Interview With Bench Presser Sebastian Burns of Metal Militia by Mike Westerdal of CriticalBench.com
Critical Bench: Sebastian...everyone knows you're a monster bencher. Before we start talking about benching give the readers
a little personal background info about yourself.
I am 33 years old. I currently live in Queensbury NY and work as a Personal Trainer at The Adirondack Barbell Club in Lake George NY and World Gym and Saratoga YMCA in Saratoga NY. In my spare time I work on The Underground Strength Magazine and My Websites www.metalmilitia.net and www.Undergroundstrength.com. I am currently more of a Coach and instructor than a lifter but hope to get back to the platform soon. I also enjoy Playing Drums and Guitar and fooling around with Digital Recording. In the summer and Spring I enjoy fishing Bass, pike and Musky. I have been powerlifting for about 7 or 8 years but have been lifting weights since I was about 15.
Critical Bench: Were you extremely strong when you first started lifting in high school? When did you decide to start competing?
Before I began lifting I was into racing ATVs so I was in good shape but only as strong as I needed to be to race .Mostly just endurance at that time. I was not very strong in high school and was very skinny 125lbs when I started lifting and had a hard time breaking 160 until I got out of high school. In college I finally got to about 200lbs and I was getting stronger but was mostly doing Bodybuilding training with an emphasis on Squats benches and deadlifts. But I trained many other exercises with the same focus so I became very strong at a multitude of different exercises that are not really important to powerlifting but did well to shape me as a strength athlete. When I was about 18 or so I did a few Bench only and Deadlift only meets but only for fun and did not train for them in any specific way. In the town where I grew up there were no powerlifters and no real powerlifting meets in the area so I had really nothing to be inspired by or no one to teach me powerlifting. Myself and my friend Doug Fortune( The Axeman ) Had developed a hardcore Powerbodybuilding routine that put on lots of muscle and strength in every exercise and that was the workouts we were doing at that time.
Critical Bench: Every competitive bencher in the country has heard of Metal Militia. Metal Militia is more than just a training style...tell
us a little bit more about what Metal Militia stands for and why you and Bill started it.
Well it was Bill who Decided to start the Metal Militia Team about 6 Years ago. I wrote it on my bench Shirt and started to promote the team. It quickly grew into much more than a Powerlifting team as we began to network with people across the country and the world. People would come and train with us and learn some of our training style. They would become friends with us and the network would grow. The Foundation of the Metal Militia is Friendship and to spread the word through helping others and being cool with other lifters and helping other lifters get better at powerlifting and well rounded living. It is surprising to me how much it has grown we now have Militia Chapters spread across the world and it is growing all the time.
Critical Bench: How did you meet Bill Crawford? How long have you guys been friends and what do you like to do in your spare time?
I first met Bill at the Oswego State Bench Meet about 8 Years ago in Oswego NY . This used to be one of the best meets in the state and there was always at least one really good bencher there every year. I had gone there to bench around 500 or so. I heard someone in the crowd say there was a guy there that was going to try a 700 Bench. I was not into powerlifting at the time and had never heard of anyone doing that much so I was like who is the guy that is going to do this huge weight. So I was looking around and I see this huge Guy with the biggest neck I have ever seen with giant traps and just a huge Jack. So I walked up to him and said man you are huge you must be the guy that is going to do 700. This guy turned out to be Big Mike Regerria and he was amused that I asked him that and he said no its not me its that guy over there so I look over and there is this guy with his pants pulled up to his chest with headphones on and doing some weird dance. I started laughing and I said that guy WOW!. Mike just laughed. Well Bill did not get 700 that day but gave it a few good runs. He did do 6something and I was impressed with his style so I began talking with him after the meet. Soon I was making trips down to train with him and to party. After a few years I decided to move down here and train and work with him .I have been here every since.
Critical Bench: What makes Metal Militia Training different than many conventional bench press systems?
Well I would have to say the technical aspects of the training and the focus on Volume and finding ways to get better at the movement. We Video and record every workout and analyze every singe thing about the lift and we have done so for years. This has been instrumental in the development of our system. I do not think that a lot of people are doing this and it is too bad because you can't see yourself while you are benching. You can learn a great deal from observation. I think some of the other Training methods out there are very good but they lack the focus on Technique. Our whole training system is based on this and every single exercise is directly related to a Specific aspect of the lift itself. Somewhere along the line people have forgotten about the actual lift that is done in competition. I often see people go through a whole training cycle and not do one legit lift and they wonder why they bomb at the meet. We practice the lift that we do on meet day every workout with a pause and a rack command and holding the weight locked out when it is handed off. We try to build consistency in our lifters so they are performing the lift the same way every time. We really don't do any special exercises that are not directly related to the lift.
Critical Bench: Tell us a little bit about your workouts. How long do they last?
Workouts can last anywhere from 2 to 5 hours depending on # of people and what exercises we are doing on that day. Raw bench day is usually 2 hours or less again depending on # of people. On Raw bench Day we will start with some wide grip benching work up to a 3RM or a Single then each lifter will go to a portion of the lift that they are weak at and work that area. Some may go to the rack while some may do lower boards Back or shoulder work. Everyone has a different weakness and it is important to really target weak areas within the lift. You could go and do exercises that you are good at or strong at but you will see more improvement in your competition lift if you spend your time working weaker areas.
On Shirt day we warm up with close grip benches and go right into shirt lifting working up to a training max or a predetermined 2 or 3 rm. Then onto high boards and rack work. This is the high volume workout .It will take new people some time to get used to to this high volume. Most people that try our style do it for a few weeks then say they have to modify it because of the volume. What they are missing is that it is building your body up to take that volume is what makes you strong and it takes about a month to get used to it or a little longer. So whenever you hear of someone modifying metal Militia Training that almost always means they can not take the volume. It is hard but you get used to it over time.
Critical Bench: You have recommended performing triples in a shirt with one breathe. How will this help a lifter when maxing out?
One of the Mistakes I am constantly correcting in lifters is keeping their breath during Single reps. So I usually tell them to practice holding their breath on Multi rep sets. Because these sets are submaximal and done faster you should be able to hold your breath for 2 to 3 reps.If you loose your air or yell on the way up you may need that air to finish a hard rep and if you blow out you will have nothing to finish with.
Critical Bench: Do you take time off from training during the year?
Yes all of our lifters take Time off from lifting usually after a training cycle of 12 to 16 weeks the lifter will take off a month or two or maybe more depending on the lifter. During this time it is recommend that very little of no lifting is done during this period. Now this may sound crazy or impossible to a new lifter or a seasoned Lifting addict but this is one of the biggest components in the Militia System. During this off time the body can recover and function normally for awhile and this will always cause a future increase in strength and training intensity. During a training cycle you are pushing your limits week after week all the time stressing the mind about the meet and the #s in training you need to hit. Not to mention you are force feeding yourself huge amounts of food day in day out. This is not a normal state for the human body and it can only be used successful for brief periods of time without injuries and or lack of training motivation. Often times new lifter or even seasoned lifters will go meet after meet and year after year and not take time away from training. The side effects of this will be Lack of training Intensity or injuries or even other stress related problems or illnesses.
Critical Bench: What does your nutritional supplement regiment look like?
When not training for a meet I just eat like a normal person 3 to 4 times a day. Good food some junk whatever it is not my concern. While training for a meet the amount of food and times I eat are dictated by the workout and everything revolves around the workouts of the day and week. I also add in Meal replacement drinks in a progressive fashion from the beginning of the cycle to the end on meet day. For example the first week of training I will add in 1 MRP a day the Next week 2 the next 3 etc…. Right up until the last week and day where I am taking in 10 to 12 a day.
There is a few other lifters that have also used this style of supplementation very effectively so I know it is not just me. This allows the lifter an increase in calories each week as the meet approaches. So Shirts and suits will get tighter every week. This may not be suitable for someone who is trying to make weight but I usually start my training cycle very light in the class and build my way up to the class limit.
Critical Bench: You and Bill travel around the country conducting bench press seminars for gyms and benchers. Have any of the
techniques you teach changed over the years from when you first started?
No it has not changed that much people always are making the same mistakes and people will always be weak on the top end due to lack of training volume. And the mistakes people make in the shirt are all similar across the board. Shirt Mistakes can be corrected on that day but top end strength will need to be developed over time.
Critical Bench: Where can people get more info about hiring you for seminars or purchasing instructional bench press DVDs?
Critical Bench: What is the number one thing an experienced lifter should concentrate on if they are determined to increase their bench press?
Technique and top end strength.
Critical Bench: If you could give the beginners one piece of advice to help them bench bigger numbers what would it be?
Technique and top end strength. Also seek out training Advice and instruction from more experienced lifters. Videos, DVDs Seminars etc…. This can save you a lot of time and frustration.
Critical Bench: What's your biggest bench press to date in the gym and in competition?
Full Meet 700
Critical Bench: How did it feel when you benched 725 in competition?
Well at the time 725 was a big bench and I was happy to achieve that mark at the time it was my goal to outbench one of my training partners Glen Chabot. He was the first to congratulate me and he said it was a great lift so it was very exciting.
Critical Bench: I have read that you increased your bench press by 225 pounds in one year when you were already benching 500.
This is amazing! What's the biggest reason you were able to increase so much in one year?
Well the biggest reason was definitely increasing my volume of top end work. I had never before focused on that so that caused a huge increase. This will work for anyone who increases their work volume at the top. Also getting better at Setting up and Technique.
Critical Bench: So far you have 12 Volumes of Underground Strength Magazine. Tell us about this DVD series.
I began the Underground Strength Magazine a few years ago because there was really no media covering powerlifting or showcasing any of these great athletes I was seeing on the platform and in the gym. I have done my best to get some of the biggest lifts on video and also some very inspiring training video and instructional footage all mixed into a VERY WATCHABLE fully edited DVD that will motivate and inspire lifters from all levels. I have to thank the many USM fans all over the world who have inspired me to continue with USM . I get great enjoyment when someone says to me hey I really loved that USM when SO and SO did this workout or that vid of that lift was great. Powerlifting needs more Media and if nothing else I hope I have inspired someone to get more media for PLing. If you have never seen The Underground Strength Magazine Check Out www.undergroundstrength.com.
Critical Bench: What's the atmosphere like at Adirondack Barbell Club?
The atmosphere while training is going on at the gym is different than most places I have been to .When you train with us there is many eyes on you while you are lifting and if you make mistakes you will hear about them . Everybody is there to help everyone get a better bench and chances are they have been yelled at for doing something wrong and can't wait to yell at the next guy for doing it. You can not just come in and lift the way you want if you are making mistakes there is 10 people standing there yelling at you to correct it. I like this.
Critical Bench: Who are your training partners in addition to Bill?
Bill Crawford , Peter Mylnarcik , Peter Resatar, Jonathon Hart,Cassy Seymour, Crazy Eye Paul, Janet Faraone, Mike Harris, Carl Perkins, Sam Luciano, Anita Ramsey, Curtis Schultz. These are the people I am Currently Training with Give or take a few. But I have had the great Pleasure of training with many of the top lifters of today and yesterday that have passed through Metal Militia Workouts and training weekends.
Critical Bench: What kind of bench press shirt do you use and why do you like it?
I usually use a Karins Double Denim I customize myself. I have really only had 3 or 4 shirts my whole life. I have always worn Karins and she is always willing to help you out. I am currently working on a prototype shirt that I am designing so that should be interesting when I am finished.
Critical Bench: Tell us about some of the other Metal Militia chapters and how they started.
Like I stated before people come visit us and they like our style of training and attitude and they will take it back to where they live and spread it around and start a team and they just get assimilated into the big picture.
The Canadian Metal Militia is headed by Bruce Mcintyre and he has put together a great team of guys up there. Peter Mylnarcik From Slovakia came to train with us and has spread his chapter through Europe. www.metalmilitia.sk There is also many chapters in many states. I don't think there is many big lifters who have not been touched by metal militia in some way or another.
Critical Bench: Do you still race ATVs?
No I only ride them for fun now.
I am now thinking of getting into tournament fishing and hope to pursue that more within the next 2 years.
Critical Bench: Fishing is awesome! Ten years from now what do you think the world record competition bench press will be?
When I first started training and learning the shirt I predicted that it would be possible to bench 855+ after I learned what kind of support could be had from a bench shirt. This was when the biggest bench was like 740. People laughed at me and said it was not possible but look where we are now. So who knows where the future will go. Lifters are pushing limits every day.
Critical Bench: Do you think the numbers will keep climbing like they have been?
Unless Judging gets stricter Yes.
Critical Bench: Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge and insight with the Critical Bench readers.
Any last words?
Thanks for giving me this space and thanks for your interest. If anyone at all would like to contact me for any reason please e mail me at Metalmilitiabench@yahoo.com or check out www.metalmilitia.net or www.undergroundstrength.com. I wish I had more time to write I have so much I would like to put down but Time is hard to come by these days. If anyone wants more detail on any of the answers please feel free to e mail me. Thank you Very Much Mike.
My pleasure Sebastian. Thanks for taking the time to share your bench pressing expertise with us!