Gary Panttila is a Tucson local and has been in the world of powerlifting for many years.
Gary is an amazing lifter, his powerlifting has won numerous competitions that include benches, squats, and deadlifts. Gary has now set his sights on returning to competition.
Gary came to Jade Star with some shoulder issues and was looking for pain relief so he could continue to train. He was amazed at how cupping and Tuina gave him pain relief and mobility after just one session.
Gary has his own YouTube Channel where you can learn some tips and strategies from one of the best powerlifters out there.
Learn more about Gary in my interview:
How long have you been into Powerlifting?
My first meet was in June of 2002. AZ State Championships which I won after 3 months of training. I weigh in at 127 lbs. and competed in 132 lbs. weight class. I was 18 years old and just graduated from CDO High school in Tucson. November 2015 after 13 years and 81 meets competing, I won the GOLD medal for the USA in powerlifting for the 242lb weight class.
Have you always been strong?
I never focused on being strong but more focused on winning every meet I entered. I've been to 4 world championships placing 11th, 6th, 4th and 1st in 4 consecutive years. If you do not count the world championships, I am 81-0 never losing a state, regional or national championship which I have won 3 times. I won the college national championships in 2005, and the open (24-39 yrs. old) championships in 2007 and 2008. I always focused on being well rounded in strength and not focused on one particular movement. The best lifter at a meet is the one that makes the most adjustments on the day of competition as the day goes.
Tell me about your childhood and how you got into Powerlifting?
I was a skinny extroverted kid that didn't have friends and wasn't really allowed to go out and play. My parents were strict, and I focused on my schoolwork. I loved sports but once my grades dropped, I was pulled from teams. I got into powerlifting once I became a personal trainer at the local YMCA after. One Friday morning in December 2001 I was preparing to open the gym and our volunteer Michael Lechuga was already there because he had a key. I watched him go from 1-45lb plate on the bar to 4 and I could believe a human was squatting 405lbs. I said, “what are you doing?”, and he said “powerlifting”. I said “wow, I want to do that” and he said “you can do anything if you work hard and prepare for it. Come train at my gym with me and I’ll teach you” Michael said. Well after 3 months of listening and working hard I became a state champion powerlifter. Sadly, Michael moved away shortly after I met him and his last words to me were “I believe in you and you'll be great.” 13 year later I won a world championship and was the strongest 242lb powerlifter in the world. I saw Michael as he moved back to Tucson in 2016 and told him he was my inspiration and for over a decade I vowed to never give up on anything I did. When times get hard you just keep pushing through and not look back. Michael passed away two months after I got a chance to thank him and tell him I owed my life work ethic to him. So now I compete for those that can’t and for the memories of loved ones that supported me.
Name some of your feats of strength?
705 lb. raw squat with knee sleeves and belt
644 lb. world record squat at 198 lbs.
(10 various state records at 198 lbs.)
450 lb. bench press at 220 lbs.
(10 various state and world records at 220 lbs.)
725 lb. deadlift with no belt on
315 lb. x 3 reps overhead press with metal log
988 lb. rack pull with a belt on for 2 reps above my knee
688 lb. deadlifts for 2 reps no belt
125 lb. seated dumbbell press for 15 reps
How do you think you stack up against other lifters?
Top 20 in the west coast of the USA pound for pound strength
I ranked in the top 100 lifters in the USA at 275 lbs.
I ranked in the top 50 of lifters in the USA in 308 lb. weight class.
If I train hard for another year, I can win a world title at 275 lbs.
Who did you look up to when you were coming up?
Besides my parents as role models, I looked up to NBA Michael Jordan, Powerlifter Steve Goggins, and World Strongest Man Bill Kazmire
What was one of the challenges of coming up as a Powerlifter?
Finding a training program that works for your body and lifestyle. I went to school full-time and worked full-time while competing 3 times a year as a lifter in my 20s. Now as I am older the challenge is training as little as possible while maintaining rehab it takes to keep my body going after 17 years of squats and deadlifting every week. I have to work 60-70 hours a week, so gym time has to be as little as I have time for 3 days a week
Tell us about your training and how you prepare for competitions?
I write a 12-week program with taking the 12th week off and resting before the meet so my body doesn't have any aches or pains. I like linear progression as the weeks go on the weight goes up and reps go down. Peaking your strength is key to optimal performance on the day of the meet. If your goal is to bench press 100 lbs. at a meet, then two weeks away from the meet you should probably do 1 easy rep at 90 lbs. to ensure you are capable but not tap into your potential at the meet.
What other things are you into other than lifting?
I am into car building and metal fabrication. I am not into restoring cars as much as I am into making them custom built from scratch. I love welding and building things out of metal.
What do you think of Powerlifters today? Any that stick out in your mind?
The powerlifters today are a new breed of lifters. Most of all them are on social media and are coaches of some sort. 17 years ago, we had no means of social media and the only coaches were the lifters that we retired hall of fame guys. You never paid for a coach it was about giving back and passing knowledge off to others. Today powerlifting is at an all-time high for meet lifters and world records fall every weekend.
What would you say to a novice lifter or to a lifter who is just starting out in Powerlifting?
Take vitamins, get 8 hours of sleep and do not turn powerlifting into a job. Keep it as a hobby and give back to the sport by volunteering to be a ref, spotter, and loader. Stay off social media and worry about your numbers not what everyone else is doing. Control what you can and don't waste energy thinking about other people.
What do you think of the sport of Powerlifting and its lifters in general?
It’s a great sport for discipline and bone strength. There is no greater way to strengthen the bones then good fashioned weightlifting. The lifters today are doing lifts that I couldn't do in my time. They are more educated and have more support from lifters that are accomplished and mentoring them. Records are being set by females that 10 years ago guys were setting, so the women are dominating the sport at the moment.
What would you suggest to someone wanting to get stronger?
Eat well, no fast food and get sleep. You can’t recover if you don't rest. Get coach you trust and respect and what they say goes, believe in them and leave the plan in their hands. Never contradict the coach or argue with them because you will lose their respect. Go for therapies like acupuncture, medical massage, cupping and Tuina, and take the time stretching because your body needs to recover from the workout.
What do you do to keep healthy and recover from injuries?
Jade Star is the only place I go for therapy on my body besides doing cryotherapy. I love Jade Star because I have come in with injuries and left pain free. I also spend 30 minutes a day going through stretches to get my body recovered. It's key that when you lift weights your muscles are loose and elastic
What's next for you?
Lifts wise 2019- Deadlift 775 lbs. Bench 450 lbs. and Squat 750 lbs.
Lifts wise 2020- Deadlift 800 lbs. Bench 500 lbs. and Squat 800 lbs.
2019 December I want to do a strongman competition
2020 an AZ state powerlifting meet
2021 World Championships for powerlifting