Human Wrecking Balls
Craig and Paul Pumphrey on how they prepare for their television hit show
Tell us about your training. How many days are you in the gym each week?
I go from a three to a four-day split. Basically, working different muscle groups using free weight. I use all free weight; I don't do a lot of cable weight. The kind of lifting I do is a lot of power lifting and I don't really do body building. So I don't really look to get all chiseled and ripped, and I don't really cut down to a lean body fat percentage or body fat. I'm actually a certified master instructor when it comes to all that stuff. What Paul and I do is, we always have to work out based on what we're doing. So I do a lot of the power lifting, more or less, about four days a week. I lift very heavy. I don't do a lot of reps. I usually do four to five sets of almost every lift that I do, but it's extremely heavy. I'm looking to get that strength more than that sculpted look.
Human Wrecking Balls involves a lot of kicks and punches. How do you incorporate martial arts into your workouts?
I'm on the mat usually two or three days a week. I do a lot of ground fighting, ju-jitsu, MMA training. I've got a class that I run, once to twice per week, with other guys, so I usually work 15-20 guys I train with. I have a pretty good mix. I have a lot of law enforcement/military guys, and I have a lot of guys that are just in the sport of MMA.
Do you find that you're constantly changing up your workout?
I'm getting ready to throw some new stuff into the mix. Paul and I got to compete in a strong man contest in Spain, and it was really neat. They did a cross between strong-man type of events and lumberjack type events. It was this big relay that they had set up. So there 12 stations, and at each station you did a different thing. And you would have to do all 12 of these stations three times. It was a team event—there were eight guys on a team. Me and my partner, we had to lift that Atlas stone, it's a big huge round smooth stone, weighs about 350 pounds. We had to pick that thing all the way up to our shoulders. Between the two of us, we had to do that a total of 10 times. And they had a lot of different type of strongman stuff. I'm going to probably start getting into that too. I had a really good time doing it because it's really heavy stuff but, I don't know, it seemed like it was more fun than just going to the weight room and hitting the weights.
When you're in the gym, which exercises do you feel are most useful for the stuff you do on the show?
Basically, I like to do my bench press, my squats, and my deadlift. I do a lot of military press for my shoulders. I guess when people watch our show they see a lot of things that we do, but there's a lot of things that we're doing that people kind of take for granted. They just don't think it's that difficult until you try it yourself, like picking up a lot of heavy objects or ripping something or tearing something apart with your hands. I would have to say that the three lifts I mentioned are very solid core body workouts—I mean, your deadlift is a very overlooked exercise. You're using your entire body to lift the weight. You're using your legs, you're using your back, you're using your arms, your hands. A lot of guys use straps and wrap them around their wrist and then wrap that strap around the bar and it helps hold onto the bar. Well, I don't use straps, so a lot of the natural grip strength that I get in my arms, my hands and my forearms are from deadlift. Deadlift is a total body workout as well as squats.
You said you're doing around 5-600 on deadlifts. Is that a max?
My max right now is right at about 600 pounds. I don't usually go above that, because I'm almost too tall to even be doing deadlifts. You don't see many guys who are 6'4" doing deadlifts. I always did it because, like I said, it's a full body workout. So that's why I do it. I'm not sure what my max is on my bench because I had 455 on the bar and I benched it twice. So I'm probably knocking on a 500 pound bench. My squat is probably between 600 and 650, somewhere in that area, and that's a full squat. My incline bench is pretty good: I do about 325 for incline bench. Doing what we do, you've got to work out hard and heavy.
Do you have a training mantra/code/credo? Well, usually as soon as I find out we are shooting a new season I know there's going to be 10 episodes of pure hell, so that motivates me. A lot of people don't understand when they watch the show—it's only 30 minutes and when you reduce that down to your commercials that's only 22, 24 minutes, somewhere in that area--so a lot gets edited down. They have to take out a lot of the trial and error of what we do. A lot of people don't understand that it takes us anywhere from 20-24 hours, sometimes a little longer, to destroy almost anything we do. Then think about that we have to shoot an episode every two days. When Paul and I go in there, it's not like we just hit it on that first try and it breaks right in half. A lot of times we hit something several times before we're able to break through. So I know that when we get ready to film, man I've got to be in the best shape of my life. You talk about cardio, oh God, there's no such thing as cardio until you do what we do. You've got to continually go, go, go until whatever it is you're trying to break is completely destroyed. So that's my motivation.
How important is training in keeping you healthy in the show?
That's the reason we come out with nothing more than a few stitches—it's rare that we break a bone. I broke my toe this last season, and I guess that was probably the extent. I haven't figured out yet how to train your toes. I've been trying to figure it out but it's just not working for me. You've got to be in serious shape to do what we do. It's no joke doing what we do. We do a lot of the hard body training. We've been doing that stuff for over 20 years now, and it took us several years to get our bodies conditioned to where we can do what we do. We get the cuts, the lacerations, the bruises and everything else. I'll put it this way, there are guys in the ultimate fighting that train hard as well. If you ever watch those guys when they throw a kick onto some other guy's thigh, a lot of people just look at that and say 'oh that was no big deal.' What they don't understand is the guy that's receiving that kick, he has received thousands of kicks like that. That's why he can take that kick and shrug it off like it's no big deal. But you let that guy hit somebody here in the street, throw a kick like that, and I'll guarantee that he'll kick that guy one time and drop him right on the ground. It's the same thing with what Paul and I do. We have both broken walls, bricks, boards, ice, thin steel bars and ripped car doors off. Yeah, we get hurt, but it's not anything like if someone who had never done this stuff tried to mimic this. I'm telling you right now, they're going to be in the hospital.
What's the craziest/most extreme type of training you do to prepare for the show?
I don't know a lot of guys that would spend a couple of thousand dollars on concrete blocks and slabs and then go to a warehouse some place and just stack these suckers up and start hammering them for hours on end. We just stacked them up and start busting them with whatever part of our body, trying to come up with something new or training to get ready to do what we're [now] doing. I mean, just slamming your fists, your forearms, your elbows, your knees, your shins, into these things. You've gotta have something to break. And that's the thing about hard body training. It's not just about going out and kicking a tree. It's about going out there and kicking something and breaking through it, and then you repeat that process over and over and over again.
What haven't you broken yet that you'd like to break?
We try to come up with something new a lot of the time because we want to do things that people have not ever seen before. But there's a lot of repeats of things that I would like to destroy, like the Hollywood sign. I would like to rip that thing down to the ground. That would be cool. Maybe go to a nice golfing place and just destroy it. You know how picky they are about their greens and staying out of the fairways with your cart. I would like to go nuts on a golf course and take out the pro shop while I'm at it. Just upset them, make people mad. I think that would be fun. Me and Paul will get the green jacket at the end.