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
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
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
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
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
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
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...