In competition, I benched 295 at bodyweight 164 and age 44. Now I'm 47, and looking to lift more than that.
CRITICAL BENCH: How did you get started in powerlifting?
(Laughs) I can thank my friend Shawn Lyte for that. I've worked out all my life, mostly just to stay in good shape, and for other sports (wrestling, karate, kung fu, running, biking, triathlons, even armwrestling, etc). But I never even thought about powerlifting. Then I started getting SPAM emails from Shawn, who was promoting a meet. He was challenging all personal trainers in the area to "make a difference" by participating in a powerlifting meet that would benefit a local charity. I checked the web site, and thought that my bench could be competitive, so I signed up. My first meet was the 100% Raw National Championships in NC in 2005. I won my age division even though there were younger guys there in my weight class that lifted a lot more. One of them later tested positive for prohormones.
CRITICAL BENCH: What have you achieved in powerlifting and benching that you are proud of?
I'm most proud of helping the team at Northwestern prosper and grow. The university doesn't have much money in the budget for a powerlifting team, so we've had to do it all ourselves.
CRITICAL BENCH: What celebrity's do you train and what is it like being a celebrity fitness trainer?
I've trained a few names many people would recognize, but most celebs don't appreciate any name-dropping. And more often, I'm training high level executives that you wouldn't know - the CEO of an insurance Co, HR director for an accounting firm, Senior VP at an investment bank, general partner in a big law firm, etc. They're the top tier in their companies, but you wouldn't recognize many of them.
CRITICAL BENCH: How would you compare and contrast the experiences of training powerlifters to celebrities?
It's completely different. I don't know any celebs who want to lift heavy. Most of them just want to lose weight and tone up.
CRITICAL BENCH: What is it like being a powerlifting coach at Northwestern University?
It's awesome. Those guys really train themselves. They are so motivated and work so hard. It's very inspiring.
CRITICAL BENCH: You were sponsored by BMF sports. What was that like for you?
It's an honor to be in the company of all the great athletes BMF sports has sponsored. I couldn't be prouder. Shawn has been there every time I asked him for anything.
CRITICAL BENCH: So far in your journey, what are some of your favorite, memorable, powerful, craziest, funniest, and most hardcore moments?
No doubt about it - being about 20 feet away from John Dolan as he put up 600 Raw in Dec. 2005. Unbelieveable!
CRITICAL BENCH: What are your 10 biggest tips for a bigger bench press?
Bottom position work
Working with thick bars
Working with chains and bands
Pausing at the bottom, then exploding up
Repeat near maxes (90-95% RM) x 10 - rest just long enough to get one more -by the 10th rep, it might be 30 sec between reps
Negatives, but don't do them too often
CRITICAL BENCH: What are your thoughts about Bud Lyte?
He's a good friend and a solid citizen. If it weren't for Shawn, powerlifting would be all but extinct today. He has done more for this sport than anyone I know.
CRITICAL BENCH: What is your advice for beginners and people who are facing extreme adversity of any kind?
For beginners - read everything you can, and find a mentor or two. Almost without exception, all the people I've met in this sport have been nice and helpful. For those facing adversity - few people in life never face adversity, but some people get more than their share. It's how you face adversity that defines your character. Do you stand up to a challenge or do you run from it or (worse yet) pretend like it's not there?
CRITICAL BENCH: What was your childhood like?
I grew up out in the country in Michigan. We were kind of poor, but never went hungry. My dad was a cop. I have an older sister and two younger brothers.
CRITICAL BENCH: What are your future goals?
I want to bench over 300 raw this year in the 165 masters 2 division. Long term, I'd like to finally hit a double body weight bench. For me that means either hitting 330, or keeping this strength and dropping to 148. If I could do that even after I hit 50 yrs old, I'd be happy. Oh, I'll be happy anyway, but there's something about those nice round numbers.
CRITICAL BENCH: What do you enjoy doing away from benching, training celebrity's and powerlifters?
I read a lot. Usually, it's about science, internet marketing or fitness. I also play a decent game of chess and consider my self the world's worst artist, yet greatest art critic. Go figure.
CRITICAL BENCH: How does your family feel about what you do?
They think I'm an idiot, but they know they can't change me, so they just shake their heads. I probably shouldn't even be benching heavy at all. My left shoulder never healed completely from a football injury (AC separation). If you saw me with no shirt, you'd see where the collar bone is poking up like it wants to come out of the skin. And on my right shoulder is a pacemaker.
CRITICAL BENCH: Is there such a thing of being too strong?
No, but there is such a thing as people trying to get very strong and then they get hurt. It's a tough balancing act. We all want to train harder and get stronger, but I know I've trained too hard in the past and ended up with tendonitis and bursitis.
CRITICAL BENCH: Give us your bench press routine and your bench press philosophy!
I love the Critical Bench routine. I'm going through it right now (my third time in about as many years). There are many other good ones out there for anyone who want to check the top lifters training logs posted online. I'm a big believer in variety. I have to change my "routine" very often.
CRITICAL BENCH: How do you see the future of powerlifting?
I wish we could put an end to all of the bickering and jockeying for position and control between all the competing federations. I think Shawn Lyte and a few others are trying to do that. I also hope that in the future, the "Drug tested" federations will be really drug tested. I've heard from people I trust about cleaning up after a meet and finding all of the urinalysis bottles in the dumpster outside.
CRITICAL BENCH: What goes on your mind before a big lift?
It's not the weight. I usually know I can do that amount of weight, because I've done it in the gym. So I'm usually concentrating very hard on remembering all the rules. I get as high of an arch in my back as I can, then I think "Plant your feet, make sure you don't move them, don't move your head, wait for the start, press, and rack commands, etc"
CRITICAL BENCH: Is it harder to train powerlifters or celebs?
They're all easy. The powerlifters are very motivated and will work hard. Celebs are used to people kissing up to them and giving them everything they want. But it isn't that way when they're in the gym. I'm in charge there. They'll do what I tell them to or they can go find another trainer.
CRITICAL BENCH: What is it about the RAW powerlifting fed that draws you in?
I have no interest in doing steroids,and I doubt I could even put one of those bench shirts on with my pacemaker. It could cause some real problems. So, yeah, raw is the only way I want to lift.
CRITICAL BENCH: What is the best and worst advice someone has ever given you before?
That's a tough one. I'll give two bests instead. #1: Paul Chek has an article out there called "Big Bench, Bad Shoulders?" Everyone should google it and read it. #2: I don't remember who said it, but it was probably Alwyn Cosgrove (I call him "The Michael Jordan of Personal Training"). I don't have the exact quote, so I'll paraphrase; "It's not how much training you can do, it's how much training you can recover from."
CRITICAL BENCH: How do you want to be remembered?
I hope people remember me just as I am. I'm nice to just about everyone, so usually people are nice right back.
CRITICAL BENCH: It has been a pleasure. In closing who would you like to thank?
Shawn Lyte, Bill Blackstone, John Dolan, Judy and Roger Gedney of the ADFPF, Dennis Brady of Chicago's B&W gym, The Northwestern University Powerlifting Team, Dave Englund of the Ultimate Fitness Gym in Evanston, IL, and all of the trainers who work for me.