Growing up, Joe “Freight Train” Astorga had always been involved in sports – having first been introduced to baseball and soccer by his dad in his early years. But those sports didn’t excite Joe, and it wasn’t until he started playing football that he found one worth pursuing.
Having played the sport from the ages of 10 to 21, Joe believes football was responsible for laying the foundation for his passion in weightlifting.
“Before that, I never really was just mainly into weightlifting… it was mostly just performance-based training,” Joe says. “The strength wasn’t really an emphasis through most of that. It really just helped me with the form and to gain a little bit of knowledge before I started getting into powerlifting.”
Joe’s Start in Powerlifting
After retiring from college football at the University of North Texas in Denton, Joe began working and gave up on weightlifting and running altogether. After realizing how out of shape he’d gotten and how much he missed the competitive edge that football brought out in him, Joe decided to get back into lifting.
“After a while, I started weightlifting again, and it was just to get back in shape. I didn’t care about strength, but just naturally being strong, [my] strength started going up and someone turned me on to powerlifting,” Joe says.
After his first powerlifting meet, Joe fell in love with the sport.
“Getting on the platform – competing against someone else – knowing that I’m the only one responsible for the outcome, and I didn’t have to depend on somebody else doing their part. It was just all on me, and that’s what I liked about it,” Joe says.
Powerlifting with Science
Joe started powerlifting without a structured program in place, relying on “bro science” and his own “bro lifting” efforts to build up muscles and strength. For the first year to year and a half, Joe took advantage of his beginner gains by going heavy all the time.
When he felt like he wasn’t recovering quickly enough, he just ate more – which he admits probably had a negative impact in the long run.
At his third powerlifting meet, Joe failed on all of his bench attempts which forced him out of the meet completely. That’s when he got together with Josh Byrant, personal trainer and author of “Jailhouse Strong,” who helped him train for his fourth meet.
During his fourth meet which was held in March of this past year, Joe performed a 1928 total. That marked a turning point for him as he began to see the benefits of diligently following a structured powerlifting program with a science behind it.
“Even to this point, I still don’t really know the breakdown of why he does it a certain way,” Joe says. “I just know it works, and I’m satisfied with the outcome.”
Joe’s Advice to Powerlifters Everywhere
Whenever friends go to Joe for advice on getting out of the hole or getting past sticking points, Joe’s straightforward advice is, “just don’t be scared.”
“If you’re scared all the time or something intimidates you, you’re never going to get over it,” Joe says. “If you let it dominate your mind, you’ll never get over it.”
Joe believes the heart of powerlifting is more mental than physical.
“You can be capable of lifting a weight, but if in your mind you’ve already psyched yourself out, you already took yourself out of the game – you lost already,” Joe says.
The man they call “Freight Train,” Joe loves the challenge of pushing himself to a limit that seems impossible by others. When going up to a heavy bar, Joe takes himself to a different state of mind and forgets about anything and everything that’s going on in his life – focusing purely on lifting the bar.