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TRAVIS ORTMEYER
An Interview
by Mike Westerling for Marunde-muscle.com

Travis Ortmeyer is one unbelievable strongman. Ranked 12th in the world by IFSA as of November 28th 2005, he places ahead of such greats as Tomi Lotta and former "Worlds Strongest Man" Magnus Samuelsson as well as a host of other incredibly powerful athletes. To the strongman community he’s known as one bad ass stone lifter. Possibly the greatest in the USA if not the world, Travis has beaten nearly every top competitor in world in his first year as a professional! He even whooped up on Magnus Samuelsen, formerly known as "The King of Stones". Magnus didn’t have a chance… Travis leaves no doubt in anyone’s mind that he is the new man to beat when it comes to lifting freakishly massive stones. But what’s really scary is that he’s also good at everything else, and getting better all the time…

Q. First of all, I'd like to say thank you for wiping the tacky off your fingers long enough to type your response to this interview. I’m really excited to pick you brain about your training.
What were some of the lifts you did your first couple days in the gym? Whre you the type of guy who loaded the 300 lber just to move it out of the way so you could check out the girls or were you the kid that dropped 95 lbs on your face and busted your nose the first time you tried benching?

A. I think I'm more the kid who dropped the 95 lbs. on his face. I started messing around with weightlifting when I was 12 and my first "bench" setup was an old rug on the floor of a fish cleaning room on the side of my garage. I used a broomstick with taped handles as a bar and those little 5 lb. plastic weights. I saved up $55 (yes, I remember the exact price) to buy my first real weight bench; a Vitamaster 700.

Q. What was your max stone load the first time you tried them? A. I had to do stones in my first contest. The weights were 220-300 and we had to put them onto barrels. My time was somewhere around 30 seconds for all 5. I dropped the 1st stone twice and the 2nd one once before I could figure them out. It was by far my favorite event so I stuck with them and never looked back.

Q. How long have you been training? Did you start off just lifting to get bigger and stronger and kind of fall into strongman or was it always in the back of your mind?

A. I haven't missed more than a week since I was 13. I started lifting because I just wanted to. I was always fascinated by weights and by guys with huge muscles; Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno, and my next door neighbor when I was 7. He was a bodybuilder and I probably drove him crazy with questions. I kind of fell into Strongman right before my 21st birthday. My training partner, Marshall White, was going to do a contest and I was going to watch. I decided to call the promoter (Chad Smith) the night before and he let me in. I placed 5th and the only event I had ever done was the tire flip. From then on I have been obsessed.

Q. How did your training evolve over the years? Did you start off with the typical "I wanna bench a lot and have big arms" mentality or did you start out on a more well rounded approach?

A. My upper body was always well-rounded but I didn't do legs until my senior year of high school. Deadlifting was actually the first thing even close to lower body training that I ever did.

Q. Who was the most influential coach/mentor to you in the early days and what was it about them/their philosophy that gained your respect and trust enough to follow their lead?

A. I always trained myself and created my own philosophies in my early years, and for the most part I still do. My father was often there to spot me in the beginning and he has been my training partner for the last 6 years or so. When I started to really train events I met Jim Glassman and then my training took off. He had all this crazy stuff to work with: bands, chains, etc. It was all totally new to me and it worked extremely well for my training. I still incorporate what he taught me into my training today.

Q. Who are some other people that have influenced your training style over the years? What kind of advice did they give you that stuck with you?

A. My father was the first one to give me the most basic advice that all beginners have to learn. "You can't work out every day." Not many people think about that side of training when they first start out. Other than that there are just too many people who have influenced my training. I always keep my ears open and I try to learn new training styles all the time. I guess Jon Nicholosi (trained with Jim and myself) influenced me by always trying to keep me sane on my workouts.

Q. Jim Glassman told me when you first started training with him the workouts were a bit much but after a while you became a monster on them. Could you elaborate a little about what was so different about Jim's workouts than the way you were training at the time and how much influence they have had on your training since?

A. My training has never been the same since I trained with Jim. He's right, the bands really kicked my ass the first few times I did them but now I think they are absolutely essential. I just did a modified powerlifting routine that I made up and I trained way too much. He had me train twice a week in the gym and one day on events. I gained 40 lbs. training with Jim.

Q. I've been reading your log and I noticed you typically do 2 gym days with an events day on the weekend although even that pattern is hard to describe as fixed. What is your basic weekly training template (assuming ideal conditions)?

A. Right now, the only thing that is fixed in my training schedule is the Saturday event training. I have started to do a lot of blood work type workouts and I think this really helps me heal after doing a heavy workout the night before.

Q. How often do you try and schedule each event? Let's assume no injuries and no contest is coming up soon or you don't know the events yet. Is there a certain "core group" of events you always train or do you try and rotate every last event in?

A. I'll usually do between 3 and 5 events each Saturday. I try to do one walking event (farmer's, yoke), one endurance event (medley, truck pull), and I'll rotate stones out once a month. I go b y how I feel for the rest of the events.

Q. How often do you try and hit each core event (again assuming no injuries and not knowing what's coming up)?

A. I'll rotate them every week. I really try to focus on my weak areas the most when I don't have a contest coming up. I still train my weak areas before a contest because the events are always subject to change.

Q. In today's day and age overtraining is a hotly debated topic. Most "trainers" are always talking about overtraining like it's the devil himself. However, you once posted that training stones again before the arms were fully healed (both skin and muscles) from the last stone session would build them up quicker. Please explain.....

A. Sometimes you just need to give yourself a nice kick in the ass and shock the hell out of your body. You can't do this all the time but it does make you stronger; both mentally and physically. I love how people hear a new term and they think it's the biggest deal in the world. Overtraining has become the Devil incarnate like you said, but it's just a fitness fad. True athletes will see the relevance of this type of training and they will hopefully learn how to employ it properly.

Q. How do you normally warm up for events? Svend Karlsen once told me of a "ritual" he goes through with the olympic bar doing 7 reps each of a hand full of different exercises. Do you have a similar warm-up routine or just do what the mood strikes you?

A. I usually walk for a few minutes then I go into some stretching. After that I will warm up with whatever exercise I have planned for that day. If I am doing events then I will do a few shuttle runs to loosen up.

Q. When training stones do you have different formats you follow such as "high and light" one week "low and heavy" the next or do you just load a series or play it by ear?

A. With stones I just go by how I feel. Usually I feel like doing a heavy 6 stone series (up to 460) but sometimes I just do the 5 stones up to 400. Every now and then I go for a new height record with the heavy stones or I try to load my 520.

Q. What would you recommend to someone who is good at loading but has problems holding on to the stone to get it lapped?

A. Lose your head. Seriously, most people can't do stones because they have already been beaten by the time they walk up to them. They have a will of their own and they will mind-f*ck you if given the chance. After you get over that just dig your hands in as far as you can, squeeze with your chest, and hook your hands to the stone. If it starts to slip don't give up; keep lifting it until it is totally out of your hands. Sometimes you can still get it into your lap if it is slipping. HAVE CONFIDENCE!!

Q. I think you've made it clear on several occasions that the secret to getting good at stones is doing them. However, do you have any tips on how to get them moving if someone is stuck at say 520 lapped? What are some strategies you will employ with the stones (and weights) to load that beast of a stone?

A. My strategy is simple; I just have to get stronger.
I'll keep lifting stones the way I currently am and my training won't vary that much either. I might start doing some more front squats but other than that I will just have to keep having nightmares about failing on it until I finally get it through my head that it is time for that SOB to go onto the platform.

Thanks again for taking the time and doing this interview. All of us at the Marunde-Muscle discussion foru, appreciate it and will be watching as your career in strongman continues to unfold.
-Mike


Travis locking out a 290lb log for reps in Hawaii 2004


Travis crushes the last stone in Hawaii 2004. One motion from ground to box with a 365 stone...

 

 
 

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