Hardcore Bencher Craig Schmalz Interview by Ben Tatar of CriticalBench.com
Critical Bench: Can you tell us about yourself, where you're from, where you work, best lifts
Craig Schmalz: I am 24 years old, live on Long Island, and am currently
working on getting my masters in Physical Education. I currently work with
special education elementary children and want to pursue a career in adapted
physical education. : My best bench is 525 in competition and 545 in the
gym. I currently hold World records in the following federations: APA 181
men's open drug tested 525 LB bench 6/22/03, IPA 181 amateur men's open 500
lb bench 11/16/02, and the WNPF 181 men's open drug tested 505 LB bench
record 5/18/03. (note as times change, so does everything else.)
Critical Bench: What inspired you to become a powerlifter?
Craig Schmalz: In January of 2002 I happened to meet a guy by the name of
Bill Brauner in the gym. Bill is about 320lbs 6' tall and has been
powerlifting for nearly 20 years, he noticed that I was fairly strong on the
bench press. We then started to work out together on a regular basis and
really focused on benching heavy. I entered my first meet in April of 2002
and finished with 385 in a single poly shirt. Once I started to compete I
just could not stop and entered every contest that I could. I broke my first
WR in August of 2002 and in my last meet on June 22, 2003 I opened up with a
500 pound bench press at 181. So in only 14 months I went from 385 pounds to
Critical Bench: How do people respond when you tell them how much you bench?
Craig Schmalz: When I tell people what I am able to bench no one believes
me. When they see me do it in the gym they are in shock and have a hard time
figuring out how a little guy like myself was able to push all that weight.
I try not to answer that question and would much rather show someone what I
can bench than tell them about it.
Critical Bench: What do benchers have to stop doing so they can bench the weights that
Craig Schmalz: Benchers have to stop slamming the weight down on their chest
and lift their butt off of the bench. Over-training is a huge factor and
lack of knowledge on the proper exercises to give you that big bench. Also
when I am at bench meets I see beginners using their bench shirt for the
first time at the meet. They have not even trained once in it and expect to
be able to use it efficiently at the meet.
Critical Bench: How do you train for that extreme bench?
Craig Schmalz: I use heavy weights all of the time in a safe manner so I
don't hurt myself... If you want a big bench you really have to train for it
that means making yourself stronger throughout the whole range of motion
using boards, rack lock-outs, pauses on the bottom, and heavy triples. I
train chest twice a week, once in the shirt for a heavy day and once without
it for a semi-heavy day.
Critical Bench: Where does your insane drive come from?
Craig Schmalz: My main motivation is that I do not like to have any one
stronger than me. I am never happy or satisfied with my current 1 RM and
always strive to increase that number. I want to break all of the records
for my weight class, I look up who holds the current record and set my mind
on breaking that record.
Critical Bench: How do you prepare and what goes through your mind before benching a
Craig Schmalz: I focus on setting up my arch and digging my shoulder blades
into the bench, then I take a deep breath and nod which signals for the hand
off. When I am bringing the weight down I focus on keeping my elbows tucked
in, squeezing my shoulder blades together, and pushing my stomach out. Once
I hear the press signal I explode upwards and as the weight gets closer to
the top I flare my elbows out and lock the weight out.
Critical Bench: Tell us about your training routine and diet.
Craig Schmalz: I train using Metal Militia. When I first got my Karin's
double denim I went to see Bill Crawford. He taught me how to arch, tuck my
elbows in, and how to get the lighter weights to touch easily. That 3 hour
work out with his crew was the hardest work out I have ever had. I left
there with a wealth of knowledge and a badly beaten body. I train in the
shirt every week and do 6-8 sets of triples in the shirt. You can not get
better if you do not train in the shirt every week. The bench shirts take a
lot of practice so that you can find the right fit and groove. I do not use
any bands or chains and do not believe in speed benching. As for my diet I
eat a variety of foods and do not take any supplements. I aim for 70% carbs,
20% protein, and 10% fat. I get plenty of protein from my diet so there is
no need to add more to it.
Critical Bench: Put the average lifter through your workout Craig and tell me what
Craig Schmalz: They would not make it through the first 1/3 of my work out.
That is because I try to kill my body each week and force it to become
stronger. I never settle for second.
Critical Bench: What would you like to see change in the world of weight lifting?
Craig Schmalz: I would like to see more hardcore lifting gyms pop up.
Instead of all these fitness centers. I would also like to see more bench
meets that give you a chance to win some money. All of these meets and
traveling costs money and it would not hurt to get some of it back. I think
it would also make the meets more fun and attract more people.
Critical Bench: Do you have any CRAZY stories that you would like to share?
Craig Schmalz: Well last fall I was doing my last set and wanted to hit 425
for a triple. My partner had taken the day off and I asked someone at the
gym that I knew for a lift off. He gave me a good hand off and was the only
spotter. I touched the first rep and as I neared the lock out I blacked out
and had the weight and the spotter land on top of me. The bar came down on
my hip and a few lifters quickly ran over and help get it off of me. I woke
up when they were pulling the bar off of me and did not know what had just
happened, but quickly caught on. From that point forward I always bench in
the power rack with the safety bars up. That was my last bench before my
next meet so I was very nervous going in. I opened with a low weight and got
500 pounds on a 4th attempt for a new WR..
Critical Bench: What would you like to tell the critical bench audience?
Craig Schmalz: Train hard and smart. There is nothing you cannot do- Never
settle and always set goals for yourself.