PC - Awesome. So let's talk about benching. I know you rotate between bench and boards and close grips. Tell me about that.
EL - Right. Now on close grips, I don't like going too close, I like going about an inch or more inside the rings. I still get a good tricep workout. What I'm probably going to end up changing with my next cycle though, is instead of doing touch and go benches for my competition grip I'm going to train all pause benches.
PC - There you go.
EL - Mainly because touch and go, they don't do a lot for you come meet time. They will help build your strength of course but if you don't train the pause before the meet you're not going to perform as well as you think you might.
PC - Right you gotta pause your benches you might as well pause em in training.
EL - Exactly.
PC - Another technique I know that Billy Gillispie pushes is t-shirt benches. Like put on a loose t-shirt and lower the bar and just lightly touch the bar to your t-shirt.
EL - So you'd be holding it barely above your chest.
PC - Right, for like 2 seconds or so. But I noticed this past time you did do more touch n go stuff and I think you'll see a big jump in your competition bench by training the pause.
EL - Me too, and what I figure I will do is, the day I do my competition grip is I will do my pauses then, but on the close grip day I will do more touch n go stuff. So the close grip days will be a day where I probably do more reps. So I'll pause the comp grip because it just seems like it will work a lot better that way.
PC - I think so I think that's a great idea. So on your competition grip day, you like to do the same thing you did with your squat and deadlift you like to do 2 or 3 progressively heavier singles.
EL - Right yeah. Singles or doubles. I don't really like doing reps on heavy sets. If I'm ever going to do reps it will be like on a down set. The down set for me helps my bench go up a lot.
PC - Right. Trying to beat rep PR's.
EL - Yup.
PC - So after comp grip benches what?
EL - Well what I'll do is do board work after my pause benches, then on the days when I do narrow grip, then I'll do some drop sets for reps.
PC - so really in a 6 week cycle you might only do your competition grip bench 2 times right?
EL - yeah two or three times.
PC - And that's fine because you keep that feel because you're still pressing from the same plane.
EL - Right.
PC - So what do you do after you do your bench work?
EL - I usually do incline. Not a lot of sets. I will usually do like 3 sets and I don't like doing those sets for the same amount of reps. Like I will do the first set with a light weight for 10 or 12 reps, then my second set is for like 8 or 10 reps, then my third set will be something for like 6 or 8. Somewhere in that ballpark.
PC - And what do you usually hit on incline, what are your top weights on incline?
EL - The best I've ever done on an incline, well our bench is weird. IT only has two notches. So one is like a low incline and one is like a really high incline so it's a lot of shoulders too. But the best I've ever done there is 315 for 7.
PC - But that's after a lot of heavy benching.
EL - Yeah my incline isn't really really good but it's not bad to follow all of that benching.
PC - Right I don't often go heavier than 225-250 for 15 after I bench.
EL - Yeah you're heavy work is on the bench. That's your foundation, the other stuff is just accessory work.
PC - So do you do more stuff after incline?
EL - Oh yeah I do dumbbell flyes.
PC - Incline or flat?
EL - I usually just do them flat. Like 3 sets. The first set I go heavy but for like 12 reps. The thing is, I don't do the reps fast. Sometimes I see people do those choppy reps, kinda fast. I like to do em nice and slow, really bring em down and feel that stretch. Then I'll move it a little faster.
PC - Yeah I would hate to do some fast dynamic flyes, that seems like a bad idea.
EL - Yeah when I see those guys I think "shit you're going to tear something". That doesn't seem like a lift where you would want to do something like that. You know a fast movement.
PC - Anything where a big stretch is involved I'm not wanting to move that fast.
EL - Oh hell no.
PC - So what do you like to do after flyes?
EL - Either pushdowns or skull crushers.
PC - Watch your elbows on the skull crushers.
EL - Yeah I stick to the pushdowns more actually. But occasionally I will do the skull crushers just to switch up.
PC - Yeah I don't think your triceps are weak bro.
EL - Yeah I don't want any one area to be weak so I try to hit everything.
PC - Now the other thing is, when you're not prepping for a meet you do something I think is really smart. You kind of coast a bit right? Saving the heavy stuff for when you're prepping for meets and the meet itself. Is this something your dad helped advise you on or something you kind of figured out for yourself?
EL - Right pretty much. When I'm done with my meets I'll do light stuff all the way up to mid may. So like 6 weeks of light stuff now. Nothing written out. I go to the gym and go by how I feel. I won't push it real hard. One week I may go a little harder than the other but otherwise I play it week by week. Because going heavy is what my next cycle for. There is no need in injuring yourself going heavy for no reason.
PC - right you beat yourself up bad enough going into a meet, and it doesn't take much to keep that foundation level of strength. and as we have talked about, I don't care what people say peaking is a real thing. You can only hold a peak level of strength for a short term.
EL - Oh for sure. People will write to me online and be like "well what happened to your lifts? you look weaker." And I'm like no shit. There is no way you can stay at that top level forever, there is no way you can. I can't pull 800 any day of the week. I only hit that number a couple of weeks before a meet or at the meet.
PC - Right and some people don't get that you're trying to peak and time that out, and you don't hold those levels for very long.
EL - No, you can't. I think you can hold it for a good two weeks maybe. SO you're competing and 14 days before or 14 days after that, you would be able to hit those numbers. But not in that time frame you're probably going to lose it.
PC - So this coasting thing is that something your dad showed you as well?
EL - Yeah he was the one who always told me, you can't stay at the top forever. Even before I did my first competition he would always tell me that you won't always perform at the same level week after week and not even meet you're going to hit PR's. And it's really hard to get every one of your lifts to peak properly on the same day. It took me a while to grasp that because I was just a little kid and it took me a while to learn that and understood what he was talking about.
PC - Dad got smarter as you trained longer.
EL - Yes he did. He helped me out a lot with all of his advice and ideas. Pretty much everything he's ever told me has worked. Obviously if it wasn't for my dad I wouldn't be along as far as I am now.
PC - I think it's unbelivable the kind of guidance he's given you because from the first time we talked about training I thought that you trained really smart, and really old school which is cool. Obviously you've got really good genes for strength but the truth is there are a lot of guys that do but burn out or fail because they don't have good guidence.
EL - Yeah that's true because they don't have anyone to help them out like I do. To tell them what's right and wrong and if I didn't have that from the start there's no way I'd be this far. I would be where a lot of other kids are at. Trying to figure out what works and what doesn't. So I already had that from the start. It's like letting me start 10 steps ahead of everyone else, I already know all of that stuff.
PC - I think about that all the time. If I could go back to your age, I wouldn't be where you are at but I'd be a lot further along than I was at 20 then.
EL - No doubt. Most people would be. If you start out lifting and you're avoiding all of those pitfalls you're going to be a lot better off.
PC - So you've gone over 2K twice now right.
EL - Right
PC - And I figured it out, that if you were to peak perfectly you'd be good for something like 2140 or 2150 right?
EL - Probably in that ballpark. I mean at this last meet obviously my deadlift was really suffering and I still pulled 760 but at the meet before I pulled 800. So there's 40 pounds right there.
PC - And you did touch n go with 550 on bench. And as we talked before had you timed your peak a little better you're probably good for a pause with say, 525.
EL - Probably. that pause I did last week was actually my best ever I've never done more than 501 paused. I've never even tried it. So that's why this summer I'll be training a lot harder using pause benches. This time I won't push it so that I peak too soon because I really want to hit my number at the meet, but I want to pause somewhere in the ballpark of where you just said, around 525. I think I'll be good for that next cycle.
PC - Yeah because once you start grinding for too many weeks in a row things start to get bogged down.
EL - Right, that explosiveness. When you're really getting strong it feels light as shit. But then you start grinding singles and some week 50 pounds less feels even heavier.
PC - Exactly.
EL - At that point it becomes a mind game. Sometimes if I have a bad day I feel like I'm getting weaker and getting smaller. A bad day can really screw with your head. But you have to come back the week after and have a good workout.
PC - And that can mess with you for a while.
EL - Yeah because you can say "what did I do wrong? I've been eating good I've been resting good. What happened?"
PC - The body doesn't move on our clock. It goes when it wants to go.
EL - Pretty much.
PC - So you're kind of a light 275. We kind of talked about that a bit. You hover around the 255 range and low 260's. Have you given any thoughts about leaning up and trying the 242's again?
EL - People have asked me if I want to do that and honestly I'm not really sure yet. I'm actually pretty surprised that I'm this light right now because back in like mid-October I was like 271. And somehow right now, I'm at around 258 as of today. And I feel leaner and bigger than I was back then. It's kind of like, I'll put on some weight, go up and come back down, go up and come back down.
PC - And that's not uncommon you're still a young guy so as you get more muscle maturity you will lean out as more mass gets built underneath there if your eating is staying the same. So there might be times when you are carrying more muscle at a lower bodyweight because of the increase in muscle density. Because in your recent pics you look leaner and harder than you did a year ago.
EL - Oh yeah for sure. I feel a big difference now. And really about a year ago I was weighing about the same that I am right now. My weight would flucuate between 255 and 260. And that was my competition weight. When I wasn't training for a comp my weight would drop to around 250'ish. And right now I'm not training for anything and hovering around 260. But if there comes a point to where I lean out to around 250, I might do 242. I don't see why not, I would only have around 8 pounds to drop. So there's a big possibility I could do that.
On his diet -
PC - So that leads us into the next part. Do you pay attention to your diet a lot? Are you a big protein shake guy or a big food guy, or are you a mix of both?
EL - I'm kind of a mix of both. Every day I try to get 3 shakes in, sometimes 4. When I wake up in the morning I have a small breakfast sometimes. I don't have much of an appetite in the morning I don't know why. SO an easy way for me to put on weight is to have a big protein shake in the morning. I'll put like 16 ounces of milk in my blender, some powder, some peanut butter, and a banana. It's simple. The rest of the day I'll just have little shakes, 16 ounces of milk with some powder.
PC - And what's your staple food. What do you really like to eat a lot of?
EL - Meat. Beef, chicken, that's my base. Otherwise, whatever I eat it doesn't really matter. Pasta, pizza, just stuff to help me keep my weight up. Right now I can pretty much eat anything and I don't put on much fat. At this point in my life I have a pretty good metabolism so I'm just going to ride it out as long as I can. When that time comes that I need to watch what I eat I'll switch up my diet more. But as of right now, I can just eat anything and I don't gain much fat from it. So whatever I can get my hands on I'll eat it.
PC - I can remember being 20 and eating like that too bro. But eventually you get older and you have to watch it. I eat a lot less now and hover at around 250. So enjoy it while you can. I did it and loved it.
EL - Oh I know, I already know it won't be like this forever. But for the time being I'm going to take advantage of it.
PC - So on a personal note, what do you like to do outside of lifting?
EL - Honestly I have a pretty busy schedule. I'm taking college classes and I want to get into training people. So I'm going to a community college that is like 5 minutes from my house. I go to school full time, you know I have a daughter she's almost 2 actually. After lifting and school and I see my daughter quite a bit, I don't have a lot of free time. When I have free time I just like to relax. I like to sit around and relax. Sometimes I will go out with my family or girlfriend but I have to keep myself busy. Or I feel like I'm wasing time.
PC - So stay busy, and relax.
EL - Yeah everyone needs that time to just relax and chill. But outside of lifting it's just school, my daughter, hang out with my girlfriend and friends.
PC - I love that you guys have such a tight family.
EL - Yeah not many families have what we have. And especially training wise. Lots of powerlifters do it by themselves. Or they lift with a team or partner. But my training partners are my dad and brother.
PC - Now what about outside of powerlifting. Have you had any thoughts about transferring your strength to MMA, or football, or strongman?
EL - When I was in high school a lot of people would ask me to do football and stuff because I was the strongest kid in my school by far, but I wasn't really interested you know? I think I could have done pretty well at football but I didn't really care for it. If I had free time I wanted to put it into lifting. I just wanted to get stronger.
PC - Right.
EL - People have also asked me about getting into bodybuilding shows, they tell me I have a naturally good build for that because I'm naturally kind of lean. But then I'm like if I do that, I will probably lose a lot of strength. And I'm a guy that trains just to get stronger. I do like getting bigger but when it really comes down to it, I just train for strength. So losing strength really screws with my head a lot. I might look bigger and stronger but I wouldn't be stronger. So that's not for me.
PC - Yeah but there has been a lot of crossover for guys doing that like Matt Kroc and then Johnnie Jackson has done push pull meets. And then obviously your guy Stan Efferding does both.
EL - Oh yeah, but I dunno man he's just so gifted. I mean I can't believe he can cut down and get that shredded and go a couple of months later and put up a humongous raw total. It just blows my mind.
PC - No kidding I watched his training out at Mark Bell's place (supertraining) and when he was prepping for the meet he was absolutley shredded still.
EL - Yeah even at the meet he looked like he could still step onstage.
PC - Yeah Stan is like from another planet as far as powerlifting goes. And since we brought Stan up you guys have been in touch, which is really cool. You're doing a meet together this summer.
EL - Yeah after the meet he wrote to me on powerliftingwatch and then through e-mail and we've been chit-chatting back and forth and as of yesterday he said it's final he's going to do the meet with me July 30th.
PC - Man that's awesome.
EL - Yeah I mean I'm really happy about this.
PC - Oh yeah I think a lot of people are excited. Now he's going to go 308 for this one right?
EL - Yeah he said he just doesn't feel like cutting down and honestly I don't blame him. He's hovering up around 290 or 300 then that's a long ways to diet down especially if he's already really lean at that weight. And it will be good for both of us because you know if I win or lose it doesn't really matter to me because it will be an honor to lift with him.
On Equipment -
PC What is your opinion of geared lifting?
EL - I don't have anything against people that lift in gear, but i think it's pretty obvious that the gear now a days has gotten a little out of hand. Well let me rephrase that, it's actually gotten REALLY out of hand. There are some guys in the gym that struggle hitting a 405 raw bench, but can go put up a 700+lb bench in a double or triple ply shirt easily...i mean come on, 300+lbs out of a shirt? That's just ridiculous. Like i said i have nothing against people that use the gear, but i've heard a lot of people say they use the gear so they can help prevent "injury" but how in the hell are you going to help prevent injury if you're trying to handle weight that's 300 or 400lbs above what you can max out at raw, instead of trying to prevent injury, you're asking for it! I've also seen guys that squat in gear, that have absolutely no base to them. They jump right into gear as soon as they start training which is probably one of the dumbest things anyone could ever do. When you see someone struggle to unrack the weight in full gear, you know that's a real big problem there. I think if people are going to get into gear, you should have a couple years of raw training in your background before doing that and also continue to stick with raw training throughout your cycles.
PC - What is your opinion that a lot of geared lifters say that the top geared lifters would still be the top raw lifters?
EL - Whoever says the top geared lifters would also be the top raw lifters are absolutely insane. Someone would have to be really ignorant to say something like that. Geared lifting and Raw lifting are totally different. I know that I've never experienced any kind of training in a bench shirt before or a deadlift suit before, but i have tried out squat gear before and i thought it was absolutely horrible. My raw squat barely went up at all, within a 10 month period, my raw squat went up maybe 25 pounds? And that was with wearing squat gear almost every week, either brief only or both brief and suit. I do believe your back will get stronger from holding the heavier weight, but your raw strength won't really increase at all unless you train raw. For a pretty good example, I train raw consistently all the time, it's hard as hell for me to even put 20 or 30 pounds on one of my lifts on a training cycle with raw training every single time I'm in the gym. So how is someone that never trains raw, going to make better gains than I would, when I train raw ALL the time?
Outline of Eric's Training -
Sunday - Squat or Deadlift day
Eric rotates his heavy squats and deadlift workouts. So one week he squats light and pulls heavy and the next week he squats heavy and pulls light.
Heavy Squat Day -
Squats - triples or to a top single
Deadlifts - up to a fast light single
Lat Pulldowns - 3 sets of 12-15 reps
Abs - 3 sets of 15
Heavy Deadlift Day -
Squats - up to a light fast single
Deadlifts - up to a top single for the day
Barbell Rows - 3 sets of 12-15 reps
Leg Press - 3 sets of 15
Abs - 3 sets of 15
Monday - Assistance work
Wednesday - Bench Day
Eric rotates between his competition grip and close grip bench with boards mixed in. For his competition grip bench he works up to a top single. On close grip days he does more rep work. He usually follows his competition grip work with some heavy board work.
His assistance work is as follows -
Incline Press - 3 sets of 6-12 reps
Flat Flyes - 3 sets of 12-15
Pushdowns or Skull Crushers - 3 sets
Thursday - Assistance work
Same as Monday
Anyone that wants to get bigger and stronger can take some notes of what Eric had to say in this interview. It's the same thing I've preached about on here in all of my articles. Grab a few basic lifts, work on simple progression, and don't deviate from it because you think some other workout is going to give you magical results. Train two or three days a week and get a solid eating plan. Couple it with a simple training routine focused around basics and getting stronger is all you need. This is tried and true over and over again. Be patient. You probably don't have the genetics that Eric does, but Eric wouldn't be where he is today without the fact that his dad gave him a great training plan from day 1 and he hasn't deviated from it. That's the model of consistency. And look how simple it is. It works. Don't let anyone tell you bullshit otherwise.
It's no coincodence that the majority of the strongest raw guys all train really similar. Basics, using simple progression and listening to their body.
Again a big thanks to Eric for taking the time out to do this interview and I have no doubt that barring anything unfortunate he'll crack 2100 this summer. Hope to see you there.