Chris, thank you so much for joining us mate, it’s awesome to have you hear! Can you tell us how you got started in powerlifting?
It’s my pleasure mate; I’m a huge fan of FitMag already! To answer your question, my grandfather was a local weight lifting champion and took me to train with Olympic weight lifters and powerlifters at Mike Browns gym in Port Talbot. Mike Brown won medals at several commonwealth weight lifting championships and was also a world champion in powerlifting. I would sit and watch Olympic level weightlifters clean & jerk over 200kg and squat with hundreds of pounds most days of the week, it was very inspiring. I used to admire the speed and explosive power they used to shift the bar. After seeing a black and white picture of Ed Coan (from the 1997 IPF worlds) on the wall at the gym, I decided it was then I wanted to be a powerlifter not a sprinter.
Mate, sounds like you grew up in a tremendously inspiring environment! Were you naturally strong or did it take time?
My father & grandfather both have similar frames to me, short body, long arms and long legs. All three generations have the typical deadlifter physique with a strong back. I was a national level sprinter in school and I was always very explosive with my jumping and running even in primary school. I bumped in to a primary school teacher of mine a few months back, Mrs Toggile. She brought up a funny story of me throwing a cricket ball across the school rugby pitch. Back then our Welsh speaking school Rhos Afan was next to an English speaking school TyMorfa, both buildings attached together. They brought out the entire school, English & Welsh speaking to watch me throw this cricket ball. I can remember the teachers making a big deal because I was throwing further than the bigger and older kids. I suppose I have always been strong, I still have the bullworker my grandfather gave me when I was 11 years old and, I have always been fascinated by being strong and the physical side of training.
Guys, don’t you just love that!? How much did you find the technique went to helping you lift opposed to strength levels?
For the first few months of my training, Mike Brown my first coach got me cleaning and snatching on a wooden broom handle. My technique on squats was very poor to start with, I squatted with a high bar placement and my knees would come forward as I squatted down. Over time I found that a wider stance and lower bar placement helped me a lot. My balance improved and I started to add serious weight to my squat. For bench press I really have to set up correctly to get the most out of the lift. I have long arms and for the last few years I have really worked hard to bring up my bench.
Proof is in the pudding guys, one of the strongest men in the world started learning his technique with a BROOM HANDLE!!! Get your technique sorted, strength will follow! What kind of physique did you have as a kid when you started?
I was always very lean and muscular. I could never sit still, so I never had a great deal of body fat. I was also in to martial arts; we did a lot of cardiovascular training in karate. I competed very young right through to my late teens.
So not only are you one of the strongest men to have ever lived, a great sprinter, you are also an awesome martial artist! CRAZY! When was it you decided powerlifting was for you over sprinting?
It was being around Olympic weight lifters and champion powerlifters training at Mike Browns gym, this really motivated me. I was in my early teens; my grandfather was a massive influence. We would stay up late and watch powerlifting on Eurosport and he would often say to me I would be world champion one day, which I think gave me massive confidence from a young age. Looking back now it was one of the biggest things that influenced me. I will always love sprinting and I can still shift (laughs). I still have a set of sprinting spikes and visit a local track if I get time in the off season.
Sounds like the Welsh Rocky story mate! We will have to catch you film sprinting next time we train! What were your goals from an early age in terms of powerlifting?
At first I just wanted to be Welsh champion and get the Welsh powerlifting records. After I achieved that I wanted the British records and it went on from there. I can remember I was out one night in a bar, an older local lifter approached me and we quickly got chatting about powerlifting. I told him I wanted one day to break the junior deadlift record of 321kgs. At the time my best deadlift was 290kg, the older lifter told me that he thought I would never even come close to that weight. Forward a year later and I managed to break it with 321.5kg. I always wanted to be world champion from my early teens, I have achieved that goal but now I'm after the senior records held by my idol, Ed Coan.
Shows you can never keep a true champion down! Was the deadlift always your favourite exercise of the 3 major ones?
Yes, the deadlift was always my favourite lift. When I first started competing, I just wanted to get my squat and bench out of the way so I could deadlift. I have come to love all three lifts. But deadlift remains my favourite lift if I had to pick one.
Is there an exercise of the 3 you really don’t like?
No, I enjoy all three.
What advice would you give to people who feel nervous trying to lift heavier than they have ever before?
You have nothing to lose by attempting new poundage. You need to make sensible increases and not make massive jumps. If you keep things basic and practice your craft, your confidence will get better. I also think training and being around stronger people is a big motivator. I really like the quote, “If you want to be a lion, train with lions”.
Wow, I love that, talk about getting out of your comfort zone! What are the most common mistakes people make from your experience when trying to get stronger?
They dismiss small things to improve the lift and see them as being unimportant. You have to train under the same conditions as you would in a contest, if your plans are to compete. You are how you train. For example I train with a few people who use baby powder in competition, but choose not to use it in training. The bar speed is slower when they train and they are missing out on handling heavier poundage.
What tips would you give to people struggling to gain strength on a lift?
Keep things basic; don’t try to run before you can walk. Build the basic lifts with solid sets of 5, 3 and 2 reps. Try and increase the weight each session with the smaller 1.25kg disks. Look for high calibre lifters with a similar body type to your own and then try out their technique to see if it suits you. When you find a style that suits you, perfect that technique and make sure you keep the same style from the warm ups right through to the heaviest set. If you sacrifice your technique to shift more weight you are only cheating yourself and, you won’t get the most out of your body.
Great advice mate, it’s all too true! What does your diet look like?
I eat like an off season bodybuilder, I avoid high GI foods so I don’t crash during my workouts. I shoot for low GI foods like sweet potatoes, porridge etc. I eat a variety of protein, salmon, chicken, eggs and cycle my protein source so I don’t get fed up of eating the same thing. I try to avoid foods high in salt and sugar. I don’t drink fizzy drinks, I tend to drink water, and lots of it as well!
How important is a diet to powerlifters?
Very important!!! The amount of powerlifters I have seen eating a cooked breakfast the morning of a show is unreal. I have then seen the same powerlifters gas out and complain they have stomach pains and feel bloated. I enjoy training for power but I also like to look good, if you look good, you feel good. I find I'm much stronger if my diet is spot on, I notice my energy levels change if my diet is not right.
You heard it from a multi world champion, NUTRITION IS KING! What supplements do you use and why?
I like Creatine Ethyl Ester, it works for me and I notice I'm much stronger when I use it. I also use whey protein. I try and get most of my protein from food but, I will drink whey protein in the morning with my porridge and post workout like clock work. My insulin levels are more sensitive at these times so I try to take advantage of this with whey protein. I also use a good multivitamin supplement and Udo's oil.
That’s a great supplement stack there mate! What are your goals in the next 2 years?
I plan to add lean muscle to my frame so I can get the best out of my body. I have cut weight for years to stay in the 82.5kg and 90kg classes. I do feel I will reach my potential if I can get up to the 110kg class. Most of the elite lifters at 90kg are much shorter and thicker than me, so I'm tall for a 90kg lifter. My main goals are to total over a 1000kg and deadlift over 400kg. The all time deadlift record at 110kg is 405kg, which is one record I have set my sights on.
Are you serious? That is just off the scale! What about in 5 years?
To squat 455kg (1000lbs) and win a world title at 110kg bodyweight
Nothing surprises me anymore! 10 years?
To live a healthy lifestyle and be happy with my family, as long as my eye sight is still half decent I can still see my trophies from my arm chair!!!! On a serious note, I would like to open a gym then coach up and coming lifters. I would also like to encourage as many people as possible to get stronger, from all walks of life.
That’s great to know a true champion wants to give back to his sport! I hear you are a good MMA fighter, is there a future in that for you?
I'm very passionate about martial arts but first and foremost I'm a powerlifter. I use martial arts as a supplement to my training in the off season and I have many friends in both sports. I competed in judo last year and got a few silver and gold medals which was fun and, I'm proud to say I have competed. I find many benefits from martial arts, for me judo is a very good way to relieve stress and unwind. If I have a contest I try and keep off the mat to avoid injury and overtraining. Judo players have fantastic grip strength and the conditioning the top judoka have is unreal. This has improved my lifting without any doubts. My friends at the Port Talbot judo club support my powerlifting and we are like one big family. My good friend and training partner Mike Edwards is a fantastic up and coming mixed martial artist, who fights out of the London Shootfighters. I was lucky enough to train with George St. Pierre & Roger Gracie a few months back. We did some fantastic training, 3 hours solid Shootfighting. I was right in the lions den so to speak. Team rough house, Andre Winner, Ross Pearson and several other UFC fighters trained in this session. It was a closed session for Roger Gracie’s fight against Trevor Prangley in Strikeforce. Georges St. Pierre was so down to earth and friendly, his physique was incredible. I was surprised that he looked so big; he must have weighed around 90kg. It was an honour to train with such amazing, humble athletes. Roger Gracie is a true class act, probably the best BJJ guy in the world. A good friend of mine is another fantastic MMA fighter, James Zikic. I often stay with James in London and I help him with his power training and likewise he helps me with my grappling. Being around positive people like this inspires me for my powerlifting.
That is absolutely amazing, you really do mix with the ‘A listers’ of MMA bro! In fact, we have been fortunate enough to interview Mike Edwards and maybe one or two more are on the way!!!
Chris I would like to sincerely thank you for taking this time to share with us your amazing experiences, knowledge and expertise. It is a true blessing to learn off the likes of yourself mate! We would also like to wish you the best of luck in the ‘Push and Pull’ competition at BodyPower mate!
Again, it is my pleasure and I look forward to speaking with you guys again here on FitMag!