Interview With Bench Presser Ken Wentworth As Told To CriticalBench.com by Ben Tatar - July 2007
Ken Wentworth is a successful powerlifter. He competes on the drug-free side of the ledger and holds several world titles (in 4 different weight classes) and a couple world records. Although, Ken has set world records, he has his sights on setting more. With the USAPL taking over the Arnold Sports Festival powerlifting events Ken plans on attempting to qualify for next years Arnold!
CRITICAL BENCH: Hi Ken! Welcome to Critical Bench! Tell us about yourself!
My name is Ken Wentworth and I am married with two kids and two dogs. I work in the Financial Services industry and live in Delaware, Ohio , which is a northern suburb of Columbus. I've been competing for about 9 years now and I love every minute of it!
I compete primarily in the AAPF, but have also competed in NASA, USAPL and WDFPF. I compete in the bench press, although I do train the other 2 powerlifts as well. I am 6 feet tall and my bodyweight fluctuates. I have competed in the 181 class up to 242 (although the most I have ever weighed is 230) and have won World Championships in each class - 181, 198, 220 & 242.
I retired from the sport in 2004 after having won the 4 titles in 4 weight classes. I continued to workout but not too heavy and in late 2006, I decided I was going to mount a comeback with the goal of setting World Records in each of those 4 weight classes and I will do that barring a career-ending injury. I want to own the World Records in the 181, 198, 220 and 242 weight classes. I was fortunate enough to break the 181 World Record in April, so I'm now in the process of trying to put on weight to move up to the 198 class to break that World Record.
CRITICAL BENCH: Great resume! After achieving such great success than retiring, what brought you back to the sport of powerlifting?
Competition and pushing myself to new goals has kept me going and brought me back to the sport. I am a very competitive, goal-oriented person and I thoroughly enjoy challenging myself with new goals. When I benched 275 for the first time, I set a goal of benching 500 pounds. It took me quite a few years to get there, but I did it and it felt great! During the road to that goal, I was able to win Nationals and Worlds several times and set a World Record, so it was a great journey. Consistent perseverance and tenacity pays off.
Ken Wentworth benches 397 weighing 181 at the AAPF nationals April 15, 2007
CRITICAL BENCH: Before you achieved powerlifting greatness, who got you started in the sport?
JM Blakley got me started competing. He was the "Big Man On Campus" at the gym I worked out at and he kept encouraging me to train with him and his group. It took some time, but I finally took him up on his offer and started competing shortly thereafter. I not only gained a great training partner and powerlifting mentor, but also a great friend
CRITICAL BENCH: Wow that's cool, getting introduced to the sport by a guy who invented his own exercise. Hey, what is your biggest bench press today?
I just benched 480 in the 181 class (drug-free). I have benched 500 before but at a heavier bodyweight. I have my eyes on 529 at a 198 bodyweight for the World Championships in August, but I don't like to set "limits".
CRITICAL BENCH: That's scary strong! What are your 3 favorite bench press assistance exercises and what is your best rack lockout?
My favorite bench assistance movements are rack lockouts, board presses and floor presses. My best rack lockout (narrow grip and about a 4" ROM) is 700 . Board presses are all over the board (no pun intended) - depends on board height and shirt usage. When I do use a shirt with boards, it's very loose.
CRITICAL BENCH: Ken, you're one of the real smart benchers in the sport. Give us your training routine and some insight to your training philosophy .
Sunday - Max effort bench day; for me, this means heavy tricep movements. Recently, I have been using 3-week mini-cycles of 2 boards, 1 board, then full ROM benches. I work up to a heavy single, and then do triples. I start that sequence 16 weeks out from a competition.
Monday - Legs, upper back and biceps; I change around the movements and challenge myself in the 8-12 rep range.
Wednesday - Bench assistance day; for me, this means speed bench with bands, then two other movements. Recently, I have been using 3-week mini-cycles of Incline DBs, Decline DBs, and then Floor Presses. I stick with a 6-8 rep range for these movements. After that, I will hit whatever bench part is lagging with 3-4 sets of additional work in the 6-8 rep range.
Thursday - Deadlift, shrugs and light upper back
If I am trying to shed some bodyfat and I am at least 8 weeks out from a competition, I will also do 2-3 days of cardio intervals in the early morning. Once I get inside 8 weeks, I do not want to use up any of my recuperative resources with anything but weight training recovery, so I eliminate cardio intervals that close to competition.
I set a training plan for every competition - failing to plan is planning to fail. The plan will include every rep of bench work I will do as well as bodyweight goals (since it seems I am usually moving weight classes) and nutrition plans. However, I do listen to my body during my training cycle and adjust accordingly. For my last major competition, Nationals, I had a 19-week training cycle and ended up tweaking it 7 times.
Everything I do is meticulously planned out and documented. I videotape every heavy lift in my training cycle, then go home and watch the lifts over and over, reviewing every aspect of the lift. I have also developed a rep formula so I know if my max should be at 'x' at a particular point in my training cycle, I can determine how many reps I should be doing with a given weight. My documentation over the years has enabled me to continue getting stronger and evolving.
CRITICAL BENCH: Very informative, a true student and role model for the sport. What are your 5 biggest tips for a bigger bench?
My best tips for a bigger bench would be:
1) Find an expert and learn everything you can from them
2) Perfect flawless technique - videotape your workouts to critique yourself ; video never lies
3) Experiment with assistance movements and find what works best for you - always track your workouts so you can better structure your future workouts
4) Always work on your weakest link - if you are doing this correctly, your weakness will change and you will need to adapt
5) Believe and Achieve - believe in what you want to do, be consistently persistent and you will achieve your goals
CRITICAL BENCH: What's your advice for someone who would like to compete and use a bench press shirt?
My advice would be to perfect your technique and develop your raw strength first (this could take several years). Then and only then begin experimenting with a shirt. And when you do, find someone who is a guru and learn everything you can from him or her. Obviously strength is very important in our sport, but technique is just as critical to success, especially when using near-maximal weights. The margin of error is very small, so without the proper base technique developed, you are setting yourself up for failure or worse, a terrible injury.
CRITICAL BENCH: What's your advice for the beginner, intermediate, and the advanced lifter?
Beginner - You might recognize this one, there is a theme here . . . Perfect your technique before you increase weights.
Intermediate - Compete in as many competitions as you can and take diligent notes on every aspect of your training and competitive experiences.
Advanced - Listen to your body; you cannot get stronger when you cannot train due to injury. Be sure all aspects of training, nutrition and competition that you can control are impeccable. Do not fail due to lack of preparation - that's something you can control.
My advice for lifters of all levels is to plan, plan, plan every aspect of your training, nutrition and competition. As I mentioned, failing to plan is planning to fail.
CRITICAL BENCH: What was the worst advice you were ever told and what was the best?
The worst advice was an experienced lifter who told me to inject hydrogen peroxide into an injured tendon (OUCH!). I did my research and quickly determined this was not exactly the protocol I wanted to follow.
The best advice was, surprise, from JM Blakley and it was to perfect my technique early on in my lifting career.
CRITICAL BENCH: What makes Ken different than everyone else when it comes to working out?
I assume anyone who has had success in our sport has worked very hard for it, so I will not mention that, but I do work very hard at what I do. I would say the biggest two things that set me apart are my willpower and the fact that I am a "thinking man's" lifter.
I am blessed with extreme willpower. No matter what the goal and how extreme the conditions, I will not allow myself to fail. For example, when I lift with a 24-hour weigh-in rule, I take advantage of it. I once cut 19 pounds in 48 hours to make weight - from 217 to 198. This was all done 100% drug-free. I didn't eat or drink ANYTHING for 48 hours and a lot of sweating in hot baths. In preparation for this, I had conditioned my body by drinking at least a gallon of water every day for the preceding 12 weeks (in addition to my normal fluid consumption). The next day when I lifted in the 198 class, I weighed 215 pounds! Some say that is unfair but it is well within the rules. Anyone can do it if they choose to try. To those naysayers, I say 'Give it a try'. As they say, if it were easy, everyone would do it.
As I mentioned, my workouts and nutrition are meticulously planned and documented (some would say I am a bit extreme!). Tracking results and projecting training and nutrition are very important to my success. Nutritionally, I prepare my week's meals every Sunday. From a workout standpoint, I outlined earlier my process and how I plan every rep for the entire training cycle at the beginning of the cycle. I am certainly not the most genetically gifted person, so I have to use every weapon at my disposal to squeeze out every ounce of talent and strength I have.
That being said, I will never allow myself to fail due to lack of preparation. That is something I can definitely control and have no excuse if I am not at the top of my game in that aspect.
CRITICAL BENCH: Willpower is a powerful trait to master. How do you feel about the WPO being banned from the Arnold?
I have mixed emotions with this recent announcement. On the one hand, I am disappointed for the APF/WPO organization. On the other hand, selfishly, with a drug-tested organization taking over the events, I am excited because now I have a chance to compete at the Arnold!
CRITICAL BENCH: In what direction do you see powerlifting heading?
I hope powerlifting is headed in a positive direction. I would love to see consolidation in the sport, but I do not see that happening anytime soon - too many egos involved. I would like to see one federation with two branches (untested and drug-free) with a common set of rules.
Ken Wentworth benches 449 @ 181 at the Nationals
CRITICAL BENCH: So far in your bench journey, give us a very funny moment and a moment that really changed your life?
FUNNY MOMENT- At a meet several years ago, a training partner of mine, RJ Freiwald, was trying a new PR and when the head judge gave him the 'Press' signal, in a very strained, distressed voice he said, "I CAN'T!"
LIFE CHANGING MOMENT- Several years ago I was a spectator at a competition and I saw a lifter get called to the platform and he had crutches. As he got closer, I noticed he was using crutches because he had no legs from the mid-thigh down (he had one prosthetic leg). He was as enthusiastic as could be . . . and was lifting much more weight than I could at the time! Here was a person who had been dealt a tough hand in life physically but he had ignored that and was thriving physically. I decided on that day that I would always be thankful for my physical gifts and to not use physical excuses to limit myself.
CRITICAL BENCH: I can feel the positive energy Ken. Any closing words and anyone you would like to thank?
First, I would like to thank you, Ben, and CriticalBench.com for this interview. I would also like to thank my family, especially my wife and brother, for their unrelenting support. I have been told I can be a tad on the grumpy side when I am cutting weight - haha. I also want to thank my daughters. They have influenced and inspired me in ways they do not even know - my youngest ( 3.5 years old) told me I have big muscles, then the oldest (7 years old) asked if I could lift a house with my 'big muscles'. When I told her I cannot lift a house, she said, "Well then, you're not THAT strong."
All of my training partners over the years - JM Blakley, John Anderson, RJ Freiwald, Brian Gussler, Brian Baker, Scott Anderson, Richard Frietag, Todd Fellure, Seyth Boardman, Ryan Lash and Doug Gimple, to name a few. Without them, I would never have reached the success level I have enjoyed in the sport thus far. JM, especially, has been integral to my success. He is always there for me to discuss new ideas and to critique my technique, etc. And he always has been there for me in regards to traveling to competitions with me - that man likes road trips and that is a good thing for me. He has sacrificed a lot of his personal time for me over the years and I really appreciate it. Co-workers, colleagues and fellow gym members are always very supportive too and that makes a huge difference.
Last, but certainly not least, I would like to thank my sponsors. Currently, that includes the best supplement company in the world, Champion Nutrition . Their line of supplement products is innovative, top quality and second-to-none overall. The best site on the web from which to buy supplements, FlexHealthNutrition.com. They have a huge selection, their service is outstanding and their prices are very competitive - you can't go wrong with FlexHealthNutrition.com. And finally, the coolest powerlifting apparel maker, Ironville Clothing Co. If you're looking for great lifting-themed apparel, you've got to check out their creative designs.
Please take note of these sponsors (and CriticalBench.com) - let's support those companies that support us.
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