Richard Hawthorne; A Prodigy of Pulling Prowess

/ Posted 07.19.2011

^^^ Richard Hawthorne Gym Deadlifts 495 Pounds for 10 Reps at 128 Pounds Bwt ^^^

The pound-for-pound ranking system and claim to fame is often discussed and acknowledged in two of the world’s most classic of sporting pursuits; fighting and lifting. More often than not, these rankings are based on opinion and speculation and the evidence presented is very circumstantial. But in powerlifting, the deadlift is recognized as being the least mutable of the competition lifts. The deadlifting super suits add far less pounds to a competitor’s capability when compared to the rebounding effect of the squat suits and benchpress shirts. In addition, the judging standards for the deadlift seem to be the most globally accepted and consistent. It’s far more difficult to get a partial or hitched deadlift passed than it is a high squat. And you can’t buy a big deadlift the way you can a shirted bench. So, where one sits on the deadlifting ladder carries more weight in the weight lifting world.

Richard Hawthorne is one of the names often brought up when The Princes of Pound-for-Pound are being assessed. Richard has officially deadlifted 573.2 pounds at 123 pounds, which is 4.65 his own body weight! That astounding feat of strength ranks him as being the 9th best suited deadlifter of all time for the weight class. And, to further secure his standing near the very top of the mountain, Hawthorne has jumped up a division and pulled 611.8 @ 128, which equates to 4.78 times his own bodyweight and earns him the ranking of eleventh best of all time in the 132′s.

How did he do it? Who worked with him along the way? And just how far does a person have to pull the deadlift bar when they’re lifting almost quintuple bodyweight? Read on true believers, read on.

Sean Katterle – From your teens into your late 20s you’ve remained in the
123 or 132 pound weight classes. I don’t recall ever seeing you walking
around at more than what I’m guessing is 6% bodyfat? How much do you
attribute your lean composition to your diet and how much is simply your
genetic predisposition to not carry any excess flab or water weight? And on the
diet and nutritional note; do you have any eating rules or guidelines that you follow?

Richard Hawthorne – Well, I haven’t checked my body fat in over a year and a half. I haven’t felt a need to because I have a small frame to begin with. To be honest, I don’t have the healthiest diet, but I do try and take in a lot of quality protein slow burning carbs. I’m a meat eater. Good, bad, red, lean or whatever cut I can get is going down With my small frame, I have to eat whatever I can get to keep the weight on. I can easily weigh between 115 and 120 pounds if I don’t, due to the fact that I work 14 hours a day and graveyard shifts on the weekends. The last time I did check my body fat, it was about 7-10%.

Sean Katterle – Your pound-for-pound strength is at the top of the charts
You’ve officially deadlifted 573 pounds in the 123 pound class and you’ve
gone 611 at 132. When people read about the lightweights’ accomplishments
they often explain away the results as being more leverage based than stemming from
explosive power. Awhile back I asked you to stand with the barbell at
lockout and to measure how far off the floor it had to travel to get there.
Over what distance do you personally have to pull the bar to get a deadlift

Richard Hawthorne – I measured the distance of my pull and it came out to be 25 inches on the dot, so I’m pulling the bar just over two feet to get it from the floor and up to a full lockout. These discrediting remarks you referred to do get me frustrated. Because of the fact that I am shorter and have good lifts my physical power is discredited. What the deadlift comes down to, optimal leverages or not, is core strength and good form. If you don’t have a fortified torso and expert technique, then work hard to get it. You do not hear people walking around discrediting Dirk Norwitzki’s ball playing by simply dismissing him as being “Tall.” So, why do it in powerlifting? Besides, you have to create the right leverage and pressure when deadlifting and you aren’t getting the automatic stretch response like you do when benching or squatting. I like to call it “Turning a deadlift into an action lift.” That’s why it is much harder to master than the other two powerlifts.

Sean Katterle – At the 2011 APA Raw Nationals [walked out squats, wraps
allowed] you posted a 507 pound squat, a 303 pound bench and a 551 pound
deadlift. I wasn’t at this competition so I’m in the dark a bit on how it
all went down. Did you try a deadlift higher than the 551? If so, do you
feel that the stress and strain of being in a full meet took away from your
deadlifting ability (you were lifting at 90% of your single lifts norm.)
Your numbers prove you to be a well rounded and elite full meet lifter in
the 132s. Can you please outline a contest preparation training week for
when you’re a month out from a 3 lift raw competition?

Richard Hawthorne – Yes, I lifted in April of this year at the APA Raw Nationals. I am very proud of myself with the numbers I put up. This was my first full meet in 6 years and it was raw I was going in there just to get the platform experience again and I came out with the biggest raw total in history for the 132 pound bwt division with a 1,361. I usually don’t talk about what I’ve lifted at shows. But, since this interview is my time to shine, why not?
Sean, I did try for a third attempt. But I was happy with that 551 deadlift due to the fact that I participated in the Animal Cage this year at the Arnold Classic. We had a friendly competition for the fans where we split ourselves into two teams and vied to see which team could pull 500lbs for the most total reps. I pulled 500lbs for a good ten, but I encountered a problem with the floor, which was solid steel. Every time that weight hit the ground it would really jar me. Starting three days later and all the way up until the meet I would wake up everyday feeling like I’d just deadlifted the previous day. I was having problems pulling 400lbs off the floor and I was only 4 weeks out from the meet. I was worried about being able to budge 500lbs off the ground. I called pro strongman, Grant Higa, for advice and thanks to his suggestion of lifting off a box for the rest of my training, I got the lifts I needed to get the record. I do agree that a full meet is very stressful and that it puts a strain on your deadlifting ability to some extent. So I try and be happy with what I get, but I never let myself feel fully satisfied.
As far as my program, I’m more “old school training” than anything. I never go by inflexible percentages. I lift based on how I feel from day to day. Some days I feel stronger than others so I do what I can do to get my work in and to not destroy my confidence in the process. Confidence in one’s ability is exceptionally important in the sport powerlifting.

Here’s a basic outline for my contest preparation, starting a month out from game day.
*auxiliary lifts are not shown in this chart, but each workout takes roughly two hours or a bit longer to complete
Monday: Benchpress (Warm up to 225, 236 x 6, 250 x 6 and 265 x 6)
Wednesday: Squat (Warm up to 315, 375 x 6, 400 x 6 and 415 x 6)
Thursday: Bamboo Bench Bar 4 set of 15 – 20 reps, Cable Crossovers 4 x 15 reps and then Extensive Triceps Work
Saturday: Deadlift (Warm up to 405, 500 x 6, 515 x 6 and 530 x 6)

*auxiliary lifts are not shown in this chart, but each workout takes roughly two hours or more to complete
Monday: Benchpress (Warm up to 225, 250 x 3, 270 x 3 and 290 x 3)
Wednesday: Squat (Warm up to 365, 405 x 3, 425 x 3 and 450 x 3)
Thursday: Bamboo Bench Bar 4 sets of 15 – 20 reps, Cable Crossovers 4 x 15 reps and then Extensive Triceps Work
Saturday: Deadlift (Warm up to 500, 510 x 3, 530 x 3 and 550 x 3)

*auxiliary lifts are not shown in this chart, but I’m spending about two to two and a half hours in the gym for each session
Monday: Benchpress (Warm up to 225, 250 x 1 and 275 x 1 which would be my opening attempt)
Wednesday: Squat (Warm up to 405, 445 x 1 and then 475 x 1 which would be my opening attempt)
Thursday: Bamboo Bench Bar 4 sets of 15 – 20 reps, Cable Crossovers 4 x 15 and the Extensive Triceps Work
Saturday: Deadlift (Warm up to 500, 510 x 1 and 525 x 1 which would be my opening attempt)

Then I take the whole week off from weight lifting leading into the meet.

Sean Katterle – If I recall correctly, you’ve spent a good deal of time over
the years working with three of the best American lifters of all time; Joe
Ladnier, Tony Caprari and Garry Frank if I’m not mistaken? For each coach/training partner, tell
us what was shared with you by these star competitors. And what’s the most impressive lifts you’ve seen each of them perform in the gym?

Richard Hawthorne – To be honest, I did not get to work with Gary Frank, but we talked at length from time to time. Tony Caprari, on the other hand, was the one who carried me under his wing for years. Growing up in the same neighborhood, Cedar Grove, athletics drills and sports were performed all day because parents back then would kick us out the house and lock the doors until the street lights came on. Tony got me out to countless WABDL, APF, and WPO meets. And that’s where I first met the Great Sean Zilla (Laughing) On a more serious note, I owe a lot of my accomplishments to the Caprari family. To me, everything Tony did was great, because it all seemed effortless. And if you know Tony, he is laid back and has a nonchalant style of body language. The most impressive lift Tony did in the gym (besides his deadlifting) was a 430lb raw bench for three reps at 198lbs. He did that years ago like it was nothing.
After Tony moved away, I started to train at the Power Pit, which was Joe Ladnier’s gym. There I still stuck to the training template Tony helped me to lay out. Being the youngest and smallest at that gym definitely pushed me. And my numbers went up thanks to the competitive atmosphere. Keeping up in squat with a 722 in a canvas suit and having one of the higher numbers in the deads, I was coming into my own. But obviously Hurricane Katrina did not want me attempt anything at the GNC Show of Strength that year, ha The best lift I’ve seen Joe do, in addition to his elite benchpresses, was a 744 pound deadlift after going through a knee operation.

Sean Katterle – Years ago we were both at a contest in Destin, Florida. I
was announcing and you were competing in the deadlift. I recall someone
telling me that they saw you slam dunk a basketball from underneath the hoop
(standing vertical leap.) And you’re not quite as tall as the infamous NBA dunk king, Spud Webb, are you? Hearing that made me want to ask you if you do any type of plyometric training? Did you ever pursue track n’ field jumping events? And, since jumping is similar to
powerlifting in that it’s an explosive, athletic movement, I’m curious as to
what percentage of your body’s musculature is fast twitch and how much is
slow twitch endurance fibers. Have you ever tested yourself in endurance
events like distance running, cycling or swimming? Does your cardio
abilities come close to the impressive one time feats you can perform like high jumps and powerlift squats?

Richard Hawthorne – I stand about 5’4” and, yes, I can dunk a basketball. But the dunk you’re referring to wasn’t vertical. I can jump and grab the rim vertically with 2 hands though. Ha You’re making me sound like a monster over here I did compete in the 110 hurdles, 400 run and in pole-vaulting for a brief time period in high school. My cardio is on the high end and when I train or have been playing some type of outdoor sport for a couple of weeks, it doesn’t take long for me to be in good cardio condition. I like to think I am pretty well balanced when it comes to having a (general) athletic combination of fast and slow twitch muscle fibers.

Sean Katterle – You currently own and/or manage a gym? What’s the name of
the facility? Where is it located? What powerlifting/strongman specific
equipment are you offering to your members? And if people want to contact
you at your place of business, do you have a website or social networking
page set-up?

Richard Hawthorne – Yes, my partner and I, Aaron “Big Red” Williams, have opened a gym that is based around powerlifting and strongman. But we also offer specific sports performance training for other sports and general circuit training. The name of the facility is Southern Elite PL (powerlifting) and it is located in D’Iberville, Mississippi. Some of the specialty pieces of equipment we have available to our members are a 400 pound tire, a Prowler sled, farmers walk handles, a monolift, sixty foot long ropes, chains and two bamboo “earthquake” bars. You can get in contact with us by email at or visit our Facebook page Southern Elite PL.

Sean Katterle – A lot of lightweight athletes really excel at speed,
conditioning and agility. But you also rank extremely high in regards to
your ability to withstand the pressures of hundreds of pounds of
gravitational pull. I know a lot of 200 pound guys who’d be hard pressed to
bury a 500 pound raw squat or to complete a 600 pound deadlift. Which
aspects of your training do you credit for developing such fortified
connective tissue? Your tendons and ligaments have to be iron clad in order
for your frame to support what amounts to roughly 3 ½ times your own
body weight

Richard Hawthorne – I’ve been in powerlifting for over a decade now and my point-of-view is that practically anyone can become a respectable lifter if they stay consistent and train hard for an extended period of time. Whether someone’s blessed with good genetics or not, a solid six or seven years of hard, smart and dedicated training can send you on your way to some great totals in any weight class. With that being said, I give credit to the time and patience that I have put in and I credit being smart and listening to my body. I have been in the game since the year 2000 and I haven’t had a single serious injury. And I thank the Lord for that
For the exercises and the routines that I live by and give the most credit to are 10 x 10 (classically referred to as German Volume Training) in every lift. There is no better foundation to start off a training cycle. It serves three purposes; it gives you time to work on your form, it builds up your core strength and it develops your competitive drive because you’re pushing yourself to complete heavier and heavier sets of ten repetitions. For a beginning lifter, 10 x 10’s are a perfect template for their first cycle. This is also where you, as a coach, can be critical of their form, rep after rep. Preaching the famous saying “Practice makes perfect.”
Yet again 10 x 10’s seem to get the job done for the second cycle of your training foundation. This is where you still are working on form, but you push yourself even harder, which forces the lifter to work their core by having to maintain good posture with reasonably heavier weights. Now, putting it all together for the third training cycle, the lifter should be able to have good form and posture, but to also be really focused on their drive and explosiveness. Super heavy 10 x 10′s is a whole new ball game. By the time you get to your sixth or seventh set, the reps start to emulate heavy singles due to the fact that your muscles are being pushed to the limit and you have to focus on everyone in order to be successful. For example, at 130 pounds body weight I’ve worked 2 sets of squats for 10 reps with 145lbs, 2 sets with 235, two with 265, 305 and then I topped out with 325 pounds for two ten repetition sets. This squat build-up took everything I had at the time in order to see it through to completion.
Deadlifting negatives is the other drill for which I attribute to my gains. This strengthens the torso like nothing else. The exercise is to perform six sets of six reps each and to take six seconds to complete the eccentric phase or lowering or each rep. Deadlifting Hell is a legitimate name for it. Just try keeping and maintaining perfect posture throughout each of the slow, six second descent of each reps If this doesn’t help you then I don’t know what will Example: 225×6 int x 6 rep (2), 315×6 int x 6 reps (2), 405 x 6 int x 6 reps(2).

^^^ Richard Hawthorne 100% Raw Deadlifts 515lbs x 8 reps at 128lbs Body weight ^^^

Sean Katterle – You’ve been at or near the top of the powerlifting dog pile
since the early 2000s. But, at just 27 years of age, you potentially have another decade or more in the top tier, open divisions. Where would you like
to go with your lifting? Are you planning on staying at 132 or? Are you
looking to participate in any specific events or leagues? Who are you
working with right now in your quest to push yourself to even further

Richard Hawthorne – I am training with a group of 11 guys who I like to call “The Next Generation” at my gym, Southern Elite PL. Listen out for them Where would I like to go? My immediate goal is to be the first person ever to lift 11x body weight Raw. Long term, I want to bless others with what God blessed me with, to give out knowledge, courage, confidence, and hope in anyway I can. I want to lift as long as the good Lord blesses me to. I am not rushing to go up in weight at all. I am just going to let nature take its course. When my metabolism slows down then I’ll consider moving up in weight class. Until then, 132 is my class.

Sean Katterle – Thanks for taking time out from your training and seventy hour work week to let us know how you work your muscle sport magic Richard. You’ve got me motivated to break the deadlifting blocks out again and to refocus my efforts to improve my technique and pulling posture. And I’m gonna pull the cork out of my piggy bank and spend a few coin on a bamboo “earthquake” bar too! And hopefully we can find the funding to add an overall pound-for-pound deadlifting prize at a future MHP Clash of the Titans competition. It would be superb having you join our official line-up and roster of pros.

Richard Hawthorne – I appreciate the time you spent conducting this interview, Sean. It is always good to hear from you. At this time I would like to thank God, my family, the Caprari family, Aaron “Big Red” Williams, Louie Langlinez, Mike and Christ Alise, my gym members and everyone who has supported me in the past.

^^^ Richard Hawthorne Deadlifting 425lbs x 3 Reps While Standing on an 8 Box to Significantly Increase the Range of Motion ^^^