This past weekend marked another Monster Bench competition in Cooperstown NY, home of the baseball hall of fame. For those of you unfamiliar with the competition, it is an unsanctioned bench only meet. There are judges but the rules are very relaxed. This is a touch and go meet meaning there is not your usual powerlifting commands you would see in a sanctioned meet. While this event is unsanctioned, it consistently draws a huge crowd year after year and only seems to grow bigger. It also draws some very strong benchers, I believe both 500 lbs raw and 1000 lbs equipped were attempted in the meet
I first competed in Monster Bench last year with 4 of my friends from back home in Massachusetts, this year we kept the tradition alive and were on our way back to bench. The drive up to Cooperstown is always an interesting one. For some reason we don't have the greatest luck with our GPS's, last year we ended up driving through mud hills in the mountain with just my car, no phone signal and no gas. Still not sure how we made it out last year but we did. Cooperstown is smack dab in mountainous area where farming is prevalent wherever you go. You drive along these long winding roads where life ceases to exist until all of a sudden you arrive at a large recreation center where the event is being held
Upon arriving we weighed in. I ended up tipping the scales at 232 lbs. The weight classes at this event are unlike the weight divisions you'd see in a powerlifting meet. This weight put me in the 216-235 lb class, where in the powerlifting equivalent I would have normally landed in the 242 class (221-242). There were over 100 lifters yet again at the event. There is always a pretty good crowd as the rec center becomes packed and all eyes are on you at the bench. The crowd is what draws me to the event, I love to feed off the energy of being watched. It is an environment I thrive in and thoroughly enjoy
It was awesome to meet up with the Gorilla Pack yet again. They helped me out a last year with hand offs and spots, and were more than willing to help me out again this year. Great group of guys I can't say enough good things about. There was a great moment in the meet where Rich Putnam opened with 900 lbs, he moved the weight pretty good but it was a questionable lift to the trained eye and everyone in attendance was confused to whether it was good or not. They gave him the lift but then he wanted it taken away. I have enormous respect for the fact that he wanted to earn the lift the right way. I think all of us that respect the sport of powerlifting want all our lifts to be earned the right way. I will always remember that moment. It's a lesson in self respect. You put in all this effort and you want to know 100% that you hit that weight clean and earned it. And lo and behold he comes back to smash the 900 on his second attempt. Unbelievably strong bench.
Before the event I gave my friends 9 week bench programs for the meet. We all had high expectations going in. I am very happy that we were all able to PR on lifts. We went 13/15 as a team and 3 of us hit our 3rd attempts. As shown in the video linked above, Danny's 180 lbs was a 45 lb PR from last year. Pomp hit a 45 lb PR from the previous year with his 235, and our two new lifters we brought down Kevin and Pat hit 250 and 280 respectively, both competition PR's. They followed the program closely and I felt great about our preparation, everyone hit the training numbers we needed to go after our planned 3rd's. You only get one shot to be perfect and capitalize on meet day though, that's why this sport can be both unbelievably rewarding but also very disappointing. You always learn going forward however, both as a lifter and a coach. 13/15 is an awesome day, last year we went 10/15 as a team so this was a big improvement
The day of the meet I woke up at 5:45am and didn't start benching until after 2pm. What I ate and drank was a big factor in my success. When you have that much day to get through before lifting you need to make sure you keep yourself fully hydrated and give your body the fuel it needs to stay full and strong. In the morning I ate plenty of yogurts, I have a hard time eating early morning so the yogurts were something I could get down pretty easy. I had a small coffee on the ride to the rec center just to keep myself alert. Before we left I packed a weight gainer shake with milk, only a 1/2 serving as to not crash myself with too many carbs at once. The weight gainer shake I use keeps me pretty full for a while so I timed that around 9:30 to carry me through to my last meal. Around 12-12:30 pm I ate a turkey sandwich that I had packed. This timed me perfectly into my lift. In addition to plenty and plenty of water and gatorade I stayed hydrated and never went hungry the duration of the day. This factor of competition is often overlooked. You get tied up in the meet atmosphere but you need to fuel yourself for performance just as an athlete would!
An hour before I planned to warm up I took synedrex by Metabolic Nutrition. This is my go to stimulant to keep myself alert and locked in. It has methylpentane citrate which is a substitute to the old 1,3 dimethylamine supplement. I also had a scoop of Jack3d preworkout to get myself started. I have tried all these products before so I already knew going into the meet how they would effect me. That is a very important factor, never try anything new on meet day, you don't know how it will effect you. Always keep things the same as in training and use products and eat foods you are already accustomed to
As I have touched upon in a previous post to my instagram account @benchinbenny, I spend a lot of time with mental imagery and visualizing success. I did a lot of mental imagery the entire week leading up to the event so I had already hit my weights many times over in my head before I even had a bar in my hand. By the feel of my 530 lb opener, and 570 lb 2nd attempt I knew without a doubt I was about to hit 600. It was a done deal as long as I kept my smarts about me and executed
The only thing that I was concerned about before the meet was going from all great training equipment and perfect training conditions we have at Gaglione Strength to the unexpected conditions at the meet. I trained with that in mind, that I may not have the same feel on the bench or grip to the bar that I did in training. I was actually able to get into my usual set up on the bench and was able to plant my feet into the wooden platform well. The only issue I encountered was my hands slipping on the bar. The bench bar did not have much for knurlings and at the top when I received my hand off and after I pressed the bar, it was becoming very difficult to get a good handle and stabilize the bar. We made sure we cleaned the bar a bit and chalked it well before the 600 and I had no issue with that attempt
I felt I had grooved and touched my 600 very well on my final attempt, although I wish I had pressed it a little smoother but that's just me wanting to nail everything perfect. It moved fast just as I hoped. I had wanted this meet to serve as a good warm up for a big year ahead, I planned to set the tone with a big 3/3 day and smoke my 600 to make a statement. I felt I did just that and I am feeling real good on the bench to start the year off strong
After the meet was over I had the 225 lb rep off challenge to tend to. On the 600 lb bench I had locked up my back real bad. I waddled over to the wall after my attempt and started to slowly stretch out my back. I had brought softballs and lacrosse balls with me as well which I used to help release the area. Once my name was called to get on the bench again I felt good enough to go ahead and get a strong set up. The hardest aspect of the rep off I found in training was the timing of the breathing. You never want to press without a braced core because you will work harder than you have to, therefore tiring yourself out quicker, but you also cannot hold your breath forever. I was able to get a solid 12 reps in before I began messing with breaths. I felt I timed everything pretty well and always got a solid press in with a braced core. I ended up hitting 30 reps which was a 2 rep PR for me with 225. Rich ended up winning the event with an insane number of something like 46-49 reps, which after handling 900 lbs twice and taking 1000 lbs for a ride is pretty wild
In the end I ended up winning my division with my 600 lb Bench, and my teammate Danny ended up placing 3rd in his division with his 180 lb Bench. We took home 1st place hardware and another 3rd place award, as we did last year. I am very thankful for having my team with me to have my back, I am proud of how they performed on a big stage with everyone watching. Big thanks to Gorilla Pack for being there yet again to hand me off and keep me safe, much appreciated as always. Another huge thanks to everyone at Gaglione Strength and John Gaglione for helping me out all training cycle, you can't train in a bench shirt without good people by your side. Equipped lifting is the ultimate team performance. Can't do it without everyone who's lent a hand along the way