Weight Lifting, Weight Training, Bench Press & Bodybuilding
June 14, 2024

Interview With Powerlifter Thomus "Rhino" Bodenbender
by Mike Westerdal of CriticalBench.com - January 2009

Interview With Tom Bodenbender of Tampa Barbell
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Tom Bodenbender is a great guy to have you on your team. He's just as concerned with his teammates lifts as he is with his own. He's the first person to offer a hand off, a spot or give assistance setting your gear. If you see him at a meet he's the guy talking to everyone and having a great time. He loves the sport and he's great friend. He's still relatively new to the sport compared to some people but he's well on his way to elite. He'd never say it, but I predict he'll reach that level this year! It's my pleasure to introduce Tom "Rhino" Bodenbender to the world. Enjoy.

Tom Rhino Bodenbender Powerlifter Critical Bench: How long have you been powerlifting?

Rhino: Let's see, my first meet was in 2005. About 4-years.

Critical Bench: Did you lift weights before you started powerlifting?

Rhino: Yes. I've been training since high school. We lifted for football but it wasn't very organized. After high school I trained at a commercial gym just trying to get big and strong but not for any special reason.

Critical Bench: What do you for work? Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Rhino: I'm a production manager for Tar Heel Corporation a construction company in St. Petersburg, FL. Currently I train at Tampa Barbell and my daughter Sara trains there with us.

Critical Bench: What feds and weight class do you compete in or have you competed in?

Rhino: I've competed APA and currently compete APF. I usually compete at 242 but did a meet at 275. I'm 42 years old and compete in two meets a year.

Critical Bench: You compete equipped, would you ever consider a raw meet? What kind of gear are you using now?

Rhino: Nah, too old for a raw meet. I use an Inzer Leviathon canvas, Rage X bench bench shirt and a metal ace squat suit for pulling sumo. APT knee wraps and wrist wraps are the best, they're awesome.

Critical Bench: Too old? You're getting real close to elite and there are a lot of young guys that haven't made it there yet. What are your best meet numbers?

Rhino: My best is a 705 squat, 545 bench and 545 deadlift. My PR total is 1774. I am getting closer to elite but I can't predict the future, we'll have to wait and see what happens when I get there.

Tom Bodenbender at the APF GA Intramural Meet in 2008

Critical Bench: When's your next meet?

Rhino: Orlando Barbell State Meet APF. It's February 28th.

Critical Bench: How's your training going this cycle? Is it different than how you trained in the past? What are your workouts like?

Ben Tatar and Tom Bodenbender Rhino: This is probably my best training cycle so far. I started eating a little bit better, taking better care of myself and I wound up losing 12-pounds. I didn't really mean to but I feel a lot stronger at this weight for some reason.

Our coach Tommy Fannon set up this cycle for me.

This training cycle I'm doing 3-week band waves using three green bands from the floor for the squat. Than 3-weeks of 200 pounds of chains, than 3-weeks of straight weight before the meet.

For the bench I got a tighter shirt so it takes more weight to touch. Been doing a lot of triples, doubles and board work. After shirt benching we do some raw bench with green bands to work the lockouts.

I'm only pulling off the floor suited once a month for max effort work. On other days I'll do close stance squats with the cambered bar, good mornings, rack pulls from the middle of the shins for 5s, and some accessory work.

My workout split looks like this:

Tuesday: Back/Shoulders/Deadlift

Thursday: Bench Night and Triceps

Saturday: Squats/Legs/Light Pulls

Tampa Barbell Powerlifting - Tommy Fannon Critical Bench: I know where you train and with who, but go ahead and tell us about Tampa Barbell and your training partners.

Rhino: Tampa Barbell is the best gym I have belonged to. The atmosphere is phenomenal. It is like a brotherhood.

I squat and pull with Tommy Fannon the owner. I bench with Mike Schwanke. These two guys have gotten me further than anyone ever has.

Critical Bench: Great guys to learn from, some of the countries best. What is your favorite powerlifting moment thus far?

Rhino: The APF Intramural Meet in Georgia this past 2008. The lifters were all helping and supporting each other. Jon Grove and Tommy Fannon threw a great meet and I was able to compete with some national level competitors and felt comfortable sharing the platform with such great lifters. That's also the meet where I hit my best numbers so I won't forget that.

Critical Bench: You started powerlifting a little later than some. We joke that your joints are fresher but what advice would you have for someone who is interested in powerlifting but thinks they're too old?

Rhino: At our gym your age doesn't matter, it's all about your numbers. You can start at any age. My daughter competes and she's 18-years old. You just need a lot of self-discipline, you have to really want to do it. It's not for everyone. No matter what your age it's all about one thing, moving your numbers up. Be open minded when the experienced lifters are trying to help you. If you're interested there's only one way to find out if you're going to like it. As you get older, remember it's a long road so don't overtrain and beat yourself down.

Rhinos are most happiest at the gym

Critical Bench: What do you love about powerlifting, why do you compete?

Rhino: The challenge of pushing myself to extremes. I love accomplishing things that I never thought I'd be able to do. The people I meet makes the experience awesome.

Critical Bench: Does your family support your powerlifting? What do people say when you tell them how much you lift?

Rhino: My mom, dad, brothers and daughter all support me a lot. My wife isn't a big fan but she's understanding that I spend a lot of time at the gym so I'm thankful for that.

I don't like talking about it but if someone asks, people get really surprised and they start telling their friends. I don't really like the attention but I can't control it. People that don't work out don't' really understand the numbers they just think it's neat that I compete.

Tom's Wall of Fame - Powerlifting Trophies and Pictures Critical Bench: What pisses you off about

Rhino: I don't like people putting each other down when someone is trying their best. I don't like when people challenge me when I'm just trying to move my own numbers. I'm not into all this political BS. I don't like when cowards make fun of each other on the Internet without using their real name. I guess it's called trolling…haha, it's stupid. Just remember the judges call the shots, not the people watching the videos. That bothers me, but it's true. Than when they see each other in real life they act like friends.

Critical Bench: Good stuff, very true. What's your favorite lift and why?

Rhino: That's a toss between my squat and bench. I like them both a lot. The deadlift is a work in progress.

Critical Bench: Gotcha, what are your top 5 bench press tips?


1. Find a good powerlifting gym that you are comfortable with, not just a commercial gym. There's not a lot out there so you might have to travel.

2. At the gym seek out a coach and find experienced lifters to help you.

3. Set some goals for yourself. Don't worry about what everyone else is doing.

4. Stay positive and focus on the good things you're doing not the bad things that have happened.

5. Have a max effort day with triples using bands and chains. Don't use boards as a beginner, you need to get used to the pressure at the bottom if you're geared.

Team Tampa Barbell Powerlifting
Tom & Teammates From Tampa Barbell

Critical Bench: Do you take any supplements? What's your nutrition like?

Rhino: Just Joint Boost, a vitamin, ibuprofrin, protein and Fierce for big workouts. That's about it. I rely mostly on food. I love salmon. Chicken is good too. Steak is my favorite but it skyrockets my blood pressure so I have to be careful. Carb up for your heavy days!

Critical Bench: Eveybody likes having you as a handler. You help everybody at the gym and you're the first to help a stranger at a meet that needs a helping hand. Why do you like assisting others in reaching their goals?

Rhino: I want them to get the numbers as much as they do and if I can help them get the numbers than I'm there to help. Whether it's coaching them, looking at technique, setting their equipment, whatever they need. I have a blast just hanging out and helping, it doesn't bother me a bit.

Tom and daughter Sara Bodenbender Critical Bench: Do you have a speed day?

Rhino: I don't like them. I don't recover fast enough and wind up being sore. I'll do speed work on my deload weeks just to move some blood and get some work in, but it's not a major part of my routine.

Critical Bench: Anyone you look up to in the sport?

Rhino: I respect what many lifters have done on the platform but it doesn't make them more of man. Everyone has a specialty. One guy might be stronger but another guy might be smarter. We're all just lifters, some are just stronger than others. It's like money. A millionaire isn't a better person than a poor person just because he has more money.

Critical Bench: Is powerlifting gear getting out of control?

Rhino: No. That's what it's about. It helps you do something you could never do raw. To me raw grinds you down and makes you lose interest. It's all about getting bigger and bigger numbers. The numbers will never stop. They will always get better. Each generation gets stronger and stronger. There will be guys totaling 2700 at 242 in the future and it will just keep climbing. People are getting better with gear and mastering it better. Technology in gear will just keep improving. The lifter has to decide what the limits will be. Keep making the gear stronger and lifters will know when they have had too much, just make a new class Super Unlimited. I wouldn't do it but lift the way you want, I don't care.

Critical Bench: What adversities have you had to overcome to compete?

Rhino: I was shot in my shoulder when I was younger and have nerve damage. Competing in gear helps protect it a lot. I had to lower my blood pressure to increase my energy and increase my stamina.

I had to learn to get over bad workouts. Not every lift will be your best. I try not to dwell on things. Sometimes I think things are heavier than they are and that's not good so I've spent a lot of time developing a positive attitude.

I deal with traffic getting to the gym and have to sacrifice family time for my training as well.

Team Tampa Barbell Powerlifting
Tom & Teammates At The 2008 APF Southern States Meet

Critical Bench: What do you like to do away from the gym?

Rhino: I love riding my motorcycle on long trips. It's a Kawasaki Vulcan 800 Classic that is hopped up a little bit. I like doing handy man stuff for my friends working on their houses and home improvement projects. I'm always around powerlifting meets. I like competing, traveling to meets, watching meets and hanging out with other powerlifter friends. Going out to eat is always fun.

Powerlifter Tom Rhino Bodenbender Critical Bench: What are your immediate goals for 2009? What would you like to accomplish before you retire?

Rhino: In 2009 I'd like to make Elite. Before I retire I'd like to total 2200.

Critical Bench: You're well on your way. Awesome talking to you. Thanks for being a great friend. Any last words?

Rhino: Like to thank Tommy Fannon and Mike Schwanke for coaching me. Thanks to you Mike for the interview and being a close friend of mine. I want to thank John Looney and John Irwin at Tar Heel Corporation for supporting my training and understanding. Thanks to Sam Ho, Nelson, Gearman, Gene, Sara and Trent from Tampa Barbell for all their help. I want to thank God for keeping all lifters safe and thanks for protecting me and surrounding me with good people.


Tom At The 2008 Oct OBB APF Classic


Rhino Schwanke and Team Samson
Tom Bodenbender, Clint Smith, Brian Carroll, Mike Schwanke, Adam Driggers


Squat Day At Tampa Barbell - Jan 2009


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