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Interview with Eric Talmant, Raw Unity Powerlifting – Part 1

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This is part 1 of a 2-part interview with Eric Talmant.

Eric Talmant is a world class powerlifter, and the founder and director for the Raw Unity powerlifting meet. He can also be found at his personal website, www.erictalmant.com.

Eric is a certified Metabolic Typing® advisor and Functional Diagnostic nutritionist. His best equipped lifts are a 683 pound squat, 391 pound bench press, and a 650 pound deadlift in the 75K weight class. His best raw lifts to date are 485 pound squat without knee wraps, 290 pound bench press, and 635 pound deadlift.

Steve Shaw: When did you first start lifting seriously, and were you a “powerlifter” right out of the gate?

Eric Talmant: I have been an athlete all of my life, playing baseball, basketball, and running track.  We did not have a weightlifting or powerlifting team in junior high or high school when I was growing up, but I began fooling around with weights when I was probably 12 or 13; about the time that Rocky III came out.

When I went to college I met Tony Maslan, who became one of my best friends and remains one my best friends to this day.  We began weight training together in college and it became more serious when Tony joined the University of Evansville powerlifting team our junior year.

I thought that I was “too small” and so I worked hard that year as Tony taught me in his spare time all the things he was learning on the powerlifting team.  Finally overcoming my fear, I decided to join the powerlifting team my senior year of college in 1995-96.  This was a big deal at the University of Evansville because the previous year (Tony’s first year) U of E won the A.D.F.P.A. (which would later become the USAPL) Collegiate National Championships.  I competed in the 165 pound class and totaled over the required 1075 to make the team and compete in the 1996 ADFPA collegiate nationals in Killeen, Texas, at Fort Hood.  I still have the shirt to this day.

Steve Shaw: In a recent interview I did with 100% Raw president Paul Bossi, he stated, “As far as Unity goes, good luck. There are too many chiefs and wannabe’s in the lifting world.”  What are your thoughts on unity in raw powerlifting?

Eric Talmant: I don’t know if you can or will “accept” this answer, but take a look at this thread:

http://www.powerliftingwatch.com/node/12129

Two years ago many said that it was not possible.  Now, if you look at the list of names that have committed to Raw Unity 2010 what you will see is a mix of raw, single ply, and multi ply lifters.

Look-you are either a part of the problem or a part of the solution.  IF there are too many chiefs and wanna-be’s in the powerlifting world (as Paul says) then why don’t they get behind something that is gathering momentum like Raw Unity?

Raw Unity is trying to be a part of the solution.  Our actions speak for themselves with the types of lifters that are interested in coming to the 2010 event.  The lifters can change the sport.  It sounds idealistic, but it is true.  I think they are all really beginning to realize this with how Raw Unity is taking shape.

As meet director, I don’t have an ego and I don’t stand to lose financially if lifters do not show up to Raw Unity.  We figured we would put it out there and give it a go two years ago, and we stayed true to the mission and to the lifters.  Now, here we are and the event is building steam.  That is because of the lifters and our sponsors.  If Raw Unity would not have gone over well, then that would have been that.  If Raw Unity becomes so big that it changes powerlifting, then that will be that.  I checked my ego at the door a long time ago on this one.  It is now in the hands of the lifters as to what they want; and I certainly don’t take it personally as the meet director.  If the lifters keep coming, then we will continue to do what is necessary to organize and run the event and do right by the lifters.  If they cease to want to come, then that is fine too!  The lifters have the power, and this is something that perhaps some of the chief’s and wanna-be’s  don’t seem to realize.

Steve Shaw: What objections have you received from other federation leaders when it comes to getting on board with Raw Unity?

Eric Talmant: When we started the Raw Unity concept, we were basically starting from scratch.  We put in many hours of research combing the results from any and all raw competitions the last 10 years that we could find.  Once we had put together a list of lifters that we hoped to get in contact with,  we then contacted many of the federation leaders for not only their input; but also to see if they could help us get in touch with the lifters that we were looking for.

Some federation leaders took the time to talk with us and discuss candidly what they thought of the Raw Unity concept; and then others simply declined via email.  In the end, no federation leader was really willing to help us get in touch with the lifters that we were looking for.  We were able to get some contact information here and there, but most of the leg work was eventually done using other channels.  Today, some federation leaders really seem to like what we are doing with Raw Unity and they have even joined us in our efforts to promote a united competition that invites and involves lifters from all federations; but most  federation leaders seem to either take no stance at all or just oppose what Raw Unity stands for.  Some federation officials have even actively promoted against the Raw Unity concept to other federation members, officials, etc.

I know it is cliché and idealistic, but I honestly don’t understand why we can’t all just get along and work together.  If they are scared that Raw Unity is going to take lifters and thus money away from their federations, then I can unequivocally say that Raw Unity has been and always will be only one meet a year.  We are certainly not in it for the money, we are not trying to steal lifters, and we certainly are not trying to upstage anyone.  We are just trying to promote-for a weekend-a unified meet in powerlifting where the strongest guys and gals can come and truly face the best in the sport of powerlifting.  We believe this is a good thing for the sport, and we openly invite other federations to help us in any way that they see fit.  In return, we are happy to promote those federations that support Raw Unity in every way that we can.

Steve Shaw: Do you believe drugs and/or gear are preventing powerlifting from being taken seriously as a sport? We have all seen what lack of drug test enforcement in bodybuilding has lead to. Is powerlifting headed down the same path where tens of thousands of dollars a year worth of drugs will be required to compete at the highest level?

Eric Talmant: There are two separate issues here:  drugs and suits-or “gear”.  In terms of drugs, I believe that the general public is mostly misinformed about the dangers of some anabolic steroids.  I also believe that it is selective reasoning in that there are plenty of things that every day people do to enhance their performances.  For example, if a news caster uses cups of coffee to keep them awake and alert during a morning show day in and day out, then can’t that also be considered an “unnatural advantage”?

I know that the difference between coffee and performance enhancing drugs is that in the United States one is legal and one is not.  However, what I don’t understand is the moral condemnation of those that choose to use performance enhancing drugs to further increase performance.  It is competitive nature-in anything-to want to be the best you can be at something; whether that is powerlifting, or chess, or a news anchor, or whatever.  I agree with rules, and as such performance enhancing drugs are illegal.  However, I certainly do not condemn or look upon anyone that chooses to use them as morally deficient.

I am certainly not the moral police, and can find many things in a powerlifter’s life (or my own for that matter!) that are probably more harmful than using performance enhancing drugs.  So, having said all of that-to answer your question-I believe that as the public does become better educated on what performance enhancing drugs really do and do not do that it will not necessarily be a limiting factor in preventing powerlifting from being taken seriously as a sport.  The fact is that they are a part of most every sport; and other sports are taken seriously.

Now, in terms of the supportive suits or “gear”; I do believe that they could possibly be preventing powerlifting from taken seriously as a sport.  Just put yourself in the shoes of a spectator, sports fan, or even a common gym rat.  When they see guys coming out and getting under 1000+ pounds and being able to descend slowly with it; only to see them come back up usually faster then they went down.  You could only imagine how puzzled they must be at this.  Or to see someone walk out with this quasi-shirt of armor that has the wearer walking with his arms straight out like Lon Chaney in The Mummy’s Curse.

The casual observer will see that and then wonder why that person has their arms straight out.  Eventually they find out what a bench shirt is and what it does and it is my experience that most average Americans just don’t “get” it.  When the public does not “get it”, then it is hard to have powerlifting taken seriously as a sport on a nationwide scale.  Please understand that I am not bashing equipped lifting.  I have competed as an equipped lifter for much of my powerlifting career, and I intimately understand how hard it is to learn, use, and master the suits.  However, the image (and perception is reality) that equipped powerlifting sends is that it is more pseudo-mechanical than any other sport out there; thus making it perhaps unfriendly.

In terms of drug testing, I can tell you that even though I personally have not tried nor do I really understand completely how one goes about “beating” a drug test; I have heard plenty of times that it can be done.  If the public is serious about drug testing athletes, then they would literally need to do it on a daily basis.  Otherwise, there will be a way around it.  As a competitor, I cannot influence or change what someone else does.  I need to worry about myself and what I do.

If someone is going to use performance enhancing drugs or try to beat a drug test, then I can’t do a thing about that.  Call me ignorant, but I just don’t think there is any substitute for hard work and persistence.  I believe that if a person adheres to those ideals then eventually-if he stays with it long enough-he will see the fruits of his labors.  Because I don’t believe that even drugs can take the place of hard work and persistence, I guess I don’t see that money can buy you strength.

Sure, it can do all sorts of things for a while; but then what happens when the guy that uses anabolics stagnates?  Does he use more?  Well, I suspect eventually that well will run dry also.  I have talked to enough guys to tell you that performance enhancing drugs may help, but they have their limits too.  A good friend of mine that knows an awful lot about performance enhancing drugs once told me that anabolics will get someone to their genetic ceiling quicker than if they did not use the anabolics; but that either way there is a genetic ceiling.  Person A that chooses not to use may take 10-15 years to get there, while person B may take 5 years to get there.  The difference will be what they do once they do hit that stopping point.  That will make the difference, and there is no drug or substance that someone can take to get beyond this point.

Moving beyond one’s genetic ceiling takes all of those things that cannot be defined.  So in my opinion, I do not believe tens of thousands of dollars a year worth of drugs will be required to compete at the highest levels in powerlifting.  I am sure they will help, but the performance enhancing drugs can only do so much and perhaps only get you to the same destination in less time.  Maybe I am naive, but that is honestly what I think.

Steve Shaw: Just to clarify, are you saying that the “genetic ceiling” is the same for all lifters; it just takes longer for a natural to get there?

Eric Talmant: I am simply saying that each person has a pre-defined genetic ceiling. It certainly is not the same for all lifters. The genetic ceiling of one lifter can be much higher or much lower than that of another lifter. I am saying that if a person chooses to use anabolics that he will reach this genetic ceiling much quicker than if he does not use anabolics. I think it is debatable whether the use of anabolics actually changes one’s genetic ceiling, however. In other words, I think that the main advantage that performance enhancing drugs offer is time.

They will allow you to reach your potential much, much quicker than you would have otherwise. I guess I am not convinced that performance enhancing drugs can increase that genetic ceiling of a lifter in the sport of powerlifting. I think it takes much more than that. Since I believe this way, that is why I don’t believe it will take thousands and thousands of dollars per year in performance enhancing drugs to be competitive at the highest levels in the sport of powerlifting.

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