“I am not remarkable. I am a not a World Record Holder, I am not a National or International Weightlifting sensation. But what I have done is dedicated thousands of hours, many years, to not only studying, but lifting itself and becoming the best lifter I can.”
Michael Farr’s YouTube introduction says it all.
Farr, best known as “Silent Mike”, is a powerlifter, coach, and co-host of Mark Bell’s PowerCast Podcast. And while Farr downplays his accomplishments –which include a 705 lb. deadlift– there’s one thing he doesn’t hesitate to talk about: helping others succeed.
Here are his best tips, regardless of your sport and goals.
Prioritize what you need to focus on
“As an 18-year-old probably up until about age 25 or so I was focusing on supplements and protein shakes and all these things you think are the key to strength and muscle mass,” Farr said. “Whereas if you just look [at] the real big picture as far as calories and then break it down from there, figure out how much protein you’re getting in and then maybe how much fat and carbs and the ratios.
Even beyond that, meal frequencies and meal timing are secondary to this overall goal. Finding a pyramid or priority in everything is super important.”
Keep the big picture in mind
“In training and nutrition there are certain things that are way more important and will help you toward your goals more than others,” Farr said. “If you’re doing all these fancy barbell curls and arm routines but you’re not doing the bench, squat and deadlift your progress is not going to be as good. It’s not as optimal.
Same kind of thing [with nutrition]. If you’re unaware of how many calories you’re taking in, but you know that you’re protein shake has zero grams of fat. It’s just a step in mindset that you have to understand. Think big picture.”
“Most people are worried about whole wheat, they’re worried about gluten, and they’re worried about those things Monday through Friday. But then they’re drinking tequila and eating cake all weekend, “Farr said. “So, just being consistent and then figuring out where your priorities should be, and that [goes for] nutrition and training.”
Learn from the best
“Find someone local or on the internet—obviously local works a little bit better—and just learn from them. Offer your time, offer your free services, you can’t always get paid to do things. Find someone that’s reputable that you can learn from and then also research online,” Farr said. “And then just try to soak it in. Sadly it’s a long journey, so there’s going to be a lot of mistakes along the way. But that’s part of becoming the best version of you, best coach of you, best athlete in yourself.”
Getting to Know Silent Mike
On building an enviable squad
Farr used his last tip to build an impressive network, using all of his time to watch, absorb and learn everything possible from every coach, everywhere.
“That led me down some not so good paths, led me through a lot of learning, a lot trial and error. I tried every diet you could think of, tried every training method you could think of,” he said.
“The last five years or so being involved with Super Training Gym I’ve been lucky enough to build a pretty good network of friends and associates that are top in every category. Guys like Layne Norton, Alberto Nunez and Eric Helms are a couple other names that I gained the majority of my knowledge from. I have two really good friends Bart Kwan and Omar Isuf and we kind of bounce training and nutrition off each other daily.”
How he got the nickname ‘Silent Mike’
When Farr joined Super Training Gym, he was the youngest, weakest and smallest guy there. Everyone around him was 275-300 lb.
“They were all squatting in squat gear and bench shirts, and I lifted raw with just my knee sleeves and a belt. But I just showed up, learned my place and tried to be respectful, and worked my tail off,” he said. ” Mark Bell gave me that name for the same reason, I was always kind of quiet even though I’m not that quiet of a person.”
Why he trains hard for the love of it
Farr also works for Slingshot and because of work he travels a lot. The often hectic schedule doesn’t leave a lot of room for competition, and that’s OK with him.
“I’m pretty meticulous with my training, so if I can’t get 8-12 weeks where I know I’ll be home and I can have the food I want, the gym I want, and train when I want, I don’t necessarily like to compete,” Farr said. “I don’t want to show up and not do my best. That would really frustrate me.”
“I love powerlifting, I love strength training, but I never really got into this whole world to break world records and to be a competitive powerlifter. One, I don’t think I’m capable. And two I like the sport of powerlifting, but I like training as a powerlifter more so.”
Getting his start
“I played one year of junior college basketball and it wasn’t the best experience of my life,” Farr said. “For some reason I’ve always kind of had a chip on my shoulder, always wanted to prove people wrong. I always had the thought in my head that I wanted to go to a Division-I school, be the best and show my worth.”
During Farr’s endless researching on how to get bigger, stronger and faster for basketball he found powerlifting. He realized he liked training better than basketball and dove in headfirst: dropping out of school, quitting playing and coaching basketball and starting powerlifting full-time.
His local powerlifting gym? None other than Bell’s Super Training Gym, which Farr walked into six years ago and never looked back.
“From there, I worked hard and I know it’s cliché but just tried to prove my worth,” Farr said. “And I think Mark recognized that and took me under his wing and became my mentor.”
On his current diet
Farr is more of a flexible dieter, tracking his macronutrients and paying attention to nutrient timing. But he’s not super strict.
“I like to get the majority of my carbs before and after workouts but I don’t stress it too much,” he said. “I’ve been cutting for the last eight weeks or so. I try to do it slow to keep the majority of my strength.”
On training days, Farr has 200-220 grams of protein, 300 grams of carbs, and 70-80 grams of fat. On a rest day or a lighter training day, he’ll drop his carbs 50-75 grams.
“As I got into fitness I’ve literally tried and explored everything nutritionally. I did 5-6 meals a day with just chicken, rice and broccoli, I did a ketogenics style diet with no carbohydrates for a few years. In the offseason still I won’t really track and just eat whatever I want, always focusing on protein,” Farr said.
“Flexible dieting for me is just similar to my training. I want to be able to keep track or understand why things are happening. If I’m not getting stronger or if I’m not getting leaner or I’m not getting bigger, being able to have a trail behind me that I can understand and figure out what to fix and adjust to continue progress.”
A peek at Farr’s food/training diary
Tuesday is typically a lower body day for Farr, who heads straight to the coffee machine when he gets up.
Breakfast – “At most I’ll have a protein bar here. I’m never usually hungry in the morning, so I don’t really get my first meal until 11-12.”
Lunch – “A big burrito from Chipotle with rice, beans, chicken or steak and pico tomato salsa or a teriyaki bowl”
Training – “Training sessions for powerlifters take about 2-4 hours, so I’ll either have a Gatorade mid session or a Poptart, something with a little bit of carbs in between deadifts and squats. [It] definitely helps mentally.”
Dinner – “More of a home cooked meal since I have more time at night. I’ll have either steak or chicken, pasta or rice, and some type of vegetable like spinach or broccoli. Micronutrients are important—maybe not for aesthetic or strength gains but they’re good for life gains.”
Bedtime snack – “I eat popcorn a lot or ice cream. It kind of depends on where I am diet-wise and what I can fit in, but I eat popcorn a lot or ice cream. Lately it’s been Halo Top or some other light ice cream that will fit into my calories better or frozen yogurt. Otherwise it’s definitely Ben and Jerry’s.”
Protein/Supplements – None.
“Because I was taking every supplement under the sun and drinking 2-3 protein shakes a day from [when I was] 18-24 that I’m just sick of them, so I never drink shakes anymore. As far as supplements, I just started taking creatine again but I always forget. So, whenever I remember and then a protein bar every now and then, but that’s it.”