If you’re looking to get more jacked, it wouldn’t hurt to follow the advice of the USA’s only chance for a men’s weightlifting medal in London, Kendrick J. Farris. Just before the 85-kg competition begins, the two-time Olympian—and five-time national champ— talks muscle-making, misunderstandings and motivation. Trust us: it’s strong stuff.
MADE MAN: This might be a weird question, but what’s it like to be really, really strong?
KENDRICK J. FARRIS: Well, in the past, people always asked me to help them move. I’d be like, “Mom, I’ve been working out. I don’t want to move anything.” But after I made my first Olympic team, those requests slowly went away. Because nobody wanted to be the person that got me injured.
MM: “Kendrick can’t be here in London because he was helping his cousin move across town.”
KJF: Yeah, moving a couch, smashed his hand in the doorway or something.
If you see your body as a Rolls-Royce—and that’s the mindset you have to have—you’re not going to put regular unleaded gas in there. Because that’s how your body is going to perform.
MM: What’s your number-one strength training tip?
KJF: Two things. One, technique and strength go hand-in-hand. You can do a lot of strength exercises, but proper technique is what’s going to allow you to lift to your maximum potential. Two, take care of your body. If you see your body as a Rolls-Royce—and that’s the mindset you have to have—you’re not going to put regular unleaded gas in there. Because that’s how your body is going to perform.
MM: What’s the single greatest exercise a guy can do to get stronger?
KJF: Back squat. If you can get your back squat stronger, everything else gets stronger. A lot of people think the back squat is only for your legs. But it actually works your legs, your core and a little bit of your arms. So it’s a great exercise. I don’t really enjoy it, but I don’t dislike it either. And I know it’s going to make me stronger.
MM: What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given about weightlifting?
KJF: When I was like 14, my coach said, “Some things just gotta go in one ear and out the other.” It’s important to listen to people who are trying to help you. But at the same time, you can’t do everything people are saying. You have to find what works for you, and sort of ignore everything else.
MM: What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given about life?
KJF: My mom used to always tell me, “Don’t forget where you came from.” In other words, understand your goals, understand where you’re going, but stay humble.
MM: By the way, do people say you look like anybody else?
KJF: Dude, this is hilarious. I’ve gotten Kofi Kingston, who’s a wrestler. I’ve gotten Booker T, another wrestler. I’ve gotten Tim Hightower, the running back for the Washington Redskins. And I’ve gotten Ricky Williams. I was in Miami once and a guy thought I was Ricky Williams. I was like, “Dude, now you know Ricky Williams cut his hair, right?”
MM: We’ve got another one: Steven Jackson of the St. Louis Rams.
KJF: Ha ha. I don’t know, man. I look at all these guys. Honestly, I don’t see it. I guess it’s the dreadlocks.
MM: Most Americans don’t know much about the sport of weightlifting. What’s the biggest misunderstanding?
KJF: One, it’s not slow. It’s one of the fastest, most explosive sports out there. Two, it’s the basis for pretty much every other sport. You probably can’t name a sport that doesn’t do the movements we do, the snatch and the clean and jerk. Three, it’s not the same as powerlifting, because a lot of people get the two confused. Powerlifting does the bench, the deadlift and squat. But powerlifting is not in the Olympics. Weightlifting is.
MM: So what do you do when you wake up and you just don’t feel like clean and jerking 400 pounds that day?
KJF: You have to think about your goals. Understand why you’re doing what you’re doing, understand the small window that you have. At the end of the day, it’s not about lifting a certain amount of weight—today. It’s about giving a max effort. And I think if that’s your mindset, you end up lifting 400, you know what I mean? Even if you’re not feeling like it.
MM: Finally: you’ve been weightlifting competitively for more than 14 years. How are your knees holding up?
KJF: Oh man, my knees feel awesome.
UPDATE: Farris totaled 355 kg (783 pounds), nearly breaking his own American record of 362, and finished 10th.