Interview With Bench Presser Neal Dreisig Interviewed By Ben Tatar of CriticalBench.com - June 2009
Neal Dreisig is a national champion in the RAW bench press and has just been sponsored by Shawn Bud Lyte from BMF sports.
CRITICAL BENCH: Neal, tell Critical Bench readers about yourself.
I am 25 years old, born and raised in Detroit and married to a beautiful blonde. I played football all through grade school and high school and was a huge runner in high school. I went to Michigan State University and graduated a couple years ago with a BS degree in Construction Management. I now work as a construction engineer out of Chicago where I currently live. The job is unique as it allows me to move around the country to different projects we have. I take my Christian faith very seriously as well and consider that part of who I am. Three aspects or qualities that I would say describe myself are faith-filled, committed and genuine. I am currently sponsored by BMF Sports as a member of the Pro Bench Team thanks to Bud Lyte.
CRITICAL BENCH: Neal, how did you get started in the bench press?
I started getting into bench pressing when I played football. I played for 8 years starting when I was 10. I had always excelled in pushups from age 10 to 13, one of the best on the football team. My grandparents had bought me a small bench set when I was 14 and remembered saying "what is this?" I started using it and remember maxing the weight out that came with the set 4 times, a whopping 105lbs. I was pretty proud of myself! I started benching consistently when I first got to high school with the football team. I maxed out during trials at 125lbs. Since then, I just loved the bench. By my junior year, I was ranked top 10 on the team for bench press with a 240lb bench weighing 135lbs. Since the end of high school 7 years ago, I have not missed one bench workout. Vacation or not, I am there at the gym.
CRITICAL BENCH: What is your height and weight? What is your best gym lift and competitive bench press lift? What have you achieved in the bench press that you are proud of?
My height is 5'7 and competition weight is 148, training weight is 155. My best lift in competition is 347lb. and best lift in training has been around 360lb. My best achievement to date was breaking the 300 barrier in college. It was an unreal feeling being able to do that at 140lbs of bodyweight. Other than that, I am very proud to be ranked #1 currently in the nation. I do not say the world because there are many lifters oversees who either do not have the opportunity to be part of a sanctioned organization or apt to not send results in to Powerliftingwatch.com. In my short 2.5 years of power lifting I have won 5 State titles and a 2 federation World titles. I also hold many State records as well as World records across various federations in the 148lb weight class. I currently have a 347lb. competition bench at 148lb. bodyweight and love every second of it. I am strangely proud of the arch technique/form that I was able to develop for bench press.
Something similar to benching that I am very proud of is my pushup title. Michigan State University held a pushup contest back in Oct. of 2006 where you had to do as many pushups as possible within a minute with 3 judges making sure you lockout every rep and break a 90 degree angle at the bottom. I qualified for the finals with 131 in one minute and took first in the championship with 110 pushups.
CRITICAL BENCH: You are sponsored by BMF Sports. What is that like for you?
I consider it nothing short than an honor to be deemed worthy of a sponsorship. I thank Bud Lyte for pursuing the matter with me and being a mentor of defying odds. I am fascinated with his ideas and look very much forward to seeing how they develop in the future. I intend to represent BMF in dynamic ways.
The best part about the guy is that he gives people chances. He doesn't look only at numbers but at the person for their quality of character, something that is a rarity these days. He is just a good of a supporter as he is a businessman.
CRITICAL BENCH: What has been your favorite, most memorable, powerful, craziest, funniest, and hardcore moment so far in your iron journey?
Favorite moment was meeting Tony Conyers and Brian Schwab at the 2009 Raw Unity Meet. Most memorable was earning SPF World titles next to the rest of the BMF Sports athletes back in Oct. 2008. Most powerful was breaking the 300 barrier in competition back in Feb. 2007. Craziest moment was when I lost track of time at the SPF Worlds and walked into the competition hall right as my name was being called to the bench! Funniest moment was my very first meet. I had no clue what was going on and looked completely lost. Most hardcore moment was being named a member on the BMF Sports Pro Bench Team!
CRITICAL BENCH: Tell me what it is like for you mentally---
Accomplishing a big bench record - Mentally, this is the reward for me. There is no greater sense of accomplishment than when you achieve your goals.
Missing a bench attempt - Humbling. I feel mentally exhausted and disappointed that my hard work fell short.
Winning a championship - Relieved…there is much relief after winning a championship when everyone's expectations have been satisfied.
The journey of lifting - One of the most refreshing thoughts I can perceive. I can always reflect on that thought and feel better about whatever situation I am in. Physical exercise in general does wonders for you mentally.
CRITICAL BENCH: What makes Neal different from everyone else?
Most people would agree that it would be my competition arch. I am not gonna lie, it feels just as uncomfortable as it looks. To clarify this, I do not train with an arch as it places tremendous stress on your back. I train by simulating the arch using rack lockouts and board presses. I also perform various yoga positions to develop it. I take it very seriously as your back is the lifeline to your body and you must take care of it. For you skeptics out there, I have even seen a doctor to take X-rays of my back just to make sure I wasn't hurting anything and everything checked out OK. I would suggest using PVC pipe to start out on building an arch then work your way to contortion stretches.
CRITICAL BENCH: What are your thoughts on the following people:
Those who love what you do - Keep on goin! Together we can make this sport something it never has seen before.
Those who are afraid of you - Don't be, we are all in this together.
Those who you spark a fire in them - I will try and not let those people down. To show them that defying odds is possible.
Those who are shocked by your achievements - Do not be shocked. None of my achievements are worthy of being compared to the greats of the sport, Weil, Ceklovski, Schwab, Pocu and Celli to just name a few.
Bud Lyte - Not just a business man but a friend. He cares about the sport of Powerlifting and has risked much to make it great. Do not give up on this dream, you are doing a great things!
CRITICAL BENCH: What adversities have you had to overcome and what is your advice for people facing an extreme adversity of any kind?
My greatest adversity has always been in my own mind. I look at the 400lb. barrier and want to believe that it is impossible to attain, but I refuse to believe that. Constant criticism about lifts has always been a great adversity as well. It seems that the better you perform the more people find wrong about your lifts. My advice is that you must remain focused. The only thing that matters is what lies in the 6 inches ear to ear.
CRITICAL BENCH: What was your childhood like?
My childhood was good. I was always either building something or playing sports. My father taught me the importance of commitment and responsibility at a young age. I attribute my attitude towards lifting to my father. I grew up always looking up to my brother in sports. I tried to model my football and track life after his swimming career as he was a very accomplished swimmer. All these things in concert proved to excel my pursuit towards moving weight!
CRITICAL BENCH: How do you see the future of benching?
The future of benching I feel has great potential. It stands a great chance of exposure through Bud and BMF Sports, through the development of World Class Pro power lifting and the Pro Bench Team; furthermore, by the increased accomplishments of bench presses, I feel that it could gain tremendous publicity. I hope to see it televised one day but who knows…
CRITICAL BENCH: What are your future goals?
My future goals for power lifting are to compete as long as my body allows. In that time, my goal is to not only break the 400lb. barrier at 148lbs. bodyweight but capture the historic record for bench press held by Alex Pocu benching 435lb. Making a run for the Raw Unity Title would be a nice achievement as well!
CRITICAL BENCH: What do you enjoy doing away from the gym?
Away from the gym I have a very active life. During the week, I either work or spend time with my wife. We love pounding ice cream. On the weekends I like to go into Chicago and see friends of mine, work on cars, play golf if it's warm and hang out with friends.
CRITICAL BENCH: How does your family respond to your lifting?
My family responds surprisingly well to my lifting. I lift in such a way as to not let it take time away from my family. I think that is the key factor in why lifting is not a burden on my family. I am not going to lie, traveling to different meets is stressful but nonetheless my wife and I make the best of it. My wife is a dietitian and disapproves of almost all the supplements I take but that is the nature of lifting I suppose. My parents are awesome supporters even though they don't fully understand why I do this day in and day out. They once drove 8 hours to see me lift my 3 attempts in a backyard meet!
CRITICAL BENCH: Is there such a thing as too strong?
Too strong….I have to say no. It has been proven time and time again that people are capable of defying all odds showing that the sky is the limit. I am going to stay with that.
CRITICAL BENCH: What is the best and worst advice someone has ever given you before?
Best advice - After a Michigan Championship a guy told me that I have the flexibility for a big arch, he told me to train using a PVC pipe, which I did. 1 month later, my bench went up 25 pounds.
Worst advice - Given to me by a couple college buddies named Pete and Alex saying, "All you need is huge arms. Stop benching and only do curls and tricep work"…enough said…
CRITICAL BENCH: What are your 10 biggest tips for a bigger bench press?
Don't overtrain. Twice a week on bench work is PLENTY. If you look at my log, I have a few select movements that I do every week. Your body needs very little stimulus to grow.
Train smart. It will do you no good to perform lifts that make you feel huge but do not help you grow. Use lifts that work for you. Everyone is different. This is why it takes years to develop perfection, if there is such thing.
Eat smart. Diet is huge. Lots of carbs and protein while staying away from greasy, fatty foods is the name of the game.
Keep a log. This was a mistake that I made for years. Once I kept a log I was able to see where I was excelling and where I was not. This allows you to refine your workout to only what you need and what works for you.
Practice technique. I spend a great deal of time trying to perfect the arch. The goal here is to position your body, elbows, feet and shoulders in such a way that optimizes your strengths. The arch works for me, while I know flat shoulders and back work for Claude Bouyer.
Training partners. I do not train with a partner as I just never have and that's how I thrive but I can see how tremendous an advantage it is to have a motivated lifting partner.
Lift your legs. One of the best natural test boosters is explosive leg training. I perform "power jumps" which is nothing more than squatting and jumping onto a box explosively after every bench workout.
Consistency. You MUST be consistent. Like I mentioned before, I have never missed a workout in 7 years. It is amazing how much strength you lose after taking 2-3 weeks off.
Positive attitude. Make goals for yourselves and work towards them. If you don't have a goal you tend to lose motivation rapidly.
CRITICAL BENCH: How has your perception in regards to training and life changed since you have became such a big time force in iron sports?
My perception of training has altered in such a way that I no longer train for enjoyment but for competition. Those are two totally different mindsets. I could care less how I look, all I care about is getting stronger. My perception on life has changed by realizing that life is what you make of it. Anyone can be good at something; all they need is a goal with an attitude.
CRITICAL BENCH: What is it about the RAW power lifting fed that draws you in?
Raw power lifting is classic. I have nothing against geared lifters, but raw strength is determined when you take the shirt off. That is why I have tremendous respect for lifters like Brian Schwab and Ryan Celli. I have always lifted raw and actually never wore a shirt, simply because I lift by myself. That is what draws me to it, the fact that when it's all said and done, it's you verses the weight with no extra help.
CRITICAL BENCH: It has been a pleasure hearing your story and congratulations getting sponsored and with everything that you have achieved. In closing who would you like to thank?
I would like to thank God first and foremost, for if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't have the ability to lift and mentor others. I would like to thank Bud for his support. He has elevated my view of power lifting in a tremendous way. I would like to thank my wife for all she puts up with week after week. She's a great support through it all! I would like to thank the friends I have met through power lifting, you know who you are, for pushing me to new limits. Finally, thank you to Critical Bench for giving me this opportunity to share my life with the power lifting world!