1) Matt - not enough people know about you and your awesome-ness. Seriously, I didn't know a lot about you until we met at Sorinex Summer Strong and I was shocked when you answered questions on the QnA Panel and in between questions nonchalantly threw 300 pls pounds over your head. In a nut shell, WHO is Matt Vincent?
Matt - Yeah, I guess I have flown under the radar a bit. Not intentionally but I guess I have not worked to cultivate my online persona as much as I can. I am working at it, doing more articles for POWER and keeping my log up to date on JTSStrength.com.
So who am I? Well the standard answer is I am the current Highland Games World Champion. Essentially I love training and really enjoyed the time that I spent throwing in my collegiate career at LSU. I was a very avg thrower there with marks of 57' shot, 178 discus and 200 hammer.
My focus was not what it should have been, but I guess when I look back I wouldn't change any of it. I had a great time then doing what I wanted and those actions then would be totally unacceptable now. There is an ocean of difference between 19-22 year old me smashing heads bouncing at seedy strip clubs and tour managing for a band.
Living that life was great fun and I cherish the things that I learned form living that way. It is fun for a period of time to just be a mother fucker. Lots of drinking, partying, and trying to flirt with the line of in and out of trouble.
That edge is something I have always seen in people I respected. Guys like Brian Oldfield, Wendler, Brandon Lilly, and Pulcinella have the right amount of it. It is not something you need all the time but it is a great to know that you have it if you need it.
Back to me now, things are much more relaxed. I enjoy hanging out with my awesome wife and training. All and all I describe myself as a strength athlete in the purist form. I have never learned how to train or ever shown an interest in training for anything other than function and improving performance.
I have no idea how guys go the the gym and train for health or looks. Don't get me wrong I'm stoked on anyone who takes their training seriously, but I just don't relate to it. I got back interested in strength sports in 2007. So with that I was traveling a lot for work (we will touch on that later) I decided that given the opportunity to travel the country and having a bit of downtime in different places it was a great opportunity to meet the people I respected 1st hand and hear what they had to say from the horses mouth.
This was a great time in my life, and most of the relationships I made during that have held up. Basically I knew where I would be working and would contact the gym owners or lifters I wanted to train with and see what happened. I always went in like I was a complete novice and listened to what they had to say. It is amazing how far you can get by not acting like a douche with something to prove.
So in that time I trained with Steve Pulcinella at Iron Sport, Bert Sorin and crew at Sorinex, Spud at South Carolina Barbell, Jim Wendler and Dave Tate at EFS, Mark Bell at Super Training, Garry Frank at Hardcore Barbell, and Chad Smith at JTS.
On top of all that I wanted to get better at my power lifts so I went to the people who knew. I wanted to learn to squat, pull, and bench. So I went to the guys who were great technicians in it and listened to what they had to say. I didn't want to read it on a website or watch a video, I wanted the first hand experience.
I have always been a wanderer and a junkie for new life experiences. Traveling has always been in my wheelhouse. So getting to mix traveling with my love of training was awesome.
I learned a ton of important things over this time, that mixed with about 6,000 miles a month alone in a vehicle I have time to think through stuff.
Of all of the people I have met and spoke about training philosophy with Wendler has been the biggest influence.
I like the simple approach with a bit of Tyler Durdenesq attitude to it. "You are not a unique snowflake." This idea has always stuck with me in life and training. The same things that make me stronger will make you stronger. There are some variables that need to be changed up but those things are micro details.
Sticking to these principals and following my core beliefs has kept me making gains and healthy. With all the travel I have always enjoyed music, movies, and art. I know my taste are far different that the vast majority of the strength community.
For example I am currently listening to Lana Del Rey, I am not a tough guy. I'm not angry and don't need my music to be that heavy all the time. There is a time and place but most of the time I am far more into relaxing and laughing than anything else. A good group of guys together busting each others balls is my favorite environment especially if there are cigars and booze involved.
So after a long winded answer I am some mix of equal parts asshole, clown, hipster, and vagabond.
2) Your job requires a shit ton of driving. Most people who drive / work like you do are in no physical condition to perform a few pull ups and here you are, competing monthly in Highland Games and dominating the competition?
What are some tips you can share for constantly improving even when your job is tough and doesn't exactly lead to the optimal lifestyle for strength athletes?
Matt - A big part of it is my truck is very comfortable. I feel much less kicked-the-shit out of driving than I do going through airports. A lot of that is mental. Traveling through airports exhaust me, due to my lack of care for the majority of the civilians in our world (avg people that float through life aimless that I have nothing in common with or if I do I don't want to find out).
So in my truck I can insulate myself from other people and mind my own business and maintain my own schedule. Eat when I want, stop and piss, and come and go as I please.
As far as training on the road it just has to be a priority. I have times of my season and program that lifting while I am on the road is a must. The thing is I am simple and we are talking about 3-5 days tops that I am out.
I believe in a 3-4 day training week, so at worst I need to hit 1-2 days while out. I can always find a cheap gym and get the work done, if I am not in vicinity of some where I want to train.
I love gadgets and gear however I remind my self that with strength training if you can't get it done with a bar and plates you have missed the point somewhere.
Keeping making gains is about consistency more than anything else. Make 90-95% of your lifts and training sessions. Also with that learn to listen to your body as an athlete, know when you can and should push, and when to back off. The most challenging part of being on the road that much is diet. But I am working on that aspect of it.
I try not to drive cheeseburgers into my gut by the dozen and eat as clean as possible.
With maintaining the throwing side of my training I can travel with my gear box in the truck as well as the tool box is full of throwing implements. I just need to find a field and commit to doing the work.
3) Talk to us about training at home, in your garage? Do you ever have training partners? How do you lift heavy without spotters, stay motivated and win a world title under these conditions?
How can regular everyday lifters learn from you?
Matt - Training at home is something I started doing about 7 years ago. My current setup is awesome. I have a custom Sorinex rig dubbed the "MatsoRIG" that allows me to do everything I find important in a 12' x 16' space. Kicking ass in a 1 car garage.
The home gym things started simple, I wanted to give myself less of an excuse to be a piece of shit. I am lazy by nature and it is a constant battle to over come it. Having a gym accessible 24hrs a day in my home allowed me to be able to train whenever I wanted, with minimal setup time. Being able to go from not training to actually lifting and being finished in 1 hr helped me tremendously.
Don't get me wrong I enjoy spending some sessions in there slugging it out for a couple hours, but there is times that I just need to get the work done. I haven't had a consistent training partner in a long time. If you are going to train for powerlifting (espeically geared) having training partners and spotters is a key element.
For me I believe in sub-maximal training and that is what my program is built around. I have always felt that the strength gains for me have come from 75-90% range and doing multiple sets of 3-5 reps. With that I push rep maxes, and base all my training numbers off of 90% of my actual max. This keeps me from missing weights in training.
I haven't missed a squat or bench in a long long time. I have a really good idea based on how I feel how heavy I will be able to go. For me since I compete 17-20 times a year, if I get hurt while training because of something stupid, (getting pinned, crushed, or too much weight) I am an asshole. Getting hurt keeps you from making gains far more than staying 5-10lbs lighter and hitting all the reps safely.
I am a competitor at everything, and if I am going to invest time in it I want to be the best. I have not been able to train this year like I have in the past, for whatever the reasons I just haven't. But the feeling I have now reminds me that I can't get away with less.
I have to be the guy that works hard and trains smart. I am not that big of a guy 6' and 280lbs especially when compared to the other 6'4" 300+ guys I compete against. I don't have any control over how they train or what they throw every weekend. So I don't let that worry me.
They are bigger than me, OK that's fine. It is something out of my hands. I have control over me and my actions. So I don't allow anyone else to dictate my training and what I want to do. This keep me motivated. I know what it takes for me to be where I want to be for the final stretch of the season coming up.
I know my book is a pass for most people just because it says Highland Games on the cover. That is ignorant to think that it doesn't apply to you. If you are wanting to be stronger and more powerful (being able to accelerate weight and apply force) which for an athlete is the single most important thing.
Then this training will help you make gains and improvements. Like I said before the basic ideas I believe in with my training like ideas about sub-maximal training and avoiding injuries while making consistent strength and power gains is the most important philosophy I stand by. For your basic lifter I believe in the lifts that work (bench, squat, deadlift, snatch, push press, and clean) If you are doing these often and with a plan you will make improvements as an athlete or just get stronger.
Mixing that with proper training for your specialized sport and guaranteed improvements are going to happen. I also layout how to plan for a full season. Different parts of the lifting season need to have different focus. I lay those things out as well.
Got More Questions for Matt? Please Drop A Comment Below!
______________________________Matt Vincent is a top Professional Highland Games World Champion. Matt has spent the last 15 years strength training with a focus on functional strength for athletics. Track and Field for LSU as a shotput, discus, and hammer thrower, two top 3 finishes in SEC and two top 5 Regional finishes in Discus. In the last 6 years he as traveled all over country and trained with many of the top coaches and athletes in various fields form Weightlifting, Strongman, Powerlifting (both Geared and Raw) and now focus on Highland Games. Matt also has competed in all of these different disciplines to make sure he has a 1st hand knowledge of training and competing. With success as a top AM Strongman qualified for nationals 3 times. Powerlifting numbers of (875-700-700 in APF @275) and (675-425-665 @ 275 RAW). Weightlifting numbers of (319 Snatch and 400 Clean and Jerk @ 105+). Highland Games he won 3 AM World Championships and 1 Professional World Championship as my first year Pro. Matt is also the Author of Best Selling Highland Games Training Manual for Developing Max Strength and Power: Training LAB. Connect With Matt Below....
Excellent points about.consistency in training and on using sub-maximal loads. Thanks, Z!
Totally agree, Frank and BIG time under-rated, the advanced lifters understand this point, Jim Wendler, a close friend of Matt, says the same thing
I like this interview some great points on just needing a bar and having consistency.
Nic, TRUE! I learned this when I bailed on globo gyms and bought myself a 300 lb bar and a squat rack. I got f**ing strong and jacked!
300 was nowhere near my squat or dead max but I got BIG!
man alive, as i sit here stuffing my face with keesh, and almonds, being a sluggish piece o crap, this will def be pinned for motivation, man this guy tells the TRUTH! i like what he had to say about the people who wonder aimlessly..IVE GOT TO GET TO WORK!
Josh get after it!
A great part of this article is Matts picture at the beginning! Using those shoes on that nasty looking gravel with a MASSIVE extra weight that has got to hurt! Beastly.
SIC photo, Matt is a dark horse BEAST!
Some serious knowledge bombs dropped in this post. Success is just showing up and doing work everyday.
We can ALL learn from such a simple yet powerful tip
Here is a question. I don’t doubt he does plenty of heavy squats, deadlifts, and overhead pressing but how does he train for the pure stabilization required when he is on the road? This is in connection with the unique events that highland games have. Just curious as it were.
Dustin Maynard says
They take home point for me is—“getting stronger day by day.” Strength training is not all that difficult nor complicated. A focus on rep-maxes, getting stronger weekly, just acknowledging you can get the job done with a bar and some plates.
Quite a life, you have led! Most strength athletes would kill for an adventure like that. Well done.
Great interview. Got to see him in action in August at the Highland Games and he was a beast! And wearing hot pink socks, too! epic.