Interview With Powerlifter Chad Aichs Interviewed By Ben Tatar of CriticalBench.com as published in Powerlifting USA - June 2009
I'm excited to go one on one with powerlifting great Chad Aichs and discussing what it will take to put powerlifting on the main stream map. During the first part of the interview we learn a little bit about Chad and then in the second part of the interview we talk to Chad about the steps powerlifting must make in great detail to keep the hardcore aspect while making it as prime time as possible.
CRITICAL BENCH: Chad, tell us about yourself!
What is there to tell, I am "THE CHAD!" Ha Ha Well I am a powerlifter with best lifts of 1173lbs squat, 821lbs bench press, 755lbs deadlift, and a 2733lbs total. I hold all the AWPC world records and had the full meet WPO bench press world record.
I also compete in the Scottish Highland Games and like to mess around with strongman equipment, but have not competed in that. I love motorcycles and ride whenever I can. I am also into quads and dirt bikes, again riding whenever I can. It seems like I am usually too busy to shoot much, but guns and rifles are also a hobby of mine.
I am very into photography and love to shoot just about anything. I love the creativity and challenge of photography. I would say landscapes are my favorite to shoot, but I really love to shoot stuff I am passionate about. Stuff like motorcycles, cars, guns, lifting competition, and of course my nieces and nephews!
CRITICAL BENCH: It's always fun to see what successful powerlifters are like away from the gym. Do you have any links where people can read about you?
Well, the best link would be my website. There is lot of information on there. www.chadaichs.com
CRITICAL BENCH: Chad what was your life like as a kid?
That's an interesting question and kind of hard to answer without taking a lot of time. I did a lot of fighting in school and a lot of sleeping during class. Even in kindergarten it seemed like I would get into a fights every time they let us out for recess. I would say I was a pretty angry kid.
I did not play any organized sports until high school, up until that point it was just neighborhood stuff. I am not a real social person and usually just had small groups of friends around. I absolutely hated school, but the summers during high school were awesome because I spent most of my days training. It was the closest thing I have ever gotten to being a professional athlete. I would lift twice a day, run, swim, and then spend the evening playing some type of sport.
CRITICAL BENCH: Those were the days. Were you always very strong?
No! I was just average. I figured out at a young age that I did have a lot more power when I harnessed my anger. I showed a lot more strength when I was pissed. Maybe that's why I always liked the Incredible Hulk! Once I got in high school I started lifting and used to direct a lot of my anger towards that. I busted my butt lifting from my freshman year all the way through my senior year. I benched around 345lbs, squatted over 500, and pulled over 500 at 275, which is not all that impressive.
CRITICAL BENCH: I'm sure that's inspiring to a lot of people showing that some of the best lifters in the world today didn't always start out super strong. Chad, what are your parents and family like?
Like anyone else's family I guess, a little messed up. My dad was always a pretty big guy at 6' 4" and high 200s to low 300s. He was a good high school athlete in the shot put and football. My mom is short and never really did a lot of athletics, but she was always tough. She spent a lot of time on farms in the Midwest when she grew up; I think she was a tom boy when she was young.
I have one brother around a year older than me and he is about my height but skinny (around 230). He never really excelled at conventional sports, but does pretty well at the extreme stuff. I attribute that to the fact that he is mostly nuts like me!
My younger sister never did hardly anything sports or lifting wise. She has two kids, my niece and nephew. I am hoping they will be into sports, but I really care about is that they show some drive towards something and that they are happy. My family is really good about supporting my powerlifting and my parents have done a lot of traveling to see me compete. I know my father is proud of what I have accomplished, but he really wishes I would do something that had more of a future were I could make some money.
CRITICAL BENCH: Chad how important is technique when it comes to the squat, bench, and deadlift?
That is a huge question that could take hours. WARNING: shameless self promotions coming!!!! I am finishing up my first training video which will focus on what I consider to be the foundation of a strong powerlifting or strength career, technique. Proper technique is one of the only ways to lift more weight without actually getting strong. Proper technique will allow you to reach your maximum potential. Proper technique will help to keep injuries away.
Understanding proper technique will allow you to figure out weak points fast, which will allow you fix them faster and get more. I have been to lots of meets and lots of different gyms and I find technique is one of the most overlooked areas of powerlifting. There are also many many guys out there that think they know proper technique, but have no clue. I hope to explain all about proper technique for various different lifters with various gear in this video. I want to start new lifter off on the right foot and help some current lifters to bust threw some plateaus to put up the numbers they are capable of. Look for this video within the next few months on my website www.chadaichs.com or www.elitefts.com<
CRITICAL BENCH: Chad, tell us your role in the BFS movie!
It was not much of a role. They simple taped when I went down with 1154 (I think) at the APF nationals in Vegas. That is about it, a clip lasting about 5 seconds. It was pretty funny to see everyone in the movie theater gasp when that clip came up. I was laughing, I think it is awesome. I was awake for something like 8 days before that meet and I crashed with all that weight, but walked away from it. Most people don't get it, but I am proud of that. I was very thankful that I didn't hurt any of the spotters though, that would have been really bad. The people from magnolia pictures wanted some pics that really stood out to promote the movie. I heard that they were not really impressed with anything until they saw some pics of me and they just said that it, that's what we are going with.
CRITICAL BENCH: What is it like being sponsored by Muscle Milk?
I am sponsored by them (Cytomax/Muscle Milk), but did not work the booth. I have been with them for 3 years now and absolutely love there products. I live on Muscle Milk! They are great about getting me products whenever I need them. They have not really done that much marketing with me, which I would like to do. Maybe that will happen in the future. They really don't ask too much of me, just lift big!
CRITICAL BENCH: Chad although you are one of the strongest men on the Earth, you still claim you aren't any better than anybody else. Tell us about that.
I don't judge myself by my strength. I am much more than just a lifter. I love strength sports and always have. Ever sense I was young I wanted to be big and strong. I was born to do this stuff and I will always be stronger than the normal. Being a strength athlete is in my blood.
Even though I feel this way, I know there is a lot more to life than strength. I can be the strongest man in the world and it really doesn't mean much in the big picture. It doesn't mean I am better than someone or that I should walk around being an asshole to people. I have very good friends that don't even lift, but they are great people. There are plenty of people in this world that do great things, but they are weak as hell. I judge people on who they are on the inside. I don't like people because they are strong or not, I like them because they are good people. In the big picture of life strength doesn't really mean all that much. I do like being around other strong guys and hanging around the guys that are like me. I don't do this stuff to feel better than anyone else; I just love to do it.
CRITICAL BENCH: Do you have any secrets to getting huge like setting the alarm clock and drinking a protein shake in the middle of the night?
Not really. I think it is important to have a protein drink before bed. When I am trying to put on mass I look at food from a portion prospective. Meaning I eat whatever has the most calories in the smallest portions. It is usually named Hostess or Little Debbie!
CRITICAL BENCH: How does powerlifting compare and contrast to your other hobbies?
I would say powerlifting is like a lot of my hobbies in that it is all about strength and power. Motors, cars, and motorcycles are all like art to me. I love the lines and mechanical aspects of them, but what I really like is the power. A car that actually shakes when it rolls by and a motorcycle were you can feel the exhaust, it all about power and how it feels. I am always trying to get the biggest most powerful guns and rifles I can afford. The bigger the better, if I could get my hands on a rocket launcher I would.
Another thing that is the same is the intensity I have for my hobbies; I want to do the absolute best I can at everything I do. I want to be the best photographer, rider, and shooter I can. It is just that right now powerlifting takes up most of my time and focus.
The biggest difference is the person I become in order to lift the weights I do. I have put myself in a very angry and aggressive state. When I do my photography I am usually very calm. I have to slow things down and concentrate. I have to focus on angles, composition, camera setting, and be creative. Most of the time riding is just relaxing for me, except when I am racing or riding fast. Then it is more of an amped up, but relaxed kind of focus. I guess you could say the difference all boils down to my mental state.
CRITICAL BENCH: Moving on to the second part of the interview, I must ask, why don't you think powerlifting is Mainstream at this time?
There are a lot of reasons. I think the main one is that powerlifting doesn't really want it to be Mainstream. I think there are a lot of lifters that like it being underground and kind of unknown. It also seems like a lot of the promoters out there are just in it for themselves. They are too worried about how they look and how much control they have.
There are probably a lot of lifters that could do a great job of helping to promote the sport, but as lifters we make almost no money so it is very difficult to keep up a training program, take care of life stuff, and worry about promotions at the same time. I still feel like powerlifting could go mainstream to at least the level of strongman, but it would take a lot of work.
CRITICAL BENCH: Why do you think most people don't get powerlifting and can't relate to you or other powerlifters?
I think most people don't get it because they know nothing about it. Most people don't even understand what powerlifting is. I always get ask stuff like are you in the Olympics or are you on TV lifting the stones. Most people have no idea what powerlifting really is. Almost everyone that has ever done a sport or been to a gym knows the main lifts, they just don't know about powerlifting.
I think a lot of people could relate to powerlifters. Most powerlifters have regular lives too. I think the best way for people to get it is through publicity. Someone has to see the potential for the sport and get it out there in more mainstream magazines and television. They need to introduce lifters and the type of people that are in the sport. That way people can make connections with powerlifters, and then they will be more likely to stay interested in it. They will want to keep up on what the guys they like and hate are doing.
CRITICAL BENCH: Chad what do you think it will take for powerlifting to go mainstream?
It will take publicity first off. We have to get the sport out to the general public and show them what it is. We have to introduce them to the characters and stars of the sport. Like I said earlier, people need to make a connection with a lifter or something about the sport so that they are more interested and want to keep up with the progress. If a person sees an interview with me and finds out I am into some of the same things as them, then they may have that connection with me. They may like the fact that I am into riding quads like them, so that gives them a reason to cheer for me. They become a fan and now they keep watching to see how I do. Sports are way more exciting when you have a reason that you want someone to win.
Another thing is that we have way too many feds and records. They need to be cleaned up or someone needs to come along with a way better federation and take it all over. People want to see the best of the best compete against each other.
Basically we need one person or a group of people that can see a positive vision for the sport. They need to be motivated, driven, straight up, and have some kind of financial backing. They need to be like the Weider brother and what they did for bodybuilding or like Dana White and what he did for the MMA. In both cases I think the keys were the publicity and how they marketed the athletes. People got to know the bodybuilders through Weiders publications and the UFC did there reality TV show which I think really launch them into the public eye.
CRITICAL BENCH: How would you describe a typical powerlifter?
Most powerlifters are a little off tilt (crazy) and I think that's exactly why I get along with them!! I would say that 90% of the guys I have meet in any of the strength sports have been great guys. They are down to earth and humble. They just want to have some fun and lift heavy stuff. Some of the best times I have had in the sport were hanging around with all the other lifter before and after competitions. Like any group there are a few that I don't get along with, but it is a very few.
CRITICAL BENCH: Yes, that is another great thing about powerlifting it's a big family. However, I think powerlifting needs drama to go mainstream. Take the UFC for example, to a lot of outsiders, people feel they are just watching people hump each other into submission and it isn't very interesting. I think powerlifting needs some kind of drama with behind the scenes stuff and even have the powerlifters go at it before they lift and not even like each other (but respect each other after the lifts,) what is your take on all of this?
Yes, I agree with the fact that there has to be some type of drama to make it more exciting. I think it is already there though; it's just that no one markets it. There are always guys that go to meet to beat someone else or guys betting each other who will win. Guys get beat by someone three times in a row and all through his next training cycle he is just focus on beating that one guy.
I have been in competitions where there was friendly trash (more or less just messing around with each other) talking between guys. There are rivalries between certain gyms. There is a lot of stuff going on that people never see. I am sure most guys would be willing to play that up a bit if needed. I would, I think it would be funny to do. On the platform it is all business though. They played a lot of things up in the movie Pumping Iron, if they hadn't it would have never been as good.
CRITICAL BENCH: How can we promote this in a healthy way to put powerlifting over the top?
It would all be through media. Maybe reality shows or having guys taping in the warm-up areas at competition. I wouldn't worry too much about healthy, some people just don't get along and that the way it is.
CRITICAL BENCH: If powerlifting goes Mainstream which way do you think it should go?
Yes it should go WPO style with lights, big TV screens, card girls, and loud music. That makes it exciting for the lifters and the spectators. The WPO Arnold classic was the coolest competition I ever did. There was so much energy and as you looked over the crowd you could just feel there excitement. I have done some other meets that are more restrictive and they are boring, I don't even get excited at them.
CRITICAL BENCH: To make powerlifting go mainstream to do you think that there should be weight classes?
Unfortunately, I don't think weight classes are all that marketable. No offense to the smaller lifters, but I think people want to see the huge guys that are way out of the normal. Some of the smaller lifters are completely insane strong, but I don't know if people want to see that. Strongman has only two weight classes; which I think is a good idea, but you never see lightweight on TV. The most popular bodybuilders are always the biggest guys too. I think for a marketing stand point you could be under 220 and over 220. Then it is up to the lifters to decide what's best for them. I know in the upper weight class the numbers are not far off between classes. This would also make it easier to run meets and way easier for the spectators to keep track of the athlete's places.
CRITICAL BENCH: Do you think powerlifting should have pay per view events down the road like the UFC and WWE?
Yeah, I think pay per views would be great. Right now I don't think they would make too much money, but with the right marketing I think it would do well. Anything that can bring money into the sport is good as long as it makes its way down to the lifters, but if it doesn't then the lifters will just end up doing backyard meets and who cold blame them.
CRITICAL BENCH: Would mainstream powerlifting kill the dark side of the sport? Many powerlifters simply don't want powerlifting to be Mainstream because they like the idea of powerlifting being an underground sport. How can powerlifting go main stream while still keeping its exciting edge?
I think powerlifting can go main stream and still keep the dark side. Mainstream just means that the general public gets into the sport. They watch it on TV, go to events, and buy merchandise of the guys they like. They are not really going to be following around the hardcore lifters; the general population will probably still be scared as hell of them. The dark side guys will still train in little gyms that the normals are not allowed in. All going mainstream means it that guys will be able to make a living doing what they love. They will be able to become bigger, stronger and more hardcore than ever.
CRITICAL BENCH: Chad, we know powerlifters in the game say "Setting a personal record is all that matters. The only person you must beat is yourself." Explain why you think this is so important.
For me it is all about setting goals. When you first start lifting you can't set a goal to break a world record in your first meet or to put up the all time total. You have to start off with small goals. When I first started my goals were to beat my own personal best total at each meet. I did have big goals of being one of the top supers, but I knew that small goals were the best way for me to reach my all time goal. So yes I think it is really good for people to go after personal records and that is what it is about, but there will be a time when you will start looking at other lifters and the all time numbers. I still say the best way is to keep looking to yourself and just focus on making yourself better. If you keep pushing yourself and trying to break your own personal best then it will all work itself out. One of my goals is to break the all time total, but I don't focus on what the other lifters are doing. I focus on what I am doing and how I can make my numbers keep growing. I can only affect my training; I can not change what other people are doing.
CRITICAL BENCH: How can powerlifting attract high dollar sponsors for meets?
Powerlifting can get money from almost any type of sponsor. The problem is that the sponsors want something in return and they deserve that. They want some press and marketing. Someone with some very good business sense and some money has to come along. The best marketing we could ever give sponsors would be television coverage. The problem with that is no one will give us television coverage unless we can prove it will pay off. It's a catch 22. Some one would have to front the cost of the first few television events and hope that it pays off in the end. We need someone with money, business sense, and a vision. MMA fighting has gone completely crazy and a lot of people said that would never make it.
CRITICAL BENCH: This is true! How could powerlifting personalities put their egos aside and all come together to make powerlifting grow? And what do you say to those lifters who say "who gives a crap?" As some powerlifters simply don't care whether or not powerlifting gets put on the map!
Well there will always be egos and that might not be a bad thing. It makes for good entertainment. We do need to get together for a main goal of making some damn money in this sport. Although this sport has cost me a ton of money and almost killed me, I love it and want it to grow. Whenever I go into some commercial gym I just laugh at all the stupid people wasting there time.
I want there to be real gyms in every city in the world and I want big strong ass people walking down every street in the world. I want people to understand and respect what all the top lifters put themselves through. For the people that say "who gives a crap" screw them. They are probably just in it for themselves and afraid that if the sport gets bigger then it will attract better athletes that will challenge them.
CRITICAL BENCH: Chad, you are super enormous and strong. Has it been worth it?
Yes!! I wrote an article about this question for Elitefts.com a while back. I have been through some messed up experiences over that last 8 years and some of that may have been compounded by lifting, but it was worth it.
CRITICAL BENCH: Well, Chad it has been great talking to you today. Only time will tell us what the future of powerlifting holds. I hope that your interview has made people think and try new things to help propel the sport of powerlifting in different ways. There is an old saying "If you do what you always did, you will get what you always got." I think by trying new things with powerlifting can help the sport in very new and exciting ways. Chad it has been a pleasure.
Chad Aichs - 821 Bench Press - WPO Semi Finals World Record