My 950 Pound Bench Press
I began training for the 2014 Arnold Classic in November of the previous year. After achieving my 903 pound single ply bench press in 2012, I had not pressed anything higher in competition. My goal was to show up to the Arnold and bench press a grand on the main stage. I had done a qualifying competition in Columbus earlier in the year, having to only bench press 800 pounds as an opener. November came around, and it was time to shift gears.
Obviously, the training I had been doing for the past couple of years was no longer working. It worked well enough to keep at or below a 900 pound bench, but nothing more. I had pressed 900 pounds on two different occasions, one at the Iron Chamber Push-Pull Ohio Championships, and the other at the 2013 Arnold Classic in the MHP booth. I had to reevaluate everything that I was doing, and do things quite differently. One of the first things I did was stop squatting, something that I had done in the months leading up to my single ply performance in 2012. This took away the extra stress of having a bar on my back destroying my shoulders.
As the weeks rolled by, my body began to hurt. No matter how garbage I felt, I would come back the next week and keep pushing. Being that my goal was to press a thousand pounds in March, I was putting no less than a thousand pounds in my hands almost every week. I deemed this type of training as being “consistent overload”, and my body and CNS adapted very well to it. There was never a light day, there was only shirted or not shirted. March came around rather quickly, and the past few months seemed to have merged together, and I lost track of time. But I felt ready. Everything had gone just the way I wanted it to.
This competition was called The XPC Freaks of the Bench. There were two divisions, lightweights and heavyweights, ten lifters in each category. I was the lightest freak in the heavyweight division, weighing in at 235. Each heavyweight competitor would open up at 800 pounds, and after the openers, everyone could go nuts. My opener was probably the easiest and fastest 800 pound bench press I had ever done. My body was firing on all cylinders. When it came time for the second attempts, I called for 950. After the hand off, everything was going correctly. My descent was perfect, the weight felt great in my hands, and the only thing I could hear was Gene Rychlak screaming “PRESS!!!”.
It flew up, but fell short towards the lockout. It began to fall towards the rack, and the spotters took it from me. I had to make a decision very fast, either repeat the same weight and settle for a 47 pound P.R, or go for broke and shoot for a thousand. Everything in my mind and body told me to play it safe and repeat the 950. A thousand pounds would have to wait for another day. It was during the third attempt round that a fellow competitor named Jake Prazak broke his own 242 pound all time world record by five pounds, pressing 925. He was the man I had set out and wanted to beat for years. He had held that record for a long time. And he just bested it.
I was second to last, and 950 was loaded on the barbell once more. I got a perfect hand off, and I began to lower the weight. My face was tingling with the feeling of blood vessels bursting, my vision blurred, and everything went silent…no music, no screams from my teammates or the crowd. That silence was broken a split second after I touched and paused with the weight, “PRESS!!!!!”. Every ounce of my physical and mental being had one purpose at this very moment in time; to get this weight back up to lockout. It flew up, my triceps fired, and I locked it out. I became a stone cold statue at the top, looking up at the bar that I had just lifted above my face. Nothing was going to go wrong, I was not going to let that weight sink or bobble or dip a single millimeter. After getting the rack command, it slammed back into the rack, and I had done it. A 950 pound bench press.
After it was all said and done, to me it was just another number. I was very happy with it, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for a few days afterwards. But just like all of my other bench marks, it was time to move on and think about what was next. After a few days of rest, it was right back in the weight room, and the next cycle of training was under way. It is not in my nature to remain satisfied with accomplishment. There is always something more.