Athlete Spotlight – John Greaves III

The Life

Small business owner, Marine Corps veteran, family man, writer, and Physical Culture aficionado are only a few characteristics that can sum up John Greaves III. His family origins stretch across the Atlantic to Monrovia, Liberia. He and his mother emigrated to the United States circa 1980. From that point on, it’s been anything but easy street as he bounced around between Maryland, California, Texas, and West Africa before finally settling down in Georgia after graduating from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

John enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve in 1999 and served honorably until 2008 when he separated as a Staff Sergeant. When asked what he enjoyed most during his service to the United States, John said “I am extremely proud of the work we did to liberate the city of Fallujah, Iraq in 2004.” It’s my hope that the lives we impacted there remain safe in the current unstable political climate brought on by ISIS” he continued. In case you were unaware, asleep, or not born yet, the United States and its coalition partners entered Fallujah in April 2004 and had several major Operations which the U.S. amassed more than 2,000 casualties. Therefore, any servicemember who served in Fallujah during that time deserves the utmost honor.

After John returned from his deployment to Iraq, he discovered his passion in writing. John had been writing for the majority of his life (he has a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism), and John became a freelance writer because “[he] was placed on earth to help people tell their story.”

John posing for his featured article in Power Magazine capturing the life and career of Steve Goggins

You may recognize John’s posts in Power Magazine as well as Powerlifting Watch and Bob Whelan’s Natural Strength. He has interviewed several icons in the strength community:

  • Steve Goggins
  • Kimberly Walford
  • Erik Røen
  • Nick Nilsson, “the Mad Scientist of Muscle”
  • James Fuller (IAWA champion)
  • Jay Crook  (Franchise owner, Play It Again Sports)
  • Martin Drake (Chairman, Amateur Athletic Union [AAU] Strength Sports)
  • Brian Brasch (PRX Performance founder)
  • Larry Maile (President, United States Powerlifting [USAPL])
  • Steve Dennison (President, United States Powerlifting Association [USPA])
  • James “Pit Bull” Searcy

John has also interviewed the unsung heroes, the many people who workout in their basement, garage, or out of their backyard to chase their dreams far away from any spotlight:

Personally, John has helped fine-tune my own writing when he reached out to me to write a post about keeping motivation high while training in a garage gym. Being able to extract what makes people great is something he consistently excels at.

The Athlete

I have become greatly impressed with John’s accomplishments — both in and out of the gym. He participated in only a few powerlifting meets and was able to record a Georgia USAPL Masters Bench Press record (Masters category is an age category for lifters over the age of 40) with a 142.5 kg (313.5 lbs) press just days after surgery to remove a benign tumor from his leg. He went on to compete at the 2016 World United Amateur Powerlifting (WUAP) World Championships and set another Masters record, this time in the deadlift, with a 250 kg (551 lbs) pull.

Complete a meet after surgery

John is not a one-trick pony. His mission (aside from building a “rebellious” network of home gym warriors, which I’ll get to later) is to enhance his health, endurance, flexibility, speed, and general fitness as well as his appearance and muscular strength. Because of injuries to his shoulder and pectoralis major, and because of the eradicated tumor, John joined the Physical Culturist movement which was brought to the United States in the mid- to late 19th century. Over time, its meaning has evolved from one cultural meaning to another and promulgates balance between physical and emotional strength.

“For those who pursue richer enlightenment, the physical culture movement is an unwavering search for harmonious balance between the conditioning of the body, the cultivation of the mind, and continuous growth of the spirit, while maintaining harmony with the environment.” (Physical Culture)

John comes from a long living family; many of his relatives reached their nineties before passing away: “So the prospect of doing something to myself that would leave me injured for decades just because I wanted to be able to break a record was [no longer] appealing.” The goal now is to lift in such a way that will allow him to train hard “well into [his] tenth decade!”

In order to continue developing his talents, John receives expert strength programming from legendary powerlifter Steve Goggins and martial arts training from Chet Blalock. He regularly consults James Fuller, an International All-Round Weightlifting Association world record holder, to blend a well-rounded training system.

Because of his diverse training plan, I asked John what a typical training week looks like:

“Each week involves three to four lifting sessions and two or three conditioning sessions in addition to a twenty minute walk and mobility work every day. For strength, I do a traditional powerlifting movement (squat, bench press, or deadlift), followed by supplemental exercises which support the primary movement. The supplemental work is usually derived from bodybuilding and physical culture movements to build muscular balance and will allow me be sexy to my wife which seems to be working just fine. One day each week, I try to incorporate something fun into the training session. Because it’s important to have fun.”

Of course, what’s the point of having so much knowledge and experience if you don’t pass it on to others? Ever since his youngest son Juaquin (who is also a USAPL State and American record holder) was in the fourth grade, John has trained approximately 30 young women and men  in  his garage gym. He was fortunate enough to travel with one of these lucky young studs and his oldest son, James, to Telfs, Austria to compete at 2014 WUAP World Championship where James won first place.

For these up-and-coming rock stars, training with John is not free and comes at a hefty cost. Members must keep their grades high, do community service with John once a month (such as feeding the homeless or raking a neighbor’s yard), make their family a priority over coming to train, work hard in the gym and mentor others.

It is easy to appreciate the effort that goes into grooming these young people. John spends invaluable time investing in these young men and women and will certainly pay long-term dividends in their development and view of the world around them.

The Man

Building, developing, or enhancing yourself is easy when viewed superficially. If all we had to do was wake up, eat, workout, sleep and repeat six to seven days a week (a la Arnold Schwarzenegger) then we all could be Mr. or Mrs. Universe, but that isn’t ideal. We will most likely be faced with challenges of balancing family, work, religion, and hobbies with working out on a regular basis. John is certainly no exception.

He and his wife Naomi are proud parents of four boys and two girls: James (20) is currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps, Marshal (19), Malcolm (17), Jourdan (14), Juaquin (13), and Norah (2). There is no shortage of athletic talent among them, each of his four boys have practiced and won numerous championships in sports such as football and wrestling. His son Malcolm showcased his talents on his high school marching band and enabled his school to win Grand Champion three times in a competitive region.

John and Naomi enjoy the time and grind required to achieve things that they never believed possible by actively competing in obstacle courses and marathons. Although seldom identical, John and Naomi were able to support each other with two different approaches to fitness right from the comforts of their garage gym. Together they pioneered Garage Gym Life, LLC, a rapid-growing lifestyle brand and ecommerce business.  Their mission is to “promote athletes who pursue their strength and physique goals right where they live” (Garage Gym Life).

John and Naomi Greaves during an obstacle course

John maintains a successful business while working a night shift as the Transmission Systems Administrator for the Municipal Electrical Authority of Georgia. His ability to care for a family, work a twelve hour night shift and grow a successful business make him appear superhuman.

It is undeniable that John Greaves III is one of the hardest working individuals on the planet. His achievements are not only found in his military or athletic career, but also in his desire to impact those around him with his knowledge, passion, successes and failures. While most business owners or product pioneers like to keep their stories close-hold, John never hesitates to mentor and better those around him.


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