Interview With Big Bencher John Burkhead Interviewed by Mike Westerdal of CriticalBench.com - December 2007
Critical Bench: John, tell the readers a little bit of background
information about yourself.
I live in Fruitland Pk., FL. I am self employed, I own a welding / steel erection business. I live here with my wife of 14 years Brenna.
Critical Bench: How long have you been lifting weights? When did you first
compete in powerlifting and how did you get started?
Well, I've been in a gym for 27 years. I started when I was 14 years old. A friends father had a gym in his barn, I've been lifting ever since. Actually 2007 is the first year I competed as a powerlifter. I started off as a bodybuilder, I competed in a few small shows In the late 80s early 90s, I won a small show in Florida, I just don't have the aesthetics for it, I have a thick waist. I took some time to get my business going and began training for powerlifting in 2000. I trained with Brad Dunn at the time and we were training for strongman / powerlifting, Brad was good on the strongman side and I was good an the powerlifting side. We had some intense cross training sessions back than, I remember going from deadlift to tire flipping. That's where it all started for me.
Critical Bench: Cool. Where do currently train and with whom?
I train at Extreme Fitness in Leesburg. My friend and training partner is Jeremy Hoornstra. I also train at Gold's Gym in Mt. Dora, My training partner there is Teresa Meryman.
Critical Bench: What feds do you compete in and why did you chose them?
What weight class and age?
I've only competed in one meet, It was the APA Nationals. I chose the meet because it was close to home. I am a raw lifter, I compete in the masters 1 division in the 275 lb class. There are a lot of feds, as long as they have a masters1 raw division I really don't care which one I lift in.
Critical Bench: I was there that day! That was a sick display of strength. Tell us about the national championship you won and the
world record you set.
I won the APA 2007 bench press nationals, raw best lifter, and set a world record of 515 lbs. On the bench.
Critical Bench: Yes you did. What a great day to be John Burkhead. How long do your workouts last and how many days a week do
you train? What kind of training philosophy do you believe in?
It generally takes about 2 hours. The way it splits we train 4 days one week and 5 the next. We work with a continuously increasing percentage system for the 3 major lifts, Bench, deadlift and squat. Other than that both Jeremy and me came from bodybuilding and for the most part we still train like one, just a lot heavier.
Critical Bench: What's the most intense moment you've experienced as a
My first lift at the APA nationals, 5 years of training all came down to that one lift. I'm sure as I continue to compete I'll have more.
Critical Bench: Have you ever considered competing in gear to change things up?
I'm not against lifting in gear. I have a bench shirt, squat and deadlift suits, I've had them on but I have no idea how to use them effectively. Once I learn how to use them, sure, I'll compete with them.
Critical Bench: What tips can you give our readers to help them increase
their bench press?
Triceps, front and rear delts and upper back, if you want a big bench you have to hit these body parts hard.
Critical Bench: What are your best competition lifts and gym lifts?
Critical Bench: Dang! What does John like to do outside of the gym for fun?
Well, I pretty much sleep and play on the internet.
Critical Bench: Two very important things in life. Are you very detailed with your nutrition plan?
No, not at all. It's hard for me to stay at 270 - 275 . I eat basically whatever I want to.
Critical Bench: What's the key to a big deadlift?
Posterior chain, Hamstrings, glutes and hips. Stiff leg deadlifts, reverse hypers and pulling the sled.
Critical Bench: What's it like training with Jeremy Hoornstra? You guys
train at a commercial gym so I can only imagine the stares you receive!
Jeremy is one of the strongest people I've ever seen in a gym, he is still young and will be in the powerlifting world for a long time, he is just getting started. We train hard and heavy, we get the work done but we also have fun, we both like to be in the gym, an hour after were finished training we will still be in the gym. Extreme is a commercial gym in a hometown environment. More than half of the members have known us for years, They all watch us to some extent but they are pretty used to us by now.
Critical Bench: What are your future powerlifting goals both short term and
I would like to be able to get stronger and hopefully compete at the level of success that I had at my first contest. Powerlifting has become part of my life now, I enjoy training and competing and hope to continue as long as my body will let me.
Critical Bench: What motivated you to become a world class powerlifter?
I started talking to Jeremy about the bench numbers for the over 40 class. I did some research, and I thought your never going to know until you try. So here I am.
Critical Bench: If you had to school for career day and tell the kids what
it takes to be a world champion powerlifter, what would you tell them?
This could turn in to a 3 page answer easily. I will try to break it down to 5 words. Time, patience, integrity, consistency and sacrifice.
Critical Bench: Any final words of wisdom or anyone you'd like to thank?
I would like to thank my wife Brenna for her undying love and support for 14 years. And, of course Jeremy Hoornstra for refusing to let me grow old gracefully. Everybody at Extreme for putting up with us all these years. And I thank God for all of us.
Critical Bench: Than you for this interview opportunity. Looking forward to
reading about in you the mags!