Here it is ladies and gentleman, our latest installment of Force Feeds. For those not aware Force Feeds is an interview series we do highlighting various strength athletes that YOU say you want to hear about. The version covers not only a guys with the brawn to move lots of weight, but the brains to drop knowledge on you at a moment’s notice. Greg Nuckols, some of you may remember his article he wrote for us on the benefits of eggs, is a record-setting powerlifter as well as an accomplished writer. Find out exactly how Greg get’s the job done and see if there is something you can apply to your daily grind.
1.Thanks for chatting with us. Can you tell me a little bit about your sport/background? What did you do first? How many sports did have you participated in? How did you get to where you are now?
Thanks for having me.
So, for my athletic background, I grew up playing football, basketball, baseball, and a little soccer competitively. My favorite was always basketball. Doctors told me I was going to wind up 6’7” or 6’8. Well, these days I’m 5’10” on a good day, so that didn’t pan out, but it was a fun ride. I actually started lifting weights for basketball. In 9th grade I could dunk with two hands, and I wanted to get my vertical up to 40 inches or so to play above the rim since by that point it was clear I wasn’t going to grow much more. However, when I first started training, I met Travis Mash who, at the time, was the top middleweight powerlifter in the world, and he convinced me to do a powerlifting meet at the local gym. I really fell in love with lifting, and then a major concussion (i.e. substantial brain hemorrhaging) during football camp excluded participation from any sport with a contact element for at least 6 months. At that point, I just decided to dive into powerlifting headfirst to see where it would take me. At my first meet in May 2007 I weighed in at 176 and hit a 385 squat, 285 bench, and 425 deadlift for a 1095 total. I did a couple other meets that summer and fall, and then in January I went 523sq/371bp/551dl at 213 at the first Raw Unity Meet. Things were going along pretty well until that March when I tore my QL (a muscle makes up most of your lower back) deadlifting. That story is actually pretty funny. It was my first 600 deadlift, which makes it memorable. I pulled it, I was standing at lockout feeling like the king of the world (keep in mind, I’m 16 at this point), and then some headphone-wearing, sunglasses-inside, white-guy-in-a- do-rag, probably-listening-to-Celine-Dion gym bro walks into the side of the bar, because he literally did not see me there. It shifted the load, I felt a pop on the right side of my low back, and that’s all she wrote. For all intents and purposes, I didn’t train for about 3 years after that. I went to several PTs and none of them knew how to rehab it. I tried getting back in the gym several times, but each time I’d be too aggressive and hurt myself again.By July of 2010, I was about 250 pounds of lard and miserably out of shape. My first semester of college I got fed up with it and lost 60 pounds over a four month span. At 190, I looked and felt a little better, but I had lost a ton of strength from three years of inactivity. If memory serves, I either missed or barely grinded out a 275 squat when I started training again,exactly 50% of my all-time PR of 550.This time around, however, I didn’t end up jacking myself up again. The difference?My new training partner was my then-girlfriend (now wife) Lyndsey. She helped me avoid a lot of the stupid mistakes I was prone to make in the past, and kept me grounded and not expecting to get back to my old PRs in 2 months (as my mindset had been previously). It cannot be overstated how big of a difference she’s made to my approach to training, and, consequently, the results I’ve enjoyed. I ran a basic Westside Barbell template during those first few months back under the bar, since that’s what Travis introduced me to when I first started training, and it was what I was most comfortable with. That first year, I got my maxes back to around 450/365/550. After I had plateaued on the Westside template for a few months, I decided to give Sheiko a shot. The first month nearly buried me. However, after a four month run, my work capacity was through the roof (which I think is extremely important), and my maxes were around 545/400ish/605, finally back to my old PRs. Then, for a change of pace, I tried a modified Bulgarian plan for four months. It was lower volume that what the Bulgarian weightlifting team uses, but the basic premise of daily maxes was at the heart of the program. I’d been told that it was impossible for a drug free guy to do, so naturally I wanted to give it a shot. At the meet, I totaled 1714 at 220 without knee wraps via a 650 squat, 419 bench, and 645 deadlift. After the meet, I honestly just screwed around for about four months. I had been effectively in a pre-meet mode for over a year without any real deloads or breaks, so I needed some time to mentally refresh. I started training again seriously this past December, leading up to a meet in May. This time around, it was a more traditional looking template, primarily built around rep maxes. The result was an 1885 raw with wraps total at 242 via a 750 squat, 425 bench press, and a 710 deadlift. Since the meet, training has been hit or miss. This summer was busy between getting a lot of stuff up and running at the gym, planning a wedding, getting hitched, honeymooning, etc. I’ve just now settled back in to a consistent training schedule. My PRs to date are that 750 squat, a 445 bench press, and a 725 deadlift.
2. What are some of your accolades you have collected to date?
My wife says I make the best grilled cheese in the world, so that’s sort of like an unofficial world record, right? I also won the award for best lanyard maker at church camp 3 years in a row. Dynasty. I also made a perfect math score on the SAT when I was 14 and a perfect reading score when I was 15. I also possibly hold several all-time world record totals in drug tested powerlifting. My 1714 wrap-less total at 220 and my 750 squat at 242 are still on the books, I believe. I heard a rumor that someone broke my total record at 242, but the record database on Powerliftingwatch.com hasn’t even updated the records I took in May yet. So, with confidence I can say I’ve held some all-time world records, and I probably still do, but the wild west of powerlifting isn’t quite as organized as USAW, so who really knows for sure?
3. How important do you believe food/nutrition is to being a better athlete? Any specific plans or ideologies you follow?
It’s just as important as training, if not more so. The food you eat affects the level of inflammation in your body, oxidative states, immune function, and a host of other things. Improving in the gym is all about adapting to the stress you place on your body. If the food you’re eating is helping you cope with that stress, then you can train harder and recover better. If the food you’re eating is adding extra stress, it sets you back farther. I’m personally a guy who appreciates optimization, and I want a diet that optimizes health and recovery, not just body composition. I can’t say I have a strict ideology when it comes to diet, except for constant experimentation. I’m a huge believer in inter-individual variations when it comes to metabolism, so I resist being too set-in-stone when it comes to my dietary recommendation. I’m better at troubleshooting than I am at being a guru of any specific way to do things.
4. What does your supplement plan look like?
In the morning I take 3 fish oils and, if I’m feeling run down, a Rhodiola Rosea. I also drink a protein shake in the morning instead of cooking breakfast. At night I take 3 more fish oils, ZMA, melatonin, and Vitamin D.
5. What recovery techniques do you use if any? What have you found works best and what have you found useless/less effective?
Food and sleep. That accounts for 90% of it. I also take contrast showers if I’m feeling beat up , and they help tremendously. Every time before I train I do some self-myofascial release with a lacrosse ball to loosen my hips up, and if they’re feeling particularly gnarly, I’ll do some extra work on them at night or on off days.
6. Walk us through a day in your life: what do you eat? When and how long do you train?
7:15 – wake up, mix up a shake (2 cups of oats, 2 cups of frozen berries, 1-2 cups of full fat yogurt, 2 bananas, 3-4 tbsp of natural peanut butter, 150 g whey – I split it 60/40 with my wife)
Class until noon
12:00-1:00 – hang out, work on homework, manage social media stuff (no smartphone), brew some tea
Class again until 2
Change for the gym, eat a peanut butter and banana sandwich, head to the gym, and train until about 5:00 or 5:30 (at the gym for 1.5 or 2 hours, including 15 minute warm up)
After the gym: eat (Meat, veggies, fruit, and either potatoes or more peanut butter banana sandwiches), work on homework, quality time with Lyndsey, and sleep. I plan to be in bed by 10:30, but usually it’s closer to 11:00
7. What’s the best piece of advice someone has ever given you in regards to training and getting stronger? Anything you would like pass on to someone trying to get where you are?
This may sound trite, but before you can be great, you have to believe you can be. I’ve met very few really good lifters who are afraid of over training, or getting hurt, of plateauing, etc. They have the expectation of putting in the work and improving. Guys totaling, say, 1100 who should have a lot of room for gains may say they’ll be happy if they improve their total 50 pounds in a year. A guy totaling 1700 or 1800 who may realistically be nearing his genetic ceiling casually talks about adding 200-300 pounds to his total in a year, or dropping a weight class and still hitting a PR total.
This isn’t a bull crap “power of positive thinking” rant about how just believing something will make it so. Not everyone who believes they’ll be great ends up making it, but no one suddenly finds himself a champion when he didn’t first believe it was possible for him.
8. What is your favorite lift or body part to train? What is your least favorite lift or body part to train?
My favorite lift is definitely the squat, but my favorite body part to train is definitely traps. My wife is a huge fan of Bane from The Dark Knight. When my traps are looking swole, I think she loves me more.
My least favorite lift is any sort of overhead pressing. However, in the past year I’ve taken my overhead work from baby weak to child weak, so it’s earning points in my heart.
9. What is the most impressive feat of strength you have accomplished to date?
The one I’m proudest of is squatting 605×10. Ever since I heard Tom Platz’s PR was 635×12, I’ve been working towards that as a long-term goal. Seriously though, dem wheels.
10. Plug time! What are some projects you are working on and is there anything you would like us to check out?
My blog (www.gregnuckols.com) is my ongoing library of training, lifting and diet advice, stories, etc. I’m on Twitter (@gregnuckols) and Facebook (Gregory Lee Nuckols). I sell training consultations and programming, through my website.
Thanks for your time.
Well I will say that Greg didn’t short you on any info and I loved doing this interview. Despite the fact that Greg doesn’t seem to like listening to Celine Dion (I adisagree by the way, who doesn’t like a little Celine from time to time?), but I digress. Most guys that are at the top of their game have a good knowledge base that got them where they were but Greg is on another level. Check out his site for great, and I mean GREAT articles on all things training and nutrition related. You are also in luck either way because Greg is a contributing author here on The Strength Agenda so knowledge will be had by all.
If there is a strength athlete you want us to interview let’s hear it. Each month we try to highlight another athlete int he strength sport world. The next two are dynamite but we want to spotlight who you want to read about so let’s us know. Thanks for tuning in.