off I’d like to say thank you very much for taking the
time to do this interview.
Q. What are your stats?
Weight: Down to
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
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?
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
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
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
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
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?
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:
he was real strong
Magnus Ver Magnussen The best of all
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
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.