ASL: Would you care to share with us some statistical and biographical information with us?
Keshishian: My name is Mark Samson Keshishian. Some people might make fun of my middle name, but it was actually my great grandfathers name. So, I guess subconsciously, I've been trying to live up to it. I was born on December 16th, 1961 in Washington, D.C. I'm five foot eleven inches tall. I weigh in between 220 to 240 pounds. My arms are 18 inches. My chest is 48 inches. My waist measures 35 inches and I have 28 inch thighs.
My PRs are the following in competition:
My PRs in the gym are the following:
These are my raw (i.e. no equipment) PRs:
I have done 655 pounds for 4 reps with only a belt on in partial deadlifts out of the racks 18 inches up to simulate the silver dollar deadlift.
I won the 1993 IPF Pan American Championships or the Championships of the Americas in the 220 pound division. I was also named best lifter for the heavies. I also won the 1996 IPA Seniors in the 220 pound amateur division, which is drug free, in the submaster division. At that meet, I also won the best lifter in the amateur division.
ASL: Are you a professional strongman/powerlifter or do you have a business or job also?
Keshishian: Actually, I am not considered a professional strongman yet. I had intended to turn professional on August 1st competing in the Strongest Man Alive contest, but it was unfortunately canceled. So, now I plan on turning pro with the 1998 Full Strength Challenge instead and then hopefully move on to the World's Strongest Man competition from there.
ASL: Were you always and big and strong as you are now? When did you start lifting and competing? Did you play any sports as a kid or in college?
Keshishian: No, I wasn't always big and strong. I started to lift in 7th grade at the age of 14. My 7th grade History teacher, Mr. Dennis Pepperman, started me lifting. At the beginning of 7th grade, I had a 90 pound bench. By final exam time I was benching 185 pounds so I could get a 185 pound club t-shirt. By the time, I entered 9th grade and it was time for football pre-camp, I was benching 210 pounds and got the 200 pound club t-shirt. That was big stuff to me back in the day. I was still very skinny in 9th grade. I only weighed 145 pounds. During high school, my best bench was 310 pounds in 11th grade. Just before Senior year started at pre-season football camp, I could do 270 pounds for eight reps. As far as organized sports went, I played football, wrestling and track all during high school.
ASL: Who were your heroes/idols when you were growing up?
Keshishian: Mr. Pepperman, who started me lifting weights, is one of my heroes. Later on, I guess, bodybuilding influences became my heroes like Arnold and Tom Platz, because I had one of his books. Then, I became fascinated with Vasily Alexeev, the Russian Olympic lifter.
ASL: Could you name some powerlifting accomplishments or feats of strength (e.g., ripping phone books in half) that you have done?
Keshishian: In my front yard, there are what my mother calls, two lawn sculptures. In reality, they are McGlashen type stones. One is about 200 pounds and the other is about 250 pounds. They are perfectly round and smooth just like the real McGlashen stones. On Sundays, we all get together and play with them. I also have two acetylene torch canisters that we use for farmer's walk practice. Then, of course, there's the log. We have a metallic log that we practice log lifting with. We have plans to make a super yoke, a truck pull harness and a hand over hand truck pull apparatus soon.
ASL: Do you plan on doing strongman contests and/or powerlifting?
Keshishian: I am officially retired from powerlifting.
ASL: You are training partners with Gary Mitchell. Could you tell us for how long and what it has been like going with him to all of his competitions?
Keshishian: I've known Gary Mitchell since about 1988. We've been training partners since 1992. Since 1992, I have been to at least 4 Senior Nationals with him in a coaching capacity. I've been to at least 3 strongman events with him as his coach and will be going to Scotland with him on Thursday for the World Muscle Power Classic.
ASL: Could you tell us about your WSM Competition experience from the point of view of a coach?
Keshishian: I attended the US Strongman Finals in Prim, Nevada in 1997 with Gary. Due to injury and some other problems, he didn't show much of his potential as a strongman. Even in Scotland in July of 1997 with three different injuries, he did better there than in Prim. Setting up the events for TV can really mess things up for the competitors.
ASL: Could you tell us about coaching Gary for his 903 Squat at the 1991 APF Seniors?
Keshishian: Coaching for Gary for the APF Seniors where he hit his biggest competition squat was fun. A couple of weeks before that, I had gotten some competition advice from one of Gary's old training partners and his best man at his wedding, Steve Elgin. Steve had recorded a phenomenal 2000 pound total in the 220s. Steve said, "When it comes time to pick the attempts and you have got the choice of two weights, you have to go for the heavier." For Gary, it was either 881 or 903. So, I remembered this advice and we used it. Needless to say, the 903 was "smoked like a big cigar." Gary almost smoked his third attempt at 931, but the squat suit leg hem flipped up and he lost it. Oh well.
ASL: What is your general training schedule?
Keshishian: We basically follow this training schedule:
ASL: Do you have a funny story about the WSM Contest or something the viewers would not have seen on TV?
Keshishian: Phil Martin is one funny guy. We grabbed one of the security guy's bicycles and putting it in front of the bus like he was going to pull the bus with it. Ha Ha
ASL: Is there any message or greeting you would like to give your many, many fans out there?
Keshishian: I have fans? Wow! Well, be strong!