Powerlifting is a strength sport in which participants compete to lift as much weight as possible. When competing, three lifts are attempted: the squat, the bench, and the deadlift. Lifters are categorised into weight class, age group, gender and experience level.
Self-trained powerlifting champion, Callum J Barney, talks to classfinder about how he started the sport, how he motivates others and the positive impact it has had on his life.
Q&A with Callum
Q. Where did your fitness journey start?
A. I only started going to the gym because my brother needed someone to spot for him. He took the gym much more seriously than me but as I had my own self-conscious issues, I decided to stick it out and try to take it more seriously.
Q. Did you always enjoy sport?
A. Before I started going to the gym I didn't get involved in much sport. I hadn't found anything that I got along with particularly well and had managed to miss out on all of those opportunities.
Q. You are a powerlifting World Champion. Can you tell us about the competitions you have taken part in and how it feels to be so successful?
A. I've competed around 16 times in three World Championships, three British Championships and a couple of times for the England team at the Four Nations Championships along with multiple other competitions. I've been lucky enough to win 13 of those competitions and set 14 British records, but I've just loved what I've done and don't consider myself successful as I have so much more that I still want to achieve.
Q. What advice would you have for someone wanting to start strength training?
A. My advice would be to just get started as soon as possible and learn how to do the technique safely and efficiently. This is the thing we put forward most with our clients and athletes.
Q. You are part of Team CJB Strong Group. Can you tell us a little more about the group and your role in it?
A. I am the Head Coach for the team and have been running it for 5 years, taking it from just a few lifters to a team of over 70. The team includes beginners and international elite athletes. The group is based around set principles and everyone shares the same values. We're all looking to get stronger and we are all supportive of each other's journeys, regardless of our level.
Q. Would you say that training helped with other aspects of your life?
A. When I started training, I was suffering from depression and had gone through multiple eating disorders. My work in strength training not only changed my life, it saved it. I was able to become more motivated, more disciplined, and found self-worth in what I was able to achieve. I can honestly say I wouldn't be the man I am today had I not gone to the gym in the first place.
Q. Can you share your experiences of competing and training, both negative and positive, with us?
A. The positives are relatively as expected, there's a great deal of pride in the success you can find hitting new personal bests and in being part of the community. There's nothing better than being able to find quantifiable results as well as seeing the physical changes along the way. But without question my personal journey has come with a degree of sacrifice, I've had my fair share of injuries which has been mentally taxing, but I wouldn't have changed anything I've been through as it's got me where I am now.
Q. Have you had any experience with negativity towards your chosen sport and if so, how do you deal with this?
A. I’ve not had people say negative things about the sport, it’s more that they think I invested too much time into it…but now I’m part of one of the most successful and largest teams in England, I think they were wrong. One of my biggest difficulties in building the community has been attracting women to the group. They expect strength training to be specifically for men, but now that our team is made up of 60% strong women I think it is evident that this isn't true.
Q. What would you tell someone who didn’t feel confident in trying strength training?
A. Everyone must start somewhere, and you don't have to think you're the best to get there. Within the strength community, there is no judgment of what level you are currently working at.
Q. You now train others, how do you keep them motivated?
A. It helps to set an example, as I still maintain my own training, but most often it is the conversations reminding them how hard they are working and how far they have come. Each of them overcomes their own personal battles in order to maintain what they do, both inside and outside of their training. Each person is unique in some way and deserves to be celebrated.
Q. What made you decide to progress from training yourself to training others?
A. I consider it giving back to the sport. I was lucky enough to change my life through strength training and I consider it my responsibility to be able to introduce others to it, so they can potentially have a similar positive impact on their lives.
Q. What courses/qualifications have you completed?
A. I have completed the typical PT courses, Strength & Conditioning courses, a Masters in sports rehabilitation and multiple additional courses to further my skills as a coach.
Q. If you could only play one song on repeat when training, what would it be?
A. Monster – Jacob Banks – I like relaxing but powerful music.
Q. How do you relax and unwind after a busy day?
A. Honestly, I tend to work a little too much! I spend most evenings working but I consider my work a means of relaxing as I love what I do.
Q. What is your number one fitness tip?
A. Consistency. Nothing we do is that complicated it's more a means of maintaining it, whether that be simple elements of a diet or a well-structured routine.
Q. What does a typical day look like for you?
A. I usually work late into the night as opposed to early in the morning so will get to my computer around 7:30pm and begin to do programming work for my clients. Clients contact me throughout the day, and we tend to chat about any issues they are having during their sessions. I try to find time to train for about 2 hours during the day and when home, will continue to work from my computer, developing elements for my clients, doing updates on their programming or video analysis on the footage that they submit.
Q. What type of meal would you suggest for fuelling a great workout?
A. It is subjective, but most commonly I would suggest a good size meal with a high amount of carbohydrates in order to support a strong workout.
Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share with us? Upcoming events? Any advice?
A. There are many events throughout the year. I'm lucky enough to be flying to Estonia to coach and to Edinburgh for the British Nationals in just a few weeks’ time. My best advice is to try it - the world of strength training is a fantastic place and the community is phenomenal. Should you want to ask me any questions or if you need help, please get in touch, I am always reachable.
You can contact Callum via Instagram (c_j_barney -Instagram) or by visiting www.CJBstrong.co.uk.
If you feel inspired to start strength training, but aren't sure where to start, why not try a group exercise class that incorporates strength training. Click here to find a local BODYPUMP, Kettlebell or Boxercise class near you today.