Interview With 810 LB Bench Press Champion Shawn Lattimer
by Ben Tatar CriticalBench.com
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF?
My name is Shawn Lattimer. I am a 27-year-old powerlifter. I am a bench press specialist, competing in the super heavyweight class. I'm 6'3" tall, and I weigh about 390 lbs. I have been competing in bench press competitions for about 8 years. I compete in the WNPF, IPA, and WPO. Currently, I am ranked third in the world for bench press. I am also a member of the Metal Militia powerlifting team.
I live in Deptford, NJ with my wife Laray and my bulldog Brock. I have a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Drexel University, and I work as a Maintenance and Reliability Engineer in a chemical company.
WHAT ARE YOUR BEST LIFTS?
My best bench is 810. This lift was a fourth attempt taken at the WPO Bench Bash for Cash in Orlando, Florida on 9/27/03. I have also made 6 other lifts over 700 lbs, including 700, 705, 766, 780, 788, and 800. My training numbers are currently in the 850 ranges. Within the next year I plan to take my bench beyond 900 lbs. I don't compete in squat or deadlift, but I do train both lifts. I have taken raw squats around 600 lbs, and I can deadlift 605 raw. I don't pay a tremendous amount of attention to these numbers, as I don't do the lifts in competition.
ANY COMMENTS ABOUT THE FIRST TIME BENCHING 135,225,315,405,500,600,700,750,800 etc?
I have spent a very long time increasing my bench. I put up 500 for the first time in December of 1998 at an unsanctioned meet. I finally benched 600 at the 2002 WNPF Worlds. For a very long time, 600 seemed to be the barrier I could not break. After getting 600, I decided I would need to do something different to make further progress. I upgraded my bench shirt, and went to see Bill Crawford of the Metal Militia. I benched 700 in my first training session with Bill. I officially put 700 on the books in July at a WNPF meet. I was absolutely elated.
I decided to go to the WPO Bench Bash to see if I could compete with the best benchers around. I had never even had a successful gym lift with 800, but I found myself in a position where the rules allowed a fourth lift, and I needed 810 to move to first place. I was amazed the weight went up. I jumped off the bench looking for the lights, because I was sure
something had to have been wrong. I was totally overwhelmed. I started to cry right on the platform when I saw the white lights. My first attempt over 800 lbs. received 3 white lights!!!
HOW IMPORTANT ARE TRAINING PARTNERS TO YOU?
My training partners are the single most important part of my training. I work out with a group of 4 other powerlifters, who are all world-class lifters in their own right. Joe, Joel, Jeff, and Brian are always there to help me out.
When you are benching 800 lbs., its kind of difficult to ask anybody off the street for a spot. You need somebody you can trust. Actually, you need at least 3 somebody's. Without my partners, I can't train. Its that simple.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME ONE OF THE GREATEST BENCHERS?
Strong people have always intrigued me, even since I was a little kid. I always wanted to be as strong as the Hulk, or He-Man, or whoever. I started lifting weights in high school as training for the wrestling team. I always liked benching best. I'm really not sure why. After wrestling, I kept lifting. I wanted to be stronger. I really didn't know what a
powerlifter was at that time. One day, one of the really strong guys in the gym asked if I would like to go to a bench competition. I went, and I loved it. So I kept trying to get better, and I kept competing.
After benching 600, I decided I wanted to be among the elite 50 or so people who could bench 700 lbs. I had always read about guys like Jamie Harris and Anthony Clark when they were trying to get to 800, and all the other greats like Mendelson, Brandenburg, and Frank. I also read about Bill Crawford, and how he had taught people to bench better. So I decided to see if he would teach me. Bill took me to a level I thought I would never achieve. He is an excellent coach, and he can make anybody into a better bencher. He motivated me past 700, and pushed me to the 800 mark and beyond. I became one of the best benchers almost by accident. I never realized how far Bill had taken me until I was there.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR TRAINING ROUTINE?
I use a slightly modified Metal Militia routine. I have a heavy equipped day and a raw day. I use my bench shirt every week on my equipped day. I warm up, and then take sets of triples, doubles and singles with the shirt. Then I do board presses and rack lockouts. On my raw day, I do close grip presses, board presses, and tricep work. Its nothing super
complicated. I do a little less volume than most of the Militia does. Too much high volume work wears on my elbows.
I also have separate days for squats and deadlifts. Basically, I squat Monday, shirt bench Tuesday, deadlift and upper back Thursday, raw bench Saturday.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST MISTAKES THAT BEGINNERS MAKE WHEN TRYING TO GET A BIGGER BENCH PRESS?
The biggest mistake I see in beginners is that they are unwilling to change. Most people start benching when they are fairly young, and they learn to bench like a bodybuilder, elbows out, touching the bar high on the chest. Many beginners are unwilling to change this form, and they get trapped in a rut. To get better, you often have to unlearn what you thought was right, and begin to learn something totally new. Bringing he bar lower, tucking the elbows, and arching the back can be really uncomfortable the first couple of tries. But, better form always pays off. Resistance to change will keep your bench stagnant.
The second huge mistake I see is not seeking out advice. If you are a new lifter, you should be reading, watching, asking questions of everyone around you who has more experience. Why figure everything out on your own if someone else has worked it out before you? Seek out experienced powerlifters, and make good use of their knowledge. I know that I for one love to able to coach and help other powerlifters, especially beginners who are just starting out. I have coached very green lifters to 100-pound personal records right in the middle of a meet. I know lots of other knowledgeable lifters who will do the same thing.
WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE FOR BEGINNERS, INTERMEDIATE AND ADVANCED LIFTERS?
Beginners need to learn patience. Too many new lifters want to throw on a bench shirt and bench 500 pounds within a year. This sport doesn't work like that. Everything takes time. It takes time to build a solid base of muscle, learn the basics of good form, and learn to be consistent. Patience is a requirement for powerlifters, although most of us have too little.
Intermediate lifters need to pick a system and stick with it. I talk to lifters all the time who bounceback and forth between Westside, Metal Militia, 5x5, etc. A training system such as Westside is something you stick with for years, not a couple weeks. Find something that you are comfortable doing and stick with it.
Advanced lifters need to remember that you will never stop improving as long as you keep learning. Go out and find someone better than you are to work with. That is how you get better. Even if you have to learn via email, or videotape, or whatever, find someone to work with.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE ABOUT HOW TO CHOOSE A SHIRT-THE DIFFERENCES; ECT?
Choosing a bench shirt involves a lot of personal preference. I always recommend using the highest performance shirt your federation will allow. If you are only allowed single ply poly shirts, hunt down the best one for you. If you can use an open back double denim, go get one!! In my personal opinion, the Titan Fury is the best poly shirt on the market, and the Karin Klein denim is far and away the best denim out there. If you learn the proper groove, both the denim and the poly shirts can be used the same way, and both can be equally effective.
WHAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN AVERAGE LIFTER AND A CHAMPION?
The only difference between an average lifter and a champion is desire. I have competed with some guys that have incredible potential, but lack the knowledge to get beyond where they are. I have offered to help, but very few people actually show up to let me help them. They don't have the drive to better themselves, to get up early on Saturday and drive a few hours to improve. I hear a lot of people claim that they won't pay $50 to go to a bench clinic. Well, if it only costs me $50 to learn how to use my $200 bench shirt, I'll go for it.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR MOST MEMORABLE/CRAZIEST POWERLIFTING EXPERIENCES?
One of my most memorable experiences was a recent meet where my training partner and best friend Brian lifted his first 500
bench press. I am a stickler for perfection on the bench, and I demand my guys to be better than perfect. On Brian's second attempt, it looked to me like he blew the press call. He got off the bench, and I started yelling at him for missing the lift on the press call, right on the platform. Then he pointed to the two white lights, and asked me "Are you trying to
get them to change their minds?!?!" I decided to shut up.
WHAT GOES THROUGH YOUR HEAD BEFORE DESTROYING A HUGE WEIGHT?
I try to stay very calm when I lift. I visualize myself getting the lift, with perfect technique, over and over. I really don't get excited about the lift until I put on my wrist wraps. By that time I don't have time to think any negative thoughts, so I'm ready to go.
WHAT DOES YOUR DIET CONSIST OF?
My diet consists of pizza, burgers, and milkshakes? Actually, its not that terrible, but its not great either. I try to keep all of my carbs towards morning, and only eat protein in the afternoon. I try to get some protein in at every meal. I eat a lot of chicken and beef. I also have a terrible sweet tooth, so I have to try very hard to stay away from junk
food. I do try, but I don't always succeed. I have a special soft spot for ice cream. I just can't say no to the stuff.
WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE GOALS?
My future goals are to win the Arnold Bench Bash in March 2004, win Bench America II in May 2004, and bench at least 900 lbs. in competition in 2004. Long term, I intend to bench 1000 pounds drug free, hopefully by the end of 2005.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR WHENTRYING TO GET A BIGGER BENCH PRESS?
The most important factor is determination. I firmly believe that enough drive will take you anywhere you want to go. Its simply a matter of dedicating yourself regardless of what you are up against. My grandfather had an old saying, "Can't never did anything." If you say you can't, you won't. If you keep saying you can, you most likely will.
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO TELL CRITICAL BENCH READERS?
If anyone is interested, I coach bench pressers, and I design custom bench programs for all sorts of benchers, from raw lifters to elite champions. I also do correspondence training via email and Internet, and I do one-on-one personal bench training. I can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Also, I'd like to thank a few people, such as Bill Crawford, Sebastian Burns and the rest of the Metal Militia, my training partners Jeff, Joel, Brian, and Joe, and my wife Laray.
And remember, "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."