I’ve had the privilege of interviewing some very strong athletes but sometimes I have to cut material to fit a publication’s space constraints. Well lucky you, because I post those “outtakes” here for your reading pleasure!
When I interviewed 181lb champion Maliek Derstine for Power Magazine, I noticed that he was the same height and weight as the mutant hero Wolverine. Maliek said he’d never heard
of Wolverine before I brought him up (he’s been trapped in a cave with just weights and Russian texts on strength training so cut him some slack!) but he thought it was pretty cool. We had an in-depth conversation over coffee where he revealed his outlook on training, whether he plans on moving up in weight class, why he doesn’t get involved in the numerous powerlifting flame wars and his nutritional strategy to support lifting big weights!
Maliek thanks for taking time to talk to me. Through some rigorous investigative journalism, I discovered that you’re the same height and weight as the comic book version of the mutant super hero Wolverine. Are you a mutant?
I’ll let you call that one. (Notice that he didn’t answer the question yes or no. Somebody call SHIELD!)
Do you ever have any aspirations of going up to 198 to challenge Amit Sapir and Jesse
Norris in raw without wraps or Joel Shell, Brandon Franklin and Brantly Thornton in raw with wraps for the top spot there?
I don’t really want to call it a challenge. What I would say is he’s going to do what he wants to do and I’m going to do what I want to do. Whatever his goals are, are going to be his goals, meanwhile my goals are going to be my goals. At some point in time we just may be in the same class.
But you do anticipate at some point moving up to 198?
It’s going to be a possibility when the time comes. I’ll know when to go up.
You’re a fairly lean guy do you handle your own nutritional strategy and what is your nutritional strategy?
I was handling my own diet for a while and when I started with Iron Rebel, Ed gave me some suggestions to keep my weight in check. I wouldn’t say it’s so much of a diet, I would say it’s more of a portion control and nutrient timing but I alternate what I eat from time to time.
Could you unpack that in the context of a prep cycle for a meet? Talk about how it changes from 12 weeks out, to then say four or five weeks out to the week of and finally meet day.
My diet is very straight forward, it actually does not change in Kcal or macro /micro nutrient proportions until the cutting phase. During the cutting phase I will eliminate carbohydrates completely, and reduce sodium a few days out from weigh-ins while executing a standard water load. I’m at that age where I think my body’s going to do what it wants to do no matter if I try to force it to not.
You’re about 5’3 and you said in an interview last year that you usually weigh 180lbs. You just told me that you float at about 195. As you get bigger, leverages tend to change a little bit. So have you noticed any changes in your technique as you’ve gotten bigger or has it been so slow that it doesn’t matter?
Bench and squat not so much. The deadlift I had to play with it a little bit. I had to change my stance from conventional to sumo after weighing a consistent 180, at the suggestion of Gene Bell and Steve Goggins, looking at my deadlift. I started training sumo more extensively. While training raw I actually started feeling better. Prior to that point I trained both but I never trained the sumo stance to be competition ready. I have to say with the squatting, going back to that, that actually became easier after I got up to about 185. I had more stability, my trunk grew about three inches so that was a big difference my core strength got better; my lower back strength became better. Everything tied in better, and with all that happening technique and training capacity in terms of intensity, steadily improved.
So you go through that whole process like, Tight, tight tight; chest up, chest up, chest up? I’ll just be honest with you, when you squatted yesterday, especially in the early sets, the camera couldn’t even catch it. You were a blur, so there’s no way that you’re thinking of all of that as you’re going through the lift.
Well, I do go through it all. It’s just second nature. I feel things out as I go. You know when warming up, you’re just warming up to make sure you’re good to do what you want to do, then go on the platform and hit what you need to hit. The process is the same for all three disciplines.
How do you react when you miss a lift? Say it’s your second attempt or even just a bad day in the gym. How do you bounce back from that?
In a meet, you have let it go and
move on to the next discipline, if it’s your third. Whereas, if you miss your second attempt, you’ve just got to go out there and hit it again. I look at powerlifting as one of those things where you have nine attempts available to you; it’s up to you on how you utilize all nine. So if it only takes five attempts to hit the total you want to hit then you got five, if you make six, you’re a little bit over, you make seven, you’re a little bit more, you make eight, then you’re doing pretty good, you make all nine then I guess you got the most of what you could do that day. It’s about careful planning and making sure you’re hitting realistic numbers in the gym so you don’t miss to set yourself up for the platform where you’re truly prepared to where nothing’s a guess and you’re not overextending yourself.
You definitely don’t get involved in any of the Internet wars—
Eh, I believe in drawing attention to the positives of athletic success and achievement and the journey of doing so.
But you did comment on Facebook to the effect that people shouldn’t go out of their way to diminish the character of Tom Kallas [after they competed against each other in The Cage and Kallas got hurt] and that your first instinct was to make sure that he wasn’t seriously injured. Why did you get involved this time?
I made that statement due the overwhelming number comments in regards to Tom’s injury status. It was more of a public statement that I felt that was necessary to exclude myself from whomever may choose to comment negatively against Tom and his personal relations. One of the things that helped me currently stay focused on what I want to do; is going back to why I liked powerlifting when I first started. I thought, well I want to have fun; I always want/wanted to see how far I could go. That’s what got me to where I was at when I first started. So, I’m like,” if I go back to that; I keep focused then nothing else is going to matter except for what I want to do that given day.” I think a lot of people lose sight of the true essence of sport and competitiveness. They’re like “Well, I’m going against XYZ person so I’ve got to make sure that they’re not doing too much more than me or that I’m ahead of them; or I’m going to this world championship so I’ve got to check and see the nominations. If you really think about it, if you prepare for what you know you can do, the only thing you can do is go to that competition that day and see what you got. If you focus on that, you’ll probably be more successful than not because you’re not worried about everything else. Do what you want to do and put up numbers because nobody can do it forever, you’ve just got to enjoy it while you’re doing it.
You’ve said that meeting [Raw Unity founder] Tony Conyers impacted your life as a man and an athlete. Perry Ellis Jr. said much the same thing when I interviewed him. What is it about him that is so inspiring to you all? Is it his lifts, character etc.?
I always knew about him because I started out as a 148/165er even a 32 in the beginning and I knew of Tony Conyers but I never met him. While getting to know him; I saw that his life perspective was very similar to mine. I’m not going to go into my upbringing too much, but I could tell that he was a person that, lifted because he enjoyed it but I could also tell that he overcame a lot. What is super impressive is that he’s doing the same thing now that he’d done twenty plus years ago. In some cases, he’s actually getting a little better and if you ever got to be around him, you could tell that I think what changed him to keep him on track was his mental perspective and how he approached life and how he approached powerlifting. That’s what I kind of took away and learned from him because it was an interesting perspective.
You have a strong bench, a very strong bench. You’d be competitive even in the 220lb class.
That’s debatable but we’ll roll with it.
Why aren’t you ashamed that having short arms gives you such an unfair advantage over your competition?
I don’t think my arms are really that short based on my height.
So it’s your height that’s the unfair advantage!
Well I’m not going to really say that either. I think I’m average height for my weight, depending on the day and how you want to measure it. I’d say really bench is just bench, just got to keep working at it, you know?
What do you do to build it?
Honestly a lot of my benching is I do it heavy but I don’t do a lot of volume. So my training is set up in three to five week waves so I might wave just do an accessory block then banded presses, that is benching against bands, close grips against bands, close grips then I might wave in actual benching, no more than three to five weeks at a time, then come back off it again. So pretty much just establishing repetition PRs so it’s very rare that I actually hit a true single paused before a meet. I might only do it once or twice before a meet and that might be like three weeks out, more to become mentally crisp for the commands.
You know lifters sometimes find that after putting up a big squat, their deadlift numbers suffer. You don’t appear to have that problem. How do you manage to still pull big numbers in meets after squatting so heavy?
Well, my deadlifting is good enough right now. I’ve had Steve Goggins help me with that because it needs to be pushed if I’m going to hit what I want to hit. The way I stay conditioned for meets most of the time is I’ll train my squat and deadlift on the same day. I’ll try to hit the same amount of volume as far as total tonnage on squat as I do on deadlift in the same day. I’ve been playing with it, a lot of the way I work on that is again preparation. Quite honestly you should never be in a state where you’re putting something on the barbell that really shouldn’t be there. So you just maximize what you get out of your attempts. But I do a lot of hamstring development work, a lot of core development work, and a significant amount of glute work.
You don’t spend a lot of time [warming up] before you lift. I saw you do a straddle stretch, then you did some shoulder work, some rotator cuff work and then you put the bar on your back and began.
By the time I get to the meet, my body is pretty much restored to I’d say as close to 100% as you can get. So usually, Tuesday/Thursday, sometimes I’ll hit them up on the same day but usually I’ll go to one chiropractor on Tuesday, the masseuse and the other chiropractor on a Thursday bi-weekly. For the Cage, this was kind of an extra thing; I just had the masseuse and chiropractor like three days ago, so I was pretty good. That’s why I’m so big on that, I’ll time that out so the week of the meet, three days before I’m good. I don’t train too heavy, and try to get a lot of rest. The way my cycles work for training is they will taper down and ramp back up. There’s a theory with that. I warm-up by working through weights as an active stretch, so the muscle tissue will be very responsive. I just hit a bunch of singles making sure everything feels the way it needs to feel.
Where people can follow your training and learn more about you? The little crumbs you let us have, ha ha.
Social media, there may not be too much on there but even if you just hit me up, PM me or whatever, get into contact with me personally. Facebook, IG whatever.
Just type in my name Maliek Derstine same thing with Instagram, I do have some clients I’m working with privately and they’re doing well. Still using some of the same methods I described here. I’m sure if you asked them they would say it’s a lot but each one of them is improving in training still hitting rep PRs and in some instances, even going beyond their own capabilities of what they thought they could. I never turn anyone away who wants help unless they don’t appreciate it.
Tell me who your sponsors are.
Iron Rebel Power Gear, Shelley Denison and Ed Koo, and Integrative Chiropractic out of Lansdale, PA those are the only two currently.
Is there anybody else you’d like to recognize or thank before we close?
There are too many people to list; I’ve had some great interactions with people in my career that have sparked new perspectives and life-long lessons; each serving their purpose. But in
particular I’d like to thank Steve Goggins and Gene Bell. Goggins has been handling me at my recent meets and knows how to keep me on point. I highly recommend if you ever get a chance to attend one of his contests that you do so, he and his Goggins Force crew do a great job at presenting a great atmosphere for the athlete. While Gene Bell is also someone I’d consider a lifelong friend and mentor. They both are great people and I’m glad to have them in my corner.
All right man, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule this hectic weekend to talk to me!
Did you enjoy this post? Get more of Maliek’s insights by picking up the May/June issue of Power Magazine at Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Books A Million or online at thepowermagazine.com.