Interview With Light Weight Strongman Paul Neuhaus Interviewed By Ben Tatar - January 2009
Paul Neuhaus has some of the most astounding displays of toughness in strongman competitions that Critical Bench has ever seen before. Let's meet him!
CRITICAL BENCH: Paul, welcome to Critical Bench. It is great to have you with us today. Before we get started what is your height, weight and what strongman division do you compete in?
I am 5'9" tall and hover around 220-225 lbs, competing in the Lightweight Amateur class, which is 231 lbs and under.
CRITICAL BENCH: All strongman competitors have feats of strength that they will always remember. What are your most memorable feats of strength?
One of my most memorable feats of strength was at a contest that I won back in April of 2008. The last event was a 340 lb Atlas Stone loaded over a 48" high cross bar for reps. Going into this event I was in 1st place, so I was able to go last. After everyone else went, mathematically, I only needed 4 reps to secure the win and my body was exhausted at this point. Most people would do the 4 reps and then start hooting and hollering to celebrate the victory. Instead, I did 5 reps, pointed to the sky and thanked God, then quietly walked to my chair to relax.
CRITICAL BENCH: At Summer Fest on July 4th, 2008 you really inspired the legend Bill Kazmaier and 20,000+ people. Can you tell us about that event?
At Summer Fest on July 4th 2008 the legendary Bill Kazmaier was on the microphone that day. This was an "open" contest with no weight classes, so a lot of the guys were much bigger than me. On the car dead lift event, most guys that went before got either single digits, or no reps at all. My training partner got 15, and a big heavyweight that weighed about 290 lbs got 19 reps. As I went through my reps, the crowd started really screaming after about 10. Bill Kazmaier was really getting the crowd of 2,000 people behind me. As I pulled the 15th rep, the crowd was really going nuts. The pressure on my body was so intense that I was blinded as I pulled each rep. I could hear the crowd, but couldn't see anything. After 18 reps, my whole body was burning, and I had to stop. Bill Kazmaier said on the microphone "Are we gonna see 20 out of this guy?". I said to myself "Oh crap, I have to keep pulling". I pulled 2 more slow and painful reps for a total of 20, and received a standing ovation. I collapsed for almost a minute, then hobbled to my chair with a full-blown migraine. Bill Kazmaier walked up to me and said "Paul, that was awesome! You are the man, and you can tell everyone I said it!"
CRITICAL BENCH: John, what made you choose strongman over bodybuilding and powerlifting?
In the words of Willie Wessels, president of our federation, "There's nothing wrong with wanting to be pretty. I'd rather be strong". Also, this sport has a level of camaraderie that I've never seen before. At every contest, there are guys in my weight class cheering for me as I do an event, and vice versa. Also, I can train with and get advice from some of the best in the world, and they treat me as an equal.
CRITICAL BENCH: What are your 5 favorite things about being a strongman competitor?
Well, I guess I'll have to repeat myself here ;) in no particular order….
The crowds. Nothing gets me pumped at a contest more than an energetic crowd.
The people I meet and the friends I make along the way.
The little kids that want to meet us after the contests.
Just that feeling of being invincible after performing a feat of strength.
CRITICAL BENCH: What are your 5 favorite strongman events?
Again, no particular order……
Atlas Stones, just because it's so primal. It's nothing fancy, just a stone. Pick it up and load it.
Conan's Wheel, because it's just so painful and a true test of mental fortitude.
Car Dead Lift, because it's one of my best events and the crowd goes nuts over it.
Harness Truck Pull, because it's another event that is very painful and tests your mental fortitude.
Overhead Log Press, I guess because it's one of my biggest strengths right now.
Paul Neuhaus 700lb deadlift weighing 223lbs
CRITICAL BENCH: What is your strongman routine like?
Well, it's very complicated and changes every week as far as weights/sets/reps/, etc. I generally like to follow a personalized version of Brad Gillingham's "16 week meet prep cycle". The rough draft looks something like this.
Light front squats
Lots of heavy abdominal and oblique work
Standing military press
Incline dumbbell press
Stiff leg dead lifts
Heavy abdominal and oblique work
Dynamic effort and active recovery work. Lots of stretching.
CRITICAL BENCH: Paul, how long have you been competing?
Well, I've been competing for over 3 years now, so I've kind of lost track since I do 5-6 contests a year. I have qualified for NAS Nationals 3 years in a row. Aside from that, my favorite contest to compete in each year has to be Summer Fest in Milwaukee. There's nothing better than a crowd of 2,000 people screaming for you as you pick up a car.
CRITICAL BENCH: What would you like to tell the future generation of strongman what to do when they train and what not to do?
Since this is like nothing you've ever done before, you have to get out of your comfort zone as it pertains to your training and open your mind to new ideas. The best thing you can do is learn from the pros whom have succeeded in this sport. Consult with as many people as you can, and learn from them. Take at least one piece of advice from every person. But, just like anything else, you still have to customize your own style of training to focus on your weaknesses.
CRITICAL BENCH: Give us your most hardcore and your funniest strongman story?
Most hardcore? Well, I competed at Milwaukee's Strongest Man in September of 2008. After the contest was supposedly over, I had a migraine from the last event and the promoter announced one more "surprise" event. I went to the nearest trash can, threw up, and finished the contest.
Funniest? After a contest was over, a little kid walked up to me with his eyes bugged out like saucers and said "Wow! How can I get big muscles like that?" I said "Eat all the meat and veggies your mom puts on your plate". Somewhere, a mom is wondering why her kid is cleaning off his plate ;)
CRITICAL BENCH: Away from strongman training what do you enjoy doing? What do you do for work?
I love my new job. I get to work with seniors and help them find ways to protect their homes and other assets as they age. I do some occasional volunteer work with my church. Also, I always love a good steak dinner and a good horror flick! I also love to cook and prepare my own meals. Aside from that, I just enjoy being around good people.
CRITICAL BENCH: What are the adversities that you had to overcome?
I was born with Scoliosis in my lumbar, which I still have. Through hard work and determination, I've overcome that. The dead lift was once my weakest event because of this and it's now my strongest event.
In 2006 I came down with Salmonella and it took me about 3 months to fully recover and get my strength back.
On a more personal level, I received the biggest blow when my wife left me in 2006. I couldn't train, eat, or sleep. I wanted to give up on this sport because I don't love it nearly as much as I did her. However, she encouraged me to stick with it through this hardship, and to this day I'm happy that she did.
CRITICAL BENCH: What are your future goals?
I'd love to break a NAS National record for my weight class. Because the dead lift was once my biggest weakness, I have my sights set on that record. The North American Strongman National record for the dead lift in the lightweight class is 755 lbs. Currently, my best is 700 lbs.
Atlas Stone run
CRITICAL BENCH: Critical Bench wishes you the best at setting the Strongman National record for dead lift. Let me ask you, why should all men be strong?
Well, I wouldn't necessarily say all men should be strong. I just strongly encourage everyone to get off the couch and at least do some sort of exercise to stay fit and healthy. I could go on forever about how exercise can improve your quality of life, but that could fill a book ;) Just find some form of exercise that you enjoy so that you stay motivated and set goals. For me, it's the sport of Strongman.
CRITICAL BENCH: Tell us about your diet and what are your favorite supplements?
I don't really follow too much of a regimen. Basically, I stick to "whole foods" and avoid anything with an ingredient label. I have proteins with every meal throughout the day. Early in the day, I eat lots of carbs from fruits, oats and brown rice. As the day goes on, I taper off the carbs and have more fats in my meals.
CRITICAL BENCH: What makes you different from everyone else?
I guess it's the fact that when I walk into a room I know I'm usually the strongest man in the room. However, I'm usually pretty quiet about it unless someone asks me. Aside from that, well, I will admit I DVR Desperate Housewives every Sunday! Also, I love my pets. Aside from that, well, I can wiggle my ears one at a time! HAHA!
CRITICAL BENCH: What makes you happy?
Football on Sundays
A steak dinner
That crisp smell in the air after a fresh snowfall
CRITICAL BENCH: What goes through your head before attempting a big lift?
Before a big lift, I always say a prayer. At a contest, if I'm getting ready to do an event, you may see me pacing around with my lips moving. I'm getting the adrenaline flowing, while I pray to God for strength.
CRITICAL BENCH: What drives you to be the best?
The people in my past who always put me down and told me I wouldn't accomplish anything have motivated me even though they don't know it. At a contest, I want to be the best because I want to make the crowd scream. Also, I've been a very competitive person my whole life.
CRITICAL BENCH: What are you going to remember most about your strength journey?
The friends I've made along the way, some of which are like family.
CRITICAL BENCH: Paul your interview has been just awesome! You are as real and tough as they get! We at Critical Bench loved hearing your hardcore story into strongman and the interesting facts about your life. In closing who would you like to thank?
I know it sounds cliché, but I have to thank God for giving me the strength and determination. Also, I'd like to thank every person who has helped me in this journey, even if it was just one small piece of advice. I never forget those who have been there for me and always pay it forward to others.