Interview with American Bench Press Record Holder Jennifer Weed Thompson
By Tasha Whelan and Dan Stephenson
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.
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.
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
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