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Powerlifting Bench Press

by Anson E. Wood

Anson: First I thought that our readers might be interested in knowing a bit about your own powerlifting career. How long have you been competing?

Joe: I started weightlifting when I was 12 - 26 years ago with the hollow bar and a plaster weight set that went up to 110 pounds. Eventually I went to the YMCA and we lifted in the basement - we called it the dungeon but I met a few world-class powerlifters there and that got me inspired.

Joe: I competed some when I was 18-20 and then not again until 4 years ago.

Anson: What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment at this point in your career?

Joe: When I was 19 - I benched 345, single ply poly, in the APF and 330 in an ADFPA meet at 132. Years later, after shoulder surgery, just lifting again was an accomplishment. I went from repping 225 for three to 325 for three within one year. Eventually went to 355 for three and peaked.

BenchAmerica has been my greatest accomplishment.

Anson: That is an amazing recovery.

Joe: Personally, 385 is my best raw touch and go with a 400 in sight - that would be my best raw accomplishment.

Joe: With equipment, 455 @ 148 - two layer denim is my best.

Anson: Now you say that you only started competing again 4 years ago, and 1 year ago you held the first BenchAmerica Contest. Was this something that you thought about during your non-competition years or did you just see a need for it when you returned?

Joe: When I returned to this sport, after many years off, and shopped bench shirts, I didn't understand. Years ago, there was only single layer poly. When I came back, I started competing in the AAPF - double denim and made it to the top of the PLUSA top 100 and thought I was the best. It wasn't until I realized there were 18 sanctions, different ply, rules, etc. that I realized I may not be the best. I felt this was true for all lifters since we didn't all have one common playground. What was my world record worth, if I wasn't the best I thought...

Joe: So I came up with the idea of Bench America - a playground with one set of rules.

Anson: That is a great point. It is usually the guys who compete in single plys that make such a point. You caught me off guard with that.

Joe: It was a guy in a single layer that made me realize that – Lance Slaughter. I don't care what each lifter lifts in - just be honest about equipment, testing, etc. so we can compare apples to apples.

Anson: I think that most of my readers would agree with that.

Anson: So did you compete in a single ply last year or did you feel that you had to compete in the shirt that gave you the greatest advantage?

Joe: In BA I went two layer of course – that was our rules. After BA I injured my shoulder in the gym while wearing too tight of a shirt - I did try a single layer meet two months later but it was too soon with a new shirt and too hard on my shoulder. I opened with 382.5 and that was it. I don't know what I would do on my best day in a single but when I am healthy again, you can bet I will find out. I go in for Surgery on Feb. 4

Anson: I'm sorry to hear that. I wish you the best of luck.

Joe: I can tell you this, I don't know if I can beat Lance Slaughter who did 423, Tony Conyers that did 424, and Michael Hara that did 429 - in a single layer that is – but we’re probably close.

Anson: That is pretty stiff competition.

Joe: So...that's what bothered me and I dreamed up BA. I figured we were all in this same situation and the best will lift under the strictest conditions to prove they’re the best. And yes, the rules have changed. The problem with our sport is that we don't have an overall governing body that controls and regulates bench shirts. There are two layers that are two and two layers that are four layers. Like I said, lift with what you want but be honest about how you did it.

Anson: Speaking of single and multi-ply shirts. There have been a few rule changes this year that have everyone talking. Could you briefly tell the readers what those changes are and what brought them about? I'll place a link to the BA site for full rules and details, but if you could just explain in your own words...

Joe: Single ply has the least chance of manipulation and will be the closet to their natural ability of the lifter yet still offer protection. I have heard all the arguments about single's being thicker than two layers but its all talk. Anybody can say anything they want, but true lifters will settle their arguments in a meet.

There are so many manipulated shirts out there right now – single layers with two panels glued together – 2-3 ply collars – inserts – isn’t enough, enough? I liked two layers back when it was two layers but now it is not anymore. I also liked lifting more weight – it was cool no doubt but I couldn’t reason why I lifted 75 pounds more than I did raw. Outside of our powerlifting World of fans, how do we explain that? And since we are trying to grow our sport and fans, we need to make sense to the public. With too much manipulation, the truth of our sport is lost and we become a show, not a sport.

It's hard going backwards if you are a two layer lifter - I know, but how do you lay in bed at night thinking you’re the best if you really don't know? I made it to the top of the PLUSA list and I wasn’t the best with guys ranked #7 or more that were equal to me. So lift the most, or be the best – which one is the choice you’ll have to make in thinking about lifting at BA – no disrespect either way.

Anson: Do you find that there is some resistance from some of the lifters?

Joe: Yes – but only some, hey I would have resisted a year ago when I was at the top but now that I have spoken with most of my competition, I can see the light. I don't care if I lift 500 or 250. I want to know if, we took all the 148 pounders and lifted together with the strictest conditions, where would I stand. It’d be nice if we just started all over with one set of rules but keeping a history of the past.

Anson: I've heard an amazing amount of positive support for this meet by the readers of our site and from workout partners.

Joe: Actually 65% of the top 5 have already committed on our rankings and they have only been out one month. We have had 100's of support e-mails

Anson: and I understand that lifters will have to be natural as of January 1st of this year. Is this correct?

Joe: Testing, yes, as of Jan 1 - leaving the door open for all lifters this year. We didn't want to single anyone out. So, be drug-free as of Jan 1, 2004 and you are in but be honest. I saw a few posts saying that polygraph was a front to trick America - absolutely not. You will be sent home if you lie – no matter who you are and banned from competing at the next year at BA. The polygraph was designed to leave the door open. If a lifter goes clean - it may take 12 months to 18 months to pass a urine test. Why close the door to 40% of powerlifting America? We figured let them make their choice this year. Next year we will move towards the steroid panel by urine.

Joe: We are trying to unite both sides and this is a step towards that.

Anson: That is great. I know you're a busy man and I don't want to keep you too long, but really quickly I wanted to give you a chance to tell our readers, potential spectators and potential sponsors what they can expect...what you envision for this year's BA.

Joe: America is finding out more and more about steroids each day and they are losing faith in some athletes that claimed to be drug-free and even the ones that said nothing. I suppose if they legalized steroids the argument would go away, but that won't happen. So trying to promote a sport that has been under the radar while promoting the use of steroids just doesn't work – again let the lifter make his/her choice and live with it.

This year, BA2 will get national exposure on Fox Sports Net - 50 million potential viewers and we are working on “The Best Damn Sports Show” with Tom Arnold. Our title sponsor which launches Feb 1, 2004 (an official sports website) will have a dropdown for Fitness/BA and has a potential 80 million viewers - this is a first for powerlifting and we are extremely excited. We will also be doing two articles a week on their site, with lifters through BA - that means a huge amount of people reading about us. With proven results, we will bring more sponsors and put that money back into our sport.
Joe: So BA2 - unity for all the lifters from all sanctions that compete and we will have some huge head to head competitions that people have been waiting for. We are continuously working on promoting and have more plans than I can reveal today but as soon as more becomes official, we will be sure to announce.

Thanks for the interview and check out the sports site to see a new future for our sport. And special thanks to all lifters – those who live under our existing rules at present and those who are giving it a shot as a change – my complete respect has been given.


Anson: Joe, I think what you are doing is great. If I don't qualify between now and the end of February, I'll be buying a ticket. I'll see you there. Thank you for your time.

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