Powerlifter Joseph Whittaker Dumps 400-Kilogram Squat Over His Head, Avoids Injury

Whittaker encountered a dangerous situation in training, but remained calm under pressure.

When training with heavy weight in the gym, safety should always be the priority for the lifter and the spotter. Powerlifter Joseph Whittaker’s recent 400-kilogram (881.9-pound) training squat is an example of quick thinking when a lift goes awry. On Oct. 17, 2021, Whittaker shared a video on his Instagram page wherein he dumped a barbell loaded with 400 kilograms (881.9 pounds) forward (over his head) rather than backward into the suspension straps of his monolift.

Whittaker lost his balance after unracking the weight due to his knee snapping back (wearing knee wraps). Although he did try to dump the weight behind him, his backward momentum made dumping it forward the safer option. His spotter remained calm despite the chaos of the moment and was present to support Whittaker as he fell backward once the weight was off his shoulders. Check out the whole scene below:


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A post shared by Joseph Whittaker (@whittakerpowerlifting)

[Related: Super Heavyweight Powerlifter Ahmed Hassanin Squats 490 Kilograms Equipped in Training]

Fortunately, the only damage done was to the visibly bent barbell after being caught by the suspension straps. Whittaker’s spotter recognized the weight was going down immediately and braced Whittaker the whole way, even checking the back of Whittaker’s head after the fact for any abrasions.

The monolift is the safest thing I’ve squatted in.

The weight of this squat was seemingly at the top end of Whittaker’s range but not unreasonable. His final warm-up rep beforehand was 375 kilograms (826.7 pounds), which he locked out smoothly. According to Open Powerlifting, the 36-year-old Whittaker’s competition best squat in the super heavyweight division is 383 kilograms (844.4 pounds), scored at the 2017 New Zealand Powerlifting Federation (NZPF) New Zealand Record Breakers meet.

Whittaker’s most recent meet, the 2021 NZ-UA Wolfpack Invitational in September 2021, saw him successfully hit a 380-kilogram (837.8-pound) squat. His second and third attempts at that competition were the only two times he attempted a plus-400-kilogram (881.9-pound) squat. He attempted 402.5 kilograms (887.4 pounds) twice but missed both.


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A post shared by Joseph Whittaker (@whittakerpowerlifting)

[Related: Powerlifter Daniel Clements (66KG) Deadlifts 12 Kilograms Over Raw World Record In Training]

Quicking Thinking to Dump the Weight

Whittaker’s on-the-fly move to get out of harm’s way is commendable given the circumstances. It is reminiscent of when raw squat world record holder in the 100-kilogram class Joe Sullivan got creative to get out from under a heavy squat when the barbell failed and bent in the middle of his lift.

Knowing how to dump the weight when lifting heavy is critical to a lifter’s and spotter’s safety. Having the spatial awareness to know when to deviate from the standard procedures can be helpful in unique circumstances. Moral of the story: safety first.

Feature image: @whittakerpowerlifting on Instagram