Interview with Half-Ton Squatter Jonathan Byrd

It is a pleasure to get to interview Jonathan Byrd a half-ton squatter. That’s right folks, Byrd squats over 1000 pounds and isn’t stopping anytime soon.

Jonathan a pro level equipped powerlifter with his best lifts of a 1010lb squat, 699lb bench, and a 685lb deadlift.

Jonathan Byrd


Current Location: Jacksonville, Florida

Age: 30

Height: 5’10

Off Season Weight: 290 pounds

Competition Weight: 308 pounds

Years Training: 15 years

Sponsors: Anderson Powerlifting, Muscle and Brawn, BIG Workout Plan


Jonathan Byrd

What were your specific lift numbers at your previous meet?

My last meet was at the 2013 XPC Semi Finals and I had a 965lb squat, 685lb bench, and a 675lb deadlift. I took first place in the 308 class.

How has your training changed since you tore your pec?

It took me about 7 months to feel comfortable holding any real weight in my hands after my pec tear. The injury is always in the back of my mind so at this point I don’t really push my raw bench max. I typically warm up to a moderate weight and then begin board work or put on a bench shirt. I also normally use a much closer grip now raw to not put as much stress on the pec.

Picture of pec tear, benching 685 1 year later
Picture of pec tear, benching 685lbs 1 year later

How do you train? Do you use a specific training type?

I’ve trained differently over the years. For many years I used a basic linear periodization program that I developed. I wrote my e-book “BIG” from the same technique I used which has been producing great results for others as well.

Over time I have become mostly a geared lifter and have had to move away from the periodization aspect while still keeping the same principles in my training. Basically I make sure to target my weak points with auxiliary lifts and focus on the big 3 power lifts.

Check out my review of BIG here.

How does your training change as you approach a meet?

After I moved down to Jacksonville I was lucky enough to train with Team Samson. While here I have been making several adjustments to my training. I have access to some of the strongest and smartest people in the country so I was happy to take their advice. The basics are still the same though; stick to the big core lifts, try not to get burned out, and rotating in and out of gear in both the squat and deadlift. For bench I typically do 1-3 reps from various boards and add in chains and bands through a rotation.

Jonathan Byrd Deadlift

What got you into equipped lifting?

I got into equipped lifting for a lot of reasons. At the time, geared lifting was where all of the competition was along with the big meets and crazy weights, I just wanted to be a part of it.

It took me several years to build a base good enough to even get into equipped lifting. It was a long hard road and one I would suggest for others to take. Take some time and get strong RAW before you attempt to use equipment.

Jonathan Byrd

What lift do you enjoy? What lift do you least enjoy?

My favorite lift has to be the squat mostly because it is my best lift. My least favorite lift has to be straight leg good mornings. I really dislike Brian Carroll for introducing those to me (although they serve a good purpose).

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What motivates you?

Lots of things motivate me. I first started taking powerlifting serious when I could no longer play football. I had to have something to keep my competitive fire going. Over time things have changed so now the drive to be the best I can be truly pushes me. I don’t feel like I could walk away from powerlifting until I reach my potential ceiling.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I think at this point it would be winning my first ever multiply meet which was the APF Senior Nationals. It was a deep field of lifters of which the first place through third place were separated by only about 60 pounds. This is also the meet I got my first 1000 pound squat (1003lbs).

What are your current and future goals?

Right now I am just focusing on the XPC finals at the Arnold. I just want to go out and have a good showing. As far as specific numbers, I can’t really say, but I feel like I will have a nice PR day.

For the long-term I would like to do a few more single ply meets. I would like to take a run at doing the Olympia  next year as well as seeing if I can make the top 20 of all time in both raw and equipped squats.

Where do you see the sport of powerlifting in 10 years?

I think the sport of powerlifting is growing. I don’t think there will ever be TV deals or shown on ESPN, but I do see more and more meets filling up.

I think you will start to see more money come into powerlifting. I would love to see these unity meets really grow (XPC, RUM).

Jonathan Byrd

A little off topic, but what is your 3 favorite movies?

White House Down, The Program, The Rocky Series.

Jonathan Byrd

I’m pretty sure a series doesn’t count as one movie, but I’m not going to argue!

Can you tell us anything about yourself that might surprise others?

I am actually a special education teacher at a combination middle and high school. This is my 5th year working with children with special needs.

Lastly; Any words of advice for people who want to venture into this sport?

Get out there and compete! It does not matter your strength level, age, gender, or weight, just get out there and do it! Make sure you follow a sound workout program, carry a training log, and always seek out advice from people who actually lift!

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