Interview with AJ Roberts
Written on January 27, 2008 at 9:17 am, by Eric Cressey
By: Eric Cressey
I figured that you were probably getting sick of hearing from me, so this week, we’ve got a new interview for you. If you haven’t heard of AJ Roberts yet, consider this interview your introduction to one of the future stars of the strength and conditioning world. I’ve interacted with AJ via email for several months now, and we finally had the chance to meet up and talk some shop at APF Seniors in Las Vegas last weekend. To say that I was impressed with his knowledge, passion, and enthusiasm for lifting and coaching would be an understatement; this guy is wise beyond his years. Watch out for him in the years to come.
EC: Thanks for being with us today, AJ. You’ve really opened some eyes in the powerlifting community over the past two years. Could you please fill our readers in a bit on your background?
AR: I am 21 years of age and am currently attending the University of Idaho, where I’m seeking a bachelor’s degree in Sports Science. I have always been involved in athletics. From an early age, I played various sports and in high school I was a three-sport athlete with football, basketball, and track and field. In my senior year, I was ruled ineligible, and this is when I began my powerlifting career.
In February of 2004, I began training with (now University of Washington strength coach) Matt Ludwig and (world squat record holder) Brent Mikesell. Under their guidance I have set state, national and world records in multiple federations and have accumulated a 950-lb. squat, 661-lb. bench press, and a 700-lb. deadlift, with my best total being 2300.
EC: You just got back from the APF Senior Nationals; could you tell us how that went?
AR: I competed in the 308-lb. class despite only weighing in at 284 lbs. I’m not a big fan of cutting weight, so I just lift in whatever weight class into which I fall. I had high expectations going into the meet and knew that it was going to take a 2400+ total to win. Unfortunately, I only managed to get my opener in the squat (935) and after seeing so many people bomb out, I lifted conservatively to make sure I finished the meet. I did manage to get an 11-lb. personal record in the bench (661) and finished with a 2295-lb. total, which was good enough for second place. Hopefully, I can put it all together at the World Championships in November.
EC: Big numbers – especially at age 21! You’re also involved in coaching at the collegiate ranks right now; please tell us a bit about that. What are you doing? How do you like it? What are you learning from the experience?
AR: I have been a volunteer/intern in the Vandal Athletic Center at the University of Idaho now for almost two years. In this time, I have been lucky enough to work alongside several different strength coaches, assisting with football, basketball, swimming, and soccer. I really enjoy the hands on experience of getting to run drills, coach, and watch the athletes develop over the years. The biggest thing that I will take away from my experience is that is not what you do, but the way you do it that is important.
EC: You’ve said that you’ve got the world’s best squat coach in Brent Mikesell.What is it that makes Brent such a tremendous squatter and coach?What insights can you pass along to our readers that will take their squats – and the rest of their lifts – to all new levels?
AR: There aren’t too many people in this sport that love it and are as dedicated to it, or the lifters involved, as Brent is. He works harder in the gym than anyone else I know, and even when he is hurt or sick, he will be there to help spot and load. There are so many little things that I have learned from him it would be impossible to summarize it all here.
EC: How has being a competitive powerlifter impacted you as a coach?
AR: The biggest trait that I have carried over into coaching is the emphasis on perfect form. I’m constantly working with the athletes to make sure they are not sacrificing form for strength, which is common due to the competitive atmosphere that is often created in a varsity weight room.
EC: I have to say that when we were talking at Seniors, you reminded me a lot of, well, me! You’ve got that way about you; you’re always thinking that there is a better way to do things. And, more importantly, you’re thinking about what that better way is. With that said, randomly throw some idea out there that will really make our readers say “Oh, shit, that really makes sense!”
You must always seek knowledge from those who are more knowledgeable than you and who know what it takes to be strong!
Speed is more important than your ego!
Full range of motion work is the most important part of training; lifting big weights to a high box or a 3-board in the gym is not going to help you hit the numbers you want in a meet!
Your upper back is just as important as you lower back!
Being strong and being technical are just as important as one another!
Simple is still best!
Nothing beats hard work!
EC: I know that I’ve been sending a ton of resource recommendations your way, so fill me in on the ones that have impacted you the most; which would benefit our readers the most?
AR: I would say the following are must buys for anyone who is serious about strength and conditioning:
1. Professional Fitness Coach Program Design Bible by Alwyn Cosgrove
2. Supertraining by Mel Siff
3. Essentials of Weightlifting and Strength Training by Mohamed F. El-Hewie
4. The Sport Training Profits Program by Ryan Lee
5. Magnificent Mobility DVD by Eric Cressey and Mike Robertson
EC: Ha!You already got the interview, AJ; you didn’t have to butter me up with that last one!Anyway, fast-forward five years; where is AJ Roberts going to be?
AR: Hopefully, I have established myself as one of the best strength coaches in the nation and will have opened up my own sports training facility.
EC: I’d put money on it.Hell, just from chatting with you, I’d hire you just to keep you from becoming one of my competitors!Thanks for taking the time, AJ.Where can our readers find out more about you?
AR: They can check out my personal website www.aj-roberts.com.