Sometimes, it’s the unexpected that can make for a great conversation. In a recent tête-à-tête with 2010 Arnold Strongman Classic Amateur Champion, Mike Jenkins, I felt a bit like Ralph Waldo Emerson when he said; “Nothing Great Was Ever Achieved Without Great Enthusiasm”. In his tone and dialect, often punctuated with self-deprecating humor, it was easy to hear Mike’s enthusiasm as he spoke about his sport. Humble? Maybe to a fault. However, not without great pride and understanding of who he is. Think accomplished, with poise.
At the 2010 Arnold Strongman Amateur Championships, when Mike won the amateur event, he was given an automatic qualifying spot for the next years Pro Arnold Strongman Classic. It was clear in our conversation that he has taken on that “responsibility” to represent himself through hard work and careful planning. Some athletes don’t think the automatic qualifier was a good thing - that there are more experienced and qualified athletes. Mike doesn’t really agree and will show the world what he has what it takes to be among the chosen few.
BH: Thanks, Mike for taking some of your day to talk.
MJ: My pleasure! I appreciate you guys at RX Muscle thinking enough of me to have me on here!
BH: To compete in Strongman, you won’t survive very long if you are petite. I’ve seen your videos and know, you don’t fit that model. How old are you, what is your height and todays weight?
MJ: I think I was petite for about 20 minutes of my life! Right now I am 28 years old, 6’6” and 380-385 depends on the meal I just ate. I’ve been on the bigger side my entire life; I was 225 in 6th grade so I’ve always been the odd man out. BH: I think all strength athletes are cut from a similar mold… We also know every great strength athlete has a quality place to train. Tell me first about your training facility.
MJ: When I first started strongman I was lifting out of a family owned gym in Maryland. I did my gym lifts there and most of my events at my house. My parents have a lot of property and a long driveway so it worked out perfect. Mom and dad weren’t too keen on having 1000lb tires in the driveway and neighbors always asked me if I needed help pushing and pulling trucks up and down the road, always driving away shaking their heads wondering why the hell I am pushing a perfectly good truck. I have since moved to Hershey PA and train a majority of events and all my lifting out of Gold’s in Hershey PA. It’s nice to have a gym manager that understands what we do. What we do doesn’t exactly appeal to the masses. I have been been going to Reston Virginia the last few weekends to train events with a friend of mine, Barry Perkins at The Edge which is located at a crossfit gym in Reston.
BH: Are there any other strength athletes training there?
MJ: At Gold’s I train with a LW Amateur, Matt Hoehn, and my girlfriend.
BH: You come from a different background than most of those you compete with. How did you discover the weight room?
MJ: Well football got me into lifting initially; I started lifting when I was about 13, going into 9th grade. Since that first workout I’ve been hooked, anything concerning lifting, working out, fitness interested me. I continued strength training at James Madison University (JMU) under our strength coach, Jim Durning. I went into JMU weighing about 275lbs, super lean, I left about 300 and still around 8% bodyfat, I looked awesome! I still use a lot of the same methods we did at JMU in my training today, tailored to my strongman needs obviously. Our strength coach would actually send Graduate Assistants to the rec center where I would go get in extra workouts away from the team facility; needless to say he “banned” me from lifting there, so I got a membership to a local gym! BH: What was your experience like playing on a National Championship Football Team?
MJ: One word…WOW! I played at JMU, the old 1AA, now called Football Bowl Subdivision, so we had a playoff system. We went into the playoffs on the road, winning every game on the road, 4-0, making us the first and I THINK last team to do that! I’m pretty sure that makes the 2004 JMU Dukes the best team in college football history, yea I just said that USC, Miami and Texas! To be able to play my last game as a senior on ESPN, win as the underdog was unreal. Out of all the IAA teams ONE ends the season on top, not like half the IA teams with their bowl games and at the end of the day we were on top looking down at the rest of them. I still think about it to this day. And if you want to see some sick “bling”… I got some finger hardware to show you! BH: That’s fantastic. Are you married and do you have children?
MJ: I am not married, I do have a girlfriend who I live with and will be sporting a “Team Jenkins” shirt at the Arnold. We don’t have any children but we do have a dog that is treated like a child!
BH: Let’s turn the clock back to a year or so ago. You outlasted a field of 57 amateur strongmen from 20 nations to win the inaugural Arnold Amateur World Strongman Championships. How did you prepare for that contest?
MJ: I basically trained all the events and stuck to my gym lifts like I had been doing. I liked my chances going into this because of all the medleys on Day 1; I had a solid lead going into Day 2 and held of 9 tough competitors.
BH: How has it differed from your prep for your first Arnold Strongman Classic as a Pro?
MJ: I realized REAL QUICK the Arnold is REAL HEAVY! I have cut my volume back and really focused on my pressing and deadlifting. I am allowing my body much more time to recover in between workouts since they take that much more of a toll on my body then when I am training for a lighter show.
BH: There have been a lot of injuries over the past few years in WSM competition. How is your body holding up? Have you had any major injuries over the course of your athletic career?
MJ: Well, playing football I tore MCLs in both knees. Strongman has been ok to me, other than the normal strains and sprains. The worst I’ve had is a horrible case of sciatica that kept me out of training for real for about 2 months then my first contest back I tore my meniscus in my right knee. I hope you didn’t jinx me!
BH: Let’s hope not. How are you feeling today, health wise?
MJ: I actually feel pretty good, I got a deep tissue 2 days ago and I’ve been seeing a chiropractor once a week to keep me aligned. Let’s hope I can feel good for another week or so!
BH: Let’s talk nutrition. Everyone realizes how important eating is, so what’s a typical food day like for you?
MJ: Veggie burgers and tofu! No I’m kidding, breakfast is usually a RTN protein shake and 3 peanut butter and banana sandwiches made with Bell Plantations PB2, a low fat peanut butter extract. It really lets me indulge without feeling too guilty! 3 hours later Ill have some chicken or steak mixed with peas and rice. 3 hours later Ill have that again or some greek yogurt with some PB2 mixed in, my girlfriend calls this concoction peanut butter ice cream. About an hour before the gym Ill have a RTN weight gainer shake. When I get home from the gym I have some chicken or steak with the rice and veggies. Two times during the night I wake up to pee from the 2 gallons of water I downed and when I do this I somehow make a shake and manage to crush a few granola bars to get in 2 extra meals to keep my weight up. BH: Do you use any sports professionals like a psychologist or nutritionist?
MJ: I don’t right now, I would like to work with a nutritionist at some point to take my game to the next level. As far as a sport psychologist goes I for sure could use a regular psychologist but if I saw him I promise you I wouldn’t be doing strongman, I’d probably be in a white jump suit in the crazy ward.
BH: I think most Strength athletes would be held for observation if any Psychologist were to witness what we put our bodies through. In addition to your meals, what supplements do you use?
MJ: Right now not too much, I’m keeping it simple. I’m lucky enough to have Rich Tuma and Revolutionary Nutrition behind me to keep my protein and weight gainer supply in check. I also use Creatine before I get my swole on at Gold’s!
BH: And your sponsors?
MJ: Like I mentioned earlier a few times Revolutionary Nutrition is helping me out, they actually got me to try a weight gainer for the first time, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised. Bell Plantations is also a company I am working with. They are based out of Tifton Georgia, they have a powdered peanut butter called PB2 extract that you mix with water to form the actual peanut butter, the catch… it only had 1.5 grams of fat per serving and 5 grams of protein as opposed to normal peanut butter that is around 15 grams of fat. My girlfriend likes it so you know it’s tasty! Lastly a gentleman who owns a body shop in Maryland, David Lee, has been with me since day one! So a quick shout out to RTN, Bell Plantations, and the boys at David’s Professional Service.
BH: The burning question: Boxers or briefs?
MJ: You had to go here huh? 50% of the time I have to say neither! The other 50% it’s under armour boxer briefs, when you have an ass like mine you need something that stretches! BH: There is a lot of talk about Derek not being 100% healthy, Travis being a little light for this level of competition and a few others who may have issues coming into this show. How do you see yourself stacking up against these guys in your first big pro show?
MJ: Well I’ve competed against both those guys last year and they came out on top both times. Derek was a tad bit beat up going into Worlds, had a hell of a showing for having the injury he did then he got on a plane and flew 20 hours to win Americas Strongest Man, so…. I’ll never count Derek out of a show. I think he’ll shut some people up about the injury real quick. As far as Travis, he was lean looking like a 2005 Mike Jenkins with that six pack at Pro Nationals and won it. Travis is as physically gifted as anyone out there and I think what puts him above the rest of guys is his mental game, he turns into a mad man! He’ll do what he does when he gets there and that’s lift things up and put ‘em down! I think I have come a very long way in the 15 weeks I’ve been prepping for the show so I just want to put on a good show and prove that I belong, there isn’t many out there that think I do.
BH: Lastly, now that all 10 athletes have been named for this year’s competition, give us your prediction for this year’s ASC?
MJ: I think Z will be hungry to get that title back and he is probably the best strength athlete ever. I mean think about it, he is known by a single letter, he’s outdone Bono, Cher, Jordan and Prince! You have to say one letter and we know who you mean! I tried calling myself M and it didn’t catch on so you can call me Mike Jenkins. Back to the topic at hand, I see Shaw really wanting redemption from WSM and continue his climb to the top. Then there is Derek, 2x Arnold champion, pretty good resume so he’s going to come in to make it a three-peat. After that anything can happen I think, I’m just glad I’m guaranteed Top 10!
BH: Thanks Mike for your time. Safe travels next week and I am looking forward to our interview at the Arnold.
MJ: Thanks a lot for having me! It’s been a pleasure! See you in Ohio.
Without a doubt, Mike has put some thought into how to prepare for this most daunting of competition. Without a doubt, Mike has the athletic background to position himself amongst the top of the athletes competing next weekend. Without a doubt, he has the physical size and conditioning to push him to the forefront of the podium. The only doubt anywhere near Mike Jenkins, is from his competitors.
Not many of his fellow competitors are giving credit for last year’s automatic qualifying spot. In the Strongman community, it’s a pretty prestigious accomplishment to be named as one of the Arnold Strongman Classic invitees. Not quite Nobel Laureate, but certainly its equivalent in strength athletics. Mike intends to not only bring about a bigger, better shinier package (hoping he’ll actually wear his Under Armor underbritches) his sights are set high and his attitude in the right place. His training has been terrific, recovery and support on task. So, suffice to say that Mike Jenkins is someone not to be taken lightly… if that’s possible at 385lbs.