Oct 20th, 2012
Kirk Karwoski at the 2012 Starting Strength Coaches Association Conference
I was lucky enough to spend some time with Kirk Karwoski about two weeks ago at Starting Strength Coaches Association Conference in Wichita Falls, TX. For those who are not familiar with Kirk, I did a write up about him at the end of 2011. Karwoski, or Captain Kirk as he was often known, is one of the great powerlifters of all time and is often called the greatest squatter in the history of the sport. His world record 1,003 pound squat in the 125 kg weight class that was set in 1995 still stands today. He won 6 International Powerlifting Championships in a row from 1991 through 1996 and was a dominant figure during his professional career. It is not very often that you get to be around someone who was the best in the world at something and it was cool to hear Karwoski’s insights into training.
From early on, Kirk was an unusually strong guy. If I remember correctly, he was bench pressing 225 pounds as a freshman in high school and one of the first times he tried, he squatted 300 pounds. By age 20, he squatted 760 pounds in competition. The man certainly had the genetics to be an amazing strength athlete. However, what stood out was how seriously he took his training. Karwoski worked more diligently and with greater intensity than almost any of his competition. When he was in the gym, he did very little talking. Instead, he was focused solely on lifting. If you sat on the bench between sets on a bench press day, that was a problem. Chairs were for sitting. The bench was for working.
Karwoski and his coach planned his workouts many weeks in advance. He would decide upon what he wanted to do and he would rarely miss repetitions in training. Not only did he put his time in under the bar, he was unusually dedicated to his diet. When trainees are trying to put on weight, it is not uncommon for them to drink a gallon of whole milk a day. This is considered to be a somewhat controversial practice by some. At certain points early in his career, Karwoski would drink as much as four gallons of whole milk a day. That was in addition to the food he was eating. Of course, when you are squatting almost 1,000 pounds in training, you probably need a lot of food to recover from that workload.
Despite the fact that he is the equivalent of royalty in powerlifting circles, Karwoski is an approachable guy who is happy to share his experiences. He is passionate about the sport and has a wealth of funny stories. He provided a welcome reminder that getting stronger is a function of dedication and hard work.