Interview With Powerlifter J.L. Holdsworth As told to CriticalBench.com by Curt Dennis Jr. "The Brute" of Planetrage.com - May 2009
CRITICAL BENCH: Thank you for doing this interview, please introduce yourself.
My name is J.L. Holdsworth, I live in Columbus, Ohio and train at EliteFTS and at Lexen. You can read more of my background in my reintroduction and FIVE Percent article at www.elitefts.com/documents/5_percent.htm
CRITICAL BENCH: What are your Best PR's right now?
905 squat, 775 bench, 804 dead lift
CRITICAL BENCH: How long have you been into power lifting?
My PR's were done in '04, I power lifted from '02 - '04 and did four powerlifting meets, then I herniated my L5/S1. I'm currently training to do a come back meet and a bodybuilding show.
CRITICAL BENCH: Tell us about your childhood and how you got into power lifting?
I was raised in Michigan and I always liked being strong. I had to chop wood every day for our wood stove and I would make a game out of it. Like how fast I could chop the wood and how much I could carry at once. This was my first bit of training I suppose. In middle school my best friend had a dad who I thought was huge. He lifted and that made a really big impression on me. He was our principle and ironically it was Greg McMillan, Josh McMillan's (newest member of EFS) dad.
CRITICAL BENCH: Who did you look up to when you were coming up as a power lifter?
Nobody. The only person I have ever looked up to was my grandpa. My road to the top was very fast so I didn't really look up to power lifters but respected a lot of people's knowledge. Jim Wendler turned me on to power lifting. I had lifted since I was 15 but it was always for football and wrestling. When I got done with college football I was doing Olympic lifting and then I met Jim and started talking with him about power lifting and Westside. It was a whole new world to me. Jim, Dave, Louie and Chuck Vogehlpuhl were probably the people I learned the most from though.
CRITICAL BENCH: What would you say to a novice lifter or to a lifter who's just starting out in power lifting?
Don't get caught up in the bullshit. This sport is about being strong and not about all the little stupid arguments people have. If the people you lift with spend their time debating gear and feds and not training, then change lifting partners, because they don't get it. Do basic lifts to get strong and do them raw. You can always get better in gear but you can't go back and lay a good foundation. Use good technique. Don't worry about the weight, it'll come, use good form.
CRITICAL BENCH: Do you have a favorite out of the 3 lifts?
The bench. I'll always love it. Still remember the first time I pressed 225, it was the greatest day ever.
CRITICAL BENCH: What are the challenges of being a power lifter?
The haters. I say what I think and I'm a cocky asshole, so people want to see me fail, that drives me. It seems though that anyone that is good out there has people who want to talk shit. I have an abundance theory in life that says we can all be great and there is enough out there for everyone. So I don't spend any time worrying about the negative things people say, while they are whining I'll be winning.
CRITICAL BENCH: Tell everyone here the difference between someone who wants to look "pretty" and someone who does what we do? The difference between a workout and a training session.
First off, I am pretty, I want to look jacked and be strong. But seriously, a workout is something that probably involves a magazine, possibly a cell call and the words "I saw it in Men's Health". A training session involves sweat, possibly blood and a lot of work. I will never be "pretty" but I also don't want to look like I don't lift weights and some power lifters that are really strong look like they don't even lift weights, so there has to be a balance.
CRITICAL BENCH: What would you tell a power lifter if they are trying to get to the next level in the sport? Do you believe that power lifters' have a lifestyle of their own?
First off, our sport is very small. More people in Columbus know the local high school quarterback than know who Louie Simmons is. We are a fringe sport and that means there is no money in it. If you want to get to the next level you will invest far more than you will see in fame or money, so if you do it, do it for the pride, that's all you can ask for in our sport. As far as lifestyle, I think that varies. There is definitely camaraderie among power lifters but I don't like what I hear most of the time. It is acceptable to be fat and out of shape as long as you are strong. This is not the lifestyle that I choose nor do I accept that as the lifestyle of a power lifter. For power lifting to really be embraced we need to look strong as well as being strong. We all know gaining 40lbs of fat will help our bench and squat go up but does it really help us, or our sport.
CRITICAL BENCH: How driven would people say you are about being a power lifter? How does it affect you outside of the gym?
My life revolves around eating and training. When people ask if I want to go to out I usually have to decline as I train early Saturday and Sunday. Definitely my size negatively affects some people's perception, but my goal is not to make friends, it's to be the biggest, strongest out there.
CRITICAL BENCH: Do you have any training partners? How has they helped?
I've gone through lots of training partners through the years. They all have added something different. Evan Simon was my first really good training partner in power lifting. It wasn't that he was really strong but he was very thoughtful in his training and the best handler you could ask for at meets. Jim Wendler, Chuck V. and Dave were great training partners at Westside. Jim would make you think, Chuck would make you work and Dave would help you look at the big picture. My current training partner Brian Billings is now my roommate and best friend. Because we live with each other and spend so much time together he knows me better than anyone. This allows him to do something no other training partner has and that is make me back off from doing so much crazy training.
CRITICAL BENCH: What are your workouts like? How are they setup? What training methodology do you follow?
My workouts are usually set up around certain rest periods to control intensity of workouts. I follow a conjugate system of training but since I am training for a bodybuilding show then my volume is higher and I have split out my body parts to allow for more volume and growth, esp. in my legs.
CRITICAL BENCH: What would you suggest to someone on how to get stronger on all 3 lifts?
Consistency! Every program works if you stick with it. As long as you think about your training and plan and can adapt that plan as necessary then you will get stronger.
CRITICAL BENCH: What drives you as a lifter?
When I was in high school I could take everyone on our team down and I thought I was the shit. Then one of my coaches said "do you want to be the best in this room or the best in the state." That drives me, to be the best in the world.
CRITICAL BENCH: Do you think using bench shirts/gear is cheating?
No, it's just different rules. If you want to compete raw you can, single ply -there a fed, 20 ply - there's a fed. There is something out there for everyone, find what you like and don't bitch about what other people are doing. That said, I do find raw lifting to be much more impressive. A 600lb raw bench is 100 times more impressive than an 800lb shirted bench to me.
CRITICAL BENCH: What is your view on training in equipment and learning them?
If you are going to use it in a meet you must train in it. The mistake I see so many people make is train in one shirt or suit and go to a meet and use another. That's like a NASCAR driver testing a track in a mini-van and getting in their 850hr machine the day of the race. Practice in what you will use game day.
CRITICAL BENCH: What do you think is the reason for all the big numbers as of late like Kennelly's 1075 and Frankl's freakish total or Hornstra's raw strength? Has strength training evolved?
Yes and No. Mentality has evolved but the methods aren't really much different. It's like when the first man broke the 4 minute mile, everyone said it couldn't be done, then once the first guy did it, everyone and their brother could do it. People's minds are their worst enemy and that is a lot of what I talk about with my FIVE percent system, changing your mind frame. I remember when I came to Westside and a good lifter was like benching 800 is crazy, and I kept thinking, he'll never do it because he thinks he can't. Whether you think you can or you can't, you're right.
CRITICAL BENCH: Do you think the standards went up in the sport?
Well, as people have realized that it's just weight and stopped putting the "weight" up on a pedestal then the totals have gone up and what we think of as strong has definitely changed. The "strong" standard has definitely changed but with so many feds the judging standards have not went up.
CRITICAL BENCH: What is your nutrition like now?
I cycle high and low carbs. I have 5 low and 2 high carb days right now. It's coming up on bikini season and I need to be sexy for the beach. Really I just want to carry less fat as I do more volume training so I can see what is truly growing.
CRITICAL BENCH: What changes are you going to have to make to go to the next level?
Everyone has their weakness and my kryptonite is definitely women. My life has been filled with so much drama over the last few years and if I took the time that I had been spending chasing tail and inventing new lies to tell each girl then I would have probably hit all my goals by now. Now I have a great girlfriend who is very supportive and I've put the drama behind me. So to get to the next level I just need to stay focused and stop f'n up when it comes to women.
Specifically I need to bring my legs up a lot. I want to put 5 inches on my thighs and 4 inches on my calves over the next 21/2 years. I also need to not be so crazy in the gym. I need to stay healthy and not push to the point of no return so much.
CRITICAL BENCH: Is there anyone you would like to thank right now?
My training partner Brian Billings, I'm lucky to have been blessed with such a great training partner and friend. My girlfriend, Michelle Moore, she has stuck by me through more than any woman should ever have to endure. Jim Wendler, if I wouldn't have met Jim I don't know if I would have ever started power lifting. Dave Tate, for all his help over the years, if you don't know check out Elitefts.com, it's the best website on the net, Danny Dague for being so damned good looking and of course you for allowing me to do this interview.