Saturday, 28 July 2012

Big Loz interview for VKR

Little Sen, on behalf of VikingR presents,

An Interview with:

Laurence Shahlaei

In a dimly lit warehouse , somewhere in Gloucester, no larger than about 50” by 20”, sits a bench, a couple of racks, an assortment of thick and cambered bars and various bits any normal person would gloss over as “junk”.

But look a little deeper and you will see steel logs, hammers and beer kegs crafted into training tools.
That stack of pallets? They are carefully fixed together to fashion a loading platform; and the only window in the corner at the back, sheds light onto an assortment of rough-looking stone-balls and a 6 foot table.

There is a steel yoke and some farmers walk handles… you would be excused from thinking the viking press was actually a towel rack.
But every little bit of kit, every stone, bar and clamp in here has its uses, and most of it fashioned together by the members, or Mike the owner.
This is where Laurence comes to train and calls “home”.
This is a Strongman gym.

A rusted and dilapidated gate swings open and crashes open and a huge smiling man plods down the courtyard outside, lugging a large bag over his shoulders..
Loz is here, and as always he has some training to do before our interview can start.

After any good training session, comes eating, so we head down to our local chicken restaurant.

Sen: I’m a fan of several guys on the scene at the moment, but do you have an favourites that you compete against?

LS: Well… no, I respect a lot of the guys, but I’m not a fan of any of them. That sounds a bit horrible really, I’m a fan of strongman, I started off as a fan, but now as a competitor, I don’t fear anyone or look up to anyone, I respect all the guys, some, for example have that “I’m happy to be here and enjoying it” thing going on but I’m not like that, I’m more like… I’m gonna beat these fuckers!

Sen: You recently held the strongman deadlift record –albeit briefly?

LS: I did, last march, joint with Brian Shaw, we both pulled 430 kilo’s beating, I think, the previous record by 20 kilos.

Sen: And how about your British log record, are you worried about anyone like Hixxy snatching it from you?

LS: Haha, no, in a word, I saw him, two weeks ago actually, very impressed with him

Sen: He has crazy shoulders, like a mini Savickas…

LS: Strong all over! But his shoulder strength, it’s just unbelievable.

Sen: Pressing, does looks like one of this strongest events! In contrast your weakest event, we know, the stones?

LS: My biceps are weak, I had an injury I never had operated on, if I lap them I can place them, but I am weak off the floor, and at the top level that can be a real problem. I’ve beaten Travis, Savickas, Terry, on stones in other competitions, I’ve gotten a lot better but seem to fuck up at worlds.

Sen: You also lose a few inches on those people… but, if stones favour the tall people, what favours your build?

LS:I feel I’m good all round, I’m not too big, not too small and I love moving events, anything with speed, loading, carrying…

Sen: Do you feel that’s what keeps you in par with say, Terry and big Z ?

LS: I don’t worry about how big and how strong they are, I might as well just give up, you just have to try and get better all the time, that’s what I focus on with my training, I just keep trying to improve and I have been improving consistently.

Sen: Obviously, you haven’t really got any strongman idols, once you reach the level you are at, so do you find yourself getting more impressed with the smaller guys like Hixxy who are able to give the big guys a serious run for their money

LS: Not necessarily,but one of the guys now who I respect a hell of a lot, is Mike Jenkins, he is a smart trainer, and apart from his deadlift, he seems to have no weaknesses, but he is improving all the time.
I respect a lot of the guys, but someone like that, who trains smart, is always impressive.
People like an underdog – I think that’s why people like to watch me, I’m just an “average guy” to a lot of people

Sen: You seem to take on a lot of ideas from the people around you, you work with legends like Nick McKinless and Phil Learney a lot - I’ve seen you do a lot of unusual stuff lately, such as, progressively lowering deadlifts, log-front-squats and box squatting how has that come about.

LS: I was using a lot of explosive techniques for a long time, bands, speed work etc., I got good results but ended up neglecting two weak areas for me, my shoulders – which although improved, my log/axle strict is fairly weak. I am trying to bring that up to a stronger level now, working on my ability to rep things. Using maximal weight I am happy with, but, someone like Poundstone, is very very good at repetitions, I am trying to narrow the gap between my push-press and strict press.

Sen: So you are a fan of taking it as it comes, looking at how you perform and acting on it?

LS: Well, yes, there are three areas I think I need to improve; Stones, still need to get better, I’ve looked at added a bodybuilding day, bigger arms, stronger chest for that
and so on; strict pressing – I’ve cut out benching quite so much recently, and thats helped loosen up my shoulders.
Deadlifting off blocks – I have an awful lot of power from the floor, but when I hit the knees, I hitch like a bastard to lock that weight out! – So I’m trying to smooth that out by using the deadlift variants and heights.

Sen: I see, starting from a more disadvantaged position, working the hip drive and using bands a bit more too?

LS: Exactly, I think I’ve pulled more from the floor than I’ve ever rack pulled actually!

Sen: So, what are the top numbers you’ve knocked out, in the gym or competition – let’s work some ego here

LS: My max squat, 365 for 3.

Sen: I’ve never seen you work 1 rep max in the squat…

LS: I haven’t done a 1 rep max in a long long time, no…

Sen: Overhead?

LS: 205 on the axle or oly bar, I’ve also pulled a 430 competition deadlift (half suited with straps).
I’ve not done a powerlifting competition in a long time, but the last time I did, I did a 350 squat, 200 bench and a 382.6 deadlift

Sen: So the key to your strength up until now, has been focusing on explosive strength, but you found you burn out too easily now?

LS: As you know, we’ve all got different make ups of muscle fibers, I believe I’m predominantly fast twitch, so I’ve been targeting my strengths as it were…

Sen: Ever had a fiber biopsy?

LS: I’d like to, that would be very interesting!

Sen: So far, you have your world records under your belt, coming 4th at worlds but what’s all this about overhead pressing Noel Edmunds on national television?

LS: I’ve pressed a few celebrities overhead actually! A nice looking Chinese presenter in China from the GWR… I couldn’t tell you her name though…

Sen: Would you say fourth in WSM thus far, has been the high point of your career?

LS: Yes, 4th at WSM, I really wanted top 3 but the 3 that beat me, were better than me, at the events and on the day, I gave it my all… but I am always looking to
improve and come back better each year, which I’ve managed to do, I think, and this year will be no different, the only problem is, they all keep improving too!

Sen: But, as you say it can all come down to the events on the day!

LS: Yes, it can! I still have a few weaknesses I need to overcome now, events and on the day is what it’s all about, but I think, with a bit of luck on the day, I still believe I can win WSM.

Sen: I feel, one reason you progress so well, is you seem to stay virtually injury free throughout the year…. Except for the biceps…

LS: 3 months before WSM I actually tore the fascia in my foot; the first year I went to worlds, I dislocated my toe, pulling a truck…. The fascia was very painful, I did it in competition pulling a truck, and it’s very difficult to recover from, you don’t get a lot of blood flow in the foot and I had to cancel a lot of competitions that year to recover for worlds.
But then, not having other events allowed me to prepare well… I got enough training in to get into good shape.

Sen: How do you treat prehab/rehab work…

LS: I get a lot of physio and chiropractic work, a lot of people go when they get injured, I try to go before I’m injured! To try and help keep tabs on my body as much as possible, foam rolling quite a lot at home and a self-massage stick, its basically a flexy rolling pin. One thing I neglect is taking care of my flexibility as much as I should do.

<A waiter interrupts…. Food comes>

LS: Haha… hahaha That looks disgusting… what is it, chicken liver?

Sen: Yeah, chicken liver…. Wanna try some?

LS: ….yeah I’ll try a bit…. Hey that’s not bad actually…

< A light post training snack of ½ a Chicken, a bowl of livers, two wraps and salad, 1 large pitta, rice, corn and much post training eating ensues>

Sen: So, you run a website,, with Nick McKinless, which at the moment serves as a blog, along with your facebook and twitter, seems a great way to follow you and your progress.. How did that come about?

LS: Well, Nick had the site himself, it was just a blog, he took it down for a while, you see, Nick is a pro-stuntman doing really well, very busy, he’s directing stunt coordination at the moment in various films, I’m sure you’ve seen his stunt reel, but due to how busy we are with strongman, and his work, it’s taken a step back recently and is mostly a blog. (Nick’s stunt reel can be seen at

Sen: How did you two meet?

LS: Nick grew up in Cheltenham, which is where I am from, he actually won the British U105kg strongman about 7 or 8 years ago now, he is a very good all round athlete, one day, he came down to the Gloucester gym, through one of the old owners, as he is into his grip training on the side and I happened to be there… I suppose he took me as a bit of a raw talent at the time and he really took me in and helped me a lot! We still sit down from time to time and I take advice from him… or not… as the case may be! He is very knowledgable, he has worked with various athletes and film stars over time….

Basically he saw I had talent, saw I was just a brute maxing out every week….

Sen: So, the routine you do now, you mostly worked that out with Nick?

LS: Yes, it’s a 4 days a week programme, Mondays I do Squatting and strict pressing with assistance work,
Tuesday is my deadlift day, Wednesday I tend to have off, Thursday is my bodybuilding type day and stone work then either Friday/say I work on push pressing, assistance work for my shoulders and event training

Sen: So, you have your staples, covering your deads, squats, overheads… do they stay in your training all year round?

LS: I don’t always squat all year round, at the moment I’m not doing any back squats, the reason being, none of my competitions right now, have squats in, but almost every has overhead work, deadlifting… those tend to stay in all year round, I also find, I tend to lose power when I’m not working my overhead very fast… whereas my squats and so on, tend to stay pretty strong.

Sen: We’ve seen pictures of you at worlds last year say, warming up squatting 300 from the back of a forklift just before the 320 for reps event, is that not too heavy before such an event?

LS: Well, there, I worked up to 300 kilos for a set of 3, which pretty much a normal train­ing weight for me anyway… you’ve trained with me a good few times now, I don’t know if you’ve noticed how I often use triples, 5’s 3’s and rarely 1’s….
Often I like to do a drop set, working up to a heavy weight, then dropping down… say I wanted to do 200 kilos for reps, obviously I can’t just jump in – it would be heavy as… so I work up to a triple 300, then drop down to 200, it feels light as anything.

Sen: So, you worked up to 300 kilos for 3 at worlds 2011, then went out?...

LS: Actually, I’ll tell you a story about 2011….
I worked up to 300 kilos, then went out and did my squats, ultra deep, 4 reps… only one other guy in my group managed a rep, everyone else bombed, so what they did for the next group was raise the height they squatted too, to 2 inches.. It was no good for tv. Zadrunas then went out and did 7….
Then, they decided they would let my group go again, this was an hour and a half after I’d squatted and I got no warm-up, so I was quite cold… I was offered the opportunity to not go again at the new height and keep my 4…. Well…
One guy managed to push out 5, so I had to go again, but this time I went out and hit 8 on pure adrenaline and it was easy…. Honestly, it was easy… I am sure I could have done 12 I was so pumped up.

Sen: And that’s what we all saw, on tv, your second go at a new height?

LS: Yes, and 2” higher than before…. I mean, I always squat deep and as you know I never hit massive massive weights and that really helps me when competing…. You hear so much “I can squat this, I can squat that” but it’s difficult to gauge really, it depends on depth, equipment… squats are just a training tool to help me in competition and, it hasn’t let me down so far.

Sen: I never see you drinking much whilst training, bar the odd strange colour shake…. Can you tell me much about your supplementation?

LS: I generally have a period of the year I use nothing, but when I do, Whey protein, mrp’s glutamine and chondroitin, creatine, Bcaa’s and so on are staples. I also have an intra-workout which is bcaa’s allanine… I take that during my training along with some extra bcaa’s.
I do also like a good pre-workout, but I tend to avoid using it, you can get reliant on them… you feel like you need it, often in competition these things are not available, luggage can get lost, you can’t pack enough to last… It’s just when I have a big competition coming, I try to get every edge I can.

Sen: Recovery is really important to you… do you use anything to aid that ?

LS: I try to focus more on nutrition, I up the amount of meals per day and go for lots of whole-food options, good quality meats veg, carbs and fats with each meal.

Sen: You mentioned joint supports, do you find yourself counting tablets or do you find variety of food is the key?

LS: I tend to stay away from capsule oils but I like to put oils into my shakes in the morning like flax and so on, I usually only hit about 5000kcals per day though, but this is boosted through MRP’s and shakes around competition time… I just like my real food.

Sen: Hah, I hear that….so after a top performance at the Brits and a very respectable finish at Europes, your goals for this year?

LS: Yes, I was very happy with my performance in May and Europes was good and after Europe we have worlds as well, I’d love to win the overall champions league this year too.

Sen: And how on earth do you stay motivated all year round? What is on your playlist?

LS: Lets see…(gets out Ipod and shuffles) Oh dear, Johnny Cash.. walk the line…. Lets try again… Teenage dream… oh here we go, System of a down… 2 out of three aint bad… Oh and Glee.My taste in music is varied as you can see… haha.

Sen: Well, some will know, you are not all about the strongman; tell me about you and table tennis….

LS: Haha, I used to coach table tennis for a living – I haven’t played for a number of years now.I used to coach the U12’s national squad and play for the country, but… I hardly have the build for that now; I do love the sport though.
I enjoy watching darts who knows, that might be my next
career move , but I think I need a bit of practice first…

Sen: And strongman after your 30’s…. you have said a few times you want to be out by the time you are 30… it’s not going to happen… but what are you plans?

LS: Haha, Well, we have beyond strong, but I do want to stay involved with strongman, I don’t want to keep competing if I think I’m taking a step backwards, I’ve done some commentating with Colin Bryce, I’d love to do more of that, promoting and I’d really like to ref in WSM, that would be very good. I want to stay involved with the sport.

Sen: And you do some personal training now?.,.

LS: Yes, I do coaching and PT work now as well….

Sen: How would someone go about getting in touch with you for PT work?

LS: The best bet is to contact me through Facebook or twitter really if people are interested and we can go from there.

(Loz can be found on Twitter @Biglozstrongman and on Facebook through his fan-page)

Sen: And finally Loz, what advice would you give to someone looking to start out in Strongman or just wanting to improve their strength?

LS: Well, don’t compete unless you love it, that’s for sure, it’s not something you can just do because you are good at it… you have to love it; but if you do, keep it simple.
Get good at the basics and get strong all over, if you are strong all over, you will be strong when you try and learn the events.
Fight against yourself only and take care of your all-round health. Don’t go burning yourself into the ground.

Sen: That’s top advice and I will end on that thought.
Thank you so much loz and – see you for deadlifts tomorrow!

LS: See you soon buddy!

The above interview was carried out in a restaurant in
Gloucester at 8pm after an evening of squats and pressing
with Mr Shahlaei, not only does this interviewer talk the talk
but he also is happy to get under the bar and… hobble…
the walk.

I’d like to, on behalf of everyone from VikingR thank
Laurence for his time and also wish him the best for his
2012 strongman career.

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