This week's EliteFTS Spotlight focuses on powerlifter Al Caslow, the newest EliteFTS sponsored athlete and member of the Q&A staff.
Al is currently ranked #1 in the world in the 165 pound class. He holds the highest squat of all time in the 165 pound class (886 pounds), and also holds the second highest total of all time at 165 pounds with 2100. His first powerlifting competition took place in April 2006. He plans to continue competing in heavier weight classes, as well as in different federations with different gear restrictions. He shares his gym, Society Of Strength, with 11 other individuals, and also trains in Omaha with Big Iron Gym.
Introduce yourself to the readership and tell us a little about yourself.

I've been involved in sports for a very long time, since I was about four years old. I started off with track, and eventually went into tons of different things -- karate, tumbling, football, basketball -- so the point is that I've been involved in a lot of sports. From one genre to the other. I've got a strong athletic history in my family. To be quite honest with you, sports have always come...not relatively easily, but somewhat easily to me. I've always been the faster kid. I've always been pretty strong for my size growing up. I've grown up in a very strong family, and that's how my family raised me. I did grow up Catholic, so I've got a strong Christian background -- very, very dedicated to my family. I've got a wife and kid.

I grew up in Orange County, California and went to school at Bethel University, which is a small school in Wichita, Kansas. From there, I moved up to Kansas City for a job, and I've been employed and worked in the medical industry since then. It's always been in sales, so I'm currently a medical sales representative dealing with surgical devices in gastroenterology. Today was a pretty busy day for me. I saw about nine different surgeries.

How did you get involved with powerlifting?

I had a small stint with a professional football team, and after that, I started working in Kansas City and joined a commercial gym, just training and working out. I met a personal trainer who I noticed was pretty strong, and I started asking him questions about how I could get stronger, and little by little he just started talking about things like Westside and powerlifting. I've never been a person who doesn't want to learn outside the box. I started doing my own research and I found Westside, I found powerlifting, and I saw some videos. I started asking him questions about powerlifting, and I got lucky. There was actually a powerlifting show right around the time I started doing this. It was local here in Kansas City, and I checked it out and loved it. Everything I saw that day was awesome -- the intensity, the weights that were being lifted, it was very cool. About two or three months after the show, I just kind of thought I'd give it a try, so I asked him if there was another local show coming around, and he said there was, in March or April of 2006. That was my first competition, in April 2006.

What were your best lifts back then?

I think I squatted around 585, benched 405 and deadlifted 565.

What are your bests now?

My best squat is 887, my best bench is 545, and my best deadlift is 700.

What's your training philosophy?

I like to train with volume and I use a sequence system, so it's very linear in a way, but it's blocked off into sequences. I use a lot of the volume that's drawn up by Sheiko. I don't use his templates, per se, but I use a lot of his sequences that are drawn up in the 80-90% range. I used to use some of Westside's techniques, specifically the speed work. I really thought speed work was doing some good for me. Eventually, I realized it really wasn't, so I kind of traded off Westside's speed technique and I started using more of Big Iron's methods. It's kind of a mixture of my volume sequence, and now that I've spent a lot of time working with Rick at Big Iron, I've incorporated some of his stuff into mine, kind of every other week or every third week, I'll do some of Big Iron's work.

Do you train there?

I do. Luckily, Omaha is part of my territory for work, and it's a big area for me, so prospecting-wise I have to be up there quite a bit, and I'm able to train there 3-4 workouts a month.

What's your home base like?

I actually rent a commercial storage shed, and I've got all my equipment in there. I've got a monolift, a bench, a glute-ham raise, a reverse hyper, and it's 500 square feet. There's about 10-12 of us who train there. Not all at the same time, but typically you can find 6-8 guys in there at the same time. It's pretty cool. The guys we've got, for the most part, they're really committed and dedicated and they like to train, so we have a lot of fun together. I draw up everybody's workout that trains with me, so they kind of follow my current volume sequence. It's been working great for me. I've had them all PR, so they haven't lost faith. They stick around and come back, so it's good. It's a good time.

Does everyone chip in for the rental of the shed?

They do. We all pay the same amount. Absolutely. They're all good guys.

What does EliteFTS mean to you?

Elite, to me, from what I've gathered and from what I've seen, is a very strong, committed team. It's got some great leadership behind it, and it's more of a system that, from what I've learned, is very well developed. It's tailored for the long run. What Dave's got, what he acquires, who he appeals to, is definitely set up for the long run. It's very much dedicated to powerlifting, but Dave has expanded to so many different realms that you can just tell it's going to keep growing, whether it's in the powerlifting industry or in other industries. It'll keep growing. So it's a very strong team that's got incredible leadership behind it.

Are you close to anyone on the staff?

You know, I've got a good friendship with Matt Kroc. I've had a strong relationship with him for quite a long time. Actually, Matt referred me to Dave Tate back in 2006 for a sponsorship. I never really followed through, though. I know a few other guys -- I spent some time talking to Brian Schwab for a while, Jo Jordan, Jason Pegg through the internet. I've spoken with Jim Wendler quite a bit at meets and on the internet. Justin Harris has helped me a little with nutrition. I think the Underground Strength Sessions are just amazing that Dave does that for the team. That's probably the only company that does that for its sponsored athletes, so I think that's incredible.

What can we expect from you on the Q&A?

Obviously, I bring a different kind of training philosophy to the table. It's not just one straight template, if you will. You'll get a different kind of background, training-wise. You'll get a strong, strong background in tons of different sports, so I can relate to other people. I've got a strong nutrition background just because I've been able to work with so many amazing people. I currently work with Laura Phelps quite a bit. I don't help her. She helps me. She's gone through that figure/bodybuilding stuff. I've worked with Justin Harris and I worked with John Berardi when I was a professional athlete and playing football. Plus, I bring a different kind of professional background than most of the powerlifters. Kind of like Matt Kroc. He kind of has a different realm when it comes to his professional life, you know, being a pharmacist.

Let's go more into your nutritional knowledge. What can we expect from you with that?

You know, I'm kind of hardcore when it comes to nutrition. I don't feel there's any excuse for it. One thing that might clash a little with different people, but it's good, I think, is that I don't think you have to gain weight to be strong. If you eat good, and you eat healthy, and you train correctly, that's enough, you know? I don't think a surplus of junk is better. I really don't. I'm really dedicated to health. My wife and I both are, so we're strong with that. I do kind of take a methodical approach to my supplementation. Sometimes it falls off the wagon, but when it's on, it's on. My approach to it is pretty well drawn out, so I'm into supplements quite a bit. I've spent my fair share of dollars on those things. It's for a reason, though. I think they've done me some good.

What about recovery and regeneration?

I do some stuff, actually. I do quite a bit of cardio. You know, I do three days of cardio. Two days, I do standard cardio, and then on Fridays, I do something that's very, very different. People might actually like this. They might use it. Or they might not and think the approach is crazy, but I actually do some pretty intense sprinting on Fridays on a treadmill. I do intervals, whether it's sprinting for 20 seconds and resting for 10 seconds, or running for one minute and resting for two minutes, or just running straight for ten minutes at a pretty fast speed. Your heart rate gets elevated quite a bit, but I think people can get strong through increasing work capacity. If you can sprint a full 400 meters, just imagine what you can do for 200 meters, you know?

Does your whole team do work like this?

No, you know, I expect them to just kind of be there and help out. You've got to have training partners who are there for you to help you out, so really I expect the guys to just be there three days a week, and that's Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. I tell them about the things I do, but whether they do it or not on their own, I don't know. I encourage it, but that's about as far as I take it with them. I don't want to push them to do things they don't want to do. I don't want them to get burned out.

They'll ask me about my nutrition because they know I'm pretty religious about it, and they're...not (laughs). As much as I encourage it, I always tell them they don't need to gain weight to get stronger. I tell them that's ridiculous. As long as you're eating enough and the right stuff, you'll get stronger. Some of them will see it and get into it, and some don't. If you believe in it, you'll stick with it, but if you don't think it's the be all, end all, you're not going to do it. Some people just like food too much sometimes.

How do you balance the demands of your professional career with your training?

It's tough. It's not easy, especially with travel and things like that. I just know, on the days I work out, I just know what I have to do and what time it's got to be done. I've got to be productive every day, so I just plan ahead. It's organizing my time and organizing my appointments. Sometimes you show up late and sometimes you don't. When I travel, it's different. I've gone through a lot of gyms just looking for the right place to train. When I travel I know what things I can and can't do, and I make the best out of what I've got. Really, it's just organizing my time and being committed to what I've got to do. You know, some days you've got a long, long day, and you just feel like going home, but I just can't do that.

Dave touches on this a lot in Raising the Bar -- about how some guys have huge totals in the gym, but the rest of their lives are a mess. Do you think having your s--t together professionally and with your life helps you out with your sport?

Yes, it helps out a lot. The one thing about any sport - I've dealt with this in football and with track - but powerlifting, for some reason, seems to demand a lot. Psychologically, mentally, physically, nutritionally, it just demands a lot for some reason, and I think the more organized you are, the better you'll be psychologically and mentally. I've got a great wife, who's very supportive -- not because she likes the sport, but because she knows I like it, she knows it makes me happy, and she supports it. That's helped out a lot. I don't have to come home and deal with crap about me not being here or being someplace else. I don't have to deal with that because she supports it, she knows what days I'm in the gym, and she knows what days I should be home. It's just really about organizing yourself. I organize my time with my wife, with the gym, with work. We do little things together to keep it humble, to keep myself humble, so I'm not know, the internet has made it crazy because there's so much on the internet about powerlifting that you've got to read and learn, and you get caught up into it, and meeting new people and helping people. You've really got to organize your time - when and how much you're going to be on the internet, when and how much you're going to spend training, and you've really got to dedicate the rest of it to the people you care about. You can't just keep yourself happy.

Any parting words?

No, other than that I'm really looking forward to being part of EliteFTS. I'm hoping this will take my total up to a new height (laughs). I'm just really excited to be a part of this. I think Dave Tate's done a great job with his company, the website, the team, and what he's doing for his sponsored athletes. I think it's amazing. You know, I'm just looking forward to seeing what I can get from Dave. I'm hoping I can help Dave in any way, and I'm thinking if I can do that, then our relationship will only get stronger and grow, and it'll be better for everyone. If it just gets better for me, eventually Dave will kind of get burned out, so that's definitely something I don't want. Let's make it a 50-50 and grow together.