I first met Mike a year ago, as a spectator of the 2011 Strongman Competition at the FitX in Melbourne.
In 2012 this pilot’s strongman career is now taking off.
Over to Mike…we’d better fasten our seatbelts..
Phil Burgess: What is your Strongman competition result you are the most proudest of to date?
Mike Vrljic: It must be Giants Live (Melbourne) 2012.
Primarily it showed how much I had improved, given earlier on I went through a very hard time in my personal life that prevented me from training for 3-4 weeks, had difficulty eating and so forth that saw me lose almost 10kg.
This occurred about 7 weeks from Giants Live and knowing what lifts I was doing at the Gym previously, my 9th place at Giants would of been alot higher given I had not suffered those setbacks.
Phil Burgess: In your short Strongman career to date, how have your training methods changed?
Mike Vrljic: I have only been training seriously for Strongman since August 2011, after I recovered from a bicep strain in my first Strongman competition in April 2011 at Definition 352 (Home of Australia’s Elite Strongman Training).
This led me to a disqualification at Melbournes Strongest Man which would have placed me Second. Details of this will be provided later in the interview.
Prior to this I used basic exercises for training but also incorporated strongman lifting within a normal bodybuilder style training routine….no real structure.
Since August through, I have found the body responds best to a dynamic training approach with constant changes. I have found solace in the Westside Barbell Conjugate method adapted to strongman and incorporating hypertrophy exercises and recent conditioning have been working wonders.
Phil Burgess: You are a big guy over 6ft 5, and 140kg, it must be hard getting into the small planes that you fly as a commercial pilot? Are you going to be able to get much bigger?
Mike Vrljic: LOL, well to be honest, my weight I am aiming for is approximately 160kg at a lean 9-10% bodyfat. I should get to this weight in 3-4 years based on my current diet and my lean mass growth through the last few years.
Getting into the plane is like watching Cirque De Soleil as I need to use my hands to position my legs to cram into the cockpit :). It always makes for an enlightened comment to ease the upcoming flight for the passengers.
However looking at my bodyweight I want to achieve, I will be forced to look into flying larger turbine aircraft so weight becomes less of an issue.
Phil Burgess: As discussed briefly earlier, I believe you won an event last year but ended up being disqualified, what was the event and what happened?
Mike Vrljic: This will always haunt me, wont it!!!! :).
Well it was Melbourne’s Strongest Man and for the first two events I was not in the right frame of mind and not firing all cylinders.
Then came the overhead medley, I came second before I started to fire up and the adrenaline hit.
Next the deadlift medley which I won and then the loading medley followed. It was five stones ranging from 110kg to 160kg. I fired up and all five stones went over the barrier in 11 seconds flat!
To the cheers of the crowed I exploded and the HBOMB came out to which he hit the stone barrier and it flew forward, fell apart, and parts of the barrier went flying into the crowd standing 10 meters away!!!! Luckily no-one was hurt but it did make for amazing footage that will be published online soon…..
Phil Burgess: What did you get out of competing at the 2012 Giants Live competition in Melbourne, and what areas do you need to improve?
Mike Vrljic: I have always known that I am good at loading and carrying events which I obtained the Australian Record for the Keg Load.
If my conditioning was better, I would of competed with the internationals I believe.
My deadlift, while good, is nowhere near the standard of the international competitors and this is an area I must work on, together with shoulder strength and leg strength. This will develop, with another year or so of strict training, I will improve dramatically.
Phil Burgess: Did you play any other sports before going into Strongman?
Mike Vrljic: I was heavily into basketball for many years and played for Melbourne Tigers at a junior level with interest from some American Colleges to invite me for try-outs.
This did not eventuate as I dislocated my knee whilst in Europe when I was 18 and instead of conducting strict rehab, I found solace in hanging out with mates and going out rather than continuing a basketball career. Idiot….I know!!!!
I can still dunk a ball better than alot of people with no issues.
Phil Burgess: Did you get any advice from the International competitors at the Giants Live event, and if so what was it?
Mike Vrljic: It was mainly regarding training in specific areas to improve in certain events such as Nick Best telling me how to improve my deadlift sticking point of my knees and the South Africans and Eddie Hall giving advice about squatting techniques.
Phil Burgess: What is your next competition and how do you think you will go?
Mike Vrljic: I will be competing at the Melbourne’s Strongest Man competition in November 2012, so a long preparation and this one will be mine for the taking.
Phil Burgess: Who are your inspirational figures in the world of Strongman?
Mike Vrljic: Different people give differing levels of inspiration in different areas.
Bill Lyndon for his passion and drive to bring this sport into the mainstream in Australia.
Nick Best for his showmanship, Derek Poundstone and Mariusz Pudzianowski for conditioning and shape.
Phil Burgess: What is your best log-lift, deadlift and squat?
- Log: 160kg
- Deadlifts: 340kg
- Squat: 260kg (Injured my back before going heavier in my program).
Phil Burgess: Finally, tell us about this severe back injury, what happened, and how did you overcome it?
Mike Vrljic: During a Sheiko squat program, I was doing squats 3 times a week. This was having a great impact on my leg strength.
Leading into my final workout for the week before taking a week off to test my 1RM, I had a deep tissue massage and this was the straw that broke the mammoths back!! I squated after this treatment instead of taking the rest of the day off!!! I slipped my L4/L5 disk and could not walk for 3 days!
Within a week I was training thanks to the Reverse Hyperextension at Definition 352 (This did wonders and got me walking) and stretching my Hamstrings.
I also did weekly dry kneedling and myo with Michael at Northern Myotherapy and Physio with Gary Cairnduff at Olympic Park Sports Medicine.
I was given alot of core exercises and abdominal work and after 6 weeks, I started deadlifting then 2 weeks later, I deadlifted 320kg for multiple reps.
This was leading into Giants Live and knowing I needed to be at the top of my game as a reserve in case I was to compete, which I was :).