Interview With 600 Pound Bencher Travis Borstad by Ben Tatar of CriticalBench.com - June 2007
CRITICAL BENCH: Travis Borstad, welcome to CriticalBench.com. It's great to have a real and accomplished powerlifter like you with us today. Give the Critical Bench readers some background about yourself!
I am Travis Borstad. I am 24 and I'm living in Marshall, Mo working as the sport and Fitness director at the Salt Fork YMCA. I have been competing in powerlifting for about two years now. I compete in the APF and AAPF. I was born in Hutchinson, MN. I have a Bachelors of Science degree in Sports and Recreation Management w. a coaching Minor from St. Cloud State University .
CRITICAL BENCH: Very nice resume. Travis what's your best competitive bench press today in competition?
I have bench pressed 600lbs at AAPF Nationals!
CRITICAL BENCH: Wow! You are a freak of nature! How do people respond after they walk up to a monster like you on the streets and ask you the most known question to lifters, "how much do you bench press?" and you tell them 600lbs!
When I tell them I have benched 600 they just look at me with eyes that say "I can't comprehend that much weight".
CRITICAL BENCH: How did it feel to bench 600lbs? What did 600lbs feel like from start to finish? How would you describe the 600lbs bench press experience?
It is an awesome number to hit. I don't even remember how it felt. An old training partner put it best. "It all feels heavy, you just lift it." Jeremy Beaur!
CRITICAL BENCH: That says it all in a nut shell! Travis, outside of bench pressing 600lbs, what is your favorite powerlifting moment?
Meeting Gary Frank! He is intimidating, but a great guy. I actually had an illegal belt at AAPF nationals, don't know how I wound up using one, but ya know, I asked him if he had one sitting around, but he didn't. He had one of his guys helping him with the meet to get theirs from their hotel room. I couldn't believe a guy at the top of the game would help me out.
CRITICAL BENCH: Travis, there is no experience like being in a room of Bench Press Monsters. Bench pressing weights that make bars bend. The energy in the room is like being on another planet! In the powerlifting game, who are some of the freakiest lifters you have seen in person?
I agree, entering a room of monstrous lifters is scary. I remember going to APF senior nationals to help out Jeremy Buaer, I walked around the hotel and felt small. At the time I was 320 lbs at 6', so making me feel small is tough. Plus that is just after I did my first meet. The freakiest lifters I have seen in person are Jeff Lewis, Gary Frank, Ryan Kennelly, Big Clay and Scot Mendelson. Oh and Becca Swanson.
CRITICAL BENCH: Well, you're in the freak show now! Haha! Before you were a bench press freak, how did it all begin? How did your bench press career begin and what got you interested in benching?
I had been interested in competing in some kind of strength sport for sometime. About two and a half years ago a guy from my hometown, Chris Bjork, transferred to the same college as me and he invited me to start training with him and it went from there. He introduced me to Lloyd Hemingway, Andy Fielder, Dave Lewis, Mike Lewis, Jeremy Beaur, Dana Christianson(sp?) and I lifted with that crew for about two years till I moved to Missouri, and am now trying to start my own crew.
CRITICAL BENCH: Describe your bench press journey through 135-225, 225-315, 315-405, 405-500, and 500-600?
135-225- When I first started hitting free weights in Jr. Slow, A lot of 5x5's.
225-315- Through high School. A lot of 5x5's
315-405- Early College, more 5x5's.
405-500- Finally in a bench shirt. Hit 500 in my first meet. The number I set for myself and went up easy.
500-600- Lots of training with the right people. Board presses, shirt work, etc.
the future- Who knows. 700 sounds fun.
CRITICAL BENCH: Wanna share your bench press and powerlifting routine?
Dead Lift day
Speed Bench 8x3 (Working in a 50-60% raw max, going up in band size every two weeks.)
· Dips/Decline bench 4x8
· Seated shoulder press 4x8
(Either Barbell or dumbbell)
· Rear Delt work 3x6-10
· Lateral Raises 3x8
· Triceps work 4x8
(major triceps exercises like skull crushers w. straight bar, lying d-bell ext. w. hammer grip, etc.)
· Extra triceps exercises 3x10
(Overhead ext., cable ext., etc.)
1. 1 set on two board warm up
2. 1 set on one board warm up
3. 2 sets touch in shirt
4. 2 sets two board
5. 2 sets four board
(All done in shirt. Two boards are 30lbs heavier than touch and four boards are 30lbs heavier than two boards.)
· Raw rep sets 1xfailure @225
· Machine shoulder press 4x8
· Cable ext. 3x20
CRITICAL BENCH: How do you see the future of bench pressing and powerlifting?
I think with a little less back stabbing, consistent judging, and maybe a little unification there is no stopping this sport. As for benching, I think having good competition shirted numbers and raw numbers both are the way to go.
CRITICAL BENCH: What do you think separates a typical 315lbs bencher from a champion?
The right training partners and sacrifice. If you are not willing to give up something in life to train and learn about lifting you will not reach your true potential.
CRITICAL BENCH: What's your stance on drugs and what's your message for rookies and intermediates?
I have nothing against it. Just don't compete in drug tested feds and be on the stuff! That is cheating, plain and simple.
CRITICAL BENCH: What are your top 10 tips for a bigger bench?
1. Find a good lifting crew.
2. Be willing to deal with a little, or a lot, of pain.
3. Listen to those who know more, and learn.
4. Kill your ego. You are not Gene R.or Scott Mendelson or Ryan Kennelly or even Tiny Meeker, so don't act like you are at their level.
5. Be true to those in your personal life. They are most important. It's important to live a balanced life while being the best bencher you can be.
6. Study. Every piece of material that comes your way about lifting, read it. Your training will always evolve as your mind does.
7. Don't be afraid to ask questions.
8. If your gym doesn't have quality bars and benches. Get your own at your home or bring them to the gym.
9. Don't be afraid. Fear means failure.
10. Respect those before you.
CRITICAL BENCH: What's the best advice you were ever told and what was the worst?
I have received a lot of good advice. In benching, the best advice has come in the way of improving my technique. It's about how to get a better arch, bench up on your traps, how to put your wrists in a more solid position, use leg drive, and expanding your stomach by filling it with air. If you are not using all of them you will not excel at bench. You must be balanced and stable on the bench, and you need to find a way to shorten the length of the stroke, and how to get as much power out of your entire body to lift big.
The worst advice I ever got was probably taking a spoon full of salt and drinking a gallon of water right before bed to help get you bloated for the next day, it is bad not because it didn't work but the taste was terrible. Everything tasted like a block of salt for a week.
CRITICAL BENCH: That's crazy Travis, but I'm sure you can think of an experience crazier than that! So, Travis what has been your funniest and craziest powerlifting moment that you have experienced thus far?
Watching people help others take off squat suits. Using chair legs and other such items at hand to remove them gets kind of funny.
The craziest was when a buddy of mine popped some many blood vessels in his eyes during a meet parts of his eyes turned purple.
CRITICAL BENCH: Okay, now I'm satisfied with your crazy story! Let's get into some short questions now. Travis, I'm going to bring up a random weight lifting topic that involves you or the sport of powerlifting. Answer the question in 1-3 sentences. Are you ready?
Let's do it!
What do you think the RAW and shirt record will be in 50 and 100 years from now?
God only knows. I think maybe a 1000 raw. Time and technology and science will hold the keys.
What's your advice when using a bench shirt?
Find someone who knows about that shirt and work with them.
What 3 assistance exercises do you think are the most important when building a bigger bench?
Skull crushers, any back exercise, and rear delt exercises.
How do you like your job working as a Fitness Director?
I found a way to be at the gym and get paid. It's great.
Tell us about your coaching job?
I mainly run youth sports programs. It is fun to help kids grow in sports and have fun.
What's the biggest mistake other lifters make?
Not killing their egos. I am guilty of this too. When you enter a gym or a training session and you're not the true guru, don't act all tough. Have confidence but not arrogance.
What makes Travis different in the gym than everyone else?
Specifically, what makes Travis different than the average gym? I am willing to go big. The average gym goer is afraid to lift heavy, not saying they need to, but don't fear big weights.
What's your advice for people who are afraid to lift heavy so they can overcome it?
I can tell them all the motivational words in the world, but they need to get it in their head to just go for it.
How does your family feel about you powerlifting?
They are some of my biggest supports. They just worry about me getting hurt.
What do you enjoy doing away from the gym?
I am like most people, I like movies, good music, hanging with friends and family, hunting, video games, watching MMA fights, and all the other grand things in life.
What were your favorite MMA fights and movies?
Any fight with Cro Cop
What bench shirt do you use?
I use Karin. It was the same shirt all the guys that I started lifting with used. I got my first one second hand. It is the one I actually wore during my 600 bench. I think my upcoming meet will be its last run. I am so used to it too. Can't beat a reliable shirt like that.
What shirt is next for you?
I have a brand new Karin's waiting, I just need to get it adjusted. I am not going to change shirts when I am doing so well with what I got.
CRITICAL BENCH: Travis, it was great talking to you. We at Critical Bench wish you the best in powerlifting and in all that you do. In closing, is there anyone who you would like to thank?
I want to thank my training partners, Lloyd Hemingway, Andy Fielder, Dave Lewis, Mike Lewis, Jeremy Beaur, Dana Christianson, Jason Kolloff, Neil Heisick, Drew, Mike, Dean, Gary(last names ?), Jerry Gnerre and John Wood. Training with these guys was the greatest. When you deal with a group of guys that know what to do and how to spot it is fun. I also want to thank Tylutki, Jason Adamski, Rob, Danny King, The Gillingham Brothers, all the other guys at Jackal's Gym, Becca Swanson and the Big Iron Crew for their help at AAPF Nationals, Clay Brandenburg and Detroit Barbell for their help at AWPC worlds, Jason Alen, Alex Madrano, and Kyle for helping me continue to train. Special thanks for Critical Bench for the interview and finally I would love to thank my family for their support and help.