Weight Lifting, Weight Training, Bench Press & Bodybuilding
June 4, 2023
Interview with Rookie Powerlifter Dean Bennett
by Ben Tatar of CriticalBench.com

In the sport of powerlifting we have people of all ages competing from children to grandparents. Here at Critical Bench we have usually interviewed the biggest names in the game, the world record holders of the world, but every star in the game of powerlifting was just another lifter who loved the sport at one time. Ultimately in the quest of powerlifting, another way to define success is not just how much weight one can lift but how much passion and love one has for the sport and what adversities the sport of powerlifting has allowed one to overcome.

I have found a man by the name of Dean Bennett. Dean's a man who is quite new to the sport of powerlifting and he's starting to compete at the age of 45! For a man a man who not only wants to start powerlifting at 45 but who also wants to be the best powerlifter at the age of 45 he shows a ton of mental fortitude and love for the game. I mean why would someone want to be the best and start competing at a middle age? Dean Bennett has faced a great deal of adversity. Here's a man who was afraid that he couldn't ever walk again after falling off a ladder and now he's trying to be the best powerlifter that he can be! One of Dean's first impressions of powerlifting came after reading the 100 question interview that we did with Mike Wolfe! During that moment something inside Dean sparked and now his powerlifting career is taking off! It's now time to step into the mind of Dean Bennett and see what this die hard powerlifting fan and competitor has to say!

Powerlifter Dean Bennett

1) Critical Bench: Dean, welcome to www.criticalbench.com Here's your chance to shine. Tell us about yourself.

I'm a 45 year old, typical suburban dad, with a lot of responsibilities and absolutely no athletic background. Zero. Professionally, I'm an advertising sales manager for a large magazine publishing company here in the Milwaukee area. My job, my family and my house keep me pretty busy.

2) Critical Bench: Now, it's very interesting that you got started in powerlifting at the age of 45. What got you started in powerlifting at such a late age?

My story really started in November 2003. My wife, son and I had just built a new home, and I was hanging Christmas lights one afternoon when I took a bad fall off the ladder and severely hyper extended my knee. The knee bent in a way it shouldn't be. Use your imagination... I was on crutches and Vicodin for several weeks, and then limped around, feeling sorry for myself, for several more. I seriously wondered if I would ever walk normally or be able to climb stairs again. The pain was incredible. Then in February 2004, I herniated a disk in my low back as an indirect result of the fall. One night, my back gave out completely and I collapsed on the living room floor, unable to walk, or move at all. That scared the hell out of me. I basically spent the next several months spiraling downward into a very dark place psychologically and emotionally. I prayed to God to show me a way out. And He did.

In October of 2004, Mike Hodge, who is the program director at the local Boys and Girls Club, visited my company to speak as a loaned executive for the United Way. After Mike's compelling talk, I introduced myself and suggested that Mike may want to bring some of the kids from the Boys and Girls club out to see our facility. Mike wasted no time in setting up a field trip. As Mike and I got to know each other, I learned that he is a world champion bench presser with a best lift of 730 lbs. Wow! I sort of half-heartedly asked him if he could give me any tips on beginning to lift and get back into shape, keeping my recent injuries in mind. He asked me to come down and join him at Animal House Gym in West Allis. I took a tremendous leap of faith and jumped into the deep end.

My first visit to Animal House was in February 2005. I can't tell you how many times, on the drive to the gym, that I almost chickened out and went home. Walking through the door of that gym was about the scariest thing I had ever done. I was about as far out of my comfort zone as I could be. I looked around the best gym in Wisconsin, intimidated and frozen with anxiety, just thinking to myself, "What the hell did I get myself into? I don't belong here.". Well, I was wrong, and that was my turning point. Mike Hodge was (and is) an extremely helpful and patient coach. That first day I struggled with all my might just to move 125 lbs. off my chest. If I would have let my shame get the best of me, I would have never gone back, and I would have deprived myself of some of the best experiences I've ever had. Mike went on to introduce me to his friend Kent Wannebo, who is now in the 600 lb. club, and suddenly I found myself benching every Saturday morning with two 300 lb. plus guys who throw ten plates on the bar like nothing. I forced myself to stop making comparisons, and to just focus on getting better and learning from the best. Shortly after I met Kent, I ran into my old buddy Gary Kachar at Animal House.Gary is a veteran strength athlete with about 25 years of lifting experience under his belt. He was shocked to see me there, and we rekindled a great friendship.

Going to the gym on a regular basis has become a major and positive part of my lifestyle. It took some getting used to by family and friends, but it's one of the best choices I've ever made.

3) Critical Bench: So, you became great friends with Mike Wolfe after you read my 100 question interview with him? What was it about Mike Wolfe that caught your eye so fast? -- Describe what it's like hanging out with Wolfe and being friends with him??

The thing to remember about Mike Wolfe is that he's not a naturally gifted strength athlete. He's a guy who struggled through humble beginnings at the gym, persevered, and went on to be among the best in the sport. I contacted him and we seemed to click right away, despite the fact that we are about as different from one another as two guys can be. Wolfy and I are good for each other. He offers bench coaching, and I offer life coaching. It's a good mix. We live about 300 miles apart, so we don't exactly hang out together. I'm pretty sure that a night out with Mike Wolfe and his crew would either kill me, or get me into a heap of trouble!

4) Critical Bench: You are new to powerlifting and obviously you aren't one of the best powerlifters in the World. So, what is it about powerlifting that you love so much and why do you love powerlifting even as a rookie?

What I love about this is that everybody wants everybody else to succeed, no matter what their abilities. I love the fact that I'm doing something that not many people do. I really love all the great people I've met. I love the fact that I'm forced to compete with myself every time I get under that bar. And most of all, I love that I've faced a challenge within myself, head on.

5) Critical Bench: Tell me about some of the meets that you have been to? Explain what you saw from your perspective?

The first meet I attended was the Wisconsin State Fair meet in August 2005, where we helped our buddy Kent Wannebo who successfully benched 540 lbs. that day. It was an exciting experience, and I got to witness firsthand, both the intense competition and the intense camaraderie. It was great to see guys competing against each other, and yet helping each other to do their best. I've been to a handful of meets since then, including Bench America and Bench Bash for Cash in Chicago. Every meet is very different, and I learn something valuable every time I go.

6) Critical Bench: Most middle age individuals don't lift when they reach their 40s. Where do you find the drive to compete and train hard and to be the best that you can be as a middle age mature lifter?

I haven't seen the tremendous gains that a man in his 20s might see. At first, I let my frustration get the best of me. But now I think the drive really comes from the fact that I see men and women my age and much older, achieving great things. I know I am nowhere near my potential, and I'm going to keep at this until I know where that potential lies. The drive also comes from the responsibility I have to my training partners, to show up and do my best, whether I feel like it or not.

7) Critical Bench: How long do you plan on competing for?

Well, as I write this in July of 2006, my first bench meet is about four weeks away. Let's just get me through the first one before we get ahead of ourselves! As I continue to improve, I think I'd like to compete for as long as my body holds out.

8) Critical Bench: What's your training philosophy ?

I learned this from Mike Hodge that first day at Animal House: If you want to bench - then bench. I see a lot of guys doing many, many different things to "help their bench". But when it comes right down to it, you have to train hard at the one thing you want to master. It's a very simple, direct philosophy, and it works for me. I believe in seeking advice from the best teachers and coaches you can find.

9) Critical Bench: You are new to the game and we know that someday you will achieve some amazing strength feats. What are some of your weight lifting goals and goals outside of training?

Ben, I appreciate your confidence! From day one, when Mike Hodge said to me, "Yeah, you look like about a 300 lb. bencher", my goal has been to bench 300 lbs., which may as well have been a million lbs. at the time. Right now I'm benching about 200 lbs. raw, and I seem to be able to get about 50 lbs. or so out of my Inzer Rage shirt. The weakest part of my lift continues to be on the low end. If anybody out there has some sound advice to share, I'll welcome your e-mail! My progress continues to be painfully slow, but I remain focused on the goal and I won't stop until I'm there. I've dropped about 25 lbs. since I started lifting, and I'd like to drop another 25 or so. I'd like to fill out my sleeves a little bit more and actually LOOK like a guy who spends 3 or 4 days a week at the gym! Ha! I've been trying to learn more about the nutritional aspect of the sport. Just like everything else, there's a lot of conflicting information out there to sift through.

10) Critical Bench: What are your top 10 favorite things about powerlifting?

1. Right at the top of the list are my amazing friends, and all the incredible people I've met.

2. At 250 lbs., it's nice to go out with my buddies and be "the little guy" for a change!

3. The personal challenge for me is amazing.

4. The approachability of the top athletes. Never be afraid to ask questions.

5. The meets are fun.

6. Everybody has great stories. Some are even true.

7. There is always room for growth and improvement.

8. Power lifting has opened the door to many new positive experiences for me.

9. Everybody roots for the underdog.

10. My son thinks I'm strong!

Critical Bench: Is there anyone who you would like to thank?

First of all, I need to thank God for hearing my prayers and opening a door for me. He led me down an incredible path. Thanks to Mike Hodge, for igniting a spark and helping me find something deep within myself which I didn't realize existed. Thanks to Gary Kachar, for keeping things fun and interesting in the gym, and for pushing me in new directions all the time. Thanks to Kent Wannebo, for demonstrating what brains and brawn are all about, and for helping me to keep things in perspective. Thanks to Mike Wolfe, for always being willing to help a new lifter, and for leading me to believe that anything's possible through hard work and perseverance. Thanks to Jay Cicero of High Performance Fitness for his unending support, encouragement and sound nutritional advice. Thanks to my wife Mary, for tolerating an endeavor that couldn't be more foreign to her, and thanks to my six year old son, Colin, for believing in me, no matter what.

Critical Bench: Thanks Dean for taking the time with us. And for all the lifters out there who want to lift, remember beginner, intermediate, or pro, everyone shares one major goal in common; to get stronger, have fun, and have a deep down divine love for the sport. Powerlifting, like any passion, can be a lifetime endeavor for many. Dean, thanks for sharing your initial experiences of powerlifting with us all.


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