A Chat With John Binkowski

By:  Wade Hanna

John Binkowski is known to most lifters simply as  “Bink”.  I will caution you though, if you see him in person you may start referring to him as “sir” since John is by NO means a “small” fellow.  I think Jason referred to him as looking like a “Borg” ship (for those of you who watch Star Trek you get the point).  I haven’t met “Bink” face-to-face yet, but I really look forward to the day I do.  His size is more than likely intimidating, but my conversations with him have shown him to be a very pleasant, down to earth guy who is very approachable (I don’t plan to tick him off though...<g>).  If you don’t know who Bink is then check in a number of past PLUSA’s under the Nationals articles and you will assuredly find his stats right near the top in most of them.  John is a Strength Coach at UNLV with Mark Phillippi (ya’ know, the WSM guy and former Powerlifter) and I would venture to say this is probably a good field for him to be in. ;-)
So, without any further delays, take a look at what “Bink”.....err....Mr. Binkowski has to say for himself.  Super nice guy, and I very much enjoyed this conversation and others I have had the privilege of having with him. 

SO: First off, thanks for doing this!  Let's start with your physical stats like height, weight, age, etc?

Bink Squattin LOW
JB: Well Wade, thank you for the opportunity.  Where to start???  I guess I can go with the simple version... My name is John Binkowski.  I am 30 years of age, stand 6'3", and weigh anywhere from 355 to 385 depending upon what the buffets are serving each week.  I currently am the Assistant Strength Coach at UNLV and have been in Las Vegas for the past six years.  I am originally from
Chicago, Illinois where I started my illustrious battle with the barbell.

SO: When did you first start competing and what got you interested in powerlifting?

JB: I first lifted weights as a freshman in high school, mostly for football. Honestly, I hated it because I really wanted to play baseball BUT I was handpicked and always thought I could go back to baseball.  We had a guy named Roger Grossnickel, who was a pretty good bencher back in the mid 80's, coaching us.  He used to bring us over to The Gym in Chicago Hts. to watch himself and guys like Sam Mangaliardi and Dennis Reed train.  It was unbelievably awesome. 

I did not get serious about PL though until 1988 when I met this short, little, scrawny red-headed guy named Ed Coan at Quads Gym in Calumet City, IL. I actually had no idea who Ed was when I first met him but our first training session was an eye-opener.  I struggled with my 600 x 2 in belt and knee wraps-- parallel at best, as Mr. Coan related to me.  Then, I sat down and watched this little guy put 650 in a deep hole for 8 reps with no equipment  and his damned shoes weren't even tied!!!  It was an auspicious start to our friendship / partnership.  I competed in a local meet a few months later and when my football schedule allowed, I competed.  So you could say watching and
learning from Eddie inspired me to do what I do.  What more motivation would one need???

SO: How big were you when you started and were you always so much bigger then....well everyone...or did this result from your PL'ing?

JB: Well Wade, believe it or not when I first started lifting weights back in 1983, I stood the same 6'3" I am today but carried a notoriously skinny 150 lbs on my frame.  When I lifted, as I stated earlier, it was for football, so I incorporated alot of conditioning and non-PL movements so I grew, shall we say, gradually.  When I graduated high school in 1986, I weighed 265 lbs. When I finished my college playing career in 1990, I was 290 lbs.  I would credit my weight gain to the reduction of overall energy expenditure. When you are a collegiate athlete, you are called upon to do more than move a barbell in the squat, bench, or deadlift.  You must prepare for all aspects of performance so I had alot more energy expenditure during my younger years. 

SO: As far as competitions go...are there any that stick out in your mind as your best performances, if so, what contests and what were your lifts?  What do you think made the difference?

JB: Good question.  I really have a top 5... SO BEAR WITH ME!!!  #5 would the '92 Collegiates in  Austin, TX.  I set 7 Collegiate Records that day; but, I lost about half my scalp when I dumped 804 on my 3rd squat.  #4 is easy, '92 Omni Classic in Indiana.  My first 2000 total, an 804 squat, a 722 dead which was a 60 lb PR at the time, and my first 9 for 9 day.  #3 would be '96 Colorado Open
where I went 8 for 8 and PR'ed across the board (865-529-749) on about 4 weeks of equipment training.  #2 would be '97 Men's Nationals.  Even though I lost to Mark Henry, I went 9 for 9 with 876 - 545 - 744.  #1 would be the '97 Colorado Open.  I did my first 1000 kg+ (1012.5 kg) via 892-562-777. 

SO: Conversely...any contests stick out in your mind as the worst? What happened on those days?

JB: Ugh... Why did I know this would be next?!?!?!  Okay... tops, 1995 Nationals, I bombed--BAD!!!   Mentally, I was trashed for about 18 months in terms of lifting confidence.  Not necessarily a bad contest, but a disappointing one(only in myself) was last years Nationals.  I really left a lot of weight on the platform in the squat, missed a bench I had made in training, and, most disappointing, my conditioning for the speed of the meet when I needed it on the last deadlift.
However, I give credit where it's due.  Brad Gillingham is one of the greatest  gentlemen in this sport and I love competing against him.  He is a very worthy adversary and a great champion.

SO: What are your best contest lifts, gym lifts, and where would you like to see yourself getting to before you stop competing? 

JB: Honestly, Wade, I do not get motivated for big gym lifts.  It doesn't count anyways.  However, just because you asked, I'll delve... I have done a 960 x 2 squat to 1" above parallel in the gym.  I really don't get max weight crazy in the bench BUT I have done 225 x 55, 315 x 35, 405 x 22 during the off-season when I just feel like goofing around.  Don't even ask about deadlifting-- I HATE IT!! Nah, not that bad; I just do alot of high rep work in the off-season to strengthen my back and grip.

Contest Lifts:  Squat - 892, Bench - 567, Deadlift - 777, Total - 2231.

Where do I see myself when I stop competing?  Usually with a beer in hand...Oh, you mean when do I plan on hanging up the lifting belt?  I think I have a lot of good lifting left in me.  I have 2 of the best brains in the business, Ed Coan and Mark Philippi, who constantly invent new and sadistic methods for me to torture..... I mean improve, myself with.  I also have a great lady, Kathy-yn Allen, who keeps my mind focused on lifting big weight.  She's awesome. Wade, honestly, I'll do this until I don't enjoy the challenge of it anymore.

SO: How far off 2400+ do you think you are?  I got confidence in ya' ;-)

JB: A-ha, he asks the 2400 question!!  I really cannot say.  First, my focus is on another number, 2336.  That's Mike Hall's American Record Total.  I set my focus at targets, Wade.  That's Numero Uno.  Then, I will attempt the infamous 2-4-0-0 assault.  To be honest, I really want a 1000 squat.  That would make my career when I get that number.

SO: We know you train with Eddy Coan and are close friends, what are some of the things he has taught, showed, or whatever that really stick out in your mind as helpful?

JB: First off, he taught me to be humble.  He demonstrated this technique to me by making me squat out of his rack height.  When I would protest, he would reply,"Wwhen you squat 800 lbs,I'll raise the racks."  When Tom Milanovich used to spot us, he'd ask Eddie if taking it out of the rack counted for my first rep. But, I learned.  What does not kill us, makes us stronger.

Second, I learned how to be a smart powerlifter from Ed.  He helped lay the foundation then gave me the ideas and plans and I ran with it.  He made me figure out what worked for me, forced me to find what I needed to improve on. I try to instill this into my athletes as well.  What works for me might not  work for you. 

Lastly, the biggest thing I learned from Ed Coan is no matter who you are and what you do in this sport, or any other for that matter, never think yourself to be bigger than the sport.  Seriously, Ed Coan is the most humble individual I have ever met.  He never brags, he never gloats, he just goes about his business.  I have never seen someone who so graciously and willingly will help people with their lifting. 

SO: Could you attribute any single thing as being the most important aspect of your training (i.e. like mental preperation, training regimen, nutrition, effort, etc)?

JB: The biggest thing would be the mental side, Wade.  Your mind controls everything-- EVERYTHING!  You have to be able to call upon your mind to force your body to levels beyond imagination.  I've heard Marty Gallagher refer to it as the "voodoo zone" or Kaz's interpretation of "fight or flight" on WSM. Whatever it is, you must be able to mentally put yourself into a zone.  In
your mind, you must be convinced that you are the baddest "MO-FO" in the world and nothing can stop you.

SO: What type of training regimen do you use?  Is it a standardized set up or combination of some differing styles?  Could you give us a brief example of what something you use might look like?

JB: I do whatever it takes to make me a better powerlifter.  It's not standard by any means.  I look back in my training logs from previous years and I tinker; simple process.  I would but I do not have the finger endurance to type any example because my workouts are hardly ever brief. (Ed. Note: No problem Mr. Bink sir, your largeness, if you don’t want to type then noooooo problem. <g>) 

SO:  Do you feel that any particular areas (muscles) are more important for optimizing totals or do you feel that everything has to be roughly equal to get the most bang for the buck, so to speak?

JB: In my opinion, to compete at the elite levels of this sport, you need some semblance of balance in your lifts.  If you ignore or let one lift lag, you are not optimizing your chances for a big total.  Everything might not need to be equal, Wade; but a balanced performance is tough to beat.

SO: This one is kind of a three parter for each of the lifts...

JB: Uh-oh, three parts to one question.  This could be tough.

SO: What are some of your favorite motions for the Squat? 

JB: Okay.  I am assuming you mean what do I like training to improve my squat. Plain and simple-- SQUAT!!!  I use a few variations such as Pause Squats, High Bar Squats, and Chain Squats to a box but I use the squat as the main impetus for my training.

SO: For the Bench? 

JB: On the bench, I use a variety of tricep, chest, and shoulder work.  I love heavy pushdowns and nosebreakers for my triceps.  I'll do regular bench, incline, and decline presses.  I do lots of dumbell work for my shoulders.

SO: For the Deadlift? 

JB: I'm a big fan of stiff leg deadlifts and bent rows.  I like heavy power shrugs as well.

SO: Which of the three lifts do you prefer, or think you might be best suited for?  Conversely, which do you dislike, if any?

JB: Well, I would have to say my favorite is the squat... big surprise, huh?  I do not dislike it BUT the deadlift is my least favorite.  I think my leverage disadvantages do not make for much fun for me.

SO: Anything you'd like to add, re-iterate, touch on that I may have missed or that you feel is important for newbies and advanced lifters alike?

JB: Simple-- Find what works for you.  I have read articles where Louie Simmons talks about each of his guys at Westside learning their own needs and Ed Coan stressed that to me as well.  No two powerlifters will be exactly alike.  You may have similar training templates but your individual needs will vary.

SO: Thank you for your time in doing this.  We wish you the best of luck in ALL your future endeavors and competitions....good liftin'!!!

JB: Thank you Wade for this opportunity.  I would like to take a little more of your time though right now.  First, I want to thank Ed Coan, Mark Philippi, Tom Milanovich, Dave DeYoung, the Quads Gym Army, Darin Lovat, Kathy-Lyn Allen, and Roger and Judy Gedney for all the endless and tireless support. Second, I want to thank my family for everything they do for me.  Next, I
would like to thank Inzer Advance Designs for supplying me the best gear in the world. 

Finally, I have a few words about the state of powerlifting in the US.  We need a unified approach.  The US set the pace in powerlifting and now we are relegated to second fiddles at the World Championships.  Too many  inexperienced and non-forward thinking people are dragging this sport into the gutter.  We have too many awesome athletes to play second fiddle.  These athletes need support, not just someone fulfilling their own needs.

Well, there you have it.  Once again I want to thank “Bink”....err....Mr. Binkowski for his time and his participation.  I know I have enjoyed this and I am sure all of you will too.  Until next time...stay strong and good liftin’.


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