1. First off thanks for taking the time to answer these questions Brandon and Mel. For those who don’t know the strongest couple can you give a little background on yourself?
Brandon- I am 21 years old and have been competing in powerlifting for 5 years now. I grew up playing football and baseball and took up wrestling from middle school on and made that my main focus. The sport of wrestling gave me the mental attitude that I have now that carries over to my powerlifting training. Mel and I went to high school together but were 3 years apart so we didn’t know each other. We formally met in the gym last summer and I immediately knew she had huge potential for this sport. I started training her and convinced her to do a meet in March and then we started dating shortly after. I haven’t looked back since. Outside of the gym I am currently going to school for my criminal justice degree.
Mel- I’m 23 years old and Brandon has been training me for almost a year now specifically for powerlifting. He got me to do my first meet back in March of this year and I’ve been hooked on the sport ever since! I grew up doing gymnastics through high school and ran track through college so my athletic background has helped me significantly in the weight room. Outside of the gym I’m a pediatric nurse at a children’s hospital in Cleveland.
2. Both your training is looking good, what kind of training philosophy do you guys adhere to?
Brandon- Thank you, I have been constantly changing up the way I train for years now and I have finally found what seems to work best for me; Just plain hard work, high volume, and high repetitions. In my off-season phase I typically ditch the belt, wraps, and any other type of supportive gear and get myself strong without them. I like to stick to the rep range of 6-8 and do 3-4 sets of all 3 of the main lifts with a bunch of accessory work targeted towards fixing my sticking points for each lift. I also train my core extremely heavy every session which has helped me a TON. When a meet nears I slowly add the belt, wrist wraps, and knee wraps back in as the bar weight increases. The reps also drop down every 4 weeks after I deload. I also try to never deload in my offseason because I think it is good to build my body’s work capacity up. This way when I am in meet prep and deloading every 4th week, my body recovers even faster than normal.
Mel- I’ve trusted Brandon from the beginning with all aspects of my training. He knows my capabilities and how far to push me to be the best that I can possibly be. I just do the workouts he gives me without a doubt in my mind and it’s helped me get so far in this sport in such a short amount of time. He’s helped me build my mentality of giving everything I have in every workout and improving each day.
3. How has training together helped your relationship or does it go both ways good and bad days?
Brandon- Honestly it is everything I have ever hoped and dreamed for. It’s so nice being with someone that understands your lifestyle and is there with you every step of the way. Instead of “You spend too much time in the gym and not enough with me” it’s more like “I’m so glad it’s Friday night so we can go kill these deadlifts together!”. Mel is always there for me when I am not at my best in the gym and just says “Come on Brandon don’t be a pussy” and that’s usually all I need to do what needs to be done. For every big lift I have hit, Mel has been there with me.
Mel- It’s great being able to share something we’re both so passionate about and be able to be there for each other in this journey. It’s like having your own personal cheerleader for every lift and knowing that person has your back 100% of the way. We share each others’ successes and failures and know when we need to help the other one refocus when we’re having an off day. Being able to train and compete with my best friend is incredible and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
4. You guys are both jacked not so much tan haha, how does your nutrition look?
Brandon- Yea I probably should start tanning soon lol. Currently I am eating anything I want for the most part, but that needs to change soon. I plan on cutting to 198lbs again next year, and this last time I did it for the XPC Raw Finals in March, I started at 240lbs that November, and weighed in at 195lbs. I learned a lot of what NOT to do this last time and feel more confident that I can make this cut for hopefully the last time and perform as intended. When I actually am dieting I run a strict carb cycling diet and have for years. It works like a charm.
Mel- For the record I would just like to state that I am definitely more tan than Brandon and I’m getting close to being as jacked haha. For my diet I’ve currently been doing the carb cycling diet that Brandon normally runs to get down to 132lbs for the Ohio Grand Prix October 18th in Columbus, OH. I started at 151lbs in September and I’m on track to make weight easily. In the off season I’m a total fat kid and I swear I eat just as much as Brandon and still manage to weigh 100lbs less.
5. Whats the one thing you’ve learned that has helped you the most with training and nutrition?
Brandon- Having the right mental attitude has gotten me to where I am today, and I am doing my very best to teach others how to have it. It’s the attitude of accomplishing your goals at any cost, making the sacrifices that others won’t, and putting in the work that needs to be done. When you have been squatting for hours upon hours at the gym and still have half a workout left, it’s the difference between saying “screw this, its late and I need to go home like the rest of my training partners did” or saying “Keep pushing and get it finished. World record holders don’t quit and go home and take it easy, so if that’s what I want to be then I need to train like one.”
Mel- I’ve learned that the most important thing when it comes to my training and dieting is my own mentality. Instead of having thoughts of “I can’t do this” or “This is too hard” I now think “You can do this, get it done.” It’s as simple as that. There’s no need to complicate my thinking with negative thoughts like I have in the past with my previous sports. Lift heavy weights and eat the right foods, and that’s what I’ll continue to do.
6. How does your training look on a week to week basis, not leading up to the meet? So offseason?
Brandon- To go off of what I mentioned earlier, I train 4 days a week. Mondays I bench heavy, competition style, with some upper back and light triceps, Tuesdays is squat day which is always heavy, Thursdays is my secondary bench day where I will either do some close grip benching, floor pressing, or dumbbell work, followed by shoulders and heavy triceps. And Fridays are my deadlift days. These days never change and I keep the same amount of days leading into a meet. I keep the same exact routine for 3 weeks and then entirely change the accessory work to keep myself progressing.
Mel- I follow relatively the same schedule except my days are off from his most weeks because of my work schedule. I end up training on the weekends, after a 12 hour shift, or only 3 days a week if I’m on night shift. It gets hard sometimes but I always make time for the gym and I’m lucky enough to be able to have Brandon there for all my workouts to coach me.
7. How has your training evolved over the years?
Brandon- When I first started powerlifting I had no sense of training structure and pretty much just showed up to the gym each day deciding on the spot what exercise I felt like maxing out on that day. I knew I had to lift heavy but didn’t have any sort of plan. Now, I have learned that I should never max out in the gym and just be focusing on building my strength for meets and not just trying to be a gym hero and hit stupid PR’s that don’t mean anything and then wondering why you never hit big PR’s in meets.
Mel- Well like I said earlier I’ve only been training for powerlifting for 10 months now so I’m excited to see how my lifting grows in the years to come.
8. What’s the best advice you can give to new athlete’s looking to get into strength athletics?
Brandon- Put time in under the bar first before you start worrying about running some fancy program. Sure there are plenty of useful programs out there for beginners, but nothing makes me more annoyed than listening to a kid that squats 225 telling me how his westside program is going for him. Learn the correct form for each lift before you start worrying about throwing more weight on the bar. You want to be lifting for a long time and remaining injury free, and lifting with garbage form certainly won’t get you there.
Mel- My advice would be to put in the work every day you’re in the gym and be consistent. Don’t do it because you’re trying to impress someone or because you’re friends are doing it. Find a great training partner that shares similar strength goals and push each other to your limits. The rewards are great but it takes the blood, sweat and tears in the gym to get you there.
9. What do you have coming up and any big plans for 2015?
Brandon- I am definitely setting some big goals for myself, but I have learned that it is best to keep the numbers to myself because they don’t mean anything until you actually hit them. Right now I have my heart set on competing at the XPC Finals at the Arnold in March and am looking to improve on my 1800lb total I recently hit at 220lbs in August after coming off a full adductor and abdominal tear. I will be starting my diet down to 198lbs very shortly so I have the weight off plenty in time for the meet.
Mel- I’ll be competing in my first “pro” meet October 18th in Columbus, OH at the IPA Ohio Grand Prix. I’m not sure when my next meet will be but I’ll be looking to set the All Time World Record Squat in the 132lb weight class sometime next year.
10. Anybody you would like to thank and how can people find you?
Brandon- I’d like to thank Mel of course, but especially my training partner Jeffrey Borsuk for being my 2nd set of eyes on all of my lifts most of the time and pushing me as hard as anyone ever has, and just being a good supportive friend in general. Also to the former 198lb world record squat holder Phil Harrington for all the advice he has given me over time and the countless things he has taught me. And to anyone else that has ever been in my corner and supportive of me, I haven’t forgotten any of them. I am on Facebook, and my Instagram is brandont700, and I can be reached on either.
Mel- I’d like to thank Brandon for getting me involved in powerlifting in the first place and always being my number one fan. He’s pushed me harder than anyone ever has and that’s what makes him the best training partner I could have. I’d also like to thank all the people I’ve met since I started powerlifting and have given me constant support and encouragement. You can find me on Facebook and on Instagram @MelZupec.