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Steve Kirit
Interview By Mike Westerling

 

 
 
 
First off I’d like to say thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview.

Q. What are your stats?

Age: 33
Height: 62
Weight: Down to 265
Years Training: 15

Q. How did you start training? Where you strong out of the gate or the 98lb weakling that started lifting to put on some muscle? What where some of your original lifts in the first couple weeks in the gym?

As a younger teenager I was thin but never overly thin. I was pretty good at dips and pull-ups. One thing I noticed is my upper body gained strength pretty quick and my lower stayed incredibly weak. There was a point when I was 18 I could bench 330 and do a legit squat with 275. Even through my competitive years, if I missed a week of squats or lost a little weight, my numbers would pathetically plummet! It’s funny how genetics work.

Q. What where your eventual best lifts?

Well, let me say I never did ALL of these lifts at one particular time, but through the years, I competed in bench and worked certain movements hard. Some lifts I am most proud of would be: at 26 before a bench meet my brother spotted me for a raw 545x4 on the bench. I would go on to do 650 at 282 in a single ply shirt. Around the same time I power cleaned 315x10 (with straps). Around 2002 at 29 I really got my squat high before the Nationals. I nailed an 855 in a suit and belt, no wraps. In 2005 I didn’t have my best year competing ever but I was really peaking out in training lifts. I did a personal best of 705x3 in the deadlift from the floor, I pressed the 12” 350 log for 5, cleaned each rep and pressed 315 olympic bar for 5, close gripped 565, and did a raw rock bottom set of squats 545 for 6. Of course, these are only gym lifts, but we got a lot of them on tape.

Q. Bringing your squat from 275 to 855 suited/545x6 raw is a huge accomplishment. What type of advice can you give us on squatting?

Well, for me, it was always the best way to keep my bodyweight up. It is relatively low–impact compared to a lot of the other stuff strongmen do, and you can do it every week. I have done low and high-bar squats, front squats, zercher squats, partials, and yoke squats. You have to be strong from every angle

Q. Your bench is incredible. How did your training differ from getting it so high in the first place and how it was used in the workout once strongman became your main focus. I notice most good benchers make good log pressers. Do you feel bench is an important assistance exercise for strongman and if so how do you suggest it gets incorporated into the routine?

A strong bench will help a seated log press, but have less translation to a standing log. For a good log press it helps to have a really strong base. Guys like Van Hatfield and Walt Gogola carry much of their mass in the lower body- interesting enough, they also have two of the highest log presses ever put up by Americans. Once they clean the log, they are very strong and stable. Walt cannot even bench press 500 pounds and is quite proud not to. I would say to get better on the log, you must train it often, but always clean it first. You will never be in a contest where you take it out of a rack. If your shoulders are weak do seated work, and really overload. If stability is an issue, do lots of cleans, and front quad and ab work.

Q. What got you interested in strongman? I remember reading somewhere that strongman was the only sport you ever really applied yourself to. What was the big draw?

I really loved wrestling in high school and was getting quite good when I graduated. I drifted during college and really only lifted weights after struggling with an illness for a long time. A big regret is not wrestling at the collegiate level and seeing if I could have been any good. I was haunted by a few key matches against big opponents in high school that I lost. I can remember psyching myself out or just getting exhausted and giving in when I was fatigued. I never was able to forgive myself for that, and it haunted me for years. I became fond of strongman because I thought it represented a total test of strength and strength related endurance. I knew that because I lifted so hard and loved hardcore training I would be good at it. It also seemed like the hardest possible sport I could apply my lifting to. I heard stories of guys puking after tough tire flips. Maybe it represented a chance at competitive redemption in my eyes, I’m not sure.

Q. Could you elaborate a bit on the illness you where struggling with in college?

Not really, I think Mark P, might make fun of me if I do. Much as when I mentioned I have no ACL’s…he came up to me and said "what do you need acl’s, that’s why you build strength, you sandbagger! You don’t need them."
Seriously, it screwed me up for months and no one knew what it was, A doc at school diagnosed it as CFS. If it did anything for me it just made me really train hard and focus when I got healthy again. Everyone has to go through some crap, and every guy has an interesting story to tell about things that led him down the path of strength pursuits.

Q. You mentioned hearing about puking after tire flip. I assume to get to such a high level you’ve spent a fair share of time by the puke bucket. Any one particular time that stands out more than others?

Most strongmen have a great puke story. Last fall Steve Mac and I were doing truck push sprints, and I started puking to the point where it was shooting out a foot. I loved it.

Q. Could you tell us a little about your competitive record?

I competed around 32 times I think I have a total of around 12 wins, most of them pro. I have a winning record against every American I have ever competed against except Pfister, I think he’s got me by one, but it’s ok because I beat Pfister more than any other American. I was starting to do really well in international shows and was learning the psyche of the European competitors right before my early retirement. I think I am most proud of my 2004 7th place in IFSA Worlds…we all flew there not really realizing the scope of the meet, we were totally misinformed about the events, but I loved it in Latvia and really dug in and got 7th…just about every top guy of the time was there.

Q. Who where some of the guys at 2004 Worlds in Latvia that you competed against?

Damn let me think..Mariusz , Savickas, Vasyl, Lotta, Bergmanis, Rasanen, Gillingham, Schoonveld, Andersen, Pope, Philippi, Svend, Murumets, Felix, Provick, to name a few.

Q. I believe you said somewhere that the deadlift was a real struggle for you and it took a lot of work to really get it up. What where some of the “tricks” you found along the way that finally got your deadlift on track?

It never got on track. I still marvel and am awed by 800+ deadlifters, regardless of how well they are built for it. Partials helped and so did rdl’s. I was great on deadlift implements, but always, always sucked from the ground. My best max was 745.

Q. The video of you on footballstories doing the atlas stone challenge where you ran from box to box was one of the coolest loading vid’s I have seen. When you loaded the last one an extra time and the crowd went nuts was awesome. What are some tips you can give us on stones. In the past you have said sand bag rows for grip and not to beat yourself up on stones every week. Could you elaborate a bit?

I guess just learn the movement and think about everything coming into play when you pick that stone up and load it. Pay attention to where you are placing your hands on the stone as you load it. Where is your arch as you hoist it onto the box? Are you standing too close or too far away? Don’t get too caught up in trying to lift the heaviest stone possible every time you train, and don’t overtrain them!

Q. Could you give us some pointers on the following:

Log Press-clean every rep

Husafell Stone Carry-train a lighter stone and go very far.

Conans Wheel-train lighter and go really far, then do some heavy “holds”

Tire Flip- Have a light and heavy tire, alternate training them.

Farmers- train going at least 250 feet, and don’t neglect heavy holds and short heavy walks either.

Yoke- train light, quick feet. I really got better at this when I threw my ego away and did sprints with 600.

Q. The first time I read the name “Steve Kirit” it was in a post by Jesse Marunde that said one of his goals was to beat you so bad you would quit strongman. Although it was obviously said “tongue in cheek” it was also obvious you where the man to beat in his eyes and he had a lot of respect for you and perhaps just a little hostility-lol! Could you tell us a bit about whatever events may have lead up to that statement?

Jesse was schooled by a great teacher in J.V.A. He is one of the most cerebral strongmen out there, highly intelligent in the way he trains. Jesse realized very early on that I put the same amount of thought and intelligence into my training. He respected me for it as I respected him. I remember in the early days we would talk on the phone about our training each asking a ton of questions about training and workouts. A lot of guys don’t do this, which is why a lot of guys don’t get that good. I’m sure beating me was one of Jesse’s many goals. He did beat me once or twice I think (note from Jesse: the only time I ever beat Steve was when he was injured. I never beat him farely), the other 10 or 11 times belonged to me. I’m glad I don’t give him the opportunity for payback these days. He also is able to use excessive amounts of hair-gel. I am quite jealous.

Q. Steve Mac did a great job at pro Nat’s and I know you are at least partially responsible for his meteoric rise in the sport. Could you tell us a bit about how you helped him become a force so quickly and at a bit older age than the typical pro breaking into the sport?

I can take very little credit for anything Steve Macdonald does. His strength of will is amazing. He is very persistent and never quits, that is the main force behind any successful athlete. If he has a bad meet, he’s right back in the gym fixing what he did wrong. Of course having another pro strongman to train with is always good. I remember Steve coming down to train with me and Matt Metheny when he started, I saw he trained really hard. When he trained with me starting out we did a lot of truck pulls, to build up his “strongman conditioning” He got up to pulling his truck up an ever-so-slight grade for 2.5 minutes straight! I helped him with leg speed, we would do sprints where we kept our arms at the side and did a fast walk. The rest was just months of hard basic strongman training, with a lot of analytical thinking applied. My success was greatly due to my ability to properly train, I tried to teach this to Steve as best I could. We usually trained in the gym together, but each had our own lifting regimens. Steve has one of the strongest lower bodies I have ever seen. Some of his squats and pulls I have witnessed are just nuts. If there was anything I helped Steve with it was stressing him to train to be well rounded. After he had a poor performance (for his standards) at Odd’s this year, I just told him on competiton day you gotta be a Pit-bull, aggressive and alert, and focus on your own performance. I think he took that advice because he has been on fire since then. I am very happy he won Nationals. Guys like Travis O have 10 years to win but Steve is 37. This is great too, the first city with two National Champions!

Q. When you say your success was due mostly to “proper training” could you give us some guidelines, examples, etc….. Most of us read these interviews in the hope we will get some new training knowledge from them. I could read articles on training and routines all day. What do you feel is the ideal strongman routine?

I disagree with a bit of that. Many guys have such big egos they don’t ask questions. These are guys you never have to really worry about. All the great guys ask questions. Jesse did it, I did it, Jon Andersen did it, Steve Mac. When I started out I tried to pump every guy I could for information, reluctant as some of them were to give it to me. Pittsburgh is a big city, and Steve Mac has plenty of friends, He could have trained on his own, but he knew he could learn more by watching and training with me. Every guy who I have ever helped train has gotten better. I mean, who would you rather learn how to get rich from, a guy who was born rich or a guy who was born poor and made a million? I will give you a simple model to follow-
Know yourself------be in a constant state of training evolution-----know your sport-----know your competition.
Always ask questions, if someone won’t answer you, find someone who will. Be a sponge, and soak up everything you can get. Always work to improve in something, you cannot constantly get stronget, but you can constantly get better.

Q. This is the part where I throw some names at you and you give a few comments:

Kaz he was real strong

Magnus Ver Magnussen The best of all time

Jouko Ahola strong and smart champion

Travis Ortmeyer Don’t think he will ever quit till he is World Champion, and has the time and tools to do it.

Jesse Marunde- Nearly untouchable at the pure strongman events when he is on. Sports an unnaturally low hairline. I heard he is gonna start doing shampoo commercials.

Kevin Nee- Will retire from competing in the next few years and just collect endorsements. Honestly never saw back strength on a kid of his weight ever.

Vasyl Virastuk he is a monster, one of the real animals of the sport. Huge and intense.

Zydrunas Savickis- He continues to prove he may be the strongest of all time.

Mariusz Perhaps the best pure events strongman ever.

Jon Anderson- Really intense competitor.

Q. People on the internet boards seem to have a lot of hostility toward Phil Phister. You once wrote of your unofficial tied ranking with him: “I feel so honored to be tied with such a man of great honor and integrity, Phil!!!!!” Where you serious or did that just have a bit of a sarcastic ring to it?

No way. He’s an individual in an individual’s sport. He competes for himself and his family and uses his surprisingly high levels of intelligence to gain favor with those in power, be annoying on the mic at meets, and mold a public perception of himself. There was always a great misconception about him that he didn’t train very hard, but I trained with him a few times and he does. I think recently he’s taken his training very serious. Hopefully, he will live up to his potential if he does WSM this year, since he ducked Nationals. He has all the tools to win WSM.

Q. Time to stir the pot a bit: You definitely have some strong opinions regarding the WSM/IFSA split. Now that the athletes have kind of crossed over in a few events and we’ve seen the world Championships in both fed’s what is your current take on it all?

Well, my opinions have kind of gotten softer since I stopped competing. I think it’s good for the sport. You have to understand that the general public has such little understanding of the sport. It’s all a bit of a sideshow to them…They will, however, assume that whomever prevails in the GRANDEST SPECTACLE is the strongest and best. Right now, it is still WSM, because of ESPN. IFSA may have the best interests of the long term standardization and survival of the sport in mind, but WSM is still the most recognized contest. You might think this crazy but I have a vision that the future of the sport and making it take a step FORWARD will be team competition. Professional teams going against each other in 6 event shows that last 2-3 hours. Each team will have strengths and weaknesses, and represent a region or city. There will be a season and a championship, with one game a week like football…weekly stats and results with standardized IFSA like events. Get people betting, get people WATCHING! Steve MAC and I successfully promoted a show this year. I really want to help move the sport forward in that arena. I also love reffing. I feel as a competitor I am one of the best qualified out there. I hope to learn more from Maguns Ver in the future on this.

Q. When you trained with Mariusz you said no one trains like he does. Tell us a little more about the workout.

He trains very fast, and is in superb condition. The guy is strong and athletic and never seems to get tired. Simply refer to my article I wrote last year on this site. It was an impressive experience.

Q. Who was your favorite strongman and why?

Probably Magnus Ver. He was well rounded and quiet and confident in competiton.

I want to thank you again from all of us at Marunde Muscle. As usual you have been extremely generous with your knowledge and time. We wish you luck with your future contest promotions.
Thanks again,
-Mike

 

 

 
 

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