I've been told that having strong hands or grip strength is the key to success in many of the sports that I enjoy. Unfortunately, until last year, I've never truly concentrated on my grip strength. However, its imperative in Powerlifting, Strongman Competitions, Scottish Heavy Events, (I think all sports!) As a matter of fact, Pinch Gripping is a popular strength challenge among the Iron minded athletes. Jeff Maddy is no stranger when it comes to gripping power. He's is also an accomplished bench press champion, holding the world record in 1992, at (725 lbs.), and he can squat 960 lbs. (clean). You´re going to enjoy this informative interview with Jeff Maddy. And as Jeff would say, (focus) and you can accomplish anything you put your mind to!
Bodytech: First of all, I want to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk to us Jeff. Please give us some background info on yourself, where did you grow up and what do you think sparked your interest in Strength and Powerlifting?
Jeff: Let me first start out by saying that when I was young the other kids picked on me and made fun of me because I was heavy. I found out that I was strong when I started throwing these same kids around. We had a balance beam at school, in the playground area. We had challenges, one guy on each side fighting to throw the other off. I lined up against one of the toughest 6th graders when I was in 2nd grade. I threw him off so easily (head first) that it surprised me. That was about the first time I knew and appreciated having great strength.
Jeff: I'm from Wyoming. I was raised and still live here. I have lived in other places but have always ended up coming back.
Bodytech: What sports did you play growing up?
Jeff: Football and Wrestling in High School. Joined the Marine Corps after High School. Graduated from the University of Wyoming wth a degree in Physical Education.
Bodytech: What are your current stats?
Jeff: 6'2" I was about 520-530lbs at my heaviest. Right now, about 490lbs.
Bodytech: When did you first get involved in powerlifting and why?
Jeff: I have been lifting since '79 at the age of 15. I started lifting because it was required for all football players. I just turned 18 years old and wanted to break the state bench record in the 242lb class, I weighed 238 that day. The record was 370. I benched 470 that day. In order to bench I had to enter the entire contest. Back in those days ('82), bench shirts didn't exist. I had never squatted or deadlifted and did 350 and 400 respectively.
Bodytech: What organization or organizations did you compete in?
Jeff: The USPF primarily.
Bodytech: What is your favorite power lift?
Jeff: Bench was always my favorite lift. This lift will put on more muscle size than any other. Squats, Military Presses and Cheat Curls are favorites of mine as well. I got as big as I am today primarily from just benching and squatting very heavy all the time.
Bodytech: What are some of the records you hold in powerlifting and what is your best total (official and unofficial)?
Jeff: My best official total was as follows: Squat 848, Bench 661 and Deadlifted 655 for a 2166 Total.
Jeff: Other lifts I have performed were as follows:
960 Squat – performed in a meet but I didn't Bench or Deadlift afterwards.
725 Bench – both 700 and 725 were performed in meets. The 725 was not counted due to me having the heel of my foot raised slightly.
I weighed 399 when I benched 700.
I weighed 425 when I benched 725
I weighed 460 when I squatted 960.
Bodytech: You're very tall and have relatively long arms, yet you excelled in the benchpress. Were you always a good bench presser or did you have to train harder to overcome the leverage issues that plague taller powerlifters?
Jeff: Obstacles are easily overcome if you make overcoming them a primary focus. All energies, thoughts and actions were taken to increase the Bench Press when I exceeded the World Record. This may not mean training harder, but training with extreme focus, smart training and listening to your body.
Jeff: The key is to focus on one thing, whatever it is. Everything in my life at that time took a backseat to the bench press. A phrase I like is "Man can do all things, if they WILL".
Bodytech: What was a typical training week for you when you were powerlifting?
Jeff: Bench every 7-9 days. Squat every 9 days. Curls every 9-14 days. This was a main routine. I have trained many different routines.
Bodytech: Any advice for people interested in excelling at?
Jeff: Perform the lifts that involve a combination of muscle groups. Do not isolate single muscle groups. Stick with the basics. Fancy routines and machines get you nowhere. Make sure each exercise you do is helping you and not wasting your time.
Jeff: Listen to your body. It will tell you when you are healed and ready to lift. The longer you lift the better in tune you are. Also, you must think and prepare your workouts all week long, not just mindlessly lifting on your workout day.
Bodytech: You're a drug-free athlete. Do you have any opinions on steroid use?
Jeff: You have to challenge yourself in this life. I set a goal when I was young to exceed Bill Kazmaier's bench record of 661. At 17 I benched 485 at 238 in High School. 560 on my 20th birthday (no shirt) etc, etc. I never listened to people who said, "you have to take drugs" to bench this and that. I told myself what I was capable of. Just like John Henry beat the machine, I outdid all users and non-users alike. But for such lofty goals there are often heavy prices to be paid, and I did not escape unscathed in my perfect challenge quest to be the strongest bencher ever.
Bodytech: Have you always competed in Strongman contests or is this a recent thing for you?
Jeff: This is a recent thing. I entered "The Strongest Man Alive" contest in St. Louis in November '98. I took 9th place out of 48 lifters. I realized at that point that I needed to improve on my endurance, flexibility, specific training, cleans and deadlifts among others. I had a great time there and met Jouko Ahola, Phil Pfister, Bryan Neese, Whit Baskin, Mawr Wallace, Ed Brost, Bill Kazmaier, Magnus verMagnuson, Phil Martin, John Brookfield, Jim McGoldrick, Vae Mafuli, Johan Roelloffse, Anastasios Kazolis, Brady Baskin, Steve Jeck, Paul Armstrong, Steve Goggins and Tony Scrivens.
Bodytech: What made you switch from powerlifting to Strongman events?
Jeff: It is hard to make improvements in just 3 different lifts after 20 years of training. It is nice to try and challenge yourself in all different areas of strength, and there are many. It's kind of nice to see a lot of my lifts increasing again, not necessarily the big three.
Bodytech: Do you think you will ever compete in powerlifting again?
Jeff: I do not know. It is good to keep these lifts as strong as ever because they are the base for all the other strength events. I would still like to squat over 1000.
Bodytech: How did you first get into Strongman events?
Jeff: Mark Phillippi and Chris Mavromatis were people I first talked to, not in person, but over the phone. I tried to enter Paul Armstrong's or Gus Rethwisch's meets but financially both fell through.
Bodytech: In powerlifting you train for just the three lifts, but in Strongman contests there are always different events being invented, does this make it harder for you to train? Do you have a favorite event?
Jeff: It does make it harder to train, but you must remember that most of your basic strength comes from the basic lifts like Presses, Squats and Deadlifts. My favorite events tend to be the ones that are stationary or where some type of press, arm or leg, is involved. The Keg Toss or Heavy Keg Press I like.
Bodytech: How do you go about training for the specific Strongman events?
Jeff: Some can be trained with the powerlifts on certain days. Some can be trained on any day, depending on what muscle groups you are using and how much recovery time it demands.
Bodytech: Do you train at a local gym? Do you have a trainer or training partners?
Jeff: I train at a local gym. The gym owner has been very helpful in storing some of my strongman equipment such as ropes, chains, barrels, tires thick bars, etc. I train by myself but others are there to assist me, just as I will help them if they need help.
Bodytech: What are some of the records, official and unofficial, you hold as far as Strength?
Jeff: 1st person to ever bench 725lbs ever.Cheat Curl 355lbs**
3rd person to ever bench 700lbs ever.Benched 725lbs in '92 to exceed Lains record*
Seated Military Press 475lbs **Pinch grip 130lbs*
Squat 960lbs (no drug use)**
Crusher #3 for 20 seconds straight, nearing Crusher #4
Tore 72 cards in half out of 2 decks of playing cards
Strict Curl 255lbs (shoulders, butt and head touching the wall)**
* denotes World Record
** denotes possible World Record
Bodytech: You are currently one of only 17 people that has successfully closed the Ironmind "Captains of Crush" #3 gripper. To date, only one person has successfully closed the #4 gripper…will you be the next?
Jeff: God willing I will be the next. The #4 is no easy task. There are 2 different ways to train that might be helpful
Bodytech: Have you ever been seriously injured from powerlifting or competing in Strongman events?
Jeff: I have torn muscles on both sides of my chest. I benched 725 after having one side of my chest torn. I have had 4 hernias, 3 of which were operated on. I still managed to squat 960 when I had a hernia already popping out of my stomach for two years prior. I've had a rotator cuff injury that put me out for about a year. A minor tricep tear that put me out for 8-9 months. Numerous minor injuries. I have always known that these injuries would slow me down but they will never stop me.
Jeff: On a side note, I'd like to say I was feeling down one day about one of my hernias and I saw a dog on the street, that must have been hit by a car, because about a foot of intestine that looked like an oblong balloon was hanging out of his ass. And he was wagging his tail and walking around like it was a great day! At that point I said I don't have a problem anymore.
Bodytech: I've heard you are practicing bending horseshoes, how did that come about?
Jeff: I thought it would be a new ultimate strength feat. I consulted grip masters such as John Brookfield, Richard Sorin and Bryan Neese. I also read about the Mighty Atom who bent horseshoes as well as breaking them in two.
Bodytech: I've also heard you are a big fan of Pro-wrestling. Who are some of your favorites?
Jeff: King Kong Bundy, Abdullah the Butcher and Mad Dog Vachon. Current favorites are Big Poppa Pump, Buff Bagwell, Meng, Stone Cold Steve Austin and "The Big Show" Paul White.
Bodytech: Have you ever been approached for or thought about a career in Pro-wrestling?
Jeff: Yes I have. If the money is right I would do it.
Bodytech: Would you want to be a good-guy or bad-guy?
Jeff: I've always followed my own path. Done whatever I wanted to do. Was my own man. If the fans liked that attitude, fine. If they didn't. Fine.
Bodytech: Are there any Strength athletes that you admire? How about people in general? Is there anyone who inspires you?
Jeff: When I was young I bought Iron Man magazine and loved to read about Paul Anderson and Jim Williams. I also would watch wrestling and see how huge some of these guys were, hoping someday to be even bigger and stronger than they. Every young person today should try to pick out such people for inspiration and motivation. Also, anybody that fights the good fight or fights for what's right has my respect.
Bodytech: What advice would you have for someone trying to break into Strength competitions?
Jeff: Train very specifically. As specifically as you can. Mimic the event exactly or the carry over of strength isn't what you want. As far as getting a hold of someone, Chris Mavromatis (SP?) out of St. Louis could hook you up.
Bodytech: Do you think there are too many politics in both Strength contests and powerlifting?
Jeff: Politics are part of everyday life and every thing and they affect Powerlifting as well as Strength Contests.
Bodytech: What are your future goals?
Jeff: My goals have always been to be as big and as strong as I can be. Specifically some of my future goals are:
Push Press 600lbs
Bench 600 for 10 reps (no shirt)
Squat the World Record (not including Paul Anderson)