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JIM GLASSMAN INTERVIEW
by Mike Westerling

 
 
 

This month we interview 325lbs of pro strongman veteran Jim Glassman. I first saw Jim on TV when he tore his pec at the World's Strongest Man Super Series (WSMSS) on Venice beach. Huge, bald, with a goatee and a huge log on his shoulders he was the image most of us envision when we hear the words “strongman”. Unfortunately Jim had to withdraw due to the injury but he had definitely left an impression! After that I started reading all of Jim’s posts and realized he had a lot of valuable info. Travis Ortmayer, elite proffessional and an amazing strongman, credits Jim with showing him the ropes. Since you can’t get a much better endorsement than that I thought I’d pick his brain a bit for the benefit of the members at the Marunde-Muscle Forum

Q. Could you tell us a little about yourself:

A. I’m married to my wife of ten years Heather; we have a 19mo daughter Hayden. I have a degree in Economics from The Ohio State University. I currently am the VP of a consulting firm that specializes in Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing.

Height: 6’3”

Age: 30

Weight: Currently 325, been as high 345 (which is what I was in Tulsa this year) and that was too big.

Years training: 14

Years doing Strongman: Since ’98, but I took 3 years off for work so 6 years of competitive strongman

Competitive record:

1998 Central USA Strongman Challenge – 2nd place
1998 Strongest Man Alive – 13th place
1999 NASS Metroplex Strongest Man – 1st place
1999 Great Lakes Strongman (national qualifier) – 2nd place
1999 AFSA USA Championships – 3rd place
2003 NASS TX State strongman – 1st place
2003 Central USA Strongman Challenge – 1st place (tie), lost
count back
2004 Extreme strongman showdown, Boston – 3rd place
2004 Show-Me Pro-Am Strongman Challenge – 2nd place am, 9th overall
2004 California Strongest Man – 1st place (won pro card)
2004 IFSA Czech Invitational - 7th place
2005 Met-Rx Fit Expo – 5th place
2005 Worlds Strongest Team – 5th place
2005 WSM Super Series, Venice Beach – Ruptured pec and had to withdraw
2006 World Strongman Challenge Tulsa, OK – 12th place
2006 Utah’s Strongest Man – 7th place
2006 ASC National Championships 12th place


Q. How you got involved with strongman:

A. I saw a listing for the Central USA in Powerlifting USA. I had been doing some power lifting after I finished playing football and had always seen strongman on TV. I called the promoter, Chad Coy, to ask him if I should bother showing up or if I would get my ass handed to me. I remember him saying it would be the most fun I’d ever had, even if I did get my butt kicked and that if I came and did not have fun he’d refund my entry fee. I took 2nd place and had a blast. I lost to Doug Ahr who at the time was 6’7” and well over 400lbs. Also, this was the first time I’d met Dione and Willie. They were there to cheer on Pat Rankin. This was long before they had any involvement in NASS; in fact NASS was not really even a known entity then.

Q. That was cool Chad said he’d refund your entry if you didn’t have fun. Do you remember any of the details? Weights, distances times etc? Which events where easy or gave you trouble etc…

A. The weights now seem like nothing but the one’s I remember were: Trap bar DL 500lb for reps. Sandbag clean and press 180 for reps, clean each rep. Farmers walk 150 dumbells for distance.
Bench Press 300lb for reps. Arm over arm truck pull a Ford Explorer in the grass. I’ll never forget it had rained hard the night before so this was one of the harder events.

Q. Where you naturally big and strong before you began training?

A. Yeah, always the big kid in school. But I started training in the 10th grade so it’s hard to say what I’d look like if I’d waited until adulthood to start training like a lot of folks do.

Q. What was the first routine you used to lay a foundation?

A. I bought the book Super Squats, found it in some magazine since this is before the web. Started hitting it hard when football season ended and I was hooked. I was always eating, lots of PB&J sandwiches and milk in class. I went from 200 to 265 between December and June. Although I also grew 2 inches which helps. I was 15 years old, weighed 265, and was squatting 365 for 20 reps.

Q. Squatting 365 for 20 at 15 is awesome. Where they low bar or oly style?

A. Low bar, fairly medium stance.

Q. What squatting style did you come to prefer?

A. I’ve always favored a low-bar squat with a medium (slightly wider than shoulder width) stance

Q. Have you ever had any knee pain squatting over the years and if so how did you overcome it?

A. Nope, never. Had two knee surguries and still squat without issue. Guess I’ve been lucky. Honestly it stayed pretty basic. I continued to focus on heavy core lifts with simple accessory work throughout my football career (high school and college). Probably one thing that helped was I always lifted heavy even during football season. Obviously, I wasn't hitting PR’s in mid-season but you have to lift as heavy as you can to keep your strength. My coaches at the time had the team doing all this circuit training crap during the season and people could not figure out why they’d lose 20-30lbs over the course of a season. I reasoned that all you do on the field is rep work. Blocking drills, driving the sled, punching the bag etc. Even trying to drive a 350lb defensive tackle off the line is still hit and chop your feet; it’s all repetition. So I still squatted heavy twice a week during the season. My coaches would freak out seeing my squat 500 for reps in the morning and then practicing in the afternoon. They told me to stop and I told them to f*@$ off and leave me be. The deal was if I showed up for the stupid circuit training with the team, I could do what I wanted. Most football coaches have no business being anywhere near the weight room.

Q. Could you tell us a bit about your knee injuries, the surgery and the rehab. Also, anything you do currently to keep them healthy?

A. Both knees had the same injury which essentially was a fracture of the hard glassy surface on the tip of the femur. Just a genetic thing I guess. So surgery was pretty simply scope job and rehab was a few months. The first one was my left knee in college and I was back playing football in 14 days. I’ve been lucky to have not had major knee work done.

Q. Anything you learned from the knee injuries pertaining to footwear for different events?

A. Nope, I do come from the Chad Coy school of footwear though, I probably have 8 or more different pairs in my gym bag for an event. Never know which ones will work best.

Q. Any thoughts on shoe inserts, arch supports, knee wraps?

A. Never used inserts or arch supports. My opinion is that guys that have trouble with arches and the like either had genetic foot issues, or they are carrying WAY more weight than their body was designed for. I was 285lb when I graduated high school at 17 yrs old so on the one hand I’ll never be a swimsuit model and Jon Anderson will always beat me in the posedown; but on the other hand my body was designed to carry a lot of weight so I don’ have the problems some other guys get when the put on lots of weight like falling arches, sleep apnea etc…

Q. Obviously you are an expert squatter. I always have had problems with my knees lining up right when I squat and have had a lot of pain as a result. Any recommendations on set up, footwear, bar placement, how to align the knees etc?

A. Yeah, here’s my squatting 101 for what it’s worth:
Wear flat shoes or shoes with a very low heel. If you want to do Olympic style squats then that’s one thing but I know nothing about them.
Place the bar in the groove under your traps and on top of your rear delts. If you don’t have such groove your too skinny and in that case put the bar as low as possible without having it slip down your back.
Remember to sit back, I can’t stress this enough. You squat like you sit on a toilet. You don’t straddle the shitter and sit straight down on it do you? (Please don’t answer this because if you do you have more issues than poor squat form). You sit back and “reach” you ass back until you have to start sitting down. Squatting is the same way. This is why if I train someone who has no squatting experience I start them with box squats because they can’t yet handle enough weight to sit back properly without falling over backwards.
The other thing is keep the knees forced out. If you keep the knees out and sit back you will minimize virtually all knee stress, yet still get most of the benefits of a good squat. I was training with Van Hatfield a month or so before this year nationals and he was saying that he had not been squatting much because of pain in his knee and that even box squats were causing him pain. Being the man I am I assumed he simply had to be doing something wrong. We trained that night and he was doing box squats but was not sitting back enough. You really need to reach your ass back; this is what hits the glutes and hams so well and is why Westside has so many insane deadlifters. When it comes to squatting around knee pain remember there is nothing special about the box per se, what is special is that it allows you to sit your weight back thereby shifting the stress off the knees and onto the posterior chain muscles, namely hams and glutes.
Also, make sure you squat to a box that is a least slightly below parallel.

Q. How did your training evolve as you got more advanced?

A. I started training at Westside when I stopped playing football. There I was introduced to a whole new world of lifting. Westside is like no other place. I don’t care who you are, the first time you show up there it is intimidating. I learned about max effort and dynamic effort, conjugate method training and all that stuff. At first it sounded like crap to me. But everyone there was f+#$ing huge, and had such insane lifts how could they be wrong? I learned a lot from those guys.

Q. Once you made the decision to start training for strongman how did you change your training to include the events?

A. I had to somehow shorten the number of days I was spending in the gym to make room for my body to recover from the events. Early on I could not train for 3 or 4 days after a good event training day. Chad Coy helped me out and was the person who got me training twice a week in the gym with events on Saturday. It sounded to easy, but it worked. I consolidated my 4 day/wk Westside routine into 2 days and then did events on Saturday.

Q. As you got further into strongman what did you find to be your initial weak points and what did you do to overcome them?

A. Initially the yoke was my worst event, I hated it. I was an 800lb squatter at 275 so I figured I’d do well at it but I sucked bad. Believe it or not my overhead press was not really great when I started either. Stones too I sucked at, everything else was pretty good. For the yoke I just had to focus on my core ab and oblique strength, that pretty much cleared up the yoke issue. My press came along as a function of simply training my shoulders and triceps heavy and strengthening the core to keep me stable. My stones still suck relatively speaking.

Q. What exercises/sets/reps/frequency did you use to bring up your abs and obliques to improve the yoke and keep you stable on the OHPs?

A. I like box squats w/bands and no belt, also like taking a moderate weight, say 225, and pressing it overhead and then doing controlled high knee lifts. One foot, then the other. These really work your core and make it easier for me to make fun of Jesse Marunde and show him he’s not the only one who can stand on one leg!


Q. What where your strong points and how did they get that way?

A. After the year I’ve had it’s hard to feel I have strong points……. My grip is above average. I’ve got a good squat, an 815 DL and a 385 axle clean & press so I’m good at most power events.

Q. How did your training evolve later as you became a pro?

A. Well, that’s a tough question since I think I’m the only person I know who went pro twice. I qualified for pro nationals in ’99 and this is before you need a pro “card” to go to a national qualifier. Did nationals and took 3rd then did some more pro shows that year. I got to compete against Magnus ver in St Louis in ’99, one of my strongman highlights. Granted he was not the Mangus ver of old, but still it was cool.

So my first run my training was very simple, trained events once a month or so. Maybe twice as contests approached.

Then in 2003 after a few years off focusing on work I came back and realized I’d lost my pro status since I went 2 years without competing. My training was much more focused and I trained the events a lot more. Once a week religiously. I also met Travis in 2003 and we started training together which helped quite a bit.

Q. Competing against Magnus Ver is awesome. Could you tell us a bit about what that was like. Any interesting stories there?

A. It was frightening. It was Sep 1999 and I was just coming off taking 3rd at the US nationals behind Odd and Schoonie. I was feeling pretty good and like 3 days before I come down with this wicked flu. I’d already bought my ticket so I was going no matter what.
So I get there and everyone is warming up, Gillingham, Pfister, Magnus Ver, I’m freaking out. Not sure why because I had done well in Vegas but anyway I was super nervous. Then the 1st event was a keg load medley and I draw number one. Well you went two at a time and guess who dre number 2? You guessed it, Maggie. So I am ready to about shit myself at this point. I don’t think I was ever that nervous before or since to start a contest. Anyway, we do the event you had to load 5 250lb kegs into a high truck bed, think the distance was 25 feet. So I’m doing real well, actually ahead of Maggie and as I get ready to load the last keg I drop it and it rolls under the truck! I got it back pretty quick and loaded it, think I took like 7th on that event. I then went back to the athlete area and puked my guts out. I guess the cold medicine was a bad idea because my heart was racing bad. I ended up making it through the contest but did not do very well.


Q. What is your current workout split like?

A.
Monday
DE Squat/DL
ME Press
Accessories

Thursday
DE Press
ME Squat/DL
Accessories

Saturday
3-5 events

Q. What (max effort) ME exercises are your favorite to rotate in and out for Squat?

A.
Box Squat
Chain suspended GM
Using different bars and stances for each; close, medium, wide….. Buffalo bar, SSQ bar, cambered bar, ect

Q. What ME exercises are your favorite to rotate in and out for Press?

A.
Board Press
Close grip-incline
Axle clean & press
Log Press

Q. What ME exercises are your favorite to rotate in and out for DL?

A.
All the Squat movements greatly help the DL, that’s why there is only one ME day for SQ/DL, but these are some more DL specific lifts:
Rack pulls
Pulls standing on a box

Q. When you do the dynamic day for strongman what do you use for exercises? I read that Chad Coy rotates in a different exercise for his (dynamic effort) DE every workout (for example: week 1 log, week 2 axle and week 3 Viking press combining each with bands chain etc) I know that’s the plan on ME day but I thought the point of the DE was to use the same exercise and follow a wave so you increase your speed and technique like Westside does with bench and squat.

A. So ME day has lots more variety than DE day. DE squat/deadlift day is always box squats with bands, with an occasional change do DL with bands every two months maybe. DE press day is either log or axle press.


Q. Do you rotate your accessories as well or do you keep them consistent?

A. No, I purposely try to rotate them with certain exceptions, squats, pullups, and shrugs are pretty constant.

Q. Do you try and plan progressive increases in volume and weight on your accessories or do you just train them hard as you can that day?

A. I train them as hard as I can, but always try to leave a rep or two in the tank. I’m not a fan of doing accessory work to failure.

Q. What are some of your favorite gym assistance exercises for strongman?

A. In no particular order:
Rack Pulls
Close grip bench (flat or incline)
Pullups
Log curls
Axle curls
Heavy DB rows
Fat lady taco – This is good for people new to the sport. Lay down in the gym and have your training partner lay 100lb plates on your chest/midsection and breathe for 30 seconds, then add a plate, breathe 30 more then and a plate, ect, ect. Good for learning how to breathe of the conan’s wheel and people at the gym will give you very crazy looks.

Q. It’s hard to tell if the “Fat lady Taco” is a joke or not. Well, if it is serious at least we know not to train that one to failure-lol!

A. Oh yeah, this one is dead serious. Travis and I started doing them after struggling to breathe during the Conan’s wheel. Not sure if it really did anything other than a little mental training but we both improved from it.


Q. Do you ever have mini workouts between your major days like Westside recommends?

A. I’d like to but my work schedule does not permit it.

Q. If time did permit to do the Westside “mini workouts” what would you do?

A. Sled drag. Backwards, forwards, f*#$ing sideways if I could. The sled is so versatile and is great for GPP.

Q. Do you believe in training sore or do you like to be 100% every workout?

A. I believe in training sore, but not in pain. Training through a little soreness is healthy.

Q. When training events do you tend to do a lot of volume and technique work or do you just try and simulate what ever will be coming up?

A. I’ve never been a fan of doing much volume with event training, or a lot of warm-up frankly. You don’t get to take a warm-up run with the yoke at a show so why would you in training? I normally will take a run at an event at contest weight and if it feels OK take a second at more than contest weight. 2 runs max.


Q. You tore your pec last year and came back as strong as ever. What was your rehab like and what did you do differently in your comeback to protect the pec yet gain all your strength back?

A. Honestly it was not too bad. I had a great surgeon and the first 6 weeks were just spent working on slowly getting the range of motion back. I tried to train during this phase but it was real sporadic. Having a knee or ankle injury I can train around, but having a torso injury literally any movement you make in your body you feel at the injury site.

I figured once I got the ROM back the doc would send me for physical therapy but he said they would not know what to do with someone like me and that I knew my body better than some pencil neck therapist would. So he sent me back to the gym with instructions to take it slow and easy. I was inured in June and by November I hit a triple with a 330 log. In December I hit a 385 axle clean & press.

Q. You made a comment that your stone loading was better than ever and if you knew it would have turned out that way you would’ve torn your pec years ago. What do you attribute the progress in stone loading to?

A. I had to focus on getting my hands farther under the stone and scooping it up rather than using my pecs to squeeze it. I think that was the biggest thing. Also, I was fat which gave me a great shelf to bounce the stone off. In January I loaded a 385 stone to Odd’s tallest platform which I think is 65 inches, but I was so big that I could not load it as the 5th stone of the series to the lowest box because I was having a heart attack by the time I got to the 5th stone! When you’re 345 a 385 stone feels pretty light.

Q. What do you recommend to someone who has log press as a weak point?

A. Triceps, tricpes, tricpes. Anyone that has seen me press a heavy log knows it does not go up fast, I get a little leg drive and then let the triceps kick in. Travis calls it the slowest press he’s ever seen. But the crowd really gets into it, I like to keep them in suspense!

Q. How did you bring up your shoulder and tricep power?

A. At Westside the focus is so heavily on triceps that most of it stuck with me. All the stuff you read about, board press and pin press are my favorites. Floor press always hurt my shoulders a little so I stay away from them but try them out because many of my friends swear by them. Also heavy close grip bench and incline. The trick is too always do your max effort press with a close grip. Say fingers where the knurling on the bar starts, maybe a touch wider depending on the bar. You are trying to build tricep and shoulder power, not shape so don’t feel that closer hand placement is better because it’s not.
Since most of my tricep movements are close presses the shoulder strength seems to come along easily. I throw in some standing DB and barbell work here and there and log and axle work.

Q. What do you recommend for increasing your grip on the stones (when tacky isn’t allowed)?

A. If you find something let me know.

Q. When training events do you specialize on the events coming up in your next show or do you just try and train your weak events and deal with what ever is thrown at you?

A. Usually try to train the events that are upcoming although lately there seem to be more contests with shorter time in between them so the training is becoming less contest specific. You can’t train specific to get ready for 3 shows in 4 weeks.

Q. Travis Ortmayer has credited you with teaching him all about bands and chains and how they are essential in training. Can you give us some examples of how you use bands and chains other than the DE day or is that all they are used for?

A. Is that all he credited me with teaching him! Seriously, the bands and chains are only used for DE movements and occasionally for an assistance movement. I’m honestly more of a fan of bands. I only use chains to break people in and then graduate them quickly to bands.

Q. Can you give us some tips on training the following:

Axle Clean and Press: LOL I was training with Jon Anderson on this event and he gave me the nickname of “Barstool” because he said I could sit the axle on the top of my ab and sit there and have a drink before I cleaned the to the top and pressed it. So again having a solid core will help for the heavy weights where a continental clean is needed. I saw some guys at nationals this year where having a big axle on the midsection really seemed to cave them in, making the clean hard and gassing them out for the press.

Yoke: Again, strengthen the core. Band squats without a belt are great. Also, make sure to keep your feet close as you walk. If you get wide you’ll wobble side to side and then you’re hosed.

Stones: Damn, I’m not really the person to ask. But from what I see reliance on the tacky can get you in trouble. If the weather is cold or the show is indoors I’m pretty good at the stones now, but if it gets warm or humid I still suck.

Conans Wheel: I like to set it high so it can slide down into place I get started. However, if you set it too high you’ll pass out cold in about 3 seconds. I’ve done this twice so find that place and set it just below.

Tire Flip: This was one of the first pieces of real strongman equipment I got. I trained it all the time and still start most training days with 10 flips on the 900 just to get the blood moving. Also great for conditioning. As far as tips I’m from the old school of driving into it and then kicking the shit out of it with your knee so you can spin your hands under it and then push it up and over.

Hussafell stone: Pick it up and carry it. No real technique to discuss. I guess just wear something to pad the arms so it doesn’t dig in too bad.

Farmers: Move your feet fast. Your grip will only last so long so cover as much ground as you can before it gives out. Over time your grip will improve and you’ll just be fast. Although people say I move faster with implements in my hands than I can without so what do I know.

Truck Pull: Probably my worst event currently. I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

Arm over Arm: Don’t train this with a sled because the feel is too different from a vehicle. I used to simply pull with my arms until I felt the truck slow down and then I would rebend the legs but this caused me to be slow so now I try to pull myself back to the “coiled up” position and then pull. Also, helps to be tall so grow.

Viking Press: I don’t really have this on completely figured out yet either. The trick is to use your entire body like a big spring and not to stop once you get started or use too much strict press power.

Deadlift: Wow, I like heavy box squats and rack pulls. If my box squat goes up I know my DL will go up as well.

Q. What is your diet like? Do you pay attention to getting in enough Prot/Carbs/healthy fats or do you just eat what you feel like?

A. It’s not great, but something I am trying to get better at. I pretty much try to keep my protein intake high, and no make stupid food choices. I’m starting to really work on dialing my diet in better this off-seaon. We’ll see how it goes.

Q. Do you use any protein, essential fatty acids or vitamin supplements?

A. I’m always taking some sort of protein. Honestly, I end up taking weight gainers simply to keep the calories up. I’m a big fan of the Cytosport products. Cyto-Gainer and the muscle milk RTD’s. Something in them keeps my metabolism up which is hard to find with a gainer shake.

Q. Who do you think is the best strongman of all time and why?

A. Magnus ver. What amazed me about him was watching the shows and he knew he was going to win, and everyone else knew he was going to win. And if he got behind it didn’t matter because you knew he’d pull it out.

Q. Who do you think is the strongest man (if different from above) of all time and why?

A. All-time is hard to say because I haven’t been involved with things a super long time. But today I’d have to say Zydrunas (sp?). He always looked like he was a level above strength wise but competing with him this year in Tulsa and seeing it with my own two eyes was something else. That dude is a freak. I was 345 at that show and everyone was like. “Jim your huge, your shoulders this, your arms that….” Yeah, I was strong but I was carrying a lot of extra weight I didn’t need and was not in good shape. Anyway, I have a couple of photos of us just hangin around that weekend and Zydrunas made me look like a kid. The only person I’ve ever met in person bigger than him is Dominic from Canada but Zydrunas is way stronger than he is.

Q. Who is your favorite strongman of all time and why?

A. Magnus ver. I know I’m going to sound like the chairman of the Magnus fan club, but I guess I just grew up watching him. The first time I met him was at the Arnold Classic, before I ever started doing strongman and I think before they were doing the strongman show at the Arnold, he was there working some booth. Anyway, we got to talking and he starts telling me and my wife about how his luggage got lost and he ended up in Ohio and his luggage was in Frankfurt. He was so damn funny, I’d have never guessed from watching him on TV he had such a crazy sense of humor. I was hooked after that.

Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. I appreciate how well thought out and thorough the answers have been and can’t wait to implement a lot of it in my own training.
-Mike


 
 

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