Interview With Powerlifter Matt "Powerdawg" Christie As told to CriticalBench.com by Curt Dennis Jr. "The Brute" of Planetrage.com - September 2008
POWERDAWG...that's what I know him as and he sure lives up to the name. Not many people know about Matt but he's coming up in a big way and so are his lifts! His determination and discipline is displayed on the platform as well as in the gym and as a firefighter! Find out who this freak is and know that his strength lies determination and discipline...
Critical Bench: Hey, thanks for doing this interview, Please introduce yourself.
My name is Matthew Christie. I am 26 years old. I live in Winder, Ga about 45mins east of Atlanta with my wife, Holly and our American Bulldog/Mastiff, Tiger. I am a firefighter for Gwinnett County Fire Department.
Critical Bench: How long have you been involved in powerlifting?
I've been powerlifting since I was about 18 years old.
Critical Bench: Tell us about your childhood and how you got into powerlifting?
I grew up just outside of Atlanta and growing up I played football. That is where I first acquired my love for lifting. Training for football to me almost becomes more fun than playing. After I graduated and stopped playing football, I really missed the training sessions. I had a friend that invited me to go to George Herring's gym. After the first visit I was hooked. I set a goal to get "ripped" as I was tired of being a fat lineman. When I first went to George's place we maxed out on bench and George told me I had a talent for lifting. I started to lose weight but kept lifting heavy. I did my first powerlifting meet in April of 2001. I benched 315# at a light 198lbs. I was hooked from then on.
Matt Christie 600 Pound Bench Press
Critical Bench: Nice, a lot of people got started in a similar way. Who did you look up to when you were first started competing?
Obviously I looked up to George Herring as I was training with him at his place. I have seen do some pretty freakish stuff. Other than that I have always loved watching Kennelly bench, his control and consistancy are amazing. Lately, I watched Charles Bailey, I like his training still and willingness to compete everywhere. And Shawn Frankl putting up some sick numbers, I have never seen him lift in person but still you can tell form the video he is on Godly strong.
Critical Bench: Not going to debate that with you. What would you say to a novice lifter or to a lifter who's just starting out in powerlifting?
Find a coach to teach you. Find a group, preferably with older guys, to train with. Always train with people stronger than you, competition breeds better performance. When you first start out, do meets as often as you can and under different type of rules. And if your just starting up training don't jump straight in to extreme gear, start out in some good single ply stuff and then step up after your get some years under your belt. Lastly remember to train constantly and smart. Powerlifting is a marathon, it's not a sprint, it takes time to get to a high level.
Critical Bench: Great advice. Do you have a favorite out of the three or is it all 3 lifts?
Not really, it usually rotates as to which my favorite is according to which one is moving the best at the time. So at the moment bench would be my favorite, then squat and then deadlift. Although my dead is starting to come around again so it might be my favorite here soon.
Critical Bench: What challenges have you faced as a powerlifter?
Finding enough people to train with. Powerlifting is a niche sport and there is just not that many people out there. Finding a place to train, most gyms don't like us. Being able to afford all the powerlifting gear, supplements, travel, card fees and entry fees can get very expensive, wait it is expensive.
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.
People who want to look pretty come in the gym with no purpose; they have no drive. We powerlifters come in to train with a purpose and a passion, a reason to be there. We are not in the gym to talk and catch up with friends. That stuff is for outside the gym. A training session has a purpose, a reason behind it, and a goal. Training session's need to be intense and fast paced, with a love for what you are doing. A workout has none of this, it is what it is, a waste of time for most of the "pretty people" out there. There is not purpose or passion behind it.
Critical Bench: Interesting. What would you tell a powerlifter if they are trying to get to the next level in the sport? Do you believe that powerlifters' have a lifestyle of their own?
I would tell a lifter trying to get to the next level to look at what they are doing and whom they are doing it with. Look at your program, and ask questions about it. Is it ever evolving, if you are afraid to change things will you ever get better? Don't get set in to one style or way of training. All the different systems out there have their good and bad points. And look at your training partners. Are they holding you back? Do they show up on time, or at all? Are they there when you need them? And are they there to help you as much as you help them or are they just there for them selves? To answer the second question yes we do, and most people will never understand it.
Critical Bench: How driven would people say you are about being a powerlifter? How does it affect you outside of the gym?
I would say I am very driven. When I really start training for a big meet that takes a lot of my focus. Training takes its toll outside the gym; I have passed on going out with friends because I have to training the next day. I have been late to family functions because I was at the gym. I am lucky I have a wife and family that work around what I love to do.
Critical Bench: Do you have any training partners? How have they helped?
I do and it has helped a great deal. It really makes you push yourself when you have someone there with you. There motivation in the gym and the help at meets has been priceless.
Critical Bench: What are your workouts like? How are they setup? What training methodology do you follow?
I don't really follow any one training methodology. Most of my workouts are setup around the three major lifts. I don't really screw with stuff that doesn't help me in one of the big three. I have used ideas from all types of systems. I have done some speed work cycles off and on from Westside.
I like the Big Iron theory on bench with a lot a low boards and always training in the shirt. I like to set my workouts up with a lot of triples at the being of the cycle and more singles the last 4 weeks. Although if I am feeling strong during a workout I will go up to a single at any time. I feel it is good to get heavy weight on you when you can. You may not feel as good the time in the gym so hit it while it is hot.
I don't train overly long meet cycles. I really don't look at the number of weeks out till around 8 out, then I start backwards from the meet and setup sessions from there. I have got a lot my assistance work and structure of my workouts from George Herring, Gary Lands and as of lately Pat Hall.
For the bench I really like close grip triple's off boards in the shirt, squats I have being doing a lot of reverse band work, and the dead lift I have become fond of speed singles and convention rack work.
Critical Bench: Thanks for the peek inside your training. What would you suggest to someone on how to get stronger on all 3 lifts?
Do the three lifts. All the different assistance stuff is good, but there is only one way to get better and that is to do it. Whether it is full range or board benches or Reverse band squats or rack pulls. Use variations of the three lifts. Don't get to far away from the core of what the sport is about, max singles.
Critical Bench: What drives you as a lifter?
I would say a personal desire to always improve. Every time I go in the gym I want to do better than I did last time. I have found if I don't go in the gym with something to shoot for then my training really suffers. I look at the numbers that are being put up as motivation, but at the same time I can only do what I can. I have to beat what I have done, before I can look at beating anyone else.
Critical Bench: That's a very smart outlook. Was your training any different prior to your last meet?
For the last bench meet I did I got away from what had got my bench up and I think it hurt me. I am always trying to find stuff that I think will work better for me based on what my strengths and weakness' are. So I don't know if I have ever had the same training cycle two meets in a row.
Critical Bench: As they say, the only thing that is constant is change. Do you think using bench shirts and powerlifter gear is cheating?
I don't, the goal is to lift as much weight as possible and gear helps with that goal. Also I know from personal experience that the new gear helps some of the older guys to stay competitive in doing what they love.
Critical Bench: What is your view on training in equipment and learning them?
I feel like you have to train in your gear to learn it. When you go to meets with good lifters you had better to believe they know their gear. The only way to know the gear is to train in it, like my friend Gary says, "If you are out of your gear, you are out of your groove." The feel and groove of advanced gear is just so different then raw training. The two are nowhere close to the same.
I have yet to meet any one who can throw on a bench shirt or squat suit for the first time and add a hundred pounds to there lift right away. It really takes a lot of time and practice to learn any type of gear.
For just that reason, training has evolved. We just have so much more knowledge at our fingertips now. The knowledge of the gear and how it works. The knowledge of how the body works, how nutrition affects training, and how different supplements react with the body. I think the numbers are mind-boggling, a 198er doing like 2400#, a man benching all most 1100# and a 242er work toward a 700 bench raw. This stuff is awesome. It is just a product of the evolution of training knowledge over the last 50 years.
Critical Bench: Do you think the standards went up in the sport?
I think the standards as far as numbers have gone up in the sport. The standards as far as the performance of such lifts have not. I feel like the judging standards need to be more constant in all federations across the board. I think some younger lifters get discoursed because it seem that guys with bigger names get lifts passed that normally wouldn't and that hurts the sport. And that is not just in one federation or type of lifting this is across the board, I have seen it in every meet and in every federation I have lifted in or attended.
Critical Bench: What is your nutrition like?
My nutrition is pretty simple. I try to eat fairly clean, with a lot of lean meats and whole wheat. I have backed off on the protein intake because the price has shot up and it is hard for a firefighter to afford it. Plus the only time I feel like I need it is post workout.
Critical Bench: What changes are you going to have to make to go to the next level?
I am going to have to get to training on a monolift. I need to get my GPP up with more sled work, tire work, and cardio. I need to stay focused and not let anything get in my way. And I really need to get my deadlift back to where it was a few years ago.
Matt Christie 675 Bench Press 2-Board
Critical Bench: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Good luck in your training. Is there anyone you would like to thank right now?
I would like to thank my wife Holly for putting up with all the time and money I sink into this sport. I am really lucky to have someone that supports my dreams and goals. I have to thank my family, especially my mom, dad, and brother, for their supporting and them lugging me around the country when I first started in the sport.
I really have to thank George Herring for introducing to the great sport of powerlifting, and showing me the history of the sport. Gary Lands has been a big help throughout the years, always coming to help me out weather he is lifting or not. And Pat Hall for showing me some different systems of training over that last few years, and handling me at as many meets as he could. Ronnie Edwards for being a great training partner. And all the people I have trained with at George's over the past 8 years for putting up with me. Thanks!