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Josh Thigpen Interview
by Mike Westerling


Josh Thigpen is one of the new young pro's to burst on the strongman scene. He had an extremely impressive showing at the Worlds Strongest Man Contest 2005 which has prompted me to do this interview. I've seen some of the internet videos of Josh loading some sick stones, but other than the limited amount of film I've seen of him, I know very little about him. So, "Dad Gum It" let's find out what makes this human crane tick.

Mike- First of all I'd like to thank you for taking the time to do this interview. What are your stats? Age, weight, height, where do you live and train

Josh- I am 24 years old, 6-5, weigh about 280-290, I live where I was born and raised in Houston, TX. I am a member of the Unit training crew and I also train at a place called Stones Gym, kind of a fitting name for my gym.

Mike- What is your competitive record?

Josh- I had alot of second and third place showings in the North American Strongman circuit during my first few competitions. But in 2004 I won the Arizona strongman competition, the Midwest open, Texas strongest man, and then in February of 2005 turned pro at the Kansas city pro am. As a pro I have finished 4th place at the Mohegun Sun super series, 3rd in my heat at the Worlds Strongest Man competition, 3rd place as a member of team America in in the 2005 worlds strongest nation competition, and a disgusting 6th place finish at the fit expo this year.

Mike- How did you get involved in working out originally?

Josh- As long as I can remember, I have always wanted to workout. I can remember as a little kid I didn't have any weights to lift so I nailed two by fours together, and lifted them trying to make the veins come out in my arms. Then
I eventually got my own weight set for Christmas. You would of thought I won the lottery! Of course Then I started working out in Junior High for football and so on.

Mike- Who taught you the ropes and what kind of initial program did you follow?

Josh- Actually I sort of taught myself. I got a flex magazine at about 13 and completely wore out the pages of that one magazine for a year or two. Then I got a bunch of books and just followed different things in there. I really
didn't know what I was doing, but it layed a foundation.

Mike- Where you strong from the start or did it take a while to get going? What were some of your lifts in the first couple months of training?

Josh- Heck no! I was always athletic, but I was very skinny. Short and skinny actually. My first lift ever was in the seventh grade. I can remember it like it was yesterday. It was time to take our first bench press max in football, and I couldn't wait to get in the weight room. The coach took a good look at everybody, and then picks me to be the spotter. At that moment, I was thinking wow, I guess I am the chosen one. Only to come to realize afterwards that he picked me to be the spotter because he didn't even think I was worthy to max. After every lifter had gone and was out of the weight room, he finally lets me lift. We slap on 80 pounds on the bar and I struggle with every ounce of strength in me to press it up once. The coach racks the bar, laughs and goes "Yeah that looks about right." This spawned something deep inside of me, I was infuriated. So I went in the Locker room where coach had posted the strongest bench of all of the 7th graders, under the title "King of the Hill" was Tim Gardener- 155 lbs. I swore on that day that I would one day be King of the Hill, and I haven't stopped trying since.

Mike- Did you come from an athletic background?

Josh- Yes in High school I played football, basketball and did a little track. My best 40 time was a 4.48. And I had a 40 inch vertical in high school.

Mike- How did you get involved with strongman?

Josh- I saw Kaz on tv when I was 12 and I knew that strongman was what I wanted to do. So really in my mind I was always training for strongman. But when I got into college I decided to enter my first meet and came 26th place in the
central USA show in 01. There was a teenage division there and I could have entered that and won every event. But I honestly thought I could go win the open meet. Keep in mind I was 19, weighed 225 tops, and had never trained
the events at all and I actually thought I could win. I was an idiot. I guess I still have the same mentality about winning, but now I am alot better!

Mike- Who has been the biggest influence to your strongman training and competing and what was it about them that made you trust them enough to follow their advice?

Josh- It has not really been any one persons advice, but more a combination of things I have taken from different people. I wouldn't even know how to squat if it wasn't for the Ragen Cajun, Tim "hollywood" Trahan. I owe alot to the Unit. Roger Ortmayer was actually spawned from the tacky, chalk and dirt at the unit. He wasn't ever born, he simply evolved at the unit. He truly would give an arm to help us out in this sport. Travis and I are always pushing each other week in and week out, so that helps.

Mike- You said you’ve only been training on equipment about a year and a half. How did you prepare for events prior to this and how did you do on the events when you finally had access to the implements as a result of your non-impliment training?

Josh- Yeah I used to just train in the Gym, and go do competitions, and come in 3rd or 4th. But I realized I couldn't win without event training, so I hooked up with the Ortmayers and they have everything. After training on the events I started to win.

Mike- You’ve recommended in the past to do lots of bicep work. What does that entail and how do you incorporate it into your routine without having so much overlap from bicep dependant events that you overtrain?

Josh- A strongman has to have alot of bicep strength. Stones, tire flip, conans wheel, truck pulls, log cleans, and many more events all hit very heavily on the biceps. While it is true that simply training the events can build that up, before I had the implements I did alot of heavy barbell curls and I think it benefited me greatly when I actually started doing the
events. I don't do them much anymore, but I still throw them in there from time to time.

Mike- What is your diet like? I know you’ve recommended high protein and getting carbs from fruits, veggies and wheat bread only. Is this how you eat? I always assumed you were a naturally lean guy that would have to eat like a
horse to put on weight.

Josh- That recommendation was to a person trying to lose weight without compromising too much muscle. I don't eat like that at all. I eat all kinds of carbs to try to gain weight. I have a very fast metabolism and do have to eat a ton, but it is pretty clean most of the time.

Mike- Do you do specific cardio type activities like running/sprinting etc? Or do you just do more event specific cardio?

Josh- I think good strongman conditioning is things that last in the thirty second to one minute and a half range, because that is how long most strongman events last. So I prefer to do 400 meter sprints or bleachers and hill sprints, things like that. But very seldom do I do any long distance running, I hate running!

Mike- What is your training split like now? How many days a week do you train and what exercises are trained on what days? Do you do events mixed in to your regular training or do they have a day by themselves?

Josh- My training is always evolving. I don't think I have ever done the same workout twice. You must constantly strive to learn more, and become in tune with your body. I can now train more often then in the past, because I have built up to it. Nowadays I am training all the time including events during the week with my Gym stuff and a serious event day on saturdays.

Mike- Can you give us an example of a weekly split?

Josh- Since my training is alyways changing, I can't really recommend much in regards to splits. But I do generally have a squat day on monday or tuesday, overheads day usually on thursday or friday, pulls and cleans also during the week, and events on Saturday. Active recovery and chryotherapy are all throughout the week.

Mike- You are just awesome on the stones. What are some technique and training tips you can give us? Are there any gym lifts that you use to assist you in loading bigger stones or are you a “just train stones to be good at stones, period” kind of guy?

Josh- Well look who I train with and you will see why I am good at stones. I think I am naturally good at stones, but Travis has definetely helped. Plus that bicep strength we talked about earlier comes into play. It is very hard to explain in words how to do stones. Every one wants a secret, there isn't one, you just have to attack them.

Mike- Do you change your training specifically for coming events from contest to contest or do you just follow a base routine and just add a bit here and there?

Josh- Both really, I am always doing basic a few basics, but I do tend to incorporate the events of a competition into my training. However, you have to train everything year round so that you are always ready for any event.

Mike- How do you deal with the minor injuries we all get such as little strains and painsfrom a weird motion or pushing it a bit too hard every now and then? Are you a “total rest” or an “active recovery” kind of guy?

Josh- To be honest I have been blessed on the injury side of strongman. I have never really injured myself. I would say knock on wood, but I don't believe in that crap, I mean what the heck does that mean? haha anyways getting off subject here, I do have some knots in my shoulders sometimes, and my shins can give me some problems, but thats about it. I believe in both active recover and total rest you have to know when the body needs what.

Mike- What are your favorite events?

Josh- All of them except the duck walk, who came up with that? What a dumb event! I love overheads especially axle cleans and press, stones, and of course the conans wheel, because it is my best event.

Mike- What events are/were the hardest for you and what have/will you done to overcome them?

Josh- Well I have very long arms, so I have worked very hard to get my overhead where it is. I sucked at the Yoke for a while. Basically every event I have ever sucked on I have made that event my favorite and is now one of my strengths, because I work so hard at my weaknesses.

Mike- What have you found to be most helpful with overheads?

Josh- One time I did an experiment. I loaded the bar all the way up to 600 pounds and put it on the front of my shoulders just like I was going to press it. Then, with sheer leg drive alone I got the bar half way up my face. I didn't even attempt to press it, just wanted to see how high I could get the bar up with legs alone. This tells me one thing. Overheads are all about leg drive and triceps. If we can get that much weight up with legs alone, then the rest is all about locking it out. So blast away at the triceps and hit your fronts squats. I actually prefer good old fashion tricep pushdowns, using varying grips, especially reverse grip because it hits the meaty inside tricep needed for pressing. I also recommend seated log or press in a rack with bands for speed.

Mike- What kind of setbacks have you encountered along the way and how did you rise above them?

Josh- Well I was dead set on competing at the NAS nationals in 04 to try and win my pro card when I broke up with my girlfriend at the time and lost like 15 pounds. I seriously didn't know if i would compete again, but once I got my head on straight, I came back with a vengeance. Surely some guys can relate to that.

Mike- What are some of your PR’s both in strongman events and lifting in general?

Josh- I have loaded our 460 stone many times, and can almost lap the 520. I have hit 320 for 4 in the log and 286 for 9 in China. I can pull in the 700's on the deadlift. I have power cleaned 405 and that was after only training cleans twice the whole year. 225 strict curl for 5. In training on the weight toss I can hit 17 to 18 feet just about any time I throw it, but
there are alot of doubters, so I need to do it in competition

Mike- I’ll throw out some names and you give me a response what ever comes to mind:

Svend Karlsen- a Viking! I love his training DVD.

Jouko Ahola- A true professional, great puller and a very nice guy.

Kaz- The greatest. A living legend, and my inspiration for getting into the sport.

Mariusz- A straight up machine, my favorite strongman today.

Zydrunas- Probably the strongest man alive today.

Jesse Marunde- Very smart at marketing himself, great strongman with a similar build as myself.

Travis Ortmayer- Intense, the best training partner I could ever have.

Kevin Nee- My little brother, I love this guy, his future is bright. In case you didn't know, he's kind of a big deal... People know him... He has many leather bound books and his apartment smells of rich mahogany...

Magnus Samuelsen- A survivor, that guy may never go away!

Magnus Ver Magnussen- One of my heroes in the sport.

Mike- Who was your favorite (not necessarily who you think was the best) strongman of all time and why?

Josh- Kaz, Kaz, Kaz, my favorite and I think he was the strongest. Power just oozed out of him, his intensity was on another level. I also love Jon Pall, he was like something from a comic book.

Mike- What do you think about the superheavy events they had at the Arnold this year? Do you believe constantly evolving towards heavier and heavier events is the right direction for strongman or do you think they should stay a bit more manageable and keep the events more athletic?

Josh- I think they are great. This is Strongman, it is our job to push the limits of human capability and then maybe go beyond them. The guys seem to easily handle the weights at the Arnold, so we obviously haven't reached the limit.

Mike- What are some of your most memorable training and competition moments?

Josh- Wow too many to list. At the unit we have a barbie award for whoever doesn't put out there best that day. Barbie hangs from the storage unit door on a rope. One day after missing a stone, I tried to grab barbie and rip her head off, instead she fights back and the door slams down on my head and splits it wide open, there was blood all over the place! Serves me right, no one can ever mess with the Barbie.

Mike- What are some of the most impressive feats you’ve seen in training and competition?

Josh- Pretty much anything Mauriusz does. Ort loading the 520 stone. Roger finishing a medley in 6 minutes and then turning it around and telling us all that we couldn't last 6 minutes in a medley! Jason Heir gutting out the medleys we set up for him.

Mike- Give us a cool “should’ve been there” behind the scenes story about training and or competing.

Josh- Kevin Nee going up to random people in China putting his arm around them and telling them that he is a "big deal" quoting Will Farrell in Anchor man. Or when I flipped Mike worthams Tire for him on accident in competition, and then in the same medley tried to pull Josh Biggers sled for him. On the flight to China there was a guy sitting between Don Pope and myself. Don loudly commented to Jesse across the isle regarding the guys bad breath thinking that, like most chinese people, he didn't speak English. Hilarity ensued...

Mike- What are some of your goals for the future?

Josh- Win the Wolrds Strongest Man Competition.

Mike- Anything you would like to add that I may have not asked?

Josh- Yeah I'll add this, the single greatest thing in my life is my walk with the Lord. I would be nothing without Christ and His salvation. Win, lose or draw, in strongman I still praise him and know that he is there for me. In the end that is much more important then strongman! Thanks for the interview.

Mike- Thanks for taking the time to interview with us. We wish you the best of luck in all your future endeavors and look forward to following your career in strongman.


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