The Strength Series, Interview #6: Pro Strongman Andrew Clayton



American Pro Strongman Andrew Clayton, age 21, of Jacksonville, Florida, is 6’2” and currently weighs 285 lbs. Clayton has his Bachelors of Science in Athletic Training, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, and is an International Sports Sciences Association Certified Personal Trainer who works security by night and consults for UrbankStrong Diet and Training* by day. 

Of the 34 Amateur Strongman (ASM) at the 2014 Arnold Amateur Strongman World Championship, ten made it to the finals. Andrew Clayton earned his Pro card as he placed second to Mateusz Kieliszkowski of Poland in first. Let’s learn more about this new Pro Strongman!


Q: Which gyacbms do you train at?

I have too many. Mainly I train at home (known as Drew’s Gym by members). I also train at North Beach Spa and Club (much more hardcore than it sounds), the YMCA (though they don’t like me), and even at my prior university gym (great equipment but they don’t let me train events).


Q: I have to ask, what’s with you and the YMCA?

A: As far as the YMCA, my family has been a member since I was 7. I played most of my sports there. The gym staff aren't fans because I use chalk (made me leave and made new rule because of me), grunt, and sometimes lift heavy. But bare foot jump roping wherever you want is fine. HAHA!


Q: How did you discover Strongman events?

A: Like most, I saw World’s Strongest Man on ESPN. I also watched IFSA back when they aired. Eventually, I just liked the training style, watched YouTube videos and tried them by making my own homemade equipment. 


Q: Did anyone influence you or serve as a mentor?

A: Initially, no. I was instilled with good values and dedication from my parents. I knew what I wanted to do from the start. Later on as I trained with more people I have been mentored by other lifters. Vince and Lindsey Urbank have been extremely helpful in guiding me over the years. I also am very open to advice from veteran lifters who have definitely impacted me greatly. 


Q: What motivates you?

A: Guess it all depends. I want to be the best I can be, be remembered in the history books and seize every day. You don’t know how much longer you will have so it’s best to push your limits in all realms. One quote I like to explain why I train or compete is “If you can’t you must.”  I don’t like being told I can’t do something, so chances are if people think I can’t do it I am going to be motivated. 


Q: What activities do you do outside of Strongman?

A: Like a true meathead I don’t have too many outside hobbies or anything like that. Most typical hobbies of young people my age are just not fun to me. I really enjoy training and demands of it. I mean who doesn’t like to have a justified reason to eat two thousand calories in a meal (sometimes)? When I am not in the gym or eating I try to read articles, journals and books on training methods. I also like watching old WSM videos and stuff like that. I guess when you like this “hobby” of strongman so much why not engulf yourself in it?


Q: How do you train now?

A: I don’t really have a method. My training is constantly evolving as I develop as an athlete and has weakness go away and spring back up. Currently, I am a little ways away from a contest so my training has next to no “event work” as we say in strongman other than overhead movements, grip and light conditioning. I am working hard to correct some form issues and really build up the static lifts like deadlift, squat, strict press and maybe bench (though I rarely bench now). 


Q: What kind of advice would you give to beginners who are looking to get bigger and stronger?

A: I think I made my biggest mistake chasing weight gain. I thought the number on the scale meant something. So I would say to stay lean and if you do want to gain weight do so slowly or only over a couple months at a time while maintaining bodyweight the rest of the year. As far as general training advice, just stay hungry. Make yourself the smallest fish in the biggest ponacdd. Otherwise you will reach a number or size that you are content with based purely on the crappy surroundings of people you are with. It’s better to be the 10th best lifter in a gym of strongmen than the strongest at Planet Fitness. 


Q: What about nutrition? How much do you eat, grams of protein per day? Do you count grams, macros, etc.?

A: Nutrition in strength sports absolutely cannot be overlooked! While strongmen do not all have abs I think the best strongman have a good handle on nutrition. Currently I have started to count macros and track more. In the past I would “check” myself and track a week at a time maybe every other month to make sure I was still eating in the ranges I was expecting. 

This is a very general approach that will get general results. If you want specific results (getting leaner or stronger, for sure) you will need to keep better record. My current protein requirement is set at 350g. I think a lot of guys obsess too much over protein. While each meal should start with protein, you can’t just eat chicken breasts.


Q: Do you use supplements or do you favor solid food? 

A: Solid food as much as I can, for sure! Nutrient dense, solid food should be at the forefront of any diet. Spend the money on better quality meats and vegetables than on protein powder.

That being said, supplements can be very helpful to me in my diet as a convenience and contest/training food. It’s better to have a shake than miss a meal and some jobs just don’t give the time for solid meals. In contests it is hard to stomach food as well as shovel in enough better food on contest days, so (liquid) supplements help. Supplements I sometimes base around training as well such as a scoop of whey in my preworkout Gatorade. 


Q: If you supplement, do you recommend any particular brand or specific supplements?

A: Not really. I mainly look at the ingredients. The more honest the label and the better the ingredients the more likely I become a fan. For most, I would say a multivitamin, protein powder, creatine, and maybe fish oil is all you need. 


Q: How much sleep do you get each day?

A: I try for 7-9 hours a night. Any less than 6 I am hurting (especially since I only use caffeine for pre-workout). I also try to go asleep at the same time and wake up accthe same time each day (though that’s difficult). Since I sleep during the day I make sure to keep all sources of light covered to help melatonin production as well as taking a melatonin supplement prior to bed. 


Q: Do you do anything specific for injury prevention or rehab?

A: Yes. In my warm ups I will address my problem areas for the day, based on how I’ve been feeling and demands of training that day. I try to do a good bit of soft tissue work with a lacrosse ball, qua sha tools, and foam roller (though rethinking application of foam rolling). I also utilize different types of stretching as well as corrective exercises. 


Q: What are your favorite events?

A: I like events that look cool and impressive to people watching. So I like awkward press events like block or even keg press. I also like stone medleys and yoke walks. If I was better at deadlift I would like that, too (I am a strongman after all)!


Q: What is your overall training philosophy?

A: For strongman specific events my philosophy is to be as specific as possible. I believe that strongman events can be treated a lot like barbell movements in that they can stay virtually the same with the variation coming from change in distance, weight, rest intervals or combination with other exercise to fatigue working muscles. 

For events with a high max I utilize a training max to conserve energy. Like any lift, strongman events must be programmed while considering the intraweek training. The goal of every session being to come in rested and recovered enough to hit planned numbers. 


Q: How long have you been training seriously?

A: Whenever I worked out or played a sport I took it very seriously. That being said, it wasn’t until I was 14 that I started my first strength program from an e-book. From then on I was training every week to make gains in my strength. Around 15 I started using make-shift equipment at home to do events for strongman and by 16-17 I had some strongman implements like log, yoke, farmers, stones, etc. 


Q: What are some of the lifts you are most proud of?

A: I guess my 410-pound axle clean and press national men’s and teen record is my “claim to fame”. I really wanted to set that record as a teenager. But like anything, I wish I could have put up more.


Q: What are the contests you are most proud of?

A: Teenage Nationals in 2011 probably still is one of my favorites. I had a plan, I executed it and even with all the pressure I dominated the last event to win. Of course, I also think winning almost every Florida competition at one time or another (with multiple defending championships) is a great accomplishment. Lastly, I will always have the runner up spot at the Arnold in my heart as that’s where I got my pro card. 


Q: What are the three most important movements for people trying to build strength?

A: If I had to limit to three (for strongman) I would say overhead press, front squat and deadlift. Of course that leaves out so much, like grip and conditioning. 


Q: What is the worst competitive experience you’ve had (injury, etc.)?

A: I would say my worst experience was probably just having the most off day ever competing in Central Georgia in 2013. It was less than two weeks after my first Arnold appearance. No events went right except the stone load where I pulled something in my elbow. For weeks after I thought it was a UCL sprain until I had some ART on the biceps, triceps and forearm which helped. Still very frustrating. Most other injuries have happened outside of competition. 


Q: Any shout-outs?

A: I guess thanks to all my family, friends and training partners. I could not have done it without you. Your belief in me keeps me pushing every day.


Q: How can people contact you (email, social media, etc.)?

A: I am on Facebook (facebook.com/lift2win), YouTube (youtube.com/drewgymrat) and I can be reached via email at [email protected] 

*Be sure to check out UrbankStrong Diet and Training on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/UrbankStrongDietAndTraining 


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