Interview With Powerlifter Laura Phelps by Ben Tatar of CriticalBench.com
Imagine a woman weighing less than 181lbs who squats more than 700 pounds, bench presses nearly 500lbs, and totals more than 10x her body weight in a powerlifting competition. Could such a woman exist? Well she does folks! Laura Phelps is one of the most impressive female powerlifters of all time. In a powerlifting meet Laura Phelps was the first lady in the history of powerlifting to ever total 10x her body weight! Laura is also highly admired, loved and respected by her fellow powerlifting members. Critical Bench is happy to present you with the world powerlifting champion herself Laura Phelps.
1) Critical Bench: Wow, everyone I am here with Laura Phelps right now who is a female powerlifter who probably weighs less than the average man yet has handled more weight then many pro bodybuilders have. Laura tell Critical Bench about yourself.
My name is Laura Phelps. I live in Toledo , Ohio and I am 26 years old. I am a Fitness Specialist for the General Motors Corporation. I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio and I have a wonderful mom and dad and 4 sisters.
2) Critical Bench: Laura how did you get onto the powerlifting quest? What motivated you to become one of the best female powerlifters that the world has ever seen?
Prior to weight training, I was a runner, having competed in several mini and full marathons. I was experiencing a lot of aches and pains with my training so I backed off the running and started doing a little weight training when I was at work. I started dating my current boyfriend, Shane, then and started going to the gym with him and enjoyed weight training so much that I quit running altogether. With only a few months of lifting, I decided to enter a bodybuilding show, where I took first place in the overall. Seven months later I entered a bigger show, the 2004 GNC BodyRock where I won the lightweight class and the Overall, and qualified to compete at Nationals for my Pro Card. I had every intention to compete at Nationals. In the off-season I entered a couple local push/pull non-sanctioned powerlifting meets and had a great time. After the third one of these meets, I had fallen in love with the sport and decided to devote my training to powerlifting and see how I could do in a full sanctioned meet. The rest has been history…literally!
3) Critical Bench: Hell Yeah! Were you always very strong and if not what types of things were you good at when you were younger?
I have always been strong at different things, but I never had weight trained to know that I was strong at it. I competed in gymnastics for 14 years, I played soccer for 9 years, and in high school I ran track and was on the dance team. I was always strong in these aspects.
4) Critical Bench: I see. How many years have you been powerlifting? What are some of the highlights of your lifting career?
I have officially been powerlifting now for a year and four months. It has been an incredible year for so many reasons. The records have been so exciting, of course, but, the people that I have met and the relationships that I have developed over this year have been truly gratifying. In this one year and four months, I have broken the All-Time World Squat record in two different weight classes, a total of eight times. I have broken the All-Time World Total record in the 165 lb. class twice, and have been the first American Woman to Total 10x bodyweight. I also recently broke the All-Time World Bench Press record in the 181 lb. class.
5) Critical Bench: You have achieved all of this success all in one year and four months, WOW! Speaking of impressive you just broke the all time world record in the bench press in the 181lbs weight class! What was that experience like?
Breaking the All-Time World Bench Record in the 181's was a great experience for me! When I started not only powerlifting, but lifting in general, benching was, by far, my worst lift. I wasn't naturally good at benching. By the WPO Semi's in October 2005, I had gotten my bench up to 352. I started training with George Halbert at Westside Barbell in December of 2005, and since that time, have put 110 pounds on my shirted bench! He gives so much individualized attention to all of his lifters, and determines their strengths and weaknesses, and develops the training around it. I really give SO much thanks to George and all of my Sunday morning training partners! While George has gotten me so much stronger in the bench, I have to give many thanks to Clay Brandenburg as well! He has worked with me in my shirt and has taught me how to properly wear and use the shirt. His knowledge and love for the sport, as well as his generosity are truly inspirational!
6) Critical Bench: You have shocked a sport Laura that isn't suppose to be shocked. Nice work! Laura who do you train with? What is the atmosphere like where you train?
I live in Toledo and there are currently no powerlifting gyms in the area so, I spend what seems like a considerable portion of my life in the car, traveling all over the place to train! I spend much of my time in the Detroit area at Total Flex Gym. These guys are who got me started in Powerlifting and taught me so much and to them I am forever indebted! I now travel on weekends to Westside Barbell! This has been so exciting and has had an enormous impact on my training and the success of my lifts. As most people know, the atmosphere is intense and is like no other. The first time I went there and practiced in my bench shirt, I hit a 50 pound PR, and have put a total of 110 pounds on my bench since December!
7) Critical Bench: Laura, how does it feel to be one of the strongest women in the world? Not many women can say that they are the strongest in the world but you can! How does that feel?
Most of the time, I forget, or I don't even realize the enormity of it! One of my training partners, Fabian Wambsgans, loves to tell me (well, yell, I guess I should say!) that I am one of the strongest women in the world when we are training, particularly when I am heading up to the squat bar! He has been actively competing in powerlifting for about 40 years and has seen so much, so from him, this is a huge compliment! It is a great feeling, though. My whole life I was competitive in sports and was good at mostly everything I did but I wanted to be the best at something, and I knew in my heart that I could be, and that it was going to be a journey to find that one thing.
8) Critical Bench: Give us your powerlifting routine.
Sunday – Max Effort Bench
Monday – OFF
Tuesday – Speed Squat, Max Effort Deadlift
Wednesday – Speed Bench
Thursday – Assistance work
Friday – OFF
Saturday – Max Effort Squat
All of my training is done Westside Barbell style, so it is constantly changing on a weekly basis.
9) Critical Bench: Laura tell us about your diet.
One very important thing I took from my short-lived bodybuilding career was how to eat well. I eat 6 times per day, and I always pair a lean protein with a good carbohydrate for all meals except for my last meal of the day where it is simply protein. I try to eat plenty of green vegetables and I always drink at least a gallon of water per day. I use AtLarge Nutrition products for all of my protein supplementation, ETS for recovery, MultiPlus Multi Vitamin, and Thermocin for a little help in the fat burning department! This all sounds great but if I followed it to a T every day, I would be pretty shredded! Unfortunately for me, I LOVE food! And I love sweets! Maybe a little too much! I have enlisted the help of Anthony Ricciuto to create the perfect nutrition and supplement plan for me so that I can stay on track with my eating and help give me the edge with my training!
10) Critical Bench: What has been your craziest, funniest, favorite, and most emotional moments in powerlifting?
Craziest- In the warm-up room at my first WPO meet, the 2006 Semi's in Chicago. I was extremely nervous being around all the people that I had only ever read about. It was really crowded and on my last squat warm-up attempt, majority of the people in the room started cheering for me since I was new, which I thought was really cool of them to do! That made me so nervous, I went down like a ton of bricks and that is no lie! It was so embarrassing, let alone scary since I was going out there to open up with a squat that was 55 pounds heavier! And I had no time to try it again! I pulled it together, though, and went 3 for 4 that day in the squat!
funniest- Sunday morning bench workouts at Westside! You just have to be there to understand! It's 7 a.m. and I am like a zombie but Tony Ramos certainly gives some good comedy relief!
favorite- Lifting at the Arnold Classic!
most emotional- Bombing out at the 2006 APF Senior Nationals for sure. I spent all that money to get out to Vegas and hotel, etc., not to mention that was the best training cycle I have had and I felt more ready for that meet than any other. It was tough.
11) Critical Bench: What are your future goals in powerlifting?
I will most likely go 181 at my next meet, although I will probably be a pretty light 181er. I hope to total 10x bodyweight in this class. I hope to one day squat 800 pounds in competition, bench 500 pounds, and deadlift 600 pounds! More than anything, I just hope to constantly improve and build upon the broken barriers that Becca has knocked down for all women in this sport!
12) Critical Bench: Imagine that! Laura Phelps squatting 800, benching 500, and deadlifting 600lbs while being lean and mean! We wish you the best on your quest Laura! In the mean time you have squatted more than 700lbs. Tell us about your squat routine?
On speed days, I squat off of a box about ½ inch below parallel, and I use purple bands with about 325 lbs. for 8 sets of triples. On Max effort days, I will often squat off the same box, using blue bands until I find a very challenging weight, and do that for 6 sets of doubles. Sometimes I will free squat in my briefs for max effort triples of singles, and some days I wear all my gear and find my one rep max. It just depends on what meets are coming up or how I feel.
13) Critical Bench: Powerlifting is a great sport and has impacted you in a very positive way. Is there anything that you would you like to see change in powerlifting?
It would obviously be really cool if all of the hatred stopped, and if people would just respect each other no matter what federation they are in, how many plys they wear, etc. It would be awesome, too, to see more women get involved in the sport!
14) Critical Bench: Tell us 10 things that you will always remember from your powerlifting quest.
The first time I squatted 500!
The first time I squatted 600!
The first time I squatted 700!
The first time I benched 400!
The first time I deadlifted 500!
The first time I trained at Westside Barbell!
Being the first American Woman to total 10x bodyweight!
Being given the opportunity to meet some of the greatest people on the planet and being able to develop lifelong friendships with some!
Breaking the All-Time 181 lb. class bench press record!
#1 (without a doubt) – I will always remember my first meet, meeting Becca Swanson for the first time, and sitting next to her in between bench attempts, and how nice she was to me! I was having a rough day on bench and she was so encouraging to me! She was trying for 500 pounds on bench that day and it was a very important day for her, and I remember her telling me before my third attempt that if I go out there and make it then she would go out and make her 507 bench attempt! I made my attempt. When she went for hers, of course everyone was crowded around the bench and I stood up on a chair to watch her and when she made it, everyone swarmed her, but first thing she did was look at me and point to me and tell me it was because of me! It was awesome!!!
15) Critical Bench: Wow that is an exciting moment. Tell us, what makes Laura Phelps different than everyone else when it comes to working out?
I'd like to think that I have a lot of heart when it comes to lifting and competing. I am 100% dedicated and determined but I love to have fun with it, too! It will keep me going in the sport for a long time.
Critical Bench: Laura it was very nice interviewing you. Is there anyone who you would like to thank?
A huge thank you to Inzer Advance Designs!! They have been wonderful to me, supplying me with all of the best powerlifting gear there is! Thank you to AtLarge Nutrition for supplying me with awesome products! And thank you to Standard Process Inc. for supplying me with the world's greatest whole food supplements!!! Thank you to all my training partners in Southgate, Michigan, Charlie Maxwell, Wes Pauley, Brian Yourist, Fabian Wambsgans, Todd Greninger, Tony Butson….everyone, and to my boyfriend, Shane Sweatt, for all that you do for me and all your help with my training, and for putting up with all of the stuff that comes along with it! Thank you to Louie Simmons. George Halbert, Tony Ramos, Mike Wolfe, Jay Fry, and, well…everyone at Westside! You all have been so supportive and have been instrumental in my success, not to mention genuine friends! Also, I would like to thank Clay Brandenburg, Shelly Pier and everyone at Detroit Barbell! You guys have been not only a huge help to me but have been great friends, as well! Thank You all!