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From football to strongman and now to powerlifting, Bryan Dermody has had plenty experience in training with his knowledge of strength and conditioning. His knowledge of strength and conditioning has helped him focus on his best event in powerlifting: the deadlift. Bryan Dermody played football for three years with the Musky football program, worked with the University of Iowa football team assisting with strength and conditioning programs, worked as an assistant at Drake while helping with strength programs for volleyball, football and track and field and is now an assistant strength coach for the football program at the University of Louisville. We welcome powerlifter and strongman Bryan Dermody to Team HMB!
Q: Bryan, welcome to Team HMB! We would like to get to know more about you, so why don’t you tell us how you got started competing as a strongman and how this led you into powerlifting?
BD: “I finished playing college football and took a job at the University of Iowa as a football strength and conditioning coach. I knew I still wanted to stay competitive, so when I found out the head strength coach at Iowa, Chris Doyle, was competing as a professional strongman I decided to give it a try. I was hooked the second I tried it. Chris taught me everything he knew about strongman. He coached me, he trained with me, he designed all of our strongman works outs and we built strongman implements together. As for powerlifting, a friend of mine, powerlifting legend Brad Gillingham, got me interested. He suggested that I should try to qualify for the IPF PRO Deadlift at the Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic. I seriously considered it and came to see powerlifiting as an opportunity to try to reach the top of a strength sport.”
Q: What has your experience with powerlifting been like, both in training and contests?
BD: “Training for powerlifting has been an absolute blast. It is not all that different from training for strongman. At times, training can be as fun, if not more fun than the competition—the journey to the destination is often more fun than arriving at the destination. I have only competed in one powerlifting competition so far, the USAPL Deadlift National Championships, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Another great thing about competing in powerlifting is that, just like in strongman, the same competitor that you are battling it out with for first place is likely the same person that is helping you between attempts, cheering you on or sharing advice with you after the contest. There are a lot of great people in powerlifting and the people really make the sport what it is.”
Q: What is your training schedule like for strongman and how has that changed now that you are training for and competing in powerlifting?
BD: “I use a 10-day training template, so my training ‘week’ lasts 10 days. I just found it was way too hard to recover from all that I had to train for strongman in seven days. That 10-day template typically includes the following: max effort upper body day, max effort lower body day, event day, accessory upper body day, accessory lower body day and Olympic lifts mixed in on other days. I typically train through four cycles of the 10-day template (40 days) and then it changes. When it comes to powerlifting, I do not compete in the full three-lift powerlifting meets. I only compete in the deadlift, so my training is set up in blocks, with each block emphasizing different strength qualities. The training season always starts with an accumulation block, a block that consists of higher volume and lighter loads with an emphasis on work capacity, strength endurance and sub maximal effort work. The next block is a transformation block, which is slightly lower volume than the accumulation block, but with much higher loads, emphasizing absolute strength and strength speed. The final block is the realization block, which emphasizes absolute strength and consists of lower volume but higher loads than the transformation block.”
Q: How is training for strongman competitions different from training for football, and how have you made the transition back to powerlifting?
BD: “When training for football you are training to be a football athlete, which is much more comprehensive, in terms of the physical qualities you need to develop. A football player needs to be strong, powerful, mobile, athletic, fast and in great condition. You need a lot of this in strongman, but what you need most in strongman, typically, is great static strength. Making the transition from football to strongman training was not very hard. A large part of my job is breaking down the physical needs of an athlete for a given sport, and then designing a comprehensive program to meet those needs. Training for strongman is fun because I try stuff out on myself that I would never try with an athlete. The transition back to powerlifting was not very difficult and is not very different from training for strongman. It doesn’t matter what the slice is, strong is strong. I trained to get strong for strongman and now I train to get strong for powerlifting. There is a lot of overlap between strongman and powerlifting.”
Q: How do you balance your job as assistant coach for athlete development at the University of Louisville and training for powerlifting competitions?
BD: “When it comes to strength athletics, nothing will ever be a higher priority than my job. However, it is very important for strength and conditioning coaches to know what the athletes have to go through in the strength and conditioning program. When we design a program for an athlete we better know how that athlete is going to respond to the physical stimulus we expose them to, and a large part of that is being active in training and competitive strength athletics ourselves. They really complement each other well in that respect. In addition, I spend eight to 12 hours a day in one of the best training facilities in the country, which makes the logistics of training pretty easy. I don’t have to drive to the gym after a long day of work. I can train in the middle of the day at work in between the training sessions of our athletes.”
Q: What do you think your best event is and what do you think you could still improve on?
BD: “Deadlift is definitely my best event in powerlifting. This is why I have chosen to focus on competitions that only include deadlift. The sport of strongman required that I trained the deadlift aggressively because lower back strength is needed in so many strongman events and there is typically some type of deadlift in each strongman competition. However, the deadlift events in strongman are often partial range of motion and as a result, my deadlift was stronger when I started powerlifting. I have had to focus more on the start of my deadlift (off the ground) though. I have used band deadlifts, chain deadlifts, front squats, box squats and deficit deadlifts to improve in this area.”
Q: How do you feel your experience and knowledge of strength training and conditioning helps you as a powerlifter?
BD: “They have helped me tremendously. A large part of my job is analyzing the physical demands of a given sport and designing a program to develop those physical qualities. This includes constantly evaluating your own strengths and weaknesses and then developing methods to attack and improve these weaknesses.”
Q: Why did you want to be a part of Team HMB and how do you think this will help you in training and competing?
BD: “When training at a high level and competing at a high level in strength athletics, you are only as good as yesterday’s recovery. Recovery truly is the most difficult part of the training equation. HMB provides a mean to fill in the gaps of recovery that are still left after sleep and nutrition. It drastically reduces the time it takes to recover after each training session. This allows me to train heavier, more often, and results in bigger and faster gains in the weight room. I trust Metabolic Technologies and their product. HMB has been proven effective, not only by my own experience, but by plenty of peer-reviewed research.”
Q: What are your ultimate goals and how do you feel HMB will help you get there?
BD: “Most people would say that their goal in any form of strength athletics is to reach the pinnacle of their sport, and this is true for me as well. However, for me there is also a much greater purpose behind competing in strength athletics. My goal is to be successful in strength athletics so that I can use it as a platform to positively impact as many people as possible. Life is about relationships. There is not much to live for if purpose ends at how much weight is on the bar. Also, nothing of significance is ever achieved alone. I am thankful for all the people that have been extremely selfless in helping me achieve my goals so far in strength athletics.”