Paul Carter is a life long regular in the weight room, and legitimate strong mofo.
I’ve been reading his website, Lift Run Bang for quite some time now. I recently reached out to Paul, and picked his brains about training, nutrition and his experiences in powerlifting.
I hope you guys enjoy reading this interview with Paul as much as I did!
Hi Paul, big thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview. In a sentence sum up Paul Carter.
In one sentence? How about one word. Difficult. Annoying. Arrogant douchebag. That’s like, three words. Four if you count douche bag as two words.
Haha, straight to the point. How did you get started in the weight room?
The summer of 1989, I moved to Albany, Oregon for the summer and my martial arts instructor made me train with him. Once I saw the changes happening to my body I was hooked. Still trying to get bigger 25 years later.
What age where you when you started lifting?
I was 14 then.
What led you to powerlifting over say bodybuilding?
Actually I started off doing bodybuilding stuff. I don’t say I did bodybuilding because I never put on the banana hammock and slathered Italian dressing all over my body and flexed for people.
But I did bodybuilding routines and training stuff for the first 15 years or so. I transitioned later into powerlifting after I realized I would never do the salad dressing thing. I still love bodybuilding however, but it’s such a subjective sport.
With powerlifting there is truth in the bar. Either you lift it, or you can’t. Simple.
I know what you mean haha. I loved training, but the first time i stepped on stage and went all gravy looking in a pair of trunks was… an experience haha. How was your training when you started? Was it just lift anything in sight, or did you have a game plan from day 1?
It was all bodybuilding stuff early on. So mostly routines from the flexor mags. I would find something I liked or that thought looked interesting and just do it for a while.
I wanted to see how things worked and how I progressed with different techniques and programs. I still do a lot of that stuff in the offseason but then I have phases where I mainly concentrate on the big three.
Starting out, who did you learn from, and how did this advice help you in your career?
I really just read and read and read. Anything and everything I could get my hands on. Every magazine and every book I could find, I read it over and over again.
At what age did you decide to give making a living out of your hobby of weight lifting?
I make a living? I thought I was just having fun. No seriously, I started writing about 5 years ago and my friend Jim Wendler asked if I would be interested in submitting articles to elitefts.com.
I didn’t want to at first, but I eventually gave in and things took off from there.
Tell us a little bit about your competitive background.
I did normal shit most kids do. Played football, basketball, baseball. I did some of that karate kid tournament fighting too. I never got to sweep anyone’s leg though, and I never fought someone from Cobra Kai dojo.
Still very disappointed in that.
What achievement are you most proud of?
Becoming a dad. Nothing beats that. Weights are weights. Life is infinitely more important to me than anything I can or will ever lift.
Lets shift gears to training. What would a typical week of training look like for you? How do you split your workouts up?
That depends on the time of year and what I am focusing on. I have periods where I train strictly for more muscle mass, periods where I train to improve the competitive lifts, and then peaking cycles.
I think that each cycle builds on the other and helps make you better. Training one way the entire year has short comings to it, and also seems rather boring.
Can you give us an insight into the rep ranges you use for particular movements, and why you find these work best for you?
For bench I like sets between 5 and 8. For squats I like 5’s. For deadlifts triples. These are the rep ranges I have found to work best for me in regards to building strength in those lifts.
How does your training change leading up to a meet?
I scale everything way back. Not a lot of assistance work. I focus on paring down the volume as the intensity increases. Those things are on a sliding scale. As you increase the weight on the bar, you have to be cognizant of the fact that you shouldn’t do as much volume.
This can cause you to start grinding lifts and find yourself in fatigue debt. This last meet I trained lighter than ever and hit PR’s in both the squat and deadlift with a lot of room to spare.
I pulled my last heavy deadlift 3 weeks out and it was only 635 for 2 sets of 2. I pulled an easy no belt 700 deadlift at the meet. People don’t realize you need to save the big lifts for meet day, not for youtube.
Over the years, has your training changed much as you’ve learned more?
Most definitely. When I was into bodybuilding I really loved the Mentzer and Yates approach to training. Heavy, low volume, 1 or 2 all out sets until your eyes bled and you saw Jesus cursing at you. This approach DOES work.
I Love this approach to training. 1 – 2 sets of a working warm up or moderate weight, and then balls to the wall failure.
It annoys me when people like to quote studies saying it’s not an effective way to train because I can tell you that it is. It does have its shortcomings, but in spurts here and there, it works very well.
As I learned more and more I began to understand the need for volume, periodisation, and how to implement it to get both bigger, and stronger. I also learned that you don’t need to train heavy all the time in order to get stronger.
That’s how I ended up developing base building.
Looking back at earlier in your career how has your training changed? What movements or techniques have you perhaps ditched, finding them not optimal, and what have you kept all throughout your lifting career?
I do less perceived intensity techniques now. Though I still implement them in phases. I don’t do as many drop sets or strip sets anymore.
That used to be a big part of my training but now I try to get more from less.
Im a bodybuilder, so counting calories and hitting macro’s is obviously crucial, especially during contest prep. Talk us through your diet. How rigid are you when it comes to tracking your food intake? Some powerlifters I’ve interviewed such as Benedikt Magnusson and Andy Bolton seem to track their protein, and then just eat however many carbs and fats they want on top of this.
Well I just started working with Trevor Kashey so I can’t talk about my diet. Protein intake is a bit overrated and I did long article on that very thing.
Most guys think that shoveling in copious amount of protein are going to net them faster results, but there is literally no proof anywhere of this. Not even anecdotally. Some guy may say “well when I upped my protein I grew.”
It could just be that he needed more calories overall. I say this because the research about protein requirements for athletes has been documented very well and the same conclusion was came to each time. The ol “gram per pound of bodyweight” is really all you need.
Does your diet ever change, or do you stick to pretty much the same year round?
It changes based on what I am concentrating on. Getting leaner or growing. That’s the only two options right?
Talk us through a typical day of eating for yourself.
I cook food in this pan thing. Eat it. Then wait a while. And repeat that process. In all seriousness as I said, Trevor does my diet and gets paid for his work. So it’d be shitty of me to divulge that.
Obviously I’m joking, I hate chicken. But seriously, I eat a lot of hooker meat. No seriously this time, I do eat chicken but after a while I detest it.
Hooker meat and chicken. Seems legit! haha. How does your nutrition differ on rest days?
I’ve done carb cycling before where I lowered carbs on rest days then had more on training days, stuff like that. Right now it’s the same everyday.
Lets touch upon supplements. How important do you believe sports nutrition supplements are for those who want to succeed in powerlifting. Essential or not?
When you say supplements………what do you mean? Because that can mean different things to different people.
The typical kinds of things, protein powders, creatine, pre workouts etc. What is your current supplement stack?
I generally don’t use a lot of supplements. A protein powder, whatever the guys from Captain Jacked send me, and that’s about it. I really try to rely on food.
If you were to recommend just 3 supplements to someone just starting out, what would they be?
Protein powder, creatine, and fish oil.
How do you keep yourself motivated to train? Days when you just feel not up to the gym, but you know you need to train, what motivates you to get in, and get to work?
Just the thought of getting better. I don’t really believe in external motivation because it will wane. I believe in developing the mindset that you’re all about getting better, or you’re not.
No one ever saw a fitness meme and changed their life.
Your partner, Gillian, is an IFBB Pro. Does having a partner who is like minded when it comes to the gym help you, or do you clash?
Ok so now I have to contradict myself because Gillian does motivate me. I have the flu right now and she posted up a video the other day of her doing 15 sets of 5 on squats, and I immediately went and did 10 sets of front squats.
It didn’t help my sickness one bit at all, if you can imagine that, but Gillian is such a brute that I want to be like her. Except for that rope climbing shit. I don’t know why she loves that so much.
Haha. My Fiancee, Connie doesn’t compete, but she does go to the gym for cardio. She’s not into the whole bodybuilding thing like I am, but she’s such a motivational force for me. Very understanding, and helps me out so much. Im very thankful for her being as understanding and as accommodating as she is! For those just starting out in the gym, what routine would you recommend to them, and why?
I personally don’t fall in line with what a lot of people recommend. I mean, I have recommended the big three (squat, bench, and deadlift) but if I were to have supervision over a beginner I wouldn’t make them bench or deadlift at first.
I’d teach them how to squat and go from there. Squatting tends to be the hardest of the three lifts to master. I also suggest incline pressing at first over bench pressing. I think the incline press has a greater degree of strength transfer to sports movements than the bench press, and it’s easier to learn.
So the less time a beginner spends learning and can just focus on getting stronger, the more coordinated they become with lifting, and then later on you transition into teaching them proper benching and deadlifting.
Not everyone will agree, and that’s ok, it’s just how I approach it.
For a bodybuilder who is perhaps looking to change up to a power based routine, what changes would you recommend they make to their training?
Obviously they have to squat, bench, and deadlift. Outside of those I usually find that most guys get a lot out of overhead pressing and front squats as well. Those tends to translate really well to the big three.
And what changes would you make to their diet?
Generally bodybuilders know more about proper dieting than powerlifters. So no, not really. I’ve never met a competitive bodybuilder that didn’t know how to go balls deep in Betty Crocker and Wendy in the offseason.
What are some of the biggest myths you’ve heard when it comes to gaining strength?
Go heavy or go home. Really annoys me at this point. If you look at the training style of guys like Misha and Andy Bolton and even Big Z they all talk about performing lifts with speed and explosiveness, and not grinding weights week in and week out. This is lost on a lot of guys.
Of course, the whole “I don’t want to lift weights because I will get bulky, and I want to be toned.” I hope no man ever really said this. I’m talking about women in this regard.
How important is it for a young guy just starting out to hire a coach or trainer? Can they simply get a routine online, or do you think someone just starting out needs a coach, at least for a few weeks, to take them through some workout sessions?
I think it’s helpful, but not a requirement obviously. I mean lots of guys started lifting, or start lifting, and just look at a poster showing how to perform a movement and then try to mimic that.
If anything, these days guys over think shit far too much because they are on the net all day asking questions when the answers lie in the gym with a barbell in their hands or on their back. Not on a message board.
I know our readers would love to hear more from you Paul. What are some of the articles you’ve written that you’d recommend they check out?
I’ve written for T-Nation, Muscle and Strength, Poliquin, Elitefts, and Juggernaut. Of course I have about a million articles on the blog.
What are your plans for 2015?
Thanks for your time Paul, where can our readers follow you?