My good friend Nicholas "Mammoth" Garito just recently hit a 405 lb 4 plate raw bench press in training, I'd definitely call him a big bencha! I decided to interview the man they call the Mammoth and delve into the feeling of hitting a 400 lb raw bench, how he trains to bench big, and how he approaches his strongman training.
Coach Ben - I'm sure getting to this point has taken many years of dedicated lifting and sacrafice, it must feel amazing to break through the 400 lb barrier. Can you describe to us your feeling when you finally hit that 405 lb bench?
Mammoth - It was surreal. It has been a goal for such a long time that when it came time to actually hit it, I didnt know how to feel. Afterwards I was pretty damn excited and felt I could have done at least an extra 5 or 10 lbs
Coach Ben - Take us through some of your early training that lead you to this point, both the smart and stupid techniques we've all probably used along the way in our long journeys
Mammoth - The stupid would be have to be not pausing when I need to, not knowing what it meant to be tight, and skipping mobility work. I don't feel you have to pause every rep, every workout. You can even do it as accessory work to your bench press, but it doesn't need to be all the time. Back then I just never did it, now I do it on all accessory work if not done on the main movement. When I first started and even pretty recently I thought I was getting tight, but it wasn't uncomfortable. Now that I fixed my form and I am actually tight, the bench press is one of the most uncomfortable lifts ever. Not doing mobility work was just as dumb. Mobility as a strongman is incredibly important because your going through so many different movements and movement patterns that you could easily get hurt. This translates well to powerlifting because now I can get tighter, or get deeper in my squat. That and being injury free keeps you moving forward
The smartest things I did besides mobility work was add dynamic loads. People often say chains and bands are not for raw lifters and that makes no sense to me at all. Bands add constant tension to a lift. I have no actual science to back this up besides my own experience but I rarely grind on a lift. I feel that from using bands and chains it has taught me to keep pushing through a constant "grind" so that when the bands come off, the grind goes away.
Coach Ben - How do you go about incorporating your bands and chains in training? I see you use these tools often. Many lifters like to throw them on for just speed work, others like to use them more for overload at the end range. Give us an idea of how you like to use these tools and how often do you incorporate them?
Mammoth - I'll do my main movement (in this case bench) and accessory work I'll add the bands and chains. I follow a customized version of cube boss so each week each lift has its own focus. Speed, strength, or hypertrophy. So I'll do my main movement under one of those and then I'll do next week's bench as accessories with bands or chains. For example a hypertrophy bench day will be around 5 sets of 8 reps. Next movement will be strength bench press with bands so I'll drop the weight down on the bar but add a ton of weight in bands or chains. I'll do this every week in a training block.
Coach Ben - Now while you still perform powerlifts you are a competitive strongman. How do you incorporate the bench press into your training for strongman specific competition?
Mammoth - Powerlifting lifts such as the bench press are perfect for off-season strongman. I'm a very narrow bench presser for this reason. The bench press is perfect for getting your triceps and shoulders, to a degree, stronger which is key for a strongman. I take the bench out closer to the comp or replace it with a variation that might show up in the comp such as incline log press.
Coach Ben - You mentioned you run a customized version of the cube boss program. How do you gear this program which was originally created for powerlifting towards your strongman preparation? Do you feel there is a strong carry over there?
Mammoth - I'll just take bench press out and substitute overhead press and add a strongman day on saturday following the cube method idea. Speed work for strongman I'll do differently. Speed log to me would be pointless, so I'll do a viper press or I'll practice one-motions on the atlas stones. Only other change is my reduction in rest periods and adding in gpp (general physical preparedness).
Coach Ben - While benching the big weights that you are is there any mental cues you think about in your head before or during the lift that help you?
Mammoth - My new favorite saying I have is "positive thinking is for funerals" when going for a big PR or lifting something heavy I think "I can do this" or "lightweight baby". I don't even think about my form. I go by feel honestly. For the bench I know how I feel when I'm tucked properly, when my legs are tight, when my set up is perfect. I know when a weight feels heavy it's because it's heavy and not because I'm weak.
Coach Ben - What secondary or accessory movements do you think contributed to your bench the most?
Mammoth - Overhead press and close grip bench press to a 2 board with bands or chains. Both will make your triceps brutally strong, but overhead press made everything strong from toes to nose.
Coach Ben - I'm a big proponent of if you want a big bench you need to be practicing the movement on a very frequent basis. Just as with any specialty, if you want to get good at it you need do exactly that thing. Is that something you agree with? I'm interested in hearing your take on building a big bench.
Mammoth - Definitely. Don't fear the man who practiced a thousand kicks one time, fear the man who practiced one kick a thousand times. In other words you need to build proper motor pathways or patterns, "grease the groove", to be proficient at something. That's why ballerinas practice for hours upon hours day in day out.
Coach Ben - Why do you feel people struggle so much with the bench press in particular?
Mammoth - Ego. Everyone wants to bench a lot of weight, it's THE question. Every one asks how much you bench, no one cares how much you deadlift outside of powerlifting and strongman. If more people put their ego aside and focused on proficiency in the lift then they would move forward and hit the numbers they wanted. If you are already doing that and you are still stuck, overhead press. Not seated... standing.
Coach Ben - If you could give one piece of advice to everyone out there looking to bench big what would it be?
Mammoth - Overhead press until it's one of your best lifts
Coach Ben - What's next for the Mammoth in terms of bench goals and competitive goals?
Mammoth - Next bench goal is 500 lbs raw, and competitive goals will be to hit a 455 lb raw bench in competition. Hoping at RPS Heatwave on Long Island in July. Besides that I plan on doing a strongman comp towards the end of this year and placing first. I placed 2nd in my last one.
I will also be buying a leg bench shirt! (Shameless plug, but get yours now!)