Interview With Powerlifting Squat Connoisseur Jeff Lewis Interviewed By Ben Tatar of CriticalBench.com - February 2008
Jeff Lewis Squats 1212 lbs - Photo by EliteFTS.com
Jeff Lewis is an elite powerlifter that is a serious contender for the Total record. He has proven his merit in the both the WPO and USAPL federations. Jeff was kind enough to do a phone interview that has been transcribed below. Prepare to learn a thing or three from this gentle giant aka King Louie, Jeff Lewis.
1) Critical Bench: Ben Tatar here and I'm talking to Big Man Jeff Lewis. Jeff anyone that even remotely follows powerlifting knows how dominant you are in the sport. How did the journey begin for you?
Jeff Lewis: A guy named Joe Scalzitti got me started. He saw me the first day, I joined. I just turned 21. He asked if I lifted and I said "I just mess around, nothing serious." I bench pressed 225 for 4 reps and 275 for 2 reps on that day. He told me that I was too big to not do the sport. Then Mike Anderson took me under his wing and my powerlifting career took off from there.
2) Critical Bench: Wow, you are a lot stronger today than you were back then! What are your best lifts?
Jeff Lewis: Hahahaha, I know! Much, MUCH stronger!
In the USAPL my best squat is 959, bench 722 and 722 deadlift. .
In the WPO my best squat is 1212.5, bench 815 and deadlift 771.
3) Critical Bench: How does it feel to have one of the biggest squats on Earth both equipped and unequipped?
Jeff Lewis: It's nice to do that in retrospect. It's a good accomplishment. I don't get all caught up in the numbers. Anytime, I look back, it feels good.
4) Critical Bench: Jeff, when you attempt a world record squat what goes through your head before the lift, during the lift, and after the lift?
Jeff Lewis: Before I squat it's mental visualization. I make sure everything is centered and I don't rush it. I'm mentally actually experiencing the feeling of the weight and I'm thinking complete domination and controlling the bar.
When you're lifting it you push as hard as you can and stay true to form. It doesn't matter if you are squatting 135 or 1000lbs, you got to be true to form. You don't hunch over or let your knees curve in.
The big thing at the end of lift is you need to video tape it and see what you did right and fix things that didn't.
5) Critical Bench: Good tips. Would you share your squat routine?
Jeff Lewis: I'm doing the Brad Gillingham routine. It's 5x5 raw. I follow it up with some speed work off the box. Then I do good mornings and then calves and abs. I rotate with glute ham raises and reverse hypers .
6) Critical Bench: Awesome. Hopefully our readers can incorporate aspects of your squat routine and watch their squat go through the roof. What is your diet like? What supplements do you take?
Jeff Lewis: The majority of my diet is a lot of protein. In the morning I eat 8-9 eggs with 2 yolks with vegetables. During mid morning I'll have a protein shake and an apple. For lunch I will have chicken/beef and a salad. I eat the same thing for dinner.
7) Critical Bench: Do you have a psychological philosophy that makes you as strong as you are?
Jeff Lewis: I think what helps me is believing in myself and believing in my God given talents. My mom always told me that there are two ways to do things in life, the right way and the wrong way. So if it is worth doing, do it the right way with 100% effort.
8) Critical Bench: What are your future goals?
Jeff Lewis: My future goal is to win the men's nationals in the USAPL. To win an IPF gold medal and get the IPF squat record as well. To continue in this sport as long as possible. Short term goals; get that 800 lbs deadlift. It's been the toughest lift for me and I want to get that out of the away.
Photo by EliteFTS.com
9) Critical Bench: Jeff, you're one of the best in both the IPF and WPO. Which fed is tougher to be the worlds best? Which records mean more to you?
Jeff Lewis: It's harder to get a record in the IPF and USAPL. There is less supportive equipment despite weight. It's hard, more strict and I've done both and like both. I think putting the IPF world squat record out of reach for a while would be a greater achievement.
10) Critical Bench: It's good you can be one of the best at both. Think you'll stay single ply for a while?
Jeff Lewis: Right now I am focused on single ply, but when I feel like a change I will throw on the gear and hit a double ply meet.
11) Critical Bench: Away from powerlifting what do you like to do?
Jeff Lewis: RIDE ATV's with my family! That and spend time with my family. I like to spend time with my son Justin who is 9 years old. I coach everything he plays, football, basketball, and baseball. That is my favorite thing to do and help him realize his potential.
12) Critical Bench: It's great to see how close you are to your son! What is your advice for other lifters to do and not to do?
Jeff Lewis: Don't rush putting a lot of weight on the bar. Build a solid foundation with technique. Don't worry what other guys are doing, because if you worry about what other guys are doing it means you lose focus on what you are doing.
Another mistake I see lifters make is that they don't write plans down. If you don't have a written plan to succeed, you've written your plan to fail……
I'd also advise other lifters to learn the rules, performances, and learn the history of the sport. Without our Kaz's, Ed Coan's, or the Kirk Karwoski's of the past, powerlifting wouldn't be where it is today.
13) Critical Bench: What do you think are the 5 biggest factors for a bigger squat?
2. Desire of perfection (it has to be a perfect lift.)
3. Planning- plan everything out.
4. Learn the equipment
5. No fear attitude!!!!
14) Critical Bench: Jeff, how can other lifters develop a "No Fear Attitude?" What is the difference between guys who fear and have a no fear attitudes psychologically?
Jeff Lewis: The difference is guys get caught up in the numbers too much. The difference between 500 and 600 is 100lbs. People see the 100lbs. If you do 700lbs, you can get there .
You got to step it up. It's a learned mentality. Some guys are born with it; others got to go do it.
15) Great advice! Jeff, you're a funny guy. So far in your powerlifting career what has been your funniest experience so far?
Jeff Lewis: Well I have a lot of those. Hahaha! We were in Houston, Texas in 1994 for the USPF Nationals and Pat Anderson, I, and a few other people were hanging out in my room talking about training and watching training videos. Kirk Karwoski comes in and he has beads of sweat on his forehead and he is pacing in a circle. He said," You won't believe what just happened to me". I was walking through the lobby and these three gals asked if they could feel my legs. So I pulled up the legs of my shorts and flexed for them.
A few seconds later he looks up and says "my quads are so pumped I can't get my shorts to go back down." Now anyone who has listened to Kirk tells a story would be laughing like crazy at this point. Kirk continues to pace back and forth and Pat tells him to sit down and relax... Kirk looks at him with a dead serious look on his face and says "relax, I am relaxed. I watch TV standing up."
16) Critical Bench: Hahaha, awesome story! What are your thoughts regarding the Internet and powerlifting?
Jeff Lewis: The net is doing good things for powerlifting. The net makes it easier to communicate with people. In the past we didn't have access to all different websites. Now we have all kinds of different tips about how to help with lifts.
The downfall is the constant negative things that people are posting. It's like if you don't like it, turn it. You don't have to like me, I consider myself a good person and people will always have negative things to say to you. It's probably been the bad part of the net of lifting, people who have nothing to do all day, but rip on people all day. Just go out there and do the best you can. I think people need to realize they are judged by their peers and friends and it doesn't matter what people 3,000 miles away say about me. We always make fun of those websites.
People are like, "did you know what so and so said about you?"
I'm like, "No I was at the gym training." HAHAHA !
Too many people worry what everyone else does. If you think the lift was high, on video that is your opinion let it go. People are people and they are just going to be the way they are. The net is great! However, to move the sport forward we need to get past the negativity. We need something positive for the kids coming and for the future of powerlifting.
17) Critical Bench: Do you think the bench press will ever be a mainstream sport? What do you think will be the most popular in the future gear or raw lifting?
Jeff Lewis: I believe the bench press could go mainstream with shirts and raw. Guys like Ryan Kennelly have gone crazy out there. They are monsters. They are great bench pressers.
I believe we should have the World Bench Press competition, which is the unlimited ply gear division, or the raw division or single ply. We don't have to make them compete against each other; we can let them all succeed.
And if someone uses a shirt, it doesn't mean they are weak. They took a path that they chose to achieve the biggest bench they could.
If you have the top people in the sport together with a good creative marketing crew and with the strongman, powerlifting could truly go a long way.
18) Critical Bench: What powerlifters do you really admire in the game?
Jeff Lewis: Kaz, Ed Coan, Kirk, Gene Bell, Wade Hooper, Brian Siders, Brad Gillingham, Don Reinhoudt and many others. They paved the way. They mentally push you to keep your game at an A level all the time.
Personally, I think Joe Scalzitti was very inspiring to me. He was the one who got me into the sport and he was the first one in the gym and last one to leave. He was a very average lifter at every lift he did, but he always did it to the best he could. He said you gotta do it hard and that is what separates the men from the boys. It's a lot more mental than what people think. Your natural ability will take you so far but you testicular fortitude will take you past those tough times.
19) Critical Bench: How does your family feel about your powerlifting and success?
Jeff Lewis: They are behind me 110%. My wife has been very-very supportive. She is a diamond in the rough. She puts up with a lot and she helps me prepare with different meals. She helps me look for things I can't find. My son realizes what his dad does and how strong his dad does. We have a youth powerlifting class that we teach on Sundays. My son's goal is to play in the NFL and powerlift at the same time. He tells everyone how proud he is of his dad. He's very athletic and he knows what it takes to get to that next level and he appreciates the commitment.
20) Critical Bench: Tell us about the gym you train at and what it is like.
Jeff Lewis: I train at Concordia Turners Gym in St. Louis MO. We have a group of 10-15 guys that train together, help each other, and motivate each other to excel at this sport. We are located in the basement of the building, with a definite old school training environment. Chalk flying, music jamming.
People cheering, lifters yelling, ammonia sniffing, and hard core training is what you will find at this gym. It doesn't matter if you're lifting 135lbs or 935lbs.
You will be treated the same as everyone else. You are expected to do your share and help when you can. BY far, this is the best place I have trained.
21) Critical Bench: Sounds hardcore!! Jeff, If you trained at a modern fitness center, chain gym or franchise gym, do you think you could possibly be as strong as you are today? Speaking of which, being so used to the hardcore scene, what does it feel like for you to enter a regular gym? Lol.
Jeff Lewis: I went to a big name gym recently and after about 1 hour I had to leave. I was doing some rows and this guy spreads out the sport section across 2 benches and proceeds to read the paper and sip his latte while I'm trying to workout. I asked him nicely to move the paper and he pulls it back about 2 inches but it was still on part of the bench I was using. So I put my sweaty leg and arm all over the bench on my next set so when he laid his paper down it stuck to the bench and soaked the sports page. He gave me this evil look and I just smiled at him while I finished up and moved on to the next set.
22) Critical Bench: Serves him right. Jeff, do you feel like you are competing in powerlifting during the right era? Do you ever wish you were competing in the future of powerlifting or in the past against other greats?
Jeff Lewis: I like the time we are in. I'm happy. I'm all about the now. Sometimes you just have to take a peak back for inspiration.
23) Critical Bench: Jeff, you are going to be at the Arnold Classic this year and competing in the USAPL. How do you feel about the USAPL representing the sport at the Arnold? Some people have concerns that the USAPL isn't as hardcore and is less of a show. What is your personal take?
Jeff Lewis: I like the changes at the Arnold Classic this year. This lets people see what this organization is all about. I think it's all a matter of how the USAPL will be presented. I believe they will have loud music for the lifters that want it and that it will establish fan appeal.
However, there will have to be 2 people announcing and music blaring. It can't be 1 guy announcing, but 2-3. From what I hear, that is what they are going to be doing.
24) Critical Bench: Speaking of entertainment, Jeff, how would you like to be a WWE wrestler?
Jeff Lewis: My son is an avid wrestling fan. If I said no, he would SHOOT ME!!! Hahaha
25) Critical Bench: hahaha. How big is your 9-year old son?
Jeff Lewis: My son is 5'1 140lbs!!!! On the O line and D line, he dominates.
Photo by EliteFTS.com
26) Critical Bench: Watch out football land. Jeff, outside of lifting big weights and meeting interesting people what makes powerlifting meaningful?
Jeff Lewis: One great thing about powerlifting is that the things you do in powerlifting you can apply in everyday life. Like setting goals, planning and looking at your plans. Powerlifting is much like life. High times, low times, middle of the road and powerlifting teaches you how to be strong during all those times and you can take that from powerlifting into day to day life.
27) Critical Bench: What would you like to see change in powerlifting outside of the negativity among the message boards?
Jeff Lewis: I think we should have 3 different divisions! 1 powerlifting organization and 3 divisions. That is all you need to take care of everybody.
28) Critical Bench: Exactly. Jeff, do you have any advice for other people who might want to approach you and who might be intimidated since you're a huge powerlifting monster?
Jeff Lewis: Yes, don't be afraid to approach me. I'm a very nice person. I would like everyone to know that we are all the same. I am no different than the 165lbs powerlifter in that I want to live a happy life and be as strong as I possibly can be .
29) Critical Bench: Jeff it has been a pleasure, is there anything else you would like to say?
I want to thank my wife Patty and my son Justin. I want to thank my mother, brother for all their support. People in general Bill McDonough Mike Pratt, Kurt Richardson, Willie Lamere, Rick Fowler, and Jim Bell and Pat and Mike Anderson, Joe and anyone else I forgot forgive me, but you know who you are. I thank GOD, for giving me the ability to do this!
I also want to thank INZER for all of their help and support. Without companies like Inzer, we would have an even tougher road to travel as powerlifters. This is the cutting edge powerlifting company and they have the best gear hands down.