Joe Mazza doesn’t possess the type of build you’ve come to expect of powerlifters. This 5-foot-6-inch New Jersey native weighs in at 165 pounds at competition time and “swells” to 175 in the offseason. But at no time is he ever far from 10 percent body fat. Lean but powerful, Mazza is the only bench-presser in history to claim world records in the raw (487.5 pounds), single-ply (635) and multi-ply (705) divisions at the same time. And though his humble alter ego is uncomfortable with the billing, that pretty much makes him a living legend in the world of pure strength training. Here, Mazza discusses the sometimes misunderstood world of competitive bench pressing and the value of physical strength in his other life as a police officer.
What kind of benefit do bench-pressing shirts provide in competition?
There are haters that say if you compete in equipment — bench-pressing shirts — you can’t compete raw. But it’s not about that. It’s not about the other genres of benching or powerlifting; it’s what you want to do or what you prefer to do. If you like raw, do that. If not, don’t. When I started using the multi-ply suits, I started handling more weight than I was used to, which helped me with my raw strength. And it saved my joints a lot. I think that competing in the equipment, like my stuff from Titan Support Systems, has prolonged my career.
What’s it like being under a barbell loaded with 700 pounds?
You’d be really surprised what the human body can do when it’s pushed and when it’s properly nourished. I definitely feel a difference if my diet is not correct or my protein intake is not there. But technique is also critical. A lot of guys will not bring the bar all the way down to their chest. That’s the biggest no-no when trying to develop upper body and chest. You’re shortchanging the muscle and only developing it to a certain point.
You’ve been in law enforcement for 25 years. Does that strength ever pay off on the job?
I was a detective in Newark for about 15 years, working narcotics for some of it. I did some undercover work, and I’ve been in a lot of scuffles. I do get a lot of respect out on the road from my appearance. I transferred to Saddle Brook PD, and I’m back on patrol, but in this profession, strength and looking strong play a huge part. I would never want to lose my gun for lack of strength, so that fuels my training.
How vital to your success is your relationship with MHP?
MHP has been with me from the start. They’re a fantastic company. I was using their products before I sought out sponsorship with them, and they’ve been a huge part of my success. The products are top-notch, top quality and taste great, and I wouldn’t be where I am without them.
What’s different about me is that you don’t usually picture someone with my physique. One thing I take pride in is that I can maintain and grow muscle and keep myself from getting out of shape. I hardly do any cardio, and my body fat is 10 to 12 percent year-round. With my work schedule, it’s a rotating schedule, so preworkout drinks are my lifesavers. I’d have no energy to get to the gym. Dark Rage gives me what I need every workout. I use Probolic-SR two or three times throughout the day. After a workout, I always use Dark Matter. I take T-Bomb II. And one of their newer products, Dopamite, is outstanding and has made me leaner than I’ve been in a long time.