Interview With Shawn "Bud" Lyte of BMF Sports as told to CriticalBench.com by Ben Tatar - July 2007
Enjoy the interview as Critical Bench explores some of the biggest issues in powerlifting with one of the great minds. Introducing Shawn "Bud" Lyte from BMF Sports.
1) CRITICAL BENCH: Critical Bench is here with one of the most interesting and brightest minds in strength sports. Shawn it's no secret that powerlifting is somewhat divided with so many feds, rules, records and opinions. We look forward to picking your brain to hear your point of view and see how you think many of these topics should be handled. Before we start why don't you go ahead and give the Critical Bench readers a little bit of background information about yourself.
My given name is Shawn Lyte and I was given the nickname Bud in high school. I'm a native Chicagoan (north side), 40 years old, founder of BMF Group, avid advocate of entrepreneurship and relentless opportunist. I own and manage several ventures ranging from sports to technology to entertainment, all propelled by e-commerce. I was recently the vice-president of 100% RAW Powerlifting Federation, having resigned in December 2006.
I started lifting in 1978, at age 11, to follow in the footsteps of my older brother who was a gymnast, martial artist and competitive bodybuilder. Instead of pursuing bodybuilding like him, I quickly found that I just enjoyed lifting heavy things and eating to support that. I never had any thoughts or intentions of competing. It was just fun to lift.
I wrestled pro on the Midwest circuit from 1987 to 1992, then became a wrestling promoter off and on through 2004. In the interim, I promoted bike racing, bands and concerts, and founded a few other ventures.
In February 1993, I came down with bacterial meningitis. I was in a coma for three days and stuck in a hospital for almost a month. Doctors never said anything about the septicemia (blood poisoning) that accompanied the meningitis. I later learned that the septicemia was never properly treated and, as a result of the diseases, I'm dyslexic, hypoglycemic, and have weakened Central Nervous System and Immune Systems. I was told it would only take 14 months for recovery, but never told that the after effects of the diseases last a LIFETIME if someone is fortunate enough to survive.
Doctors said that I could never lift again; but they were so wrong in other areas, I refused to accept this as well. It took 11 years (and a bad car crash in 2003 did not help), but, thanks to the internet and progressive medical professionals and researchers in Europe and Asia, I'm overcoming the lasting after effects of the diseases and back on track to being strong and healthy again.
2) CRITICAL BENCH: Bud, it seems like you have lived quite a life and been through many things. (I now know that I'm not the only weight lifter in the world who suffered from bacterial meningitis.) It's amazing that you have become as strong, intelligent, helpful and successful as you have despite facing adversities that 99% of the world will never face. So, Bud our big first question for you is, "What's your opinion about all the powerlifting GEAR (equipment) that is out there today?"
I am not a fan of the biomechanical gear or use of it, but I think it's good that there's a supportive market for it (no pun intended). I like to see and support what ATHLETES can do with their training and performance techniques, not what they can leverage from artificial assistance and enhancements.
Double and triple-ply have been fused to become single ply, which continues to remove athleticism from the sport. Equipped lifting is a different creature altogether - much the same as WWE is different from the sport of wrestling. Like the WWE, I see it as a different form of entertainment and respect all those involved in it for what they do within their chosen activity.
It's interesting and ironic that the recent advances in gear seem to be generating more interest in and favor of raw powerlifting. The more advanced gear gets, and the more lifters that use it, the more credibility is given to unequipped lifting and lifters. For that reason, I hope the advances continue.
3) CRITICAL BENCH: Interesting analogy comparing shirts and raw lifting to wrestling and sports entertainment. Very interesting. Next question, Bud what's your take on steroids??
I don't like steroids being used in amateur athletics, be they the Olympics, collegiate or even at the local YMCA. That's not to say that I advocate steroid usage in pro sports, but from a business perspective, I understand why steroids may be used at that level. That's a completely different realm which needs to be approached differently.
I support drug-free sports for many reasons, but will not condemn athletes who use them in sports and organizations where they are (1) not banned and (2) pretty much required for the sports to exist (i.e., bodybuilding and "pro wrestling").
I don't have any problems with an informed adult male using steroids OUTSIDE OF SPORTS because the reasons are as numerous as the individuals taking them, and many of the reasons can be valid whether or not they're certified medical reasons. The issue, then, is between the individual and the DEA. It is not my place to police, preach to or condemn someone for their choices - especially if those choices aren't negatively impacting anyone but the individual who makes those decisions.
The ignorance and propaganda surrounding steroids as a buzzword are the real dangers, not the exaggerated and often falsified allegations of what steroids are and do. People should have more than just a fraction of info from the Alzado scenario to go on. If the media hype and spin about steroids are founded and valid, then where are the bodies? Where are the roid rage induced assault reports and arrests? Where is the reported surge in impotency and baldness among the male population?
Just as with most anything else, steroids are only as dangerous as the individuals handling them.
4) CRITICAL BENCH: Very insightful. A very controversial issue right now, especially with baseball and the Chris Benoit tragedy. Bud, do you think there are too many federations in the powerlifting world today? If so what does powerlifting need to do?
I used to think there were too many federations, but now I think there are almost enough. Each federation is a brand, and like other products, each brand has its target audience of preference. Whether it is Coke, Pepsi, RC and Faygo or 100% RAW, SPF, NASA and APF, there's something for everyone. If you don't like one, just indulge in your brand of choice and leave others to enjoy theirs in peace.
It should be the progressive mission of each federation to build their respective brand awareness, market presence and brand loyalty by developing a better product than they previously were instead of trying to knock the competition. It's moves like the latter that almost did in RC and Burger King.
Powerlifting as we know it has become akin to backyard wrestling with about as much credibility. It seems that anyone with weights, a bench, and disdain for someone else's rules can (and does) start another federation.
5) CRITICAL BENCH: I agree. I'm laughing right now. How would you compare athletes from the 80s to today? What about powerlifters from the past to today?
If we're talking athletes in general, today's athletes run circles around those in the 80's.
Training and nutritional sciences have propelled all aspects of athletics to levels that were unimaginable in the 80's.
Now, if we're talking powerlifters in particular, I think the lifters today may be just a bit stronger, but not better athletes. Too much dependency on recoil shirts and suits have led to lazy and incomprehensive training and performance.
I'm sure Arcidi didn't get 200 lb. or more out of his shirts, and the guy was a beast without it. Fred Hatfield would have been a squat monster in only boxers and ankle socks.
If we could have today's pro powerlifters using the same chemical and mechanical gear protocol as their 80's predecessors, I think today's pros will only come out slightly ahead because of developments in training equipment and techniques over the past 20 years.
6) CRITICAL BENCH: How do you see the future of powerlifting? In the next 10 years? 20 years? 50 years? 100 years? Do you see powerlifting getting better or worse? Why?
I see a successful and progressive future of powerlifting at the hands of leaders and visionaries who are either not currently in the sport or not influenced by the status quo and sophomoric politics that permeate it today. Whether this is done by the IWF, ESPN, 100% RAW or BMF Sports is anyone's guess at this stage of the game, but I really don't see any of the current "powers" making things any better for the lifters in particular or the sport in general.
I think we can expect grand-scale change to pick up momentum over the next decade with a celebration and embrace of "back to basics" sport-wide within 15 years. There are things in effect today that undeniably show that's where it's going, but there will always be the nay-sayers who fear change and will try to stop it. This change can't be stopped any more than democracy and capitalism.
7) CRITICAL BENCH: Bud, do you think powerlifting will ever be an Olympic sport? Do you think powerlifting should be an Olympic sport? What do you think it will take for powerlifting to become an Olympic sport?
SHOULD be? I don't see why not, if all the recoil gear is dropped and the sport - in an Olympic context and environment - is governed by the International Weightlifting Federation. This would help ensure a level playing field, a uniform and enforced set of rules, and much more credibility. WILL it be an Olympic sport? I don't see it happening within the next three or four Olympic games without IWF influence, governing or endorsement.
There is no cohesive or comprehensive set of standards or operations of the sport among or even within federations. This is one of many reasons why the sport may, someday, receive IOC recognition, but not become an Olympic sport (much in the same way that bodybuilding was recognized but never included).
Maybe if the International Weightlifting Federation or International Weightlifting Association developed and governed a powerlifting division, in keeping with weightlifting rules and standards, there would be some hope for a comprehensively bright future for the sport that could lead to IOC recognition and inclusion.
I think powerlifting and bodybuilding may become Olympic sports around the same time. Perhaps our grandchildren will be the ones to usher in that addition to the games.
8) CRITICAL BENCH: Why isn't powerlifting a mainstream sport?
Powerlifting is not only a very esoteric sport, but divided in many ways within itself. Many of the parties behind and who benefit most from powerlifting as it is today don't want the sport to go mainstream because they know that mainstream athletes and their fans will not accept or acknowledge artificial enhancement as athletic performance. Thus, powerlifting and equipped lifters are far more likely to be lampooned than lionized, and I'm sure many of them realize this. As a partial result, they fight to keep outside money, influence and exposure away from the sport while concurrently complaining of the lack of money and exposure.
(Editor's Note: Esoteric means obscure or knowledge that is not well-known to the public.)
9) CRITICAL BENCH: What powerlifters have impressed you the most and why?
The first time I was ever impressed a powerlifter anywhere was in 1992 at the only meet I ever competed in. It was a drive for the Rehab Institute of Chicago and pitted four gym buddies and me against 5 "disabled" lifters who blew us out of the water. What's more, they had two women on their team, one of whom out-benched two of our guys. There was a guy named Tino Fernandez or Hernandez who pressed 460 at 180-185. What was most notable about that was that Tino had prosthetic legs, so he really had no lower body assistance. At the following year's "rematch", I believe he went on to bench 490 at around 185. Their entire team was just awesome.
More recently, I've been very impressed seeing John Dolan become the first lifter in 100% RAW to bench 600 in sanctioned competition, Paul Bossi bench 515 in the 220's, Scott Weech squat 825 like it was a training rep, Michael Tichnor and Drew Priddy deadlifting at any time, and the entire Marrow family. The Raw Dogs are an awesome team of lifters with some of the best pound-for-pound lifts in the sport and haven't even begun to peak. John Self, Kerry Self, Scott Kuzma, Dean Shifflett, James Donegan and Kevin Dingus are impressive because they are all well-rounded athletes, not just lifters. They train comprehensively, perform above par and consistently place in the top three.
Scott Weech photo by Mike Westerdal of CriticalBench.com
10) CRITICAL BENCH: Those are some very inspiring stories. Bud, what do you think the RAW record in the squat, bench and deadlift will be in 10 years from now? What about the shirt record in those 3 lifts? What about in 50-100 years from now?
With advancements in training and nutrition, as well as more American athletes adoption European athletic training methods and protocols, I think many RAW records will increase by at least 20% over the next decade. Scott Weech showed us that a 900 lb raw and DRUG FREE squat is not far off. Joey King, Kerry Self, Drew Priddy, Michael Tichnor, Nick Rosencutter,William Easley and Cody Yager are just a few of today's young lifters who will usher in an era of amazing records in athletic powerlifting.
To be honest, I have no interest in equipped records or lifts, so I won't speculate about those.
11) CRITICAL BENCH: Tell us about your websites:
My sites are always in development because I'm always finding new opportunities to take advantage of. BMFSports.com has been reworked to feature the sports we directly promote, sponsor and manage as well as our sponsored athletes. The e-commerce part of it features products and services that are directly related to the types of sports we handle.
BMFNutrition.com has been focused on providing proven sports nutrition products and applications from select suppliers like AdvoCare, Vemma and Nikken. I'm actually in the process of negotiating the sale of BMF Nutrition and hope to have it sold or liquidated by the end of summer.
BMFWireless.com is our affiliate marketing site for wireless and digital communications. EntryLevelMusic.com features novice to intermediate-level musical instruments and equipment.
I also have another half-dozen or so sites related to music, e-commerce and entrepreneurship.
12) CRITICAL BENCH: Tell us about your training routine and diet?
My training partner, William Easley, and I alternate 13-week volume training and 8-week power training programs, with 1-2 weeks off between each one. The 8-week power training is based on Kote's 3x3 with ancillary/support work based on a comprehensive training program from Dr. Fred Hatfield. I don't like high-volume and Will doesn't like low-volume, so we really feed off of each other's energy to keep going. About 4 weeks in, the whining and griping stop and we really get moving.
Will set two Illinois state deadlift records in his first meet back in 2006 and may be looking at a couple of national records in the near future. More important to him is to go head to head with Nick Rosencutter, deadlifting in the 181's. Will is a competitive martial artist and b-boy so unequipped powerlifting is a fun additional activity for him.
As far as diet, from May though October, I'm usually good about eating relatively "clean" 5-6 days per week with Sundays being okay for sugars and pizza within reason. Will is really effective at blocking me from getting at junk food even on off days. After a few weeks of that, eating "right" comes rather easily and he doesn't have to monitor me as much, but he does keep an eye on me when there are Mike and Ike's in the vicinity.
13) CRITICAL BENCH: What are your future goals?
My focus is on sports marketing and management, not sports rhetoric and politics. As such, my primary goals are to build the BMF brands into multi-national recognition, respect and preference across all the areas we cover. Powerlifting is only a small part of what BMF Sports does, but we do it well, so we're sticking with it for a while. As long as Paul and Spero continue to lead and manage 100% RAW with the same principles and dignity upon which it was founded, I will personally support them and BMF Sports will continue to promote and market the federation.
BMF Sports has recently become a sponsor of Renaissance MMA and we're talking with an east coast toughman organization about developing events and managing their marketing and expansion. In 2008, BMF Sports will again team up with FMG Events to present some of these events - as well as bodybuilding and strongman - on a much greater and more progressive scale.
A major goal is to further develop my non-profit ventures through the BMF Foundation, like scholarships for athletes of socially and financially-challenged conditions, and more support of homeless and abused women and children. My first meet was a charity drive for homeless women and children in Chicago. We started with one organization in mind, but raised enough to give to three. I want to do that more often and on a larger scale.
14) CRITICAL BENCH: That's great to see that you want to give back to the community. What do you love most about powerlifting and what is the NUMBER 1 thing you would like to see change in powerlifting? What would it take for this to happen?
What I love most about powerlifting is the camaraderie and support I witness and experience among 100% RAW members and officials. They are like one big, strong happy family with their fair share of kooky cousins and crazy uncles (and an eccentric aunt here and there). I love going out east to work the events and see everyone.
About the only things I'd like to see changed are (1) more and better recognitions of lifters under 242, (2) more federations working together, and (3) a real professional powerlifting league. Again, it will take someone who is either not currently in the sport and/or not swayed by the state of the sport today.
15) CRITICAL BENCH: Bud, it has been great talking to you. I think we have all improved our "powerlifting IQs". Your interview was truly unique and off the hook! In closing is there anyone who you would like to thank?
I want to thank:
Paul Bossi for being a generous mentor and wonderful friend. I've learned a lot from him over the past two years and the opportunities that have grown from that are priceless.
John Self, Kerry Self, Doug Parrish, Jim Bultemeier, John Shifflett, Bill Blackstone, Jim Ray and John Dolan for their belief and trust in me. It's through their support that I've been able to accomplish what I have with 100% RAW.
Mike Westerdal and Critical Bench, Alan Thomas and APT's Pro Wrist Straps, Dave Middleton and Bodybuilding.com , and Clint Phillips and FitChicago.com for being such great and generous sponsors over the past two years. They have been vital in 100% RAW expansion.
Milano Paich and Fitat50.com, and Rob Munro and Adrenaline Gear for helping make the 2006 Nationals one of the most successful and events I've ever been a part of in any sport.
My friends William Easley, Benny McDaniels, Mike Sullivan and Aaron Bairani for keeping me focused, motivated and fed. They supported me in many important ways when I quit my job in 2005 to work BMF Sports full time. I owe them more than dollars could ever repay.
And I want to thank you Ben for your generosity (and patience) in granting me this interview opportunity. I truly appreciate it.