A Legend Visits

Rippetoe has a new project he is working on. Years ago, he had his own radio show here in Wichita Falls. I haven’t gotten him to pull out the tapes yet, but I’m sure they are interesting, or at least amusing as hell. Rip has done quite a few audio interviews over the past few years, and you probably have noticed that he drives the topic of discussion. This gave him a pretty good idea: why doesn’t Rip become the interviewer and produce some legitimately interesting interviews for all of you to see?

The project has already started, and these interviews are professionally done in a studio in downtown Wichita Falls. Shane Hamman has already been interviewed. Other big names include John Welbourn, Jim Wendler, and Charles Staley. All of these should be awesome interviews. Welbourn is a hilarious guy but I haven’t actually met Shane, Wendler, or Charles although I constantly hear good things about them from Rip. I know these interviews will be better than anything you have seen before, because A) I have spent hours and hours talking to Rip — his mind is always working and there is never a dull moment, and B) the only interviews you have seen are crappy sportscaster interviews on TV. The good news is that Rip despises these interviews, and is going way the hell outta the way to ensure his interview has nothing to do with that slop.

I left one interviewee off of the list: legendary weightlifter and coach Tommy Suggs who happens to be visiting right now. Suggs was one of the most dominant Olympic weightlifters in the sixties, a member of the original York Barbell Club, editor for Strength and Health, the head strength coach for the NFL’s Houston Oilers, an outstanding Olympic weightlifting coach, and an all around nice guy. Bill Starr paraphrased someone in an old article about Suggs saying, “I never met a man who didn’t like Tommy Suggs.”

He and his wife got to the gym today while I was training the Olympic lifts (the Texas State Meet is Saturday), and within a few minutes Suggs was at my platform ready to talk shop about lifting. At 72 years old he is energetic with broad, muscular shoulders. His thinning gray hair is pulled back into a ponytail, and he excitedly leans forward as he talks about weightlifting. I swear it seems like this is his first time getting to talk about technique, and after 50+ years you’d think he was used to it.

I’ll never forget the first snatch I did when Suggs was watching me, because I didn’t finish my pull and missed the damned thing. A few minutes later, I hit it cleanly. Later I tied my PR with a very nice technical lift, and he eagerly rushed forward, shaking his hands, smiling as he told me what went right. The guy is a joy to be around.

I moved onto clean and jerk, the whole time talking with him about different technique cues. He gave me one in particular that seemed to magically make me rock the hell out of the jerk. Learning from Suggs in this short amount of time is an experience I won’t forget, and his weightlifting knowledge is unmatched. He placed an emphasis on being strong as possible to be a good weightlifter and preached a vertical bar path, especially off of the floor. Being coached by him is one of the most enjoyable experiences in my very short weightlifting career. American coaches in our country can learn a lot from him.

Tommy Suggs coaches me on this 155 kg clean and jerk

Tommy Suggs coaches me on this 155 kg clean and jerk

I feel like I can’t really type anything that will do the man any justice. Just trust me when I say he is one cool dude.

25 thoughts on “A Legend Visits

  1. In the pic, what is that platform made out of? It””s time for me to put something down in my garage…

    I am on a very basic plywood platform that has been stained. The others in the background are a bit more complicated.


  2. Where will we be able to hear the interviews once they are released? Can””t wait for those!

    Don’t worry friend, they will be released all over the place. They will not be horded in one spot.


  3. Sorry to beat a dead horse. Yesterday we discussed lifting shoes. My only concern is with regards to the heels. A 1/2″ heel produces and angle between the shin bone and the foot (incorrect terminology…I””m an engineer not a physiologist). This angle is increased as a shoe gets smaller. So, a 1/2″ rise in a size 12 is much less pronounced than a 1/2″ rise in a size 6. Namely 2x as much. Perhaps it is so minimal as to be trivial. But it does keep me up at night. Secondly, just this morning there was an article on the joint strain associated with heeled shoes worn during walking and running (http://news.yahoo.com/s/livescience/20100112/sc_livescience/studyrunningshoescouldcausejointstrain). I could envision this pertaining to lifting as well. Perhaps even more so due to the exaggerated forces involved, and the axial nature of the loading. Please any comments. And finally my question, do they make lifting shoes with no elevated heel? Thanks for the advice to a newer lifter trying to absord alot in a very short time.

    1. It is still an inch off the floor. You are concerned with the slope of that angle I guess? I do not know if the difference between a size 14 foot and a size 10 foot is all that significant.

    2. Heel striking when running is bad. If a person runs down the street, they will not be doing it on their heels.

    3. Powerlifting shoes are made without heals. I do not know exactly where, but I would first check Inzer or EliteFTS.


  4. rhudyal:

    An American men”s size 12 shoe is roughly only 3 inches larger than the foot of a men”s size 6 (source: http://shoes.about.com/od/fitcomfort/a/men_inches.htm).

    At a 1/2″ heel height, a size 12 foot will be angled about an additional 0.5 degrees off the ground vs. a size 6. I wouldn”t let it keep you up at night.

    Regarding your Yahoo! article: re-read the post. Read Mark”s books, and keep in mind that walking and running are NOT lifting weights before making your mind about about the shoes.

  5. wow, sounds like a great experience, justin. love to hear about someone so accomplished in their field still being so passionate and enthusiastic after all those years..

  6. Those interviews sound awesome. Maybe you can pass on this unsolicited request to Rip. I would love to hear an interview with Bud Charniga. I think it would be enlightening to hear about how he became involved with translating/publishing the Russian texts, and how he applies that to the guys he trains.

    I’m not so sure that Bud would be interested, but that it isn’t my place to explain why.


  7. That”s a great story about Tommy Suggs.

    Justin, might I also mention that you write really well. Keep it up man, and thanks again for sharing all the great information and stories.

  8. @Rhudyal

    I am a firm believer in running barefoot or as close to it as possible. I have tried lifting barefoot before and prefer it to chucks. However, after lifting in proper lifting shoes, I can say that they feel much, much better (even though they were a full size to big).

    Yeah, Chris, but you are a triathlete, not a lifter. Gotta be fair.


  9. Thats awesome you get to train with such amazing coaches. Suggs sounds like a great guy, you can tell he””s excited just by the way hes leaning forward in the pic.

    He was at the gym again today. I will probably tell about it tomorrow.


  10. I think ill switch over to madcows, it seems as if after i do a slight deload and work back up to my actual work sets weights, i end up adding 10-15 lbs to that workset throughout a week and then, cant add anymore weight, which ends up in deloading again. Ive done this 4 times already and this is pissing me off. Not enough recovery is hindering progress. Any ideas?

    Wait, how much do you weigh? I thought you did not weigh that much…?


  11. rhudyal

    The reason why running in heeled shoes and lifting in heeled shoes is different is that running exerts forces on the foot, while lifting exerts none.

    In lifting, the foot is not moving meaning that no forces are acting directly upon it, only going through it which creates a large amount of pressure going through the foot, but F=MA or dp/dt and the momentum of the foot is never changing as it is staying in one place.

    Compare this to running where the foot is constantly moving, often times at high velocities, and then when it hits the ground it is quickly changing its direction, this creates a large change in momentum over a short change in time meaning that a large force had to act on the body to create this change. Lifting forces are being passed through the feet creating much pressure there, but the feet are not moving so thus the dangers associated with running in heeled shoes do not exist when lifting with them.

    Saying that no force is exerted on the foot while lifting is a mistake. I am growing tired of this discussion. Take it to e-mail if you guys really want to keep talking about it.

    If you choose to lift barefoot, you are not smart. I’m sorry I’m not sorry.


  12. Justin,

    Iam 6””1”””” and about 170 lbs. My weight has gone up since i last bothered you for advice. The weight feels as if its too heavy for my back to hold(165 lbs) since i have to do a bit of a GM to get it up the last couple inches. Today, my worksets at 165 wete: set1:4,set2:5, set3:3. All my other lifts seem to be progressing well except for squat. Im thinking of modifying the program so that i will squat heavy on monday, 10% lighter on wednesday and then add 5 lbs to mondays weight to give myself more time to recover. What is your opinion on this?

    Sounds like I have already given you my opinion via e-mail. But switching programs to do the madcow is you consciously giving up instead of doing the fucking program.


  13. WFAC has all the resources. If I only had a reason to go to Texas….

    Hey Justin quick question…when you squat, it looks like you are looking pretty much straight down…are you looking straight down or are you looking at a spot about 6 feet in front of you on the floor?

    Does where one looks on the floor vary with anthropometry?

    Just thinking about it.

    I am not looking straight down. I am looking a few feet in front of me. Anthropometry will not have much of an angular effect to change eye gaze, but different people use slightly different eye gazes. Look where we or the book tell you to until you are strong.


  14. it seems like you guys need to buy SS. A lot of yall””s questions are in the book. Its only like 25 or 30 bucks. Everyone on this site should buy it.

    just sayin

    I second this. It is getting really fucking old.


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