Interview With 700+ Pound Bencher Adam "Phenom" Hicks As told to CriticalBench.com by Curt Dennis Jr. "The Brute" of Planetrage.com - October 2007
Critical Bench: Hey, thanks for doing this interview, Adam, Please introduce yourself.
-My name is Adam Hicks, I am 24 years old originally from Westlafayette Ohio. I now reside in New Philadelphia Ohio and train at Blackstone's Gym. I am a full time student and I also work 2 jobs. I'm the oldest of three kids; my brother who just turned 21 is a MP in the United States Army and is currently serving in Iraq, while my sister is a senior in high school and a standout on the cross country team.
How long have you been into powerlifting?
-I have been training since 1997, like many others in the sport I got my start in weight training to gain strength for football and wrestling. I played football and wrestled in high school and played 2 years of college football, I've been competeting seriously since about 2002.
Tell us about your childhood and how you got into powerlifting?
I had a great childhood with great parents and I was always involved with sports. I started playing football in 3rd grade and the competitive drive started burning then. I was fortunate enough to be coached by my father, looking back I was always pissed off because he was always much harder on me, but I can honestly say that it what has lead to success in my life not only in powerlifting but with work and school as well.
Who did you look up to when you were coming up as a powerlifter?
My powerlifting experience began my freshman year of high school. We started training for wrestling during football season. So after my first varsity game on Friday I went to the weight room with the wrestling team on Saturday morning. Our trainer was Ralph Young who has competed in the USAPL as well as the APF and was a World Champ bench presser in the USAPL. When I saw him bench pressing over 500 pounds and later 600 plus I was hooked.
What would you say to a novice lifter or to a lifter who's just starting out in powerlifting?
I think the best advice I ever heard was learn as much as you can. Watch other lifters and adapt your style. You have to be humble and understand there are a lot of people out there who really do know more than you do. It's all about technique, once you can master that you're on your way.
Is the bench your favorite lift out of the three?
Right now I compete bench only. This has a lot to do with a knee injury my junior year in high school. I tore my ACL during the 6th game of my junior season but I didn't want to sit out so I didn't tell anyone, half way through wrestling season that was all she wrote. I couldn't train legs for about a year so of course I hammered away on my bench press. Right now my best bench in competition is 700 at 297 in June of 07 at the Lexen Xtreme in Grove City.
Adam "Phenom" Hicks 705 Bench
Do you have any training partners?
Yes and no, since I live in New Phila the majority of my training takes place at the local YMCA. However, for max effort bench work I go back home to Westlafayette and train at Blackstone's Gym. I train with Tracy Wyler who is 48 years old and lifts 198 his best competition bench is 425. He also travels with me and the day of the meet he is a big part of my success. I owe him a lot.
What are the challenges of coming up as a powerlifter?
It's hard to balance out your time I think. I work around 60 hours a week plus school so sometimes I'm in the gym till 10pm at night. When your goal is to bench 750 at your next meet and still get a degree and pay rent it gets hard sometimes. Sometimes I have to pick between paying a bill and buying food for the week (I always chose food!). The payoff is when you're on the platform and you know all the long days and late nights were worth it. I mean anyone can eat tuna fish for 12 weeks and show off their abs, but it takes some guts to lay under 700 plus pounds and say no matter what this son of a bitch is going back up.
Critical Bench: Tell everyone here the difference between someone who wants to look "pretty" and someone who do what we do? The difference between a workout and a training session.
Well I think it's usually easy to spot someone who is working out rather than training. I see a lot of guys loading the bar with 300 to 350 in the gym then pressing it back up after only going about 2 inches down. Which I try not to laugh at these guys but when they jump up and start screaming and yelling about a new PR it's kind of ridiculous. But, there are all kinds of people at a commercial gym and I know they probably look at me and think I'm a dumbass when I bring boards and bands to the gym. The one thing that really bothers me is when people sit on a piece of equipment between sets to chat on the cell phone. I know some guys just want to look good in a tank top for the girls on the treadmills, but this is my life, it's all I want and when their lack of discipline and focus starts to affect my training, it can get frustrating. Its always a breathe of fresh air when I can go back to Blackstone's and see the chalk all over the floor and not have to walk past half a dozen cardio machines to get to the bench.
Critical Bench: How driven would people say you are about being a powerlifter? How does it affect you outside of the gym?
People would say it's my life. Aside from my family and fiancé it's the first and last thing on my mind. Even when I am work anymore if I am not thinking about the next workout I am thinking about the next meal, or what I need to do different to improve. I've always said that even if I was a success in some other aspect of my life I would be disappointed with myself if I didn't reach my goals in powerlifting.
Do you believe in training in the methods of Westside Barbell?
Absolutely, I think Louis is the beginning and end when it comes to powerlifting. With all the negative aspects of the sport it's nice to see someone with class who isn't on the internet forums bitching about how someone did him dirty. He didn't just talk shit about the Cincinnati Pro Am he put up and took care of the lifters. You don't even need to say anything about the man or his gym just look at the numbers they put up. It speaks for itself.
What are your workouts like? How are they setup?
Well I will admit I'm still learning the ropes. I usually train about 5 days when I am getting ready for a meet. I have a max effort day and speed day for bench. Then I usually have a day for back and Squats and deads then usually some accessory work for shoulders. I've really been concentrating on triceps after my last meet, and after reading some articles on how Mike Wolfe blasts his triceps.
Do you train equally as hard on the bench as you do the squat and dead?
I would like to think so. I'm usually ending up around 600 for triples on box squats. Right now I've just been doing rack pulls as far as deadlifts go. I still have yet to master a squat suit I've only trained in hand me downs and since I started putting some bodyweight on I haven't had a suit that fits me so I have just been training raw. I have competed in full power meets before and I had a blast. It is definitely something I want to do again.
What would you suggest to someone on how to get a big bench?
Don't worry about dumping a lot of money in to a shirt right off the bat. Even a cheap shirt anymore is drastically going to help your performance. Learn the ropes and understand the technique that goes into bench pressing. There is so much more involved than just muscling up a lift. Its mind blowing to learn the just changing the position of your hands and feet can improve your lifting by so much.
Was your training any different prior to your last meet?
I did change a few things. Like I said before I am still learning the ropes, but prior to this meet I always did heavy raw work right up till the meet. I never had problems but it was beginning to take a toll on my body. So I cut out all raw work and replaced it with speed work or bands with boards. I also have to be honest with you I didn't do nearly enough shirt work. I only had my shirt on once before the meet, but it worked out and I have corrected this problem.
Do you think using bench shirts/gear is cheating?
Now this is a debate. Raw guys scream cheating and shirted guys say no. Personally I know I haven't been around that long and I only know what people have told me about "Back in the day you were lucky to get 20 pounds out of your shirt" but you know everything changes. I don't believe many running backs in the NFL would be rushing for 1200 yards in a season if they didn't have facemasks. Now this may be comparing apples to oranges but everyone has the option to lift in whatever organization they want to. If you don't like the advances with the bench shirt then compete in an all raw division. I mean if I get 75 to 115 pounds out of my shirt another guy may get 50, a lot of it depends on the lifter. I think a person should just do what makes him or her happy and do it to the best of their ability. Times change that's just how it is, all I know is that I like lifting with my shirt and that is what I am going to do, if someone wants to bitch about it that is their decision it's not going to change what I do.
What is your view on training in equipment and learning them?
It's a constant struggle. Like I said before the advances in bench shirts is unbelievable. When you have guys loading a thousand plus and not being able to touch that's saying something. For me personally ive learned you can't change what you have been doing for 8 weeks plus prior to a meet 20 minutes before you go on the platform. It takes a lot of work to figure out the equipment and how you are going to perform when you use it, so don't panic the day of the meet and throw all that work out the window.
Critical Bench:How do you feel about Ryan Kennelly's 1036 on the bench and Rob Luyando's 905? Do you think the standards went up?
Hell yes the standards have went up. It seems like every time theses guys lift another record is broken. Ryan is sick and it's amazing how consistent he is. I can't even remember the last time I read about him bombing out in a meet and that is really saying something. Luyando is amazing to me he is the best pound for pound, but what I like best about the guy is how he handles all the haters on the internet that want to give him shit.
What was your nutrition like prior to your last competition?
I try to eat every three hours I don't really care what I eat just along as there is a lot of it. I know that's not the way to go, but its hard working all day and being able to have a good meal. I really struggle to understand nutrition as far as good carbs and bad carbs honestly I like all the carbs. I just try to make sure my protein intake is up over 300 grams a day, aside from that I just eat. I'm big into hamburger, steak, and tacos.
Any ideas on how you're going to make your trek to 800 bench now? What changes are you goin to have to make to get there?
I really don't think I am going to change too much. It took me almost 2 years to go from 600 to 700 so it was hard to stay positive and keep hammering away. I think I finally found the formula that works for me, but I know I have to do more shirt work. Aside from that ill keep up the speed work and tricep work. I'm still undecided on shoulder work though. I've seen and heard many people's views on the negative aspect of shoulder work and then I read an interview with Nick Winters and his positive views on shoulder work. Id likes to find some sort of sponsorship, I know I am not on the level as other men in the sport but I am focused and I feel like I am on my way.
Is there anyone you would like to thank right now?
Gotta thank Planet Rage and you Curt for giving me this opportunity. My fiancée Allison for backing me up and always supporting what I do. Tracy Wyler, Ralph Young and the guys at Blackstone's Gym. Finally my family my parents for believing in me and supporting me anyway they can. My little sister Chelsie and the long trips she has made to tape my meets, and of course my little brother Chad who is kicking ass in Iraq so we all have the freedom to do what we do. I know a lot of people don't know who I am yet, but you will.