Interview With Strongman Competitor & Super Motivator Elliott "The Strength Coach" Hulse, CSCS Interviewed By Mike Westerdal of CriticalBench.com - April 2008
Strongman Elliott & Elliott Playing RB at St. Johns U
My name is Mike Westerdal and I want to introduce you to a friend of mine named Elliott Hulse who resides in St. Petersburg, FL.
The funny thing is I didn’t always like Elliott. In fact I used to want
to tear his head off every time I saw him! I’m pretty sure the feeling
was mutual. You see Elliott was a full scholarship RB at D-IAA St. Johns
University and I was a linebacker at Central CT State, so we have faced
each other on the football field twice during our careers. I have to give
Elliott credit, he had some really good games against us, but we did win
both games. Sorry Elliott, but it’s the truth..lol.
Currently Elliott is a certified strength
and conditioning specialist running strength camps for athletes in
the Tampa Bay area. He competes in strongman competitions and has been
on a roll. We met up so that Elliott could torture me with some of his strongman
conditioning drills. Let me tell you, I’m learning the hard way that
payback is a bit*ch. I can vouch this guy is intense, so lets go ahead and start the interview.
Critical Bench: Elliott. It's a pleasure to pick your brain. Give our readers a brief background intro about yourself.
I grew up in a middle class neighborhood in Long Island, New York. My parents moved here from Belize and we were the only "people of color" to move into my block in the early 80's. Basically, we ruined the neighborhood. Now the same block is teaming with black and Puerto Rican gangs… The Hulse's popped the "suburban cherry", beeotch!
I am the oldest of 4 children. And my uncle lived with us when I was young. He was a freak of nature. He was a black belt in Northern Sholin Kung Fu and used to break brick with his hands in my basement; he ran marathons; he performed backflips, handstand push ups and was a competitive bodybuilder too! It was like living with a real live action hero… He-Man was a hungry hobo compared to my Uncle Elroy.
He taught my brothers and me how to do push-ups, chin-ups, crunches, summersaults, and flips when most kids our age were still spitting up baby formula. Also, it turns out that I inherited his genes (from my mother's side). I was designed (or bred, according to my dad) to be an action hero too.
In high school I used my God-given (and Hulse honed) strength and speed to dominate on the football field and earn an athletic scholarship to St. Johns University. At this time my uncle had been teaching people how to get strong for money, today we call this a Personal Trainer. He taught me how to get stronger and faster using barbell exercises like dead lifts and cleans in my basement.
During my summers in college, the other players on my team would travel 30 minutes from Queens to train with me and my brother in my parent's basement on Long Island. They knew that I was on to something since… I was training with only a barbell and a 4' box and I was the fastest player on the team. I ran a 4.34, 40 at a bodyweight of 230 lbs.
You said brief intro… so I'm gonna wrap this up. Long story, short… I studied Strength and Conditioning in college and received my CSCS. This took me down a long journey of "Learn All The Wrong Shit, Till' You Realize You Were Right". And after losing 40 pounds and calling myself a "functional exercise specialist" I have now come full circle and flip 1000 pound tires and train athletes with nothing but a barbell… like the good old days!
Critical Bench: Great story! Lets get right to it. Why should all men be strong?
Hulse at the FL Srongman Championships - 2008
I guess you are referring to one of my "Nature's Contempt For Weakness" rants. Well, here it is… God loves perfection, I don't care what you say about love and all the gushy bullshit people believe about God and Nature. Just look around you! God, Nature, The Universe or whatever the hell you call it… is completely objective about you, me and everything around us. If we would just take our eyes off of our own belly buttons and pay attention we would see that God simply gets rid of everything that is not "Good" or in my terminology "Strong".
Its easy for us to be objective about organisms other than ourselves so lets take a look at plants for example, or better yet - the crops that we eat. Every knowledgeable farmer knows that strong soil and strong seeds will yield strong plants. But here is the situation; most all of the soil in the US has been stripped of its mineral composition due to inept farming practices. So, the plants that are grown in this soil will be weak. This is evident due to the fact that pests will attack and dissolve of these weak organisms… pests, parasites and, funguses are God's garbage collectors.
Well, in order to prevent these "weak" plants from being attacked, we spray them with chemicals that keep pests away. When we do this, we are basically saying. "God, screw-you! We need to sell these plants, so we're gonna by-pass your selective process of weeding out the weak… and we'll force them to grow, nourish and reproduce more of their weakened genes." - And then we eat these weak plants or feed them to the weak animals which we eat… and we get weak!
My point here is not to attack conventional farming practices (I'll rant about that at a later date). My point IS that that very same process goes on with human beings and it has created a race of "half-grown", physically, morally, mentally and spiritually weak people.
We allow the weakening of not only our physical bodies but of our character and will every time we avoid challenges, succumb to fears and live below our inborn potential. Nature or God hates weakness! And here is the evidence: Obesity, Depression, Designer Diseases, Cancers, Chronic Disease, Arthritis, Back Pain and the enormous list of aliments that we ALL live with or will get someday.
These "dis-eases" are analogous to the pests that attack the weak plants. God is trying to either 1. Dispose of us due to poor health, so that we can no longer thrive and reproduce (consider infertility!) or 2. WAKE US UP!!! The great thing about being a human being and chronic illness is that 9 times out of 10, we created our "weaknesses" with poor mental, physical and spiritual hygiene and we can un-do the damage by adopting new practices. But unfortunately, most people die as victims of their self-inflicted "weaknesses" and never realize that they had a choice!
Strength, on the other hand has been stigmatized by our "everyone's a winner" society. It's PC to be and accept weakness and despise strength. Nowhere is this more evident that in our public schools where the feminine agenda to "pussify" men has run ramped. Don't get me wrong, I am all for women's rights and have a STRONG conviction about the women's critical role in society (I admire women and the strength they possess for among many things, child bearing… or at least the ones strong enough to do it naturally, as women have relinquished their strength as well.) My wife is the strongest women I know and she weighs less then 120 pounds. But she is comfortable in her feminine strength and feels no need to pussify me by the conventional means, I respect and honor ALL of her requests and wishes, and I do so from a place of masculine strength!
OK, I'm gonna cut my rant off right there as I may end up hurting some feelings! Next question.
Critical Bench: Well that answers that; dare I continue the interview? You've competed in Strongman competitions and qualified for nationals. Tell us a little bit about why you chose to compete in strongman and how it's treating you so far.
Without any pontification, my simple answer is… I needed something to do and I like lifting heavy things. I attended a Crossfit class and the speaker was Tom Mitchell, he is the Florida State Chairman for NAS. He invited me to his house one Saturday to train and the very first time I scraped up my forearms lifting stones in his front yard… I knew I was in love!
Strongman has been treating me quite well. I've taken 1st place in all 3 shows that I've competed in. The last show was my toughest as I was competing against last years national champ.
Critical Bench: Sounds like you've got the "Iron Bug". What are your favorite and least favorite strongman event?
I don't think about or become emotionally attached to any of the events. In fact, I could care less what I am lifting as long as its heavy. What I don't like about Strongman is that I can't do it all the time. This stuff is so heavy that I am forced to take a deload week at least once every 3 weeks. I'm learning to enjoy deloading but I'm looking for some literature that would support heavy lifting during deloading ;) Let me know if you find some.
Critical Bench: Heavy lifting during a deload week, sounds good to me. How does strongman training differ from the way a football player would train? Or do you think football players could benefit from strongman techniques?
I think that football can benefit from strongman techniques but there is a ton more that football players need to consider, especially as it relates to speed.
As a strongman I do very little sprinting anymore and it shows! I was running out the rain the other day and I felt like Lou Ferrigno doing the "Hulk Trot", but he still caught the bad guys! WTF?
Football players require greater work capacity, agility and, lateral movement capacity as well. But, I DO like using tire flips and keg loading for triple extension and explosiveness; and keg carrying for upper back and hamstring strength… all football players can use this.
What is up with your thighs? Your quads are huge! Have you always had tree trunks or did certain exercises help you build them?
Like I mentioned earlier… I was bred to be an "action hero". So, I was born with these things man! It's not easy being a freak, people always pointing and staring but the moment they need a 'tick thighed' man to rescue their kitty… I'm the first one they call.
Learning how to back squat at the age of 12 helped a little also.
Critical Bench: You own "Strength Camp" a strength training facility in St. Petersburg, FL where you have Men's Boot Camp classes at 6am and 6pm, Monday through Friday. What kind of things torture do you put people through that attend these Boot Camp sessions?
I like that you used the term "torture" because in a way… it is. You see, the guys that get the best results in my Boot Camp are typically Type A dudes that either were in the military, firemen, police, played sports or are high level executives. It's these types of guys that understand that you don't get anything by taking the easy route and many of them crave "torture" or a REAL challenge. They know that were there is no challenge there is not growth.
It's a 5-day per week program. Below is the format that we follow, every 4 weeks the exercises change but the principles are the same.
Monday - Upper Body (push-ups, chin-ups. Band rows, curls, shoulder raises…)
Wednesday - Lower Body (back squats, dead lifts, lunges, glute-ham, etc…)
Thursday - Conditioning (sled dragging)
Friday - Strongman (tire flips, keg loading, keg carrying, farmers carries, etc…)
I designed this program with 3 things in mind:
1. "All Men NEED To Be Strong", hence the name Strength Camp (we don't need anymore cardio camps around)
2. Fun. Everyone gets bored in the gym at some time or an other. At my camp the guys tell me that they get butterflies at the beginning of every month until they learn what I have in store for them this time! This is fun!
3. Results. The bottom line is that you'll get what you want if you just follow my lead. Most guys lose up to 10 pounds during the 2 week free trial that I offer at http://www.strengthcamp.com/bootcamp.htm
Tampa Bay "Strength Camp" Makes The News
Critical Bench: You train a lot of athletes at your facility as well. Having been a full scholarship RB at St. Johns University, what would you tell a high school football player that came to you to get bigger and stronger for the upcoming season?
First of all, I want to know what type of commitment level they have. You can be the best coach in the world and have the best program in the world but if you have to waste your time motivating a lazy kid you'll get frustrated with lack of results (or at least I do). It must be very clear to him and yourself, what is the goal and what is he willing to do.
Getting bigger and stronger takes a ton of commitment in and out of the weight room. Just training hard is not enough. He and his parents need to understand that someone is going to have to prepare his meals, even if this just means making some PB&J sandwiches for him to take to school. My dad made me get a job at GNC to pay for my supplements with an employee discount. Parental involvement is big!
He is going to have to make some choices about the company he keeps and the amount of rest he'll be getting every night and on the weekends. I hate nothing more that putting time and energy into a kid who pisses away all of his progress by staying out late on the weekends drinking or playing Madden. You need to get stronger every week and we can't afford to waste time!
I may sound unreasonable, but I believe that you've got to do "unreasonable" things to get extraordinary results. If gaining 30 pounds and winning an athletic scholarship were easy to do, then everyone would be playing for FSU right now. Especially if genetics aren't on your side, you've got to be disciplined about your calorie intake and rest.
Secondly is the training program. And the reason why say second is because if the attitude and commitment level are not right, who cares what program you choose.
There are a few principles that I ensure are followed when teaching young athletes how to get bigger and stronger. By the way, this is my specialty… there are guys out there that make you faster, jump higher more agile. Not me, although those things are a part of my program much of my emphasis is placed on getting athletes BIG and STRONG. It just happens to be what I am good at teaching.
Here are the principles:
1. You must lift HEAVY weights.
2. You must EAT lots of high quality food.
3. You must REST and get sound sleep.
As far as principle for getting big and strong… that's it. There are plenty of methods for achieving this (i.e. power lifting, bodybuilding, etc.) but those 3 principles must still be there.
Critical Bench: We just launched your Critical Gridiron Program, which has been getting outstanding feedback in only it's 3rd week! Give our readers a brief summary of the system and tell us what makes it different.
I wrote this program because I was getting a ton of questions from coaches and athletes from all over the country that wanted to know how to get BIGGER and STRONGER for football. And this program does just that.
I provide a step-by-step formula for getting jacked for football, which includes. Weight Training, Strongman, Speed Training, Meal Planning and Implementation. Basically the exact same formula that I use at my gym to help kids gain up to 23 pounds in less than 90 days. I don't want to bore you with the details so make sure you get the whole story here.
Critical Bench: Why do you think Functional training is a bunch of BS when it comes to football training?
We'll first off, it is what is typically called "functional training" that is BS. True functional training is good shit. To me this includes Strongman training and anything that is considered Sports Specific Preparedness.
Most of the new and cutting edge sports and fitness training 'guru's' are great marketers! They understand that in order to sell tickets to their seminars and sell their books - they must devise new and exciting techniques for you to get excited about.
Also, because they must appeal to the parents of young children, who want to see their 'little tigers' doing speed and agility drills that seem safe and fun they spend your time and hard earned money teaching you fancy foot tricks that don't make athletes any faster!
We Now Interrupt This Interview With a 1200 Pound Tire Flip!
"Functional Training" with physio balls, rubber bands and wobble boards will NOT make your athletes stronger.
I don't know about you, but I would like to coach a team of STRONG, Massive and Explosive athletes. The bottom line is that this is only achievable when they are lifting heavy weights, eating a ton of food and sprinting / jumping often.
Athletes cannot get STRONG, Massive and Explosive using what has been termed as "Functional Training."
Please don't make the same mistake that I did, and waste your time and money learning training systems that are suited for old ladies and circus performers. There are many savvy marketers out there disguised as "Strength Coaches" that are tricking coaches and athletes into believing that their techniques will prevent injuries and produce results - this is simply untrue. Also, several of them have fancy tools; toys and machines for sale... remember that I received a college scholarship by training with a few weight plates and 1 barbell in my parent's basement.
So-called "functional training" has its place - but is isn't in my weight room.
Critical Bench: Do you ever miss playing football?
Yea, I miss chasing people down and dragging them to the floor or dropping my shoulder and putting some poor sucker on his back gasping for air. But, I'm playing a bigger game now. This took me some time to accept, but I now see that Life is a game and if I play I with the same reckless abandon as I did football… it's as fun as hell!
Most athletes get the "Al Bundy" syndrome when they don't look for another way to express their competitive spirit beyond their sport. The same attitude that sacks quarterbacks and tramples linebackers makes you successful in life.
People are scared to play Life hard. They are afraid of making mistakes and "failing", so they end up playing "safe" and are rewarded with a "safe and boring" life. If you play football being cautious and "safely" you'll either remain on the bench (like most people) or get hurt!
When you sprint down the field on a kick-off and smash anything in your way, you make big plays! It's the same in life.
I am completely irresponsible and reckless. I sprint full speed and God rewards this! I wouldn't trade my life for anything. I enjoy this game just as much as I enjoyed football.
Critical Bench: What do you like to do when you're not whipping people into shape or kicking your own ass preparing for a contest?
I've got a MILF for a wife and 2 gorgeous daughters, and another on the way. I just love lying around being a bum with them. It's the coolest thing to be laying on the floor in my living room with my children climbing all over my chest and abdomen, jumping on and off of me like an amusement park. I feel like the ferocious lion that you see on the Discovery Channel with his cubs nipping at his ears and play fighting with their massive patriarch.
When I've got time, I read. I like Ralph Waldo Emerson and motivational shit, it gets me all amped up so that I can go and play hard.
Critical Bench: What do you see in the future for yourself both professionally and personal?
More fun, more service, more money, more kids and more life. More! God is for continuous expansion and evolution… I'm just riding the wave.
Critical Bench: Thanks for letting us inside your head. I'm sure our readers will be cheering for you at Nationals so you
can get that pro card. See you Wednesday!