Matt Smith

Initial Interview, April 21st, 2006 Ė Strong All-Around Westside Super

What are your age, bodyweight and occupation?

Just turned 32, I stay around 360-365lb and Iím a computer technician.

What are your best lifts?

1102lb Squat, 722lb Bench, 850lb Deadlift, 2601 Total @ SHW

How long have you been lifting and where?

I got started in powerlifting basically in the 10th grade while training for football back in 1989. My first competition was in September 1996. I competed in NASA until August of 1998. I left NASA and started moving into the APF and the IPA, whichever one was available at the time. I started at Westside in July of 1999 and am now in the WPO.

What style of training do you use?

I pretty much follow straight-forward Westside-style of training. I use everything based on working with Louie on the bench, squat and deadlift. Everything is traditional WSB methods.

What type of equipment do you use and how do you get the most out of it?

I use Metal pro squatter with the Metal pro briefs for the squat, a Karin Kleinís double denim bench shirt and currently I use a Marathon deadlift suit. As I get close to the comp I like to use the shirt about every third week to get used to the feel and form. I had a lot of problems with putting the shirt on the week before the meet, and it tends to work better to have a bit more training in the shirt. Since I wear a suit straps-down every box squat session I never take any free-squats with full-gear.

Who are you?

Iíd probably have to say Iím the usual family type guy. Iíve got my wife Nikki, my daughter Sophia (1) and my three step-children Kaelah 7, Noah 5 and Garrett (3). With four small kids and a wife I work my usual 8-5 job and with training itís a pretty busy lifestyle, always on the run if not for work, for the gym, then when I get home I run some more with the kids and make sure they get their time. Keeps you on your toes. With training, youíve gotta have something thatís yours too, to make you happy too, a happy medium. I wouldnít say powerlifting is before my wife and kids, and they all know that. My wife comes first, and my kids are right there with her. Sheís real supportive of my lifting, and thatís a big thing Ė having a family that supports you, especially with something as so consuming as powerlifting. I answer e-mails, help with training questions and post my own workouts as I do them on my website

Where do you train?

Westside Barbell Club.

Who do you admire in the sport?

As strange as it sounds, I look up to Louie first and foremost because heís got more bumps and bruises and injuries, and yet at 60 years old he still keeps going. He doesnít let anything hold him back, keeps straining forward and finding ways to make PRs. Heís what I think of as a role model, as things should be.

Do you see any up-and-coming lifters you'd like to acknowledge?

Because of where I train at weíve got a lot of good guys that really stand out. Obviously, Tim Harold Jr., an extremely strong kid 21 or 22 years old with around a 2560lb total at super. Zach Cole squatted 975lb in the 275 class at 21 years old. Mike Brown, around 21, has a 744lb bench and has squatted 1015lb at super. If they can pace themselves, stay healthy, have some longevity in the sport theyíve got a long career in the sport, and with the number theyíre putting up this early in the game theyíre on the track to do quite well in this sport.

How did you start lifting? Did anyone help you coming up?

I started strength training for football in high school. I would rather lift weights than play football. Football dropped away and lifting stayed. I met up with a guy named Walter who was friends with a lot of the guys at Westside, who introduced me to Jerry Obradovich and thatís who got me into Westside.

What lifting technique suits you best in each of the three lifts, and what do you concentrate on most during your lifts?

I am a typical conventional puller, a wide stance squatter, and a ďnormalĒ bencher. Not too much of an arch, canít do the metal militia stuff. Everything that Louieís always taught me has always worked best for me. I always try to calm myself down right before the lift. If you get too amped up you forget all the technical stuff, especially in the squat and bench, which are very technical lifts, and you want to make sure when youíre executing the lift everything is perfect. If the bar gets a little bit out of groove it feels like it adds weight to the bar, so you want to make the lift as technically perfect as possible and not make it harder than it needs to be. I always try to make sure everything is perfect, from getting my feet set to bar placement.

Please list your training numbers in common movements.

Thereís nothing that stands out that Iíve done in the gym, and it doesnít really matter what you do in the gym anyway.

What is your training routine?

Standard Westside setup, Sunday is dynamic bench, Monday is max effort lower-body, Wednesday is max-effort upper body, and Friday is the dynamic squat workout. I always do the core lift right at the start, whether itís speed-squats or max-effort and finish up with accessory and volume work afterwards.

What specific exercises do you believe have been effective in increasing your bench squat and deadlift?

Most definitely for my squat and deadlift, my box squats and glute-ham-raises really are the most important. Those were the ones that made the biggest change in everything Iíve done so far. For the bench, any kind of tricep extensions. I used to do a lot of the pressing type motions, but getting back back into more extension work is proving to be more beneficial than all the pressing stuff.

Have you ever stopped getting stronger on any of your lifts and why, and how did you start progressing again?

Everything always seems to be around my deadlift. This is the second time that Iíve plateaued on my deadlift. The first time was right after I came to Westside, my deadlift started to struggle and I got stuck right around a 760lb deadlift. During the course of training for a meet one of my training partners Jerry Wiloughby told me when I was doing pin-pulls that my problem was that my hamstrings were weak. I had never done glute-ham raises until that time, so he told me to start doing those. For the next 6-8 weeks I focused on doing glute-ham-raises 4 times a week. I ended up going to the meet, pulling 775lb on my second attempt and almost got 800lb but had grabbed off-center on the bar and ripped out of my hands. So training my hamstrings proved to be quite helpful, because that was in February and in November I ended up pulling 825lb. When I pulled 850lb I was around 340-345lb, so I thought that the problem now was weight gain now that Iím around 360lb. When I pulled 850lb I was using a double poly squat suit with poly briefs and leaned into my squats a lot more. After that I switched to Metal gear and am more upright, so all the volume that I was getting on my low back during all those squat workouts isnít there and my lower back isnít what it used to be. Now that Iím getting ready for Seniors Iím doing a lot more work on my lower back and hopefully that will help my deadlift. The biggest thing, though, to help plateaus is to have competent training partners to help you identify weaknesses, and once you find Ďem, blast Ďem.

What has gotten you to your current level?

Iíd probably have to say luck, being at the right place at the right time. Having the people around me that Iíve got Ė good training partners have helped push me to the level Iím at and helped to identify weaknesses and areas that I could improve on and getting me through the sticking points. Thereís also a part of it where youíve just got to have the determination that this is what youíre going to do. Powerlifting is definitely not for the mentally weak.

Have you ever had any injuries? How do you avoid them in training?

Anyone that does this is going to have their occasional bumps and bruises. For me, though, to this point Iíve never had any major injuries Ė Iíve never torn any muscles, broken any bones or anything major. Iíve had little tweaks here and there, a couple bouts with tendonitis, but thatís about it for the most part. I listen to the guys like Louie whoíve tried all the different ways of training and have found out what works and what wonít, and just listen to him and I donít get injured.

How do you feel about what you've accomplished so far and what are your goals?

I donít look at it as anything special. I guess Iím pleased with where Iíve come so far, but by no means am I satisfied with where Iím at. Iíve got plenty of goals set for where I want to go.

How do you intend on continuing to progress?

By being smart about training, listening to my training partners, and staying healthy.

What do you recommend non-elite lifters should concentrate most on in training?

Focus on technique first and get the fundamentals down. Once youíve got the essentials mastered, the weight will come. Too many people try to jump straight into it and want to squat 800lb but theyíre not willing to take the time to learn and perfect form. The essentials are proper technique and form, which also helps with injury prevention Ė you donít want to start your career off with an injury right off the get-go.

Describe your nutritional plan.

I just eat like a normal person. I get up and eat my cereal in the morning, sometimes oatmeal. I eat lunch just like everybody else, go do the McDonalds or Subway or whatever strikes the mood. I go home and eat dinner with the kids, nothing special. I do get a little bit more conscious as I get close to the meet, add in a couple protein drinks during the day and have tried to start watching what I eat just for health in general, just so itís not total crap going in.

When and where is your next meet?

June 4th in Las Vegas, Nevada Ė the APF Senior Nationals.

Anyone you would like to thank?

Most definitely Iíd like to thank Louie for everything heís done. I couldnít have gotten to the level Iím at without his help, and is the reason for Westside being what it is. Also the training partners I have who can also help with my training and help me get to the level Iím at.

Thanks Matt.