Interview with Elitefts Sponsored Athlete Michael Keck: World Record Powerlifter, Competitive Bodybuilder, and Overall Beast
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing my good friend Michael Keck. Mike and I have been friends for about three years, and in that time I have witnessed him do some pretty amazing things. There isn’t a whole lot this guy can’t do. He is a competitive bodybuilder and powerlifter, and his gym lifts are just out of this world. Perhaps most impressive is that fact that he recently convinced an absolute knoockout (Jen Comas) to marry him. Mike has spent a lot of time studying and experimenting with the intricacies and training and dieting so I thought he would be a great person to interview because I think the readers and can learn a lot from him. Here’s what he had to say.
1. Hey Michael (or do you prefer Mike?), thanks for taking the time to join us for an interview today. Before we get started with the questions, why don’t you start it off by telling the readers a little bit more about yourself. Maybe it would be best to start with describing your athletic background and how you first got interested in fitness, as well as sharing some of your sizeable accomplishments to date.
Mike: Thanks for the opportunity to do this interview with you Ben! Mike or Michael is fine. Guys tend to call me Mike and women stick with Michael, for whatever reason…I’ll respond to both.
As far as my athletic background goes, it all really started when I was 11 years old and a second string offensive guard on my little league football team. Man was I awful. I hated it so bad I tried to quit multiple times, but much thanks to my father, he made me stick with it through the season. I decided I did like football and needed to make some improvements. I was a chunky 11-year-old and I had seen my mom lift weights before because she had some 6lb dumbbells around the house. I started running, doing pushups, crunches, and boatloads of curls. I did this from the time the season was over until next season came around. My coach was also my physician and he told my parents that in all his years he had never seen a child change so much in one year.
I started that year as a fullback and lead the league in rushing and touchdowns. We went undefeated that year and it was a blast! This newfound success fueled me into middle school and high school and lifting was an integral way to better myself at football. I enjoyed lifting and took pride in my strength. As a freshman, I was as strong or stronger than most of the seniors and they did not like it, but I loved it! I played football all through high school, earning a scholarship to Western Kentucky University as a linebacker. Right before the start of my sophomore year, I decided to hang the pads up due to sciatica. I just couldn’t practice consistently enough to continue, so I stuck with lifting and returned to normal student life.
As far as lifting accomplishments go:
-2006 3rd place finish in the heavies novice class at the KY Muscle Classic (the winner of the novice also won the open and overall and deserved it)
-2008 5th place finish in the heavies of The Bluegrass Classic, 3 of the guys were requalifying for nationals
-2010 IPA world record in the 242 pro raw division with a 1630lbs total going 550/475/605
-Some gym lifts I’m proud of are a 500lb decline bench a 610×6 box squat and 405×20 free squat
2. Wow, that is quite the impressive resume Mike. Could you now please take a second and describe how your training has evolved over the years since those days of curling your mom’s dumbells? What sort of program did you follow when you were first starting out, and what other programs have you implemented along the way? Do you have any particular favorites, or programs that you feel do not work as well?
Mike: Thanks, I feel like I still have a long way to go though!
Man, I have done it all. I tried all the Flex magazine routines during my high school years; I’ve done 5×5’s German Volume Training, DC training, Westside…you name it and I’ve probably done it, except for p90x. I’m gonna use that to surpass that 1630 total…can’t pull out all the tricks too soon!
On a serious note, DC and Westside variations are my favorite ways to train. I’ve achieved the most strength and size gains from these styles. As far as bad routines, those are the ones you can’t/won’t stick with and don’t allow you to progress.
3. Does your training change at all when you preparing for a bodybuilding competition as compared to a powerlifting meet, and if so, how? Similarly, do you do any type of cardio or conditioning work?
Mike: That’s a great question Ben. I’m a firm believer in dancing with the girl you took to prom, and by that I mean when dieting for a show, train in the fashion that built the muscle you are working to grow or preserve. I’ve never understood why people think they need a different routine when dieting. Some variables may be tweaked such as intensity and volume but to a large degree, stick with what built the foundation. That being said, my training doesn’t change much from powerlifting to bodybuilding. I think more BB’ers would be served well to heed this advice.
Cardio is a critical component to keep intact in or off season from a bodybuilding standpoint. I feel like maintaining at least a base level of cardiovascular condition will aide in recovery and health and keep the gains coming. It doesn’t really matter what it is, just do something to keep your CV system in good shape. Walk, push the prowler, run hills, pull a sled: mix it up, but don’t lose sight of your goals and purpose in your training.
4. Ok let’s switch over to the other critical part of bodybuilding: diet. I know that you take your nutrition very seriously, so I think it would be great to hear your thoughts about that part of things. Why don’t you start by talking a little bit about how your dieting strategies have evolved over the years as well as discuss what you are currently doing.
Mike: Nutrition is an immensely important factor in someone’s success or lack thereof. I am a firm believer in finding a nutrition strategy(ies) that work for YOU. Not everyone responds the same to certain macro nutrient ratios or surplus and deficits. The strategy needs to be tailored to the individual.
Back when I was first trying to put on more size in college, I didn’t pay much attention to macros. I tried to get the old rule of 1 gram per pound of weight in protein and the rest of the calories came from whatever. This got me fat. Getting fat isn’t necessary to put on quality size. If you can throw caution to the wind and don’t care so much about your overall health and want to fast track it to the most amount of mass in the the least time possible, then you might give that philosophy of mass at all cost a go, but I wouldn’t recommend it. These days I much prefer to have people maintain a respectable level of body fat while massing, for men this is ~15% or less and women ~20 or less.
As far as nutritional strategies go, I have tried almost all of them as well. From Zone type setups to Carb Cycling to Time Carb approaches, Keto, and most recently, a modified Warrior diet setup. This is what I have been doing since November of last year and it has worked extremely well for massing, recomping, maintaining or with an emphasis on leaning out. It’s a truly versatile approach and is my favorite way to eat. The basic premise of the strategy is to undereat during the day and overeat at night. To most (and myself at one point), this sounds like nutritional heresy. However, there is solid scientific research and a plethora of real world results that support this approach. I’m in the process of writing an e-book that entails all the strategies that I have employed with this style, and the results and effects are remarkable.
5. How does your diet change when you are preparing for a bodybuilding show as opposed to when you are trying to gain weight?
Mike: To be honest, just like with my training, not a whole lot changes. I keep an emphasis on protein (usually between 1.5-2 grams per pound of lean mass) and then manipulate carbs and fats depending on what the goal is. I’m not a very carb tolerant individual, so they get manipulated the most depending on if I’m massing or leaning out.
6. What do you find to be the hardest part of competing in both bodybuilding and powerlifting? What are the parts of each that you like, and what parts do you not like as well. Overall, which one do you like better, and why?
Mike: Overall I vastly prefer Powerlifting. It’s an objective sport. He who lifts the most weight wins. Pretty simple right? Bodybuilding is so subjective, left completely to the judges tastes. That is the most detracting factor from Bodybuilding in my opinion.
The hardest part of bodybuilding, for me, is dealing with the CONSTANT hunger. I have a huge appetite, but not a huge BMR (basal metabolic rate). Going to bed almost every night for the last 8 weeks prior to the show feeling completely famished is difficult. The training for the sport to me is easy, and by easy I mean that I enjoy it. I love going in and battling the weights. To me, that is where I make myself better. Even though my training does not usually change much between powerlifting and bodybuilding, I do prefer the lower rep strength focused work of powerlifting.
7. You also do some online training and nutritional consultation. Why don’t you talk about that a little bit. If you had to name the two biggest mistakes people are making with regards to their nutrition and training when they first come to you, what would they be?
Mike: I love to help people reach their goals in training, whether it be prepping for a show, your wedding or a powerlifting meet. I like for the people I work with to understand WHY they are doing things the we are. I want them to be more informed and educated after working with me. When they succeed, that is when I have succeeded as well.
As for the two biggest mistakes people make, it’s usually nutritionally. When most people start dieting, they slash calories too quickly and cut out all the foods that built the muscle they are trying to preserve. From a training standpoint, most people make the mistake of trying to train for size before they have built a reasonable level of strength. It’s incredibly difficult to reach an appreciable amount of muscle when you are weak. For men, if you can’t bench 200+ and squat/deadlift 300+ you have NO business doing a hypertrophy oriented routine in my opinion. Get strong first, it’ll make your quest for muscle that much easier
8. Good points you make there. Switching gears, you were recently named to the Q&A staff at Elitefts, along with your beautiful wife. Congratulations. Please talk about what this means to you.
Mike: This is an absolutely HUGE honor to me. Elitefts is known all over the world as the leader in strength and conditioning information and equipment. The Q&A staff is filled with the strongest, leanest, brightest minds in the strength training world. For Jen and I to be named to the Q&A/Log staff is an accomplishment we will both be forever humbled by and proud of. Along with the honor comes an enormous responsibility to pass along educational and helpful advice and inspiration to our readers.
9. Well you are already proved to be a great addition to the team. Speaking of your new wife Jen, congratulations! What is it like having a partner that has such similar interests as you? I’ve got to be honest, the way she is going, she might be outlifting you one of these days.
Mike: I certainly appreciate that! Jen is the greatest blessing the good Lord has given me. I truly cannot put into words what it means to me to have a best friend, partner and spouse that not only supports my goals but encourages me to be the best I can be. Jen and I feed off of each other; we are constantly talking about ways to improve, training and nutrition ideas and strategies, encouraging and challenging each other to reach our full potential. I believe we compliment each other in every facet of life. She keeps a constant smile on my face and I’ve promised to do my best to do the same for her. I’ll honor, cherish and love her the rest of my days and I can only hope to give her the joy that she gives me.
As for her out lifting me, she’s got about 1000 pounds to add to her total before she catches me…I think I hear her snarling in the background now as I write this! In all seriousness, Jen is FANTASTIC proof that women can lift hard and heavy and still be feminine and extremely sexy.
10. You do realize I totally set you up with that question to win brownie points. You owe me big time. Nice answer though. So moving forward, what does the future have in store for you? What are your competitive plans in the near future, and where can readers find out more about you or your services?
Mike: Yea, thanks for that setup man. Your check is in the mail. As for your question, in the near future I have my sights set on an April 23rd bodybuilding show here in KY and from there I will be focused purely on powerlifting. I qualified for RUM (Raw Unity Meet) this year but due to a recent cornea transplant, that couldn’t happen because I could not train for awhile. I’ll spend the rest of the year focused on regaining as much strength and size as I can to compete at RUM in 2011 or 2012.
Readers can find out more about my training and nutritional strategies at Elitefts.com in my training log. For online training they can contact me at [email protected] or on Facebook. As I mentioned earlier, I will also be coming out with an e-book soon about the modified Warrior diet I have been using, so I’ll let you know when that is finished.
(Edit: You can also check out his incredibly impressive lists on his You Tube page)
11. Ok great. Now that we have the questions out of the way, let’s do a quick rapid-fire question and answer to finish it up. Be as brief or as elaborative as you’d like.
-What are you two favorite lifts?
Mike: Bench and Squat. Being good at these make you awesome.
-Two favorite foods?
Mike: Filet Mignon and cookies that involve chocolate
-Two favorite movies?
Mike: Inception-for the concept and Gladiator for sheer manliness
- And lastly, who do you think is the most attractive female in the world? (And you can’t say your wife).
Mike: But she is…. Ok, if it can’t be Jen and it’s based purely on aesthetics then I would have to go with Sofia Vergara.
Mike: I enjoyed it Ben, thanks again for having me!