James Vang Interview
May 2012 - James Vang
1. Please introduce yourself. Who are you? How old are you? What are your hobbies (other than powerlifting)? Please give the readers an idea of what it’s like to be you.
My name is James Vang and I am Hmong. I am an American Citizen, but my parents were from Laos/Thailand. I am 20 years old and other than powerlifting I like to b-boy(Breakdancing), watch YouTube videos on lifting weights, help other people lift weights, and watch movies. I’m a pretty nice guy with a wonderful girlfriend and I love to help people out.
2. Where are you located in Georgia and where do you train at?
I currently live in Winder, Georgia and train at three different places; Quest Gym (w/ Sherman), Oconee Gym (w/ Mark Freeman), and at home (Average Hmong Gym).
3. What is something that most people don’t know about you?
Most people probably don’t know what Hmong is. The Hmong people were a group of people that helped the United States during the Vietnam War as CIA special agents and because of our help we were able to move to America. Each year we have a Hmong New Year, so if you all are interested in knowing more or just seeing my culture, this website has information on when the next new year is held (http://www.hmonggeorgia.org/events.aspx).
4. What is your occupation?
I am a full time student as of right now at the University of Georgia, but I do hope to become a personal trainer or strength coach of some type later on, as lifting weights is my passion.
5. Do you find that your occupation interferes with competing or visa versa?
When I have multiple tests coming along, and I know that each training session is vital to my success as a lifter, it does kind of interfere with my lifting. When I lift weights, I think about studying and when I study, I think about lifting weights. But overall, I have been able to adapt to the circumstances and done good in both areas.
6. How many years have you been competing?
I just began competing since Mid-January 2012.
7. How did you get into powerlifting?
I have always loved lifting weights from the moment my three older brothers got me into lifting weights. Each of them was pretty strong and I didn’t want to be the one left out, so I worked out pretty hard in my garage. Of course I didn’t squat or dead lift at the time, the only thing I knew how to do was bench press. After 5 years I was going to call it quits, until some of my friends (Chao Yang, John Vang) and my brother (Johnny Vang) convinced me to help them get stronger and from there on out, I started training again. At the time, there was a powerlifting competition at UGA known as the Strongest Dawg, and I was thinking, “Why not enter.”, so I started to learn how to dead lift for the first time in my life (Current bench press at the time: 285, Squat: 405). Four months later, I won that competition with a squat of 440; bench of 290, and dead lifted 475. I was recruited into the UGA powerlifting team by Mark Freeman and Jordan Thomas. I been loving powerlifting ever since.
8. What are your biggest squat, bench press, deadlift and total numbers?
My best equipped numbers were done at the Collegiate Nationals, Squat: 512, Bench: 352, and Dead lifted: 518 (Total=1832). My best raw lifts at my gym was, Squat: 425, bench 330, and dead lifted 500 (Total=1255, of course these lifts were on separate days, not all on the same day).
9. What titles, records and achievements did you accumulate in your powerlifting career?
So far I have earned the title as the Strongest Dawg at UGA and won 1st place at Collegiate Nationals 2012 in the 148 weight class (67.5 kg).
10. Can you describe your training philosophy and/or a typical training session?
My training philosophy is simple, train the weakest part of your body so you don’t have any weakness. I do this by incorporating bodybuilding phases and then strength training phases. One of the weaknesses I have noticed was my weak shoulders, grip, and back. So I would do a bodybuilding routine for like three months building these muscles along with my other body parts. When this is done and I feel like they developed pretty well, I would train for strength. I have always had pretty well success along with my friends with this type of training. Recently I have been training with Mark Freeman and Sherman for my powerlifting competition and they have helped me learned crucial techniques that helped me win Collegiate Nationals.
11. Do you compete equipped (squat suit, bench press shirt & deadlift suit) or unequipped (no suits) or both?
I have competed in both, but I would like to learn more about equipped.
12. What weight class(s) and divisions(s) do you compete in?
The 148 weight class.
13. What is your favorite lift, squat or bench press or deadlift or all three?
I would have to say the Dead Lift is my favorite lift after learning how to do it correctly.
14. Who is the most impressive lifter you have competed against?
I have only just begun, so no one comes to mind yet.
15. Who do you think is the greatest lifter of all time?
I don’t know many lifters, but I would have to say that I am inspired by watching Mark Freeman, Brooks Conway, and Caleb Williams.
16. When was your last competition & how did it go?
I recently entered Collegiate Nationals and did pretty well. It was an equipped competition where I hit my PR’s for the first time wearing suits. I was told that I went too low on my squats, but I was still able to get the weights up. During the bench press event, the judge had us hold the bar on my chest a bit longer than usual, so it was safer to go a bit less than we planned. The dead lifts felt good that day, I think I probably could have done more, but I was happy with 518.
17. Do you have any upcoming competitions? If so, when and where?
The next competition would be in Florida around October.
18. How do you prepare for an upcoming competition?
Well, as soon as I know that I am going to compete in a certain competition, I already begin setting a certain goal for that event. I also like to watch previous competitions and watch team mates who have competed there and go over and over again in my head. Of course I also ask Sherman and Mark for any tips they can give me for that competition.
19. Describe your nutritional intake for an upcoming competition?
I don’t really have anything special up my sleeve for nutrition. If I am overweight then I just watch what I eat a bit, but I am usually around lifting weight year round.
20. Is there anything you will do differently to prepare for your next competition that is different from your last one?
Preparation for this competition was pretty successful, but one thing I hope to do next time is to get equipment that actually fits my body.
21. How many meets do you compete in each year?
I don’t know too many competitions that are happening each year, so if someone recommends a competition and I am able to go then I will probably try to do it.
22. Who is your greatest competitor/rival?
I hope I’m not being too cocky by saying that my greatest competitor is myself and my teammates. My goal is to always beat my previous total and if I can, keep up with a stronger training partner.
23. What advice & tips would you give to a powerlifter that is just beginning? If you are just beginning, what advice have you received from other lifters or coaches?
From the moment I began powerlifting, many people has been giving me tips on how to get better but I would say the most important ones were probably to man up on the knee wraps and learn how to keep the bar close to my legs in the dead lifts. Keeping these in mind has upped my lifts and would probably up any beginner’s lifts.
24. How has powerlifting changed your life?
I originally wanted to become a nurse to help people, but ever since I began powerlifting and helping many of my friends increase in their lifts, I finally realized that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. Powerlifting has made me realize what my passion is.
25. Do you stay in touch with lifters you compete against?
There were a couple of nice people after the lifting that I have been keeping in touch with.
26. Why did you decide to compete?
I competed in order to show my friends that the person who they been relying on for information and training tips has not been wasted. I compete to make my family proud and to show that the Hmong people are here in America and we are strong. I compete to win as I represent UGA’s powerlifting team and Team Quest.
27. What is your #1 or most prestigious meet you ever competed at in your career?
Collegiate Nationals 2012.
28. Do you compete in any other strength sports such as Olympic lifting, strongman, highland games, etc?
29. What is your favorite memory from any powerlifting competition or event?
My favorite memory was in my first powerlifting competition. At the end of a long day of lifting, I was the second to last guy to dead lift. There were five people a head of me and Mark and Sherman were in the back pumping me up. I didn’t know how much weight I was going to lift, but when I was told that it was my turn, I heard them say, “And next is James Vang our current leader in the 148”. At this moment I saw the bright lights shining in my eyes and Mark and Sherman hitting me to get me ready. I stepped up and gripped that bar deep into the palm of my hands. I told myself if this weight lifts off there is no way it is coming back down. “BOOM” I blasted that weight off the ground rubbing the baby powder off my shin. When I locked out at the top, I felt like the time stopped and this weird sensation overcame my entire being. I slowly dropped the weight showing my control over the weight and walked off as a champion.
30. Anyone you would like thank for helping you along the way in your Powerlifting career?
I would like to thank my training partners at home who helped me find the will to lift weights again (Chao Yang, John Vang, Fuji Vang, Sue Yang, Nico Yang, Tony Yang, Deng Vue, Alvin Yang) . I would like to thank Mark Freeman for everything he has done. He has seen me as a nobody and helped trained me to become a champion. He also drove me to Baton Rouge and helped me out with all my lifts, which is more than I can ask for. Cody Leatherwood was a huge help too when I was preparing for each of my lifts. Having teammates to help you prepare is a tough job, probably tougher than lifting itself so he was very important to my success. I would also like to thank Sherman, who has fixed all the little things wrong with my techniques and upped all my lifts. I would also like to thank Brooks Conway for coming out that day when the gym was closed just to help me. Without these people I would have not been able to become the man I am today in powerlifting, and I hope that these people will continue to be with me because without them I would have not been as successful.
31. Anything else you would like to add?
Watch out for the Hmong guy in the 148 weight class.
Thank you for your time and best of luck in your upcoming powerlifting endeavors!