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Powerlifting Bench Press

by Anson E. Wood

I've met Rich at several local Push / Pull meets, but had never had a chance to actually sit and talk. So when we agreed to meet at restaurant for dinner before the interview I figured I'd have a chance to get to know him a little bit better before I started drilling him with questions.

I found out right away that he's got a sense of humor twice his size. I had just pulled into my parking spot when he pulled up and said, "I saw this huge guy, and figured...that has to be him." I realized after a few chicken wings that I had nothing to be nervous about. This guy remembered my first meet when I bombed out with in front of friends an family. How could I possibly embarrass myself in this interview?

Well, here it is. Everything from how he got started, to what happens when a young powerlifter is dealt a 3 year suspension after his first USAPL meet for a supplement that can be purchased from any nutrition center.

Anson: How long have you been involved in powerlifting and how did you get started?

Rich: I've been powerlifting since 1990 and was just benching for the first 7 or 8 years. I just started because it came easy to me and a couple of people at the gym saw that I had a small amount of talent and suggested that I do a meet. They had it Steve's Gym. It was my second meet at Steve's Gym, but the first was just a pounds over bodyweight thing. It just kind of took off from there.

Anson: Were you into other sports before powerlifting.

Rich: I used to run track. The funny thing about weightlifting is, my first start in weightlifting was when I was 12 years old. My mom was working in a restaurant. We cleaned the restaurant called the Super Steer in Dunlap. They had these 30-40 pound chairs. There were about 450 of them. My brothers and I had the responsibility of picking up these chairs so my mom could sweep underneath them. We would get up every morning at 4 am and do this. We did this for about 4 years. When I first started I was a hair over 4 feet tall; 80-90 pounds and I struggled to get up one chair. Over the years we were 2 handing these chairs; these 30-40 pound chairs . The funny thing is, that's probably how I developed my shoulders for bench press. It was when I was 12-15 years old lifting these chairs at 4 in the morning at an all you can eat chicken or beef buffet. So that's actually how I started weight lifting.

Anson: After all of that, have you ever had any shoulder problems?

Rich: Yeah, I have chronic shoulder problems. I have tendonitis in both shoulders. I take painkillers and just deal with them. They wanted me to have surgery. I never did it, and they just healed on their own.

Anson: You told me that you were supervised at your victory at nationals..

Rich: Yeah

Anson: What are your goals now and do you have a timeline?

Rich: I have a goal that I want to achieve in about 11 weeks, and that is to win a medal at worlds. I'd love to win a medal at worlds. I keep a list of my goals handy and candidly at the bottom of that list are my powerlifting goals. At about number 9 was o win a gold at USAPL Nationals. I was blessed enough to scratch that goal off last weekend. My next goal, not in this order, was to medal at IPF World's. I'd love to just be up there on the platform.

Anson: You mentioned over dinner that you were 100 pounds off on your expected 3 lift total. Do you expect to exceed that at IPF World's?

Rich: I feel confident that I will. This is my first time at USAPL Nationals. It's only my third USAPL meet. I didn't know what the hell to expect. went out there with an understanding in the squat of what parallel was and it was about an inch too high. It took me 3 attempts to get that past. I gave up about 70-80 pounds on the squat that I should have had. I expect to get the IPF world record and that would be another 25 pounds. Once I hit my qualifying total of 1720 for nationals I stopped right there and gave up about another 30-40 pounds on my deadlift. My estimation is that I could be in the mid 1800's at IPF World's. I hope to be and I expect to be.

Anson: How long do you expect to continue competing?

Rich: If I medal at IPF World's, this will be my last year. I won't do it anymore.

Anson: Really?

Rich: Yeah, that it. Powerlifting used t be a big piece of the pie. Over the years with children and career goals, personal business ventures; its shrunk. It's not a sliver yet, but once I medal at World's I know I will have achieved pretty much everything I have wanted to achieve. I've got osteoarthritis in my back and tendonitis in my shoulders. Next thing to go are my knees I'm sure. I'm not going to be one of those guys doing it when I'm 50.

Anson: How old are you now?

Rich: Thirty

Anson: That's actually very young for powerlifting isn't it?

Rich: I know they say that you hit your prime in your mid 30's and I hate to say it, but I hope I don't make it there. I want one good year and then be done. If I don't medal at IPF World's this year, I'm sure I'll be back next year. I'll keep doing it until I medal, but once I do I am going to hang up the belt.

Anson: Do you see yourself staying involved in anyway?

Rich: I love the sport. I'll probably be around helping other people that weren't quite as physically blessed as I was....that it takes them a little bit further to get where they want to be. I can hang my belt up and really put my efforts into trying to help them achieve what they want to achieve.

Anson: So you are going to stay in the sport by helping people like me?

Rich: NO not you man (laugh) definitely not you (laugh)

Anson: Alright then...You seem fairly lean for a powerlifter. Is that a result of diet and cardio, or is it genetic.

Rich: I wouldn't consider myself lean. I'm guessing my body fat is around 12% or so. At my height (5'4") to be 181 pounds, you'd have to be pretty darn built to be very lean. As you know, it's to nobody's advantage in powerlifting to be razor thin. You need that body fat, but I try to take in a lot of protein and not really worry about what else I take in. I try to eat frequently, which is tough with my job. I'm not so good at that. Yeah... I have no real diet. I'd like to clean it up for IPF World's. I intend on cleaning it up for world's. I plan on at least taking in more grams of protein.

Anson: We both know an exception to the lean powerlifting rules. Rob Langwell is very lean.

Rich: And he's very successful at it.

Anson: Do you ever wonder what would happen if he put on 10-20 pounds?

Rich: Let's hope that doesn't happen. I don't want him in my weight class at that point.

Anson: Well, you'll win your IPF World Championship this year and be on your way out.

Rich: Well, that's okay then.

Anson: With all of the talk about West Side, Old School and Eastern Block training, how would you describe your training?

Rich: I would say my training is fragmented simplicity. What I mean by that is that a lot of programs are 16 weeks, 14 weeks long and they consist of bands,overloads and chains. My cycles are 6 weeks long and each cycle consists of very simple concepts of powerlifting. For instance, I would start out with 5 reps of a given weight on the bench and every second week I would drop the rep by 1. Each week I would increase the weight by approximately 2-3%. For example:

week 1 365 x 5
week 2 375 x 5
week 3 385 x 4
week 4 395 x 4

and I continue to do that for 6 weeks as long with accessory work. I usually do 2 sets of accessory work and mix it up. I usually start with weighted dips, and I'll work in exercises like inclines. Always before a meet though, that last cycle consists of block presses as my accessory. I love block presses. I'm a big fan of block presses, especially when it comes to locking out a lot of weight with these new bench shirt.

Anson: Speaking of shirts, we both compete under USAPL and IPF guidelines. What do you think of the new wave of multi-ply, denim and open-back shirts in other organizations?

Rich: You and I are probably on the same page here. I don't want to disapprove of anybody that is in the game. Because I want to give a lot of respect to anybody who gives a lot of work at the gym and reflects that at meet time. I really think that it has bled the sport. I think that denim bench shirts and multi-ply have bled the sport to a certain extent. Its gotten to a point where deadlift and squats are almost not an issue. Everyone's going to the bench and its to the point that if you look at postings, you would think that powerlifting consists of a big bench press. That's what denim has brought to the sport. When you have people bench pressing 800 pounds, deadlifting 600 and squatting 700 for a 2100 pound total, that's against human nature. Who wants to be judged by how much weight they can push off of themselves from their back. To me that's a submissive position. The other lifts aren't that way. It's not going to change, but pretty soon I think there will be two different worlds of powerlifitng. I think the denim world is going to crash before too long. I'm hoping you take this sport to its highest point and see that the USAPL and IPF are the NBA and the denim and West Side stuff are like the Harlem Globe Trotters. That's what I think is going to happen. They're entertaining and they do some pretty crazy things, but its not realistic. I hope that's where it goes.

Anson: I've never really thought of it that way, but you're right.

Rich: In USAPL as you know.....boy....all your i's better be dotted and you t's crossed or you're not going to be in it. I lost an IPF world record in bench because I locked one hand out about a half inch before the other. I respect their decision on that. It just tells me how good you have to be to succeed in that organization.

Anson: A lot of email I receive is in regards to supplements. Are there any that you would personally recommend?

Rich: I take glucosamine and chondriotin, which isn't going to help you get any stronger, but it will help you keep your joints together. I personally don't take any supplements other than that. It's my opinion and I'm sure I'll have 1000's of people lining up to argue with me, but I feel that the supplement industry in general....I think a lot of it's a hoax to be honest. I think that if you take in enough protein with enough frequency, you'll get all of your amino acids and stuff. The one supplement that I do believe in and I do feel works is creatine. The studies will say that it only gives you about a 3% edge, but that's the difference between 1st and 5th and world's. On a 2000 pound total that's 60 pounds.

Anson: Did you want to talk a little about the supplement 19-norandrostendione and what happened to you in 1999?

Rich: It's not what happened to me. It's what I did to myself.

Anson: Okay

Rich: What I did to myself....In 1999 I was at my first USAPL meet. I set 3 state records and they were all wiped clean because of what appeared in my urine to be nandralone. The precursor to that was 19-norandrostendione. Brendan, who is my coach now.....he and I took it religiously. To be hones with you, there was a warning on the bottle. Our response was, "Wow it must work then". In all reality, my first attempt at USAPL, I didn't think they would test me anyway. You know..."who's this guy?". But they did. I got pinched and rightfully so. They were really classy about how they handled it. I didn't argue, I just wanted them go know that this was 19-norandrosendione acting as a precursor to nandralone, which show up as deca durabolin. I sent them off things from the American Journal of Medicine and it showed that 19-norandrostendione is a precursor to nandralone in your urine. I hadn't taken it for 3 weeks leading up to the meet and they were cool about it. I genuinely believe that they believed my case and I respect the fact that I had to serve my time...and I did. That's over now an I was lucky enough to win this year and hopefully I'll win again at World's. I still hear about it from some people.

Anson: Do you feel like the 19-norandrostendione gave you and edge when you were using it?

Rich: No. Not a damn thing. The only thing it did was cost me 3 years of early career lifting in a good federation. That's all it did. It was stupid.

Anson: Does it feel good to be back? Is this kind of like a form of redemption?

Rich: It is to a certain degree. I won it, but I didn't win it with nearly the total I wanted to. As I said, I feel like I gave up 70 pounds on the squat and that alone would have gotten me closer to where I wanted to be. If I had made the rest of my lifts cleanly I would have been in the mid 1800's. So it would have been a lot more satisfying had I posted the numbers, but this was only my third USAPL meet an I still didn't know exactly what to expect from judging.

Anson: I noticed most of the names on the IPF suspension list that are still in powerlifting are in other organizations and don't seem to be coming back.

Rich: Right and I think I'm kind of an oddity in that I did go back.

Anson: Did it ever cross your mind to just go to another organization and go for the money? I know you turned down Bench America.

Rich: You know it didn't because the WPO isn't my idea of powerlifting. When I was in the APF and could wear that gear, I didn't. I won an APF National Championship 2 years ago and I used IPF legal gear. I think I was the only guy in there wearing a singly ply polyester Inzer shirt and a Centurion Titan squat suit. I closed at 1724 at 165 pounds. There is no comparison between that and my USAPL totals at 181 pounds because of the judging. That was also the last time a 1700 pound total will win the 165's in APF because of the new gear. It is getting so advanced and so tweaked. Palmer posted something like mid-1900's at 165 pounds.

Anson: What if you had a Titan Fury for your APF Nationals? I know that's what you use now.

Rich: Probably would have benched around 520 pounds. My bench hasn't gone up much since then, it's mostly been my squat and deadlift. Larry Miller hit something like 529 so he would still have me beat. I'd go 3 lifts with him sometime though. He can have his 9 pounds on bench and we'll see how we shake down on squats.

Anson: Is there anything you'd like to add?

Rich: I'd like to thank my coach, Brendan Yoder. He's helped me an immense amount. I don't pay him. I buy him the occasional meal. I'd like to thank Jon Smoker. Let Brendan wrap you knees sometime. That will bring your squat up by 100 pounds right there.

Anson: Thanks Rich. I look forward to another interview after the World Championships.

I would like to thank Rich for being so open about his 3 year suspension. I told him that I could take that part out if he didn't want to talk about it. He agreed with me that readers need to be aware of supplements like 19-norandrostendione.

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