Interview With Powerlifter Dave "The Reaper" Park As told to CriticalBench.com by Curt Dennis Jr. "The Brute" of Planetrage.com - September 2008
THE REAPER...That's what we call him here. Not because he wears a hood and he wears black but because of his mindset and who he is. He's from the land "down under" and lifting is his life. Find out more about DAVE PARK....
Hey, thanks for doing this interview. Please introduce yourself.
My name is Dave Park, I'm 26 years old, and I'm from Tasmania, Australia. I train at Elite Sports Performance in Melbourne, which is the leading strength and conditioning facility in Australia, and also at Xtreme Physique gym, a hardcore bodybuilding gym in my home state, Tasmania. I lift in the 308 and SHW classes and my immediate goal is to be the first Australian to squat 1000lbs in competition and the first Australian to total over 2200 in competition.
Great goals. How long have you been participating in powerlifting?
I have trained fulltime for powerlifting for the past 2 years. Previous to that I trained using a powerbuilding routine for 12 months, and prior to that I was a competitive bodybuilder for 3 years. Powerlifting is by far the most rewarding and challenging training that I have done, and I couldn't imagine training any other way now.
I also work as a strength and conditioning coach for elite and amateur athletes, and coach other powerlifters at Elite Sports Performance and through online consultations.
Critical Bench: What a great profession, living the dream. Tell us about your childhood and how you got started in powerlifting?
I grew up in a sporting family with my father being one of the top basketball coaches in the country, and both my mother and sister playing basketball; I soon followed the same path and started playing basketball at age 6. I played many sports as a kid but excelled in basketball and athletics through primary and high school. I had a huge passion for the NBA and the NFL and started playing American football at 16 years old. I juggled football in the summer and basketball in the winter for the next few years and this is when I first started to play around with weights in the gym.
I found myself enjoying being in the gym more and more, and started reading and learning more about strength training until I finally decided I'd had enough of the team sports and began training with a couple of state champion bodybuilders. They encouraged me to start competing, which I did, but I didn't enjoy it as much as trying to get bigger and stronger in the gym. My focus was starting to change from how good I could look to how much bodyweight I could gain and how strong I could get.
This is when I started reading up on Louie Simmons' and Westside Barbell, and began searching the net for powerlifting forums and websites like criticalbench.com. I decided to do a single ply bench only meet in 2006 and with no knowledge on how to use a bench shirt narrowly missed 500lbs in my first meet. From this point on I have not looked back and have searched high and low for all the strength training information I can find, I have spoken to many top lifters from all over the world, gaining their advice on training methods and lift technique, and now that the ball is rolling, I hope to be in the sport for many years to come.
Who did you look up to when you were coming up as a powerlifter?
I still look up to many guys. I have always admired the monsters of the sport, guys like Andy Bolton, Chad Aichs and Donnie Thompson. Ryan Kennelly Is someone that has truly inspired me, because when I first started out I was more of a bench specialist and I just love watching him bench.
Critical Bench: What are your best lifts?
Hold the ALL-TIME Australian squat record (any fed, any weight class) - 913lb (415kg). I have benched 600lb in competition, the only Australian to bench 600lb in full power meet. Benched 705lb in the gym, and taken up to 800lb off boards. Squatted over 1000lb in the gym.
What would you say to a novice lifter or to a lifter who's just starting out in powerlifting?
Never be satisfied. Always try and find ways to improve and talk to as many other lifters as you can to find out their thoughts on training. There are very few "secrets" out there; it's just a matter of finding what works best for you and training your ass off.
Do you have a favorite out of the three or is it all 3 lifts?
I'd have to say that bench is my favorite.
What are the challenges of coming up as a powerlifter?
Here in Australia the greatest challenge for powerlifters is finding other powerlifters. The sport is very small here, and the number of people that actually partake in the sport is tiny. Fortunately for myself I was lucky enough to become involved with the crew at Elite Sports Performance, which consists of the strongest and most knowledgeable group of lifters in the country.
I have been lucky since I started powerlifting that I have had the support of my local gym, Xtreme Physique and now being at ESP. However for most guys it can be hard to find a place to train as a hardcore powerlifter. The equipment that we use like boards, chains, bands, boxes and specialty bars are not normal items that gyms are equipped with, and unfortunately many gyms do not accept the style of training we adapt.
Critical Bench: Many of us face the same situation here in the U.S.A. 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.
That could be answered a number of ways, but the most direct answer in my opinion would be INTENT. Just because a guy is training for a meet doesn't mean he doesn't have the same intent as the guy training to look pretty. I have known of guys to do meets just so that they look pretty, so that they can show off etc.
To me, they are no different to the guy that is doing chest and biceps 3 times a week to look pretty in the clubs on a weekend. On the other hand you have guys that are training for meets because it is their life. They are striving to break PRs, state and national records, world records, and they are using that meet as a test for all the hours of training in the gym. Their intent is to win, to be the strongest, to be the best. It has nothing to do with how you look doing it.
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?
Surround yourself with no one but those that will help you achieve your goals. This will require you to make many sacrifices in life, but these sacrifices are essential for taking your lifting to the next level. Check out my article on planetrage.com called "Sacrifice" to see how I have taken my own lifting to the next level.
How driven would people say you are about being a powerlifter? How does it affect you outside of the gym?
The guys that really know me would say that I am very driven to be a powerlifter. I spend countless hours reading and watching everything I can about the sport, learning as much as I can from as many top lifters as I can. I am a powerlifter 24/7, not just when I'm in the gym. Unfortunately this has its downsides outside of the gym, like a lack of social life and not doing many things normal people do. But hey, I'm far from normal.
Do you have any training partners? How have they helped?
I train in a group of anywhere between 10-15 guys at ESP. There is a core group of 5-6 lifters all of whom are the strongest lifters in the country in there respective weight classes, then we have a group of guys that are just starting out, or who are just getting into their first meets. I have trained alone for the majority of the time I have been lifting, and I really enjoy training alone. I would still be strong if I had continued to train alone, however I would not be at the same level I am at now if it wasn't for the group of guys I currently train with.
What are your workouts like? How are they setup? What training methodology do you follow?
I base my training around the Westside Barbell methods, using a 6-day split.
Monday is max effort squat/deadlift.
Tuesday is lower body assistance day
Wednesday is dynamic effort bench
Thursday is upper body assistance
Friday is dynamic effort squat/deadlift
Saturday is max effort bench
ME squat/deadlift day will consist of a squat, good morning or deadlift variation for a max followed by a heap of posterior chain work targeting the lower back, glutes, hips and hamstrings.
DE days are very similar, after box squatting for speed I then do speed deadlifts, for which I use a 3 week cycle of straight weight, chains then bands. I follow this up with the posterior chain work once again. I do a heap of sled dragging on my squat/deadlift days, mainly using medium/light weight and the end of the workout for conditioning.
My lower body assistance day is basically a low intensity quad day. I usually do a heap of direct quad work and some single leg work like walking lunges.
For ME bench day I use a foam or carpet press, board press, floor press, reverse band, incline press and all sorts of accommodating resistance for my ME exercise, then follow that up with a second heavy tricep movement, a third lighter tricep movement like a pressdown variation and a heap of heavy lat work. I shirt up every other week.
DE bench is similar again, I will do speed bench using one of many different variations then heavy tricep and lat work. My upper body assistance day consists of side delt, upper back and a heavy bicep movement.
What would you suggest to someone on how to get stronger on all 3 lifts?
The most important thing I try to teach the lifters I work with is that technique and strength need to develop together, not one or the other. I see it too often, lifters get stronger and stronger using poor technique, then their numbers stall because the way they have been doing the lift has caused them to develop weaknesses or is restricting them from further progress. They then start asking questions about form and technique. This usually results in the lifter having to go back to square one and learn the lift all over again. Once again, try and talk to as many lifters as possible to gain their thoughts on training. This is the best way to learn. Another thing is that you must be consistent. No matter what training methodology you follow, it will be successful to some extent as long as you are consistent.
Dave Park 1,000 Pound Reverse Band Squat
What drives you as a lifter?
The fact that I have found something in life that I truly love and enjoy doing. To know that every session, every week, every year is a challenge to get stronger, drives me to be the best I can be.
Was your training any different prior to your last meet?
Yes and no. One thing that I have changed is I no longer do much shirted board work leading into a meet. I find that it works better for me if I work my groove without the boards for meet prep. I still do a heap of shirted boards if I'm not close to a meet, as they are a great way to overload the top end in training.
Do you think using bench shirts/gear are cheating?
No. If I need to explain my answer, you shouldn't be reading this interview.
What is your view on training in equipment and learning them?
If you are an equipped lifter, then training in your equipment is essential. However like I said before, technique and strength must develop equally. I love training raw and building my raw strength, but I also need to keep the balance of equipped training so that I continue to learn the groove of my equipment. I have made the mistake in the past of doing long raw cycles and then jumping back into my equipment only to spend the next few sessions re-learning my gear, this can be avoided with smarter training program planning.
What do you think is the reason for all the big numbers as of late like Kennelly's 1070 and Frankl's freakish total or Hoornstra's raw strength? Has strength training evolved?
All three of those guys are freaks. They are not human. This does not take away from the commitment to training and the determination to succeed that these guys and all world champions have. You only have to look at the numbers these guys are putting up to see that strength training has evolved. There are more and more guys pushing the limits of what is said to be "impossible". It will only be a matter of time that we see the first 3000 total, or 1100 pound bench, then we will start chasing down the next number, it will never end.
Do you think the standards went up in the sport?
I think the standards are constantly going up in the sport. Because of the fact that training is evolving and more and more guys are squatting 1000+, benching and deadlifting 700+, I know that I must make these numbers my immediate goals. If these had been my numbers 10-15 years ago, I would be at the top of the sport, however the standards have risen and will continue to rise over time.
What is your nutrition like now?
Well, for someone who is 320 pounds, I do take some time in putting together a basic nutrition plan, however sometimes it goes completely out the window. I am sponsored by an Australian supplement company called Bioflex Nutrition (www.bioflexnutrition.com) and I use their full range of supplements. I try to get a lot of calories in early in the day, as I train in the morning, and enjoy loading up on calorie dense food post workout.
First thing in the morning I have a dose of multi vitamin tabs, fish oil tabs and other general health tablets. I then have one liter of full cream milk and a pre workout drink by Bioflex called BIOCHARGE, to which I add Glutamine. I have a protein shake post workout, I use Bioflex's PROFLEX with added Glutamine, for all my shakes and I will usually have some sort of fast food immediately post workout, or prepare a high calorie meal at home. I then have a further 3-5 meals throughout the day consisting mainly of steak and potatoes with green vegetables.
I also drink a heap of sports drinks like Gatorade and PowerAde, and have protein shakes throughout the day.
What changes are you going to have to make to get to the next level?
For me it is going to be competing in more top level meets. The sport is not strong enough in Australia to restrict myself to just local meets. I am planning on making my way to the United States in the near future to train at some of the best clubs and do some meets, and am planning to qualify for the 2009 AWPC/WPC Worlds.
Is there anyone you would like to thank?
I would like to thank all the freaks out there pushing themselves to the limit; you all motivate me to be stronger every day. My training partners at ESP and Xtreme Physique for pushing me through every session in the gym. Bioflex Nutrition (www.bioflexnutrition.com) for supplying me with all my supplement needs. Also a big thanks to Curt "THE BRUTE" Dennis Jr from PLANETRAGE (www.planetrage.com) for his support and constant motivation. THANK YOU ALL. Im always looking for new sponsors, so if you would like to support an up and coming lifter, send me an email at flexed81 at yahoo.com.au, I'd love to talk to you.