Interview with Firefighter & Powerlifter Robyn Blankenship Interviewed by Ben Tatar of CriticalBench.com - February 2009
Critical Bench: Robyn, welcome to Critical Bench. Tell us about yourself.
I am a Medic/Firefighter in Roanoke, VA and a member of the Heavy Tactical Rescue Team. I have been married to Brian for almost 2 years, who is also my coach. We live a pretty quiet life, we'd rather be home than out running around town.
Critical Bench: What fed do you compete in and why?
I have competed in APA, APF, and SPF. I am primarily with SPF though. Brian and I have made friends in the federation, and he is the SPF Virginia State Chairperson.
Critical Bench: What do you love about competing in the SPF? What do you think of the SPF president?
I love the family atmosphere that SPF brings. Jesse Rodgers is a great federation President and has a vested interest in his lifters. I knew I found a home federation the first time I met Jesse.
Critical Bench: What are your best lifts and what are your short term and long term goals?
Squat 440, Bench 275, Deadlift 430, Total 1145-RAW
For the short term, a 1200 RAW total…Long term, stay healthy!
Robyn Blankenship 275 Raw Bench Press
Critical Bench: Your RAW numbers would allow you to win high school state men competitions, let alone dominate female powerlifting, impressive! Can you give us your power lifting routine?
Sure, it's really the same routine that I have been doing for years. I don't use bands, chains, boxes, or boards. That might shock a lot of people, but if it works…
Usually I train for 16 weeks; on the main lifts I will do 4 weeks of 5's, 3's, and then singles. My accessory work is usually 3-4 sets of 5-8.
When I bench I add alternate incline DB and BB every other week, cable flies, rack lockout or floor presses, DB presses, and 1 or 2 triceps' exercise. Squat day includes leg press, leg extensions, leg curls, and stiff legs DB's. I alternate front squats every other week right after back squats. I train squat deep…train that way because I compete that way.
Another thing that may shock others is that I rarely dead lift. During my training cycle for SPF World's I only pulled once. When I train back I alternate upper and lower every other week and do ABS almost every time I train to keep my core strong.
Years ago I did box squats, but it really aggravated my lower back, and with the line of work I am in I can't afford to have back pain. I have my crew and patients depending on me, so my health comes first.
Critical Bench: Interesting! What is your training philosophy?
Hmmm, well I used to never miss a work out, NO MATTER WHAT! Many birthdays later I have discovered that if I miss training because I am sick, it's okay. If I miss training because I have been up my entire 24 hour shift, it's okay. If I miss because of Christmas…it's okay. I have walked in the gym numerous times when my head isn't there. Now, I leave…it's not worth getting hurt because I am not paying attention to my body.
Critical Bench: Do you have any words of wisdom for other females and why power lifting might be positive for them?
When I began I was very thin and when I became stronger, my weight went up and clothes got smaller (and it wasn't the dryer shrinking them). At first it really bothered me, but I had to change my mind set and stop looking in the mirror judging myself.
Advice I would give to a beginner, be it male or female, is to concentrate on form first. It does not matter if you can squat 135 or 405 pounds if you can't get that butt down. I have seen girls in the gym with great form squatting the bar and dudes with the bar loaded "warming up the knees". I have more respect for what's right, then what may look "badass". I'd also tell a beginner to ditch the gloves…can't use them in a meet, so why train in them. Get those hands good and tough. But, most important…stay humble.
Critical Bench: "Warming up the knees, the gloves, that is funny!" What drives you to train hard year round?
I am goal oriented…I always want to do better than I did in previous meets.
Critical Bench: Do you have any really cool stories for us?
The World Wrestling Federation comes to town about twice a year and the wrestlers come to our gym to get their pump on. It was squat day and I was training for SPF World's. When I got done Brian and I were stripping the bar and John Cena came up to me to shake my hand an tell me that he was really impressed and how awesome it was to watch me lift. I thought that was pretty cool.
Critical Bench: That is freakin cool! Do you have any very funny stories for us?
Oh, you'll get a kick out of this…my gym has a killer dead lift platform! But no dead lift jack and there is a sign in the wall that stated "no chalk allowed"!
Critical Bench: haha, wow! What are your favorite things about the sport of power lifting?
I guess I would have to say the people. Don't get me wrong now, I love lifting big weight and being strong. However, I really get a charge out of seeing lifters that I have befriended over the years lift; I call them my Power lifting Family.
This past October I hooked up with the Top Hogs in Arkansas for SPF World's. Brian was recovering from shoulder surgery and could not lift any weights. The Top Hogs took care of getting my weights and loading for me in the warm up room, so Brian could relax and watch my form.
Critical Bench: That's great. What do you enjoy doing away from power lifting?
Relaxing and spending time with Brian…I work 24 hour shifts so when I am home we mainly just chill.
Critical Bench: How do people to respond to your strength considering you can out lift most guys?
They usually call when they need furniture moved!
Critical Bench: That's funny. Tell us about working with BUD LYTE?
Bud has been great; he is always asking for input and keeps me well informed. I probably get either an email or text message from him everyday!
Critical Bench: Who do you admire in power lifting?
Mellissa Garrett, my pal Joey Smith, Ryan Celli, Betina Altizer, Sandi McCaslin, Bev Francis, Ed Coan…I could go on and on!
Critical Bench: Where do you train and what is it like?
I train at Gold's Gym, and it's more of a "fitness" center. Nice shiny equipment…it's close to the house.
Critical Bench: Well, it has been fun interviewing you. Keep up the great work. In closing, is there anyone whom you would like to thank?
The good Lord above, my husband Brian, not many men could deal with a wife that's a firefighter and a powerlifter. Todd Dales (my first training partner that saw my true potential and taught me everything I know about powerlifting), Mom, dad, and sis, Jesse and Vicki Rodgers, Bud Lyte, Alan at APT, Terry Tucker and all the TOP HOGS