Russel Orhii: Powerlifting’s Next Big Thing

Powerlifter Russel Orhii is rewriting the record books and making us rethink what’s possible in his sport. And it’s all happened in a few short years. Find out what makes Russel tick, where he thinks the sport is headed next, and his goals — including specific numbers, like an 800 pound deadlift — for the next few years of competition. 

In this episode of The BarBend Podcast, guest Russel Orhii and host David Thomas Tao discuss:

  • Russel’s unconventional start in powerlifting (2:25)
  • His first competition and initial PRs/strength numbers (5:08)
  • Learning how to deadlift after a football career doing the power clean (7:20)
  • The impressive longevity of powerlifting careers, and how long Russel thinks he’ll stay in his bodyweight category (9:50)
  • Russel’s 5-year goals in the sport (12:40)
  • Why has powerlifting grown so much? And what impact does social media play in this growth? (16:10)
  • The BIGGEST change in powerlifting in the past 3 years (19:25)
  • Documenting Russel’s fitness journey, and how he grew his YouTube presence (20:52)
  • The fickle nature of monetizing online, and how it impacted strength influencers (25:33)
  • Strength athlete Russel most admires (27:35)
  • Russel’s dream training partner (29:10)
  • The Texas powerlifting scene and where it’s going next (31:30)

Relevant links and further reading:

Transcription

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

There is also the power of seeing something done first, and then believing that OK, I can now achieve that. Like you have a new you. You’re deadlifting 800 pounds almost on a weekly basis. It’s like I didn’t think that was possible in the 83 kg weight class a year or two ago — a sub-200 pound person deadlifting 800 pounds? That’s ridiculous.

I didn’t even think 700 pounds was an achievable goal two years ago, and I’m doing that on a routine basis now. Like you said man, the record books are constantly being burned up and torn apart I think on a monthly basis, honestly.

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 Russel Orhii, one of the most accomplished and strongest young powerlifters in the world. Russel is the 2019 IPF world champion in the men’s under the 83-kilogram category, and he is just getting started.

I caught up with Russel to talk about his training, nutrition, rapid rise in the sport of powerlifting, and goals for the future. If you’re interested in what comes next for this young strength sports superstar, definitely stick around.

I also want to say we’re 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. Every month, we give away a box full of BarBend swag to one of our listeners who leaves a rating and review, so we look forward to hearing from you.

Today I’m talking to Russel Orhii This is actually the first time Russ, RusSwole as he’s known maybe online and I have ever chatted.

Russel, I’ve been following you for a long time and seeing your growth in the sport of powerlifting has really been something to behold and maybe more so than a lot of other strength athletes. You put it out there. You let people follow your training on Instagram, on YouTube. It’s really been cool to see your progression in the sport. Thanks for joining us,

How did you get started in powerlifting?

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

Man, my start into powerlifting was kind of weird. I’m not sure the people listening, but I had no idea about powerlifting when I first started lifting. I didn’t know that you could literally just do bench, squat, and deadlift. I was a ex-football player at the time, and I was making that transition of trying to figure out how I wanted to train going forward.

One of my friends was like, “Hey man, you have pretty good numbers on bench, squat, and deadlift,” or just bench, squat incline. I wasn’t even deadlifting at this point. He’s like, “I think you should try powerlifting.” I was like, “What’s powerlifting?”

He told me that literally you could just bench, squat, and powerlift, and put your numbers against someone else [indecipherable 3:03] .

I’m like, “Oh.” That sounds dope. At the time I was going to school at U of H and they had a powerlifting team. I was able to start my journey there.

David TaoDavid Tao

It’s always interesting when you hear about people who discover powerlifting coming from whether it’s…I’ve talked to people who have discovered powerlifting coming from soccer, coming from football, coming from rugby and the thing you didn’t say that a lot of people say is “And I don’t have to run.”

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

[laughs] I was one of those athletes that loved doing the extracurricular activities that it took to be a good football player or whatever your particular sport was. I was a [indecipherable 3:38] . I love doing field work in terms of footwork drills, and running to catch the ball, and stuff like that. I actually miss it.

David TaoDavid Tao

 It’s always interesting. You hear people who get into powerlifting like they’re like, “It’s great. I don’t have to do cardio. I do these lifts and I sit down for a few minutes.” But you’re obviously multi-talented athlete and have that strong athletic background.

Your first time competing in powerlifting — you said that when you got interested in the sport initially you weren’t even really deadlifting. You’re doing a lot of what we’d call the traditional football lifts, like the bench press, the incline, the squat.

How long was your training cycle leading up to your first competition? Did you just jump into it? Did you find a coach? What was that first one like?

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

I really credit the U of H powerlifting team for creating that structure for me to just learn on them when it came to that kind of stuff. I had a coach who is, man, he was like 35-ish years old. He’s already been at U, like he trained equipped and stuff like that, so his foundation was already set.

He was my coach and he set the foundation. I think I’ve trained for I want to say 12 weeks before my first ever powerlifting meet. That was my first introduction to deadlifting. [indecipherable 4:50] .

David TaoDavid Tao

Tell us about that because deadlifting is something that it’s my favorite lift, personally. I think a lot of people get into powerlifting because they love deadlifting, and it’s something where you can progress very quickly when you start it.

What kind of numbers did you start with? What was it like learning that movement and your first competition? What kind of numbers were you hitting? We’ll talk about where you are right now to give folks a gauge on that progress.

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

When I first started deadlifting, it’s hard because as a football player, we had a power cleans, right? You’re familiar with the movement certain extent, but it was like a halfway point of what a power clean was.

Whenever I started deadlifting, it was like a string of new beginnings. I wanted to deadlift 405 pounds for reps, and I can easily do that. Then it was 495. Then all of a sudden, I’m doing 585. I was like, “Oh damn, I’m getting close to six.”

It just kept moving, and moving, and moving. My numbers going into my first meet, I think I hit 606 pounds for my final attempt on deadlifting at my first meet.

David TaoDavid Tao

Not bad for a newbie.

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

[laughs] It was crazy because I’ve been doing bench and squat for so long. I already know my groove. I already know how to execute the lift. Deadlift, it was still trying to figure out what worked best for me.

David TaoDavid Tao

What was your max power clean going into that? Just to give a perspective on if you can power clean it, you know you can pick it up off the floor, right? That’s like a good very low starting point, but what were you power cleaning going into that training?

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

At the time, coming out of high school I was power cleaning, I want to say like 335. It wasn’t anything too crazy but it’s like at the same time, you can only power clean or pull as much as you can flip that and get into the power clean position. It’s tough because you’re not working with super, super heavy weight.

David TaoDavid Tao

It is always interesting because the forum for we would consider powerlifting. It’s an explosive movement and you have to move it so much further up.

When you transition from having never really deadlifted in a competitive environment to powerlifting, you can get just a little bit heavier than your power clean max, and suddenly it feels a lot heavier. You might only be 10, 20 percent but it feels completely different.

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

Yeah. It was just such an odd transition from going into from power clean to deadlift. I honestly had just now cut my groove with deadlift. When you think about it, I’ve been squatting since I was about 14. I’m 24 now. That’s 10 years of just trial and error to get the technique right. Same thing with bench.

Deadlift is [indecipherable 7:43] . I’ve only been deadlifting for about maybe three and a half to four years now. It’s still trying to find out and I think I just now started to find my groove when it comes to deadlifting, make sure my technique is on point.

David TaoDavid Tao

It’s a lifelong battle. The thing about the deadlift too is when you just start getting into powerlifting or switching into powerlifting from a different strength sport or from any other sport, you talk about those newbie gains. You make so much progress on that lift so quickly and then you’re so jazzed on it.

Then it just becomes so difficult to make progress on the deadlift once you’ve hit that like 95 percent of your potential or whatever it is, and it just becomes so frustrating. Everyone always starts off with the deadlift being — or a lot of people do — their favorite lift, and then once they’re a seasoned powerlifter, they’re just like, “I hate this. I absolutely hate it.”

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

 [laughs] Yeah.

David TaoDavid Tao

What were your numbers like that first meet on the three lifts, and just to give folks a perspective here a few years later, what are your all-time train competition PRs right now?

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

Let me see if I get the numbers right off the top of my head. My first meet I totaled 1,506 I believe in the 83 kg weight class. This was 20…I want to say the end of 2015, so this was about four years ago. I squatted 500 and I think 39 pounds, something like that. I benched 363 pounds, and then deadlifted 606 pounds. It’s like whatever total that gets to, like 1,506.

David TaoDavid Tao

Yeah, it’s around 1,506, give or take a few pounds there.

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

 Yeah, and now it’s 2019. I’m still on the 83 kg weight class. My last meet I was able to squat 690 pounds. Then I benched I’m going to say 429 and then deadlifted 760.

David TaoDavid Tao

You’re just 24 years old. In powerlifting that’s still pretty young. Even last year, you were still a junior depending on Federation’s…Powerlifting’s always interesting. I come from more of a weightlifting background where the last year you’re a junior, it stops at 20. Powerlifting, it’s a 23, and you see powerlifters setting lifetime PRs and gaining strength well into their 40s.

You look at David Ricks right now. He’s 57, 58; he may even be 59 years old, and he’s out here winning world championships. Powerlifting can be a long career. Do you anticipate staying in this bodyweight category for a while? If not, where do you see that trajectory going as you put on more mass?

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

Yeah, man. It’s tough. I’ve been thinking about it lately. I still haven’t had an issue cutting into the 83 kg weight class. I think whenever that challenge arises, if it becomes too much of a problem and I’m sacrificing too much strength, then I’ll just go into the 93s.

People think when I walk by, when people see me they are like, “Oh, you have to be like 200 to 205 pounds easy.” I’m like, “Nah,” because my walk around weight is just 190 to 193, at most.

David TaoDavid Tao

That cuts not crazy for you then.

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

It’s not hard at all. 200 pounds is very, very heavy for me, especially with my body frame. I’m 5′ 6″ on a good day. To walk around at 200 to 205 pounds is just a lot. If I ever was doing that, then I would just probably compete at 93. That’s too much of a cut.

David TaoDavid Tao

Is it mostly just a water cut right now or do you even need to make any dietary changes to cut down?

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

Just keep everything comfortable. I’m sharing, like a while ago, since I compete, you want to control as many variables as you possibly can. I’ll get a hold of my nutrition and get more control of it.

Usually, I’m eating out a lot and chilling a little bit. About eight weeks out, I try to make everything pretty routine. I’ll probably get down to 188 to 187 pounds, and then after that I’d reach to water cut.

 

David TaoDavid Tao

We know your numbers now and we’ve seen you progress over the last call it four years. By the time this airs, you’ll have basically four years in the sport. What are your goals and what do you think is possible for you in the 83-kilo category?

Like I just said, you’re super young in powerlifting years. People compete in this sport for a long, long time. What are some goals you might have in the next five years, assuming you stay in this body weight category?

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

The goals that I have when it comes to actual weight, yeah, I have a number inside of my head. I’m going ahead and just to keep everything short, yeah, I’ll just go ahead and say it. I definitely want to challenge what’s possible naturally for a 83-kg lifter. I do want to squat 800 pounds. That’s in my head.

I’m not talking about in the next year or so. This is some time in the future that I think that’ll be able to accomplish.

It’s crazy to say it out loud but I do want a 475 or 500-pound bench, but that’s such a wild concept. Bench is such a lift that moves so slowly. It’s one of those things that’s like, “Man, you just got to bid your time and put the work in.”

Then deadlift — I want to deadlift 800 pounds. These are goals that are out there. This is five years type of stuff.

David TaoDavid Tao

The first 83-kilo lifter to total 2,100 pounds, that’d be something.

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

Yeah, but I feel like standards are changing every single year. What we’re realizing is possible from each weight class, not just the 83s, is just amazing. The 74s are getting ridiculous. What is it? The 66s, I believe as well. People are rewriting what they thought was possible on a yearly, if not monthly basis, might be right now.

David TaoDavid Tao

We’ve seen crazy movements. Just for a little context on my viewpoint here. BarBend was founded, I co-founded early 2016, like March of 2016. In the three and a half years since, the powerlifting record books have not just been rewritten, they’ve been burned and ripped to shreds, and completely reprinted.

It’s just been amazing to watch the progression in the sport. Like you said, it’s across weight classes. We talked about, and the lifts that get mainstream coverage are often the super heavyweight lifts, like Ray Williams squats more than 1,000 pounds. You’ll see that on ESPN.

Across the weight categories, and in some of these middle bodyweight categories where you compete, the progress has been even more impressive. It’s really a golden age of powerlifting from my perspective. What factors are contributing to that?

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

It’s literally just social media. Number one, there’s a lot of new lifters that are coming in off the strength of social media. It’s a lot of people like me where I didn’t even know the sport exist four years ago.

I’m like, “Damn, I could literally just do bend squat and deadlift. Let me try my hand at that.” More and more people are going to come. More people from different athletic backgrounds are going to come.

There is also the power of seeing something done first and then believing that, OK, I could now achieve that. Like you have a new you. You’re deadlifting 800 pounds almost on a weekly basis. It’s like I didn’t think that was possible in the 83 kg weight class a year or two ago — a sub-200 pound person deadlifting 300 pounds? That’s ridiculous.

I didn’t even think 700 pounds was an achievable goal two years ago and I’m doing that on routine basis now. Like you said man, the record books are constantly being burned up and torn apart on a monthly basis, honestly.

David TaoDavid Tao

It’s social media now. I like how you said that. Social media can actually mean a lot of different variables there. A, you mentioned this, it’s increasing the talent pool. B, it’s also increasing communication between athletes and prospective athletes and coaches, nutritionists, things like that.

Do you think it’s more of the broader talent pool, more people involved in the sport? Do you think it’s better communication, people finding better training programs, coaching? Is it even possible to weigh those two against each other at this point?

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

It’s soft because you’re seeing new lifters. I would say it’s the first one where more lifters are being introduced to powerlifting through social media. We have, I don’t know if you know but…What’s his name man, the SSJ Bob guy? What’s his actual name?

David TaoDavid Tao

I actually don’t know his full name. He’s local to the New York area.

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

[indecipherable 16:31] your area. This guy found strength athletics maybe two years ago, if that, maybe a year ago. I started talking to this guy a year ago. He was doing those crazy videos at first. I’m like, “Yo, just to powerlifting. I’m telling you, you are going to be really, really strong.”

I did not expect him to be this strong. He was squatting 550, Now he’s squatting 700 pounds. He used deadlifting, maybe 6. Now, he’s deadlifting 720. His progress has been ridiculous. I think that with the power of social media, a lot more athletes are going to start finding that they can do this powerlifting thing and their potential are just being unlocked as they start training.

David TaoDavid Tao

You’re creating your own competition, Russ.

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

[laughs] It’s crazy because I was talking to him and he’s like, “Yeah, man. I watched your channel.” I was like [indecipherable 17:21] .

David TaoDavid Tao

He’s your bodyweight class right, or roughly?

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

He’s one up.

David TaoDavid Tao

Oh, OK.

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

No, but he started off in my weight class, and he’s just been growing and growing into his body more and putting on more weight. Now, he’s at 93s but still, yeah.

David TaoDavid Tao

I can see you like you see him making progress. You just send him some additional messages. You’re like. “Hey, man you should eat some more.” Take him out for a big dinner, making sure you fatten him up a little bit.

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

You should bulk up a little bit, dog.

David TaoDavid Tao

 If you reach out to Russel Orhii, and he gives you advice on powerlifting, he will make sure you end up on a different bodyweight category. That’s all I’m going to say. That’s what I’m getting from this conversation.

How common is that? How common is it for you to connect with new or potential lifters via social media, via Instagram, Facebook, things like that. Is that happening on the regular for you?

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

Yeah, it happens all the time. What happens, I’m not sure if you know about Jamal, but Jamal is another phenomenal 83 kg lifter. He actually told me he was going to be in the position that he’s at, two or three years ago.

It was at the Arnold Expo, and he came up to me and he’s like, “Hey man. You don’t know who I am right now, but I’m going to compete against you one day.” I was like, “OK.” Like, I hear this all the time so I was like, “Yeah, it’s cool man. That’s dope. Good luck to you, blah, blah, blah.” He’s here now, squatting 700 pounds as well, and doing great.

It’s just crazy. I’m constantly keeping my eye out for people that are coming up and doing their own thing. I’ll shoot them message like, “Hey man, keep killing it. You’re really about to make some noise.”

 

David TaoDavid Tao

How has the sport changed? What are some other ways the sport’s changed over your time in powerlifting? You’ve only been involved in the sport for about four years, maybe a little less. At the same time, it seems like so much has happened in powerlifting.

So much has happened across strength sports, weightlifting, CrossFit, powerlifting, strongman. What changes have you been cognizant of or noted in your mind, over the last few years?

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

The effort when it comes to content, for sure. These are powerlifting companies, even the USAPL itself. They have taken the time to figure out, “How can we broaden, or push out our message even more through the power of social media?”

At first, they didn’t care at all. There was no effort. The powerlifting exclusive companies, they didn’t really care too much about content, about creating quality videos and putting out, like I said, quality content. Now over the past, I want to say even a year, there’s so many different companies now that are really putting money into the content that they put on social media.

SBD is a great example. I’ve never seen SBD do those videos, or those meet [indecipherable 20:14] that they do not have. I think that’s something that has changed tremendously.

David TaoDavid Tao

When did you personally realize the power of content production? Because you’re prolific, you put out a bunch of content. You’re traveling and having people travel to you, you’re lifting with other really, really fantastic lifters, you’re producing content with people.

When did that light bulb go off in your head and you’re like, “OK. I’m not just a powerlifter”? Because your bio, it doesn’t just say powerlifter. You’re a powerlifter, you’re a YouTuber. When did that become a central part of what you were doing in this sport?

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

I came into this sport doing that. Whenever I start playing football I was like let me document my fitness journey through Instagram and YouTube, and that’s where it started. I was like I don’t know if I’m going to lean more towards bodybuilding or powerlifting, but whichever one, I’m going to document it.

Just to have that ability to look back and be like, “Damn. I was crazy. I was doing this back in the day.” I just remember going to U of H, to the powerlifting club team and having my camera and recording, and everyone’s like, “What are you doing? This is kind of weird,” or whatever.

I’ve been doing this since the start of my whole journey, whether it would be powerlifting or bodybuilding.

David TaoDavid Tao

People can go back, and I’ve been spending a lot of time on your YouTube channel, so if people are listening in and they haven’t been following you on YouTube, they can go to your channel and they can really see your progression as an athlete in this sport, from coming in really raw to where you are right now.

What advice would you give to people in strength athletics — could be powerlifters, could be weightlifters, CrossFitters, you name it — who want to start leveraging content production to get their message out there, build their brand and build their reach?

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

I get this question asked all the time. My biggest advice to them is start now. Don’t think too much about it. Literally, just pick up a camera and start recording because the mistake I made was I wanted to start my channel six months prior to me actually starting it.

I just kept thinking, overthinking. Like, oh, I need to be at this level of strength in order for people to care about what I’m doing, or I need to look like this, or I need to lose 10 pounds before I can let the camera…blah, blah, blah. It’s like, nah. Just pick up the camera, start recording, and that’s where your journey starts, man.

Stop making excuses. Just literally pick it up and get to it.

David TaoDavid Tao

What misconceptions do you think a lot of viewers and people, fans of strength sports, have about fitness or strength, the YouTubers?

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

[laughs] That’s a good question. I think maybe they have the conception that like we’re conceited because when you think about it like recording yourself and doing all that stuff on a consistent basis, it would seem like you’re very into yourself at a very high degree. I think maybe that’s a misconception that people have. I don’t know.

David TaoDavid Tao

One that I hear from readers, or I see readers commenting on if say we repost a big lift from someone, or say, like we talk about, we had an article on a YouTube video that an athlete puts out. Clearly a video they put a lot of work into, a lift they’ve trained hard for.

We get a lot of comments sometimes that are, basically…I think people think a lot of these fitness YouTubers and a lot of these strength athletes are billionaires from having a YouTube following. They’re just rolling in a Scrooge McDuck-style swimming pool of gold coins because they 50,000 followers. It’s like, “No, that’s not…”

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

Yeah. There we go. That’s an awesome talking point. That’s not true. [laughs] OK, I like talking about this kind of stuff because I’m in the social media world as well. I kind of get a better understanding of what’s going on behind the scenes.

You can have a shit ton of followers and not make any money from them at all. It really depends on what that person is doing with their content and the people that are following them.

I’ve heard a lot of horror stories where, not horror stories but situations that they have X amount of followers, maybe 500,000 followers, but they’re not leveraging that into any type of revenue for themselves.

It’s funny because on YouTube, I don’t even make money off of YouTube anymore. I’ve completely given my camera guy the reins to just use whatever music he wants and I just allow all my videos to get copied. I don’t really care about making money off of YouTube anymore.

David TaoDavid Tao

What are your primary revenue sources as an athlete and content creator? Is it sponsorships?

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

I’ve leveraged myself to a point where now I have the whole Get Better Today brand. That’s where I get the majority of my revenue. Also, I have sponsorships as well. It’s that I never wanted to be in a point where I’m relying on another person to pay my bills, if that makes sense. It’s a cool check at the end of the day, but at the same time I don’t need them and they don’t control me.

David TaoDavid Tao

That’s all putting all your chips in one basket as far as getting all revenue from a single stream. If you’re just all in on monetizing your YouTube videos, and they change something about their creator program or how they’re compensating creators that could impact your livelihood in a huge way. We’ve seen that happen too, especially for a lot of the top YouTubers.

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

People don’t understand that whenever YouTube made that…I don’t know what they did. Man, it was some…It was like an ad thing. Fitness YouTubers, I heard some of their monthly checks got cut into half, if not less, like a lot. Let’s say they’re making $1,000 a month off of YouTube. Now all of a sudden, they’re making $200.

David TaoDavid Tao

You’re at the whims of a big company and it’s Google. That’s not always the best place to be.

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

Yeah. It’s funny because I told my camera guy, I’m like, “Don’t worry about getting copyright on YouTube. I’m giving that check up. Who cares now.”

David TaoDavid Tao

Who in strength athletics — it doesn’t necessarily have to be powerlifting but it could be — do you think is doing, besides yourself, do you think is doing a really good job on content production?

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

Ooh, I really like what Stefi’s doing, Stefi Cohen. Man, I just had another name in my head that just popped up. I really like what she’s doing though. She has a camera guy. I like her content. It’s really good. There’s one other person. It was one other person that does really good job that I admire. I’m trying to think.

David TaoDavid Tao

If you think of them later in the conversation, that’s all good too.

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

I like Stefi’s whole ecosystem that she has around her, like her merch, the production of the content, all that stuff. I love it.

David TaoDavid Tao

Yeah. She’s very well diversified across platforms, which is the goal. Even running a media brand, BarBend isn’t a person, we have a team. Of course, we want to diversify our reach. We want to get traffic from Google. We want to get traffic from YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter.

You want to diversify across because if one platform changes something, those checks don’t disappear or those revenue streams don’t disappear. Those viewers as eyeballs, what we’re more concerned with, they don’t necessarily disappear. Definitely good point there.

Who in strength athletics — maybe not necessarily on the content-production side, just more generally for their proficiency and accomplishments in the sports that they’re in — do you most admire?

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

That’s another good question. [laughs] I used to have these names in my head, but it’s weird because I feel like a lot of the tides are shifting.

I’m going to say someone that definitely motivates me whenever I watch them, I think, that’s better able to look at it for me, is Ashton Rouska, for sure. That’s someone that, literally, he rewrites what’s possible on every single IG post that he puts.

People don’t think that what he is doing now is possible. Just watching him lift, and the numbers that he’s putting up, literally just makes me think, “Damn, what am I doing? How could I do that in my own realm?” I think Ashton for sure. Yeah, Ashton. I’d have to say Ashton.

David TaoDavid Tao

All right. Who’s your dream training partner, and you can’t have the same answer for two questions in a row, so I’m just going to throw that out there. Your dream training partner who you haven’t had a chance to train with before. You trained with some pretty strong people.

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

Yeah. Dream training partner? [laughs] Does it have to be a real person?

David TaoDavid Tao

Yeah, of course, it has to be a real person. It can’t be Mickey Mouse or Superman. No, it has to be a real person.

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

[indecipherable 29:04] . Oh, man.

David TaoDavid Tao

This video is going to be an official shout out. I’m going to send this, not this video, this recording, sorry. I’m going to send this podcast to whoever this is, and just be like, “Hey…”

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

Dream training partner? You know what man? I love Taylor Atwood. I love Taylor Atwood.

David TaoDavid Tao

We can make that happen. Taylor was in our office last week.

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

[laughs] You know what? OK, the reason why I’m saying that right now is because Taylor has a certain mentality that very few powerlifters have right now, just because he’s a former athlete. He played football at a pretty high level, and he’s a dog, man.

Quick story, there’s always been this kind of debate if Taylor should move up to 83s because we’ll be competitive. I’m not the type of person that’s going to back down from a challenge.

So, literally, I’m weighing in for IPF Worlds, and Taylor comes in with his dad. His dad’s like, “Is this the guy? Is this the representative for 83s? I don’t know, Taylor, you might have to move up, man.” He’s like, “We ain’t scared of nobody.”

I was like, “Who is this guy?” It was my first time meeting him. I’m like, “Move up. I’m waiting for you. You can move up if you want to, bro, I’m right here. Move up.” I like his never-back-down mentality. His trash talk. I feed off stuff like that, so I’d definitely love to train with him in person.

David TaoDavid Tao

Taylor is a lot of fun. He is local to the New York area, so we’ve had the chance to work with him on a good bit of content. We’ve had him in. We have a little gym set up here in the office. He’s a really great guy.

I got to say, I wouldn’t want to be on camera next to him, because that hair is just untouchable. It’s perfect every time. It’s like it’s sculpted the same way every day. It’s impressive.

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

[laughs] Yeah, I’d say Taylor for sure. I’ve actually trained with Ashton before. Ashton was around the Texas area so we trained a couple times. He’s a dog, too.

David TaoDavid Tao

What is the Texas powerlifting community like in your area? Because when I think powerlifting, back decades, Texas was the central point for some of the strongest people in the world back in the ’80s, ’90s, 2000s. West side in Ohio, obviously, the same thing. What’s that community like these days where you are?

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

I’d say it’s in pretty bad shape. [laughs] Yeah, it’s crazy that you actually said that. I really think that we, as a powerlifting community inside of Houston, need to do a better job.

David TaoDavid Tao

That’s just my…That could be a misconception. Right? But that’s just kind of looking historically at some athletes from the past few decades.

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

I think when you look at it from a broad scale, there’s a lot of strong Texas powerlifters, right? But there’s not a centralized spot or a community in Houston. I can only speak for Houston, that’s where I’m at. I wouldn’t say there’s a centralized gym or spot that a lot of powerlifters are going to and training, and kind of picking each other up.

There isn’t a gym that you’re going to drive into Houston and be like, “We need to train there because X, Y, and Z’s going to be there.” That doesn’t exist in Houston. I’m not going to say that. I’m not going to say that on the podcast, but yeah.

[laughter]

David TaoDavid Tao

This might be a topic for podcast number two in the future, a little bit down the road.

Russel, I want to ask a few more rapid-fire questions just to give folks a little bit of insight. Again, if they don’t already follow you, because you put out a lot of good content and you give really good insight into your personality, your lifestyle. Powerlifting only being one aspect of your life, but I am curious — what’s your secret talent, if you have one?

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

Secret talent? I like to draw. I think I’m a pretty good drawer. I like to doodle and stuff like that.

David TaoDavid Tao

I see some paintings. Russel and I are actually video conferencing right now. Are those paintings behind you, are those original works of yours?

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

 I wish I could flex and say they were, but they’re not. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

 They’re beautiful! I was hoping you would be like, “Oh, these, yeah.”

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

Yeah, you know, this is just a little side work, you know what I’m saying? Just a little…No, I got that from Target.

[laughter]

David TaoDavid Tao

 What is your least favorite movement in strength training?

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

Bench, for sure. [laughs] I hate bench. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

But you’ve been doing it for so long.

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

I never said I liked it.

David TaoDavid Tao

That’s fair, that’s fair. That’s on me.

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

It’s just because I have long arms for my frame, and compared to my other…My other competitors have more impressive benches than myself. So, I don’t like it that much.

David TaoDavid Tao

 Taylor’s going to listen to this, and he’s going to want to move up a weight class now if he hears this.

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

[laughs] Taylor can listen to this. Taylor got a better bench seat, but that squat and deadlifting, you know what I’m saying?

David TaoDavid Tao

[laughs] I’m just goading you a little bit.

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

I know, I know. He’s [indecipherable 34:05]

David TaoDavid Tao

[laughs] All right Russel, where are the best places for folks to keep up to date with what you’re doing, your training, if they’re not already following you?

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

Can I give three places?

David TaoDavid Tao

Yeah, go for it, sure. No, actually two’s the max. No, I’m kidding, go for three, go for three.

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

[laughs] It’s funny. Twitter is actually my favorite app. That’s the one I use frequently. If you want to interact with me, I would say go to Twitter. Also, Instagram and YouTube. But you can just find me @RusSwole.

David TaoDavid Tao

Excellent. Awesome. Well, Russ, I really appreciate your time. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you. It’s a lot of fun getting to know you, especially after following you and your journey in the sport for so long, so I really appreciate it.

Russel OrhiiRussel Orhii

I appreciate you guys reaching out.

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