Interview With Powerlifter Jack Reape Interviewed By Ben Tatar of CriticalBench.com - January 2008
Jack Reape is a competitive powerlifter in both the USAPL and the AAU. He also has a lot of knowledge and experience regarding how to get a bigger bench press. In this interview I will step into the mind of Jack Reape and discuss what it takes to be the best bench presser possible.
1) CRITICAL BENCH: Jack, Critical Bench would like to talk to you about how one can improve upon their bench press, but before we get into that, please give the readers some background information about yourself.
I am a 46 year old Christian husband and father of three kids. I am a career Navy Pilot. Powerlifting is my hobby, but my wife thinks it is an obsession. I lift in the USAPL and AAU, but I also do an unsanctioned BP meet each year, the Biggest Bench on the River in New Roads, La, run by Reed Bueche. Reed's meets are my favorites out of sheer fun and crazy crowds and amazing lifting.
2) CRITICAL BENCH: Jack tell us about how you got started in the bench press and tell us a little bit about your competitive powerlifting and bench press career!
When I was in about 8th grade I was given an iron weight set as payment for some yard work. I built a bench and squat rack out of a picnic bench and some 4x4's and got to work. My first meet was as a 132lb Oly lifter. I realized that was not my thing and hit my first Power Meet at Rahway State Prison in NJ within a year as a 148 hitting about 330-210—330-770. They skipped the DL that meet because we had to be out of the Prison by dark. I have often wished for that to happen again in other meets! My PRs as a 242 are 722-580-622 at around 235lbs of bodyweight in single ply. I just benched 568@221 in an AAU push pull a few weeks ago.
3) CRITICAL BENCH: Congrats man, doesn't look like you're planning on slowing down anytime soon! What is it about the bench press and bench press training that you love so much?
To be honest, I consider myself a three lift powerlifter. I have become a decent bencher in the last 5 years or so, but for years it was my worst lift. I like training the bench because it is a more fun and less stressful than squat, DL, or GPP. I don't love anything that doesn't love me back.
4) CRITICAL BENCH: That's a good philisophy in lifting and in life...lol. Out of chains, boards, bands, floor presses, and rack lockouts, which movements do you think are the most important for a bigger bench?
I think boards are most important for everybody no matter what gear or fed they lift in. They are great for learning the shirt, ME work, and for assistance. Bands are great for speed work and lockout. Chains are great for deload because they still let you work speed but don't tear you up like bands. I almost never do rack work because it kills my shoulders. If I do it, I do it lying on floor in a rack not on a bench and only as assistance. Other things work better for me so why do them? I like floor press with chains but don't do them often because I am so thick and short armed I almost touch the bar to my chest doing floor presses! Off the chest is not really my problem anyway, but I really like high rep DB or KB floor press for recovery on back off weeks.
4b) CRITICAL BENCH: Which do you think are the most important in order when building a bigger bench and why?
Easily Board work in both ME, shirted and raw, and Repetitive Effort(RE). The rest is dependent on your weaknesses.
5) CRITICAL BENCH: We know that there are many different types of bench press training styles out there. Which styles of training do you use?
I consider myself a WSB style trainer. Not because I do exactly all that they do, but because Louie Simmons has influenced my approach and thinking about training more than anybody else, I think MM is awesome, and Pavel Tsatsouline is a good friend, and I use some of their stuff. But I consider myself a practitioner of a rotation of ME, RE, and DE.
6) CRITICAL BENCH: Can't blame you for that approach. How do you build a perfect bench press routine for yourself?
I have a good frame for BP and am fast off the chest, not a lot of natural muscularity up top, and a weak lockout. So I do a lot of board lockout work, a lot of volume in the 5-7 rep range to add muscle, always work my setup and technique, and do a little speed work when I think I am slowing down a bit. The most unique thing I do is take a back off week every fourth week. This makes a huge difference.
7) CRITICAL BENCH: Jack, how much volume do you use when you are training for a bigger bench?
On ME days, I follow prilepin's chart and do 2-3 singles above 90%. I will then do 3 reps at around 90% of my top set then 5 reps at 80% of my top set on whatever ME work I did that day. That is usually board press in a shirt or raw. On DE day 6-9 sets of three. On RE day 15-25 reps of full rom raw BP. My assistance is 25-50 reps of lats and tricep work. I bench twice a week. Monday alternating ME and DE, Thursday RE work. I use a 4 week rotation. Week 1 and 3 are ME weeks, week 2 is a DE week on Monday. Week 4 I BP once and do a back off week of either NFL combine or DB/KB floor press for high reps.
8) CRITICAL BENCH: Great answer, thanks for the in depth response. Would you advise a less experienced or an intermediate bencher to use as much volume as you or do you feel the less experienced bencher should train differently?
A less experienced lifter could do what I do with maybe skipping singles and shirt work for a while. I am limited in my volume because I also squat and deadlift twice a week, am drug tested at work, and am not as young as I once was! A young guy could do more than me. Trouble is many don't work harder than me or as consistently. I am where I am at because I work smarter, harder, and more often than many others. I am not a great Bencher, I know some of those folks and train with some and they aren't me. I can't beat great guys because they are more talented and work hard. But if you don't work hard or aren't great I think I can beat you. I know I will always deliver my best on the platform more consistently than others and sometimes that is good enough to beat better folks than me. I am a bit competitive! Still, at this point I would always rather PR than win on poor lifts.
9) CRITICAL BENCH: What kind of bench press shirt do you use?
I use a Titan F6 for my opener and a Titan Katana for my other attempts.
10) CRITICAL BENCH: What is your advice when picking a bench shirt out?
I am a Titan fan but Inzer and Metal and Karin all make great shirts. Get a shirt and dial it in, learn it, practice in it, become a Bench Shirt technician or get a good dental plan. I am in my shirt every two weeks except far out from a meet.
11) CRITICAL BENCH: What do you think about the evolution of bench press shirts and that a number of 1000+ bench presses have been accomplished in recent years? Many people 2 years ago thought it would never happen in our life time..
I am a huge fan of all lifting and all lifters. Yes the shirts are amazing but the shirt doesn't go over your hands! Those guys still take that great weight in their hands and out over their body. 1000lbs held over your body is mind boggling. Look what happened to Gene Rychlak when 1000+ got away from him! Those kinds of weights are amazing. People want to see freaky stuff! A lot more folks will pay to see a 1000lb BP than a 500 BP. I think attendance may be down a bit at the Arnold this year.
12) CRITICAL BENCH: I agree, the WPO and the attitude of the WPO is going to be missed among the masses of people. How do you see the future of RAW and shirt benching?
Too each their own! This whole sport is a cult sport. Trying to regulate the shirt in or out of the sport is like telling my buddy Frank how much he can do or not do to his compound bow. In a country where you can buy a $30 bottle of deer piss gel, somebody is going to want and buy a better shirt than I might want, and somebody is going to want to do it in a less complicated way. I support everybody who gets on the platform, no matter what gear they use.
13) CRITICAL BENCH: What do you think are the 10 most important factors for a bigger bench press? (both raw and shirt?)
1. Commitment. If you don't work hard in the gym consistently and rest/recover out of it you will have problems.
2. Work your weaknesses.
3. Eating well.
4. Be a technician. Technique and setup is critical in any bench shirt.
5. Strong lockout.
6. Speed off chest
7. Shoulder health
8. Strong lats
9. Fearlessness. If you don't think you can lift it you are right.
10. Back off weeks.
14) CRITICAL BENCH: What do you think are the 5 biggest mistakes people make when going for a bigger bench press?
1. Head up the ass! Not eating breakfast, partying your ass off, doing stupid workouts, using your shirt wrong, missing workouts. All are just dumb.
2. Bad setup.
3. Not listening to good advice
4. Listening to bad advice
5. Trying to be a great raw and shirt bencher at the same time.
15) CRITICAL BENCH: Interesting....we'll have to do a seperate interview just evaluating tip #5 sometime. List 5 important tips for a bigger bench press that hardly ever get addressed?
1. Larry Pacifico said if you want to be a better bencher move up a weight class and do close grips. Bingo!
2. Learn what moving the collar and rotating the sleeves does to your bench shirt.
3. Know what touches in your shirt at a specific bodyweight!
4. Learn to stretch your hip flexors to get a better set up.
5. Use high rep band pushdowns and pull aparts to keep your elbows and shoulders healthy.
16) CRITICAL BENCH: This is some good stuff! How important do you think diet is when training for a bigger bench press and sleep at night? Do you have any diet or supplement tips that could really help one increase ones bench?
You need to pay attention to your nutrition, but I am less than fanatic about it. I eat a fairly healthy diet of high protein, healthy fats, and try to go easy on the carbs. But eating like a bodybuilder is not conducive to a powerlifter or bencher. I will have a dessert once a week and even an amber beverage or two once in a while. I have been accused of striking fear in all you can eat buffet lines. The best advice I can give is make sure you are hydrated! A lot of elbow and shoulder tendonitis can be avoided by staying hydrated. Other than that Creatine, a good Multi-vitamin, Gluco/Chondroitin, and EFAs are my supplements of choice. Sleep is key, a night or two missed is not a showstopper but a pattern of poor rest is a big problem.
17) CRITICAL BENCH: How would you compare RAW bench pressing to shirt benching?
Both are different. Raw is about pure low gear strength off the chest, where shirted is much more about speed off the chest and lockout. It is a big mistake to try to chase both at the same time.
18) CRITICAL BENCH: What impresses you more, the biggest RAW bench or shirt bench and what do you think is harder to achieve?
Big numbers impress me Raw or Shirted. There are just a lot more Shirted big numbers relatively.
19) CRITICAL BENCH: Who do you think are the 5 greatest bench pressers of all time?
Hard to say and I know I will leave somebody out but I would have to give you an old school and current answer. Kaz, Williams, Pacifico, Macdonald, and maybe Weir or Young. Gregg Warr was the at the start of the shirt age and in todays shirts who knows what he could do?
Then currently Kellum, Siders, Halbert, Kennelly, and probably 5-10 more folks who are in that league plus a lot of folks whose names end in "o" or "ov". Look at the IPF women benchers and learn what extreme setup really means! I also have to give credit to two guys have helped me a lot in person, Jesse Kellum and James Burdette. Both guys are strong in and out of the shirt, both work super hard, and both will pull no punches telling you what you are doing wrong or getting on you if you are slacking.
20) CRITICAL BENCH: What is your advice for the frustrated person who has hit a plateau and who would like to get stronger?
EAT and stop doing pyramids! The BP is very finicky about not eating enough. Wearing yourself out on the way up to your worksets is the number one thing I see in the gym daily that is holding folks back. Keep your reps under 5 when benching, you are not a bodybuilder!
21) CRITICAL BENCH: What was the best and worst bench press advice that you were ever told?
The worst was benching elbows out no question. The best was from James who challenged me to be fearless about trying bigger weights in the shirt. Making the shirt work for me from that advice and learning to take a backoff week every fourth week took me from the low 400s to almost 600 in about 4 years.
22) CRITICAL BENCH: Mental Fortitude is key in anything! What goes through your mind before setting a new personal bench press record?
I think about and plan my training and lifting extensively throughout the cycle. I pursue my goals relentlessly and confront and correct my failures through the cycle. Meet week I can feel the emotions build. I try to keep them suppressed. When my name is called I have run through the setup and done the work. I get my shirt tweaked just right and let the emotion begin to build. I go over my mental keys:
1. Quick descent! Chest UP!
2. Tuck then Roll the elbows!
3. Leg drive to lockout!
I let the emotion flow as I get to the platform. I get a good setup and it is an out of body experience from there as the weight comes into my hands on the liftoff. My mind goes blank. My body and brain have done this so many times I just let it all flow. In the gym it is much more thinking and doing all the keys right every time with no psyche at all.
23) CRITICAL BENCH: Way to paint the picture! What are your future goals in the bench press?
Easy! 600 in a single ply shirt as part of a 1900 PL total.
24) CRITICAL BENCH: Awesome! We wish you the best. How has the bench press made you a better person?
It taught me to never concede that you can't do something. I never Benched 300 in college. I squatted 600@181 in 1984 but benched 292! I never hit 400 until I was 39! I had lots of doubts but persevered until I learned what to do better!
25) CRITICAL BENCH: Hopefully your insights have helped motivated someone out there. Jack, congratulations with all of your success and we know you will have more. Is there anything else you would like to say?
You can do more than you think you can do if you are willing to work smarter and harder. Don't let setbacks define you, let your successes define you. If you are having more setbacks than successes, the first thing to check is are you are working smarter?!