Matt Wenning, age 34, resides in Columbus, Ohio and has an impressive curriculum vitae which includes a bachelor's degree in exercise science, a master's degree in biomechanics, serving as a speaker for the National Strength and Conditioning Association and the Australian Strength and Conditioning Association, as well as participating on an advisory panel for the Pentagon for the U.S. Armed Forces. Let's learn more about powerlifter Matt Wenning!
Are you an only child or do you come from a big family?
I have 2 siblings and mother still living. Grandmother on my mom's side, I'm very close with. We take across the country motorcycle rides yearly to various destinations.
Where do you train?
I train in my own facility – Ludus Magnus Performance Center – where we have all kinds of athletes and general populations, as well as people rehabilitating current or past injuries.
What's your height and weight?
6'1" and fluctuate from 285-305.
How were you introduced to lifting?
I come from a mid-sized town in Indiana (Muncie), and although not very large, it has a great heritage in strong lifters. At the local YMCA, we had 10 guys that could bench over 400, a few that could bench 500 (no gear) and deadlift and squat into the 700s. I stumbled across a man named Tim Smith and he started to help me out when I was 13. Being a big kid – 180 in 8th grade – he knew I had potential if I worked hard. As time went on, I was introduced to a man named Jim Dawson (750lb deadlifter in the 1970s), which coached me for a lot of my teen and college years.
How did you discover powerlifting meets?
For me, my mentors at a young age were all competitive lifters, so I was trained to do meets from day one. But I remember the meets always being fun and stress-free, which I have had that mentality since my teenage years.
What other sports did you play growing up?
I was a good swimmer from the age of 4 until 13 and competed on the swim team until my freshman year in high school (was just getting too big). I also played football, and would do lots of mountain biking. By the time I was driving, lifting was my passion.
What are you doing to lengthen your powerlifting career?
Once you become world class in powerlifting, it takes a lot of smarts to stay in the game. I keep my diet fairly clean, I sleep enough, and most importantly, I train at an optimal range to achieve new goals but not wear myself down or become injured. This takes many years to know when to push, and when to back off.
Do you coach others?
Yes, I have a small team of lifters that I train (all raw lifting) that help me as much as I help them. My training partner, Rob Mayzer, has come a long way in a short time, as well as a few others. But for me, my job is coaching, so my teammates are actually good coaches as well. We have five guys that can bench over 550 raw and at least that many that can pull over 700.
What advice do you have for people wanting to get into powerlifting?
Your best bet is to find others that are experienced, and technically sound. Seek them out and learn perfection from the beginning. We offer this at my facility to help beginners get on the right track.
What is your training philosophy?
I use a rotating philosophy of max efforts, speed work, and reps; this allows me to change exercises, angles and pressures to train hard year round. The system was originally developed by the Russians, but was taught to me by George Halbert and Chuck Vogelphol when I was younger. Since then I've made some adaptations, but that's the perfection of the system, it constantly changes.
How long have you been lifting seriously?
I started to lift at age 13, but got the serious bug when I was 16. I have been competing for almost 20 years, and lifting for 23 years.
Who has been your biggest inspiration and mentors?
As a young kid the guys I trained with were my first idols, then when I met Ed Coan (the best lifter ever) he became a big influence in my lifting. I also admired Chuck Vogelphol for his work ethic.
" [...] when I met Ed Coan (the best lifter ever) he became a big influence in my lifting."
Now my inspiration comes from my clients, watching them work hard and push every day reminds me that I still need to push, train, and achieve more. I have a 72-year-old client named Andre that inspires me to train hard even when I don't feel great. I figure if he can drag his ass out of bed and bench 250 then I should be able to perform.
What are some of the lifts you are most proud of?
1) My raw 832 world record squat with no wraps, with 606 raw bench press at the same meet.
Not only were they massive accomplishments, but done in the same day gave me one of the largest subtotals in history. Being on the same list as Kirk Karwolski and Don Reinhoudt was a great achievement.
2) My 1197 world record squat with full gear.
This lift gave me one of the largest squats in history, and was a milestone that I had worked on for 6 years.
3) My 804 deadlift.
Although not a 900 pull (which I consider to be a benchmark) I'm not really built to deadlift, and took more work to achieve than anything I have accomplished. I still plan on topping this achievement soon.
4) My first 600 raw bench.
Training with my old mentor George Halbert for this one was fun, but also started to show the rest of the lifting world that my training regimen also made great strength gains in the raw divisions. This bench is the reason I went to raw lifting.
What contest are you most proud of?
My last junior competition: In 2003 I was able to break the American squat, bench and total record in the USAPL, which I had worked most of my adult life for. Being able to do this in front of Ed Coan was icing on the cake.
2006 APF seniors: This was the first meet I squatted 1003, and I was ranked in the top 10 of all time in the 308 class. The total also put me in the top 10 of all time.
2008 Pro Am: At this meet I was able to take best lifter, and break the all time total record with 2665. It was satisfying in many ways, and was another pivotal point in my career.
2013 USPA meet: My first raw full meet, totaled 2105 walked out. This put me 97lbs behind the world record total and was a great performance.
2014 Raw Unity Meet: This meet was awesome for me. Squatted an 832-world record with no gear, and benched 606, topping my best. I was on track to break the world record with an easy 766, and tore a leg muscle.
Well, that leads in perfectly (unfortunately) with my next question – what has been your worst injury?
Torn adductor muscle in my right leg, caused me to recover for six months, and had to be very smart with my progression, but with every injury comes knowledge.
Can you share some information on your weekly nutrition?
I eat 5-6 times a day, usually around 300-400 grams of protein. I eat a lot of meat and time my carbs both before and after workouts, but eat low-carb every day but one. If I'm gaining weight I add another day of multiple carb meals. This keeps me lean, but also allows me to put on muscle.
What supplements do you take?
I take fish oil, multi-vitamin and vitamin c since I don't eat a lot of fruit. I'm not a huge fan of supplements, but when I'm training hard I do take creatine and amino acids.
How much sleep do you get?
I sleep 8-9 hours a night, and usually take a one-hour nap every day. Sleep is very important to gaining muscle and recovering from hard workouts.
What's your favorite movement at this time?
Sumo deadlifts, they are helping my flexibility and my back and leg size. Everyone should do sumo deadlifts, even if being a powerlifter isn't your goal. I make all my clients do it regardless of the goal.
What is your current training split?
Tuesday: Speed legs with high volume legs and abs
Wednesday: Speed upper with high volume arms and back
Friday: Max effort lower w heavy lower back work
Sunday: Max effort upper with heavy triceps and lats
What do you consider the three most important movements?
Squats, sumo deadlifts, and pull-ups. The third choice is a tough one depending on goals, but people that can do pull-ups usually are overall fit.
What advice do you have for novice or beginner lifters?
Start slow, learn proper form, and surround yourself with others who are smart, like-minded, and have passion. Seek out professionals and invest in your future gains by reading and doing seminars.
Training partners, yes or no?
Training partners are vital for your strength and muscle gains, they can push you through a bad day, count on you to be there when you're not feeling up for it, and allow you to go heavier than you could by yourself. I rely on my training partners and they rely on me.
I'd like to give thanks to all the people in Muncie, Indiana, that got me started (Tim S., Jim D., Sonny R., and Doc). I'd also like to thank Ed Coan for being a great mentor, and Chuck Vogelphol and George Halbert of the old Westside clan for teaching me how to work hard and smart at the same time.
How can people contact you?
My gym is located in Columbus at 514 W Rich St. where we do private training and seminars as well as assessments for all types of performance and injuries.
Online @ http://www.wenningstrength.com
Phone: (765) 748 6715
Matt, thank you for sharing some of your story. You have an incredible record and amazing mentors, wishing you continued success in the sport.
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