Adam has been training under me for quite some time now and has been an outstanding addition to the team we’re trying to build. I always hold Adam in high regard. He’s the first to reach out and congratulate teammates, like other’s posts, and just be a good team player. He’s fantastic at communicating with me and getting the most out of his online coaching experience. I’m very glad Adam and I connected and I’m excited to feature him in our first of many Team Member Interviews!
COACH BEN: Thanks for doing this interview Adam! Let’s start from the beginning, when did you start training specifically for powerlifting? How old were you at the time, how old are you now?
ADAM BELL: Hey Ben, I’m happy to do the interview and appreciate your interest! Of course, I started benching first – on a home weight set with my dad at age 12 and I’m 37 now. My first meet was as a 132 lb 15-year-old as a freshman in HS. My total was somewhere in the mid-600s if I recall correctly.
COACH BEN: What drew you to the sport of powerlifting vs a different sport or hobby?
ADAM: I was flat out scrawny and weak – no genetic advantages here! After my dad’s obvious encouragement, I remember a football coach in 8th grade encouraging me for improving my bench – I’m pretty sure I was repping 95 – ha!
COACH BEN: Living in Texas I bet there was a big powerlifting presence and influence as you were growing up. I know down there they are pretty serious about lifting. It is a high school sport just like anything else, you don’t have that type of early introduction here. Am I correct in my assumptions?
ADAM: Oh yeah it is definitely a big deal, but at my school, our girls program was actually more accomplished in powerlifting than our guys and fielded a full state team regularly. Most high school football programs in Texas use it as a form of offseason training just like they do for track, and in the corner of the state I grew up in that was just about all of them.
COACH BEN: Interesting, so did you play another sport as well in High School? You mentioned football?
ADAM: I only played football through my freshman year – but I was scrawny AND slow so I was the scout team QB tackling dummy. I didn’t figure that would be a fun career! I was actually all-state in band where I also met my wife, so I’d say that was a better choice! Plus, anytime someone on the football team wanted to talk trash about the band I could remind them that I benched more than all but 2 of them.
COACH BEN: Who were your mentors / role models growing up? Powerlifters or bodybuilders. Being in Texas I imagine Ronnie Coleman had a great impact on you? I started out myself by getting into bodybuilding like many others. Was always a fan of the classic physiques, Arnold was the greatest
ADAM: I grew up in a small town right next to Silsbee, Texas – home of Mark Henry, the powerlifting phenom who went on to the Olympics and WWE fame. His natural strength is simply incredible, and he was setting a lot of powerlifting records just as I was coming into high school.
I was also very fortunate to get to train with some amazing, master lifters at a young age. When doing an internship at the Beaumont Mobil Refinery, I met Paul Boutte who was putting up some amazing numbers at about 50 years old and he was training his son-in-law TJ Hoerner – the lightest man to squat 805 as a light 148. After I graduated and started working in South Texas, I got to train with Gary Pamplin who was competing in powerlifting before I was born and has competed at the highest levels of the IPF well into his 50s.
All of these guys were humble, hardworking, and really cared about helping others which really left an impression on me.
COACH BEN: Those early role models can have a major impact on us. Just like having good coaches early in sport can be such a blessing. What are some of the biggest lessons / traits you learned from the mentors you just mentioned?
ADAM: Obviously I learned the nuts and bolts of having a training plan, developing technique, and how to plan attempts and execute a game plan in a meet. Beyond that, these guys impressed upon me that Powerlifting can be something you can do for your entire life.
COACH BEN: I remember you mentioning that you started out in equipped powerlifting. Why did you take to equipped lifting early? Was it just a normal thing amongst the guys you trained with? Raw lifting is actually seeing it’s boom now but what many don’t realize is that raw lifting wasn’t really a thing a while ago. It was all equipment
ADAM: Back in the 90s, powerlifting meant suits… aside from Mark Henry who lifted raw and beat everyone anyway of course! In high school, coach would throw out a cardboard box of Inzer suits before you got on the school bus to go to the meet, that’s just the way it was.
Going into the early 2000s, it was like an arms race to develop the next improved squat or bench material, add layers, and break 1000 lb barriers.
COACH BEN: Wow thats very fascinating! What a different world it was. Now you have lifters trying to buy all the newest stuff and making sure they get it brand new. The best shirt I ever used and still use was some old Inzer SDP I grabbed off a guy in Texas on Ebay! haha
ADAM: Speaking of that arms race, I saw Tiny Meeker bench something like 820 and attempt over 900 in Houston in 2004… I never trained with him, but it was eye opening to see what bench specialists like that could do. I think he ended up getting 1102. Personally, I remember getting the first Inzer Rage shirt, then the RageX then the Titan Katana was my favorite.
COACH BEN: What is your favorite of the 3 lifts? (Brownie points if you say Bench)
ADAM: Of course it is bench! It is what I got started with and really got me into lifting. Unfortunately, I had terrible technique and over-trained, which was a great combination to mess up my shoulders by age 17. As a result, I have avoided overhead movements and limited upper body training frequency for the past 20 years. Your program is the first time I’ve been able to add a secondary upper body day to a weekly training cycle consistently in that entire time.
COACH BEN: How did you come across Big Benchas and what prompted you to reach out to me?
ADAM: You commented some kind of simple encouragement on an Instagram post I made. I checked out your content and was really impressed with the quality of the technique tips you were posting so I followed. Next, I signed up for one of your free bench programs just to try it out since I’ve never done online coaching before. Your responsiveness, attitude, and overall coaching system convinced me to sign up for full 3-lift coaching.
(The front judge scared me! – Coach Ben)
COACH BEN: You’ve been doing outstanding on the team! Very interactive with me, making sure you’re always making improvements, very detailed and technical in your approach. You’re also very supportive of the other teammates. What are some of your big wins in strength, technique, or approach since joining us?
ADAM: I admit I’m a little bit of a perfectionist sometimes, and as an engineer I’m always trying to think of a better way of doing things in general. I don’t feel like I’m just naturally gifted or strong, so I need to learn every possible way to be precise and maximize what I do have. In regards to the team, I just try to encourage others like I would appreciate being encouraged. A lot of us probably don’t have a lot of in-person help, so every little like, comment, etc., can hopefully help make up for that deficit.
I’m really starting to hit some new max and volume PRs with improved technique in this training cycle, but what I’m most excited about is that I have some support and guidance to start addressing some of the restrictions and deficiencies I’ve developed especially over the past several years of just going solo. I took a long break from competing from 2007 – 2017, so this October’s USPA meet will be 1 full year back being competitive and I’m looking forward to doing this many more years like some of the mentors I had early on.
COACH BEN: What have been some of your favorite movements that we have hit in your training? How have you felt they have helped you get stronger?
ADAM: Hitting my raw bench max of 385 on the Dead Press was pretty surprising and exciting! You programmed it for me 2 weeks in a row, and I had never done this variation before so the first week I had the bar set 1 pin too high. The next week, I moved it down to where it was just an inch or so off my chest so I knew it would be a bigger challenge. I didn’t execute the first time I tried it and failed, but I reset and came back and got it. I’m looking forward to figuring out how to apply this low end torque to make some big gains.
COACH BEN: Not to age you any faster or anything, but as you get older your recovery is not what it once was when you were younger. What have been some of the things that have helped you in the recovery department and what are your recommendations to older lifters to ensure they are able to do this for a long time to come?
ADAM: Oh man I’m trying to roll back the clock in this area! I had gotten so bad at mobility and recovery that it took me over a week to recover between sessions of the same lift… I was probably only getting about 8 to 10 workouts in per month total and feeling sore and beat up. I found out the hard way 2 years ago by triggering some back spasms and the beginning of arthritis that I had to revamp my squat form and address mobility issues.
I’m definitely not there yet, but I’m working on a number of different movements including the Core 4 and I’m now getting 4 good lifting sessions most weeks with more volume each session than before too. We’ve had to make some accommodations like not using the straight bar on squat every week, but this is as good as I’ve felt physically in as long as I can remember.
COACH BEN: You’re one of the first to test drive the new 36” Big Benchin’ Wraps we came out with, what are your thoughts on those and would you recommend them?
ADAM: These are honestly the best wrist wraps I’ve ever used. They’re stiff – but not so difficult to work with that you can’t get any stretch out of them. I’d never been able to wrap my wrists so hard they actually hurt before, but I managed to with these bad boys! Combined with the improved wrapping techniques you taught me, it is just night and day compared to what little support I used to get out of wrist wraps.
COACH BEN: I often see your wife and kids training with you, I think that’s awesome. Some of my fondest memories are starting and learning to train with my dad in our basement. It’s what got me started and I will cherish that forever. You think you have some future record holders in the family? Whats the early outlook, ESPN is scouting!
ADAM: Haha! I don’t think I blessed my boys with any better genetics than I received, but I’m hoping to teach them that working smart AND working hard consistently will beat out natural talent in life and in the gym. I’m not going to push it on them, but if they want to work I’ll be happy to teach them everything I know and sweat along with them. I’m pretty sure they won’t enjoy being teenagers in this house if their Mom is out lifting them, because she is sure to remind them of it!
COACH BEN: Great lesson there and its true! Consistency and intensity can be invaluable traits. Interesting take because I remember at first and still joke with my dad today that he couldn’t get me down in the basement to lift with him for the life of him. To me it was a cold basement and I didn’t like classic rock so much yet! haha. However if my mom could say she lifted more than me it might have been a different story!
ADAM: Oh yeah, my boys still like the ‘idea’ of working out more than actually lifting for real. They’re only 5 and 11, so plenty of time for that to come.
COACH BEN: What’s next for Adam Bell?
ADAM: I’m going to take just over a week off on a little family vacation and then get back to work to prepare for the USPA Houston Fall Classic in October. Once I hit some personal goals with raw lifting (namely that elusive 400 lb bench), I’m looking forward to getting back into some equipment and doing some ‘real’ classic powerlifting!
COACH BEN: Would you recommend Team Big Benchas?
ADAM: Absolutely I would, it has been a great experience working with you and getting feedback and recovery tips from the rest of the team. From elbow tendonitis hacks to callous tear repair to everything in-between, it has been so much more than just a program.
COACH BEN: Thanks so much for the interview Adam! It has been great gathering some more insight into your training!
You can follow Adam on Instagram @adam.bell.102
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