Gene Rychlak Is The First Man to Bench Press 1,000 Pounds
Judy: Did you ever think that a human being would or could bench press
1000lbs? At what point in your life did you realize that you could be that
Gene: If you would have asked me when I first started lifting 20 years ago,
I would have said "No way" But, as soon as I did 900lbs, I knew it would
just be a matter of time.
Judy: What do you think accounts for the recent skyrocketing of bench
presses in powerlifting?
Gene: The main reason is basic evolution. The athletes over the years have
gotten bigger, stronger and faster, so it is no surprise that the lifts have
taken off. Also, advancements in gear to an extent, as advanced athletes
have learned to train to get the most out of it. Gear has gotten so much
better since I was first introduced to it. Training techniques have evolved
significantly, especially for me. For the longest time, I was stuck trying
to bench 600lbs and after some changes everything feel like dominoes. The
ego has a lot to do with it too. Everyone wants to have a number that is awe-
inspiring next to his or her name. Many old timers have come up to me and said
that wheat I did was both a blessing and a curse. It gives other people the
feeling that it can be done, and in return, that forces me to go even
higher. So I keep raising the mark.
Judy: Tell me about Gene Rychlak off the platform. Do you have a family?
What do you do for a living?
Gene: I was born 37 years ago. Both my parents were deaf-mute due to
childhood illness that sadly modern medicine would now have been able to
treat, but at the time was out of their realm. I have a brother that is
three years younger than me. We were fortunate to be born with full hearing
and speech capabilities, but were greatly impacted by our parents hardship.
My mother's side of the family was responsible for making sure we grew up
like other children. At an age where most kids were learning how to
communicate, both my brother and I had to learn two languages, English and
Sign language, so we could communicate with our parents. I never once
thought of their deafness or inability to speak as a handicap, but rather as
a different type of communication. It certainly allowed me to see both sides
of life. My mother passed away when I was 19. I feel very fortunate to still
have my father with me. He plays a big role in my life and shares a big part
of my powerlifting success. I had a different upbringing, but my time
growing up was a unique experience and I think I'm a better person for it.
It really has helped me deal with all the criticism and negativity I have
received since I have broken the 1000lbs barrier. I think about the
difficulties they had, and it puts things into perspective. As far as me, I
am single, but one could say that I'm married to powerlifting. Powerlifting
is my mistress. I am self-employed- a jack-of-all-trades, yet master of
none. I live at home and take care of my father. I draw a lot of support
from my family. My dad is really into it and that feels good. He was there
throughout the formative years of my powerlifting. I am glad he is around to
see the end result of my efforts.
Judy: A few years ago I heard someone remark that if a guy bench pressed
1000lbs he wouldn't have to work for the rest of his life. What do you
think about that statement?
Gene: That is a really good question. It would be so nice if it were true.
As of yet, bench pressing a grand hasn't yielded me a dime. So, if you add a
buck fifty to that, well, I could buy myself a beer at the bar. Having a
sense of humor is really all I can do. Powerlifting is not a money maker.
Instead of growing with the passage of time, it has become more and more
fractured. There is so much back-biting and jealousy, so much animosity. All
this has contributed to lowering the status of our sport instead of
producing something more mainstream. People are more apt to watch baseball
or Nascar. There is so much negativity in the sport, something I can
certainly describe first- hand in great detail. It just hurts the sport and
makes us look second-class. All we have is each other, fellow lifters and
friends. It will take all of us to deliver our sport into tomorrow.
Judy: Gene you were the first person to bench 900lbs and then the first
person to crack the 1000lbs mark. Yet no one really made a big deal about
it. That is frustrating and saddening at the same time. Why do you think
so? What are your feelings about this?
Gene: Right now it seems that my monumental achievements have been given
secondary status. I wish I knew why. These were numbers that everyone waited
to see happen and when they did, well, they came and went. Some people point
at the IPA, and say that is because many of my lifts came in the IPA, and
some people have a negative perception of that federation. Some of history's
greatest lifters have lifted in the IPA and I just can't understand that.
Everyone loves to win but everyone hates a winner. So many people cry
conspiracy and bash me without review because that is what they live for,
that is their existence, to tear others down. It is easier to tear someone
else down than to build yourself up. Some people have cited my gear as the
reason. My gear has passed inspection every time. It is no secret that
everyone will get different results from their equipment. It seems like the
better I do, the more some people dislike me and I feel like the target for
Judy: Having to handle such heavy poundage certainly must take a toll on
your body. Give me a rundown on your training schedule?
Gene: My training schedule is not set week to week like it is for many
lifters. I typically operate in 12-14 day rotations, rather than set
training days. My schedule is based on my meet schedule and is dictated by
the period of time out from my next competition. I am a bit more active
than some lifters and I tend to push the envelope with each training
session, so my training schedule has to be flexible. My training is an
offshoot of Westside Barbell's principals. I follow a lot of what they do
but tweak it to accommodate the poundage and effects of the poundage I am
incorporating during training. Overall I am satisfied with my training. I
certainly can't argue with the results. I am not big on deadlifting, but I
concentrate on the squat to help accommodate my body's ability to handle
the heavy weight. I like to train 2 1/2 hours a day, beginning, around 4-5pm
and typically finishing around 7-7:30pm. I am at the gym every day, but have
designated days off. I bench every 5th to 7th day. At this point I am not
training the squat for competition but for overall strength and stability.
Leg drive is crucial in the bench press for me and requires constant
Judy: Talking with some of the other elite lifters out there, it seems
apparent that raw benching is deemed almost another sport altogether. Many
people are always asking what you bench raw. Does this get frustrating?
Gene: Yes, it is very frustrating. I don't know how many times I explained
it but people keep asking my raw numbers. TO be perfectly honest, I don't
know, and I don't care to know. In training I don't go any heavier than 450
Raw. Since I compete with gear, I am only interested in perfecting my game
with gear. People that wear gear know and understand what I am talking
about. I've been at this for a long time and there isn't anything for me to
gain by training Raw. If anything I stand to injure myself and lose
everything that I have worked so hard to achieve.
Judy: I am sure that many people would like to know what kind of shirt you
Gene: I wear a double-ply Inzer Phenom open back, with velcro. My advice for
sizing is, "if it ain't tight, it ain't right". If you take your shirt off
and you aren't bleeding, you better start over again. I typically start my
training cycle with a looser shirt and then about a month or so out I will
switch to my meet shirt. I use the same shirt for all my attempts. It takes
a long time for me to get into my shirt, so the shirt I start with is the
shirt I finish with. I hear so many people chattering about how us heavy
benchers are wearing 4 or 10 ply shirts. They just don't understand that a
thicker shirt is a harder shirt and begins to work against you and will have
no spring. Anything above a two or three ply would be working in reverse
for anyone. So many people think that by putting on a shirt it will
magically transform you from Joe Blow to Ryan Kennelly. They think that if
they can do 500 raw, they can do 1000 with the shirt I use. People don't
realize or have an appreciation for, the sacrifices we have had to go
through. Buying a shirt doesn't give you a huge bench. It is a combination
of genetics, determinations, training and gear; and if you only have one or
two of these prerequisites then you are out of luck. God forbid some lifter
gets more out of a shirt than another. Well, that's the way the world works.
You have to understand and appreciate the fact that if you work long enough
you may be able to get more out of your gear but it doesn't happen over
Judy: Have you had more support in the sport or more opposition? From whom
or which groups have you received the most support?
Gene: Everyone likes to win, no one likes a winner. That has become my
catch phrase it seems. The more successful I have become, the more people
have tried to diminish my credibility. The real winners in this sport are
the ones that have supported me- my own Team RPS, Mike Miller, Joe Mazze,
Dan Kovaks, Carl Seeker and Mark Chaillet. The groups that I have gotten the
least support from are the "Bench Press Lennies." Everyone knows who they
are. They bench 315lbs, but say they could do 900lbs if they had the right
Judy: You certainly have a unique appearance. Any reason for the sunglasses
and flame beanie? You used to sport a mohawk.
Gene: I still have the mohawk. The glasses are to protect my right eye. I am
extremely light sensitive in my right eye due to an accident I suffered.
Somewhere along the line it transformed into the look I guess. The beanie,
well I borrowed that one from Ryan, lol. It covers the Mohawk, which is too
much for most people to handle. The beanie keeps it all in one place.
Judy: You have offically benched over 1000lbs. What's next? And what are your
long term plans?
Gene: 1100lbs and beyond! I plan to continue raising the mark. I am not one
to rest on my laurels. I plan on competing in the IPA Worlds this summer and
the Senior Nationals in the Fall. For long term, I would love to find a way
to make a living from powerlifting. Maybe by training people, opening a gym,
anything. You would think that because this is America, you can turn your
accomplishments into something down the road. I am hoping for that.