It’s Not Hyperbole: Joe Hnizdo is the World’s Strongest Firefighter
Jan 11, 2018 10:02AM ● Published by Maleesa Johnson
Last August was a big month for local firefighter Joe Hnizdo. He traveled to Las Angeles for the World Police and Firefighter Games and to Houston as part the Texas Search and Rescue team in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. In Las Angeles, he lifted more weight than any firefighter in his division. In Houston, he saw sights that left a lasting impression.
"That was a totally different experience in my career to go through and do everything that we did and see everything that we saw down there,” he said of his Houston experience.
That is just a glimpse at the multifaceted life of Hnizdo. He trains five days a week and is on a 4,000-calorie-per-day diet. Power lifting is hard work, but it is not unlike his work with the Flower Mound Fire Department.
"A lot of firefighters get into certain situations and you have to push past what you think is normal,” Hnizdo says. “Sometimes you've got to work harder than you think you can or learn to control your breathing better, and so that's why I think a lot of us enjoy the gym so much because it's that same kind of thing."
Johnnie Jackson, renowned bodybuilder, trainer and owner of JOJ Fitness, helps Hnizdo push past “normal.” He says that the firefighter is obviously strong, but most importantly, he is teachable.
"It's more than just lifting stuff,” Jackson says. “People think that you have to look a certain way to lift weights, but you look a certain way because your smart enough to get your body to look that way. If it was easy, everybody would be walking around in shape."
Hnizdo trains at JOJ Fitness in Hurst, just blocks from where he grew up. He graduated from Bell High School and subsequently A&M University before going to fire school in Fort Worth. He now lives in Fort Worth with his wife of 11 years and three daughters – a 7 year old and twin 3 year olds.
As for his day job, it meshes well with his passion for weight lifting. Jackson gives Hnizdo workout routines that he can do at his fire station. Of course, you can’t win an international competition without your coworkers noticing. Hnizdo says he has been subject to some playful jabs, but that overall, his fellow Flower Mound firefighters have been really supportive of his endeavors.
“They give me a hard time about it, but that's what firemen do, we give each other a hard time about everything,” Hnizdo says. “The better it is, the more they'll give you a hard time about it. If they're not giving you a hard time, something's wrong.”
His best in competition was a 551 bench and 680 deadlift, but when you ask what his max is, he honestly doesn’t know. And to Hnizdo, that is perfectly fine. He believes, just as Jackson said, it’s not about the weight, it’s about how you lift it. His advice to anyone looking to lift is this:
"Don't lift with your ego, lift with your brain. I can do more [weight] every single time, but that doesn't mean I'm going to do it right."