Interview With Super Bencher James "Priest" Burdette As told to CriticalBench.com by Ben Tatar - November 2007
1) CRITICAL BENCH: Critical Bench is here with James Burdette who recently bench pressed 700lbs at 198lbs! This feat is astonishing considering years back that 700lbs would have been a world record in the 275lbs weight class, yet alone in the 198lbs class! With that said, James welcome to Critical Bench. It's great to have a top notch bench presser here like yourself. James, tell Critical Bench readers about yourself.
I compete in the 181/198 weight classes. The feds I compete in are the WABDL, AAPF, APF, WPO, UPA, APA and pretty soon the USPF. I compete where I think it will be fun.
2) CRITICAL BENCH: Let's talk about your powerlifting journey for a moment. Tell us about your journey between the first time you benched 135 and 315.
When I first started training for this sport, I thought that the more times you benched a week the better you got. So, I was starting off benching 4 times a week. LOL. As soon as I went to doing 2 Days a week, my bench shot up quickly after that.
3) CRITICAL BENCH: Tell us about your bench press shirt experience today versus when you first started? How are your experiences with a shirt different today than in your early bench days? Are the shirts better today? Why?
The reason I dig the shirts today over the blasts is due to the fact that it doesn't take me 30 minutes to get into a shirt. And I am not worn out by the time I get the shirt seated.
4) CRITICAL BENCH: That's motivating. James, tell us about your bench press journey and the first time you bench pressed 500, 600 and 700lbs!
I don't remember the first time I hit 500. I think it was in Houston at an APA meet.
The first time 600 was broken was the WPO bench bash for cash(601@181).
I love the energy of the WPO. Nothing is better than hitting lifts at a meet with the top benchers in the sport.
The 700 lift was done in a UPA meet in Sacramento at Diablo Barbell.
I knew 700 was going up. I was aiming for 744. No excuses, I just didn't make it.
5) CRITICAL BENCH: Wow, you benched 700lbs at 198!! What was that experience like?
I was happy about it for about 3 seconds. In my weight Class you can't be happy with what you have done because you have People like Frankl, Sceppe, Rabine, Coker, Wolfley, Cartinian, Caminita and McVicker that are constantly putting up big numbers. So, as soon as I hit it, my thinking was to Aim for 750-771 next.
6) CRITICAL BENCH: How did you train for the 700lbs bench press before you achieved such a phenomenal feat of strength at the UPA meet in Sacramento?
Actually, I have two goals at a meet, A number I will be content with a (opener) and my ultimate goal(2nd/3rd lift). One day I attempt 1 Lift with my opener and one with my ultimate goal. After that I do 5 sets Of full range chains. On a second day, I do 5 sets of bands and 5 sets Of boards. Then 3 waves of assistance.
7) CRITICAL BENCH: Very interesting. What's next for you and what are your future goals?
First, I need to heal from a hairline fracture(radius). Then, the FitExpo(WPO), Then the Ukraine. After that whatever meet sounds fun. Probably a UPA meet, A USPF meet, AAPF Nationals, Biggest Bench on the River, WABDL Nationals.
8) CRITICAL BENCH: What goes through your mind before bench pressing 700 pounds? And what goes through your mind afterwards?
I just think about my technique. Pushing my heals down. I don't push at the bar I push away from the bar.
9) CRITICAL BENCH: So far in your powerlifting journey what has been your favorite and funniest moment so far?
I have to start with the funniest moment. I was at USAPL military nationals and it was my first meet that wasn't done in the local gym. I needed a decent pull to place and I was so revved up that I threw myself off balance backwards and was falling off the stage. Behind the stage it looked like a wall, it wasn't. It was a curtain. So, when I tried to catch myself I fell through the curtain. LOL
Favorite moment was at the Arnold Classic in 06. I never met a cooler bunch of guys than the guys I got to compete against. Once we got on the platform it was all business. I got to talk to Ed Coan about deadlifting. I talked to Crawford, Simmons, Mendy (I didn't train with him then), Kennelly, Rychlak, Kellum, Halbert and Carpenter about benching. Where else can you talk to each one of these guys and get tips?
10) CRITICAL BENCH: That is funny, and you're right where else do you get to see all those super stars in one place. Nice! Of all the possibilities in this world, why did you pick powerlifting to be your ultimate passion?
I Love this sport because you can't blame anyone but yourself if you come up short of your goal. And there are plenty of places for you to compete. It doesn't matter if you are a raw, single ply, multiply, monolift, feet flat, press command, no press command lifter, ETC. There is a place for you to lift out there.
11) CRITICAL BENCH: Tell us about the gym you train at and your partners? How do they help you out?
I train at F-I-T in Sherman Oaks, Ca. My training partners are Mendy and a team of crazy people.
We have one guy who does the highland games, 3 that hold masters records, an IFBB Pro, a world champ kickboxer, an actual Priest(not a nickname), a doctor. I think there are about 20 lifters on a bench day. They are all a great group of guys. Spotting is never a problem and there is never a lack of adrenaline.
12) CRITICAL BENCH: Sounds like a breeding ground for power. What supplements do you take?
13) CRITICAL BENCH: What bench press factors do you feel are the most important for a bigger bench press that don't get addressed enough? (we know low reps, heavy weights, recovery and making what is weak strong is important obviously,) but what "specific" aspects of the bench press needs to be addressed more that doesn't get addressed enough?
I don't think people do enough back work. Or enough work on speed out of the bottom. The faster the weight moves out of the bottom, the easier it is to lock it out.
14) CRITICAL BENCH: Interesting speed work and back work! James, in 10, 50, or even 100 years from now, how do you see the future of bench pressing?
Hopefully, getting more television coverage.
15) CRITICAL BENCH: Do you have any message for beginners?
Try out different types of training and see what works for you and use it.
I have been doing this for years and I am still learning.
16) CRITICAL BENCH: When your bench press career is over, how do you want people to remember you?
I don't think I will retire. I will be out there wearing my depends and chewing on my dentures trying to get a new PR. They will have to peal the bar out of my cold dead hand.
17) CRITICAL BENCH: Sounds like a tshirt slogan. We love your powerlifting spirit! Well James, it has been great talking to you. Keep on redefining what it means to be a world class competitor in the sport of powerlifting. In closing are there any people who you would like to thank?
I have to thank my Mother. Without her I wouldn't even be here. My Uncle Jim for always supporting me. I have to thank my Wife Dawn and my 2 beautiful girls Jazzy and Jackie, You 3 girls are the reason I sweat, bleed and breathe. I gotta thank Ken Anderson Powerlifting, House of Pain, Headblade, Scot Mendelson and The rest of my workout partners at F-I-T for putting up with me every single week. Also thanks to Jesse Kellum and Jack Reape for getting me into the sport. Last but not least my Nemesis Powerlifting team.