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Jennifer Thompson 132 Pound IPF
Bench Press World Record Holder

Powerlifting Bench Press

by Anson E. Wood

I had an opportunity to meet Jennifer and her husband at nationals in Newark New Jersey, and knew that asking for an interview with her was one of my better ideas. Jennifer had just set a world record of 315 pounds in the 132 pound weight class. She's not only powerful, but she has a powerful personality which makes her a excellent spokesperson for the sport. She not only took time to talk to myself and others, but she even went as far as to help me pass out business cards promoting the site. A couple of weeks later I had a chance to interview her, and here is how it went.

Anson: Well, are you ready for 21 questions?
Jennifer: wow! 21?
Anson: (Laugh)...I don't know if it will be 21 or not.
Jennifer: I am ready!
Anson: I figured I'd start at the beginning. How did you get started in the sport?
Jennifer: I saw a bench press competition on Venice Beach and thought it looked cool. I talked with some of the athlete's and realized that I was benching the American Record in my workouts at home. I started investigating the USAPL and went to my first powerlifting meet the next summer.
Anson: How long ago was that?
Jennifer: About five years ago.
Anson: How long had you been lifting at that point?
Jennifer: I had dabbled in the gym for about two years. I used to do a lot of running and then I started lifting when I met my husband.
Anson: So is he your coach?
Jennifer: Yes, he researches our workouts. Plans each cycle and helps me with my diet.
Anson: He's done on heck of job. I've noticed that you have also competed in full power meets. Which do you prefer?
Jennifer: I like them both. The bench press competitions are nice because they are short. I have been trying to make a name for myself in full power meets. I feel like I have more competition in the three lift meets and want to excel in all areas. It is more challenging to me.
Anson: Is it the challenge that drives you? I mean we all put in countless hours and then spend minutes lifting at the competitions.
Jennifer: I love the challenge. It keeps me going and gives me something to drive for. I have always been into setting goals whether they are personal, professional or in athletics. It makes life fun and fulfilling. It provides the reason to continue to excel in life.
Anson: I've noticed in a lot of your pictures and at nationals, that you are always smiling. The pictures I've seen of you competing though, you are very intense. Is that something you can turn on and off, or are you like that right up until the lifting is done?
Jennifer: Smiling is part of my personality. You can't take things too seriously. When I need to be intense and focused I can turn it on. Then after my lift I am back to myself again.
Anson: Are you as intense about the other goals in your life?
Jennifer: Absolutely! When I have set a goal I don't stop until it is completed. I am very passionate about my job as a teacher and take it seriously. But, I don't feel good about myself unless I went 100%. I am not a perfectionist, but know what I am capable of and want to give my best in whatever I do.
Anson: I agree with that philosophy. You mentioned that your husband researches training techniques and cycles. People have labeled almost every type of training style out there. From eastern block to west side, can you describe your training style?
Jennifer: We are constantly changing our workouts. I think one of the neatest things about our sport is the friendship among lifters. Lifter's like to share their training techniques and we are constantly incorporating new exercises into our program. I think some of the things that distinguishes our training from others is that we do a full body workout. Its important to me that I have a symmetrical physique, not just a huge bench. The other thing that is different is that I love doing sets of five. It works for me. When we bench or squat I try to achieve three sets of five. It is a goal thing for me. It motivates me to try and hit a certain amount of reps at a particular weight.
Anson: I'm glad to hear that because I just switched up my squat and deadlift routine and we're doing sets of five. So that's good to hear from a successful natural lifter. How often per week do you train each lift?
Jennifer: Just once. We have a bench and squat day. Then on the other two days of lifting we incorporate the accessory muscles (back, shoulders, deadlifts on one day and bi's, tri's on another).
Anson: You are obviously a drug free lifter. Were drugs ever an option in your training?
Jennifer: NO! I love this sport, but it is not worth my life or well being. My personal view is that it is cheating. If you have to take a pill or shot to lift beyond your natural capabilities it is taking the easy way out. If you have to take drugs to beat the competition you have cheated. Plus, is it really worth the health problems that you will face later in life? If you get beat, you try harder and train longer - not resort to illegal substances.
Anson: That's a great answer. A lot of our readers email me, and they don't understand that just because a substance is legal, does not mean that it is legal in the sport or that it is harmless. Substances are banned for a reason. That's why we created E-normous.
Anson: To date, what is your greatest accomplishment?
Jennifer: Winning the World Bench Press Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand (2001)
Anson: How many times have you competed at World's now?
Jennifer: I have been to World's the last four years.
Anson: How did you finish the other times?
Jennifer: I have finished 3rd, 2nd, 1st, 2nd in that order.
Anson: That's quite a track record. I'd put money on you this year also.
Jennifer: I am really excited about this year. I was really disappointed with my performance last year. Once you get to stand on that podium and hear the National Anthem played, nothing else is acceptable.
Anson: I think we all hope to experience that someday.
Anson: With all of your success have there been any embarrassing moments?
Jennifer: Nothing too embarrassing. When we were in New Zealand I went to visit a local middle school. The kids taught me how to play cricket and rugby - which I was an embarrassment. The worse part was the teacher I was with told me the school was having an assembly and they wanted me to be the guest speaker. Of course I had nothing prepared and had an episode of stage fright. The teacher had to bail me out and speak on my behalf about half way through the assembly. He told the kids I was so strong I could lift Jonah Lomu (huge rugby player for the All Blacks, probably most famous rugby player in the world) with 14 boxes of butter. That really got the kids attention.
Anson: Wow!
Anson: At least you didn't bomb out at a bench meet because you had your bench shirt on backwards (for the web know who you are).
Anson: Assuming you stay healthy, how long do you see yourself competing?
Jennifer: Well into my masters years. I love it! I love the training and the rewards. The greatest thing about powerlifting is that you can continue to get stronger into your forties - it is not really a "young person's sport". Your not washed out once you hit your late twenties - you are just beginning!
Anson: Do you have any advice for our readers?
Jennifer: One of the best lessons I have learned is not to be afraid to try new exercises and training cycles, but don't assume it will work for you. The best thing to do is find out what works for you and what you like. Arnold Schwartenagger said in his book to do the exercises you like and that is how you will get stronger - he is right. So, stick with what you like and don't be afraid to try new things and get rid of things that are not working.
Anson: Last question. What is your favorite powerlifting web site?
Jennifer: E-normous
Jennifer: I also, like to check out the USAPL forum to find out what is going on.
Jennifer: I do like some of the training methods of critical bench and power-intensity web sites.

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