The First Time He Deadlifted, He Pulled 500 Pounds (with Andy Huang)

Today I’m talking to powerlifter Andy Huang, perhaps better known online as That Huge Asian Guy. Andy has put up some of the world’s all-time great totals at 275 lbs bodyweight, and after battling several injuries, he recently came back to top competition form. Andy talks about finding powerlifting a bit later in life, and how his training approach has grown over the years. Andy also discusses the benefits of training with and around other world-class powerlifters, and how their mentality helps shape his own.

Andy Huang BarBend Podcast

In this episode of the BarBend Podcast, David Thomas Tao talks to Andy Huang about:

  • Andy’s early strength career and “dabbling” in coaching and bodybuilding (2:20)
  • Why Andy — a coach himself — leans on his coach for programming and progress (6:22)
  • “I made bodybuilding way harder than it needed to be” (8:30)
  • Andy’s top powerlifting competition memory (14:00)
  • Why are there so many powerlifting federations? (18:00)
  • Could powerlifting ever be an Olympic sport? (19:00)
  • What Andy would change about powerlifting competition and structure (22:30)

Relevant links and further reading:

Transcription

Andy HuangAndy Huang

The first day on the workshop the [inaudible 0:02] a full life and deal a 500 pounds.

David TaoDavid Tao

Welcome to the “BarBend Podcast,” where we talk to the smartest athletes, coaches, and minds from around the world of strength. I’m your host, David Thomas Tao, and this podcast is presented by barbend.com.

 

Today, I’m talking to Powerlifter Andy Huang, perhaps better known online as That Huge Asian Guy. It’s his moniker, not mine. Andy has put up some of the world’s all-time great totals at 275-pounds body weight, and after battling several injuries over the past few years, he recently came back to top competition forum.

 

Andy joins us to talk about finding powerlifting a bit later in life and how his training approach has grown over the years. Andy also discusses the benefits of training with and around other world-class powerlifters, and how their mentality shapes his own.

 

We are incredibly thankful that you listen to this podcast. If you haven’t already, be sure to leave a rating and review of the BarBend podcast in your app of choice. Now let’s get to the show.

 

Andy, this is a very special podcast to me because this about two years in the making?

Andy HuangAndy Huang

Yes. That’s my fault entirely.

David TaoDavid Tao

You’re a busy guy. You’re competing, you’re coaching. Give us the background. You’re a noted powerlifter, you’re an accomplished powerlifter. How did you find strength training and strength sports? Give us the Cliff Notes history of that.

Andy HuangAndy Huang

I started lifting at an early age, at 15, for high school football. I’m 37 now. I’ve been lifting consistently for 22 years. After high school football, I played a little bit in college at Sacramento State, then BYU. Didn’t play much, didn’t like it, long story short and then got into personal training and some massage for about nine years. Dabbled in strength coaching, stuff like that.

 

Then got into bodybuilding in my late 20s and it was after that, some people in the gym noticed my lifting heavy and they said I should try powerlifting. I was in the off-season for my bodybuilding. It was a good time to try it out. I did my first meet, fell in love, and just kind of made that transition. That was about 2016. We’re about five or six years now.

 

When I started, it was a huge, not huge, but it was a very fast rise to the top. Within two years, I was number two in the world for my weight class. Then just run into series of injuries where I was chasing number one. I was in a hurry to do it. I just kept, just wanting to hit that next meet to break that record.

 

I ignored little injuries and things that, looking back now, I should’ve probably just taken my time more. After I would say a little over two years of just setbacks and injuries, I did well at a meet a couple of months ago at the Showdown. I went nine for nine.

 

I was pretty much back to a hundred percent prior to my most major injury, which was a torn abductor. That’s where I am right now. I think I’m currently number four all-time in the 275-pound weight class. Like I said, I’m 37. For a while, I thought it’s time for me to retire. I’m getting older. Everyone here is younger and just all these new, young fresh blood.

 

I think I need to be ready to come to terms with that. But training has been great recently. I feel like I’m back to where I was before. I have a good formula. I think I can make a push back to making PRS, still be in this game, and compete with the young bucks.

David TaoDavid Tao

What is your training frequency and recovering schedule like? Because as let’s say two people in our 30s, recovery doesn’t…You can’t lift, go out, drink all night, come back the next morning, and hit the gym with same intensity anymore like these young guys.

Andy HuangAndy Huang

No, actually, when I started powerlifting, I was also bouncing at nights. It’d be Friday, Saturdays nights. I’d up to till 3:00 AM. I’d still be able to work out, powerlift, and all that stuff. Yeah, definitely not like that anymore.

 

Currently, with my off-season, I lift five days a week. Two days are squats, two days benching, and one deadlift. But the squat day is a little different than it used to be. This is one of the major changes I’ve made. In the past, I would do two squat days where one’s like the competition squat, and the second day would be like a secondary squat, like a pause squat or SSB or variation.

 

Now, I’m more back in the commercial gym, where I’m doing more bodybuilding stuff, where I am working legs or a squat variation or commercialized…Sorry, a bodybuilding wise like a hack squat, or when you power squat or [inaudible 5:50 squat. Anyone of those variations where it’s not a barbell.

 

Where it’s just not taxing my CNS, my back, my joint as much, but I’m still able get the volume in my legs and stuff. Just adding more body-building days where I’m not sticking so specifically to SPDs. I think that is the key, where in the last past year I’m able to reduce injuries and stay healthier and fresher.

David TaoDavid Tao

Do you have a coach?

Andy HuangAndy Huang

 I do. Yeah, I do. His name is Lion Silver. He mostly coaches a lot of women. His girls are mostly known as Silver Girls. But his most earliest client, and whatever, was Hunter Henderson. Yeah, it’s Lion Silver.

David TaoDavid Tao

Oh, you’ve got to be careful. Hunter is going to be out squatting you pretty soon.

Andy HuangAndy Huang

I know, I’ve got to keep up with her.

David TaoDavid Tao

Pretty good motivation, somebody else who also dabbles. I mean more than dabbles in the body-building sphere.

Andy HuangAndy Huang

She’s definitely getting ready to dominate both communities there.

David TaoDavid Tao

It takes a special athlete to do that, to be able to peak for two very different physique sport in powerlifting in the same calendar, let alone a few months like she’s been able to do.

Andy HuangAndy Huang

Right. I think that takes someone who’s definitely obviously disciplined but also a little bit crazy because you going through two different kinds of suffering in the same year. Ones that get very physical like CNS, that kind of suffering. The other one is more of a longer mental, eating less and that starvation.

 

Yeah, she’s great at that and I think she’s going to have a great future, in both obviously.

David TaoDavid Tao

One thing that I’ve talked to a few bodybuilders who’ve made a transition to powerlifting and had some success like yourself. They said their quality of life just went way up because of food intake and being able to not so tightly control their diets so the powerlifters these days.

 

The stereotype of powerlifters just eating doughnuts all day. Not really holding up these elite levels now but at the same time, compare your general the quality life and happiness level now compared to when you were bodybuilding. Is there a difference for you?

Andy HuangAndy Huang

Yeah. The biggest difference is I don’t look at the mirror as much anymore. [laughs] Honestly, when I was bodybuilding, you are analyzing and breaking yourself down so much, every little body part. You’re comparing yourself to other people. You’re saying this is not big enough or this is this, or whatever, I need to bring this up.

 

That’s a constant drag where you looking at yourself and judging yourself. Then there is obviously the whole physiological mental part of that where you never happy. I do definitely say there’s so much time saved where I’m not worrying about every little calorie, every little bite of food that I’m eating and I’m counting everything.

 

To be honest, I made bodybuilding way harder than it need to be but that’s the way I do things. I’m very extreme, whereas some people can go out with their own prep. They go out with their friends. They’ll bring their own little body-building meal. They’re able to eat, bring their own meal, and still have fun.

 

I would be the person where I just don’t want to go out. I want to stay inside because it’s too tempting. I was just more of a hobbit, more of a monk. Eventually, that led to me shutting people out and not being as social.

 

Just not being as friendly. I didn’t like that part of bodybuilding too. Being very vain and very selfish is a good word. Those are the two biggest differences. It’s the eating, not being happy all the time, I would say.

David TaoDavid Tao

Who in the powerlifting community are you closest to right now? It could be a training partner, someone that could be like a frienemy or even a nemesis, someone you’re always getting after?

Andy HuangAndy Huang

No. One of my best friends is John Haack. We’re training partners and we’re also friends outside of it. I think that’s definitely the closest person in powerlifting that I have right now.

David TaoDavid Tao

It’s a pretty good training partner to keep you accountable.

Andy HuangAndy Huang

He’s very accountable. Also, some days he’s very disheartening where I’m just seeing what he does. I’m just like, “OK, it’s John being John again.”

David TaoDavid Tao

…you weigh how much less than me? Wait, what?

Andy HuangAndy Huang

[laughs] Yeah. Once you get over the shock of how great he is and how he still makes improvements, you get the sense that you’re, obviously, watching greatness. Also, I do get motivated. Generally, happy when he hits all these big numbers and milestones and I’m glad that I have someone so accomplished. Also, he also pushes me to do well so it’s a great environment there.

David TaoDavid Tao

What’s your favorite accessory exercise and then you’re least favorite strength training movement?

Andy HuangAndy Huang

I was this horrible, I hate pause. I did it the other day. I did a deficit pause deadlift. [laughs] Deficit and a pause, that was just killer because the range of motion is longer and the rep, it lasts longer because you’re pausing and then your blades and your back is pumped. That was killer.

 

A close second would be planks. I hate planks. They’re good for you, but they just takes forever. I’m just shaking the whole time and it’s an agonizing slow death.

David TaoDavid Tao

Nothing makes a strong person feel weaker than hold a plank for three minutes.

Andy HuangAndy Huang

It’s just your body weight. You can squat like three times your weight, but to pause your body, it’s crazy. Favorite, access, or secondary move, I guess. I am big fan of pause, stuff like pause squats. I like to do that. I’d like to program that for my clients.

 

Also, with benching, I like long pauses a three-count pause. Those are the two that have worked out well for me and can help just about anybody in powerlifting.

David TaoDavid Tao

When you transitioned over to powerlifting, what was the movement that you took to quickest? What was the movement that you think, in the powerlifting style, for maximum weight at competition standard, took the most adaptation, or was the steepest learning curve for you?

Andy HuangAndy Huang

Squat was the easiest. It’s something I’ve always done. I’ve squatted my whole life in squad and football. I squatted 400, 405 in high school. I deadlifted one time at high school because we had this program or this, I guess, they call it program. It’s called Bigger, Faster, Stronger.

 

They came in and implemented this strength program for football team. The first day on the workshop, they had me deadlift. I’d never done it my whole life and I deadlifted 500 pounds. Those two, it will just come easy, I guess because I have a strong back and legs.

 

Bench has definitely been the hardest part to transition from a touch-and-go bench and not being super tight to where…They’re just way more technical to me and I’m stuffing the weaker of my three lists.

David TaoDavid Tao

Where is the place that you’ve competed where you had the best experience? What’s your favorite meet? I should rephrase the best competition memory you have from your powerlifting career thus far. If you could relive it every day, just had a switch, you could flip it on, and you could relive that moment, what would it be?

Andy HuangAndy Huang

Man, I would say it’s 2017 LA FedEx Build. This is my best raw meet ever. I went nine for nine. I would say, all my lists, I still had left a little less in the tank. I think it was the meet that put me on number two in the world.

 

The crowd was huge because it’s at a expo. There’s a lot of people who weren’t there just for powerlifting, but they were there in the stands walking around. I felt so on the day. Everything went perfect. That’s just something I chase all the time. I did go for nine for my last meet just now, but it didn’t have the same feeling, even though it was still a great environment.

 

I definitely think that is my best memory, something that I hope to repeat. I’m also very proud. This is a second memory of the current two years ago where I did tear my groin on my third squat, but I finished the meet. It was excruciating pain. I had to be helped up off the bench when I benched and deadlifting was terrible.

 

I probably hurt myself worse, but I still finished. I’m not trying to brag about being macho, but it was something I wanted to do because I was still able to relatively make most of my lists, just not maybe a 100 percent. I somehow won my weight class. It’s something that I’ll never forget in that way, too, but finishing a meet that way.

David TaoDavid Tao

Let’s talk about the state of powerlifting right now. What are the trends in powerlifting you see that you like and what are maybe some trends or changes in the sport over the last five years since you’ve been involved at the competition level that you’re a little like, “Eh, I’m not the biggest fan of that shift or that trend?”

Andy HuangAndy Huang

I don’t like. It’s part of the social media and the way we wrote the world is right now with everybody having a voice. I think everyone has all these complaints, whether big or small about every little thing in powerlifting, whether it’s the judging or the meets or the Livestream and all this.

 

This is a hobby. This is a sport where it’s not a professional sport, there’s no professional lifters. Everyone is so negative and tearing each other down, it seems like…I’m sure this existed in the past, but we were able to hear it more and these people have louder voices because of social media.

 

I also think because I’m on it all the time, I see all these comments and I read them, and I know I shouldn’t get into it, but it’s just so negative. That’s what I don’t like to see.

 

Honestly, a lot of these people don’t even powerlift. They’re just watching where their fans or their friends are lifting and they don’t know some of the nuances of the sport or the rules or what it takes to actually run a meet. All these things, it’s a lot of, like I said, the negativity and ignorance. That’s something I definitely don’t like.

 

That’s something, but as far as the actual sport, I still don’t like that there’s so many federations. I don’t know why we still can’t streamline it and funnel it down from, I think at one point it was over 200 federations to, I don’t know, 50. I think it’s good to have meets everywhere, but it doesn’t make a lot of these lists legitimate.

 

If you had fewer meets especially untested, then it would grow bigger. It’d be bigger money. There would just be like I said, a bigger demand for bigger meets. There’d be more type. I don’t think we’re ever getting to the Olympics honestly.

 

I think it could definitely grow to where we’re closer to CrossFit. I just think because we’re so divided, there’s not a unification to where we’re making progress and going in the same direction to where we get to a point we’re similar to CrossFit.

David TaoDavid Tao

Actually, over the course of this podcast, I’ve started three powerlifting federations, just as background, on my phone.

 

Andy HuangAndy Huang

 Cool. Then I bet 30 people have set new world records too, I guess. That’s great for them.

David TaoDavid Tao

Well, we had a meet, people showed up. They had complained about the depth standards, and it is a five-count pause in the bench. That is the standard for all these federations I just set up.

 

No, I’m just joking, but that is to illustrate that I literally work for a company that only covers strength sports, and we have difficulty keeping all the federations straight. That’s our job. Maybe we’re just stupid.

Andy HuangAndy Huang

[laughs] There’s just so many.

David TaoDavid Tao

 It’s complex. Powerlifting has an interesting history, and I think you’re right. Is powerlifting going to be an Olympic sport? I actually don’t think so. I don’t think that’s in the cards for powerlifting, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I also don’t think CrossFit will ever be an Olympic sport. That’s not a bad thing.

 

Andy HuangAndy Huang

I’d rather powerlifting get to the level of CrossFit than the Olympics.

 

David TaoDavid Tao

We cover a lot of weightlifting. The sport, very near and dear to my heart. Weightlifting’s had so many issues, and it’s an Olympic sport with a consolidated federation. There’s been so much corruption, missing money, bribery for the International Weightlifting Federation Executive Board. It’s not like becoming an Olympic sport solves all your problems.

Andy HuangAndy Huang

 No.

David TaoDavid Tao

If there’s issues in the community, it might only exacerbate…

Andy HuangAndy Huang

Exactly, might create more.

David TaoDavid Tao

If you controlled powerlifting, and you were king of powerlifting, and you consolidated like a some sort of conqueror. You, one by one, conquered all the Federations and brought them under your banner.

 

You’re the emperor of powerlifting, that makes more sense, what are some things you would change about the competition standards? How would meets run? What would Andy’s “control of the world powerlifting Federation” look like?

Andy HuangAndy Huang

I’d definitely make it more standardized. I would have judges go through a learning process and be tested regularly, and [inaudible 21:08] the organization teaches that and what the rules really mean. That’s part of it.

 

Streamlining the best of all these meets. There’s not one meeting that has ever been perfect. There’s some close, but those one or two things, like the other showdown, we didn’t have a screen in the backroom to show the attempts. That’s such a tiny little thing.

 

From what I heard it was just an electrical nightmare, but still, I just think that’s something very simple to fix. Just stuff like that. Little things like, “This Federer or this meet didn’t do or that he didn’t do it.” Just take care of all those little checkmarks. With weightlifting, there’s four opens, right?

David TaoDavid Tao

USA weightlifting has a series of national events on the calendar. There are three, there’s an American open series. There are three of those, and there are finals, which is this year in Colorado.

 

That’s pretty new. That’s only in the last few years. It allows people to basically set qualifying totals on a national stage with the goal of qualifying for actual senior nationals or the finals.

Andy HuangAndy Huang

I would want something in place where there’s a system or tournament or league for professionals. Whether you’re doing regionals and it becomes nationals, then there’s a world meet where everyone can just choose their own meet to do or at the time they want to do it.

 

Or if you just have to go against the best of the best at this date on this platform. If you get injured too bad, you have to follow what everyone else has to do.

 

All the other major sports do that. CrossFit does that. I just think that could be something implemented versus now or there’s just, “Oh, here’s a meet this time. There’s a meet this time.” Everybody pick and choose when they want to compete.

David TaoDavid Tao

Who is your dream training partner who you’ve never gotten a chance to train with before? It doesn’t actually have to be in powerlifting. It could be any athlete from across any sport, but you get a gym session with them.

Andy HuangAndy Huang

I’ll do one for you. Shoot, I can’t. [laughs] Powerlifting, I don’t. I have begun to lift or hang out with my inspiration. It was Dan Green and Stan Efferding, and Ed Coan. I’ve got to lift with all of them. Powerlifting, I’m pretty set. Arnold, let’s do Arnold.

David TaoDavid Tao

A good answer.

Andy HuangAndy Huang

Arnold would have a lot to teach me, not just bodybuilding-wise, but mentality and being successful in business and stuff like that too.

David TaoDavid Tao

What about anyone from a Prosport?

 

Andy HuangAndy Huang

I’m a huge Michael Jordan fan. I love Jordan. I’d definitely…It’d be Michael Jordan.

David TaoDavid Tao

He’s so competitive. He’d come back the next session, and he beat you on all the lifts. He’d find a way to make it work.

Andy HuangAndy Huang

He’s supposed to beat me, I guess.

 

I don’t know how to say it. It’s a win-win. If he beats me, I lost to Michael Jordan, but if I beat him, I beat Michael Jordan.

David TaoDavid Tao

 I don’t know. I would be intimidated. Michael Jordan, just obviously, due to his accolades, but there’s something about his personality. If you watch interviews with him if you watched…

Andy HuangAndy Huang

“Last Dance.”

David TaoDavid Tao

If you watched The Last Dance. Thank you. I was blanking on it for a second. You could see my face. I knew what it was called. I watched it, but there’s just something about him that’s a little different, than the average person. To me, honestly, it was a little bit scary at times.

Andy HuangAndy Huang

The people who create their own little scenario in their mind to keeping them motivated, that never really happened. Did you ever watch, is it “The Program?” It’s a football movie with Lattimore and…

David TaoDavid Tao

No. I know there are a bunch of them. There’s “Last Chance U.” There’s The Program…

Andy HuangAndy Huang

This is way older. This is from the early ’90s. Anyways, just for preference, this linebacker in there, he’s talking to the quarterback before the snap, and he’s, “Oh, you’re the one who…You fucked my mom.” Making up weird shit like that in your head, that’s what Michael Jordan did. There’s something definitely loose in their head to use that as motivation.

David TaoDavid Tao

But kudos for them, to people like that, for taking something that’s a little bit different and turning it into a superpower.

Andy HuangAndy Huang

 I just don’t know how many times you can do that in a game. Just draw that inner demon. Whatever. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

Every time you’re on offense or defense, I guess. He was also a multi-time defensive player of the year. This is a random question, but I feel like asking it tonight. It’s late, my time, so I’m going to shoot with some weird ones.

Andy HuangAndy Huang

I’m good with weird.

David TaoDavid Tao

All right. Favorite superhero?

Andy HuangAndy Huang

Man, I’m a Thor guy.

David TaoDavid Tao

Flight or super strength as a superpower, if you could pick one but only one?

Andy HuangAndy Huang

Flight, because I can get super strong.

David TaoDavid Tao

 [laughs] You’re like, “I’m doing that, man. I’m already working on that. What are you talking about here?”

Andy HuangAndy Huang

[laughs] Flight.

David TaoDavid Tao

Marvel or DC?

Andy HuangAndy Huang

Marvel.

David TaoDavid Tao

You had that queued up.

Andy HuangAndy Huang

That’s not even a question.

David TaoDavid Tao

No hesitation on that.

Andy HuangAndy Huang

No.

David TaoDavid Tao

Andy, where’s the best place for people to follow along with you, and upcoming meets, training? I know it’s the off-season for you right now. I actually should ask any upcoming meets in your sites right now?

Andy HuangAndy Huang

Back to what I was saying, I thought that I had to prepare to be retired, or I need to scale back. I had told myself, where I talked about it, I needed to only compete once a year, but this past year, I got ready for two meets, but [inaudible 28:02] I didn’t end up going through because I had some hip issues.

 

I think I can reasonably do two meets and be OK. I’ve decided I want to do one in March, but I don’t want to do a big-time meet. I want to do a local meet. I just haven’t done that in a long time. I want my friends to be able to go. I just don’t want all that glam and just stuff I don’t want to worry about.

 

When I see all these people at these big meets, I want to talk to them. I want to hang out with them. It’s very hard to just focus and I could really literally want to just not think about all that and not see all these people and just focus on the actual lifting like I did I the past.

 

I haven’t chosen yet I have to look at the because the schedule isn’t complete yet. I definitely want to do a local meet. I live in Orange County in Southern California, so somewhere near here in March and then I’ll do the showdown in September, which is six months later.

David TaoDavid Tao

Where is the best place for people to follow along with you?

Andy HuangAndy Huang

The best place would be Instagram. My IG name is that_hugeasian_guy. I have a YouTube but I haven’t posted in years. You can follow me and John on the IronRebel YouTube. He’s one of our athletes and I’m part owner of Iron Rebel. We do a lot of videos on there, especially during prep and stuff, so you can find us there.

David TaoDavid Tao

Excellent. Andy, I appreciate the time. Thanks so much for joining me today.

Andy HuangAndy Huang

No problem. Thanks for having me.