132lbs of Raw Power and can out bench your Dad, Mom, and probably the guy sitting next to you. “Bench Please”… Seriously though!

Interview with American Bench Press Record Holder Jennifer Weed Thompson

By Tasha Whelan and Dan Stephenson

Jenn Thompson

Congratulations to champion Bench presser Jennifer Thompson, who just competed in the USAPL Raw Nationals, rocked all three lifts and crushed every women in the Bench press….by a long shot. The Bench press monster talks with us about her experience at nationals, her training, inspirations and more.

T&D: First, how did you get involved in powerlifting? And how long have you been doing it?

Jennifer T: I have been powerlifting since my first competition in 1999. I know, it has been a while! I found powerlifting on my honeymoon in Venice Beach, California. We just happened to be walking by a competition on the beach, I talked with a few of the athletes and lifted in my first competition the following year.

T&D: You just competed in USA Powerlifting Nationals last weekend, how did it go for you? What numbers did you hit, and was it what you were hoping for?

Jennifer T: Actually, Raw Nationals was one of the toughest meets I have ever lifted in. My training was horrible and I was trying to stave off an injury. The week before, I missed a 300 squat (my best being 325) and a 315 deadlift (best is 445). So, going into the meet I had taken a week of rest and was just hoping to hit my openers of 276 squat and 356 deadlift. My bench was the only thing that went well. But, it goes to show you that mental toughness can take you high places. I ended up squatting 314, benching 313, and deadlifting 424. I just got into the zone and the pain was no longer an issue. The competitive adrenaline took over.

T&D: You broke the American record with your Bench press. That is AMAZING!!! How did that feel? Was that the heaviest bench you have lifted?

Jennifer T: It was awesome! I wasn’t sure it was there based on my second lift of 303. When I got the bar through the middle of the lift and it kept traveling I knew I had it. It was an “unofficial” world record since it was not an international competition. I had missed 315 at USA Powerlifting Bench Nationals four weeks before, so this really felt good.

T&D: What other records do you hold?

Jennifer T: I hold the IPF World Record Total in the 63 kg. weight class with 1071 lbs

T&D: I know all of your records had to feel amazing, but is there any one record that was the most memorable for you?

Jennifer T: It had to have been when I broke 300 lbs on the bench press. I had been after it for an entire year before I was able to hit it in competition. Plus, it was such an accomplishment for a female in general.

T&D: Was your training any different leading up to this meet in comparison to other competitions? (Did you have to cut weight, change diet, or make any big changes in training protocols).

Jennifer T: I tried a few new things in this training cycle that did not work at all. I usually only squat once a week, but had heard from several athletes that they squat at least twice, sometimes three times a week. With this being my weakest event, I thought if I added more squats into my workout I would get better at them. We also changed to a seven day lifting cycle instead of an eight day cycle. All these changes over trained me in a huge way. My numbers started to drop a few weeks out from Nationals. I started having trouble sleeping at night and would get really hot and then cold. Needless to say, I will be going back to my eight day training cycle with squats once a week and go back to working on them my way.

T&D: You have an incredible Bench press, far exceeded the majority or all women’s presses. How did you get such a high bench number?

Jennifer T: I really think it is because I have good upper body strength. When I was in high school, I took a class called Marine Fitness every quarter. It is similar to what Crossfit is to today. We did sit ups, pushups, pull ups, rope climbs, stairs, and weights. I believe three years of this helped me have the upper body strength to be good in bench. But, please know, I did not start off incredibly strong. I began with the dumbbells because the bar was a bit much. It was a slow process over the years, but I just kept getting stronger and stronger each month that went by. I think a lot my success relies in the fact that it is my favorite exercise. I think you try harder at the things you like.

T&D: Would you say the bench press is your favorite lift of the 3?

Jennifer T: Absolutely!! But I really like deadlifting as well. It is such an uncomplicated lift.

Jenn Thompson Deadlift

T&D: You have a youtube channel, can you tell us a little about what kind of content is on it and where people can follow you and your amazing work?

Jennifer T: I have two channels. 132 Pounds of Power is my personal channel that I post competition footage, PR’s and have a bench press 101 series (these are several years old).

I just started my Thompson’s Gym channel and had been talking with my training partners about making a video series for years. I just finally decided to jump in and do it. The series itself is a little all over the place, but the topics range from exercises we use with tutorials, protein snacks, how to find a dress that fits athletic women and then just some videos of us cutting up.

T&D: I saw that You, Kimberly Walford, Frances Manias and Bonica Lough have a camp coming up in January, Iron Sisters training camp. Would you mind telling us a little about the camp and if this will be a regularly on going thing for the three of you? Is there still spaces available if women are interested?

Jennifer T: Kimberly and I have been a part of the Ironsisters Training camp in Canada the last two summers. After this last one we decided we needed to take this to the States. Obviously, Kimberly is the best in the world at the deadlift and I have the bench press covered, but we needed someone for the squat. So why not the best female squatter in the World? So we got Bonica Lough to sign on.

It really is about giving women individual attention on how to have good form in the three disciplines and then helping them with accessory exercises to improve these lifts. But, it is also about creating a community. Frances Manias of Canada creates this for us. By the end of the weekend we all leave as friends and know that we will see each other again in the future. The weekend is also full of socials and surprise speakers, product give aways …. A whole lot of fun.

Since we have launched our first camp this January in Omaha, Nebraska (Bonica’s hometown) we have had many people approach us to hold them all around the States.  I see us adding more camps all year and hopefully we will continue to do this for a while. It is something I truly enjoy doing.

Currently, we have just a couple of spots left in the Omaha camp. We will be launching Barbell Brigade and Juggernaut camp in California soon. Marisa Inda will be joining us for these camps.  We will have our annual camp in Canada, but are working on camps in New Jersey, South Carolina and Iowa.

T&D: Where can we expect to see you in the future in terms of competitions and events?

Jennifer T: Kimberly, Bonica and I are heading to the Icelandic Games at the end of January, then you can see us at The Arnold Classic. Of course the biggest honor will be representing the US at the IPF World Championships this summer in Minsk, Belarus.

T&D: What are your next goals (numbers) to hit?

Jennifer T: I have been chasing after 315 this entire year! I hope to hit it in Iceland. But really I want to increase my squat, I believe that is where my weakness is and it needs to get better.

Jenn Thompson Squat

T&D: What is the thing you struggle with the most with training and/ or competing?

Jennifer T: I used to struggle with competing in the very beginning. I think with experience comes knowledge and obviously after 17 years, I have a lot of experience. I have been working with Paul Revelia of Pro Physique and my diet and has been awesome my last few cycles which has led to some great results.  So many of the meets use wilks for the overall lifter, so I want to be as light as I can without losing strength.  I will work my hardest at training. I just started a high reps cycle that usually puts on some good overall strength before I start a competition cycle. I need to stay injury free and be all right with getting rest.

T&D: Who inspires you?

Jennifer T: So many people inspire me! My husband’s belief that I can do these amazing lifts and being a good role model for my kids inspires me. Seeing my high school kids start in my powerlifting club in August and make huge gains by our competition in November. Seeing these women come to our camps and make some minor adjustments to their form and then hit PR’s inspires me and reminds me of who I am and where I came from.

T&D: Any advice for other women who want to get to your level?

Jennifer T: Remember you have to put in the time and the work. Nothing comes fast, you have to be happy making small, consistent, improvements.

Try new things, always be willing to evolve, but be just as willing to discard something that doesn’t work for you.

T&D: Thanks you so much for you time. Congratulations again on an amazing accomplishment, American record and victory. We look forward to following you and watching you continue to succeed and reach your goals. You are a true inspiration!

Jennifer T: Thank you, I would like to thank the people that have helped me get to where I am. My husband, Donovan, training partners: Wheat, Sandbag, Angry Orange, Threads, Big Lanky, Sandbag and Lil Sis.

Thanks to my sponsors: SSP Nutrition, LVD Fitness,  and SBD

Social Media: Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest: jenthompson132

Facebook: 132 Pounds of Power

Website: www.132poundsofpower.com

MEET THE MAN WITH THE 1,005 RAW SQUAT

INTERVIEW WITH RAY WILLIAMS

By: Tasha Whelan and Dan Stephenson

Ray Williams

Ray Williams was the first person to raw squat (knee sleeves and belt only) over 1000 pounds (1005 pounds in fact) in a sanctioned competition.  Not only did Ray put up a monster squat but he managed to put together a 530 pound bench and an 844 pound deadlift for a total of 2379 lbs.

First off, I would like to congratulate you on your recent achievement at this year’s USA Powerlifting Nationals in Atlanta GA.

  • T&D:  How did you get involved in powerlifting? And how long have you been doing it? 

Ray: I have been lifting since October 8 2012, and honestly I have always loved the weight room, but I got into the sport just due to the fact that I never stopped lifting after college and I figured that if I’m going to be big and strong I might as well put it to some good use.

  • T&D:  You just competed in USA Powerlifting Nationals last weekend, how did it go for you? What numbers did you hit, and was it what you were hoping for? 

Ray: I squatted 1,005, I bench 530, and I deadlifted 844.  Squat was exactly what Coach Gary and myself had planned, but the deadlift was actually through the roof.  I had attempted 855 a few times in training and always came just a little short so I figured why not and just went for 844 and I got it.

  • T&D: You broke the American record and an unofficial world record with your squat. That is AMAZING!!! How did that feel? Was that the heaviest squat you have lifted?  I believe I have seen a training video in which you squatted 1,000 pounds.

Ray: In training I have done 1,000 but that was in the gym.  I wanted to nail it on the platform and put that chapter behind me now I can focus on bigger numbers.  The feeling was unreal, because the atmosphere at this past meet was crazy I think it was just as impressive as the Arnold.  So the thrill of completing the lift and the energy of the crowd it was crazy!!

  • T&D:  How long does it take for you to recover after lifting this kind of weight?  What does your deload look like after a meet?

Ray:  Well it took about three days to totally get the soreness out and recovery like for example my first squat session this Monday will probably be 800 for 10 sets of 2 just to get back going.

  • T&D: Was your training any different leading up to this meet in comparison to other competitions? (Did you change your diet or make any big changes in training protocols).

Ray: I pretty much do everything the same no matter what because I don’t believe in switching things up.  If it’s not broke I will never change it, so far what I have been doing has been working.

  • T&D:  What lift do you enjoy training the most? 

Ray: I love to squat, but recently deadlift is becoming one of my favorites because I actually know how to do it now.  In the beginning I hated it because I was so terrible at it.

  • T&D: Your recent success has been noticed by various media outlets (ESPN, WorldStarHipHop.com, Bleacher Report, etc.). How does it feel to see yourself on ESPN? 

Ray: I don’t look at it as me, I see IPF/USAPL getting massive amounts of attention.  I want powerlifting to make it to that Olympic stage, and I would love to represent my country as an Olympic athlete.

  • T&D: Where can we expect to see you in the future in terms of competitions and events?

Ray: As of right now I do not have anything scheduled, but the Arnold and Worlds are definitely locked in.

  • T&D: What are your next goals (numbers) to hit?

Ray: I’m in the process of seeing how training goes so that I can realistically set goals for my next meet.

  • T&D:  What is the thing you struggle with the most with training and/ or competing? 

Ray: Sitting still, I love to be in the venue and talk to people.  As a lifter at some point in time you have to get off your feet and rest.  That is the part I struggle with the most.

  • T&D:  Who inspires you?

Ray: Too many people to name, but the two people that inspire me to be great the most are my two sons.  Tae’Sean and Daniel, as a proud father when those to look at me they see Superman and my oldest son Tae actually wants me to come and be his show and tell at school once football season is over.  So my boys are the pride and joy of my life.

  • T&D: How can people find and follow you on social media?

Ray: My Facebook Pages profile is Ray Williams Powerlifting, My actual Facebook page is Ray Orlando Williams, my IG profile is optimusprime_334, and my twitter is Coach_Williams1

  • T&D: Any tips or words of advice for other lifters who want to get to your level of competition? 

Ray: Find what works for you. It’s super easy to see a guy crushing big numbers and want to follow a program, but if that program is not for you then what?  So if you are a young lifter find a mentor who can guide you through as much as possible then once you outgrow his/her teachings then you find your own way.

Ray, Thanks again for taking time out of your day to talk with us. It is so inspiring and motivating to watch you compete and see you continue to progress and succeed. We wish you the best of luck in your future competition and endeavors, and look forward to seeing you on the platform!

 

 

 

 

Heavy Hitters Representing in Everett

The Heavy Hitters Powerlifting group were well represented Saturday January 14th at the UPSA Push Pull event held at EGO Strength and Performance in Everett, WA.  Including Tasha and myself, there were 13 lifters from our group in this competition and nearly half of them were first time competitors.  From a coaching perspective, this was a blast to be a part of so many lifters’ first experience with powerlifting.  From an athlete perspective, this was more of a “fun-meet” being that the we were there to coach and support our team and enjoy competing next to them.

Overall, this was an awesome meet!  It was well organized and ran like a well oiled machine.  The guys up at EGO are great and have an awesome environment to lift and compete in.  As a pleasant bonus, the meet also had an amazing videographer/photographer, Bridget Raftery, capture the event and put together lifter videos for a very affordable cost.

As a team, our athletes did very well for themselves.  Everyone from our group put up a total (nobody bombed out) and many set PR’s.  Many even won or placed in their weight class.

Great job team: Deb Booth, Lauren Elkin, Janet Yeilding, Chris Leiter, Beth Zborowski, Erica Shepard, Amy Jenks, Kevin Bereta, Lisa Dimak, Morgan Smith, and Steadman Mathis III.  Way to represent and congrats on all of your hard work.  Also a huge thanks for all that came out to support and for all of those that were involved in putting this meet together.

Check out some of the photos and videos from the meet below:

USPA Medals
Photo credit: Bridget Raftery

Best Lifter Trophy
Photo Credit: Bridget Raftery

Morgan Award
Photo Credit: Bridget Raftery

Deb Award
Photo Credit: Bridget Raftery

Tasha Award Ceremony
Photo Credit: Bridget Raftery

Heavy Hitters Group Photo EGO PP
Photo Credit: Victoria Lynn Heft


The Key to Unlocking Hidden Strength

There are a number of different tips and tricks out there that promise to improve your strength.  Some are good, some are questionable, and some are downright lies.  If I can share with you only one tip to help you to increase your strength in almost all exercises, it would be this…

Learn what neutral spine is and how to properly brace the trunk musculature.

One of the most common mistakes people make in the gym with squats and deadlifts is neglecting neutral spine and improperly bracing.  This will not only limit your strength, but it will also put your lower back at risk of injury.  Most people would agree that squatting or deadlifting with a rounded back would not be considered proper form nor ideal… but what about a hyper-extended back?  When loading the axial skeleton (or spine) such as in the back squat and deadlift, many people will overcompensate for the load and hyper-extend their back.  This is usually in fear of having the load break their form leading to rounding of the back.  Although rounding of the back is far from ideal, so is hyper-extension.

soda can fullsoda can dent

Try this (at your own risk):  find an empty soda can (or two) and stand on it upright.  Notice that it will support your weight.  Now have a friend flick it, and watch it collapse underneath you.  The solid cylindrical structure can support a lot of weight in comparison to its own weight.  When the structure is compromised by a dent, notice that the structure collapses under the same load.  Now consider your abdomen.  Achieving neutral spine and learning to breathe properly while bracing the trunk will mimic the flawless soda can.  Through increasing intra-abdominal pressure and a forming cylindrical-like structure through proper breathing and positioning, the body will be able to handle higher loads and transfer more force.

Learn how to achieve a neutral spine, brace and breathe properly, and more in our upcoming workshop.  We will be covering how to set-up and properly execute the deadlift.

Details of the deadlift workshop

Where: Pro Sports Club Willow’s Road in Redmond, WA

When: Saturday April 4th, 2015

Time: 12 pm- 2 pm

Cost: FREE (must be a member of Pro Sports Club to attend)

Images from the following sources (found through Google image search)
http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2008/05/26/article-1021820-00591F1E00000258-255_233x423.jpg
https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcT7IejK1mGhS_x5AVPpuHLTt4V-wNj0dl7V8G70D20_X-IBKbmlCQ

Cutting Weight for Competition from a Female Athlete’s Perspective

DSC_2892

As a women whose training partner is a man, I can say cutting weight next to him is very annoying. Doing the same weight cut as my training partner seems to be quite more of a struggle for me than it is for him. Given, as a women, hormones come in to play.  Women, having higher levels of estrogen, which is commonly associated with weight gain by slowing down the metabolism. Progesterone, which plays a big role in women’s menstrual cycles, influences the body to hold on to water a bit more. These are factors that contribute to the greater challenge of cutting weight for women.

I’ve done weight cuts where I just focus on a water weight drop (miserable), and weight cuts where I took the more gradual approach (i.e changing my diet, adding more cardio (ugh))… Neither are enjoyable. It’s exhausting, miserable, and pisses me off.

For someone who competes in the 132 weight class, I find it that much harder to cut down. Changing diet up can really screw up my strength, especially when 90% of the time my diet is very clean, so to clean it up more than it already is, can be quite challenging.

How can I make weight, and preserve as much lean mass, strength, and energy as possible? It’s tough for sure. I have found myself sitting in hot tubs, steam rooms, and saunas, fully clothed doing cardio to just lose .25 of a lb.. UGH!

What I have found to be the “easiest” approach, is the gradually cut. More recently, I sit at about 140 and need to get to 132. I clean my “all ready clean” diet up a bit more… usually 4 to 6 weeks out.. Bye-bye jars of peanut butter (sigh)… No cheat meals, no pancakes.  Hello to lots of chicken salads, salmon, sweet potatoes, and protein shakes. Not too horrible really, as long as you are getting in carbs especially post workout, and keeping enough protein in.

As long as I can drop a few “bad” pounds, preferable 4-5 through diet, and keep the water cut to 5 lbs or less… seems to be the best… but again, HARD, as a women, not having too much weight on you to lose, 1 lb can be painful and disgusting to drop. You have to do what you have to do right…

Water loading prior to the dehydration phase is very important. This helps get the water out easier, along with water pills, dandelion root, and magnesium citrate supplement to help extract the water. Steam rooms, and low intensity cardio for the sweat, but be careful to not expend too much energy at a higher intensity as you will need this to recover.

When cutting, do ask yourself, do I need to do this, is it necessary? If you are competing to compete, to get more experience, then I suggest not cutting weight, not only does it take a physically toll on the body, it is stressful and mentally exhausting as well. If you are looking to break records, or hit a certain lift at a different weight class, then sure, do what you got to do, but do prepare yourself for a challenge, a very tough challenge.

When refueling and rehydrating try to avoid going all out and scarfing down as much food as you can immediately as this is not the best way to go about it. First and foremost, your body needs to rehydrate so get some water, sodium, and electrolytes back in. The first thing I have is Pedialyte. This allows me to have a great start to the rehydration process. This process can easily be done wrong. I myself have taken the route of stacks of pancakes, steaks and omelets, hash browns and whatever else I could “uncomfortable” get in my body to try to get the energy and strength back up. Sodium and water is the first priority, then gradually get food back in.  Don’t get me wrong, go and eat a good amount of food, but I don’t suggest getting terrible full like at Thanksgiving. Your body has just been through a massive depletion and needs time to process what you are putting back in so everything will starting functioning (digestive system) as it should. Be smart, be passionate, and only cut if necessary.

Risk Vs. Reward

Reward

  • Being more competitive at a lower weight
  • Better chance of breaking records or placing on top
  • Putting weight back on after weigh in (weigh more than your competition= stronger)
  • Qualifying for bigger competitions

Risk

  • Losing strength
  • Not recovering well enough from water cut (if part of your personal process)
  • Possible psychological effects on the brain due to severe dehydration (i.e. depression, mood swing, aggression etc.)
  • Physiological effect on the body (Reduced blood volume, heart must work harder to supply oxygenated blood,
  • “Dehydration results in reduced muscle blood flow, waste removal, and heat dissipation, all of which are necessary for sustained, high power muscle action in events such as boxing and judo.” (Armstrong, 1992, p.29)
  • Feeling like crap during the entire dehydrating process

-Tasha

As seen on The Alpha Project