James Steel, American Strength Coach, Author, and Podcaster. I recently got the chance to interview my friend and physical culture ally, Jim Steel, of Bas Barbell fame and a great human being. After 40 years of passionately slinging iron and coaching athletes to their best performance, Jim has been so kind as to reveal his philosophy, mindset and winning attitude for the betterment of all our readers here. Enjoy Jim’s interview here:
Paul: Please tell the readers your age, location, and occupation.
Jim: I am 53 years old, and I am a strength coach, podcaster and writer.
Paul: How long have you been lifting weights?
Jim: I began training 41 years ago!
Paul: How long have you been competing in strength athletics?
Jim: I played college football and then when I got done, started powerlifting. My last meet was in 2002. I have competed in numerous bodybuilding shows, with the last one being in 2019.
Paul: What are your best lifts in Powerlifting?
Jim: In a meet, 820lb (372kg) squat, 505lb (230kg) bench, 740lb (335kg) deadlift
Paul: Any best lifts in Strongman style of events or training?
Paul: Have you ever done any other type of lifting events such as strict curl, Olympic lifting, bear wrestling, or dwarf tossing?
Jim: No , although dwarf tossing looks fun.
Paul: What gyms do you currently train at?
Jim: I train in my basement and also at Atilis Gym in Bellmar, New Jersey
Paul: Who are your training partners?
Jim: I train alone, although my 14 year old son jumps into the sessions at times.
Paul: Can you describe your current training system?
Jim: I usually train with weights 5 days a week. I do one body part a day, except for arms, where I train the biceps and triceps together. I do 10-15 sets a body part for 6-20 reps. Day 1- legs Day 2-arms Day 3 back Day 4 chest Day 5 shoulders. I also ride the exercise bike for 30 minutes or shadow box 5 days a week.
Paul: How did you develop your training system?
Jim: Just through trial and error over the years.
Paul: How would you train a 13 year old Jim?
Jim: I’d focus on form over weight for sure. Basic exercises (squats, deadlifts, press, bench, chins, dips and some other assistance work). Lots of pushups and hill sprints. He/she has years of training ahead of them, so form and technique are so important.
Paul: Any serious injuries you have overcome? What was your rehab like for those injuries?
Jim: Back surgery, 2 elbow surgeries, broken hand, broken arm, arthritis in knees and elbows. I rehabbed myself after the back and shoulder injuries. I trained light with perfect form until I was able to go heavier. I am not a big believer in physical therapy for myself.
Paul: What is your diet like? Please describe a day of eating as well as a training week of eating.
Jim: When not dieting for a show, a typical day would be – meal 1- beef and a medium sweet potato, meal 2- 2 chicken breasts, white rice, meal 3- 2, Healthy Choice Power Bowls. Meal 4- bowl of Greek yoghurt. I basically try to have protein at every meal and fill in a carb around that.
It changes at times. I’ll have ice cream or a muffin once a week and have some Goldfish or something crunchy like pretzels a few nights a week
Paul: What is a normal week like in taking care of your family, work, and training?
Jim: Wake up at 4:24 am. Put coffee on. Take my Labrador out for retrieving drills. Then I go to a local private gym to train clients at 6am a few days a week. Come home and cook breakfast and lunch for the kids. Take the kids to school. Then I train and ride the bike or shadowbox. Write, do online training. Pick up youngest some at school. Go back to gym to train a high school softball player. Pick up oldest son. Then we usually have practices, basketball and baseball, which I take them to. Home and dinner. I go to bed around 10pm each night.
Paul: Maryland has a long tradition of strong motherfuckers and bad motherfuckers. Who are some of the baddest mofos you have trained with?
Jim: Kirk Karwoski stands out to me. Just unbelievably strong, BUT also so technical with his lifts. I saw him having a light conversation one time and then say to me, “Excuse me” and walk over to the bar and squat 585 for 5 casually with no belt. Also, 80-100 pound dumbbell curls, strict, no swing. Amazing. My buddy Chris, who I played Junior College football with was super strong. At 19, he squatted 610, benched 485 and deadlifted 605. Not bad for a young football player.
Paul: Are you sponsored by any products or company? What can you tell the reader about those products?
Jim: I am not sponsored but do articles and podcasts for Iron Company. Great company with great equipment.
Paul: What are your plans to support and grow the sport in the future?
Jim: I’m big on giving back and helping people. I answer emails all the time giving advice and people are so thankful. Makes you wonder what they have dealt with before. People want the knowledge but there is so much crappy info out there and just a preponderance of info in general that they don’t know where to turn so they get “analysis paralysis”. It’s up to us to further the KNOWLDEGE about training to others and to keep powerlifting and weight training in general rolling along. I absolutely love helping others reach their goals. I feel like my passion and “gift” is coaching and I get great satisfaction out of it.
Paul: What are you going to do to achieve your next goal?
Jim: I don’t know. I like the challenge of getting in shape for a bodybuilding show. I like to prove to myself that I can suffer and persevere. It’s not the show, its the training and diet for the show that I like. So maybe I will do another one, or maybe just challenge myself to get to a certain bodyweight in a certain time frame. I have to have a goal, a beginning and an end point. If not, I feel like I am not worth a damn.
Paul: What do you do to recover from a deadlift session?
Jim: When I was deadlifting very heavy, I focused on lots of protein and sleep sleep sleep. 8 hours a night and a 1-2 hour nap! I feel like sleep is so overlooked in training. If I could bottle it and sell it, I would be billionaire. It is so anabolic and facilitates the recovery process.
Paul: Who are some of your friends in the Powerlifting world?
Jim: Marty Gallagher, Rob Wagner, Kirk Karwoski, Brad Gillingham, Chuck Miller, Paul Leonard
Paul: Any hobbies of interest? What do you drive?
Jim: I love duck and goose hunting. LOVE IT. Every day of goose and duck season is like Christmas to me. I train my dog to hunt and we are a great team. My son and I have been hunting together for 10 years and we really bond in the goose blind. I read, read, read. I love it so much. My mom was an English teacher and always stressed the importance of reading. When I got my drivers license, the first thing that I did was drive to the book store! I drive a 2021 Toyota Tundra 4×4, and love it. A man needs a truck!
Paul: Tell the Strength World something that they do not know about you Sir.
Jim: Hmmm. I have a tremendous amount of sympathy for those that are helpless. Whether its a person down on their luck or someone that just needs a pat on the back. I feel sorry for people. I don’t feel sorry for people who are lazy, but I do have a soft spot for those who are struggling or depressed. Depression is a killer. My sister had it bad and I have seen up close how bad it can get. I am a supporter of military, police, firefighters, EMT’s , etc. and admire them greatly for their selflessness. And I love heavy metal and very slow, sad country music.
Paul: Who would you like to thank for their support, fellowship, or inspiration.
Jim: My father has always been my inspiration. He is a great , great man. He is 89 and going strong, as is my mother. My dad is in the hall of fame at the College of New Jersey for baseball basketball and football. He always exercised, came home every night, was a professor at the University of Maryland for 40 years, never cussed, drank or smoked. He grew up hard but always remained cool and level headed. My mom is an award wining painter and didn’t start until she was 65 ! Inspiring. Randy White , who played for the Dallas Cowboys long ago was always my idol. His dedication, work ethic and “can do” attitude was what I modeled my life after. He had a huge influence on me growing up. He was so great, but so humble. Never celebrated or acted like a fool. And I loved his Muay Thai training and the fact that he loved to lift weights. I still watch his old games on Youtube! Love that guy and actually interviewed him. His number is in my cell phone!
Paul: What questions should I have asked but did not?
Jim: I don’t know. We pretty much covered it all. I guess that I want to say that weight training is the fountain of youth. It has been part of my life for so long that I can’t understand how everyone doesn’t do it. It’s the only way to really change your body, and really is the foundation of everything that I do.
Thank you, Paul!