Q&A With Eric Bugenhagen! One of the STRONGEST Lifters on Youtube! (2016)
I found out about Eric Bugenhagen a few years ago and I can honestly say that he is my favorite YouTuber to watch before training because he doesn’t care about the rules and he is intense. He makes his own rules and doesn’t care about what some of these pencil necked personal trainers have to say about his form because at the end of the day he knows what he is doing. Most people don’t understand his style of training, but what they have to understand is that Bugenhagen is more advanced and has a lot of full body awareness so he could do a lot of movements and not get hurt because he is experienced. Its called instinctive training and it works for him so why would he change it?
I’ve always appreciated your intensity, what do you like eating/drinking before training? (Bananas, coffee..etc)
I understand that you’re asking about diet preworkout but let me start out answering this question with addressing the bigger picture. In all honesty, I stopped worrying about the diet aspect of STRENGTH training a couple years ago. When I was wrestling in college, I was killing myself cutting weight down to 184 lbs and because of that, I bumped up to heavyweight for my remaining 2 years of eligibility. I was so consumed with trying to get as big as I could, that my entire day revolved around when and what I was going to eat. A couple years after I graduated college and stopped competing in wrestling, I quit trying to get as big as possible. I noticed that even though I wasn’t stuffing my face with 10,000 calories a day, I wasn’t losing any strength. In fact, I actually felt a bit stronger since I didn’t have an extra 20 lbs of bodyweight to haul around. Therefore, I believe that getting X amount of calories in before a workout is a load of horseshit and that people shouldn’t be so goddamn caught up on trying to get bigger just to get a little stronger! You want to get stronger…nut up and lift heavier!!! Now, on to actually answering your initial question! I find that what I eat preworkout doesn’t factor in to my performance all that much. I’ll typically just have a whole box of instant oatmeal that morning since it’s easy and delicious. Sometimes I’m only fueled on whole milk. The easier, the better. Hell, I’ve had great workouts with nothing but a couple apples or bananas preworkout. As long as I’ve ingested a few hundred calories, I’m set. Now what’s really important before the workout, is the coffee. I always drink an entire pot of coffee along with some other form of preworkout or fatburner. That’s where the gains come in!!! Give me the energy and I’ll give you the god damn PR’s!!!
Do you look up to any lifters or do you just watch your own videos and look up to yourself?
Haha! I definitely do not look up to myself. If anything, I am usually down on myself because I feel that what I have done is never quite good enough. In all honesty, I’m pretty damn sure that I will never be satisfied but I think that’s a good thing. I think that’s the mindset that drives champions. Unfortunately, that also may be the mindset that leads me to an early death! As for looking up to other lifters, I can say that I respect a lot of the super strong dudes in the iron game but I most definitely do not look up to them. I guess it’s just the ultra competitive fire in me. Instead of looking up to them, I just want to work really fuckin hard and smash their PR’s to the grave.
What the hell is going through your head before you hit a PR?
I’d be lying if I said that it was something super deep or crazy. I’m fueled by the fact that I want to make a name for myself in the world of lifting. For instance, I want to be like George Hackenschmidt, Bob Peoples, John Grimek…names that people still recognize to this day due to their feats of strength. I know I’m going to die one day so I want…let me rephrase that…I NEED to make a name for myself. I’m not going to leave this world in anonymity! But that’s what fuels me to hit the iron everyday. As for what’s going through my head before hitting a PR…it comes down to a few things. #1. The fact that people say I inspire or motivate them. So I need to hit this fucking weight so I can continue to keep pumping content to my channel and inspiring others. #2. MUSIC…it’s not even funny how externally motivated I am. If I can’t find a song that really moves me, the PR won’t happen. It’s got to be the right song for the moment to. There are plenty of songs that I love that will just never work for my PR attempts. The PR song has to have a fast tempo, or an epic buildup, or just some sort of glorious melody! I love music with all my heart and soul so when I find that song that shakes my bones…watch out, I’m picking up that fuckin barbell…and then I’ll probably slam it and bust out some air guitar.
Did you ever get kicked out of a commercial gym? If you did then how?
No. I haven’t consistently worked out at a commercial gym since my high school days. Back then, I lifted like the majority of society. Typical bodybuilding splits with tons of reps and no burning intensity or passion in my heart. In college, our strength and conditioning coach told us what to do and what weight to use. It was typically weight that he knew wouldn’t risk injuring us. I saw the light my junior year of college. I really have Pavel Tsatsouline to thank for my decision to buy a power rack for my house. When I read about the “greasing the groove” theory in Pavel’s “The Naked Warrior,” I started to get a better understanding of neuromuscular adaption. That’s when I decided to buy equipment for my house so that I could lift multiple times throughout the day. Anyways, moral of the story…buy a home gym, crank music, scream, lift heavy, make gains, and don’t worry about shitheads kicking you out. Now let me just say this…if it wasn’t for my home gym, I’d most likely have been kicked out of a commercial gym a dozen times OR I would have made absolutely ZERO gains due to the fact that I would be too worried about getting kicked out of the gym. Are you starting to understand how important a home gym is??? BUY ONE!!!
How tall are you and how much are you weighing at the moment around what bodyfat? What are your goals for aesthetics (if you have any)?
I’m 6’1 without my shoes on and consistently weigh around 230 lbs. I would say I’m probably 10-12% bodyfat. As far as aesthetics go, I don’t really have any goals. I’m happy as long as my abs are visible, veins pop out of my arms, and am bigger than 99% of everybody else lol.
I agree on your “ego lifting” video by 100%, but are there any lifts that you use extremely strict form on at all times (ex: isolation work)?
Ever since I sprained my AC joint, I’ve been super careful with my pressing movements. I never bench with a straight bar unless it’s on a slight decline. I do a lot of reverse flyes on the cable crossover to strengthen my rear delts, traps, and rhomboids. I also prefer strict lat pulldowns over using heavier weight with a little momentum. Also, just to be clear…I always use strict form for all my lighter warmup sets no matter what the movement is. Even if I’m focusing on CHEAT curls, I’ll do strict curls first, then slightly cheat, and then of course finish with a full-blown cheat explosion. It just makes sense!
What is the one lift that surprised you the most that you are the most proud of and that you take the most pride in?
By far my hack squat, also known as the “behind the back deadlift.” I was first introduced to this movement back in 2011 by a Russian weightlifter. I didn’t think much of it at the time as I was much more consumed with the conventional deadlift. As years went on and my deadlift was stuck in a nasty plateau, I started to dabble more with unconventional training. Since I wasn’t competing in wrestling anymore and didn’t really give two shits about competing in powerlifting, I decided to put much more emphasis on the hack squat. The movement feels much more natural to me than conventional deads. It’s funny because after my first week or so of mainly focusing on the hack squat, I was already lifting 600+ lbs with ease. After a few more weeks, I was hitting 700+ lbs. It was frickin crazy and super exciting considering I had spent 4 years trying to get my conventional deadlift to 700. Now I can consistently hit 800+ and my current personal best is 880 lbs. ALSO, I am super duper pumped about my discovery of the Jefferson deadlift. I literally just hit this movement for the first time precisely one month ago. As of yesterday, I hit 800 lbs. I am starting to believe that I may actually be stronger with the Jefferson versus the hack deadlift. Only time will tell!
I’m looking forward to seeing some sick and motivational OHP videos. While taking a wild guess, what do you think your strict press is at for a single?
Boy o boy…I haven’t done any overhead pressing since last August. I most definitely will start incorporating it back into my program though once the weather gets nicer. As you may have noticed, I do about 99% of my training in my basement. Unfortunately, the ceiling is too low to do any overhead work. Luckily, I have an awesome back yard and plenty of equipment to take out there so you can bet your ass that as soon as it stops fuckin snowing here in Wisconsin, I’ll be doing a good amount of training out there. It’s really hard for me to say what my strict overhead press is at the moment.
Whats your max weighted pull-up and how many one arm chin-ups do you think you can do?
Another movement that I haven’t done since last August! In the past, I’ve done over 100 lbs of additional assistance just for shits and gigs. Now remember that I like to focus on specific movements and bang ‘em out on a regular basis for a couple weeks. I’m pretty sure that I’ve never done this with weighted pull-ups YET. Once again, the problem for me is that my basement ceiling is too low. But don’t worry, I’ll most definitely start cranking out the pull-ups again once the weather gets nicer. Knowing myself, I’ll most likely start with heavy negatives at around 200+ lbs of resistance. As for one arm chin-ups, I guess it really just depends on the song that’s on haha. Once again, I’m very externally motivated…
If you could only pick one lift to be EXTREMELY strong at, what would it be and with what weight?
I gotta go with the behind the back deadlift. Reason being is that hardly anyone else does this exercise. Not only do I do it…I do it BIG. I’m not sure if anyone else has ever done 880lbs. I’m not lifting to train for wrestling anymore, If there is one exercise that is going to etch my name into the weightlifting history books, it’s this movement. I 100% believe with all my heart and soul that I am capable of hitting 1,000lbs in the next year or so.
How many calories are you currently eating per day? I watched your bulking video a few times and tried the Gomad, but couldn’t handle as much milk as I though haha, are you still drinking 3+ gallons of milk per day?
Not quite 3 gallons haha! I still drink a gallon a day just because it’s so easy. I usually also eat 8 packets of instant oatmeal, which is another 1,000+ calories there. On top of that, I usually have a pretty big dinner to so I’m going to guess that I get around 5,000 calories a day without even breaking a sweat.
I noticed that you do a lot of hack deadlifts where you sit down and then come up, whats the difference between doing it seated vs just doing it without the chair or bench?
That’s a great question. I start both my trap bar deadlifts and hack deadlifts from a seated position. The reason I do this is mainly because of the straps. Getting the straps on the bar is a royal pain in the ass. Now hear me out…by no means am I a rookie when it comes to using straps. BUT, it’s one thing to use straps for a 600 lb bar versus a 1,000 lb bar. For those heavy ass weights, it’s extremely important that the grip feels locked in. Now the problem is how you have to bend over to get the straps on a bar behind your legs. It’s awkward and I found that I lose that explosive PUNCH out of the hole when I’m all curled up trying to get those fuckin straps tight. When I’m sitting, I can keep a neutral spine and get everything feeling just right. THEN, when I’m ready to explode, all I have to do is brace my core, shift my weight forward, and yank the hell out of that fucker. It helps a ton with the consistency of my set-up!
As far as your programming is concerned, do you just walk in your gym and do whatever lift you feel like doing that day? Also how long have you been training like this?
Yes AND no. I do go off of how I feel but I don’t just do random movements. I usually pick 2 exercises that I want to focus on each mesocycle. For instance, I was just rotating between Jefferson deadlifts and hack deadlifts. The Jefferson deadlifts crushes adductors, hams, and lats. The hack deadlift obliterates mid and low traps, quads, and abs. I will keep hitting the SAME movement if I feel good and am continuing to make progress. If my hamstrings are sore or I’ve stalled out on the Jefferson deadlift, I switch to hack deads for a day or so. Simple but extremely effective for short term spikes in strength. I’ve been training like this now consistently for a year and let me tell you…I’m a hell of a lot stronger than I was last year. Don’t believe me….look at my earlier videos on my youtube channel!
I’ve noticed that my core isn’t as strong as it could be, what do you do as far as direct core training is concerned and do you ever do oblique work?
I’ve dabbled with direct core work. What I’ve noticed was very little carryover to my big lifts. I find extremely heavy partials to be more effective. Now here’s the thing…when I say partials, I’m sure the first thing you think about is a partial deadlift, aka rack pull. Now let me plant a seed in your brain that will make your progress explode. Don’t be so one-dimensional! Get out of the power rack and buy some blocks or rubber mats. Do partial trap bar deads, partial Jefferson deads, partial hack deads, partial zercher squats, partial split squats, partial safety bar squats, etc. Shoot for hitting 1,000 lbs through only a couple inch range of motion. Progressively increase your range of motion. Your goddamn core will have no choice! Your grip will have no choice! Your lats and traps will explode with growth! Fuck what other people think…other people are weak! Just do it! As for oblique work, I actually had a crazy idea at one point to ONLY focus on my obliques for a mesocycle. After a couple workouts of focusing on SUPER heavy side bends, my back was starting to feel like shit. Crazy, right?! With all the shit that you’ve seen me do on Youtube, I’ve never had back problems…until the dreaded oblique workouts lol. Needless to say, I shit-canned that idea.
Did you ever consider competing in Powerlifting or Strongman?
Yes. I’ve done a deadlift only competition when I first started seriously deadlifting in 2011. I’ve also done a USAPL push-pull meet back in 2013. I was completely out of my element for the USAPL meet and only hit my openers, a 605 deadlift and a 375 bench. I didn’t consume any caffeine and had no music to listen to. Needless to say, I was feeling very uninspired. I’ve learned a lot about myself since then and know what I need to do to tap into my strength these days. I’ve grown tremendously as a lifter these past few years. As for strongman, I’ve thought about it. The problem is, I would need to start training for those events then. The thing is, I don’t care about any of that shit. I just want to make a name for myself and strongman is not going to do that for me. ENERGY, METAL, INTENSITY, HACK LIFTS….that’s what’s going to make a name for me!
Whats the funniest moment that you’ve ever had from training?
It’s not so much a moment as it was just the overall situation. Looking back, I always get a good chuckle thinking about the time I lived in a duplex. The walls were paper-thin in this house. I would have my friends come over every night and we would BLAST music as loud as it could get, slam weights, and swear an ungodly amount. One day, I got an extremely angry text message from my neighbor saying that the music was way too loud, the screaming needed to stop, and that the foundation of the house was probably destroyed due to the weights slamming. He called the landlord to come check the floor to make sure there was no damage. At the time, I was pissed. But looking back, how can I blame the guy?! He was just trying to relax with his family every night and here I was shaking the house with my music and heavy deadlifts lol.
Give me your top 3 favorite rap songs for lifting along with your top 3 favorite metal songs?
How bout this…I’ll give you 6 metal songs that I love to max out to. There’s no way in hell I will ever MAX out to a rap song. These are in no particular order…
- Neo Seoul – After the Burial
- Instinct – Decapitated
- Dom/Hollow – Pantera
- Hordes of Chaos – Kreator
- Shogun – Trivium
- Pennyweight – After the Burial
What is your favorite book to read and your favorite movie?
Movie – That’s easy….Conan the Barbarian
Book – hmmmmm….am I really that much of a meathead?! I usually just read training articles.
Do you have any other passions to do besides lifting?
I like to dabble with the guitar. For a long time, I was more passionate about guitar than lifting. I guess college wrestling changed that mindset when I was thrown into a sort of “kill or be killed” mindset. There’s nothing worse than getting beaten up on a daily basis!
Would you ever go sky diving if you could do it right now? Is there anything that you are actually scared of?
A part of me would want to go sky diving for the rush…the thing is, I’d want to hit the weights immediately after attaining the rush so that I could crush a PR lol. The other part of me says that it’s not worth it. I have a wife and daughter and can’t risk my life like that. Plus, I haven’t established my legacy…I can’t die just yet! That’s what I’m most afraid of…dying without making a name for myself in this world…accomplishing nothing in my existence.
Last but not least, what do you want your legacy to be?
I want to be remembered for my work ethic, energy, and enthusiasm…my will to consistently hit bigger and better numbers! I want inspire people. I want to lead the way to go against the grain in today’s “fitness” culture. There are soooo many do’s and don’ts these days for training. Fuck that! Find what it is you love to do, hammer that shit out on a daily basis! Don’t be so concerned with pre and post workout nutrition, overtraining, deloads, etc. Nothing trumps hard work! The more work you put in, the better your progress will be! Plain and simple! There’s no magic program or special elixir that will trump hard work!