Methods Of Madness – An Interview With Jeremy Wood
In a short period of time, Jeremy Wood went from being just another college athlete to one of the strongest young natural powerlifters in the game. But it isn’t just his numbers that are impressive. Jeremy is a student of lifting, and is never satisfied with the status quo. For some, Jeremy’s training frequency is shocking. But his lift totals pay testament to the methods behind his madness.
For more information on Jeremy Wood, please check out his articles and workouts.
Muscle & Strength: A few year’s back you were in college, playing rugby, and lifting wasn’t the biggest thing in your life. Today you are a competitive powerlifter, an article writer for Muscle & Strength, and one of the strongest young naturals I know. Tell us about your journey during the last several years…
Jeremy Wood: Well, it has been a long exciting journey for me and somehow I ended up as a competitive powerlifter. I was planning on playing baseball in college but I really lost my motivation after my senior year. My heart was just not in it, but I tried out for the college squad anyway and did not make it. After this I took some time off from sports and lifted a lot. This is when I really fell in love with weightlifting. I started to read more and more on the Internet, I wanted to learn as much as possible. I gained about 25 pounds that year, but some of this was college weight.
In my sophomore year of college I started to play rugby and continue to lift. I am a very competitive person so I needed to do something to stay competitive. I then fell in love with rugby even though I was injured all the time. The focus of my junior year of college was rugby, so the weight room took a back seat. I still made good gains during this time, but was more focused on rugby. During the fall season my team won the Division 2 Virginia State Championship, but then lost in the regional tournament in the spring. So for the summer my goal was to get a lot stronger, so I started to read about powerlifting. I realized that my lifts were not that far away from being competitive with other powerlifters of my age group.
At this point I started the Westside barbell program and got a lot stronger. The focus of my life had become lifting. I continued to read as much as possible and learn everything I could about powerlifting. I did various programs until May of 2010 where I finally committed to my first powerlifting competition. I competing in the 220 pound weight class as a raw Junior (ages 20-23) for the IPA. I ended up breaking 4 Virginia State Records and totaling 1275. I was very happy with my performance and plan to compete again in the near future.
Muscle & Strength: Tell us about your first powerlifting meet. What did you learn about competing, did anything surprise you, and did it motivate you to compete again?
Jeremy Wood: My first powerlifting meet was very exciting. I was extremely nervous about the whole thing. I had never even witnessed a meet, but I thought it was time to just do it. I weighed in at around 210 pounds which surprised me, I was thinking more like 216. So, that made me even more nervous. I was surprised that I hit my squat opener of 400 pounds. After I hit that, my nerves calmed down a lot. I thought the squat depth would be a lot lower than it was, so this told me that I was training correctly. I always strive to hit at least parallel.
I learned that the powerlifting community is very diverse, I met some people that were extremely nice and willing to help everyone and I also met people that were very arrogant. I learned a lot about equipped lifting at my meet. I had read a lot about bench shirts and squat suits but I had never seen one in person. This was a shock to me, because I did not realize how much the gear could help average lifters. There were a lot of guys there that my size was greater than theirs but they had become masters of their gear and were able to lift tremendous amounts of weight. This was very interesting to me, but I do not think that I will ever get into equipped lifting. I would like to focus on raw power.
The meet was very motivational to me for many reasons. Just seeing huge weights being lifted made me want to lift more. Also, breaking records motivated me to go after more records and be the best lifter I can be. Most of all, the one thing I found to be the most motivational was a lifter between 60 and 70 years old that had a higher total than me. I thought that was awesome and should be motivational to everyone.
Muscle & Strength: You have experimented with with quite a number of training approaches and lifts that are considered non-conventional in modern powerlifting. For example, you train with a greater frequency than is considered appropriate or effective. I’ve seen you bench twice in a day. What draws you to experimentation, and what aspects of conventional training do you dislike?
Jeremy Wood: I think my personality draws me to experimentation. I am never satisfied and I always think there is a better way to do things. So, I am always looking for a new way to train. Also, I get bored with the conventional routines, many of them have you taking multiple days off a week and that is not for me. I love to train, so I want to train all the time. I have also been influenced by Jamie Lewis who created the Chaos and Pain lifestyle. He pointed me in the direction of the old time strongmen. These guys trained extremely heavy all the time and still made huge gains without steroids. My favorite would be Chuck Sipes, who trained like a monster and was strong as a bear.
It is not that I do not like conventional training I think it is very effective for most people. I think when you are young you should take advantage of your speedy recovery and train as much as you want. As long as you are organized and strategic about it. I saw great results from Westside Barbell routine, I just got bored with it and wanted to train more. I like to include Olympic lifts in my training also, so I need to train many times a week to include everything I like to do.
Muscle & Strength: What training approaches, techniques or styles do you feel have lead to your greatest gains on the big 3 lifts?
Jeremy Wood: I think the first time I used the Westside Barbell routine I made some very good gains on my big 3 lifts. This was the first time I ever focused on just the big 3, and I also learned better techniques for all of the lifts. After about 6-7 months of Westside, I hit a plateau and needed to switch something up. This is when I tried the Sheiko Training routine. This routine was crazy, it involved benching, squatting, and deadlifting with a lot of volume 3 times a week. I ran this for 4 weeks, which was suggested to me and I made huge gains. The biggest thing was that I put 30 pounds on deadlift. This was amazing to me because I had been stuck for a while.
I think for most lifters Wendler’s 5/3/1 is perfect. It mixes some higher rep sets along with near maximal lifts. It is a very simple program that anyone can succeed on. I recently began using this program for my squats again, and I am seeing success already after only one wave. On this routine like most other powerlifting routines the accessory lifts are the most important. You need to attack your weaknesses no matter what program you are on.
Now that I have tried many routines I have created my own to mix in multiple training approaches that include 5/3/1, Westside Barbell, and concepts from Olympic lifting and Chaos and Pain.
Muscle & Strength: Give us a look at an average week for you. Tell us about how you are currently training, and give some info on your current eating and supplement approach.
Jeremy Wood: Right now I am unemployed, I just graduated college in May and I am seeking out a job in a tough economy. This leaves me with plenty of time to train. I train with mostly heavy compounds 6 days a week. Mondays I do bench work in the morning and afternoon, the second session is a speed workout. Tuesday and Thursday are focused on overhead pressing and upper back work. Wednesdays are my heavy squat day, which I am currently using 5/3/1 for squats. Saturdays I do my speed squats and deadlift work. Fridays is my heavy bench day and I usually work up to a max, or do heavy sets of 3. Basically I train a lot, and use heavy compound lifts.
I do not really have a strict eating plan at all, I am only 22 so my metabolism can handle a lot. I try to eat a ton of protein and get between 3500 and 4000 calories a day. I try to eat as clean as possible, but in order to get enough calories sometimes I have to hit up McDonalds. I eat a lot of meat; I love chicken and steak, so I eat them pretty much every day.
I try to keep my supplementing pretty simple. I take a pre-workout formula, which right now is N.O. Ignite. I usually just try to find the cheapest formula that has a very simple ingredient list. I recently read “Better Than Steroids” by Dr. Warren Willey, which is a great book that everyone should read. He focuses a lot on the pre and post workout meal, so I have been using that. Basically they are both a mix of protein and a simple carb. With a few other things added in. I try to keep everything pretty simple in life, I try to eat around 5 times a day and get a ton of calories. I train as hard as possible all the time and I love it.
Muscle & Strength: It can take some guys years to see through many of the modern lifting myths. Can you tell us about some training mistakes you’ve made, an some of the myths you once believed, that you set aside?
Jeremy Wood: I never really fell into many of the myths of today’s modern lifters but I did make my fair share of mistake. I started out great with my dad in my basement. I would do bench, squat, rows, and military press for 3 sets of 6 reps 3 times a week. I should have stuck to this. But instead me and a group of my friends started to train in my basement and none of us knew anything. We would bench every day, and then just do everything upper body until we could not move. We would do tons of sets of curls. This worked for a while actually, we all got stronger.
Then I joined a gym and thought I was learning how to train. I was doing a bodybuilding split and killing each of my muscles. I would do tons of sets for each muscle group and hit the muscles from every different angle. This worked, but I should have been doing a beginner program. Once I got to college I started to train more for strength but still used a body part split. My workouts were way too long. It was not until my junior year of college that I began to train correctly, I cut my workouts down to a little over an hour and started to get really strong. I started to read the correct websites and learn about proper form and rep ranges. I continue to learn every day and I will never be satisfied with my knowledge about the weightlifting world.
Muscle & Strength: Jeremy I have to bring this up, because it’s such a prominent myth. You often hear “low reps don’t build muscle”…yet looking at you, you could easily compete in a natural bodybuilding competition and hold your own. What are your thoughts on the impact of rep ranges on building muscle, and conversely, do you also believe that higher rep ranges – say 6 to 15 – are bad for strength?
Jeremy Wood: I do not believe that either of these two statements are true. I think you can build muscle with low reps and you can get stronger with rep ranges that are 6-15. I think each individual needs to experiment for themselves and see what they enjoy doing better. I personally enjoy doing rep ranges from 1-5 and I hardly ever go into 6-10 rep range. Progression is much more important than the actual rep range. As long as the lifter is striving for more reps or more weight each week, they will gain muscle and strength. For example if a lifter benches 135 for 14 reps one week and then does 15 reps the next week, they will get stronger. As long as you get stronger, you will grow.
Lifters need to see what works for them and figure out a scheme of progression. We all need to focus more on progression and stop worrying so much about finding the perfect rep scheme. I am an example of this, most of the time I work in a rep range less than 6 reps and I keep getting bigger. Low reps works for me, so that is what I use. I think progression from one workout to the next is much more important than the actual rep range used.
Muscle & Strength: What are your short term and long term lifting goals?
Jeremy Wood: My short term goals are to keep getting stronger, and I would like to get up to 220 pounds and stay just as lean as I am now. By the end of summer I would like to do a 300 pound power clean and a 300 pound push press, then shortly after that I would like to put those 2 together and do a 300 pound clean and press. I would also like to do another competition in the near future. A little bit longer term is a 500 pound squat, 400 pound bench press, and a 600 pound deadlift by the end of the year.
A longer term goal would be to get these three lifts in competition. My long term goal is to continue to compete in powerlifting competitions in the 220 pound weight class. Most of all my goal is just to keep getting stronger.
Muscle & Strength: Which powerlifters and strongman, past and present, do you look up to and why?
Jeremy Wood: Currently I look up to Derek Poundstone in the sport of strongman. The guy is a freak, he is incredibly strong and trains 100% all the time. He has put American Strongman back on the map, for a while the US was being dominated by other countries. He is also a very nice person, he is willing to talk and sign autographs for all his fans. I look up to strongman competitors more than powerlifters because I want to train like them. They train often and go all out. I want to be the strongest at every lift, not just the main three. Many strongman competitors could crush powerlifting competitions and I think that is amazing!
My favorite old time strongman would be Chuck Sipes, he is one of the only bodybuilders that I look up to. He trained all the time and always trained as heavy as possible. The man also worked a labor intensive job and still was able to train for hours each day. If he did not over train there is no way I will. I like to use some of his methods in my training, his rep schemes are different that normal, so I like that. I also look up to Paul Anderson, he is possibly the strongest man ever. He was strong in conventional lifts like squats, but was also a top Olympic lifter. This makes me think that I too can succeed in both types of lifting. I think too many people pick one route or the other but I think you should use everything and become the strongest possible in both explosive strength and raw power.