Kevin Nee Exclusive Interview for SwoleScience.com
Professional strongman and World’s Strongest Man competitor Kevin Nee has been a legend since the inception and initial development of his amazing professional career. Not only is this strength athlete the youngest man to ever compete in the World’s Strongest Man, but he was additionally the youngest to make it to a top ten finish. At 26 years old Kevin Nee has 5 World’s Strongest Man appearances, and multiple deadlift competition world records. Kevin was also featured on the MTV True Life television show as he began his road to the World’s Strongest Man after becoming the strongest teenager in America. Kevin’s relentless determination and sheer strength coupled with his incredible heart give way to one of the most capable and powerful strongmen that represent the next generation of champions. Throughout Kevin’s incredible career he has been able to overcome both mental and physical obstacles, push his limits, and continues to strive to win with unbreakable consistency.
Kevin Nee Exclusive Interview for SwoleScience.com conducted by Papa Swole.
SwoleScience– Kevin, thanks for doing the interview, how are you doing?
Kevin Nee- Doing really good, thanks!
SwoleScience- You have five appearances in the Worlds Strongest Man, and were the youngest athlete to ever compete at 20 years old, how did you get started so early in this unique sport?
Kevin Nee- I actually made it at 19 but turned 20 a few days before the World’s Strongest Man. I never powerlifted, bodybuilt or anything like that, which is how most people tend to get into the sport. I started off at the gym when I was 13 years old, and there was prostrongman named Bruce Tessier who worked out at the gym. Now, being just 13 years old and seeing this guy who was 6’1, 300 pounds shredded, I was just like wow. I ended up being that little annoying kid asking a million questions and annoying everyone, but I really listened and paid attention. By the time I was 15, and after two years of bothering this poor guy (laughs) I learned a lot, got a lot bigger and got a lot stronger. So Bruce told me “you know you’ve been listening, you’ve gotten bigger, stronger and you’re coachable, I wanted to see if you wanted to start training. I would have asked sooner but I didn’t want to waste my time but it looks like you’re willing to put in the work. We do event training on Sundays at my barn and other lifting at the gym”. So I told him “sign me up”. So I started training, loved it and in a few months I began to notice he had me doing the same events over and over, so I asked him “why we were doing these events over and over?” And he responded with “you have a contest in two weeks I signed you up for”. I was so scared to do it that I didn’t want to do it, but luckily I did it and it’s been history ever since.
SwoleScience- What is current training regimen and workout split?
Kevin Nee- Well right now it’s all over the place. Just to show you, I got invited to a contest next weekend and I just got the invite two days ago. So that’s basically been my summer, doing shows with a week or two notice and trying to train. This summer I have been going to the gym, stretching, doing some cardio and doing what I haven’t hit enough that week or events that I have coming up. To be honest, it’s been awful but normally what I like to do is, which is my normal routine: First I’ll warm up on the elliptical for a few minutes get the blood flow going. Then I’ll go immediately into stretching with bands for active stretching. Then straight into an explosive movement, something like an Olympic lift such as a snatch or hang clean. A full body explosive exercise to get the blood flowing. Then I’ll do three power movements, which can be anything from squats, deadlifts, farmer’s walk, presses, just any power movement. Lastly I’ll finish off with two easy lifts, which let’s say I focused on my posterior chain, I’ll finish off with some rows and bicep curls or something like that. Basically, it’s just two little smaller movements to compliment the workout. Overall, besides the warm up, its two explosive movements, three power movements and two complimentary movements that directly compliment the power movements.
SwoleScience- That’s interesting because many of the workout’s here on SwoleScience.com focus on that ‘Powerbuilding’ Method, which is power movements first, then complementary movements. It allows strength and size development, and gives you the best of both worlds.
Kevin Nee- I love it, and I feel like it is a very effective way of staying athletic. For so long, well I am still the little guy, but for so long I was the little, little guy. The athletic events favored me because I was an athlete in high school but the power lifts hurt me. So I ended up force-feeding myself and trying to get as big and strong as possible, but I ignored the athleticism, stamina, and conditioning. This came back and bit me in the ass, quite frankly. So now, I’m trying to get the best of both worlds.
SwoleScience- How has your training regimen evolved over the years? Did you always use that type of ‘powerbuilding’ type method?
Kevin Nee- I would say it evolved into that. When I was younger I would say it was definitely more of a bodybuilding routine but that was more because I didn’t know what I was doing and just followed what the magazines and stuff said. Back then it was chest and tri’s, legs, shoulders, you know the most typical bodybuilding routine. But, I think that is a really good routine for people just starting out to build a good strong core and foundation. Just a really good base. For those that have never done any real weightlifting and do have them doing yoke walk immediately, they would be falling every few feet, they’d have no core strength. Then when started training with Bruce and all them, they were all about power and events. So they have me move away from bodybuilding stuff, and mostly powerlifting/strongman stuff. Thankfully though, Bruce liked to look good as well, so always at the end of the workout we would throw in some higher rep lat pull-downs, presses, curls, and stuff like that. In college, it turned back into a little bit of bodybuilding. I had certain days where I would have a bodybuilding type day, strongman type day, and then a powerlifting type day. Finally, when I got with a trainer, it evolved into taking all of those things and turning them into one thing, but we made it so certain events weren’t overlapping. What I ended up with was a total body workout everyday but it wasn’t isolated like just doing ‘shoulders’. I was working my shoulders everyday but I never hit them to the point where I would be so tired I couldn’t do it the next day, it was just enough where I could hit each body part. From learning from different people, finding what worked for them, and then implementing what worked for me into what I do today. That’s what it’s all about, finding what works for you.
SwoleScience- Earlier this year you placed 3rd in the Asian World Cup, but in the past few years you have been competing less and less, along with being absent from the World’s Strongest Man, are still planning to compete?
Kevin Nee- Yeah absolutely. I was supposed to compete earlier this year but got sick, ended up throwing up the whole time and came out for nothing. As far a recent contests, I got invited to a few contests but I have been getting screwed as far as airfare goes, and as of now all my of financial interests are going into my business. I just couldn’t do it this year and right now I’m just focusing on my life. I’m at a point in my life where I just turned 26 last week, my job for years has been eat, sleep, train and I’m starting to realize that some day that is going to end, so I need to start focusing on other things. The past few years I have been developing this company called ‘OX Nutrition’, it has been in the work and in the last four months we launched the products and they’re going good but it takes time. I was invited to two qualifiers for World’s this year and I actually ended up turning them down, just because even if some how I qualified, I felt someone else who put in more time and hard work than I did this year, deserved it more than I did. As much as I selfishly would love be at World’s this year, it’s not right to take a spot from someone who might want it or earned it more than I have this year.
SwoleScience- What injuries have you sustained during your career?
Kevin Nee- Originally it was my two biceps, and I came back from both of those, and ended up going to World’s both those years. With the second bicep, when I went to World’s that year I was just so tired, so cooked from two years in a row of surgeries and busting my ass in time to make it to World’s. The next year about three months out from World’s, I tore my pec. I kept that really hush-hush, didn’t tell a lot of people and didn’t really know how bad it was either. I went to the hospital, called in ahead of time, even asked to make sure they had an MRI technician on staff, waited all night and finally asked for the MRI and they said “o it’s only for life threatening injuries”. So I never got to get my MRI. I went and saw five different doctors and physical therapists and they all said, “we know you have a major muscle tear there but we don’t know how bad it is”. That was about fifteen months ago. In 2010, I was thinking about trying to make it to World’s, but I said ‘no this is enough’ and this year I knew I was going to take off. I did get an MRI the other day though, my pec is torn, and I’m not sure if I will be having surgery. I also broke my collarbone the other day. At the time I was debating doing America’s Strongest man, as a qualifier for World’s and I was continental cleaning. I was up to around three fifty and using a reverse grip style where you throw it all the way up in the air, switch your grip mid-air and catch it. I heard a pop, ignored it, kept training for a few weeks and then just found out…broken collarbone. With the pec tear, I’ve still been hitting big numbers, but like I said I will be looking into what I can do about it. The collarbone, I’m going to just let heal and deal with the pain. I’m still training though, I went to the gym last night and tested every event at competition weight or just below it and everything went ok.
SwoleScience- Wait, you have a torn pec, two torn biceps, a broken collarbone and you are still at event weight? Have to hand it to you, that is impressive to say the least.
Kevin Nee- Well, thank you. The biceps are fixed so that’s out of the way. The pec and the collarbone…yeah that’s interesting.
SwoleScience- That is serious dedication, most athletes would quit and make excuses at injuries way more minor than that.
Kevin Nee- I love this sport and I try to give everything I can to it. I try to be a good ambassador whether I’m having a great year or a terrible year. I try to the right thing, make the fans happy, without the fans we would have less than we already do, and I just try to do the right thing. Some people might think its silly, “o you have an injury what are you thinking?” but at the same time if I have this injury, I’m going to have surgery on it anyways then I’m going to keep training. Even if I can’t have surgery, what am I going to do regardless? It’s been like this for almost fifteen months anyways.
SwoleScience- What are your current long-term goals as a Strength Athlete? Are you going to keep competing later? Because there are guys in their 30’s and 40’s that are consistently winning championships.
Kevin Nee- That’s exactly what I’m trying to set myself up for as we speak. The reason I have recently disappeared from major competition is right now I’m focusing on my financial future. I stress a lot, and one of the things I stress about the most is finance. The fact is that want to be able to start this company, offer quality products, develop a great future with it, and then just focus on training. When I was at my best, it was in college when I was a full time college student, full time athlete and full time working at a bar. It was a very low stress situation. After college, I was lacking a schedule, beginning to get kind of lazy, and that’s not me. What I’m trying to do now is get back to my work ethic, my finances and work back up my strength. The past month, I have put in twenty-plus hour days, I have been doing jobs with the guys involved in the company who have trades such as electrical work, carpentry, in addition to the company and training. I believe my plan is going to pan out, I just don’t know how long it’s going to take until I can become a full time athlete again.
I figure if I keep on this track of injuries, my career will be over whether I want it to be or not, but if I step back focus on finances, get stronger, I can keep training longer. If you look at Zydrunas, he had a similar start to mine and he had a lot of injuries when he was younger. He got everything under control and started dominating. I’m not saying I’m going to have same career as Zydrunas, but I want to give myself the opportunity to at least try to.
SwoleScience- What is your favorite strongman event and why?
Kevin Nee- Deadlift. First off all I’m biased, I had the record in that for three years, it was just broken actually. I just love it because it’s such a pure event. It’s either you can lift it or you can’t. It is a just you versus the weight and I think it’s primitive, fun, and really will determine who is the strongest.
SwoleScience- Various other strength athletes have given their opinion on steroids and performance enhancing drugs in strongman competition, what is your stance?
Kevin Nee- Honestly, I think in any professional sport people are going to try to get away with things. In our sport it’s so hard to govern that issue. They are so many different organizations, and since it’s a world competition in many other countries it’s perfectly legal. How can you tell those athletes they can’t do it, but it puts us at a big disadvantage. One, you can try to do it illegally, or two, you just don’t do it and potentially fall behind. But! I know for a fact of several great American athletes who have not touched it and done just fine, Phil Pfister being one of them. There’s no denying it can be done!
SwoleScience- What supplements do feel have been the most effective for you?
Kevin Nee- It’s going to sound biased because it’s my products but I feel our creatine has really helped me gain weight, improved my recovery time and strength. But then I also like our OX Hydro, because it really does give you so much energy. When I went to Uzbekistan, I got a call two weeks before asking if I would do the show. It took forty hours of traveling to get there, got detained for five hours due to my visa application, finally I’m heading to the hotel at 6am and I say “well at least I can sleep and compete tomorrow”, the guy goes “no competition is today at 2 o’clock.” So, I took a little nap, chugged the Hydro and ended up getting a podium finish. I love both those products.
SwoleScience- When you were featured on the show ‘MTV True Life’, you were struggling to maximize your weight. Have you come to a size that you feel is adequate for what you want to do?
Kevin Nee- Honestly, I do like the size I am now. Obviously when I’m hanging around guys like Brian Shaw, you know yeah I would like to be a little bit bigger. But, I think this is a good size for me, especially because my cardiovascular ability is peak, I don’t think I could handle much more weight right now.
SwoleScience- What is your current height and weight?
Kevin Nee- 6’1 and usually between 295-305. Last summer I got up to 316 at one point and I was just worthless, my body was not used to the weight and I couldn’t go up a flight of stairs without being winded. (laughs)
SwoleScience- What are your biggest weaknesses as an athlete?
Kevin Nee- My head. Absolutely, I psych myself out. It’s funny because certain guys like to play mind games with you in this sport, and trust me all the other pro’s will know who I’m talking about, and I’ve told them “look there’s no reason to play mind games with me, I do it to myself” (laughs) Definitely my head is my worst enemy.
SwoleScience- What are your biggest strengths as an Athlete?
Kevin Nee- The fact that I don’t give up. I just keep going and keep coming. Even with the injury, there’s always a way. If I’m too injured to train one way, I’ll find another way, and I’m always keeping my mind on the prize. I’m going to give it all my best. I don’t ever come to a contest wanting to lose, but I always come with 100% and I won’t give up.
SwoleScience- What is the strangest thing you have ever lifted up, in daily life or competition?
Kevin Nee- That’s a good question. A medical vending machine, the one that hold all the different types of medication in a hospital, and it dispenses pills and medicine.
SwoleScience- Wait, you actually picked the whole thing up?
Kevin Nee- We were actually having a contest to see who could football sled push it and I was the only one that could do it, made me feel good (laughs).
SwoleScience- Recently, you started your own supplement company, can you tell us more about it?
Kevin Nee- I have a partner who is in the supplement industry and the original product was a protein that was originally designed for cancer patients and people who needed really strong high quality protein. It was an extremely high quality product to begin with and from there brought out other products along those lines. He has all these lines dedicated to doctor’s offices but none were for sports lines. I was introduced to him and we decided to make a line for athletes. He told me, I could sponsor you or you take the risk and join the company, so we took two years to set things up and its worked out so far. What we did was take his original medical products, and beefed them up a little bit for strength athletes. Now that we have our initial products launched, we also have two in-house chemists, our own factory, and we make all our stuff, so now we are going to start asking people what kind of product would you like to see and see if we can bring it to them. I like to think of it as a company by strength athletes for strength athletes.
SwoleScience- What is the most important piece of advice you would like to give to aspiring strength athletes?
Kevin Nee- Be patient, take your time and develop right. I kept pushing it and pushing it, and no one said to me “you’re just 20-21 and take your time, no need to hurt yourself”. Listen to your body, take some time off, pace yourself and look guys like Nick Best and Mark Felix who are in their 40’s and still very strong, and hopefully that will be me as well. I’m not looking to anything huge this year for this reason, just want to get healthy and strong. Hard work, dedication and patience is key.
SwoleScience– Thank you so much for the interview Kevin and we look forwarding to speaking to you again in the future.
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(Photos used with permission from Kevin Nee)
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