Q&A with the Stoltman brothers…
As Tom Stoltman begins his attempt to win three consecutive World’s Strongest Man titles, MF catches up with both Tom and older brother Luke to get the Stoltman brothers’ guide to building serious strength…
Men’s Fitness: How often you train and what proportion of your work is devoted to heavy lifting?
Tom Stoltman: Monday is big lifts like deadlifts; Tuesday is a press day; Wednesday and Friday is specialist Strongman stuff like pulling trucks; Thursday is leg day; then on Friday we go back to the warehouse and do stuff like lifting the big Atlas stones.
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MF: Where do people go wrong when performing deadlifts?
Luke Stoltman: Tom and I normally go bare feet – just in our socks – for a proper, stable foot position. Those thick-soled trainers guys wear to the gym now just force you into a lean and you become unstable. Footwork is often overlooked with big lifts.
A while back Tom told me that my deadlift stance was looking too narrow, so I tried widening my foot placement and straight away that worked better. Also, keeping the weight as close to your body as you can is key to a good deadlift. You’ll see both Tom and myself almost scraping the bar up our shins to keep it nice and tight to the body.
MF: Training together has its advantages, then?
TS: Yes, there’s always small ways you can tweak things to help with lifting. I’m a better deadlifter than Luke, but Luke’s got a better press than me. Even if you’re the best in the world there are always things you can learn – and we send videos to our coaches who also advise us where we’re going wrong, even by that wee inch.
MF: So you still have stuff to learn?
LS: Absolutely. You need to leave your ego at the door when you go to the gym and be able to take advice. If we sat here thinking we cannot learn anything more that would be a detriment to our training.
You also need to make sure you’re following your training programme and not increasing weights too dramatically, because that’s when injuries occur.
MF: What’s the Stoltman secret to a good leg day?
TS: If you don’t do squats, you’re not going get strong legs. Squats and leg presses can transform strength drills like deadlifts, because you’re driving your feet into the ground and powering up.
MF: How important is diet to building strength?
TS: It’s crucial. I’m on 10,000 calories a day right now, Luke’s around 7,500-8,000 – and for that we eat a lot of food. My breakfast is ten eggs. That protein is key for recovery and growing muscle. Protein should be part of every meal you eat.
When it gets into competition time – the week of the World’s Strongest man – that’s where junk food comes into play. We have a big pancake blow out, our second and third meals will be pasta, fourth is burgers and chips, and then our last meal will be pizzas and cheesecake.
MF: How do you vary your strength training to prevent any plateaus?
LS: Many of the people we train at our strength academy say they’ve hit a plateau or been training weeks and not getting any results. We show them how to have that analytic nature and self-reflect.
Keep going back to your goals and work out what you want from the gym. Use that to investigate new ways of changing your training. The beauty of this journey is that there is no one rule for everyone: we all have strength and weaknesses. Routinely analysing what you’re doing helps you to keep improving.
MF: What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started out?
LS: From my early 20s I really enjoyed strength training, but I didn’t know how to optimise it with nutrition. I was always cutting out carbs and going very high protein, but I’ve learned how you need to be open to taking on carbs for energy and to support muscle growth.
TS: I went to the gym because I had autism and I was feeling uncomfortable in my body. In the first month or two of going I was thinking, This is the best thing I have ever done.
I only look back now and think if I had not started working out, I would not be on the path I am now. I would not be competing and winning Strongman events. Sometimes it pays to remind yourself of how great you feel after a session and the rewards strength training can bring – especially on the days when you’re not feeling 100% beforehand.
The Stoltman Brothers are Reign Total Body Fuel athletes. For more information about the zero-sugar performance energy drink, visit reignbodyfuel.com