Stan “Rhino” Efferding is the strongest bodybuilder on the planet. He is an American IFBB professional bodybuilder and a powerlifter competing in the Southern Powerlifting Federation. He currently holds the all-time raw world powerlifting records in the 275-pound-class in the Total without knee wraps (w/o 2,226.6 lb) and in the Squat without knee wraps (854 lb).
Note: timestamps are based on YouTube version.
Stan “Rhino” Efferding is F’ing strong!
Stan is a beast of a human with a personal best of 2,303 lbs at a powerlifting meet: 606 lb raw bench, 865 lb squat (with knee wraps), 854 lb squat (without knee wraps), and 837 lb deadlift.
The best athletes play more than one sport
In the past few years, it’s become more common for athletes to train in different sports. Powerlifting has been a closet sport for a long time, but has been gaining popularity in the past few years thanks to CrossFit and RAW. And thanks to people like Mark Bell, who bridged the gap between Powerlifting and CrossFit, who were humble enough to talk and learn from people from other sports. Now everybody wins.
Back in the day, people of each sport used to think they knew how to train and move best. Nowadays, athletes are much more open to learn from one another and dabble in multiple sports to raise their own game. The best athletes play the most sports, which gets them the best nutrition, performance, cardiovascular fitness, and carry over to and from strength. Sport specialization is best to happen later in an athlete’s career.
The two big components of healthy training
Stan’s main components of training are recovery and nutrient partitioning. Stan took inspiration from a training concept pioneered by Ed Coan to compete twice a year, while doing hypertrophy training during off season. This training method provides balance, builds muscle, and strengthens for powerlifting.
Hypertrophy training results in an elevated cardiovascular health, which allows you to recover faster and therefore train more, getting you stronger over time. Nutrient partitioning (more on this below) is a method to best use the food you eat.
Powerlifting influence on Bodybuilding
Stan trained with Flex Wheeler, who helped him build the biggest legs and best physique of his bodybuilding career. Flex got him on high rep, high volume, high frequency, short rest period, higher range of motion movements.
When Stan was competing on stage in bodybuilding, he weighed 250 lb and his legs measured 30 inches. When he was training for powerlifting, he did low reps with longer rest periods, and within weeks gained 35 lb to weigh in at 285 lb. But his legs became smaller because they got more efficient.
How did Stan get into powerlifting and bodybuilding
Stan came from a powerlifting background and redefined his goals after suffering injuries and not feeling great overall. He realized he wanted to be fit at 50 years old, so he can play sports and run around with his kids. His first move toward sports aside from powerlifting was walking. He started taking multiple walks everyday and limiting his calorie intake. Within a few weeks, he lost 35–40 lbs.
Stan also set a goal to get greater range of motion, whereas in powerlifting he was concerned with reaching the minimum 90 degrees squat to lift heavy in competitions. Stan pushed the reset button on his training and took the bar down to 135 lbs max until he achieved full range of motion. Ass to grass squat. And then gradually added volume and frequency.
Stan also wanted to spend less time at the gym, so he can focus on his family and businesses. He looked for the greatest ROI movements — ones that have the greatest cardiovascular and hypertrophy benefits, while staying healthy. The biggest ROI movements are ones that put the body under load for an extended period of time. For example: 20 rep squats, weighted carries, one minute of squatting — exercises that put weight on the body and metabolically stimulate a lot of hormones that help maintain muscle.
Pro tip: Stay away from machines as much as possible and value time under tension over movement pace.
Best recovery practice
The best way to recover from a workout is through full range of motion movements. Getting blood flowing in the system, without a lot of eccentric loading is best, so you don’t keep breaking down the tissue. Foam rollers, seeing a chiropractor, or taking a pill, have value in certain cases, but overall people use them as superficial and temporary remedies.
“Things that people do to you and for you are never as effective as things you do for yourself.” — Stan Efferding
Training in space
When astronauts are in space, the lack of gravity makes them quickly lose their muscle tissue. They use banded exercises to get the body under load, so they retain muscle mass. Stan took this concept and flipped it around — he looked for double, triple or more gravity to strengthen the body.
“If I can get my heart rate up to 160+ beats a minute and keep it there for 30–40 minutes with a blend of banded leg presses, weighted carries, etc– that’s a perfect place to be. Imagine the return I’d get on that. I’d only need to train 3–4 days a week, max.” — Stan Efferding
As you get older, watch your fatigue
As you age, the number one thing you need to look out for is fatigue. Especially fatigue of the lower back and spine. Stan is cautious not to overload his body, so he can work out every 48–72 hours.
Pro tip: One of the best ways to fix lower back problems is core stabilization.
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It’s hard to gain, but a lot easier to maintain
The best bodybuilding athletes have the most ferocious appetite and ability to recover. While supplements help, the most important aspect of growth is training hard. To train hard, you need lots of fuel, which requires a huge appetite.
Working with Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson
Stan worked with Hafþór Júlíus “Thor” Björnsson on his nutrition. Björnsson is an Icelandic professional strongman, actor, and former professional basketball player. He plays Ser Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane in HBO’s series Game of Thrones.
Stan got Thor on a plan to prepare his body to make the most of nutrients:
- Insulin sensitivity levels — Thor was eating a lot, but not gaining much muscle. He had bad insulin sensitivity, partitioning his nutrients to fat mostly instead of protein and carbs into muscle glycogen. He needed to use calories more efficiently.
- Vitamin D — a blood test revealed Thor was deficient in vitamin D.
- CPAP machine — a machine to help with sleep apnea.
- Vertical/Elimination diet — removed almost all foods and started with simple bioavailable foods, introducing new foods gradually.
Thor was 420 lb when he met Stan. He first lost weight to 395 lb when he did his reset, and by the time he competed at the Arnold’s, weighed 450 lb. He had his best performance that year at the Arnold’s, placing 2nd!
A juice cleanse may not be good for you
A juice cleanse or juice fast doesn’t really do anything for you and may not even be good for you. If you want to cleanse your body and do a reset, you should consider fasting. When people do a juice cleanse, they sometimes see results, such as eliminated gastro or skin issues and and lost weight. But these are temporary results from limiting food and calories.
Preparing your stomach
Stan treats eating like working out. He saw results on himself and his clients by introducing the same foods again and again, and gradually increasing the frequency of meals and amount of food.
For example: He likes to start with 5 meals a day, consisting of 6 oz of steak and one cup of white rice. Then, in a linear progression, he slowly adds more meals and more steak and rice — moving slowly to 6 meals a day, 8 oz of steak and 1.5 cups of rice. Don’t increase all at the same time though, but one variable at the time.
Stan likes to introduce highly bioavailable foods that the body can easily use as well as having lots of micronutrientes. He looks for foods that get him most bang for the buck, ones that acquired a broader range of nutrients. He likes lean red meat over chicken or fish for example, because the body can get more micronutrients and use the calories better.
The way your body uses calories depends a lot on how your body is prepared. Nutrient partitioning puts meaning to calories so they can serve you best. In training, muscle glycogen, sodium and water in the muscles are important factors in performance and recovery.
Muscle glycogen and the water and sodium it holds are hugely beneficial for recovery from training. You train only 3–4 times a week, but eat 6 times a day. When you eat well all week, you prepare your body to hit a hard workout and make the most of it.
It’s also important to eat a diverse diet, but you need to know how much. When you want to increase muscle and weight, you need to eat vegetables and and fruit, but they need to be limited. Your focus should be on carbs and proteins that can be consumed and digested quickly. You don’t want vegetables competing with steak for consumption energy.
Pro tip: When you want to lose weight, do the opposite — eat foods high in fat and fiber to make you feel full quickly.
10 minute walks
Stan takes a 10 minute walk after every meal he eats. You’re better off taking 10 minute walks 3–4 times a day vs. walking once for 40 minutes. Frequency of movements is very important for our health.
“The longer the workout the less you get out of it.” — Stan Efferding
Gains come in tiny increments
You might have already noticed, but the body doesn’t respond well to peaks. If you take big amounts of foods or supplements without preparing the body to absorb it, your body will fight you. The best method to gain muscle and strength is to slowly and continuously push the envelope just a little.
If you want to get your body ready to metabolize and utilize a high amount of calories efficiently, you need a lot of discipline, commitment, consistency, time management, and a serious meal prep game. Meal prep is huge for gaining or losing weight. You need to find a way to spread your meals so you’re digesting them fast enough and not overeating.
Man on a mission
Stan had designed his life around bodybuilding from a young age. When he started working out as a freshman in college he was only 135 lb! Stan got ultra focused on consuming foods that only helped his mission. He passed on alcohol, desserts, on other temptations time after time. He had his intentions set on being as healthy and strong as possible.
In training, the next body composition change gets tougher and tougher. It usually takes month of hard work to really own a new weight class. When Stan started training, he first gained weight from 135 to 158 lb, which was not easy, but easier than getting to 190 lb. Maintaining the new weight and getting the body adapted to the new frame is a hard fight. At each new weight class, the fight gets harder, mentally and physically.
Stan “Rhino” Efferding has a strong mindset that got him to where he is today. We had the pleasure of talking and learning from him.
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Mike and Doug