Clarence is an Olympic lifter based out of Tralee, Ireland, who has achieved internet fame due to his superhuman strength (I discovered him years ago when I googled ‘triple bodyweight squat’). I recently caught up with Clarence at Cork Weightlifting Club in Ireland…
Followers of my YouTube channel are likely interested in functional training or the fusion videos. Chances are if you follow my channel specifically for the weightlifting, you most certainly know of Clarence Kennedy.
Ireland is not renowned for producing elite Olympic lifters, yet Clarence moves near world-class weight at a simple, hole-in-the-wall gym (the weights are all black and different sizes). He doesn’t work with a coach or have any regular training partners. His determination is enough to inspire anyone, even those with a remote interest in lifting.
Clarence’s video uploads can be few and far between. He’ll scarcely do interviews (his most recent Q&A is a fascinating rarity), which only heightens his appeal. Our session at Cork Weightlifting Club was fun but too short to conduct a formal interview, with Clarence also being far too bashful to oblige an informal one (I knew he was modest when he wouldn’t pose with me for a photo, haha).
We had a great conversation after the workout, discussing training, diet, injuries and motivations, so I’ve done my best to share that all with you here…
On a plant-based diet…
In Clarence’s most recent Q&A I was surprised to hear that he had adopted a plant-based diet (the popular consensus being: strong men eat meat). Having switched to a predominantly plant-based diet myself last year, I was interested to hear how Clarence, a fellow athlete, came to this decision. What had influenced this choice?
It came down to ethics; the arguments presented in favour of a plant-based diet over a diet that included animal products were too strong to ignore. So 11 months ago Clarence decided it would be hypocritical to continue consuming the diet he had been his entire life; one involving animal products.
Performance had nothing to do with his switch to veganism! Clarence has certainly become stronger since he changed his diet, though credit shouldn’t be given to the diet — it’s the training. In fact, Clarence explained that the reason he changed his diet was completely separate to his training. Even if he saw a decrease in performance, it would be worth it due to the benefits a plant-based diet has on the environment. The logical choice and a noble act.
Part of Clarence’s intrigue as an athlete and YouTuber is his success in lifting despite having little to no support network in the trenches. He gives hope to the thousands out there who also train alone but still desire to rip it up at the gym.
So what motivates Clarence?
Preemptive goal-setting — he doesn’t write goals down but will always know what numbers he’s working toward and which numbers he’ll work toward after his current goal. What was most intriguing about his answer was its innateness; providing endless motivation. Athletes can burn out after a competition — after a goal has been achieved — when they haven’t thought of the next step (I’ve been guilty of this on more than one occasion).
Clarence has no current desire to compete in any formal competition, so he applies his goal-setting to PBs in training. An example of Clarence’s goal-setting in action would be our session where he achieved a 7.5kg personal best in the bench press of 200kg/441lbs. Massive!
After he hit it:
Me: Awesome man, you hit a PB, amazing!
Clarence: Yeah, but I’m working towards 208kg to beat Tom Martin.
Clarence was already looking at what’s next! That attitude ensures his next session won’t be lazy, restricted by a feeling of accomplishment. He’ll be driven because he knows hitting a new PB of 200kg brings him closer to that next goal of 208kg.
On his injuries…
Clarence has knee injuries. He has tried many remedies (Clarence discusses his knee injuries at length in this interview with AllThingsGym.com), notably rest had no effect. He’s previously had surgery on his knees — which was successful — though is currently awaiting approval for further work (the first surgery gave his lifting a new lease of life).
Clarence and I both have a similar training background, love anime (I highly recommended Hunter x Hunter (2011) while he tried to convince me to give Dragonball Kai a chance), and play video games. However, I noted a significant difference in our philosophies toward training…
I am training to enjoy freedom of movement well into old-age, whereas Clarence has narrowed his focus to peak performance years. Clarence echoes the sentiment of John Broz (weightlifting coach operating out of Las Vegas). When someone asked John for a response regarding lifters’ injuries (specifically knees), in relation to longevity, John said: “40 is a great age for video games”. A reminder that all our choices have consequences.
Notes on training.
A couple of notes training with Clarence Kennedy:
- He squats heavy almost every day. According to Clarence, even two days off results in a 10–20kg loss in squatting strength.
- Prior to our session he was benching 4x per week. His seemingly newfound strength in bench press (a relatively obscure lift for an Olympic lifter) didn’t develop by chance — he worked at it. Surprise!
- He benches for fun but has entertained the thought of transitioning to powerlifting if he can’t Olympic lift in the future.
- Back squats play a large role in his Olympic lifting training; he snatches and clean & jerks little in comparison to back squat frequency. NOTE: This approach echoes other lifters I’ve come across who hold back squats in high regard for improving the Olympic lifts (I’ve had success myself).
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