'By far the best in Britain', an Interview with Josh Greenfield
Walking around at 110 kilos, with an MMA background and a massive 822.5 kilo powerlifting total, Repel Bullies sponsored athlete Josh Greenfield cuts an imposing figure. I recently sat down with Josh to talk about everything from training, to mental health and personal improvement, to steroids. And it quickly became clear that he's just getting started...
George West: So how long have you been training?
Josh Greenfield: Just over 3 years now. I Got Into powerlifting via entering a strongman comp 4 days before it was happening. I was the lightest lifter by around 40 kilos, but ended up coming third in the squat with 250kg.
After that the guys invited me to train with them and they advised me I should start powerlifting, and it's just been up from there.
GW: Wow, presumably you'd been lifting for a while already?
JG: I've been in the gym since I was 12 but at the time of the comp I'd been away from lifting for about 2 years due to competing in MMA.
GW: Did the MMA training help you as a powerlifter?
JG: Physically, no. Mentally, yes.
GW: So it's a similar mental game in both?
JG: Yes and no. Both are very lonely, but MMA was way tougher mentally. I think that's because it wasn't for me but I was trying to make something of nothing. I wanted to be successful in it but deep down I knew it wasn't going to happen. I have the mentality where it's all or nothing for me.
GW: You plan to achieve big things in powerlifting then?
JG: I do indeed. This is my life, it's what I do day in day out – everything in my life revolves around being successful in the sport. I don’t just want to be another powerlifter, I want to be the best in the world.
I want the -105kg title in the IPF one day, and then I want to retain it for a number of years. and I will do anything to make that happen.
GW: Have you got any specific numbers you want to hit on that journey?
JG: The real goals in sight at the moment at -105kg are a 363kg squat, a 200kg bench, and a 317.5kg pull. I want to look towards a 900kg total. That's in years to come but for me that's the ultimate goal and dream right now.
GW: What are your best gym lifts currently?
JG: My best squat and deadlift in the gym are below my current competition maxes (337.5kg and 305kg) and my best gym bench is 180kg, which is equal to my competition max.
GW: So you try to peak and PR only for competitions?
JG: That's it man. Doesn't count anywhere else.
GW: What kind of training program do you run with?
JG: I’m coached by Mark MacQueen. We usually run linear progression unless we are peaking, then we mix that with RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion).
GW: Just standard linear progression? No periodisation at all?
JG: Pretty much man – 2% increases each week. Lots of accessories as well, but controlled volume. We throw in some periodisation when we can but with competing there hasn't been time for an off season.
After the Arnold's in Barcelona this month I'll have been competing solidly for 8 months. So I'm out to prove a point: take the squat world record, hit an 830kg+ total, and prove I'm one of the best -105's in the world and by far the best in Britain.
GW: Good luck mate, seems like you're on the right track.
Let's change tack a little. In powerlifting culture there's a strong theme of overcoming personal obstacles. Repel Bullies is of course all about helping young people gain a new sense of self confidence through strength training, and you're also sponsored by Mental Health Muscle. Do you think powerlifting is particularly good, compared with other sports, for helping people through troubled periods in their lives?
JG: Definitely. Powerlifting saved my life. It's by far the best sport I've been involved with: it beats you down but also makes you grow at the same time.
A few years ago I was severely depressed after 2 of my best friends dying around 9 months apart. I got to the point where I was planning to take my own life. Then I found powerlifting. The physical output in the gym and the support from the people in there who wanted to watch me lift and help me on my path really turned my thoughts around. Instead of 'nobody cares about me so what's the point?' it was 'wow people do care who I am and they're interested in what I do'.
The way I would feel after the gym was unbelievable. We used to train for like 4-5 hours. I would be absolutely destroyed but I never felt down in there, it was my haven.
GW: I think a lot of us can empathise with that.
JG: Exactly. People are scared of the gym but we're all in there for the same reason, and that's to better ourselves.
GW: What advice would you give to someone who wants to start training but is scared like you say?
JG: Take a look at everyone in there and just realise deep down that they are there for the same reason as yourself. They want to become a better version of themselves. They might be there to become stronger, fitter, lose weight, gain weight. Whatever it is it all equates to the same thing.
GW: Ok, let's talk drugs. How do you feel about steroids in the British powerlifting scene? Are they a big factor? Does the IPF have the right approach?
JG: I know there are PEDs because we keep catching people taking them. I missed out on a silver medal at my first IPF world championships because of a user. If they want to compete with lifters who are natural then invite them in. It doesn’t make a difference to me – it just makes them look even more stupid when they get beat by us.
GW: Do you reckon the sport would be better off if drug use was more open? Say if the IPF had a tested and untested division?
JG: No. I think the IPF is the best federation because of this factor.
GW: Because they're so strict on PEDs?
JG: Yeah man. When PEDs are involved the sport loses its class.
GW: So you take extra pride in your achievements because you made them naturally?
JG: No not at all. I take pride in them because they're the product of my own hard work. Even if you're on drugs you still need to work hard, but that's where the average steroid user goes wrong. They think a needle can replace hard work, and that's why we keep beating them.
GW: So where will we see you competing next?
JG: The Arnold's Classic in Barcelona on the 28th, 29th, and 30th of this month.
GW: Good luck mate, sure you'll smash it. Thanks for chatting to me.
JG: No worries brother, was a pleasure speaking to you.