At the 2011 Hardcore Powerlifting Federation event Kings of the Bench V and Clash of the Titans IV, promoter Sean Katterle introduced me to a guy who I had witnessed pull a clean 825lb deadlift. Only later, when I stood with him, did I realize he weighs in at under 230lbs! Brandon Cass, of Cass Strength Systems is a world record holder in the deadlift and holds two event records at rhe K of B and C of T competitions. This guy is hanging with some of the greatest deadlifters of all-time at a bodyweight easily 100lbs lighter. With a total of more than 2,000lbs in a raw meet, who can argue he isn't doing something right.
Brandon's wife and co-owner of Cass Strength Systems, Monica, is in her own right a tremendous and accomplished athlete. As an IFPA Figure Champion, she won the International Figure Championship in 2009, only 9 months after having her last child! That is a massive accomplishment.
Below is a quick interview with brandon about his approach to his and his clients training, nutrition and yes, CARDIO! That's a novel idea; a powerlifter doing cardio.... even in the off season.
First off, tell me about your wife. How has the integration of her life affected your abilities in the powerlifting arena? I can only assume you eat similarly thus making meal time much easier?
My wife and love of my life Monica Cass is truly an amazing woman. I am honored not only to be her husband but also her trainer. She has only been an inspiration to me and huge motivating factor in my lifting. Monica is a natural pro figure competitor and won her pro card in 2006 at the Natural Kansas City Classic. She dieted through our honeymoon and won the show a month later. Since that time we have had a little girl Maci Ann Cass who is now 2. Nine months after having Maci; Monica won her first Pro title and went on to win four pro shows. This year Monica is taking a year off from the stage to focus on adding size to her upper body and to help with her mom; Patti Huff who suffered a life threatening illness earlier this year. Monica is a Physical Therapist and even though I am her trainer she has helped me through injuries, critiques my lifting, and suggests movements outside the box that will keep my body in balance and my lifting progressing. Knowing that I have a woman that looks the way she does and getting a big hug and kiss from her after I walk off the platform is a perk too.
Yes, we eat very similar. Monicas eats 5-6 times every day so we are pretty much in tune. Our daughter even eats the same types of protein sources everyday. I have to admit there isn’t much variety so to most people our diets are pretty boring but I works for us. I love to be structured and regimen year round but during the off season we always try to have a date night once a week and that makes a nice cheat day for us off the diet. Monica always makes me a desert to eat after that as well. She is a great cook! We normally eat together at dinnertime and on the weekends but the rest we are on the go so much with personal training and commitments that we take our food with us.
Who does the majority of the cooking in your house?
In the Cass house it is a total team effort! I grill most of our protein sources on the weekend; usually Sunday after church. Monica fixes all the sides like rice, potatoes, and whatever else we need so that it is fresh daily. My daughter even fixes my salad every night for dinner. It’s amazing to watch a two year old create a salad for “Daddy”.
Tell us about your approach to nutrition for not only yourself, but your clients as well.
I am a big believer in balance in diets. My methods are constantly evolving because I am always trying out new ideas and applying them to either myself of Monica. I use a lot of methods with clients and customize every diet I do. High protein by most standards, moderate carb, with my diets fat normally is under control because of the food sources used.
I saw you compete for the first time at the MHP Clash of the Titans and Battle of the Bench earlier this year in Mesquite, Tx. You had an impressive day with an 825 lb deadlift, yet you weighed in at under 230lbs! What sets you apart health and competition wise from other guys in the Hardcore Powerlifting series?
Hey there are a lot of great athletes at that event. I weighed in at 222 I am normally a 220lbs competitor so I keep my weight in that 218-228 range year round. I am a little odd by powerlifting standards in that I have always trained more like a bodybuilder and kept cardio in year round. Most power lifters don’t do this. I just know what works for me and keeps my body functioning at a high level. In addition, I am a personal trainer so how can I ask tell my clients to do cardio if I myself am not willing to do it. My goal each competition is to be healthy, improve, look like I can lift the weight, and use my lifting as a witness for God.
Tell me the backside of your pre competition. I have heard that you were a talented but overweight high school athlete. What changed to bring you to where you are now?
Yes, In high school I competed in both football and wrestling at a high level but was overweight. I managed to get looked at by some division two schools and landed a scholarship in football. After my freshman football season in college I ballooned from 275 to 315. I was raised by my grandparents and all they knew was home-style cooking. I remember they would even bread and filet minion. I began powerlifting and had some great success winning teen nationals my first year. However my weight had not dropped. I had enough during my sophomore year. I began self-teaching of nutrition and a big factor was Bill Phillips and EAS. I took off from there and got more and more into nutrition and how it could help optimize my performance. By the next season I was a hundred pounds lighter and had shaved a full second off my forty time. It was during this time that I started to get into bodybuilding. After my first couple of shows I decided to rekindle my interest in powerlifting and apply my own trial and error nutrition concepts in this realm. The rest is history! The biggest thing I have learned is that with any commitment you do you must put effort in to get something back whether it is diet, exercise, powerlifting……and so on.
Lets talk about the sport of powerlifting as it related to competition. With so many federations, so many variances in rules and judging, why have you chosen to lift raw versus having “bigger numbers” with suited events?
Raw is a preference for me. I have nothing bad to say about equipped lifting and I may even try it again sometime. I have always felt I was one of the strongest raw guys out there. Now is optimal time to show that! As far as numbers go its getting up there but the suits and shirts are getting better and better. I am sponsored by Titan and they have some amazing stuff.
What are your competition plans for the remainder of this year and next?
Right now I will be at the Olympia in Las Vegas Septemeber 17th competing in the Olympia invitaitional deadlift competition. After that who knows I have certain numbers in my head I want to hit this year. My goals no longer include titles it’s a quest for numbers and improvement.
Do you expect to see the number of raw competitors increase in the foreseeable future?
Yes, I think raw lifting will continue to become more popular and look for it to equal the equipped side at soeme point.
In your opinion, of the only two men to have officially deadlifted in excess of 1,000lbs, who is the better deadlifter Andy Bolton or Benedikt Magnussen?
Are you kidding me! These guys are two monsters. I have had the honor of lifting with both on the platform….I have no answer for you there. I know Bolton has beat Beni head to head a while back but Beni has lifted more. The only way to say here and now who is better is to shut up all the talking and get them both on the platform.
Tell us about Cass Strength, your innovative personal training systems in the Kansas City suburb of Blue Springs, Mo.
I have been training people for about 13 years but it became my exclusive profession in 2008 as my wife and I started Shape Up Personal training systems. www.cassstrength.com is our website, our company does boot camps, group, semi private, and one on one sessions as well. Nutrition is key so we focus on that as well as customizing everything to the client to reach a desired goal.
Tell me about some of your clients? Do you deal with many pro athletes or do you see average joe's as well?
I treat all of my clients with the same value as each individual is very important. I have trained professionals, Division one athletes, doctors, lawyers, physique and strength athletes. The goal is always to service the individual to the best of our ability. I take a lot of pride in that.
You and your wife are able to work together, eat together, train together? You guys must have something incredibly special happening there!
As I mentioned earlier the ability to see my wife at work each day is a major blessing. The fact that we have this business and can do something we love is a gift. In addition we get to impact peoples lives in positive fashion. Who could ask for more?
Whats next for Cass Strength?
Well we want to grow. At this point what that looks like I do not know. We subcontract out of a 40,000 sq ft gym called Club7 fitness in Blue Springs it is the best facility in the area hands down.
How many of the MHP events have you competed in and how does Sean Katterle's Harcore Powerlifting Series compare to other powerlifting events?
I feel strongly to say that Sean puts on one of the best shows hands down. He is the best MC ever! I have had the honor to compete in all four of the Clash of the Titan events and the quality of competition is amazing. I have been in some major wars with powerlifting legends at his events and it’s a great time! I am always looking forward to see what he will come up with next.
Lastly, boxers or briefs?
I am a brief guy for obvious reasons. My eggs need a nest. lol
Thanks Brandon for sharing some of your time with us and I will see you at the Olympia!