On June 25th, the world saw one of the biggest showdowns in powerlifting history.  

In the Men’s 83kg Open Division at the IPF (International Powerlifting Federation) World Classic, the 23 year-old American John Haack and the 25 year-old New Zealander Brett Gibbs went head-to-head in an incredibly close matchup.  Haack came out on top with an unbelievable performance, going 9/9 in his lifts for 813kg/1789lb total (including a World Record 298kg/657lb squat)! Keep in mind that he competed under the harshest and most strict powerlifting federation in the world, the IPF, where everyone is drug-tested and rules for every lift are regimented. Additionally, he competed on the world’s biggest stage.  

I had the opportunity to ask John Haack himself some questions, following his monumental victory. Here’s what he had to say.

Q: What inspired you to begin lifting and around what age?

A: I started training for football and wrestling when I was in 7th grade, so around 12-13 years old.

Q: What drove you to powerlifting?

A: When I went to college, I met a friend in the gym who competed in powerlifting in high school. We started training together using the program his old coach gave him. We decided to sign up for a meet together. I ended up taking best overall lifter and quickly fell in love with the sport.

Q: What do you believe is the number one mistake beginner powerlifters make in their training?

A: I would say the biggest mistake is maxing out too often and failing reps in training. Those two are the quickest way to a plateau.

Q: Is your training periodised? If so, which form of periodisation (ie DUP, traditional block, etc) do you employ?

A: I typically stick to a DUP style of periodization.

Q: What song did you listen to before stepping on the platform for your 3rd attempts?

A: A$ap Ferg-Let it Go (Riot Ten remix)

Q: What was going through your head as you stepped up and executed your world record squat?

A: My football coach always told us to imagine ourselves making a huge play, whether it was a sack or scoring a touchdown, and then go make it a reality. I’ve stuck to that train of thought. I just kept picturing myself hitting the lift.

Q: In your early lifting years, what was your weakest lift, and how did you overcome any plateaus?

A: My weakest lift was and still is overhead press.

For breaking plateaus, there are three basic ways to do it. The first is to simply add size. The same lifter is typically going to be stronger at 200lbs than he would at 180lbs. Next, you can increase your neural efficiency. This can be achieved by simply practicing the movement more, upping your frequency or number of sets you do. Finally, you can better your form. Are you putting your body in the most optimum position for your leverages? Playing around with these three has helped me to continue progressing.

Q: Where were you in your lifting career five years ago? If someone told you five years ago that you’d be a world champ, would you have believed it?

A: Five years ago, I was training in my high school weight room, wanting to be the strongest kid in school. I would have never guessed I’d be where I am today.

Q: For any aspiring powerlifters seeking success in the sport, what would be your best piece of advice for them?

A: Find a gym that is powerlifter friendly and train with the strongest/most experienced guys there.

Q: What are your goals moving forward?

A: Long term, I’d like to hit a 2000lb raw total and be in the debate as the GOAT of powerlifting.

 

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About The Author

Victor Armenta-Valdes is currently studying at Davidson College. For most of his life, he played baseball and golf competitively. As a non-athlete in college, he has taken up powerlifting and looks to compete sometime in his college years.

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