Interview With Herculean Bench Presser Frank Caminita Interviewed By Ben Tatar of CriticalBench.com - February 2008
Frank Caminita recently bench pressed an astounding 705 pounds weighing 198lbs! Let's step into Frank's mind and take an in depth look at how he became so powerful.
1) Critical Bench: Frank, please tell us a little bit about yourself!
Well to start, I am 37 years old and I am a newly wed. I married a Finnish Woman (Liisa) this past December. I met her in Finland while competing in the WPO. I am a Respiratory Therapist but I don't practice in a hospital anymore. I now work for Draeger Medial. Draeger Medical makes Anesthesia Machines, Adult and Neonatal Ventilators. I travel around the country during the week training Doctors and other Respiratory Therapist how to use the latest technology. I have been lifting weights since I was 13 years old.
2) Critical Bench: Most people can't fathom benching 300lbs, 400lbs, 500lbs, or 600lbs at any weight. Tell us, what was it like bench pressing 705lbs at 198lbs?
I get asked this question quite often and I always tell the same thing. It was heavy! If you watched the video you can see it was a grinder.
3) Critical Bench: The video is posted at the bottom of the interview for all to admire. Give us the run down about your lifting career and powerlifting career up until this point.
Well to begin, I started lifting weights when I reached my 13th birthday. My uncle Ronnie liked lifting weights and he gave me my first set of cast iron weights with a bench press on my 13th birthday. The set came with a curl bar and a tricep bar. I can remember always trying to max just about every workout. I can remember the feeling of getting stronger because I always tested myself. By the time I was 15 (a freshman) I was hitting 230 Raw while weighing 145. A schoolmate James Leblanc who did powerlifting noticed my talent and introduced me to the sport. I can remember my first meet in high school. At 148 I did a 365 Squat, 250 Bench and a 350 Dead all Raw as a sophomore. By the time I was a senior my best lifts were a 510 Squat, 325 Bench and a 440 Dead at 148. My Squat was good and my dead was just ok but my bench was freakish for a 148er at that time.
4) Critical Bench: How did you go from a 315 bench to a 405 bench? Tell us about your training between those two bench press barriers!
After my first powerlifting meet my dad made contact with a college buddy who he knew was a powerlifter. His name was Roger Gorumba. Mr. Gorumba had a serious bench press himself. He did a 405 at 148 Raw in like the 70's. I started training with him. He taught me how to benchpress old school. It consisted primarily of Raw benching and dumbbells, dumbbells, dumbbells and dumbbells. Which I still do to this day. After high school I started to gain weight so my bench went to over 400 immediately.
5) Critical Bench: How did you go from a 405 bench to a 500lbs bench? Tell us about your training between those bench press barriers!
After a several year lay off from heavy lifting (when I was in college) I decided it was time to compete again. I started back in the gym in the late 90's. I only trained Raw and used a close grip. I stayed with what I already knew, Decline bench, Flat Bench and Dumbbells, Dumbbells, and Dumbbells. By 2002 to 2003 I was hitting a 495 close grip at about 185(thumb on the line) for a couple reps with no shirt or spotter. I decided it was time to try on the shirt. I can remember the first time I put on a custom DD shirt. I was so happy I could get about 60 to 75 pounds out of it. In 2003 in Orlando at the WPO Bench Bash for Cash I went 3 for 3 and finished up with a 551 at 181. I attempted a 4th at 584 but no can do.
6) Critical Bench: How did you go from a 500lbs bench to a 600lbs bench?
After the WPO in 2003 I decided if I wanted to make the next step I needed to get professional help. I started training with Jessie Kellum. Jessie worked with me helping me master the shirt. He incorporated board and band training in my routine. My triceps got very strong in what seemed to be a very short period of time. By 2005 I had gone well over 600 in several meets all at 198 and by 2006 I had done several meet in which I hit 650 and even as much as 672 at 198. The strange thing is the whole time I never felt I have hit my full potential.
7) Critical Bench: It's so cool to see how you've progressed but the question we're all dieing to hear about is; how did you get to a 700lbs plus bench at 198lbs? All the 600lbs benchers out there especially want to know!
What else can I say, it takes everything coming together. The key to a huge bench is great form for most. Then I would say a good shirt that fits your body and bench form. You wouldn't see Tiger woods playing golf with a set of clubs off the shelf. They may come from the shelf, but are in some ways custom altered to fit his swing. The same goes with bench shirts. The shirt doesn't need to be custom all the way but it should be fitted correctly. Last, but not least you have to have super strong triceps to lock it out.
8) Critical Bench: How far do you want to take your bench press? What are your future goals?
I would like to take my bench as far as I can. I don't know where it will end but I know I will have a great time finding out. It is a dream of mine to one day hold the all time record for my weight class but with guys like Frankl, Scheppe, Coker, Lamarque, Burdette, McVicar and of course Kellum I have some big shoes to fill.
9) Critical Bench: Would you share your bench press routine along with your 5 biggest bench tips?
We do Kellum Style. Kellum style is really nothing you would consider rocket science. It consists of lots of boards, bands and heavy weight. We don't do what everybody considers a dynamic day. Every day is a heavy day but we only shirt up twice a month unless training for a meet then every week (we alternate a competition shirt with a loose one). My favorite exercises consist of first and for most bands in the smith machine. Jesse put me on this exercise several years ago. We like to double the green bands on the smith (we remove the cables to decrease resistance). This puts an incredible amount of pressure on the triceps. We use a close grip and we do sets of 5 reps with a very fast stroke. Second, I love heavy dumbbells. You want to keep then close and tight working up to heavy sets of 5. My best set so far (as of last week) was 175 lbs in each had for a set of 7 reps. I could give you more tips but that is what works for me.
10) Critical Bench: Wow, you're INSANELY strong! What do you think are the biggest "Don't Do's" when it comes to upping ones bench?
It is essential for one to find training partners. You can't do this alone. You need a team to push yourself and you must have a good coach. Most amateurs love to overtrain. You need your rest. You must listen to your body. If you are hurting then you must lay off.
11) Critical Bench: What have been your most intense bench press moments so far?
I would have to say my 705 bench at 198 was the most intense moment. I had missed my first and second attempt. I was having trouble touching with the shirt and decided to continue with my game plan by increasing the weight to 320kg (705lbs). I didn't care about hitting a number as I benched 670+ in two different meets already this year. I wanted to break the 700 barrier. On a third attempt I grinded out the 705. I took a 4th at 715 but I didn't have enough rest between lifts so no can do.
12) Critical Bench: What do you enjoy doing away from bench pressing?
I love dancing and drinking with the love of my life Liisa.
13) Critical Bench: How do you see the future of bench pressing?
I wish I knew. I am one of the few lifters who competes Raw, in single ply, in double ply, in tested and in non-tested leagues. I respect all lifters as fellow powerlifters no matter what differences each have in the choices we make.
14) Critical Bench: What adversities have you had to overcome. Any injuries from bench pressing?
Injuries........... and lots of them. I have had multiple small tears in the rotator cuff, tears in the pec muscles, ect.... I have stress fractured my left forearm (confirmed by bone scan) for sure 6 times. The list goes on and on and on.....
15) Critical Bench: Wow, and here you are doing a bench press feat that is unheard of! Through your bench press journey and through overcoming all adversity, how has bench pressing made you a better person?
It teaches me discipline and dedication. Nobody and I mean nobody who is at the top of this sport was able to achieve what they have done without countless hours of training. So we have to ask ourselves why? Why do we do it? It isn't like it will bring you fame or fortune. Sure you might get lucky enough to win enough prize money to pay for an airline ticket to a competition and you might even be a star to some youngster powerlifters who are just starting out but the reality is we do it for self-enrichment. We do it because we just love it.
16) Critical Bench: Awesome interview Frank! Anything else you would like to say or people to thank?
I would like to thank my sponsor Titan Support Systems and Ken Anderson. These guys have the best service. If you need help with shirt sizing give Ken a call. I would also like to thank Jesse Kellum for training me and everybody who trains with us at the Downtown Fitness center in Covington including Phil, Eric, AJ, Allen (Doc) Scheen, the twins, Little Frankie, Richard, Pat, Spensor, Steve, Ted, and many more. These guys are what lifting is all about. I want to send a special thanks to my wife Liisa for supporting my lifting. Not only does she support me she motivates me.