make it a point to have fun, which can be tough when you are beating the hell out of yourself day on day for years.  Thankfully, it is fun to get really, really good at something.  More people should try it.

Mike: You’ve mentioned a desire to compete in powerlifting, when are you planning on doing a competition? Any other strength sport aspirations?

Andrew: I have plans to do my first powerlifting meet within the next year.  I expect I will be moving around some big numbers with the way things have been progressing, but I will let my numbers do the talking once I actually compete.  I also did my first Highland Games contest this summer.  They asked me to compete in B class and I won all but one event and set several A class field records in the process.  I loved it and I will be doing more of these schedule permitting, but strongman still comes first to me.

Mike: If you could give any advice to anyone wanting to turn strongman from a hobby into a lifestyle, what would you tell them?

Andrew: Don’t.  Keep it a hobby.  Right now the odds of a person making a living doing strongman is effectively zero.  Get an education.  Get a career that pays well.  Work hard at it.  Strongman is still a hobby for me, one I love and put many hours and dollars into, but it is still a hobby.  Someday that may change but for now it stands.  The amount of work I put into maintaining my career, my strongman training, and my social life would astound most people, but it is also what has gotten me this far.  And seriously, don’t ditch the social life to live in the gym people.  Make friends, date, have fun.  It will blow your mind how much that stuff can help your training even if it does cut into it a bit.

Mike: Rumor has it you beat Robert Oberst by a fraction of a second on the Yoke at America’s Strongest Man due to the length of your beard. Fact or fiction?

Andrew: Fiction.  We actually tied with the exact same time in the yoke.  That is the second time this year that we have had the exact same yoke time down to the hundredth of a second.  However, in both cases, the crowd unanimously agreed that my beard was prettier, manlier, longer, and made his beard feel like it had just turned 13 and still not gotten its first chest hair.  I’ve heard it from reliable sources that his beard was rather embarrassed after mine showed up and proved itself the best beard in strongman.

Mike: Anything else you would like to mention?

Andrew: Keep your eyes open all over the web and in magazines for me in the new Car2Go ad campaign.  I’ve been spotted all over North America and the ad is pretty rad!



Myke goes to Calyfornya

Between September 8-22 I spent some time in California just hanging out, eating, and lifting with a bunch of different people. Most of the time I lift by myself in my garage, so I wanted to wisely use my time off between the military and the next chapter of my life to do something cool. It was definitely an awesome experience, and since I divided the majority of my time between Sacramento and Monterey, I’ll make this a two part write-up.

On September 8, Ben “the biggest arms in weightlifting” Claridad picked me up from the airport, and we went for some all you can eat sushi. Things were off to a good start. If you have never checked out Ben’s blog, you might not know that Ben is the coach of Midtown Barbell’s weightlifting team, as well as an accomplished weightlifter in his own right (he recently went 140/177 at the Caffeine & Kilos invitational). It should be pointed out at this point that Ben and I had never met, and only knew each other through Justin and 70’s Big. Ben was kind enough to let me stay with him at his house, despite not knowing if I was in fact a serial killer, as Brent Kim says. Good dude.

Anyway, Monday morning came along and we went to Ben’s normal coffee spot, and headed to the gym. Monday I primarily worked on learning to power jerk out of the rack, and Ben adjusted my push press grip. One of the main reasons I went to California, aside from wanting to just hang out and eat, was to work on my overhead lifting. I wanted to make a transition from push pressing my axle, to power jerking, because strongman doesn’t really care how the weight gets over your head. It was a productive effort, and after about 30 minutes I knew what I needed to work on in the future.

The cool thing about Midtown is that it’s divided between the weightlifting/strength and conditioning side, and Mark Bell’s SuperTraining. Even though Tuesday is not when I normally deadlift, I decided that I would hop in with them and pull against bands. The atmosphere when all of them are lifting is pretty intense; I have never been in a gym with that much energy before. There were a ton of people crammed into a relatively small area, and as soon as one person left the bar, the next guy was up. Once I saw how they were making jumps with the weight I decided to pull 445×5 against the bands. And since I’ve only been pulling with a hook grip for a while, and it wasn’t holding up, I opted to use straps. Having never pulled against bands it was somewhat challenging, but since my lockout has always been weak on the deadlift, it’s definitely something I’ll consider using in the future.

Wednesday I decided I would high bar squat in the morning and front squat in the evening. In the morning I HBBS 420 5×3 and came in that evening to work up to a heavy single on the front squat. At first I felt a bit tired warming up, but once I got going I felt better. I definitely see why weightlifters benefit from multiple sessions per day. My previous PR was 405, so after some consideration Ben and I decided on 407. Well, the first rep felt really good, so I did a double. I’m not going to complain.

Thursday is Bench night at SuperTraining, so of course I jumped in again. Again, the atmosphere was incredible. I spotted Mark Bell on a 505×2 double that he absolutely destroyed. I actually laughed because I had never seen weight like that move so damn fast. It was my SlingShot week anyway, so I stuck with the plan (sort of) and threw that on. I ended up benching against chains, which took some getting used to. But after a few feeler sets I was good. I’m not sure that I’ll invest in chains anytime soon, as I’m weak off my chest, and my lockout is fairly decent. However, I do see the point of using them for someone with a weak lockout. After all that I worked up to a 365 paused double (another PR) and called it a day.

Friday the goal was for Ben to teach me to clean, and he did that in about 25 minutes. The dude is a hell of a coach, especially if he can teach me. Believe it or not for as long as I’ve been training, I never learned to clean. Back when Justin coached me in 2010 I had a biceps injury that prevented me from learning to clean. But in a short amount of time Ben was able to get me squared away.

Saturday was my final day in Sacramento, and again I jumped in with the SuperTraining guys, this time to squat. After watching Chris Ramos (he weighs 209) obliterate a 645 squat, I said “OK, I’m going to try wrapping my knees”. I worked up to 470×2 with the Mastadon bar (which is extremely thick), and then saw that 505 was loaded on the Iron Wolfe squat bar in the monolift. If you have never seen an Iron Wolfe bar it’s 65lbs, 8.5ft long, 35mm, and has incredibly aggressive knurling. I won’t lie, I was a bit intimidated. Nevertheless, I said “I’ll do 5” unracked the bar and didn’t think twice. Using a monolift was again, a different experience, and I can definitely see why people like it. That bar is intense and would definitely take some practice to get used to that. The set of 5 was relatively easy though, and I decided that at some point I’ll probably experiment with wrapping my knees.

Sorry if that was a bit lengthy, but thanks for reading! Check out part 2 next week.


PR Friday – 20 Sept

PR Friday! This week was relatively quiet, but we did have an excellent article from Gina Melnik that was posted, check it out if you missed it.

Some updates on the crew:

Brent and AC were hanging and training together recently:

Chris posted some training footage coming back from his low back injury

Mike’s been hanging out in Cali with Tsypkin, here he exhibits good spotting technique

Justin should have some new articles up in the coming week. In the meantime, check in with the community here in the comments, and post your PR’s


On Pumping Iron and Making Babies

Today’s post is a reader submission from Gina Melnik. You may remember an article from last year where Gina wrote about her strongwoman group, N.E.W.S. Since then, Gina recently had a baby girl, and had a lot of people ask her about training while pregnant. Today she graciously shares her experience and what she learned along the way. Be sure to check out the video at the bottom, where she absolutely crushes her first competition as a mother! 

On Pumping Iron and Making Babies

Contrary to what some would say, you don’t necessarily have to stop lifting weights just because you’re pregnant. If your body is accustomed to it and you’ve already got an established strength training routine, you should be able to continue lifting with some modifications.  First, talk to your midwife or OB and get informed about any guidelines they have for you or limitations applicable to your particular situation.  Then, assuming you’re cleared, go for it!  There’s lots of research showing that exercise is good for pregnant women and their babies.

preggo front double bi

Since I frequently get asked about it, I’d like to share what kinds of modifications I made during my pregnancy.  However, neither me nor anyone else is going to be able to give you precise information about how heavy is too heavy.  It seems reasonable to assume that the appropriate weight is going to depend in part on how much you were lifting before you got pregnant.  But don’t hold your breath for specific guidance based on your current strength level.  (For example, not to lift beyond ___% of your 1RM.)  This kind of research has never been done so you have to listen to your body and use common sense.

With that said, while I was pregnant I:

1.) Tried to avoid getting out of breath.  When you’re pregnant even modest exercise can sometimes make your heart rate shoot up and you get winded much faster.  The rule of thumb that I was given was to not wind myself so much that I couldn’t talk.  I liked this rule because I found it a pretty easy way to check myself.

2.) Took the weight down and focused on doing more reps instead.  Even though my body was used to low rep sets, I knew pregnancy was not the time for that kind of lifting.  However, on some exercises, squats and deadlifts for example, I chose to keep the reps more in a middle range simply because my heart rate could sometimes climb pretty quickly.  On those exercises I generally stopped around 8 reps and just did more sets.

3.) Stopped a set if I got too tired and allowed my form to start to break.  There were  times when I know I could have finished the set or even done a little more but once my form started to slip I saw that as a sign I needed a break.

4.) doing the valsalva maneuver (i.e. holding your breath and creating intra-abdominal pressure when you are about to lift something.)  I was actually told to avoid holding my breath at all.  If I felt like a weight was going to feel awkward to lift without holding my breath then I reduced the weight.

5.) Reminded myself that my center of gravity and balance were going to keep changing – especially as my body got bigger.  I didn’t do exercises that required more balance and coordination than I was comfortable with.  If my balance felt “off” then I went on to something different.

6.) Avoided exercises where I would have to lie flat on my back.  From the 2nd trimester on, it’s generally recommended that you avoid doing this and it was an easy guideline to follow.

7.) Kept up with ab work during most of my pregnancy, e.g. hanging leg raises, side bends, planks).  (Hidden bonus: the amusement of guilting the rest of the gym into not skipping their ab work after watching you do it while pregnant.)

8.) Reminded myself that relaxin, a pregnancy hormone that makes joints more mobile, put me at greater risk of a musculoskeletal injury.  Relaxin levels peak in the 2nd and 3rd trimester but it actually starts rising even fairly early on in the 1st trimester. There’s not a lot to do about this other than keep it in mind and remember to reel yourself in when needed.

9.) Avoided fast, explosive movements and most cardio other than walking.  Why?  Mainly because my body didn’t love it and I…

10.) Listened to my body!!!  And I hope you will do the same.  You really are the ONE person that knows exactly what does or doesn’t feel okay.


preggo squat

17 days before her child was born

A few final thoughts:

Hopefully listening to your body is something you’ve already learned how to do.  (For example, when you need to deload, back off your bad shoulder, or warmup longer.)  If you have learned the skill of “listening to your body,” now is the time to use it.  If you haven’t, consider this practice.  Honing this skill will serve your lifting long past this pregnancy.

Try to get to the gym consistently.  If you are really too exhausted then obviously take the rest and don’t beat yourself up about it.  But if you mostly just don’t feel like it, try to get there anyhow and do what you can, however modest it may be.  As far as I can tell, no one really feels like working out when they are pregnant.

Lastly, consistency can be aided by having a goal for the future.  Even if your goal seems a little bold, if it gets you out of bed and to the gym that’s all that matters.  Don’t be afraid to dream about your comeback.

Video below of the goal that kept me motivated.  I had no idea whether competing so soon after my daughter’s birth would be doable but … turns out it was. :)


Before beginning any exercise program, always discuss the program with your physician and follow your physician’s advice.  This information is not intended to replace a physician’s independent judgment about the appropriateness or risks of engaging in an exercise program. 

Gina Melnik is a psychologist, an ISSA certified personal trainer, co-founder of the New England Women of Strength (N.E.W.S.), and… a new mom.