John Clarke

Vital Statistics Current
Age 29
Height 5'11"
Weight 140kgs
Best Deadlift 400kg
Best Squat 350kg
Best Push press 180kg

John Clark is not your standard strongman…Breaking records and sharing knowledge in his own gym, the strongest man in the Midlands has made his impact felt in the world of health and fitness.

It all began with a fractured neck while playing Rugby in 2013. This painful injury took this sport off the table, and gave him time to think about his next move.

That’s when he came across Strongman competitions, falling in love with the DIY determination of the entire sport and the individual nature of it all.

Lifting a massive 360kgs, he has made it to the top all on his own and has the battle scars to prove it – a compressed vertebrae and torn QL muscles at one competition!

But John’s not in it for the competition… Sure beating other people is a great feeling, but he far prefers the feeling of conquering his own challenges. A 400kg deadlift in his own gym means more than any trophy.

So what is his future plan? Simple – defend his title as the Midlands’ Strongest Man, and qualify for his third England Strongman competition.

Beyond that, his passionate work helping others at Fit3Sixty will continue to grow, as he creates the best life possible for his other half and the little one!

Sam before and after

Meal Plan

My meal plan varies from day to day, but I follow a simple template:

Training Plan

  • Monday - Overhead, front squats and tricep assistance work
  • Tuesday - Deadlifts and upper back assistance work
  • Wednesday - Rest
  • Thursday - Squats and speed work on deadlifts
  • Friday - Pressing volume work and speed squats
  • Saturday - Some Saturdays – strongman event work
  • Sunday - Rest
Sam Whitaker: the interview

Hi John, thank you for taking the time to talk with us! So, let's dive right in, tell us all about your sporting history…

I played at lot of sport when I was young - mainly football but also rugby, golf and athletics. I started lifting weights when I left school at 16, although not consistently. Plus I didn't really know what I was doing back then, so the first few years weren't that productive.

I used to play rugby to a decent standard, but in 2013 I suffered two hairline fractures in my neck after a scrum collapsed. That meant Rugby was no longer an option for the foreseeable future.

I started rehabbing back to training and started to see how strong I could become. I met a strongman competitor who suggested I have a go at competing and 3 months later competed in my first competition, came second and since then have trained exclusively for Strongman and Powerlifting

You are our first Strongman Competitor to feature on the site - why did you decide to make this your sport over all the others?

John Lifting a Car

I love the challenge of seeing how strong you can become.

I realised that I could only work with a certain number of people directly, so wanted a way to reach many more people. Body Target became the vehicle that allowed me to do that.

How much can YOU lift, how much can YOU take for a walk on your back. You can’t cheat a weight - you have to earn the right to do it and from that point of view I like the purity of it. Hard work, consistency and getting a result.

You don’t necessarily have to rely on others. It’s just you and your commitment to work. After years of team sports, I like the individual nature of it and although I have a team of people supporting me, it’s up to me to do the work

Top lifting achievement to date?

In a competition I would pick taking the BNSF British Deadlift record of 360kgs, but in the gym it has to be the 400kg deadlift. It was something I wanted for a long long time.

Winning local titles such as Midlands Strongest Man and competing at England’s Strongest Man have been amazing, but that’s a goal I always wanted to achieve.

No such thing as good or bad food

How does strongman training differ to that of a bodybuilder?

Dependent on the time of the year they can be similar but also miles apart. In the first part of off season, higher volume work is often utilized. Then as the season moves forward, the weight increases and the reps decrease.

Most strength athletes wouldn’t take their body or muscle groups to failure like a bodybuilder would but realistically the ethos is the same –dedicated and consistent training is the aim.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about taking up the sport?

Do it! However, do it for the right reasons. If you want to compare yourself to others and expect overnight transformation it won’t happen.

Not everyone progresses at the same rate, so log your progress and celebrate your wins. Try not to compare your own progress to those around you and demotivate yourself.

It takes time to build strength and it can’t be cheated. So find like-minded competitors, train with them, learn from them and in turn give back to others that want to try the sport too.

You obviously lift far heavier weights than your average joe gym goer - with the weights you use, have you had any severe injuries?

Unfortunately, yes. We are pushing our bodies to limits they probably aren’t designed to go past and so things can fail.

My most severe injuries were compressed vertebrae and torn QL muscles at England’s Strongest Man 2015, but the year before I tore my MCL lifting a truck.

Even with good physio care and taking care of my body, these things do happen.

John Clark Lifting a Truck

What would you consider to be your best lift?

I’m probably most known for my deadlifting ability.

I took my deadlift from 220kgs to 400kgs in 3 years, which is largely an anomaly by most standards. But I probably enjoy squatting the most and think I’m best at that over what I can pull from the floor.

And your worst?

My overhead numbers are lower in comparison to my squat and deadlift, but I would actually say my grip is my worst event.

Broken bones in one of my hands from a Rugby incident means my right hand has a grip like a baby but I still work hard at it and try to not let it cost me too dearly.

What do you think is one of the biggest misconceptions about your sport?

That we’re all stupid Neanderthals. I guess because of our size, people often assume we’re just cavemen that pick up weight.

I believe some of the brightest coaching minds are in the Strongman and Powerlifting community and there is far more science to the process than people consider.

If we were to open your fridge today, what would we see there?

Lots of meats and vegetables.

My other half is incredibly good at cooking for me and our baby. The majority of what we eat is single ingredient non-processed foods, so not an awful lot else in the fridge!

Johns general meal plan

How does your diet look throughout the year? Do you keep things pretty much the same on and off season or do you switch it up?

I tend to stick to my normal macro and calorie goals through most of the year but once the competition season has ended in September I drop the calories and drop around 10kgs of bodyweight.

Mainly for health reasons and it takes its toll walking about at a high bodyweight if you did it 12 months of the year.

What is your current macro split?

Percentage wise it’s currently 35% Protein, 35% Carbs and 30% Fat. But the carbs and fats vary dependent on day of the week and training or non training day.

Supplements - yay or nay?

I am terrible at remembering to take them - Multi-vitamins, BCAAs, Protein Shakes and Creatine when I remember is all I use.

John Deadlifting

Who was/is your strongman idol?

It has to be Zyrdunas Savickas. With countless WSM titles and Arnold wins, he’s very easily the Strongest Man to have ever lived.

How do you psyche yourself up for a competition?

I’m not an aggressive lifter, so the whole back slaps and screaming does more to put me off than motivate.

I use a lot of mindset and visualization tools at the minute, to run through the competition in my head. That helps keep the nerves at bay and switch on when I need to.

Your career is incredibly varied, from competing yourself, to training others, to running seminars all over to educate people - how on earth do you maintain your motivation?

I love what I do. It sounds cliché, but I genuinely love coaching people and helping them achieve things they never thought possible with their body, health, strength and mindset.

Staying motivated to train hard is the hardest part, but since opening FIT3SIXTY and having my own gym that has become a lot easier. I have all of my equipment at hand and can train around my busy life schedule.

You also own a PT gym - why did you decide to set this up?

I was running a successful PT business from another facility and essentially developed a waiting list for people who wanted my help.

The only way to grow was to open my own facility. 6 months since opening, I now have 2 other coaches working for me and Jenny (my other half) who runs a growing physiotherapy clinic in the same building.

Jogn over head lifting

We work with anyone from those wanting to just control their weight and regain their health and fitness to top level athletes in various sports from International Rugby players through to high performing Marathon runners.

Are you personally training for anything in particular at the moment?

I’m preparing to try and defend the Midlands Strongest Man title that I won last year and qualify for my third England’s Strongest Man

What's next for you?

To continue on the current journey. Our training facility grows by the day, so we will be focusing on continuing the expansion and grow our online strength training business too.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

If you think you may want to try Strongman just get in touch with myself or another competitor and find a local strongman training facility to learn and experience the events.

The community is an incredibly welcoming one - all too keen to share and pass on knowledge, so don’t worry about not knowing what you’re doing. There are people who can help with that!