TweetAmidst the perpetual popularity of heavyweight lifters, Phil Harrington has captured the spotlight in the 181 lb. weight class. At age 31, Harrington had a late start in the sport, beginning his career with a handful of bench press competitions. With only two and a half years of serious training under his belt, Harrington is smashing records and attaining feats that have taken others a lifetime to achieve. To date, he has set numerous state and national bench press records in several federations. In March 2004, Harrington captured his first WPO world record with an 843 lb. squat in the 181 lb. weight class. Since then, he has boosted his squat world record to 900 lbs., the biggest 181 lb. squat of all-time. His 2010 lb. meet total resides in the top five of all-time. Harrington is also the lightest person to reverse-grip bench press 500 lbs. at 181 lbs. in a sanctioned event. When not on the platform breaking records, he can be found attentively helping fellow lifters and promoting the sport. We recently had the opportunity to interview Phil Harrington and it seems "…he’s just getting started!"
MM: Tell us about you. Where are you from and where do you train?
Phil: I am 31 years old, from Wilmington, NC. I presently live in Toccoa, GA. I train at North Georgia Barbell (NGBB) in Atlanta, GA one day per week and the rest of the time at Survivor’s Gym in Williamston, SC. I work as a strength trainer, working with all types of clients.
MM: How long have you been powerlifting?
Phil: I began benching about ten years ago and first competed in bench press only meets. In 2000, I did my first full powerlifting meet in the 165 lb. class. In 2003, I lifted in the WPO in the 181 lb. class. I got serious after that meet and have been hooked ever since. I have only been seriously training for two and a half years. I’m just getting started.
MM: How did you get started in powerlifting?
Phil: My uncle (PJ Couvillion) was the former Technical Secretary of the IPF. He has always been so full of knowledge and support. Thanks "Old One"! I always strived to be strong in anything I have ever tried – arm wrestling, shoot wrestling, grappling, etc. To be strong is the ultimate rush. When I first began lifting, I did not have great coaches or a team like most top lifters, so it was difficult at first. I was fortunate to have an early opportunity to train with some great lifters. Lee Rorie, known for benching 606 lbs. at 198 lbs. in 1995, helped me learn to bench press. Also, I had the pleasure to train with J.M. Blakley, a man ahead of his time. I would read every article or book I could find on strength training and cutting weight. Other than that, I learned what I know by asking others questions and by trial and error.
MM: What obstacles have you had to overcome on your way to success?
Phil: I spent time in prison - four years and ten months to be exact. It was not easy. I relied on weight lifting in prison to deal with the every day stress, and to maintain focus on my long-term goals. While in prison, I told everyone that one day I would be a world record holder and champion, and someday be on the cover of a magazine. They all said, "Yeah…right!" Well, I proved that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. If you work hard enough, you can achieve greatness no matter where you are from.
MM: What are your goals, short-term and long-term?
Phil: I believe that without goals you will never get anywhere. In the 181 lb. class, my short-term goal is to squat between 909 lbs. and 931 lbs. My long-term goal in that weight class (by the WPO, GNC of by close of 2005) is to squat 955- 973 lbs. I also wish to push my reverse bench press to 533 lbs. and advance my regular bench press to 540-551 lbs. in full powerlifting meets. Also at 181 lbs., I plan to deadlift between 655- 672 lbs. in the near future, and pull 683-705 lbs. down the road. I also envision a 2120-2150 lb. total. When I permanently move up to the 198 lb. weight class, I intend to squat 973-1003 lbs. and will strive for 1047 lbs. in the long-term. Yes, I said 1047 lbs. I want to bench press 573-606 lbs. and deadlift 705-744 lbs. Finally, I want to total 2250-2400 lbs. within a three year period in the 198 lb. class, cutting from 220 lbs.
MM: What is your most memorable moment in powerlifting?
Phil: My most memorable moment came during my first WPO meet, when I broke the WPO squat record with a lift of 832 lbs. in the 181 lb. weight class. I just missed the WPO bench press record of 546 lbs. but still totalled 1979 lbs. It was a great way to begin my journey in the WPO. Many of the lifters present know what I endured prior to the meet and that made it even more rewarding.
MM: What advice would you offer to new lifters?
Phil: I would tell them to avoid overtraining. When many lifters are just starting out they tend to fall victim to overtraining due to their enthusiasm. Safety is important and I would explain the importance of stretching, getting enough rest and eating right. If they are going to use drugs, I would suggest they wait until they have built a good foundation, requiring many years in the sport. Also, performance enhancers must be used correctly and in moderation – do your homework.
MM: What strategy helped you obtain the all-time number one biggest squat at 181 lbs.?
Phil: I make it a habit to consistently set small goals to work towards. Also, I have worked on developing a great squat routine. Strictly adhering to this routine has brought me great success and will take my squat into numbers never once thought possible. There will be a lot of details in my upcoming book about my training strategies and routines.
MM: What has been the biggest obstacle in achieving your immediate goals?
Phil: My biggest challenge right now is having the right training partners, wanting to be the best and that are willing to go to my meets. My goals are so important to me, and to achieve that level I am going to need a strong support group that wants it as bad as I do. I hope my teammates can understand.
MM: What separates you from other lifters in the world of powerlifting?
Phil: I have a lot of passion. I want to be number one more than my competitor does. I am willing to do whatever it takes to achieve greatness. In addition to being a lifter, I also coach and know how to pick meet attempts for both lifters that I train and lift against. I have no fear on the platform. I have a good eye for knowing a lifter’s limits and strengths. I will also listen to others advice so I can constantly improve my game.
MM: Who inspires you in powerlifting ?
Phil: I think Ron Palmer is amazing. At 165 lbs., he has super weight-cutting and rehydrating abilities, and really sets a great example for young lifters to follow. Ron is a true friend and has a big future ahead of him in this sport. Arnold Coleman, with his 2117 lb. all-time total at 181 lbs. – enough said. Travis Mash with his 2400+ lb. total at 220 lbs. is another friend and old training partner. North Carolina bound, Chuck Vogephol, is a squatting machine with his 1030 lb. squat at 220 lbs. For females, Shawna Mendelson and Kara Bohigian – both super strong ladies with lots of years left in them. Also, anyone that has the passion like I do gives me inspiration.
MM: How do you mentally prepare for a big squat?
Phil: I have the number in my head for weeks in advance and know that I will lift the weight. I visualize myself lifting the weight thousands of times before I am on the platform. In addition to mental imagery, I record and study my training lifts from the gym.
MM: Tell us about Next Level Training Systems and about your upcoming book.
Phil: Next Level Training is a personal training company I created to train clients. There are many individual and unique programs based on the goals of the client. My book is called BEYOND SQUATTING and will be available for purchase on my website. It contains everything you need to know to squat big weights, for all body types. Also, it contains strength training information important for all types of sports. The book also details the advanced squat chain workout which I devised. This program will be the most elite way to get strong in a short period of time, from beginner to advanced. It is the same program I used to break the 900 lb. barrier.
MM: Is there anyone you would like to thank?
Phil: Well, I would like to thank my family and friends first. My mother that I love so much, for everything in the past and present, for understanding my goals… I love you mom. Amanda Beggs, for all your past help… Uncle Phil (PJ Couvilion) for all the phone calls and staying focused… Also, my cousin Chris, Aunt Ann, my grandmother, Todd Zola, Bryant "Biggety Boy" Gill... There are a lot of lifters I would like to thanks: John Groves and NGBB for all their help, Ron Palmer, Arnold Coleman, Jon Gordon, Shawna Mendelson and Lenny Labs, Mikki Free and the Survivor’s Strength Team. I would like to thank my sponsors: At Large Nutrition-Chris Mason, Inzer Advanced Designs-John Inzer & Peter Thorn, VPX Sports.com, Advanced Chiropractor, Dr. Steven Waggoner, my sports nutritionist Anthony Ricciuto from PLUSA, Louie Simmons from Westside Barbell Club, and finally Wesley Kampen and Judy Sverchek from Monster Muscle Magazine for believing in me and giving me this opportunity.
TweetI wonder what he went to prison for...?
TweetProbably stealing cars. He would just put one on his back and run away...