Weight Lifting, Weight Training, Bench Press & Bodybuilding
June 23, 2024
Interview With Gene Rychlak
by Monster Muscle

Gene Rychlak Is The First Man to Bench Press 1,000 Pounds

Gene Rychlak Judy: Did you ever think that a human being would or could bench press 1000lbs? At what point in your life did you realize that you could be that person?

Gene: If you would have asked me when I first started lifting 20 years ago, I would have said "No way" But, as soon as I did 900lbs, I knew it would just be a matter of time.

Judy: What do you think accounts for the recent skyrocketing of bench presses in powerlifting?

Gene: The main reason is basic evolution. The athletes over the years have gotten bigger, stronger and faster, so it is no surprise that the lifts have taken off. Also, advancements in gear to an extent, as advanced athletes have learned to train to get the most out of it. Gear has gotten so much better since I was first introduced to it. Training techniques have evolved significantly, especially for me. For the longest time, I was stuck trying to bench 600lbs and after some changes everything feel like dominoes. The ego has a lot to do with it too. Everyone wants to have a number that is awe- inspiring next to his or her name. Many old timers have come up to me and said that wheat I did was both a blessing and a curse. It gives other people the feeling that it can be done, and in return, that forces me to go even higher. So I keep raising the mark.

Judy: Tell me about Gene Rychlak off the platform. Do you have a family? What do you do for a living?

Gene: I was born 37 years ago. Both my parents were deaf-mute due to childhood illness that sadly modern medicine would now have been able to treat, but at the time was out of their realm. I have a brother that is three years younger than me. We were fortunate to be born with full hearing and speech capabilities, but were greatly impacted by our parents hardship. My mother's side of the family was responsible for making sure we grew up like other children. At an age where most kids were learning how to communicate, both my brother and I had to learn two languages, English and Sign language, so we could communicate with our parents. I never once thought of their deafness or inability to speak as a handicap, but rather as a different type of communication. It certainly allowed me to see both sides of life. My mother passed away when I was 19. I feel very fortunate to still have my father with me. He plays a big role in my life and shares a big part of my powerlifting success. I had a different upbringing, but my time growing up was a unique experience and I think I'm a better person for it. It really has helped me deal with all the criticism and negativity I have received since I have broken the 1000lbs barrier. I think about the difficulties they had, and it puts things into perspective. As far as me, I am single, but one could say that I'm married to powerlifting. Powerlifting is my mistress. I am self-employed- a jack-of-all-trades, yet master of none. I live at home and take care of my father. I draw a lot of support from my family. My dad is really into it and that feels good. He was there throughout the formative years of my powerlifting. I am glad he is around to see the end result of my efforts.

Gene Rychlak

Judy: A few years ago I heard someone remark that if a guy bench pressed 1000lbs he wouldn't have to work for the rest of his life. What do you think about that statement?

Gene: That is a really good question. It would be so nice if it were true. As of yet, bench pressing a grand hasn't yielded me a dime. So, if you add a buck fifty to that, well, I could buy myself a beer at the bar. Having a sense of humor is really all I can do. Powerlifting is not a money maker. Instead of growing with the passage of time, it has become more and more fractured. There is so much back-biting and jealousy, so much animosity. All this has contributed to lowering the status of our sport instead of producing something more mainstream. People are more apt to watch baseball or Nascar. There is so much negativity in the sport, something I can certainly describe first- hand in great detail. It just hurts the sport and makes us look second-class. All we have is each other, fellow lifters and friends. It will take all of us to deliver our sport into tomorrow.

Judy: Gene you were the first person to bench 900lbs and then the first person to crack the 1000lbs mark. Yet no one really made a big deal about it. That is frustrating and saddening at the same time. Why do you think so? What are your feelings about this?

Gene: Right now it seems that my monumental achievements have been given secondary status. I wish I knew why. These were numbers that everyone waited to see happen and when they did, well, they came and went. Some people point at the IPA, and say that is because many of my lifts came in the IPA, and some people have a negative perception of that federation. Some of history's greatest lifters have lifted in the IPA and I just can't understand that. Everyone loves to win but everyone hates a winner. So many people cry conspiracy and bash me without review because that is what they live for, that is their existence, to tear others down. It is easier to tear someone else down than to build yourself up. Some people have cited my gear as the reason. My gear has passed inspection every time. It is no secret that everyone will get different results from their equipment. It seems like the better I do, the more some people dislike me and I feel like the target for condemnation.

Gene Rychlak Benches 876 Judy: Having to handle such heavy poundage certainly must take a toll on your body. Give me a rundown on your training schedule?

Gene: My training schedule is not set week to week like it is for many lifters. I typically operate in 12-14 day rotations, rather than set training days. My schedule is based on my meet schedule and is dictated by the period of time out from my next competition. I am a bit more active than some lifters and I tend to push the envelope with each training session, so my training schedule has to be flexible. My training is an offshoot of Westside Barbell's principals. I follow a lot of what they do but tweak it to accommodate the poundage and effects of the poundage I am incorporating during training. Overall I am satisfied with my training. I certainly can't argue with the results. I am not big on deadlifting, but I concentrate on the squat to help accommodate my body's ability to handle the heavy weight. I like to train 2 1/2 hours a day, beginning, around 4-5pm and typically finishing around 7-7:30pm. I am at the gym every day, but have designated days off. I bench every 5th to 7th day. At this point I am not training the squat for competition but for overall strength and stability. Leg drive is crucial in the bench press for me and requires constant training.

Judy: Talking with some of the other elite lifters out there, it seems apparent that raw benching is deemed almost another sport altogether. Many people are always asking what you bench raw. Does this get frustrating?

Gene: Yes, it is very frustrating. I don't know how many times I explained it but people keep asking my raw numbers. TO be perfectly honest, I don't know, and I don't care to know. In training I don't go any heavier than 450 Raw. Since I compete with gear, I am only interested in perfecting my game with gear. People that wear gear know and understand what I am talking about. I've been at this for a long time and there isn't anything for me to gain by training Raw. If anything I stand to injure myself and lose everything that I have worked so hard to achieve.

Judy: I am sure that many people would like to know what kind of shirt you use?

Gene: I wear a double-ply Inzer Phenom open back, with velcro. My advice for sizing is, "if it ain't tight, it ain't right". If you take your shirt off and you aren't bleeding, you better start over again. I typically start my training cycle with a looser shirt and then about a month or so out I will switch to my meet shirt. I use the same shirt for all my attempts. It takes a long time for me to get into my shirt, so the shirt I start with is the shirt I finish with. I hear so many people chattering about how us heavy benchers are wearing 4 or 10 ply shirts. They just don't understand that a thicker shirt is a harder shirt and begins to work against you and will have no spring. Anything above a two or three ply would be working in reverse for anyone. So many people think that by putting on a shirt it will magically transform you from Joe Blow to Ryan Kennelly. They think that if they can do 500 raw, they can do 1000 with the shirt I use. People don't realize or have an appreciation for, the sacrifices we have had to go through. Buying a shirt doesn't give you a huge bench. It is a combination of genetics, determinations, training and gear; and if you only have one or two of these prerequisites then you are out of luck. God forbid some lifter gets more out of a shirt than another. Well, that's the way the world works. You have to understand and appreciate the fact that if you work long enough you may be able to get more out of your gear but it doesn't happen over night.

Judy: Have you had more support in the sport or more opposition? From whom or which groups have you received the most support?

Gene: Everyone likes to win, no one likes a winner. That has become my catch phrase it seems. The more successful I have become, the more people have tried to diminish my credibility. The real winners in this sport are the ones that have supported me- my own Team RPS, Mike Miller, Joe Mazze, Dan Kovaks, Carl Seeker and Mark Chaillet. The groups that I have gotten the least support from are the "Bench Press Lennies." Everyone knows who they are. They bench 315lbs, but say they could do 900lbs if they had the right shirt, lol.

Judy: You certainly have a unique appearance. Any reason for the sunglasses and flame beanie? You used to sport a mohawk.

Gene: I still have the mohawk. The glasses are to protect my right eye. I am extremely light sensitive in my right eye due to an accident I suffered. Somewhere along the line it transformed into the look I guess. The beanie, well I borrowed that one from Ryan, lol. It covers the Mohawk, which is too much for most people to handle. The beanie keeps it all in one place.

Judy: You have offically benched over 1000lbs. What's next? And what are your long term plans?

Gene: 1100lbs and beyond! I plan to continue raising the mark. I am not one to rest on my laurels. I plan on competing in the IPA Worlds this summer and the Senior Nationals in the Fall. For long term, I would love to find a way to make a living from powerlifting. Maybe by training people, opening a gym, anything. You would think that because this is America, you can turn your accomplishments into something down the road. I am hoping for that.


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