There’s a little over two weeks until some of the strongest athletes take the stage at the Arnold Classic, March 2-5th. One of these athletes is elite powerlifter Blaine Sumner, or the “Vanilla Gorilla” as many have come to know him.
At the 2016 Arnold Classic, Sumner put up an insane 2,802 lb total and became one of the first athletes to hit a 500kg lift under any condition. His total was comprised of a 1,102 lb squat, 885 lb bench, and 815 lb deadlift. Not to mention, he set the highest Wilks score in IPF competition history with a recorded 691.
After seeing a recent video of a speedy 1,080 lb squat, I decided to reach out to Sumner and ask a few questions. I was curious to hear and gain insights on his outstanding 2016 Arnold performance, and what we (strength sports fans) can expect for 2017.
On the 2016 Arnold
Jake Boly: What was it like squatting 500kg at the 2016 Arnold?
Blaine Sumner: It was a surreal feeling. I can’t explain it, don’t even know where to begin. I’ve been strong enough for that lift for 2 years, but it’s just taken the right day to finally hit it. On the way down, the bar was shaking so bad at two different points that a smart, sane person would have come back up. But I kept descending feeling it was life or death.
I came out of the hole and it started shaking again and I wasn’t even trying to squat it, but to keep my balance. I came up, saw the white lights, and lost my mind knowing I just hit the biggest squat in IPF history.
Boly: I can imagine. Do you remember that day and how you were feeling? Were you confident going into the lift? Basically, were there any moments when you had to dig deep internally that other may not have seen?
Sumner: I talked about the bar shaking all over the place. The lift felt like it was a full minute long and in slow motion. I hope I never have a squat that scary again. Going into the meet I hadn’t planned on going crazy. I was just going to take some token lifts and win the prize money, but if things were feeling excellent, I would swing for the fences. And they felt good so I went for it.
On 2017 and What to Expect
Boly: Transitioning into 2017. You just smoked a 1,080 lb squat on Instagram for speed, did it feel as easy as it looked?
Sumner: Honestly, as long as the bar shaking doesn’t throw my balance off too bad, they all feel easy. If I had a more rigid bar, I could squat well over 1,200 lbs.
Boly: That’s insane. When you’re in prep for a competition such as the Arnold, how often are you squatting a week?
Sumner: For 3.5 years I was squatting 4 times per week. But the last 6 months I’ve dialed it back to once a week.
Boly: Interesting, strength aside…how important do you think the mental aspect is of these insanely heavy competition lifts? When hitting new squat feats, do you have a mental prep checklist? Maybe a tip or two for a newer lifter.
Sumner: When you are talking about strength feats and barriers that have never been touched, it becomes far more mental than physical. You are wandering into new territory that nobody has explored before.
I try to do less thinking in training and especially at meets. Get your form good, and become instinctual. The more thinking you are doing under the barbell, the worse off you’re going to be.
Boly: I like that instinctual approach. What can we expect at this year’s Arnold? In your IG video post of the 1,080, you say, “Set the table kids, daddy’s home.” Is 2017 possibly another record breaking year?
Sumner: I’m going into the Arnold with the same attitude I did last year. Planning to lift light just to win the money. If I feel it’s there, I’ll go for something big. Unfortunately, I took 2 months off from training after winning the World Championships to try and heal some things, so I’ve only been back in a training regime for 4-5 weeks and things aren’t feeling back to where I want yet.
But you better be sure the table is set…because Daddy is coming home!
You can catch Sumner competing in the Arnold Powerlifting Grand Prix, which is being held at the Arnold Classic in Columbus, Ohio, March 2-5th. Sumner will be competing in the 120k+ weight class among other elite powerlifters.