Interview With Bench Press Girl and Bodybuilder Anita Ramsey by Ben Tatar of CriticalBench.com
1. Critical Bench: Tell us about your bodybuilding career, bench press career and your life
up until this point?
I have always been competitive in some form or another. I started snow ski racing at the age of 7 and ended up racing for the University of New Mexico who was at the time ranked 3rd in the Nation. Ski racing was my life; unfortunately I was in a pretty bad skiing accident and that ended my racing career. I messed around for a couple of years, but realized I was missing the competitive side of sports and I needed to do something to keep myself entertained. I always enjoyed lifting weights when I was training for skiing so I decided to get back into the gym. Within a few months of lifting I had quite a few people asking me if I was a bodybuilder, of which I had no idea what one was. Then a couple of more months down the road I actually got talked into doing my first bodybuilding show which was the NPC Boulder Bodybuilding Championships in 1988.
Again I had NO IDEA as to what to do or how to prepare. I actually thought that eating plates of pasta was the right way to prepare for a show thank god for good genetics anyway I ended up winning the middle weight class. After that I figured hey this might be something worth pursuing as I seem to be pretty good at it and the rest is history. I competed in bodybuilding from 1988 to 1998, started competing on the NPC National Level in 1991 and other than one show I have always placed in the top 10 I typically did 1 to 2 shows per year. With my last outing being the 1998 NPC Southern States Heavyweight Overall and 3rd in the 1998 IFBB North America Heavyweights. Dieting was never a difficult thing for me, though I must say that my favorite thing about bodybuilding was lifting the weights not so much being on stage.
I started competing in Powerlifting in October of 2003. My husband, to whom I met after I was already involved in bodybuilding, did competitive powerlifting meets during the years that I did bodybuilding. I always loved going to the meets as the Camaraderie was great not something you find in bodybuilding. After retiring from bodybuilding I thought that I could just go to the gym and train NOT. I did my first meet, which was the USPF ECC meet. I competed in the 148's and did only the bench part of the meet. Boy did I stink, I did pretty much everything you could do wrong all in one meet. I red lighted every single attempt and no it had nothing to do with picking a weight that was too heavy.
Now, Curtis, my husband, had also not done any meets for awhile since he tore some muscles getting ready for a meet, and was feeling the itch to get on the platform again so, we decided to do a meet together. We ended up getting ready for Mike Millers IPA Halloween Bench Bash What an AWESOME time. Curtis contacted Bill Crawford prior to the meet for assistance on using our bench shirts since neither one of us had ever used one. Bill Crawford is an incredible man & I have the utmost respect for him. He put 100LBs on Curtis' bench in 1 day just by adjusting his technique with the shirt and put about 30LBS on my bench as well. Bill was at Mike's meet and he along with Curtis helped me through the meet, which gave me a lot of confidence having them by my side. I ended up getting all three lifts with my 3 rd attempt being 215, which was a 148 IPA Sub-Masters World Record. I did my next meet which was Bill Crawford's IPA Rex Roads Memorial and it was in December 2003, 4 weeks after Mikes meet. I had been having some shoulder problems prior to both meets but wanted to do them anyway. I did not do as well at this meet, as my shoulder was pretty much shot. I got 215, tried 225 & just could not lock it out. A couple months later I went in for surgery and had my torn rotator cuff, separated AC, and bone spurs fixed. I have had a few things interfere with my getting back into lifting the way I should but am back on the road now & am excited about the future.
2. Critical Bench: List 10 things that bodybuilding has taught you and list 10 things that
you have learned from bench pressing?
1) Winning is out of your control & all in the eyes of the judges once on stage (this was a huge lesson for me).
2) Compete for yourself and no one else
3) Patience It takes time to build a physique.
4) Don't ask the judges for any advice
5) Don't get caught up in the BS
6) Discipline Just because you are hungry you can't go eat whatever you want & you have to train whether you are tired or not.
7) Structure and time management these are critical for proper contest prep.
8) Marketing & networking with others no one just comes to you. You have to go out and get it, especially when you are a female bodybuilder.
9) Competing in Bodybuilding is one of the best ways to learn about nutrition, training and supplements
10) Being a female bodybuilder has taught me one more thing and that is to take criticism, whether it is good or bad. To be great you must be able to listen and to take criticism about your most personal thing and that is your body. You have to be tough.
1) I would say the biggest thing is learning how to turn that switch on before you get under the weight.
2) How to stay intense through an entire workout it is very different than bodybuilding.
3) New lifting techniques and styles.
4) Like bodybuilding there are two very distinct groups in benching as well - raw and those who use shirts.
5) Training to lift in a shirt is different than training to lift raw.
6) Training for Benching is totally different than training for bodybuilding.
7) Benching in shirts I have learned that there are different types of shirts, and that the technique is actually a little different in each.
8) That benching is not only a chest movement, but triceps strength is also critical in completion or lock out of the bench press.
9) Setup and breathing are also crucial in benching
10) It has taught me how to use different things such as chains, bands, and boards along with why I would use each and when.
3. Critical Bench: What have been your craziest, funniest, and most memorable experiences in bodybuilding and benching up until this day?
Craziest bodybuilding experience-I would say that the craziest experience or maybe better termed dumbest moment I had with bodybuilding was my first national show which was the NPC JR Nationals. When I showed up for weigh-ins I was 3 lbs over the middle weight class, they told me that I had 15 minutes to try to make it in the middle weight class if I wanted. So, stupid me, we decided to have me go outside and run to see if I could drop the 3 lbs. Unfortunately, I was in such a rush that I forgot to put my shoes on and ran sprints for 10 minutes bare foot on hot asphalt. I came back inside, weighed in and had not lost anything, but I did acquire huge blisters on my feet that took well over 3 months to heal up.
Funniest Bodybuilding experience-The funniest experience in bodybuilding was when I was working back stage at show in California. We were watching the Men's light heavy class at pre judging and the class was huge. When they lined the guys up they were packed tight from one end of the stage to the other. When they asked the guy on the end to move to a different position, apparently he did not realize how close he was to the edge of the stage, because when he moved he fell right off the edge of the stage. The funny part or maybe odd part was that the other competitors just turned for one second to see what the noise was, but never offered the guy a hand or anything. They instead just turned right back around standing with his lats spread looking at the audience. That's bodybuilding for you. I do love it, but it most definitely is dog eat dog.
Most memorable bodybuilding experience-I would say there are three most memorable times in my bodybuilding career. The first was in 1993 when I had the opportunity to meet Don Ross (an ICON in bodybuilding), and become one of his very close friends. Don was a very special person, and much missed in the bodybuilding community. The other time was my last two shows, preparing for them was so easy and went so smooth, my husband and I clicked perfect and put it all together perfectly.
Craziest bench experience-I don't know if I can really say I have had a crazy moment in benching just yet, but I can definitely say my worst moment was my first meet. Red lighting every attempt creates an incredibly emotional moment.
Funniest bench moment-My funniest moments of, which actually are many, are after my second and third meets hanging out with the Metal Militia crew. These are the most comical and greatest people I have ever had the opportunity to hang with. Bill Crawford, Mike & Deb Miller, The Azz Family, Bobby Fields, Sebastian Burns, Gene Rychlack, Latimer, ALL of them!
Most memorable bench moment-My most memorable moment in Benching was my second meet where I white lighted all three lifts and had all of my good friends from the Metal Militia at my side, with Bill Crawford assisting me with each attempt.
4) Critical Bench: You have been a successful bodybuilder and bench press. Which would you say you prefer? Do you prefer bodybuilding or benching? Why?
I have to say I prefer Benching. One reason is because it is new for me, thus a new challenge. However, the main reason is there is so much more Camaraderie in powerlifting than there is in bodybuilding. Also, I have always loved to push heavy weights. Finally, the last reason would be that I consider powerlifting a sport, whereas bodybuilding is not really a sport, it is more like a dog or horse show. I prefer to compete against the weights where you either complete the lift or not instead of competing for someone's opinion about how you look on that day, of which their opinions change from minute to minute. Plus, I noticed one more HUGE thing and that is women in powerlifting you receive a lot of support within and from the industry and from fellow men and women competitors, this is NOT the case in Bodybuilding.
"I prefer to compete against the weights where you either complete the lift or not instead of competing for someone's opinion about how you look on that day, of which their opinions change from minute to minute"
5) Critical Bench: What are your future goals?
Well I just took almost a whole year off getting old injuries fixed. So, my current goal is to get back to where I was before I had to go into surgery, and I believe I am pretty much there now. Beyond that I would like to do another meet in the spring of 2006 with my husband, hopefully Bill Crawfords Bench Wars. I am not going to say the weights I want as I don't want to jinks myself. Let's just say I plan on doing better and getting PR's with each attempt.
6) Critical Bench: Give us 5 inside secrets about yourself
1) The first one and this came from my husband is that I am notorious for coasting on my genetics, which by the way have done very well for me. I have done this with every sport I have been involved with. However, I am not coasting at benching; I really am having to work at it, and am enjoying the challenge.
2) I enjoy lifting with the guys as it challenges me, I am always comparing my numbers to theirs it makes me push.
3) Also, and this may sound bad, but it is fun. I REALLY enjoy lifting around the guys who THINK they are all this and that, but have done nothing to prove themselves other than run their mouth a lot and swing around weights that they cannot control or have a spotter do the lift for them. It is great to train around them as I am able to lift more and I do it better than they do it is nice to knock those egos down a notch or two.
4) I often bite off more than I can chew but I always get it done in the end.
5) I love to be outdoors doing physical activities and I do not care if it is summer or winter I like them both.
7) Critical Bench: So, you write for Critical Bench now. What was it about Critical
Bench that appealed to you so much?
I think it is a great website and I have followed it closely for quite sometime now. It offers a lot of very good info to people of all levels. There are great training and nutrition articles, it is all on the up and up and the site stays on a positive note.
8) Critical Bench: Give us some pointers that you have learned using a bench shirt so that the geared bencher can really gain off of Critical Bench? And give us some words of wisdom for all lifters and the Raw who perform Critical Bench so they too can get the most out of the program?
First off benching in a bench shirt is not the same as benching raw. The spot that you bring the bar down to is different and the line that the bar travels is also different. It is sort of like having a ball on your stomach and following the line of the ball up and down it is a curved or arched movement.
Also, I learned to bench in a shirt, the Metal Militia way and with this type of benching style, setup in the bench is probably 50% of the battle. Also, if you have a problem with your butt coming off the bench using the Militia style will eliminate this problem.
One very important thing about bench shirts is that you want to make sure your measurements are correct, because the shirt must fit you properly to get the most benefit out of it. You should not be able to get into the shirt by yourself, especially if it is a closed back shirt. I prefer an open back as it is much easier to get in and out of and much less constrictive.
Another, very important pointer for both the geared (shirt) bencher and RAW bencher is triceps strength. Weighted dips are great along with doing pauses at the bottom.
Also, using boards are also extremely beneficial as it helps you work on strengthening up those sticking points.
"Weighted dips are great along with pauses at the bottom".
Monday is for Raw and Thursday is shirt day, which is a Metal Militia routine:
Monday Raw bench: I usually do Boards: 5, 4,3, and 2. We work our way up to a 3 Rep Max (3RM). If we get all 3 reps we will go up 10lbs and try another 3 reps. If we don't get 3 we then go for singles. Total sets = 5 to 8. Other exercises that can be done on this day:
Incline D.B.'s: 4 Sets 5 Reps.
Rope Extensions: 2 Sets 20 to 30 Reps.
Bar Shrugs: 2-3 Sets 10 Reps.
Thursday: We will put our bench shirt on here if the meet is within 4 weeks or so. If the meet is farther away we will do our shirt work at the end before Rack or board work again. Everyone usually starts off with 3 to 5 reps in the first few sets to get into a grove of the shirt. Then onto a few doubles then some singles. If the singles don't go well or if there is problems touching or with your groove then we will go right back to the beginning and work all the way back up again trying harder to get everything right. Sets here could range from, well, lots, depending on how everything goes. If you don't get it right you must work back through until you get it right. Then 6, 5, 3 and 2 boards. We will usually try to max on all of these boards and sometimes work through the same board twice if the groove does not feel right or we miss our goal weight on a certain board. After all that, we do Triceps Pushdowns: 3 Sets 6-8 Reps (heavy). Some shoulder and back work are thrown in the mix.
Email Anita for a routine as her training changes with the time: firstname.lastname@example.org
10) Critical Bench: What are your 5 favorite things about bodybuilding and what are your 5 least favorite things about bodybuilding? What are your 5 favorite things about benching and what are your 5 least favorite things about benching?
1) I love having a physique that stands out in a crowd. I don't like looking like everyone else.
2) The challenge of peaking for a show.
3) The gratification of eating after a show.
4) The challenge of shaping my physique.
5) Being a role model for others.
Bodybuilding least favorites:
1) Judges - they have no idea what they want from show to show or day to day.
2) The lack of respect from men that look at female bodybuilders and are so insecure with themselves that they feel obliged to call us men. Muscle is not what makes a man or woman.
3) The downright discrimination that goes on in the organizations.
4) The lack of cohesion among competitors and the petty anti bickering that goes on.
5) And finally, NO Dieting is not on my list of least favorites & I bet you thought it would be it has never been something I disliked. But, I do dislike those who use it as an excuse to be a jerk to others, there is no excuse for this. If you can't handle it then don't do it, but do not take it out on others.
1) The people I have met in the industry.
2) The Camaraderie among the lifters.
3) The challenge of getting focused to lift the weights.
4) The challenge of getting PR's in the gym & every time you do a meet.
5) The challenge of being consistent with technique if it is not 100% perfect you will miss the lift
Benching least favorites:
1) The bickering that goes on between RAW benchers and those that use shirts, it is the same that goes on between "natural" bodybuilders and the rest. It is stupid grow up and get a life.
2) There needs to be some cohesion among organizations, especially when it comes to world records. It can be quite misleading and also take away from the accomplishment when you have all these organizations with all these different "world records."
3) Other than what I have just stated I really can not think of any other dislikes I have in benching.
Critical Bench: Is there anything else you would like to tell everyone reading this interview?
I would like to thank all that have helped, supported and followed me over the years of my bodybuilding career and those who are helping me with my benching career from businesses to fans you're great.
Just remember that whether you are bodybuilding or powerlifting it takes time to attain your goals and a tremendous amount of discipline, want and desire.
Don't put others down for what they are trying to accomplish or do, give truthful and positive feed back.
Finally, for those to whom I referred to earlier, being the ones who throw their weights around, are incapable of controlling them, and have their spotter doing the lifts for them. Check your ego at the door and do it right, it will take you much further than your ego will. You are impressing no one, but you will impress if you do it right and on your own.
Critical Bench: We all wish Anita the best as she continues to train hard, prosper and attain some amazing feats !