Remembering Justin Thacker

Sept. 03, 2019, 10:36 a.m. (ET)

With heavy hearts we report the untimely passing of longtime strength athlete, coach, volunteer, and friend, Justin Thacker of the LAB Gym in St. Louis, MO, the gym also hosts the famed Lift for Life Gym program.

USA Weightlifting would like to make available to those mourning Justin’s loss, the Athlete Wellness Program, which offers free therapy and counselling services to any member who has suffered trauma. We’d also like to remind members that any member can use this service if they have suffered from trauma and to reach out to someone if you need help – they will be there to listen.

Justin passed away unexpectedly on Friday, August 30th, and will be mourned deeply by the many hundreds—if not thousands—of lives he has touched over his nearly 30 years of dedication to weightlifting, powerlifting, strongman, and personal training.

Inspired by his uncle Scott—himself a bodybuilder and powerlifter—and his older brother Chris, Justin fell in love with weightlifting at 10 years old and began competing in strength sports at 16. In high school and college, he competed in a wide variety of team sports, but ultimately found his home in the individualism of strength sports.

As an athlete, Justin competed in well over 100 competitions for weightlifting, powerlifting, and strongman, including winning the National Junior Championships and competing in the 2004 Olympic Team Trials for USA Weightlifting, earning 4th place at the 2009 North American Strongman National Championships, and a silver medal at the 2010 USA Weightlifting (Senior) National Championships.

As a coach, Justin developed many nationally- and internationally-competitive weightlifters and powerlifters and has been described by his peers as a “pioneer” and “decades ahead of his time” with his programming and methods to bring weightlifting and powerlifting to the masses. His latest project had been filtering through pre-World War II Soviet and Polish training methods to rediscover exercises and protocols lost to history but potentially applicable to 21st-century training.

Ever the driven researcher to hone his craft, Justin knew education would be key to his success. He never stopped his pursuit of higher education, earning a BA in Psychology, a BS in Nutrition and Dietetics, and a Master’s Degree in Nutrition and Physical Performance, as well as becoming a Registered and Licensed Dietician, and becoming a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist with the NSCA, a Certified Health Fitness Instructor with the ACSM, and a Corrective Exercise Specialist with the NASM, along with earning a laundry list of other specialty certifications. Most recently, Just was a Coaching Instructor for USA Weightlifting.

As evidence of his exceptional care for the Weightlifting community, Justin (together with his brother Chris), opened the doors of the LAB Gym to the Lift for Life Gym program which helped reinvigorate the program under LAB employee Jimmy Duke III producing athletes to the Youth Olympic Games level.

His athleticism was impressive. His coaching, masterful. His education and work ethic, unmatched. But Justin will likely be best remembered for his dedication and passion for helping others through the gym he founded in 2007 in St. Louis, the Lab. With over 22,000 square feet, 20 weightlifting platforms, a CrossFit room, and a complete commercial gym, the Lab has become an epicenter of weightlifting and powerlifting in the Midwest.

All of our hearts and deepest sympathies go out to Chris, Jessica, Mason, and the rest of the Thacker and Lab families at this unimaginably difficult time. Justin's obituary and memorial service information can be found here.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     
Our thanks to the Crass family for their contributions to this tribute to Justin Thacker.