Interview With FL Powerlifter Toby M. Irby by Ben Tatar of CriticalBench.com - June 2007
Critical Bench is pleased to present an interview with Toby M. Irby. He is a drug free powerlifter who owns an Open Class Record for the Florida State AAPF squat, bench press and total record in the 242lbs weight division. Toby has also won major powerlifting competitions such as the 2007 AAPF Nationals in Monroe, Louisiana.
1) CRITICAL BENCH: Toby, welcome to Critical Bench. Tell us about yourself.
I'm 32 years old. I have a 16-month old baby girl, Ainsley Jayne, I have been married for 6 years to my wife Suzannah and I have worked for the United States Postal Service for 13 years. I have been lifting weights for around 19 years but didn't start competing until around September 2002. I compete mostly in the AAPF but have done a couple of USPF meets as well. I try to stay in the 110kg. /242 lb. weight class. My best competition lifts are 948 squat, 606 bench, 705 deadlift and a 2193 total.
2) CRITICAL BENCH: Great numbers! Congratulations setting an Open Class record. Tell us about the Open class record you own.
I currently hold the Florida State AAPF squat, bench press, and total records in the 242 lb. class.
3) CRITICAL BENCH: Toby you also just got first place in the AAPF Nationals in Monroe, Louisiana a couple of weeks ago (which is a drug free version of APF, for those who don't know.) Tell us about winning the AAPF Nationals.
I was very lucky to have won that day. My training cycle for that particular meet just plain stunk. I weighed in at 237 lbs. I missed my opener squat of 881, repeated it and got it. Then I went to 936 and got so wound up I forgot to lever my belt but I still got it. Opened with a 551 bench and jumped up to 677 with a tighter shirt, just too much for this day. I gained about 12 lbs. in the 24 hours after I weighed in so it caused the shirt to be a little tighter than I anticipated. My left arm turned purple and I lost feeling in my hand, so I left the bench alone after that. At subtotal time Jo Jordan and I were tied so it all came down to the deadlift. Thankfully I had a p.r. day on this and pulled 705. I won the 242's and also won best lifter in the open class. If you ever get a chance to compete in a meet that Garry Frank hosts, you need to do it. He puts on one of the best meets I have ever been in.
4) CRITICAL BENCH: Before setting a personal best in the bench, what goes on in your mind and what goes on in your mind during the big lift and after you MAKE the big lift?
Before the bench press I try not to get to excited because it takes so much concentration for me to stay in the right groove of the shirt. I just try to remember the exact things I did in training that were right, from the set-up to the hand off, and descent of the bar to the right place. When I hit a p.r. bench I feel a big sense of accomplishment. It always feels good to go to a meet feeling really prepared and being able to capitalize.
5) CRITICAL BENCH: Tell us about your bench press routine.
Usually 8 weeks out we start trying to wear our tighter/competition shirts. We do a lot of sets in our shirt to try and get used to handling progressively heavier weights and learning where that "bubble" is. I will try to touch everything for the first 6-8 sets working up to a p.r. in that shirt whether it touches or not. After that we will do 3 sets of triples off of a 2-board. Then maybe we do a couple of sets off of a 4 board with 15-35 lbs. over our best for that day.
Then it is on to the heavy tricep work. Such as really heavy top half skull crushers or heavy floor presses with dumbbells, palms facing each other. Follow that up with some heavy shrugs and high rep shoulder presses without locking the weight out. The next bench day of the week, 3 days later, I do reverse grip bench for either 5x5 or 3x3 depending on how close I am to a meet. This is followed up with some high rep, 12-15, tricep work and then some heavy dumbbell cleans. This is the routine that worked the best for me in the past. Now it is all about wearing the tightest possible shirt you can touch with and not lose feeling in your hands. HA! HA!
6) CRITICAL BENCH: Tell us about your diet? What supplements do you take?
Nothing special about my diet, just try to take in at least 250-300 grams of protein a day and drink plenty of water every day. When I am 5 weeks out from a meet I start taking an extra 2 grams of vitamin C a day to try and ward off any kind of sickness before the meet. I do take a multi-vitamin every day and add at least 5 grams of glutamine to my protein shakes at least twice a day.
7) CRITICAL BENCH: What are your future goals in the sport of bench pressing?
I would like to bench at least 705 within the next year. I feel like it's very possible if I can stay healthy. I am constantly battling forearm and shoulder pain. I did a 715 one-board press before the last meet but the problem was I didn't have but 2 really heavy weeks before the meet.
8) CRITICAL BENCH: You're friends with fellow FL powerlifter Jo Jordan. What is it like being friends with him? How do you inspire each other and what's your favorite moment with Jo Jordan?
Jo is a really good friend of mine who I really admire. We talk about each others training a lot before the meets and share different training ideas. There is a lot of competition between the two of us but never aggressive. We always encourage each other at meets and try to push each other to hit pr's. He is a really strong guy who I know will kick my ass if I slip even a little, come meet time. I think we have both encouraged and pushed each other to a whole different level than we were at when we met.
9) CRITICAL BENCH: What's your advice for the beginner bencher, (under 300) intermediate (300-450 lets say) and advance powerlifter (benches over 450, lets say)?
In my opinion you shouldn't really try to put on a shirt until you have gotten at least 1 year of raw heavy benching under your belt. A beginning lifter should try and do as many meets as possible to get used to the pressure. To an intermediate bencher I would say to be consistent and try to stick with a single ply shirt until you are at least benching double your bodyweight. An advanced lifter should try and surround themselves with people who are stronger then them and don't get too set in your ways because it is the little changes that can make all the difference on your bench. Seek out an experienced lifter to help you with your techniques and listen to their advice. Sometimes it is not the strongest person that wins, but the lifter who is the most technically sound.
10) CRITICAL BENCH: Great advice. So far in powerlifting what has been your favorite, funniest, most memorable, and scariest moments?
My favorite moment in powerlifting was at this year's AAPF nationals when I won the Best Lifter plaque.
The funniest moment was when Byrd , a friend of mine who passed away, was doing a deadlift only competition down in Orlando and he wanted me to slap him, well the first time wasn't hard enough so he told me "Slap Me Again". So I popped him on both sides of his head, and after the lift he couldn't hear for 5 minutes.
The most memorable moment was at the AWPC worlds in 2005 which was right after Byrd passed away. I felt like he was watching me and it helped me pull a big pr deadlift that won the meet and also earned me the best lifter award.
The scariest moment was at an AAPF meet in New Smyrna, Florida on my opening squat my right knee caved in and down I went. It felt like something was really wrong but after the knee wrap was removed I recovered and made it through the meet.
11) CRITICAL BENCH: Let's do a short answer section. Answer these questions in 1-3 sentences:
Your opinion about the direction the sport of benching is heading?
I think the world of benching is progressing like everything else. If you want to lift without a shirt or with a triple ply shirt there is a federation for you. It is all about trying to increase your pr's every time you step up on the platform.
Who do you look up to in benching?
There are so many innovators out there. The people I look up to are the people who are consistent with their gains and don't bad-mouth the other guys. Anyone who can triple their bodyweight in the bench is outstanding in my book.
The best and worst advice you were told?
The best advice I ever received was to always be open minded when it comes to training advice and tips. There is no bad advice, what works for some people may or may not work with others, but it never hurts to listen.
The Most important bench press tip is? And the Most overrated bench press tip is?
Most important tip: Work those triceps hard, heavy, and often. Most overrated tip: Don't over train. Your muscles will adapt.
What message would you like to leave for the bench world?
We will never get rich competing so quit all the bad-mouthing and lift.
CRITICAL BENCH: Anyone you would like to thank?
Thanks to my wife for being supportive and allowing me to continue with this passion of mine. Thanks to Randy Boynton from Team Jax for taking me under his wing and pointing me in the right direction. Also special thanks to Ken Anderson with Titan Support Systems has also been really helpful. His site: