Last weekend, in one of the most highly revered powerlifting meets in the sport, Marshall Johnson, Jo Jordan, and Julia Ladewski fought hard for more than personal satisfaction. Through their multiple powerlifting meets, Relentless raises hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, all of which goes to families with sick and struggling children.

In our typical elitefts™ fashion, we’re giving you the stories of this particular Relentless weekend straight from the source. In this three-way meet report, Johnson, Jordan, and Ladewski share everything that came together to create a weekend of PRs, returns to the platform, and hope for those in dire need of it.

Marshall Johnson

First and most importantly, Relentless Detroit 2014 raised over $214,000 for six very special families in the Detroit area. This year, between two Relentless meets, we have managed to raise just short of a half million dollars for families with sick and struggling children — children with more heart and courage than anyone I have ever met. This is why we need to keep building these relationships and help Relentless to grow bigger each year. Hidden below the surface of this amazing event is a powerlifting meet. This meet is slowing becoming of the most legitimate and star-packed events in the sport. Some of the best lifters of the past, present, and future of powerlifting attend these meets. The main goal, the only goal of Relentless, is to build relationships and strengthen families.
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Every single one of my warm-ups felt horrible. I actually almost missed my last warm-up, 825 pounds. It was the worst I’ve ever felt warming up, so the wait in the prep area was miserable. I have never been so terrified before a meet.

My name got called, and I was hyperventilating. Then I turned the corner and saw all of the kids on the stage looking at me and cheering. All of my fear and doubt dissolved and I was reminded why I was there.

Because my training cycle hadn’t gone very well, my opener was set very low at 900 pounds. It was easy and fast, and I jumped to 1000 pounds. Same result. I was so happy to have gotten into the meet and not screwed up. I didn’t want to push it, but my good friend Rob Luyando looked at me and said, “PR time.”

I jumped to 1060 pounds. I took the weight down and came back up easier than expected. For the first time in two years, I hit a squat PR. I have dealt with a lot of anxiety and borderline depression from how crushed my spirit had been from trying and failing over and over again. As soon as I started to stand up with 1060, I knew I had the lift. It felt easier than any squat I’ve ever done before. When I saw the white lights, I immediately fell to the floor and almost started crying.

I finally feel like squatting over 1100 is a possibility again. My now PR squat is in a pair of Metal prototype single-ply briefs. I can’t wait for these briefs to hit the market.


I’ve been using a new Metal shirt that is also a prototype, and it is amazing. I hit an all-time PR in it only the second time I wore it, so I used it for Relentless.

My first attempt at 650 pounds was light enough that I could hit it any day of the week, but it also wasn’t heavy enough to give me a smooth descent. Touching it gave me some problems and it took longed than intended, but once it touched I pressed it very easily. I jumped to 700 for my second: much smoother descent and easy press. I took 730 for my third. I took it down and, when I got the press command, rolled it a little bit. My hand-off guy almost grabbed the bar, but I’m glad he didn’t, because I reversed it and the weight sailed to lockout.


After squatting and benching, I found myself in a position to hit my very first 2600-pound total. By the time I started warming up for deadlifts, though, eleven hours had passed. My opener was 700 pounds and it was very easy. I wobbled it a little bit at the lockout and took my next attempt to 760. It was just like the opener: easy, but wobbly at the top.

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To get my 2600-pound total, I had to hit 810 pounds on my third attempt. This wouldn’t be a PR, but it wouldn’t be easy either. I got it off the ground, but just couldn’t lock it out. I was too tired.

I ended with a 2550-pound total. That isn’t a PR total for me, but it’s more important that I hit my first squat PR in over two years. I tied the total of my good friend Barzeen, but took best lifter because I weighed in lighter at 286 pounds.

I want to thank everyone that has helped me, but most importantly my wife Kathy. She is my rock. She keeps my head on straight and has always supported me no matter what. I could never do it without her. To my sponsors, all my training partners, handlers, teammates, friends, and family that support me, thank you so much. This was an amazing day and I can’t wait to do it again at Relentless MN in March.

Jo Jordan

It’s been so long since I’ve written a meet report that I’m going to have to relearn how to do it. I have no weight cutting horror story to start out with — only complaints about the horror it was to fly with Spirit, who nickel-and-dime their customers to death.

I made it to Detroit, weighed in at a light 262 pounds and hung around with Matt and Julia Ladewski for a while. We went out to dinner with a bunch of people that evening, and made it back to the room, where I passed out with the air conditioner set to 70 degrees.

The next morning I woke up early and made my way to have breakfast with Julia and Matt. Marshall, Matt, and I were each in the second flight, and Julia was in the third. It gave us some time to talk and relax. I relaxed a little too much, though, because I was a little behind the other lifters when it was time to warm up. I had to quickly slather in liniment and get changed to get under the bar.

Everything felt light until I got to four plates. That’s when it all slowed down. It put my briefs on for just one set before I had to get into my suit. Something still felt off and the bar was moving much slower than I wanted it to. I had Matt Graber help me, who had lifted the day before. He’s a good dude.

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I went to 845 for my last warm-up and had Matt wrap my knees. The bar finally moved quicker, but I still felt off, so I lowered my opener to 880 pounds.

I sat in the hallway, where my nerves were getting the best of me. They were amplified even more when I heard that I was in the hole. Matt wrapped my knees and we made our way to the platform. I slid under the bar and got set, only to find out that the bar was too high for me to unrack. The spotters lowered it for me. I tried again, but this time I came forward on my toes and called for a rerack. I hadn’t gotten the squat command yet, so I tried for a third time. This time I fell backwards, and again called for the rack. For the fourth time I got set and this time made it to the squat. Marshall’s wife Kathy called me up. I finished the lift smoothly, but shifted a little to my right leg halfway up.

I called my third attempt light at 945 pounds. The second attempt went much better than the first and the weight moved fast. I called for 1000 pounds on my third and could heard the voice of my training partners saying, “this is what you’re here for.” Thanks, Jesse.

As I sat in the hallway waiting my turn, I ran into Jimmy Brooks, who asked if I needed anything and wrapped my knees tight as hell. He didn’t an outstanding job; both kneecaps popped as he wrapped them. My name got called, Jimmy cinched me straps, and I walked under the bar. This time, everything felt right and in place. I unracked the bar, took it down easy, and stood up quickly. I looked over to see three white lights and let out a roar of excitement. After eight years of battling through injuries, I Finally squatted 1000 pounds. I headed to the back, where I was met by Julia, who gave me a huge hug while I was on the verge of tears. I could feel that it would be a good day.

I took my time warming up for the bench. I took my second rounds of ECA’s and slathered on more liniment before heading to the warm-up room. The shoulder felt great, and not even the cold weather had made it ache. Jimmy took over handing off for me and everything moved well. I opened with an easy 405. Up and down witwh no issues.

My second attempt, 440, matched my previous gym PR. I was able to get it but, due to using no leg drive, it moved more slowly than I would have liked. I moved into unknown waters for my third, at 460 pounds. I fixed the leg drive issue and popped 460 up for a good lift. I’m 11 months removed from shoulder surgery and very happy with what I was able to accomplish here. Persistence pays off.

The energy levels dropped significantly for the deadlift. After sitting in one place for way too long, my body had tightened up. I took my final ECA and began to warm up. When I put my suit on at 405, the weight felt heavy. It only got worse at 495. I pulled 545 for my last warm-up and thought about lowering the opener, but opted not to. I hadn’t pulled heavy too many times during the training cycle, but felt confident that 620 would be relatively easy.

My energy levels shot up as I walked onto the platform and saw all of the kids sitting here. It’s amazing what the atmosphere at Relentless can do. I went from 620 to 660, both for good lifts. On my third I decided to call for 700, which I haven’t done in a long time. I knew I was capable of it.

I had the straps tightened up and I headed out for the pull. The bar moved off the floor more quickly than I had anticipated so when I got to my knees I threw my head back, closed my eyes, and said to myself, “don’t you quit.” I got the down command and three white lights. Another roar of excitement and satisfaction came out of me before I Headed over to high five the Relentless Maniacs.

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I went nine for nine, squatted 1000 pounds for the first time since 2008, set a gear-deficient PR bench, and pulled 700 for the first time in five years. The only thing that could have made this day any better would have been having my wife and kids there to share the moment. We’ll see what happens in March.

I wanted to spend more time with the people at the meet, especially the kids. It made me day to be asked to sign shirts, give high fives, hugs, etc. I did get to meet some wonderful people and it was an awesome meet. Thanks to everyone for their support and encouragement. All of the support from Orlando Barbell, my sponsors and friends has helped me in some way, shape, or form. Most importantly, thank you to my girls for understanding why daddy was spending time at the gym and needing support during the rough days — and to my wife for pulling me out of a depressed state after surgery. You are my rock and the one that I draw strength from.

Julia Ladewski

Going into Relentless was like any other meet — yet completely different. Preparing for Relentless meets always has a different meaning behind it. When you have pictures of your HopeKid hanging next to the squat rack, you are reminded every day that your suffering is nothing.

The week of the meet started off a little on the roughs ide for me. Despite water loading and doing my usual weight-cutting techniques, the weight just wasn’t dropping. Thursday night I was two and a half pounds over. I went to bed thinking I would drop at least two of those pounds by morning. When I woke up Friday morning, however, I was still two pounds away from making weight at 123.5.

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I bundled up in two pairs of sweats, two sweat shirts, a winter jacket, a hat, and gloves, and cranked the heat. We stopped about an hour and a half out and dragged our digital scale into the family bathroom of a rest stop. Still ¾ of a pound over. Enter pack of gum and spit cup.

This seemed to do the trick. I weighed in as soon as we arrived and then it was time to eat up and soak in a little Relentless atmosphere before taking the stage Saturday. The stage, the smiling volunteers, the amount of food prepared for the lifters, the kids’ faces — the excitement was up already and it was only just beginning. After a full belly and a semi-restless night of sleep, I was ready to rock Saturday morning.

It was a strange feeling to not be in the first flight. With two men’s flights before me, I had plenty of time to create more nerves than I already had. To stay busy, I helped Mat, Marshall, and Jo as much as I could, and visited with other women lifters that I don’t get to see very often. We are a chatty, friendly bunch, which makes the experience so much more fun.

As squats approached, Matt was still on the platform, so I recruited help from other lifters. That kind of help does not go unnoticed.

Warm-ups felt great. I managed to waddle out to the main stage to capture Matt’s lifts on video and waddle back, briefs and suits fitting snugly around my legs. I probably took fewer warm-ups than I usually do, but it didn’t seem to affect me. It may have even helped conserve a bit of energy.

I opened with 380 pounds. It was an opener I had taken several times and something I felt I could hit any day of the week. The bar felt light on my back, especially since I had my straps altered before the meet, allowing the bar to sit on my back much better. As I descended, I felt a little out of position. When I thought I had made it to parallel, I still hadn’t gotten the up call. The suit locked up and I felt my chest falling forward. I tried to come up out of the hole and it just didn’t happen. I hate missing my first squat attempt.

I repeated on my second and it was smooth. My position felt great and it seemed easy. I went up to 410 pounds on my third. This was six pounds off my 416-pound squat at the XPC Arnold in 2013, but I wanted to hit a decent squat to pad my total. I didn’t start in a great position and I came forward out of the hole, but I managed to fight through every single ounce and stand up.

With my knee wraps nearly cutting off circulation to my feet, I wobbled over to the kids at the front of the stage for some high-fives. I slid the black Relentless wrist band off my arm and handed it to one of the kids watching. Those kids are Relentless.

There was quite a long time between squats and bench, something around four hours. My warm-ups were minimal again. I did a couple raw sets, a couple with the Catapult, and one in the shirt. I opened with 265, a weight that I could probably hit in my sleep. I need to keep opening higher, eventually with 280 so that I can have two legitimate shots at 300. My opener was smooth as butter.

I went into 285 as my second attempt. My lower back was starting to get tight and the bench was tricky to setup on — just a squishier bench than I’m used to. 285 came up smooth as well. Easy press. I brought a red Strong(her) towel and gave it to a young girl in the front. I pray that she will grow up to be Strong(her).

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I took 300 on my third. It was the weight I came to do. I’m not sure I setup as well on this attempt as I did on the others. It came down pretty decent, but something happened on the way up and my right arm got back on me. That was my third time attempting 300 in a meet. One day it will fall.

285 was a ten-pound PR for me, so I left the benches feeling pretty happy and still on my way to a decent total.

My back locked up badly after benching. This is pretty typical for me. Thank goodness they had two message therapists on hand for the lifters to use. A little work on my low back, glutes, and psoas and I was feeling a hair better. A little more food in my belly and some caffeine before deadlifting, and I was certain to finish the day strong.

My back was still trashed going into deadlift warm-ups, so I knew I needed to take the fewest number of warm-up sets as possible. I opened with 370, a little heaver than where I typically open. Just like the bench, to hit the numbers I want to hit, I need to open heavier. 370 came up smooth, but it wasn’t what an opener should look like.

I took a modest jump to 390 for my second attempt. I told Matt not to take my straps so tight on this one, and he listened. But he shouldn’t have. I didn’t get myself pulled into the suit very well and was way out of position. The bar didn’t budge.

As I sat in the back and replayed the miss in my mind, I knew I needed to pull my head out and finish strong. 390 would be a PR for me in that weight class. I walked up to the platform, heard young, sweet voices saying “you cant do it!” and “be strong!” With encouragement like that, it’s hard to fail.

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We tightened the straps, I wiggled down to the bar, sat back, and pulled. It was slow moving, but it came up and I locked it out.

There was a little girl sitting in the front that reached her hand out for a high-five. I had my Bella Forza bracelet on my arm, so I slipped the bracelet off my wrist and onto hers. I have no idea who she was, but I Hope to run into her next year and see how she has grown into beautiful strength.

I finished the day with a 1085-pound total. That’s only 17 pounds below my best ever total from 2006 and almost 20 pounds better than my best total at 123. The day didn’t play out exactly as I had planned in my head, but I did hit some numbers that I’m happy with.

As I reflect on the day, I think about the Relentless families that this whole mission supported. The stories, pictures, and words still don’t make up for it. I am honored and grateful to represent Team elitefts in a mission like this.