Q&A with Chad Wesley Smith of Juggernaut Training Systems
IRONMILL – Chad, Thank you for taking the time to sit down with us at Ironmill. Congrats on the big win! How are you feeling physically after your first NAS Nationals?
Chad Wesley Smith – Thanks for having me Lou. I’m feeling pretty beat up after Nationals. Bruised my sternum up badly on the axle and ripped a lot of skin off my hands, arms and legs but the fact that I won is definitely easing the pain. I have been trying to get as many calories in as possible. Luckily the Paula Dean Buffet was a big help there because that is the most important thing to recovery. This week I’ll also get soft tissue work done a few times. I plan on starting to train for the LA Fit Expo on Sunday, though right now the thought of deadlifting heavy makes me want to die.
IM – The thought of heavy deadlifting always makes me want to die! Ha. Can you give the good fans who haven’t heard of you through EFS or Juggernaut a little background on yourself?
CWS – My brief bio is basically that I have strength sports ADD. I competed in football and track (shot put/discus) in high school, which is where I got my start with training. Even back then I wrote my own program always and just tried to talk to people and learn on my own. I gained 100 pounds in high school (175 to 275) so I guess I was doing a lot of things right. I then went to the University of California-Berkeley on a track scholarship but left there after 2 years and took nearly 2 years off from track and training seriously. I then wound up at a small school called Concordia University in Irvine, CA (my hometown) and threw for the same coach that coached me in high school. I threw there for 2 years, the first being terrible where I only threw the shot 53’1″ and the second year being great where I threw 63’10” and won the indoor and outdoor national championship and was ranked in the top 15 of all US men shot putters. I continued to throw for a year after college but my coach passed away and I started Juggernaut Training Systems (JTSstrength.com) which really just left me with no time to dedicate to the shot put at the level I wanted to compete. I still wanted to compete in something though, so I figured powerlifting was a good fit. I used a program I had written, which became The Juggernaut Method, to train for my first meet where I squatted 800, bench 462 and deadlifted 700 in the 308s class in a belt and knee wraps. I competed in powerlifting for about a year and ended up with a best total of 2165 and PRs of 905 in the squat (American Record-Raw w/ Wraps at 308s), 515 in the bench and 785 in the deadlift, but as successful as I had been in powerlifting, I just didn’t really enjoy it and sort of did it out of a sense of obligation because I was good at it. At that point (December 2011) I thought I was just pretty much done with competing and wanted to just focus on growing my business, so I was only training 2x/week and was losing weight (from 320ish to 290 by March 2012) before I saw something on Facebook for California’s Strongest Man which was the next weekend. I decided to sign up, though I had never done any of the events besides Tire Flip before. I trained for a couple days for it, just trying to figure out how to clean a log basically and figured I’d just go for it. It ended up being a horrible day, weather wise, I finished 5th but had fun. From there I did a show in Vegas in April put on by Nick Best where I finished 4th, ahead of 1 pro and only 2.5 points out from going to Giants Live and knew that I could be really good at this stuff so I started taking it more seriously. Then I got 3rd at a Europa Show in Connecticut in June, again about 2.5 points away from winning my Pro Card and then trained my ass of for Nationals for 3 months and had a great 2 days to win my pro card.
IM – You’ve had a pretty meteoric rise in the sport of strongman for someone less than a year into the sport. Do you attribute that to your JTS System, Powerlifting, throwing or something else ?
CWS – I think it is a combination of all of them. My track background really helps with the explosive power needed. I started doing track when I was 8 and began as a sprinter and thrower until I got to high school and all that sprinting and jumping back then really set me up with good movement patterns and neural wiring for explosive strength. Powerlifting gave me the maximal strength I needed to be able to be successful quickly. The way I trained for powerlifting, with The Juggernaut Method, is based in so much volume and controlled rest periods that I came to Strongman with much better work capacity and strength endurance than most powerlifters would. I think I also just have a keen mind for programming to different energy systems and physical challenges, because I work with such a wide variety of athletes, that I was able to bring in some ideas that I use from track and field and football training and adapt them to Strongman training. Strongman requires so many different skills it really challenges me in my programming and that is one of my favorite things about competing so far.
IM – By The Way- When you say your explosive…that is not joking. I’ve only seen one other person catapult stones off their lap like that and it was Brian Shaw.
CWS – Yea when I was a senior in college in 2009 I ran an electronically timed 4.62 40yd dash and had a 36″ vertical when I weighed 290. I could two hand dunk a 3kg medicine ball and jump on a 50″ box
IM – Wow, that’s serious speed! I wonder How many strongman can claim that?! We took a look at your Juggernaut Methods and were really impressed with the variety of athletes you train. For someone who knows nothing about JTS , can you sum up in a few short sentences what makes you different from the more popular powerlifting systems such Wendler 5-3-1 and West Side.
CWS – The Juggernaut Method is a program founded in the basics of athletic development, sprinting, jumping, throwing and lifting. It is submaximal training, that lets you build technique, work capacity, size, strength and power while also working on other technical skills for your sport. It is basically adaptable to any physical goal from Powerlifting to football to strongman to crossfit or to just being the most ass kicking version of yourself possible.
IM – You’ve created a pretty Kick A** version of yourself we would say. On top of now being a professional strongman you also hold a World Record in the un equipped squat. Care to rattle off some of your other numbers, favorite lifts, favorite strongman lifts and what was the hardest event for you to get the hang of?
CWS – I’ve never competed equipped, but raw I hold the American Record (let me make that clear that there is only 1 American Record because I think it is bullshit when people try and say they have the WABDL National Record or NASA World Record or something) in the squat with 905 pounds in the 308 class, done in a belt and knee wraps at the SPF Pro/Am in August 2011. My other PRs in raw powerlifting are 515 bench and 785 deadlift and a 2165 total. I’ve always loved to squat, because I’ve always been good at it. I only started training the deadlift in the summer of 2010 and hated it then but I really like it now and have pulled 835 in the gym with straps but no hitching or anything. For Strongman my favorite things are any kind of deadlifting, Yoke walk, Tire Flip and Atlas Stones (even though I need to get some stone sleeves cause I’m sick of getting my arms ripped up). Those events just kind of came naturally to me, the first time I did atlas stones was at Odd Haugen’s house when I loaded a 330 to 54″ on my first try and basically just launched the stone from my lap to the top of the platform without using my hands, Odd just laughed and told me to do it again. The toughest events for me so far have been overhead and really grip intensive stuff. Unlike most throwers I never did much Overhead or Olympic Lifting (I cleaned 400 when I was 19 but stopped doing them when I left Cal) so I didn’t have a good background with overhead stuff and it has been a bit slower to develop than the other events. My grip isn’t anything special but I’m working hard at that and have a 350# to 400# farmers medley for 60′ each in my next contest so I have to get to work on that. At this point I wouldn’t say that I’m really good at any event but I also wont embarrass myself in any event. I’m pretty well rounded and just need to keep developing everything because all the top guys in the World seemingly have no weak events, so I know I can’t have any weak events.
IM – That’s a sound philosophy to have. We actually did an interview with Sean Katterle from Hardcore Powerlifting. He had a very sharp critique of equipped powerlifting. Is it important for you to lift unequipped or what are your thoughts?
CWS -I have never had an interest in competing equipped, I know that there are strong guys who do it and it presents its own unique challenges but it just doesn’t appeal to me. I also always trained by myself for powerlifting and had limited time to dedicate to it, so lifting in gear for 3-4 hour sessions isn’t an option even if I wanted to.
IM – What are your favorite foods? Can you give the readers your advice for gaining weight seeing as you gained 100 pounds in high school!
CWS – I try and eat fairly clean most of the time. It is pretty easy for me to maintain around 315 pounds so if I don’t keep things pretty clean I’ll get too big. I know that so many of the good strongmen now are 400+ pounds but I don’t see myself ever being more than 335 or so, I want to try and carry as much muscle as possible at that weight. When I do need to gain weight though my go-to is chocolate milk. I used to drink 1/2 gallon of chocolate milk with my breakfast everyday in high school and that wasn’t really in a weight gaining effort either, I just really like chocolate milk. In high school I ate a ton of eggs, beef, pasta, and chili, but I never really drank protein shake or anything, just lots of food, and since I live in Southern California it is easy to find good burritos which makes gaining weight easier. Now, I eat lots of eggs, chicken and beef and try to keep most of my carbs to sweet potatoes and black beans and try to have something green with each meal. Except for during my actual training sessions I will eat rice krispie treats and stuff because that is going to be metabolized pretty much instantly during the training session and just used for energy. I think that kind of peri-workout nutrition can go along way to helping people put on mass. Adding good fats, like natural peanut butter and olive oil to your protein shakes is an easy way to add a few hundred calories a day and one of the first things I have my football guys do to help gain weight. I don’t eat breakfast much anymore, as part of an intermittent fasting/carb backloading sort of protocol, so all I have in the morning before I train is a few spoonfuls of coconut oil (I just eat it from the jar with a spoon) and a glass of green tea.
IM – A friend of a burrito is a friend of ours! Last few questions. Rapid fire:
Most admired strongman on the scene?
CWS – Vytutas Lalas because he gives me hope not being 6-6 400#
Most Impressive Lift you’ve witnessed?
CWS – Magnusson’s 1015 deadlift, it looked effortless
One thing (non lifting related) that no one would know about you?
CWS – I’m a good dancer!
If you had one question to ask one person: who would that person be and what would that question be?
CWS – I’m adopted so there are lots of questions I’d like to ask my birth parents who I’ve never met. Training wise: I’d like to ask Jon Cole about how he simultaneously developed such great maximal and explosive strength.
Powerful insight from a powerful guy. Be sure to check out Chad’s new training manual the Juggarnaut training method 2.0 found here!!!