It was 1996 and I was 32 years old living in Kalamazoo, Michigan. My gym was American Fitness and I was working out 5 days per week (3-on-1-off, 2-on-1-off).
One day, I noticed a flyer posted on the bulletin board, advertising for a strong man contest to be held in 2 weeks – who could bench press their own weight the most times? This was my favorite exercise, so I decided to enter the competition.
The contest would be judged, and lifters had to adhere to the following rules:
- no bouncing weight off of ones chest
- no arched back – ones back must remain flat, in contact with bench
- to count, each repetition must be full and cleared as “good” by judge
- contestants would compete based on a weight class bracket
The event was to be held at an old, industrial building near the railroad tracks on the east side of town, used at that time for a bar known as The Warehouse. Based on my weight, I was in the 175-200 lbs. weight class bracket.
When it was time, I arrived to see that many others were also interested in competing, and a local news station had their camera set up to record the event. The first order of business entailed stepping on a scale to be weighed by an official. Each individual did so in private without clothing, and I weighed 190.5 lbs.
It was at that point that I learned another contest rule – that is, that weights would be rounded up in 5-lb. increments. Thus, I’d be lifting 195 lbs. instead of my actual weight. It was suggested that I run outside around the building a few times – hoping to lose 1/2 pound – and that a second weighing would be made available. I thought about it but wanted to conserve my energy, so I declined.
I waited for my turn back in the main room, stretching my muscles and warming-up on one of several bench presses made available.
When I was finally called, I walked up onto the stage, listened to a brief review of the rules by an official, and then got into position on the bench. Next, as with each competitor, a judge (a.k.a., the spotter) assisted in safely removing the weight from the rack, thereafter releasing contact for me to begin lifting.
I bench pressed 195 lbs. for 29 clean repetitions, good enough for second place in my weight class bracket. First place went to a 178 lb. competitor (from my gym!) who pressed 180 lbs. for 31 clean repetitions.
All told, I bench pressed 5655 lbs. during that series of lifts, which (in consolation only) was a total of 75 lbs. more then the winner. My 29 presses were also the 2nd most of any competitor across all weight class brackets at the event.