Brandon Lilly, Greg Panora, Swede, Seminar Recap

This past weekend we had the privilege of hosting 3 world class lifters at Gaglione Strength for yet another awesome seminar. We have had visitors before such as Dan Green, Stan Efferding, and Donnie Thompson, but now we were hearing and learning from 3 of the top lifters at once. It was a day you couldn’t miss! 

The morning started as chit chat amongst attendees, introductions and small talk. Seminars are also a great opportunity to meet other lifters and coaches in the area. It is a part of an event like this that I value the most. In the midst of all the talk, all of a sudden Greg Panora walks through the doors and the powerlifting fanboy in you goes holy shit thats Greg Panora… and he's huge. I’m always amazed at the size of these top lifters in person. Not only are they huge but they are jacked and shredded as well. Soon enough Brandon Lilly and Swede rolled in and we began the seminar

Something that I thought was really cool and I’ll never forget is Brandon going around to each individual person, looking them straight in the eyes, shaking their hands, and telling each one of us thank you for being there. There were many moments throughout the day like this where you were amazed at what a stand up class act this guy was. I can’t say I was totally surprised but it was an amazing thing to see someone at the top of the sport acting so humble and actually thanking us individually

The seminar started by Brandon talking to us for a while about training philosophies, and then we switched gears to Swedes presentation illustrating his 5th set program. We would hear from Panora in bits and pieces as well and I thought it was a great moment when he announced out loud with determination that he was going to break the single ply world record at 275. The confidence and determination in his voice was chilling, it gave you a glimpse of the competitive drive in these top guys

I want to take a moment to highlight some of the takeaways of the seminar before I continue my story of the day and detail the rest of the seminar

  • Not all PR’s are weight related - Brandon made sure we understood that not all PR’s revolve around the weight being used. There are many other ways to PR and you should make everyday a PR and have fun with it, just go about it a little differently. Say you took 275 for 5 last week and you grinded a few reps and they looked slow, well if you take that same 275 for 5 in a few more weeks and every rep is clean and the bar moves fast then you PR’d. You did the same amount of work but it looked better, therefore you can assume you got stronger as well as improved your technique


  • Have a plan - When Russians design programs they are thinking in terms of total volume in 6 month blocks. Thats how far ahead their plans stretch. When the bench record was recently just broken, that is the product of a 10 year program in the making. Kirill was approached by a Russian coach that told him you can be the best, this is what you need to do for the next 10 years to do it. Nobody wants to think 10 years ahead but these great lifters have things planned out. They aren’t trying to break world records in 3 years, they are trying to break world records in 10+ years and last injury free to do it. It takes patience but you will be rewarded


  • Technique is the most crucial part of training - You only get as strong as your technique will allow. You will either stagnate or get injured if your technique sucks. Kick the ego back a notch and make sure you are going through the movement right with proper technique. Russians in a meet smoke every weight they touch, sure they have more in the tank but they will also have a long career to prove what they can do. If technique is breaking down your body will take a beating. You can only grind reps for so long, when you are handling even heavier weights a small breakdown can lead to a big injury


  • Use the lift itself as your main warm up - Take your time adding weight to the bar, and treat an empty bar like a max effort lift. Don’t move up in weight until you feel comfortable with the form. For example if you need to take 135 on a squat for a few sets to feel right before moving up then do so. Don’t rush things


  • Prilepin’s chart - This is the gospel of weightlifting. Every good program whether on purpose or accident falls somewhere in the chart. The chart details the optimal volume for different working percentages. Check the chart out


  • Lateral Heel! - This is a cue Swede would use in place of the often misinterpreted knees out cue and to create hip tightness. When coaches say knees out it is often a confusing cue for a lifter. You don’t really want to be forcing the knees out but rather thinking about opening the groin up. By thinking about spreading the ground using the side of your heel you’ll feel not only your hips getting tight but you’ll also feel distinct glute activation


  • Less is more with drugs - Brandon was very open with everyone about his extra supplementation. He told us how he used to do the crazy stacks and high doses but over time he realized less is just as good. In fact both Brandon and Swede told us they felt at their strongest when they weren’t necessarily taking large doses of drugs but rather training smarter and paying more attention to recovery


  • Less is more with training - Brandon trains 50 minutes a day and can still remain a top level powerlifter. You do not need to be in the gym killing yourself for 3 hours to get strong. He said he used to train that way, absolutely brutalize himself. Now things are different and he’s much more minimalistic. Less work with just as much results, what’s not to like? Recovery is huge


  • Don’t hire a coach and change shit - Swede was telling us it blows his mind how liters can hire a coach and then change things in the program. You hired a coach and are paying them for a reason, when you go changing things on your own you’re only hurting yourself and pissing off your coach

Much of what these guys were saying were very similar to the principles we use at Gaglione Strength. It was nice to see our system being validated by 3 of the top lifters in the sport. You could see many of our members in attendance were excited to hear they were already on the right path to getting stronger

We soon broke off as a group to watch Panora, Lilly, and Swede coach 3 separate lifters through the squat. Swede was big on keeping a packed chin while squatting (think making a double chin). Not all coaches coach this cue but he said the spine should be thought of as one universal spine head to tail, you should never be craning your neck up. Packing the chin allows you to create even more stability in the body. We then broke into 3 groups and got individual coaching from one of the guys. It was a great opportunity to have your form checked and critiqued

After the hands on squat work we broke for lunch, this is where things got a little interesting. Brandon asked if there was a way we could keep the group all together so people had the opportunity to chat and interact. We ended up opting to order in Chipotle. Now with 25+ people thats one large order. The total bill came out to $270 worth of chipotle, I can only imagine the workers in a scramble. They were even calling to make sure it wasn’t a prank. When you get a bunch of powerlifters together in a room for a day a big man gotta eat! 

When we met back after lunch the guys continued speaking to us about various topics. Many stories of Chuck Vogelpohl were shared this day. Chuck was a westside barbell legend with a fiery attitude and unbelievable competitive spirit. He would not get beat in anything and if he did he would find something else to beat you in before the training session was over. Brandon took out his phone and showed us a video of a deadlift that won him a meet against an opponent that left westside. 

Chuck was representing westside barbell in the meet and could win the meet with his final deadlift. It started off the floor but soon slowed as he began to shake uncontrollably. Somehow he found it within himself to fight through and finish the lift for the win. Most people in that position wouldn’t have found the strength to fight through that deadlift but Chuck was someone who would die trying to win a battle. The video is short and the pull happened in a matter of seconds but in reality that deadlift probably felt like it lasted an eternity to both Chuck and the audience in attendance that day. Brandon says he still watches that pull everyday and holds it in regards as one of the greatest lifts in powerlifting history

Besides the stories of Chuck, I just loved to hear what these guys have going on in their lives right now. Powerlifting isn’t popularized in the media and all you know about these guys is what they post to social media. Having them there in person felt like you were just shooting the shit with a buddy and we got a glimpse of everything going on with them

We met again as a group to go over benching. It was interesting to see how they all seemed to agree and coach bench similar to each other. They all adopted a toes back set up where they really loaded the hips and got the quads tight. They said to focus on taking the bar out with your lats and be driving your heels down and pushing head first off the bench to create leg drive and stability. The lats played a large role in our talk on bench. When you learn to actually engage your lats correctly (think meeting the bar halfway with your chest during the press) you find that you can actually make it hard to lower weight to your chest. This creates an enormous springboard effect almost like an artificial bench shirt type feeling. Brandon told us he trains lats 7 days a week in a way that simulates their action on the bench press

After bench we met for deadlifts and brandon kept it very simple with us. His approach is just to replicate your most powerful position in nature, which is the stance you use to jump with. Transfer this stance over to your conventional deadlift set up. Set up with the bar about an inch away from your shin to make sure you clear the knees no problem, and pull. Swede elaborated a little more thoroughly talking about getting tight to the bar to start and pulling your chest through in the bottom of the set up to get in a good upright pulling position. 

Brandon said something very useful when he told us that you need to adjust your grip to your shoulder width. Taking too narrow of a grip as a broad shouldered individual will make the lockout difficult since you need to pull your shoulders back into position at the finish. With a broad shouldered person sometimes their chest will get in the way of shoulder retraction. These broad shouldered individuals need to widen their grip to the bar, and you could see immediately how it helped many of the lifters in attendance

At the end of the seminar Brandon talked about 2 different gym scenarios. One gym was centered around trying to create all elite level lifters, but they weren’t necessarily practicing the sport the right way and had questionable lifting practices. On the other end is a gym full of average lifters but they all practiced the sport the right way and worked hard over time to get better, these lifters took the time to make sure there technique was great. He asked which you would rather have? He said himself that he’d rather have the second gym full of average potential but hard working and technically sound lifters

At Gaglione Strength we epitomize the second gym. We don’t necessarily have the strongest lifters in the world, we have a lot of hard working blue collar guys and women and many people just trying to get strong for life with no intention of competing. It was awesome to see Brandon Lilly give our coach John Gaglione big props at what he’s created with the gym. I am proud to have the opportunity to coach here

The seminar ended on final questions and soon after Panora, Swede, and Lilly took pictures with people. While the gym emptied out and we cleaned up a bit it was nice to get the chance to thank the guys again for the information they gave us and talk a bit. It really was a very informative and awesome seminar that I’d recommend to any lifting enthusiast.