Interview With Powerbuilder - Iron Man Joey DeGiovine Interviewed By Ben Tatar of CriticalBench.com - August 2008
Joey DeGiovine Giving 600 A Ride Photo Courtesy of SAS Digital Memories - p) 863.559.3917
Joey DeGiovine has benched 585 in competition and well over 600lbs in training, 500 for 7 reps and 405lbs for 20 reps all RAW. He is as old school as they get and an all around good guy.
1) Critical Bench: Joey, tell Critical Bench readers about yourself.
Toughest question right off the bat probably the most boring but here goes. I am 32yrs old, married to my wife Amy for 14yrs this year and we have a 13yr old daughter. I have been living and breathing weight training since I was a 120lb high school kid. I started this game the same way most do ( even if they don't admit it ) bodybuilding. I competed in my first show at the age of 17 and knew from then on I would be involved in the irongame one way or another. Even though I trained as a bodybuilder I always trained heavy and was always strong for my bodyweight.
I began training with old school powerlifters by the age of 18 but still planned on competing as a bodybuilder. Competing in the teen division until I was 19 I took 5yrs away from competition to gain size and in the process went from a 160lb lean kid to a 280lb 25yr old.
In 2001 I entered my first open division show and took 3rd at the Mid Florida and thought I was on my way to a promising bodybuilding future. Some health issues with my stomach put plans on hold for about a year and in that time the gym I trained at for all those yrs went through some changes and eventually closed. I ended up making a move to a local World Gym here and met up with the group of guys I train with today.
Inspired by my current training partner Ron Jones and learning from the guy who is the GURU in our gym Steve Wunz, I entered my first power meet in 05, the APF Southern States bench only. Fast forward to today.
I am still VERY green as a powerlifter and have only competed in bench only and push pull. Fortunately I have stayed away from the injury bug except for the normal pains we all experience and feel confident that I can make a name for myself one way or another in this game. I also plan to continue to compete in bodybuilding possibly competing late this year at the state level here in Florida.
2) Critical Bench: What is your height, weight and best lifts? What fed do you compete in and why?
I currently weigh 290lbs at 5'7". My bodyweight fluctuates year round from the 280s to about 300 and have been as heavy as 315.
315lbs was the first time I felt too big and couldn't carry myself comfortably. Consequently I was NOT as strong either. My best lifts to date include a 585lb raw bench with a 2 second pause (I also repped 500lbs for seven a week ago) and have inclined 550, a 700lb squat in a belt, NO briefs and NO knee wraps and a raw 705 deadlift.
I don't consider myself tied to a federation at all. I have been lifting in the APF because for me it's local, it's no holds barred and I like to try to turn heads against geared competitors. If I can beat a guy in gear or he beats me by only a few pounds, I did what I came to do.
3) Critical Bench: A 585lbs bench with 2 second pauses, a 550lbs incline bench! Holy smokes! You're squat and deadlift is also scary strong. You are a true powerhouse. What are your powerlifting goals for this year and what are your long term goals?
I want that 600 raw bench. That's probably my biggest goal for the year. I honestly thought it would fall at the OBB but 585 was a PR so I can sit and think about that for a while. I should have second attempted 600. HAHA. Long term goals I can't really say. I don't have the ambition to go buy a bunch of gear and do unlimited meets. I want to see if anything rolls towards lifting raw. If that starts to happen I may try for a big raw total. I see on the boards all the time, people wanting Beau to hit a 2100 raw . I believe with a good training cycle I could approach that number right now. It's all up in the air right now but at the OBB meet I was bitten by the bug to compete more often so hopefully you will see more of me in the near future.
4) Critical Bench: Do you have any funny or crazy powerlifting stories that you would like to share? What has been your favorite powerlifting experience thus far?
Every single one of my workouts is a crazy story. The crew I train with will make you roll on the floor laughing every time out. The gym should never feel like a job and we keep it that way. It's serious for a few minutes...total intensity for your lift or set...and then back to comedy hour and who's next. Some of your readers may not like that (everyone always talks about how intense they are) but I challenge anyone to come finish a leg or chest day with us!
Far and away my best experience to this point was this years OBB meet. Everything I trained for came together and I hit a PR raw bench at 585 and a PR raw deadlift at 705 and as most have seen from the video just missed the 600 raw bench. My training partner and good friend (Ron Jones) did my handling and pushed me as hard as he could and it turned into a day I will never forget. Three other guys from my crew also competed taking 2 seconds and a 1st. Sean Francisco was competing for the first time and won his bench only class. Just a fun day all the way around.
Photo Courtesy of SAS Digital Memories - p) 863.559.3917
5) Critical Bench: Umm..Is anyone out there up for Joe's challenge?? Sounds intimidating but one that can only make champions! Joe, tell us your training routine in detail.
My training routine has been the same for years now. I think when you find something that you feel works don't change it. Changing exercises is great but when you find an order to training muscle groups in a week that works best and gives the best gains stick with it. That said here's my usual week that I best describe as a power bodybuilding routine.
1. Warmup with leg extensions for the knees
2. Heavy Squats. Whatever the routine may be for the day
3. Heavy hack squats or leg press(I really like a vertical leg press but you rarely find those any more)
4. Heavy leg extensions for quads.
Tuesday I take off. I found this is best after a heavy leg day.
1. Heavy flat bench or incline bench
2. Heavy dumbbells up to 200s
3. Finishing movement flys, cable cross, pec deck
1. A pull down of some kind, close wide doesn't matter
2. Heavy bent over rows or dumbbell rows
3. Seated low rows or t-bar rows
4. Pullovers cable or dumbbell
Depending on what I am training for Friday is either a shoulder day or deadlift day. If I am training for a power meet I DO NOT train deads every week. I train them every other at best and stop pulling two weeks before the meet.
1. Any pressing movement (barbell, dumbbell, hammer strength)
2. Lateral raises
3. Any rear delt movement supersetted with high pulls
1. Standing EZ bar curls
2. Hammer curls heavy
3. A finishing movement (cables, preacher or a machine)
4. Heavy pushdowns with a v-bar
5. Skullcrushers as heavy as I can go, always
6. Rope pushdowns
6) Critical Bench: Thanks, great workout, I'm sure a lot of people will give it a run. What are your top 10 tips for a RAW bigger bench?
This is what I do and doesn't mean it will work for everyone and by no means do I claim to know much about training for raw strength. I have always trained heavy on every lift I do and train heavy almost every workout. That being said here are my thoughts for raw strength and a bigger bench. In no order:
1. Train heavy all the time in every lift and every exercise
2. Listen to your body and take time off to heal when needed. Don't rest by training lighter just take time off, then go back and train heavy.
3. Incorporate bodybuilding movements into your routine as raw lifters need every musclegroup to be strong
4. Train with someone as strong or stronger than you who will push you at everything you do. Friendly competition in the gym has always pushed me. I have only had 2 training partners stronger than myself and you can see where Jones pushed me to this year.
5. Train triceps heavy, heavy heavy. Heavy close grips, skull crushers, dips, even pushdown movements train them heavy as well. Raw benchers do not have the benefit of the POP out of the bottom from a shirt so a lot of arm strength is needed to get heavy lifts going.
6. Train pauses. For some reason powerlifters have gotten away from pauses. I pause just as much as I touch and go with. Pause reps make you explosive off the bottom. If you use to do it get back to it and if you've never done them start pausing during your workouts THEY WILL MAKE YOU STRONGER.
7. I have started floor pressing quite a bit and as my floor press got stronger so did my bench press. I do not do lockouts often but have incorporated the floor press in a lot of workouts. Oh yeah, HEAVY
8. Train your core. Honestly I'm bad about this one and need to get more consistent. Ab training and Hypers are really all you need. When your core is strong you have a great base to push from. Core training keeps you further from injury as well.
9. EAT. Eat a lot and everything. Raw lifters are not going to get bigger numbers unless they get bigger and stronger. You are not trying to figure out how to get more out of your shirt, or tweak it, or get a more radical shirt that you can get more weight out of. You have to get bigger and stronger and to do that you need to eat a lot of calories.
10. Did I say TRAIN HEAVY!!!
7) Critical Bench: Thanks for all the amazing tips! Joe, what is your diet like? What types of supplements do you take?
The magazine version or the truth. Seriously, I don't follow a diet unless I am training for a bodybuilding show. To lift heavy I eat ALOT and in that I incorporate everything that is put in front of me. I am not a sweets eater though, really not at all. A typical week for me includes lots of sandwich meet ( at work ) protein shakes but like everyone else I am pretty lazy about those, RED MEAT almost every night and at lunch, chicken but much less than red meat, and I get a lot of fruits and vegetables.
As far as supplements go, it's mostly just protein shakes. I have used a lot of creatine in the past and it usually keeps weight on me. I am not a big believer in all the designer supplements to be honest. If you look at most of them scientifically your body cannot absorb a lot of supplements through the digestive system. That's not to say that if you have something you feel works don't take it. It is just how I feel personally. I try and tell most people to buy a protein supplement they can stomach (and I say that carefully) and try to get everything else from TONS of good food.
8) Critical Bench: As old school, real and hardcore as it gets! Joe, were you always very strong? What do you know now that you didn't know back when you were a 315lbs bencher?
I noticed I was strong when I took weight training in high school. I weighed about 120lbs in 10th grade and was benching around 225. I can remember some of the football players coming into the weight room and not being able to bench what I could. I remember a guy telling me I benched more than him because I wasn't getting any pussy. Ego took over and I made the mistake of going out for spring football. A decent bench does not account for size and got rocked running Oklahoma drills. I think I made 1 more practice.
The truth that every lifter faces as they struggle to get stronger. The ability to increase your strength from being able to bench 135 to 225 and on to 315 becomes much more difficult for a raw lifter when making the jump from 405 to 500 to 600. Gains come so quickly in the beginning if your training and diet is good. Consistency plays into that as well. The first time I benched 315 I thought there were no limits. The first time I benched 405 I still weighed around 180lbs and knew someday I would bench 600 raw. Somewhere after 405 things tend to start to move in slow motion. I tell people all the time that it was so much easier when I was 160lbs because now the gains don't come like they use to.
9) Critical Bench: Do you feel like a different person now that you're benching well over 600 than you were back when you were benching in high school?
I am in no way different now then when I was a 120lb kid in awe of the big guys. Look at what I still have to look up to. Totals over 2800lbs, Kennelly's 1050, Hoornstra's raw 675 on PW.com. Even though some people don't believe it, there is always someone bigger and badder then they are. So I still feel like a kid who wants to walk around big and strong. Today I just want to be bigger and stronger.
10) Critical Bench: Tell us about how you felt when you achieved the big 405lbs bench press mile stone!
I can honestly say that 405 was the first time I was excited about a bench press because 4 plates starts to set you aside from the rest of the people in the gym. I was thinking 4 plates in high school as a 120lb kid. I'm not even going to tell you about the rest of these numbers because in my F-ed up head there has really only been 2. That was originally 405, and since it has been a raw 600. Mike W from CriticalBench will probably be at the meet when that number falls so with a beer in my hand and the smile on my face I'll tell him personally how 600 felt. HAHA. It's coming!!
11) Critical Bench: A classic day is in the making! hahaha! What gym do you train at and with who? What is it like training there?
I train at KLD gym in Merritt Island, FL. It is actually an old World Gym purchased by a baseball player who began a youth foundation and uses the gym as part of the school. Believe it or not it is the only hardcore gym left in our area and I wince at calling it that. I grew up at the Power Pit gym over in Cocoa and it was nothing short of a dungeon.
All of the 80s and 90s local powerlifters trained there and I got the benefit of its final 7 years. The BEST place I have ever trained. Gary Frank trained there and still talks about it when I run into him at meets here in FL. Oh and I will plug my place. My wife and I along with a few partners will be opening Space Coast Barbell and Athletics before the summer is over. It's sad to see real Gyms closing so we are opening one back up. P.S. I'd throw a grenade into Planet Pussy Ass ( I know you know The fitness center I'm talking about) if I could get away with it! Death to the fitness center long live the GYM.
Our crew consists of myself, Ron Jones (242lb super freak), Nick Morretto (junior world record holder in the squat), Rich Gregg (2 time Worlds Strongest Cop), Tom Petelle, and Steve Wunz the 'GURU' who got us all started. All of the guys are great lifters with Ron being one of my closest friends and truly the freakiest lifter I have ever met.
12) Critical Bench: Fitness centers suck. What is your advice for the frustrated RAW bencher who is stuck at a 405lbs bench who would one day like to be able to rep out 500 like you?
Be CONSISTENT!!! Nothing comes over night and like I said before it gets tougher from here. I went from 135 to 315 in about 2yrs. I've been stuck in the 500lb range for probably 5yrs. Raw benching is not getting a shirt figured out and adding 150 to 200lbs to your raw bench in a day. Raw benching is a constant battle to hit weight with nothing more than your own strength and no assistance.
13) Critical Bench: How many times can you bench press 135, 225, 275, 315, 350, and 405?
I don't think you guys would really care about the smaller numbers so lets start at 315 being it is one of my warmup sets. 315 is my 3rd warmup set and I usually use it as a speed set doing it for 20 to 25 reps as fast as I can. I can't answer how many I could do it because I've never tried. I have repped out at 405 before only because I have always had the want to be able to get 20 reps and have just recently banged out exactly 20. I have also done 500 for seven.
14) Critical Bench: 405 for 20 and 500 for 7, OH MY!!! In your raw bench press routine do you use boards, bands and chains?
I have used bands and chains at times but nothing routinely. I do however use boards specifically the 3 board for heavy lifts and on close grip days. For me the 3 board is not about getting something to touch but more about training my triceps from that static spot. I believe the raw bench is dependant on strong triceps at certain spots in the lift. That said, I train floor presses with almost every heavy bench workout.
15) Critical Bench: Do you think westside techniques are as beneficial to the RAW bencher as they are to the shirt bencher?
No. Hey I'm guessing, but I believe Louie saw the evolution of the geared lifter coming when developing the westside techniques. If you look at most of the training methods he employs it's to increase your lockout strength. Bands and chains mimic shirt benching in being able to get the pop out of your shirt at the bottom of the movement and having the carry through from tricep strength to get you to lock out. Everything gets heavier as you come up so to speak.
A raw bencher has to control the weight down to the chest. Then in one explosive movement (without hitching) must use leg drive, pectoral strength (which I feel doesn't even come into play in a shirt) strength from the lower back and lats to push off of, the delts are used and then arm strength to complete the lockout. I do not consider for one second shirt benchers to not be strong, look at the numbers, a 1050 come on, to get under that is sick. Raw benching and shirt benching are truly polar opposites.
16) Critical Bench: Away from powerlifting what do you enjoy doing?
First and foremost I enjoy time with my wife and daughter. We are very laid back and rarely party but hang out with close friends quite a bit. Most of my friends happen to be training partners. My wife and I have made it a point to try and hit as many restaurants as we can as we both love good food. So I would say I could be categorized as quite boring because most of my life revolves around my house, my refrigerator and the gym. Oh and in case any of your powerlifting fans care to know- I am as old school as it gets because I am also a NPC amateur bodybuilder. Ah yes remember the days when the off season bodybuilders were the powerlifters. And vice versa. I still compete in both people!!
17) Critical Bench: You have your passions! What are the 5 biggest mistakes you see other benchers make?
1. For young guys it's thinking that a good chest routine will inherently make you a bigger bencher. If that were true wouldn't all pro bodybuilders be 600lb benchers.
2. Neglecting to train all muscle groups heavy. More muscles come into play when you lift raw and need to be trained just as heavy as you train your chest and bench.
3. I rarely see people train pause reps anymore and that's sad. I attribute pause reps to my raw strength more then anything else I have done.
4. Food. I have kids ask me all the time how to get a bigger bench and after giving them some training tips I ask what they eat. Listen, if you don't eat big how can you lift big. I worry more about how much food I get in in a day then how much I lift in a training session.
5. Inconsistency. Any good lifter knows they did not get to where they are over night. Consistency in the gym, consistency with the diet and rest. Most lifters as well as all athletes become creatures of habit. Every day becomes routine. Great athletes will tell you there lives are pretty boring but the payoff is worth the consistency.
18) Critical Bench: How has powerlifting changed you as a person?
It's not powerlifting that changed me it was getting under weight for the first time. I was definitely an average kid. I was really a small kid but a mediocre athlete at almost every sport I played. I was actually a competitive surfer early in high school and did very well but surfing and weights don't really mix well and gave it up to get bigger.
I excelled at baseball and became a great pitcher but didn't love the sport. I always wanted to set myself apart from everyone else. I wanted to do something that took me as far from average as possible. Hell maybe I have a complex. I was always very strong for my size and weight training came very easy to me even though I was small. I loved the gym, training and getting bigger and stronger.
As I grew I became more confident as a person and found an identity away from the average everyday person I was. As powerlifters and bodybuilders and probably athletes as a whole, we all carry a bit of vanity with us. I like to be known as the big strong guy, it's who I am and it's how everyone knows me. I am the proverbial 98lb weakling who became big and strong but I believe it has truly made me a more confident well rounded person.
19) Critical Bench: Who are your favorite powerlifters in the world?
I have not met a lot of the guys I am familiar with and usually become a fan of someone if I think they are good people. I can't stand a great athlete that is an unapproachable arrogant asshole so it's hard to say who my favs are. I have mega respect for what Kennelly and Hornstra have done on the bench.
I know Gary Frank from when he was getting started and have always been a fan of his. Brian Schwab has become a good friend of mine and everyone knows the guy's numbers are just insane. And someone who is an absolute superhero in my opinion (call him a powerlifter or not) Jon Pall Sigmarsson would be my all time favorite ironsport athlete.
20) Critical Bench: What goes through your mind on meet day? What is it about competing that you love?
First 2 things I think about on meet day are, did I do everything correctly from training to deloading to resting to be able to peak today and am I opening with the right weight. The first is just stress and I am great at stressing, ask anyone who knows me. My opener weighs on my mind quite a lot though. I am not one to go into a meet and open conservatively to get on the board. I usually know my opener 3 weeks out but still think about it right up to the point of doing it.
For me right now competition is about going to a geared meet lifting heavy, placing well lifting raw against geared lifters and turning some heads in the process. I don't know many of the guys from the meets yet but everyone has been really cool to me so far. I had some great comments from Critical Bench Sponsored Lifter Brian Carroll as well as other great guys and great lifters at the OBB meet. To have guys like Carroll even take notice of what you are doing is unreal.
21) Critical Bench: When your powerlifting days are over how do you want to be remembered?
What if you don't ever want your powerlifting days to be over? Just to be remembered in any of the ironsports would be enough for me. To be remembered and talked about means that you left some kind of impression on people and hopefully my lifting will leave an impression. I am not one who believes any press is good press. I am not one who wants to be ON THE GRID because I was an asshole and people talk about me because of it.
I would like to be remembered as the guy who looked like a monster walking into the meet, was strong as hell and was very approachable and humble towards everyone. If you're great at what you do, but never forget what it took you to get where you are, and still make people who are trying to get where you are feel like they matter, then in my eyes you're a good dude. That's all I could ask for.
Critical Bench: That's cool, that's exactly what Mike Westerdal told me about you. He said you were a monster that walked into the warm up room wearing your Critical Bench tshirt, were really cool to talk to and won best iron man lifter.
Joe it has been great talking to you! Everyone watch out for this beast! In closing is there anyone who you would like to thank or anything that you would like to say?
First and foremost I thank my wife and daughter for putting up with me and MY dreams for all these years. Believe it or not you two are priority number one. Secondly a partner and good friend I trained with for years and pushed me every day George Donall. Ron Jones for pushing me to places I never thought possible and being a great friend. The dude honest believes in me more then I do at times. Thanks to Steve Wunz for showing me something other then bodybuilding and making me believe I could do this.
Thanks to Critical Bench specifically Mike and Ben for the opportunity to give this interview and again to Mike for being supportive and helping to get my name out there. Hell you guys really don't even know me so thanks again.