Interview With Extreme Bench Press Champ Shawn Lattimer by Ben Tatar of CriticalBench.com
1) Critical Bench: Can you tell us about yourself?
My name is Shawn Lattimer. I am a 28-year-old powerlifter. I am a bench
press specialist, competing in the super heavyweight class. I'm 6'3" tall,
and I weigh about 390lbs. I have been competing in bench press competitions
since 1996. I compete in the APF and WPO. Currently, I am ranked Fourth in
the world for the bench press. I am also a member of the Metal Militia
powerlifting team, and I run the South Jersey chapter of the Militia. 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.
2) Critical Bench: Would you share some of your thoughts about benching
135,225,315,405,500,600,700,750,800 and 900+?
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 2003
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!!! That lift qualified me for the 2004 Arnold
Classic Bench Bash, where I managed second place with 859. I returned to
the Arnold in 2005 and barely missed an attempt at 909.
3) Critical Bench: What are your best lifts?
My best bench is 859 in competition at the 2004 Arnold Classic. In training,
I have done well over 900 pounds, but I haven't been able to bring it to the
platform yet. I have also made many other lifts over 700 lbs, including
700, 705, 766, 780, 788, 800, 805, 815, 835, and 850. I don't compete
regularly 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
4) Critical Bench: What was it like becoming a star after the Arnold?
I wouldn't say I'm much of a star. I get a lot of emails, and a lot of
people want autographs and pictures when they see me at meets. That is still
sort of weird to me. The publicity is cool, it has earned me a couple of
sponsorships, from HeadBlade and Inzer, so it's all good.
5) Critical Bench: Well now you are one of the best bench pressers in the World. Before this
has all begun what had originally inspired you to be the best ever?
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.
6) Critical Bench: Who would you consider to be the 5 greatest people that you have met in
Bill Crawford--Greatest bencher ever, the best coach in
the world, and my personal mentor.
Mike Miller--We look like brothers, what else can I
say? He has helped me along for the last couple of
years with my training, and he is always willing to
Zane McCaslin--One hell of a great guy, and one of the
best shirt techniques I have seen in a long time.
Clay Brandenberg--He was always one of my heroes when I was coming up in the
sport, and he still is. It has been an honor to lift on the same platform
Scott Rabine--A great bencher, and once again, a great guy. He literally
jumped out of his bench shirt and came to help me out at the 2005 Arnold.
He's an awesome friend.
7) Critical Bench: Who haven't you met in powerlifting that you
would like to meet?
Louie Simmons--I don't follow a lot of his
teachings, but the man has done more for the sport than anyone else I can
think of. I really admire what he has done for others.
Anthony Clark--I wish I could have met him. He was
and always will be my hero. His quest for the 800 bench was a like a bedtime
story to me when I started in the sport. 800 seems downright
magical, and he did it before anyone..
8) Critical Bench: What is it about benching that you love so much?
---I love being under the bar, doing what I do best. I have much more fun
benching than any other movement
9) Critical Bench: What are the adversities that you had to overcome?
---I'm still trying to overcome!!! I have had several serious injuries to
my back, leaving me with herniated, slipped, compressed, and wedged disks
throughout my spine. I actually have something like 3 or 4 good disks.
I am also constantly battling a bum shoulder. I had it violently dislocated
several times when I wrestled in high school, and it keeps degrading over
time. Eventually, I'm going to have to give up and get it reconstructed.
10) Critical Bench: What is the toughest part about powerlifting for you?
---The toughest part is keeping motivated and keeping myself going, even
after I fail. It's very easy to quit, it's very hard to pick up and keep
11) Critical Bench: Do you have a favorite part about powerlifting?
---The best part of powerlifting is when you set a PR. The whole world just
seems golden. The next best is when somebody I coach sets a PR.
12) Critical Bench: 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 6 other powerlifters, who are all world-class
lifters in their own right. Joe, Joel, Jeff, Mike, Tone, and Brian are
always there to help me out.
When you are benching 800+ lbs., it's 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. It's that simple
13) Critical Bench: Tell us about the hardest workout you have ever been through?
---The hardest workout I ever went through was a Bill Crawford seminar. I
took 2 of my training partners to Bill's for the seminar. I was sick with a
horrible cold, but Bill didn't care. I kept screwing up my technique, so
Bill made me do 10 singles with 700, back to back. Almost killed me!!
14) Critical Bench: What are your craziest and most memorable powerlifting moments?
One of my most memorable experiences was a 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.
15) Critical Bench: 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
up, and then take sets of triples, doubles and
singles with the shirt. Then I do board presses and rack lockouts with band
tension. I also throw in reverse bands and static holds for a few weeks
here and there. 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
backThursday, raw bench
16) Critical Bench: Of all the things that you have learned about benching, such as the use
of boards, technique, mind/heart, bands, lockout work, low reps, holding the
weight, drugs and the other important factors, in order, what do you think
the 5 most important are?
---#1 is desire. If you only think you want it, it won't happen. Hard work
is the only way, there is no magic bench shirt that will make you bench 900.
#2 is technique. Once technique is mastered, you can
refine training to gain strength in the right areas.
Otherwise, the training is only partially effective.
#3 is lockout training. If you use a shirt to the max, the lockout will be
the weakest link.
#4 is motivation. You can have all the desire and talent in the world, but
you have to stay motivated. Otherwise, you will fade away when the PR's
don't come easy.
#5 is genetics. Sorry, but if you have an 80" reach, you will not be a big
bencher. Genetics play a huge role. It's not totally limiting, but in
general, a shorter stroke is always a benefit.
17) Critical Bench: Do you have any advice about chains, bands, lockouts and grip strength?
---I have never used chains, so I couldn't really tell you. Bands are an
essential tool, I use them for both tension and in reverse to lighten
loads. Lockouts are great, but they can beat your elbows and shoulders to
death. They should be used with care. I have never really thought about
grip, but I do believe it is necessary to hold heavy weights.
18) Critical Bench: What is the best advice and worse advice that you were ever told?
---The best advice I was ever given was by a bodybuilder who was sort of my
first trainer. His name was Andy Aronstam. He said" If you can talk at the
end of a set, it wasn't hard enough!!" Words to live by!
The worst advice I ever got was from my doctor. She
said to quit powerlifitng and take up jogging. yeah, sure!!
19) Critical Bench: Do you have any advice about choosing a shirt?
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 a open back double denim, go get one!! In my personal
opinion, the Inzer Rage X is the best poly shirt on the market, and the
Inzer double 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.
20) Critical Bench: How should a RAW bencher train differently from a shirt bencher?
---Raw benchers need to train more low end and not as much lockout. They
need to refine technique just as much, but differently. They need to work
with a little more speed, and they need to be careful of injury.
21) Critical Bench: What are the biggest mistakes that beginners make when they go after a
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 the bar lower,
tucking the elbows, and arching the back can be really uncomfortable the
first couple of tries. However, 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.
22) Critical Bench: Please advise the beginner, intermediate and advanced lifter.
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 bounce back 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.
23) Critical Bench: What elevates the champion from the average lifter?
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 $100 to go to a
bench clinic. Well, if it only costs me $100 to learn how to use my $200
bench shirt, I'll go for it.
24) Critical Bench: What is the most important factor when going for a bigger bench?
The most important factor is determination. I firmly believe that enough
drive will take you anywhere you want to go. It's 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.
25) Critical Bench: Would you tell us about your eating habits?
My diet consists of pizza, burgers, and milkshakes? Actually, it's not that
terrible, but it's 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.
26) Critical Bench: Before stepping under a new personal weight, what are you thinking about?
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
27)Critical Bench: Do you have a life outside of powerlifting?
Outside of powerlifting I have a lot going on. I'm a mechanical engineer in
a chemical plant, so I have a 40-hour job. When I'm not working or lifting,
I enjoy a bunch of different hobbies. I'm a gear head, I like working on
cars. I do a lot of repair work for people in my family, and I do some
modifications to cars and trucks. I enjoy riding my motorcycle whenever I
can. I also work on car and home audio systems. I prefer working on cars,
and I do custom installations for people.
My wife and I enjoy going to dinner, movies, and comedy clubs.
28) Critical Bench: What do you think are the 5 most impressive lifts ever?
Andy Bolton's 933 deadlift
Any lift by Markus Schick
Gene Rychlak's 1005 bench
Tiny Meeker's 848 in single ply @ 308
Brent Mikesell's 1141 squat
29) Critical Bench: What are your future goals?
I want to be the undisputed king of the benchers.
30) Critical Bench: What do you think the future of benching holds?
The future is pretty much unlimited. I think in the next few years, a 900
pound bench will be as common as 800 is now. 5 years from now, there will be
multiple 1000+ benchers. The newest equipment and training methods are
taking all sorts of current lifters beyond what anyone could have expected
just a few years ago. A few more years will bring new talent, better
training, and huge weights.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
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