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Powerlifting Articles by Curtis "Natural Freak" Dennis Jr.
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By: Curtis Dennis Jr

Back in "Record Breakers" I mentioned a lift that recently became the squat king over Ed Coan. First he did 1041 squat, making his presence felt in the powerlifting world and rocking it with his 1074 squat later on. His name is Brent Mikesell. This month my mission is to bring powerlifting to Bodybuilding.com I want to introduce one of the sports' best squatter of all time who may not be finished with the squats yet!!!

CD: Brent. Please give the readers a description of yourself?

Well, I'm 35 years old. I'm six feet tall and weigh in at contests around 330. I was born in a small town in Northern Idaho and have lived in the Northwest pretty much my whole life. I played football at the University of Montana and then took up teaching as a full time career. I am married to my beautiful wife Conie and have three awesome kids, Shelbie, Kalli and Maximus. My best lifts at a meet are 1075 squat, a 601 bench and a 804 deadlift.

CD: How long have you been into powerlifting?

I actually started in high school back in the mid 80's. After a couple years of small contests, I had to give it up for college football. I didn't pick it up again until December of 1995.

CD: Have you always been strong?

I was one of those guys that had great genetics for squatting and deadlifting, but just the opposite for benching. I wasn't really sure how strong I was until the middle of my junior year in high school, when I busted the squat and deadlift records of some seniors that were considered legends. That was when I knew I was pretty strong….My bench took years to come along. My upper body matured very late in life.

CD: Tell us about your childhood and how you got into powerlifting?

Me, I'm just the usual Idaho redneck child growing up. I grew up fast as my parents divorced when I was five, that was also when I blew my finger off with a 38 pistol. I had to grow up fast after the divorce. Let's see, I got into powerlifting because my high school football coach told me about a contest that I should enter. He thought I would do really good in it. He told me he thought I could place in it. I was pissed when he said it. I told him I would win the whole damn contest, and that's exactly what I did. I look back on it later and I know he said that on purpose. My high school coach was a great man. He once told me that no high school senior would never deadlift 600 pounds. In January of my senior year, I deadlifted 625 at 198 pounds. He about shit!!!

CD: How did it feel squatting 1041 and then 1074?

The feelings were entirely different. The 1041 I did was absolute disbelief. I told myself I could do it before the meet, but even my training partners looked at me in disbelief. I could see it in their eyes. I pretty much expected to give it a good shot and about halfway up, I remember thinking, "Oh shit, this is gonna go!" The 1074 I was excited too, but for different reasons.

Anytime you set a world record, a guy has got to be happy, but I knew I had more in the tank and I was mad I didn't go for more. The 1041 was so tough, I couldn't have done 1042.

CD: Is the squat your favorite lift out of the three?

Yes, it is now. But for years it was the deadlift, because it came so naturally for me. Lately that lift is a disappointment because I know I'm strong enough to pull mid to high 800's, but my grip isn't strong enough due to my missing finger.

CD: I heard you teach PE and math for a living. Do your students know how strong you are?

Yes, but at first it was disbelief. Then it became the coolest thing. I just moved to a different school this year, and there isn't a kid there that knows anything about me.

CD: How do you think you stack up against other powerlifters?

That's a tough question. If you are asking me to compare to powerlifters of any weight class that's different than just the heavyweights. But realistically, I think by total only, I am one of the top 5 heavyweight powerlifters in the world. But, I say that with great caution….because, on any given day, I can make one mistake and sink so far down the ladder, I would become unnoticed. If you compare all powerlifters of all weight classes over the sport's entire time, well, I'd probably have a tough time making the top 50.

CD: How do you compensate for having a missing index finger?

Throw shit around and swear a lot!!!! Na, there's not a damn thing I can do for it. It has kept me from winning some big contests and making history with the 2500 total so close. I've tried stick sprays, grip work, straps-which are illegal in contests, different grips etc….I'm just stuck with it.

CD: Do you believe with the arrival of professional powerlifting, that powerlifting is moving in the right direciton?

No. I wish it was more unified. But it never will be because there is no money in the sport, most spectators are bored with it and meet promoters can't make money if it's unified. In the WPO, even if a guy wins 2-$3000, he's barely breaking even for his cost to do the meet. Which, in this time, I'd still take.

CD: I've always preach about having training partners. Do you have any training partners?

Yes, they are my saviors in the sport. Without them I am nothing. Their names are Agnar Adalsteinsson and Luke Harris. They are good friends and very giving of their time. Often times, they sacrifice for themselves to help me out. I hope we would be friends for life.

CD: Who did you look up to when you were coming up as a powerlifter?

I get asked this question a lot. I looked up to Jim Voronin and Anthony Clark. I was always fascinated by Dave Pasanella, but he died before he really did some freaky numbers. However, no doubt in my mind, my greatest admiration is for Eddy Coan. He is the best powerlifter of all time in my opinion. Hideaka Inaba from Japan I would rank as number 2.

CD: Are you training anyone right now?

I don't personal train in the gym. I train clients on the internet. I am training two guys from Las Vegas and another guy in D.C. currently. I would love to pick up a young 18 year old hungry kid to help me out when my training partners are ready to bag it, because that's soon, and help teach him to be very good.

CD: What was one of the challenges of coming up as a powerlifter?

When I first started it was staying committed because I was so dependent on my parents, and my friends etc. As I got older and I had a little more financial freedom and the strength to walk away from my friends who just wanted to party it got easier. Then as I got better, the struggle was the gym owners asking me to leave their clubs because I was a liability to their clubs and other gym members. It's very difficult to train at a world class level because it requires equipment that is not traditional in gyms. I have to honestly say, I rarely see the big time bodybuilders kicked out.

You know why, because they are prettier than us! Truthfully now, they have nice physiques (guys and gals) and us powerlifters look like overweight cows. When the powerlifter gets loud and intense he' asked to leave, but when the bodybuilder does the same thing, well, he's just training hard. I guess what I'm saying is, the perception from gym owners is that most of us are ugly (and we are) and that we scare away their clientele.

CD: What would you say to a novice lifter or to a lifter whose just starting out in powerlifting?

I would say what my dad said to me the first time I asked him if he though I could be a professional basketball player. My dad said to me that it would require a lot of hard work. He never told me yes or no, that's all he said. I didn't understand that answer for years. After I got into sports, it started making sense. You get out of it, what you put into it. Be prepared to work your ass to be great. Be prepared to work a little to be average. Be prepared to sit on your ass and take last place when you don't work at all.

CD: Please tell us about your new training video and where to get it.

My video was shot of me mostly during workouts. It's just raw footage, and I mostly narrate over the footage. I cover proper techniques, training ideas, routines, equipment needs, show you how to use bands and chains and I also included 12 minutes of contest footage as motivation. It covers all three lifts, the squat, bench and deadlift with most of the emphasis on the squat. This one hour tape, took me nearly a year to complete. I think any powerlifter, beginner or advanced, would find it useful. You can purchase the tape for $39 plus shipping on my website, www.brentmikesell.com.

CD: Do you believe in combining powerlifting and bodybuilding?

I do if you want to be an average powerlifter who looks like a bodybuilder. And I do if you want to be an average bodybuilder who's extremely strong. Actually, I think bodybuiilders benefit more from blending the two because the heavy weight can help them add muscle mass, but I don't think it works as well the other way around. Yes, there are a few great powerlifters who look awesome, but very few.

CD: What are your workouts like? How are they setup?

I train four days a week. Monday is speed bench day with accessories. Wednesday is squat day with accessories. Friday is heavy bench day. Saturday is lower back and leg work. I no longer deadlift in my training except the last four weeks before a contest, and I only do stiff legged deads. That is due to my torn bicep I suffered a year and a half ago. I have actually improved my deadlift since cutting back. Average workout is 2 hours. As I get closer to a meet it runs closer to 3, but most of that time is sitting on my ass resting for the next set.

CD: Do you train equally as hard on the bench and deadlift as you do on the squat?

Definitely yes on the bench. In fact, I think I train the bench harder than the squat, because it's holding me back from a phenomenal total. The deadlift, like I said before, I don't train at all.

CD: What would you suggest to someone on how to get a big squat?

Big squats come from strong hips, abs, glutes and hamstrings. Work those bodyparts relentlessly. Train hard. Get plenty of rest. Perfect your technique and become a mental master of that technique, because when you get under the bar at meet time, a lot is forgotten due to adrenaline and a crowd in front of you. Finally, don't let the weight intimidate you-that stops more lifters than anything else.

CD: As the World's Strongest Squatter...what's next for you?

Well, I attempted 1102 twice last month and came about 2/3 of the way up. I definitely want to hit that number before I get out of this sport and would like to total over 2500 and become only the second to ever do so. My next meet is the WPO Semifinals in New Orleans, November 9.

CD: Is there anything else you like to mention to our readers here at Bodybuilding.com?

To all you bodybuilders, I envy your physiques. I hate the way I look. But, maybe someday I'll cross over. Best of luck to all of you and keep pursuing your dreams.

CD: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. You are one of my favorite powerlifters and doing this interview shows people here at Bodybuilding.com why.

Thank you.


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