From Paper to Iron Mike: Mike Stuchiner’s Journey to Elite

TAGS: athlete, WSBB, squat, powerlifting, Inspiration, strength training, Elitefts Info Pages, bench press, training

Mike Stuchiner is a paragon of tenacity. In 1991, the native of Long Island, New York entered his first powerlifting meet. On August 18, 2007, he earned his first elite total at the Cincinnati Pro Am with a 775-lb squat, a 555-lb bench press, and a 620-lb deadlift in the 275-lb weight class. Mike owns Tuck’s Nutrition in Plantation, Florida and is a member of Southside Barbell in Lake Worth, Florida.

 

MK: When did you discover powerlifting?

MS: Well, like most others, I started lifting weights when I was 15 years old. When I turned 17 in 1991, one of my training partners introduced me to Iron Island gym and Dr. Ken Leistner. I trained there for the summer and did my first meet that same summer. I totaled 1000 lbs in the 220-lb class. In the fall, I went away to college in Florida and came home a few times that year to compete in two push-pull meets.

When I came back for the summer break, my training partner, Mike Manzo, showed me a video that he had purchased from Louie Simmons. After watching it, I was very excited and wanted to meet Louie. So a few days later, I called him and asked if I could come visit him in Ohio. That was the trip that changed my life. On a side note, when I asked Dr. Leistner if he felt this type of training was a good idea for me, he said I wasn’t ready. I’m glad I didn’t listen to him because it was a great decision on my part.

MK: What equipment did you use in your first meet and in the push-pulls?

MS: My gear was a very old and used Titan suit.

MK: When did totaling elite become one of your goals?

MS: Honestly, I didn’t even know what elite was until I met Louie. After that first summer trip to Ohio when I had the chance to train at Westside Barbell for the weekend before I moved there, I knew I wanted to be an elite lifter.

MK: What weight classes have you competed in?

MS: I have competed in the 198-, 220-, 242-, 275-, and 308-lb classes.

MK: When did you move to Ohio, and what was your best total when you started training at Westside?

MS: I moved to Ohio two months after I met Louie in the fall of 1992. At the time, I had only competed in one full meet and two push-pulls so I had only totaled 1000 lbs.

MK: How long did you train at Westside?

MS: I trained there for two years, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made.

MK:
Who were some of your training partners at Westside?

MS: Some of my training partners were Chuck Vogelpohl, Kenny Patterson, Joe McCoy, George Halbert, Dave Tate, Tom Waddle, Jerry O, and Grittier. When I was at Westside, we didn’t have a monolift, and we hadn’t started using bands and chains yet.

MK: How many meets did you compete in during your time at Westside, and what was your best total when you stopped training there?

MS: I competed in seven meets. My best total was 1550 lbs in the 275-lb class.

MK: What weight classes did you compete in during your Westside years?

MS: When I got to Westside, I was in the 220-lb class, but after a short time, I was in the 242-lb class. During my last year there, I competed as a light 275-lber.

MK: How did your use of equipment develop during your Westside years?

MS: When I got to Westside, all I had was my old Titan suit and a single ply Frantz denim shirt. The only change I made in gear was that I bought a double ply Frantz poly, and about a year later, I bought my first pair of briefs.

MK: What were your training and numbers like after Westside?

MS: After Westside, I went back home to New York. After training by myself for about a year and a half, I met Chris Taylor at Iron Island gym and trained with him for about two years. Then I started to train with John Bott, whom I’ve known since the day I started in the sport. He is a wonderful friend and lifter, and he will always have my friendship and respect. John and I trained together for about six years, and we had a great crew.

After coming back to New York and training on my own, I got myself into the mid-1600 lbs at 275 lbs. When I started training with Chris Taylor, I squatted my first 700 lbs and did my first 450-lb bench, over 600-lb pull, and totaled in the low 1700 lbs. When I trained with John Bott, I totaled 1850 lbs. This is when I did my first 750-lb squat and 500-lb bench.

I moved to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida three years ago and started training at Southside Barbell, which was started by Bob Youngs. He is also a longtime friend and someone who will always have my friendship and respect. Southside Barbell has an amazing group of powerlifters and is a club that will soon be a force to reckon with. I’m very grateful to all of the people who I have learned from and who have helped me over the years in this amazing sport.
After moving to Florida, I went through a series of some bad meets and was chipping away at some small PRs. Through the help and support of my training partners as well as everyone else who has helped me over the years, I totaled my first elite on August 18, 2007. I’ve competed in  over 40 meets up to this point.

MK: Who are your training partners at Southside?

MS: My partners are Bob Youngs, Lance Mosley, Charlie Fay, Stacey Motter, Ed Rectenwald, Sean L’Italien, Leigh-An Jaskiewicz, Dan Herring (aka the Danaminal), and Dwayne Koff.

MK: What was your best total prior to the Pro Am?

MS: My best total before that was 1860 lbs done approximately a year and a half ago.

MK: What equipment did you use at the Pro Am?

MS: I wore a canvas to squat in, a Titan F6 to bench in, and a Marathon to deadlift in.

MK: Speaking of your professional background as the owner of a nutrition store, powerlifting and nutrition aren’t generally associated the way that bodybuilding and nutrition are associated, though powerlifting-friendly nutrition authors like Anthony Ricciuto and Mauro DiPasquale have emphasized nutrition for optimal performance on the platform. How important were nutrition and supplementation on your road to elite?

MS: I’m a huge believer in supplements, and I think nutrition plays a great role in recovery and strength enhancement. I know that it helped me in a huge way.

MK: What supplements have worked well for you?

MS: I take many supplements. Instead of listing all of the things I take, I’ll just tell you about the things that I feel are of great importance. First, there’s fish oil. It’s great for brain, heart, and joint health as well as about fifteen other things. I take about 8000 mgs daily. Green food powders are great because they’re so nutrient rich and alkalizing to the body. Liver protection is very important so I use a product called liver care, also known as Liv 52. Natural anti-inflammatories are huge for me not only for joint health but also for overall disease prevention. One of the major causes of most diseases is inflammation. I just started using a great product called Zyflamend.

Multi-mineral supplements are important. When most people lack nutrients, it’s usually not so much vitamins as much as it is minerals. Minerals are involved in just about every chemical reaction in the body. I use two products for this—a multi-mineral complex and a multi-mineral whey (this comes from goat milk and is super high in minerals).

My favorite recovery supplement is BCAA, and the amount of work done with them is huge. I use them pre-workout, post-workout, and at bedtime. For neurological and cardiovascular recovery, b-complex is amazing. I take 200 mgs daily. The final supplement that I recommend is medicinal mushrooms. They are amazing for performance enhancement, building a strong immune system, and keeping your lungs strong.

MK: Do you follow a certain nutritional program in terms of macro-nutrient percentages, meal timing, etc.?

MS: In terms of percentages, no, but pre- and post-training meals are very important to me as well as a meal at bedtime. My pre-workout meal is higher in carbohydrates, and my post-training meal is really rich in protein and carbohydrates. As far as the foods that I eat, I’m a believer in a whole food diet, and my food choices tend to be calorie-dense and nutritionally rich. For example, I eat eggs, nuts, fruits and veggies, meats like bison, avocados, and oats. All of these food are rich in calories, EFAs, carbohydrates, and protein.

MK: You have clearly spent much time studying nutrition. When did you become interested in this subject?

MS: I became interested in alternative medicine about the time I was 17 years old.

MK: What does your meet day nutrition look like?

MS: My pre-meet meal is something light like eggs and oatmeal or grits. Throughout the meet, I will eat bars, nuts, and fruit. I also keep my fluid levels up.

MK: You have competed in weight classes ranging from 198 lbs to 308 lbs. How did you decide to settle at 275 lbs?

MS: I tried to get to the 308-lb class and only got as high as 292 lbs. I need to give credit to my training partners at Southside because they convinced me to stay at 275 lbs.

MK: Have you ever bombed out of a meet? If so, what did you learn from that experience?

MS: I’ve bombed out of many meets. As a matter of fact, I bombed out of the last three meets before I got my elite. As far as what I’ve learned, it hasn’t been so much about what I did wrong in training but more about not keeping my head on straight the day of the meet. I’ve learned a lot about my body and how to train better. For quite some time, my training partners at Southside have been helping me with my squat form. One of the biggest lessons a powerlifter learns is that you never stop learning. You’re forever correcting mistakes and trying to grow.

MK: What injuries have you had during your time in the sport?

MS: I’m proud to say that I haven’t had any serious injuries since I’ve started in the sport.

MK: Bob Youngs has discussed his regret that he didn’t start mobility and soft tissue work sooner. Looking back, how would you have changed your training?

MS: I don’t think I would have changed anything because this whole experience is a learning process. At the time, whatever crazy stuff we were doing seemed like the right thing to do. I did grow, get stronger, and learned from it.

MK: What does your usual training week look like?

MS: I train four days a week. Tuesday is my upper body assistance day, and Thursday is max effort squat/deadlift day. On squat/deadlift day, I do mostly some kind of pull or put my suit on to squat. Saturday is max effort bench day when I put my shirt on every other week. On the opposite weeks, I do raw work. Sunday is speed squat day. Of course, all of my training days have assistance work as well.

MK: What do you do for GPP/conditioning?

MS: I did GPP/conditioning for many years and found it to be very helpful. However, now I only use it as needed.

MK: Now that you have totaled elite, what are your goals in the sport?

MS: My goals are to keep building my total and make it as big as I can. I also want to continue helping and giving to the sport that has given so much to me.

MK: You have competed for over fifteen years. What are the keys to longevity in this sport?

MS: Wow, that’s a great question. I think learning from your mistakes and growing from them is huge. I believe that nutrition plays a great role in recovery and longevity. If you give your body what it needs and fuel it properly, it will thank you for it down the line. For some strange reason, so many people think that there’s no connection between your health and your strength levels. I’ve seen many great lifters get injured because they didn’t listen to their body.

MK: What is your advice for someone who wants to enter the sport?

MS: My advice is to train hard and smart and never give up on your dream. I’d also tell them that the difference between success and failure is one’s ability to overcome the twists and turns on the road to achieving your goals.

MK: What do you love about the sport of powerlifting?

MS: Wow, this is another great question. I love everything about this sport. However, one thing that sticks out in my mind is that only people who do powerlift can understand why we do it.

MK: What positive and negative developments have you seen in the sport during your years in it?

MS: I believe that the most positive aspect of this sport is how much those in it love it. You’ll never find better people anywhere else. I believe the internet is a double-edged sword and certain parts of it aren’t so great in terms of all of the negative things that are said. The only other negative development that I can think of is that there are too many federations and too much tension between them. Louie said a long time ago that all lifters should come together and lift under one federation. He proved his point with the Pro AM meet, and he has done an amazing service to this sport.

MK: Regarding all lifters uniting under one federation, the main obstacles that I see are gear, testing, and performance rules with variables under each such as single ply, multi ply, or raw; tested or untested; 24-hour weigh-in or same day weigh-in; walk out or no walk out for squats; and differences in performance rules like feet flat or allowed on toes, head allowed off bench or not, etc. The permutations based on these variables become numerous. The only way to have these diverse competitive preferences accommodated under one tent would be to have a “multiplex” federation with numerous divisions. How do you envision unity under one federation?

MS: Well, that is exactly why this will never happen.

MK: “Carryover” is a word often used to describe how equipment improves lifts. What kind of carryover has powerlifting had in other aspects of your life?

MS: Powerlifting has changed my life completely because it taught me so many things that all carried over into other parts of my life. This sport has made me stronger physically and mentally. Let’s face it—fifteen years of physical and mental abuse will either break you or make you into something great. My friends in powerlifting are my best friends in life, and you will never find better people than in this sport. Powerlifting has also given me the self-confidence to do and go after anything I want in life such as opening my own business. These are traits and values that one can only learn from being part of something so amazing.

MK: Last but not least, what is the origin of your former nickname, “paper?”

MS: Ha, ha, ha! I’m sure there are many people who are very curious about my “name.” First, let me say that I’m quite proud of my nickname. Now for the story about how that name was created. I got this nickname from Tom Waddle, one of my training partners at Westside. Among the hundreds of things I was made fun of for, the two things that created this name were my bent over squat form and the large amount of soft muscle tissue I held as a young man.

One day we were in the gym, and Tom said, “When you get under that bar, Mike, you fold over like a piece of paper. That’s probably because you’re all soft like that paper mache stuff.” So the name was created, and from that day on, my life changed forever.

This whole experience has been very exciting for me because I’ve worked very hard for the past sixteen years to achieve this goal. I’m so excited to see what happens next. So many have told me that one really takes off after getting elite. I want to thank my parents for their support and encouragement in my pursuit of my dreams. I want to thank every training partner and friend I’ve had in the sport because they have all played a major role in me getting my elite. I’m thankful and grateful to have Bob Youngs (coach of the year) as a friend, and I’m very grateful that he started up Southside Barbell. I also need to thank my training partners at Southside Barbell who I’m very thankful for. They include Charles Fay, Stacey Motter, Lance Mosley, Ed Rectenwald, Sean L’Italien, Leigh-An Jaskiewicz, John Green, Dan Herring, Doug Hollis, Dwyane Kouf, and Derek Penkava.

Next, I must thank Westside Barbell led by the great Louie Simmons. Louie has always been a great supporter of mine and has always believed that I can achieve this. Jeff Adams (otherwise known as Grittier) was a member of my fan club before it was popular to be a part of the fan club. Also, Kenny Patterson, Chuck Vogelpohl, Dave Tate, and Jim Wendler, all of whom are great training partners, friends, and supporters. I thank the guys at Eastside Barbell led by the great John Bott (otherwise known as the Swiss Wonder) and some of those people include John Imp and Damon. John Bott, who I’ve known since I got into the sport, has been a wonderful friend and training partner. I’m proud to have him in my life.

Other great friends and people who I have trained with over the years and am so proud to have in my life are Ed Ruquet, Matt Wilson, and Paul Childress. I’ve learned and grown from every training cycle, training partner, meet, and experience that I’ve had up to this point. I’m so proud to be a part of such an amazing sport that has produced such amazing friends. See you all at the next Westside meet.

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