Faheem Chauhan (Fazc) interviews Powerlifter Rob Palmer for Muscle and Brawn.
FC: Rob thanks for doing this interview with us. Let’s take this from the start; from what I understand you’ve been Powerlifting for a relatively short period of time right. How did you get involved in the sport?
Rob Palmer: Not a problem, anything to help promote the sport. I’ve been involved in Powerlifting for around 6-7 years but have been weight training for close to 20 years, I used to love a pushup or two when I was 10!
I got involved in the sport through a fellow lifter called Nick Rees. Nick’s dad Paul runs a ton of competitions down in Bournemouth and coaches tons of youngsters. I was playing rugby at the time and wasn’t sure if I would do a comp or not but Nick convinced me. I competed in a pair of rugby shorts, sleeveless t-shirt and a pair of runners! Must have looked like I was lost. After that I was hooked, I loved every minute of it, even the nerves. Haven’t looked back since then.
FC: Can you tell us about some of your proudest moments in the sport, your victories, titles or achievements?
Rob Palmer: My proudest moment is a tough one, I’ve been so lucky to achieve so much. The best achievement was breaking Ron Collins 30 year total record at the end of 2010 it was literally days before the weight classes changed so the record became a historical one. I’m very proud of that 857.5 @ 82.5 (81.9) it was the 4th highest Wilks total of a British lifter also, so to be in the company of world champions like Tony Stevens, Clive Henry and Dean Bowring was really nice.
Behind that is winning a gold medal for the bench press at the Worlds in 2010, not my best bench ever in terms of weight but getting to stand top of the podium was a special moment.
At the tail end of last year had some good moments that are close to the above breaking the British squat, bench press and total record and winning the best lifter award at the All England was really cool. Winning 4 golds at the Commonwealth championships was also really cool if a little embarrassing going up 4 times to get medals.
I generally don’t get to excited about what I do because the main goal in the end is to be World Champion, I’m just hoping that these are little steps towards that.
FC: Now we’ve sufficiently wow’d the audience let’s talk training! Our audience will be very interested to know how you train. Tell us about how your training has evolved over the years.
Rob Palmer: Haha! Not sure about wow’d they are probably still looking up what Powerlifting is!
I started training to play sports, rugby, basketball etc and followed basic Bodybuilding splits. Then I started lifting and followed a very generic linear periodisation protocol which took me from a novice to intermediate lifter in a couple of years, then I started looking at ways to go from intermediate to elite level and changed everything.
I train using a system that I have tried to develop over the last 3 years through trial and error, it is a amalgamation of Bulgarian, Russian, Westside and some current methods of peaking/tapering for power sports. I tried to use the Bruce Lee philosophy of absorbing what is useful and discarding what is not.
The parts of the Bulgarian system that I pilfered were the maximal effort training and the application of the SAID principle for the main exercises. The Russian influence comes from utilising multi year development strategies, Prilipen’s table and the focus on technical work through the use of percentage based training.
Westside with the use of bands, chains and dynamic effort work. And finally the research conducted on Myosin Heavy Chain adaptation to exercise and more importantly detraining periods and how that then fits into a tapering/peaking strategy.
I have basically used all of the above individually and they were effective but I found myself burning out fairly quickly due to the volume or intensity, I do believe that most of the historical success of these systems is greatly effected by the use of PED’s and can then not be directly transferred to a strength athlete who doesn’t use PED’s. So I decided that I could use different aspects of all and create something that works for me.
FC: Can you talk us through how you approach a typical month of training now?
Rob Palmer: A typical month of training would consist of 2 weeks of high intensity high volume. Which would be broken down as a high neural loading day, followed by an accessory day which could be hypertrophy based technique based, speed strength or conditioning based depending on what phase and the layout of the upcoming competition i.e number of competitors in the flight etc. This would be followed by a day off then repeated.
So 2 weeks of this, then a week with a 80-90% decrease in volume but an increase in intensity which consists of trying to achieve a PB on the trained lift within the phase (box squat, squat with knee wrap etc).
After this heavy week I will then have a deload week which will either be repetition or technique work, again depending on the time of year/phase etc. So that’s a month of training for me.
FC: What do you feel your biggest training mistakes have been?
Rob Palmer: Overtraining! I love training as probably most Powerlifters do, its easier to train than to take time off. I’ve dug myself into a whole so many times that I’ve lost count.
FC: There is a strong theme of avoiding too much and that word ‘overtraining’. What are your thoughts on this?
Rob Palmer: I don’t avoid overtraining more than seek and out and control it to my advantage, the strategy I employ in training is to overreach and adapt, it goes wrong from time to time due to my addiction for training. For me I don’t believe I suffer from overtraining in the clinical sense and I don’t think many actually do. (Editor’s note: there is a lot of truth in this).
I think most strength trainers suffer from acute adrenal fatigue from the heavy training and high arousal levels needed to achieve the lifts. This is quickly reversible from experience and probably the biggest cause of missed lifts during a training cycle.
FC: Let’s talk mentality. In your opinion what does it take to be a champion?
Rob Palmer: I haven’t won a great deal yet so hopefully I’ll let you know. I consider champions are those guys who win either European or world titles, those are the big competitions. You sometimes at national level get people who win titles by default because of poor participation, that doesn’t happen at the big internationals, mostly everyone is good. To get good at powerlifting you need to be very dedicated and try your very best to train as a full time athlete, that then means sacrifice, a social life is then a big no no if you are working full time and training.
But when you achieve your goals it makes it all worth it, you have a week or two living like a normal person then set new goals to achieve and the cycle continues. I believe technique is the key to success in the lifts, that is what’s left on competition day when your dehydrated, mentally exhausted and feel like your never going to make the next lift. Go back to the technique and the technical cues and you will be fine. This needs to be the foundation and to answer a previous question one of the biggest mistake I made at the start of my Powerlifting days was not doing enough focused technique work or to quote the Talent Code “deliberate practice”.
FC: You keep a very trim and athletic physique, something a lot of young men aspire to. What is the key to this?
Rob Palmer: Not sure about trim haha!
I follow the metabolic diet by Mauro DiPasquali, basically low carb with 2 refeeding days in the week, seems to work fine and is very easy to manipulate when you want to get a little leaner or get a little bigger. Just by changing the type of meat during the week or choice of carbs on the refeeding day seems to change body composition for me.
FC: What is it that you love about powerlifting and what is it that you hate?
Rob Palmer: I love lifting big weights and trying to lift things that most people think is impossible, I love the fear of lifting big weights and the fight to complete lifts. I love the process of training and becoming better at something, whether its structural or technical aspects, I love the process.
I hate the drugs in the sport, it is the reason for the sport not being recognised by the IOC and you have countries that are notorious for usage winning most major international titles, I think they have just become smarter when using them. But I don’t believe for a second that they are not cheating.
I also hate the internet and people who don’t compete lifting and putting videos on youtube and claiming to be a lifter, bottom line if you don’t compete then your not a lifter you are recreational gym man! Its like me kicking a football filming it then saying I’m a footballer, I would be a laughing stock. (Editor’s note: I totally agree!).
I hate the number of federations, as a united front there are thousands of Powerlifters in this country, if all under one banner then it would be a very strong sport. I think if it ever gets IOC recognition or inclusion then the others would cease to exist which brings me back to my first hate of drugs and them being the reason for not having recognition.
FC: When can we expect to see you on the platform again?
Rob Palmer: I’ll be competing at the EPF European Powerlifting championships in May.
FC: Best of luck with your training and future competitions Rob, it has been a pleasure.
Rob Palmer: Thanks mate, I was flattered to be interviewed.
FC: Thanks Rob!