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Coaching Series: Bryce Lewis

Meet Bryce Lewis

@bryce_lewis USAPL Raw 105kg Champ Drug-free powerlifter and strength coach Founder of The Strength Athlete Barbell Brigade Ambassador Explorer of arts on paper, on screen and in the kitchen.

Before your coaching career, has anyone coached you?

I have been coached and am currently being coached. I started off in natural body building before powerlifting and I was coached by Layne Norton for a little while and then Eric Helms of 3D Muscle Journey, which included a full body training program that focused on more hypertrophy and a heavy focus on dieting. We also did cardio work to make the class and a bit of posing practice as well. Eric Helmes has been my coach for powerlifting for about six years now.

What were things you liked about your coach? Things you might have changed? Is your own work influenced by your experience with them?

I think I got very lucky with my coach. He is essentially everything I need. In terms of what I like, obviously the programming is effective and the relationship that I have with him is one where I very much feel supported. Additionally, I feel that we both have the same goals in mind not only in terms of performance but in terms of longevity: sound or training structures, not burning out, pushing forward and staying injury free—all of those things are high priorities. There is essentially nothing that I don’t like. Again, I think that I’m just pretty lucky in that regard. There is one thing and it’s not even something that I don’t like about this specific coach but it’s the fact that he has a perspective coming from being in his own skin and as such I don’t get to experience what it’s like to work with other coaches like Mike Tuchscherer, Mike Zourdos, Boris Seiko... I’ve often times been enamored with the idea of working with these other coaches, just to get a flavor of how they work with athletes. However, if that meant that I had to stop working with my own coach, I probably wouldn’t. Almost certainly, it’s just been too good. My own work is influenced in a lot of aspects by my experiences, both with being a coached athlete with Eric, but I also interned with 3D Muscle Journey for about six months or so. In terms of the things that I pick up, a little bit is about the update style, what we like to receive from the athlete in terms of information and a little bit about the prioritization of communication of getting more than just the numbers from the athlete. Those things are heavily influenced by my work with 3d muscle journey.

What are some important things to keep in mind when looking for a coach? Do you believe there is a "right" time to start looking for one?

No, I don’t think there is a right time to hire a coach. I only say this because I’ve seen rank beginners all the way through world level athletes hire coaches and I don’t think any of these is the wrong time. It just kind of depends on where you’re at. If you feel that guidance can help you then hey, it’s the right time to hire a coach. I do feel that most athletes who want to take powerlifting seriously should work with a coach, for the same reason you would in any other sport—you’re finding someone who is a professional at doing a specific task and you’re having them work for you to make a specific product and product—like an increased powerlifting total, or a specific squat, bench, or deadlift.  As far as what an athlete should look for when deciding on a coach, find someone who engages thoroughly with the sport and someone who has competed themselves. I think there’s something to be understood by being a competitor yourself that’s different from being a coach—you don’t necessarily have to be a high-level competitor at all, but understanding the sport from this spectrum of being an athlete is important. They should also be someone who knows what they’re talking about, someone who is evidence based, and research based, someone who values connections with people and interpersonal relationships to a relatively high degree because powerlifting training is strenuous and often times things go our way but sometimes they don’t and we need someone to lean on who’d be able to provide emotional support. They should also have good reviews from other athletes that they’ve worked with, and who other coaches in the industry look favorably on. I think that’s kind of a mix of the things and I guess apply the same type of criticism that you would in buying an expensive item.

To you, what are the pros and cons of online coaching?

Number one, it allows me to connect with athletes from around the world into this truly interconnected community. All of the other things that I can think of about online coaching probably can be equally applied to working with someone in person besides the number of available athletes. Powerlifting isn’t big enough where I can go to any city and expect to be employed full time as a powerlifting coach just by people in the surrounding area, so you really kind of have to look outside. Otherwise, there are some real benefits to working with people in person: being able to build interpersonal communication and connections, all of the same types of analyses you can do in person as you can do online, being able to have physical eyes on someone in the same space as you and being able to move around instead of looking at a video of someone really goes a long way and that’s something you can only really get in person.

What is a common problem athletes seem to have with any of the big three lifts? Generally, how can it be fixed?

It kind of depends. Early on I think what we really focus on are just small nuances and gross mechanical changes like foot width, hand width, where are the knees, where are the feet, where is the barbell on the back, etc. Later on, it seems to be problems associated with tempo or just having adopted a position that is strong but ultimately leads towards high levels of pain, so for instance people who squat low bar oftentimes get debilitating elbow, bicep, and brachialis pain and we’re having to mitigate those symptoms that would be alleviated if the athlete adjusted the bar position and just compensated by increasing strength overall. So, in terms of technical problems with the big three lifts, that’s kind of what we usually see. Sometimes those can be fixed just by telling the athlete, hey this is what I want you to do. Sometimes it’s an internal cue and sometimes it just takes time and we have to just strengthen muscles and it’s not an immediate fix.

What cues do you find helpful in your own squat, bench and deadlift?

So, for my squat, feeling confident under the bar is a really big deal. If I can clear my mind and just feel like there’s nothing that will stop me from standing up with this barbell, that’s a very empowering feeling and everything else seems to kind of click and fall into place after that. Sometimes feeling the pressure even across my feet helps and sometimes a tightening of the upper back so the last three quarters or so of spinal vertebrae and just kind of feeling that brace position as well. On the bench press, again a confident unrack and a controlled descent usually helps me, so kind of guiding the bar down, and feeling really tight. As far as the deadlift goes, keeping the bar close to my body and again a kind of sense of indestructible, “nothing will stop me from finishing this pull.” I have left most of the technical cues by the wayside, even the ones that have worked for me in the past, because they’re tools, and once you get what you’re after, you’re then able to automate processes. I think that’s a worthy step in a certain direction you. If every time you go up for a tennis swing, you have to think about what it’s like to do a tennis swing even if that’s something simple like where your elbow is or your wrist or something like that, you’re probably not going to be as good as you could be if you were focusing on you know, speed or power or location.

The final and most important question: if you could swim in a bowl of cereal, what kind would it be?

Well I mean I can eat cereal any time, so I’m not really looking for something tasty. I guess I’m looking for one that I could actually swim in instead of just sit in. What we’re probably looking for is something with relatively smooth surfaces so that the particles can glide across each other and I can actually kind of push my way through… so we don’t want things with jagged edges that are just kind of going to sit there like LEGO pieces. I’m probably looking at cocoa puffs or something spherical, or maybe something like a cheerio shape might be good too.


Thank you all for the support thus far in our coaching series! Through these interviews we intend to shed light on the different elements of powerlifting and offer everyone pieces of information that they can take to the gym, or the platform, and be better.

We believe there are strength in numbers, as well as strength in stories!