An Interview With Mike Ruggeria: Moving On Up!

Already one of the top superheavy weights in the world, Mike is quickly making startling strength gains due in part to his dedication and training methods implemented from Westside Barbell.
Mike Ruggeria has one of the most impressive presences in the sport today. He started his lifting career benching and then eventually doing full meets where he met Louis Simmons and was introduced to Westside Barbell. Now he's one of the top superheavyweights in the world right now with a 1015 squat, 630 bench, and 810 deadlift!

Recently Mike and the fellas at Westside Barbell have implemented methods from Metal Militia which has provided results... but let Mike tell you this. Mike's progress has been very impressive in the last few months but see for yourself. Enjoy the interview!

Curtis Dennis: Thanks for a chance to interview you, Jim. Please give the readers a description of yourself?

Mike Ruggeria: I always find it hard to talk about myself but here goes… I'm 36 years old, originally from Syracuse, NY and I moved to Columbus OH about 4yrs ago to train at Westside Barbell. I currently make a living driving truck.

CD: How long have you been into powerlifting?

MR: I've been competing for about 13 years. I started out doing local bench press meets and in '94 I did my first full meet.

CD: Have you always been strong?

MR: I don't think so. I used to be a skinny kid, you know, with the rib cage showing and a pencil for a neck. LOL!

CD: Tell us about your childhood and how you got into power lifting??

MR: I'll skip the childhood stuff because I didn't have much of one growing up. As for lifting, I started out training when I was 13. Mostly bodybuilding stuff. It wasn't until years later that I went to a powerlifting meet to root on a buddy that I actually caught the bug for the sport.

CD: How did it feel to be training with fellas at Westside Barbell? What is it like?

MR: The guys that train at WS are the best. The best training partners anyone could have. WS can be pretty tough. Especially around meet time. It's very competitive and you're expected to make gains. If not, pack your bags.

CD: Name some of your other feats of strength?

MR: The only thing I count are the lifts I do on the platform. My best lifts are a 1015 squat, 630 bench, and an 810 pull.

CD: How do you think you stack up against other power lifters?

MR: I don't like to compare myself to other lifters. I have too much to think about when it comes to my lifts and performance.

CD: Do you believe with the arrival of professional powerlifting, that powerlifting is moving in the right direction?

MR: I believe what Kieran Kidder has done is brought a lot of awesome talent together that otherwise would not have happened because of all the different federations. Having that many great lifters competing under one roof has to have powerlifting moving in the right direction.

CD: I've always preached about having training partners. Do you have any training partners?

MR: Yes, you need good training partners and I have a bunch. Chuck Vogelpohl, George Halbert, Jim Wendler, Dave Tate, Joe Bayles and Rob Fusner to name a few.

CD: Who did you look up to when you were coming up as a powerlifter?

MR: I admire Don Rheinhoudt the most. Great guy, strong as hell and one of the nicest people you'll ever meet. Ed Coan and Kirk Karwoski are a couple of others.

CD: What was one of the challenges of coming up as a powerlifter?

MR: I think making it a lifestyle was the biggest challenge. My ex-wife hated the fact that I had to be at the gym 3-4 days a week. She hated the fact that I couldn't miss a workout to go out and 'party it up'. She hated the fact that as I got stronger I also got bigger. Then, there's the job situations. I wouldn't take certain jobs, good paying jobs because I thought they might interfere with my training. And so on and so on.

CD: Tell us about your training/workouts and how you prepare for competitions.

MR: I follow the Westside program. Mondays are max effort days for the squat and deadlift. Tuesdays are for max effort bench work. Fridays are devoted to speed work for the squat. And Sundays we do speed work for the bench. As for preparing for a meet we just turn everything up a notch.

CD: Does your training differ from in-season to off-season?

MR: Not really. We might throw our gear on a bit more when training for a meet.

CD: Tell us about Westside Barbell and its lifters?

MR: Great place to train if you want to get strong. The guys there are devoted, determined and extreme.

CD: I heard that WSB lifters are slowly implementing Metal Militia methods, how is that going?

MR: A lot of the guys are trying some of the techniques and using the shirts like the MM guys but we still believe in speed work. I think the two types of training can benefit each other.

CD: What other things are you into other than powerlifting?

MR: My sweetheart is a competitive bodybuilder. So I'm into her training and helping anyway I can with her contests. So between her bodybuilding and me powerlifting there's not much room for anything else.

CD: What supplements do you take?

MR: I use Beverly's Ultra Size protein, glutamine, creatine, bcaa's, a multi mineral and some vitamins when I remember to take them.

CD: What do you think of powerlifters today? Any that stick out in your mind?

MR: I think there is a whole lot of talent out there. And two that stick out in my mind are Garry Franks and Andy Bolton... incredible!

CD: What would you say to a novice lifter or to a lifter whose just starting out in powerlifting?

MR: I would have to say keep an open mind and ask a lot of questions. Not everything works for everybody. You need to find out what works for you.

CD: What do you think of the sport of powerlifting and its lifters in general?

MR: I love this sport and the lifters are what make it great. I think that's why I have been in it for as long as I have.

CD: Does physical strength run in your family?

MR: I don't know. Maybe. I had a grandfather who was a big thick Italian dude. Real strong. I got a brother who could be stronger than ever if he would stick to the weights for awhile. So, I guess so.

CD: What would you suggest to someone on how to getting stronger or a bigger bench?

MR: Again, ask the guys who are strong lots of questions. Find out what works for them and try it out.

CD: What's next for you?

MR: I don't know yet. Maybe something in the spring. Right now I'm just going to try and get a little stronger, a little bigger and work on some technique problems I've been having.

CD: Is there anything else you would like to mention to our readers here at

MR: Train hard and lift big!

CD: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview, Mike!

MR: You're welcome Curt and thank you!