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Marty Gallagher Biography - Powerlifter, Coach and Writer

by J.P. Brice

Athlete

Marty Gallagher Powerlifer Autobiography
Gallagher (standing) watches as Ray Chaillet wraps Mark Chaillet's knees: Gallagher has just squatted 745 x 5. This photo was taken four weeks before his catastrophic injury.

Born April 3rd 1950 in Washington DC, Marty Gallagher's mother died when he was three years old. He and his younger brother Kevin were raised by their father, a decorated war hero and government worker. At age 11, Marty began weight training with a neighbor whose uncle happened to be a local Olympic weightlifting champion. Marty fell in with the top lifters in the Washington/Baltimore area, a lifting hotbed. Young Gallagher trained and travelled and competed with these champion athletes. By age 12 Marty was competing as an Olympic weightlifter and in 1964 at age 14 he became the youngest person to ever win a DCAAU senior men's title. At age 17 Gallagher won his first national title and set his first national records. As a teen lifter he posted a 270 press, a 235 snatch and a 315 clean and jerk weighing 195 pounds.

Marty was the junior-most member of a large group of elite DC lifters that routinely took road trips to nearby York, Pennsylvania for training sessions and to observe national and world championships in Olympic lifting and powerlifting. Gallagher saw and met and watched some of the greatest lifters in the world up close and personal. He was drilled hard and long at a young age on subtle lifting techniques and primal strength tactics. He learned strength strategies from these men that would serve him for the next 50 years. These ultra-basic strength strategies serve as the foundation for the strength strategies he champions and represents to this day. He became an acolyte in a "school of strength," one with highly defined protocols and procedures. He learned his strength and power tradecraft from master lifters whose only allegiance was to progress.

Struck by wanderlust, Gallagher left home (with his father's blessings) when he turned 18. He lived in a commune for two years (1968-69) and hitchhiked back and forth across the country three times by age 20. He ended up living in Portland, Oregon and for several years trained at Sam Loprinzi's gym in southeast Portland. America's greatest Olympic weightlifter, the monstrous Ken Patera, trained at Sam's - before being thrown out for continually dropping the barbell from overhead (Sam lived upstairs.) Ken eventually clean and overhead pressed 505. Gallagher moved back to the DC area and commenced powerlifting under world champion and hall of fame powerlifter Hugh "Huge" Cassidy, the first superheavyweight world champion.

At the same time he began studying the Chinese "internal" martial arts (Pa kua, Hsing I and T'ai chi) under America's foremost expert, ex-CIA station chief Robert Smith, who happened to live in the neighborhood. Gallagher mentored under both Cassidy and Smith for five years and each influenced him as an athlete, coach, strength strategist - and as a writer. Robert Smith was the finest scribe in the history of martial arts. Smith authored fifteen books on the martial arts including his masterpiece, Comprehensive Asian Martial Arts. Cassidy was an intellectual of the first order; fluent in German, a preeminent American metal sculpture artist, a superb musician, Hugh was an enthused botanist, a free-thinker and widely considered the finest writer in strength - with the possible exception of Bill Starr - Cassidy's close friend. The first article Gallagher wrote was published. He co-wrote a series of strength articles with Cassidy. Hugh, ever the perfectionist, schooled Gallagher on the art of article writing.

Both Smith and Cassidy proved to be perfect mentors for the formative Gallagher. Marty immersed himself into two parallel athletic universes. From both men he learned profound athletic lessons and from both men he learned about "real" writing. Gallagher sought to "square the circle" and meld aspects of "soft" internal martial arts with "hard" strength training. Marty immersed himself in Zen, Taoism and Krishnamurti mental recalibration tactics. He discovered numerous commonalities between powerlifting and internal martial arts. Both disciplines were obsessed with technique and paid close attention to posture, balance and stance. Both men had a highly developed attitude insofar as the role of the centered and psyched Mind. Both men were giants in their respective fields of expertise and both men stressed relentless refinement and a singular allegiance to progress and improvement.

Gallagher had competed in a powerlifting in 1968 at the DCAAU regional powerlifting championships. He (raw) officially squatted 505 at age 18. He did not compete in powerlifting again for another 10 years. He dropped Olympic lifting and began concentrating on powerlifting under Cassidy's direction. Gallagher trained in Hugh Cassidy's basement gym with two other future national champions, Marshall Peck and Joe Ferri. Everyone followed Cassidy's brutal, highly effective, innovative power strategy. Gallagher, Ferry and Peck moved onto Mark Chaillet's brand new gym in Temple Hills, Maryland when it opened in 1980. This gym became one of the best power gyms in the country. Gallagher recounted how on a "nothing special" deadlift training day at Chaillet's (in 1986) he counted 14 lifters, all locals, that had deadlifted 700-pounds or more in competition.

Marty became Mark Chaillet's training partner and purposefully pushed his bodyweight to 245 pounds over the next four years. In 1983 he squatted 845 in a squat training session four weeks before the national championships. At the time the world record in the 242-pound class was 871 and naturally Gallagher's plan was to attempt to break the world record at the nationals. The following week, in June of 1983, in a freak accident, Gallagher suffered a compound fracture of his left lower leg. He was incapacitated for 16 months. 24 months after the accident, Gallagher officially squatted 804. However the stress of the effort loosened the plate screws holding his bones together. His "big league" powerlifting career was over.

Marty Gallagher would not compete for nine years. At age 42, he made a comeback as a "master" (over age 40) powerlifter. He went on to win six straight USPF national master titles in three different weight classes. He squatted an official 722 national record in the 220-pound class. Internationally Marty Gallagher competed in three IPF world master championships: Gallagher won the IPF world championships in the 220-pound class in Sydney, Australia in 1992. He won the silver medal in Montreal in 1993 and placed 3rd in the 242-pound class in Slovakia in 1993. He retired. He came out of retirement at age 63 in 2013 to set a raw (no lifting gear, no lifting belt) national record of 450 squat weighing 205.

Coach

After his leg injury in 1983, Gallagher turned his full time and attention towards coaching powerlifters. He guided Mark Chaillet to the USPF national title and a 2nd place finish at the IPF world championships. Mark would eventually win the APF world title and deadlift 880 weighing 270. Ed Coan approached Gallagher about becoming his competition coach. Marty coached Coan at his two greatest competitions: when Ed posted a historic 2,400 pound, three lift total, including a 959-pound squat, a 550 raw bench and an epic 901-pound deadlift. Ed weighed 219 pounds. Marty coached Ed when he squatted 1,000 and exceeded the three-lift total record, regardless of bodyweight, with a 2,464 effort.

Gallagher coached Black's Gym to five national team titles in three different federations. In 1991 Gallagher was named as one of three powerlifting coaches for Team USA at the IPF world championships in Orebro, Sweden. The United States won the world team title, capturing seven of eleven weight classes. Gallagher also coached a promising local lifter named Kirk Karwoski. Kirk went on to win seven national championships in three different weight divisions. Karwoski won six straight IPF world titles. He set 24 national records and 13 world records, including a 1,003-pound world record squat that has stood untouched for 20 years.

Since 2002 Marty Gallagher has worked in an official and ongoing basis with American Tier I spec ops fighters. He also works with members of the British Special Boat Service and the United States Secret Service. His minimalistic strength training approach has proven invaluable for time-pressed spec ops fighters and governmental field agents seeking to obtain maximal strength, muscle and power results for minimal time investment.

Writer

Gallagher published his first article in 1978. Since then he has had over 1,000 articles published. Marty wrote for Powerlifting USA and Milo. He was "recruited" by Dr. Jim Wright, Science Editor at Flex magazine and asked to write training articles for the Weider magazine conglomerate. Gallagher had 94 articles published in Muscle & Fitness, Flex and Prime Fitness. Marty's primary job for Weider was to interview the world's best bodybuilders on how they trained and what nutritional approach they used to prepare for competitions. He was an informed interviewer and his exposure to high-level bodybuilding enhanced and expanded Gallagher's "transformational vision." The degree of precision elite bodybuilders used in their nutrition profoundly influenced his thinking. Marty's exposure to bodybuilding led him into a long relationship with bodybuilding nutritional expert John Parrillo. Marty writes for Parrillo to this day.

In 2000 Gallagher was approached by the Washington Post and asked to become an online fitness columnist. Over the next five years he wrote 230 + weekly and bi-weekly columns for WashingtonPost.com. Gallagher has written four books: his first, Coan, The Man, The Myth, The Legend was called by Joe Weider, "The finest single book on powerlifting ever written." Gallagher's second book, The Purposeful Primitive was his 500-page "masterpiece" that encapsulated the methods of his mentors. Praised on a worldwide basis by elite strength athletes worldwide; the Purposeful Primitive created a sensation. In 2015 Marty released a 600-page book with Dr. Chris Hardy, Strong Medicine. Gallagher called his collaboration with Chris "exhilarating, rewarding and eye-opening.

In 2016 Gallagher released a book on a revolutionary portable training device, the CrossCore180 Rotational Bodyweight Trainer. At the behest of his active duty spec ops friends, Gallagher developed a "hardcore" protocol for the device that enabled deployed spec ops fighters to obtain an effective resistance training workout replicating results obtained from "gold standard " barbell/dumbbell progressive resistance workouts.

Marty Gallagher lives at the base of the picturesque Catoctin Mountains in south central Pennsylvania with his wife, Stacy O'Neal Gallagher.