As many of you know, bodybuilding is my true passion when it comes to anything fitness, gym, or lifting things up and putting them down related.
Getting bronzed up like a Turkey on Christmas day, shaving my body so its smoother than spoon through peanut butter, and of course the posing trunks. Whats not to love about posing trunks (strong no homo).
I do however take a great interest in strongman and powerlifting. I train under Eddy Ellwood who has accomplished a great many feats in both the bodybuilding & strongman world. I’ve interviewed Benedikt Magnusson & Andy Bolton to name a few.
Because of my vested interest in the world of strongman, it is my pleasure to bring this interview with one of Britains best strongmen, and one of the worlds strongest men, Laurence Shahlaei.
Laurence, you’re well known worldwide for doing very well in the worlds strongest man. Tell us what it is like competing at such a high level in this sport.
It’s pretty brutal. The events are getting heavier every year and the athletes seem to be getting bigger. The World’s Strongest Man is a great show to be part of as it’s very much the ‘face’ of Strongman. A lot of people won’t know much about the sport but would have watched WSM at Christmas. It’s given me the opportunity to travel to some amazing locations, and the publicity you get from appearing on the show opens up lots of other opportunities.
In your opinion what separates yourself, and other competitors in Worlds Strongest Man competitions from the guys you see lifting logs and flipping tyre’s in the gym?
Mostly, it’s genetics.
Most people, no matter how smart they train and how hard they work, will never be able to get strong enough to compete in The World’s Strongest Man. All of the guys at WSM are genetic freaks and have massive frames that allow them to handle the ridiculous weights.
They’re all also very smart with their training and understand how to train to peak for a competition, rather than trying to be their strongest all the time and lift max weights week in and week out.
Honestly, that’s a great answer. I find a lot of people chase a dream of being a strongman or bodybuilder because they love lifting weights. Very few people become football or rugby player, and people realise this. However when it comes to the gym, a lot of people think genetics don’t matter.
Moving on, what attracted you to the gym?
I was always very sporty when I was younger. I was the junior British Kung Fu champion, I played rugby at a regional level and I was also a table tennis coach.
I’ve always loved sport and I was naturally very strong before I ever set foot in a gym. I joined the gym when I was 21 after watching The World’s Strongest Man over Christmas and deciding that was what I wanted to do!
What led to you wanting to pursue strong man over something like bodybuilding?
Strength has always been something that comes naturally to me. A few months after joining the gym I was deadlifting 220kg for 15 reps in my first novice competition and ever since I started training, strength sports has been something I’ve been hugely passionate about. I felt like Strongman is a sport that I could challenge at the top level.
Some of my friends are bodybuilders and I completely admire the hard work and dedication needed to compete in the sport, but it’s not something that I personally feel passionate about. Both Strongman are really tough sports in different ways, and you really need to commit 100% if you want to do well in either.
When you first started out who where some of the guy’s you looked up to for advice?
When I was starting out I traveled all over the country so I was able to train with and learn from some of the top guys. I’ve had lots of great advice over the years from loads of people but if I was to name just a few I’d say Dave Beattie, British Powerlifting champion, Nick Mckinless, Professional Stuntman and owner of Beyond Strong and also Phil Learney, Strength and Conditioning expert. I’m always looking to learn more and expand my knowledge.
What have been some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned within your success, that you wish you could pass onto a young Laurence Shahlaei?
I’d tell little Lozzy not to compete as much! Just focus on the bigger shows and don’t ruin yourself trying to compete week in and week out.
Also, don’t worry about what other people say about you – it often stems from jealously.
Laurence Shahlaei Workout Plan
Talk us through a typical week of training, how does your split look like when prepping for a strongman competition.
It varies a bit depending on what competition I’m training for and what the events are. But generally, it looks like this;
Monday – Back day – so deadlifts, possibly some atlas stones and lots of assistance work
Tuesday – Pressing day – so bench press, dumbbell pressing, tricep work etc
Thursday – Leg day – so squats, some moving events like yoke and farmers and assistance work
Friday – Events pressing like log lift or viking press and some conditioning work thrown in at the end.
What is your approach to sets, and reps. Do they change week on week? Do you have a certain goal in mind, or do you train by instinct, and treat each workout as “whatever happens happens”
No, I always have a plan. I write my training plans with a goal in mind and the plan is always designed to help me peak at a certain time. I tend to work within 1 to 5 reps and always do multiple sets. I never max out on any movement in the gym. All of my PB’s have been in competition.
What are the core exercises that you feel are a necessity to carry out, in order to perform at your level.
While I would never limit myself to 3 exercises, if I had to pick just 3 then it would absolutely be deadlifts, squats and push pressing, the big compound movements.
How does your training differ now, compared to when you were first starting out?
Honestly, it probably looks completely different as I didn’t have a clue what I was doing when I started. You evolve as an athlete and find what works for you.
Over the years I’ve tried loads of different training methods and programmes which have helped shape my training today. The most important thing when you’re trying something new, is to stick to it for at least 6 to 8 weeks and actually give it a chance to work.
There’s no point in trying loads of different new things at once and dipping in and out all the time. Keep it simple.
What events do you find to be the most difficult for you personally, and how do you train for these?
I’ve always struggled with atlas stones and throwing events, mostly thanks to different injuries like a torn larbrum in my shoulder and a torn bicep. I have to be really careful training these events as if I push it too hard I can aggravate the area and sometimes the injury can flare up.
It’s tricky finding the balance when I want to work hard so I try to do lots of assistance work to strengthen the areas
How does your diet look like? Do you stick to a set amount of carbs proteins and fats a day?
When I’m training for a competition my diet is usually the same every day. Depending on what I’m trying to do I’ll be eating between 4500 and 7000 calories a day over 7 meals a day. The meals are mostly red meat, rice and vegetables and I use Extreme Nutrition supplements.
Do you meal prep in advance, and have set meals and set times, or do you just ensure that you make sure you’re eating roughly the right number of calories?
Yes. I’m really lucky as well that my partner preps my meals for me when she does her own. Lately she’s really gotten into her fitness and diet and it really helps to be with someone going through the same thing, even when your goals are completely different.
Whether you’re on a calorie deficit or on a surplus trying to fit all the food in, diets and eating the same food every day can be tough.
I see people online all the time claiming they’re a hard gainer. They can’t gain weight, or gain strength. What diet tip would you give to people to help them bulk up their calories so that they can start gaining weight and strength?
Eat more and train less. Too many people over train and don’t allow time for recovery. If you’re in the gym training for hours every day, then you’re burning too many calories and not spending enough time eating!
I recently trained for a powerlifting meet and I would train just 3 days a week for about an hour and a half. In order to help someone I’d have to see their diet because a lot of people under or over estimate how much they’re eating.
But if you’re trying to put on weight and it’s not happening, you need to eat more. Weight gain and weight loss really is as simple as calories in vs calories out. A couple of ‘tips’ i’d give is to drink milk, add oats to your protein shakes and eat red meat over white.
How important do you feel supplements are in powerlifting, or do prefer to rely on eating whole foods?
Diet should always come first and supplements should be just that, a supplement to an already good diet.
There’s no point in taking supplements if your diet is terrible. But the right supplements at the right times are great for recovery and for getting a good amount of protein in.
Protein is really important for muscle recovery whether you’re training for strength or bodybuilding and it can be hard to eat enough throughout the day. If I was limited to taking just one supplement a day, it would be whey protein for that very reason.
What is your current supplement stack?
I use Extreme Nutrition’s Whey Protein, Build and recover, Pro-6, BCAA-311, CLA, L-Glutamine and Krevolution X
What is your favourite supplement?
Extreme Nutrition Whey Chocolate. I love mixing it with my oats in the morning.
What are your plans for the coming year?
Win the GPC world power lifting Championships, Win Britain’s strongest man and make the final of WSM
Is there any final words you’d like to say to your fans?
Thank you for supporting me through some tough injuries. Im feeling the best I have in a while and I’m looking forward to a big year in 2016. Make sure you follow me on Instagram @BIGLOZWSM and Facebook Laurence Shahlaei