When it comes to success who you surround yourself with can sway your results.  Brad Gillingham shares who have influenced him throughout his competitive career.

It is important for successful athletes to have a great motivational support system. The people that you surround yourself with can have a tremendous impact on your success and can greatly influence your competitive career.

My Support System

Of course, we are supported the most by the people we are closest with.  The support I receive from my wife, Diane, and daughters Emily and Elizabeth has been a critical component of my success. Without their support all the hours dedicated to training and competing would not have been possible.

Every athlete also has key people that they can point out that greatly influence their competitive drive and desire to compete at the highest levels. The ability for an athlete to surround themselves with a supporting community of influential people is what separates motivated athletes from the rest of the competition.1

My Greatest Influence

My father, Gale Gillingham, is the greatest influence on my competitive career.  He was considered, by many, as one of the greatest offensive linemen in NFL history.  He was an early pioneer in strength training in the NFL.

A historical study recently documented his history of strength training in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research “Stronger is Better”: Gale Gillingham, The Weight-Trained Green Bay Packer All-Pro.2  He was a six time All-Pro offensive guard with the Green Bay Packers. He played for 10 seasons in the NFL, and was inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 1982.

My dad introduced my brothers Karl, Wade and me to strength training at a very early age. He continued to coach us at many of our major events over the years. He was our coach, mentor, motivational support, and biggest fan.

We learned from him first-hand about the importance of mental intensity, mastery of technique, and goal setting. He did not know the word quit and he tried to pass his mental toughness onto his sons. My brothers and I have competed against the biggest and the strongest in the world, but we still consider the “Oldman” to be one of the strongest to ever walk the planet. His passion for strength training continued right up to his passing in 2011.

Along with motivation and mental toughness we learned his unique training method of training with partial range of motion (ROM) movements out of a power rack. By learning to train this way we were able to lift heavier weight than we could with our full ROM movements. I believe his influence on our training methods is directly related to the high level of strength we each attained.

Additionally, we learned to keep things simple in our training.  There were never any weightlifting machines in his gym. We learned from him the value of training the squat, bench, deadlift, power-cleans, bent and upright rows and military press.

My Ultimate Training Partners

My brothers have both been big influences on my training and competitive desire. We have been training partners, coaches, and teammates. Additionally, we traveled together for many years running grip contests at the Arnold Classic, Mr. Olympia, and other fitness shows.

Both brothers transitioned from national-level powerlifters into strongman competitors. Wade eventually turned to world-class grip contests, and Karl went on to compete in strongman contests all over the world into his 50’s.  This included competing in Worlds Strongest Man four times.

Some of their unique strongman training influenced me to include log presses, farmers-walks, sled (push, pull, drag), and heavy sandbag work into my training.  These movements are still a staple of my training today. 

Our holiday get-togethers often include rolling thunder contests, sledgehammer levering and other feats of strength. Wade recently sent us a video of him tearing a deck of cards in half with his bare hands.  My brothers help to instill in me the notion that you’re never too old to strength train. Having a passion for the sport of strength is a way of life!

My Fellow Strength Athletes

Furthermore, I am influenced and supported by all the lifters, athletes, coaches, sponsors, and training partners that I have been fortunate to know over the years. A common attribute of strength-athletes is that many stay passionate about strength training, often having long careers as competitors, coaches, officials and meet directors. They share a common desire to get stronger, or maintain as much strength as possible for as long as they can.

Surround yourself with people that motivate you and stay strong for life!

Brad Gillingham

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  1. Stulberg B. (2017) The Power of the People Around You. Mission. View article.
  2. Shurley J. P. (2020). “Stronger Is Better”: Gale Gillingham, the Weight-Trained Green Bay Packer All-Pro. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 34(5), 1201–1212. View abstract.
Hall of Fame Powerlifter Brad Gillingham

Brad Gillingham

Brad Gillingham is a Hall of Fame Powerlifter who is a 6-time IPF World Powerlifting Champion and has more than 30 IPF World Championship medals under his belt.  Brad is the co-owner of Jackals Gym where he coaches a variety of athletes.  Brad is also strength and conditioning coach for wrestling and volleyball at Southwest Minnesota State University.


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