Weight Lifting, Weight Training, Bench Press & Bodybuilding
June 4, 2023

John Dolan Interview
First 600+ Bencher in the 100% RAW Federation

Interviewed By Ben Tatar of CriticalBench.com - April 2008

big Bench by John Dolan at the Raw Unity Meet
Photo by SAS Digital Memories - All Rights Reserved

John Dolan is the 100% RAW federations SHW 628 lb raw bencher. He was the first ever to do 600 in the 100% RAW fed and the only one to do it more than once. He also had the highest bench at the Raw Unity Meet.

1) CRITICAL BENCH: John, welcome to Critical Bench. It's great to have you here today. Tell us about yourself!

John Dolan: I am from Chicago Illinois . I am 6'0 and currently compete at SHW. My weight is generally between 310 and 320lbs. I have competed from 242 up. I have been competing since 1995, strictly in the bench. I am thirty seven years old and a Chicago police officer. I am married with three children.

2) CRITICAL BENCH: John, what federations have you competed in?

John Dolan: In the last year I have competed in the 100% RAW federation and the USAPL. I competed in 2005 in 100% RAW and the ADFPF and WDFPF. Prior to that, I competed in the USAPL, AAU, SAAS, NASA and the old ADFPA. I compete in the open division. I only compete raw or unequipped even if there is no division for it.

3) CRITICAL BENCH: What is the most you have bench pressed?

John Dolan: My best lift raw is 610 at SHW, which I hit at the in Bloomington Illinois at the 100% RAW federation meet on September 8, 2007. I have hit 600 and over three separate times in competition (2X at one meet). In 2005 I won the WDFPF unequipped bench press world meet in England.

4) CRITICAL BENCH: John, was your 600lbs bench press for the first time as exciting as benching 610 or 628? What else do you like about powerlifting meets besides PRs and breaking records?

John Dolan: Hitting 600 for the first time was right up there along with hitting 610 and 628, but my favorite parts of powerlifting meets is getting the opportunity to meet so many great people at the meets. I still keep in touch with guys I met from competing in the mid 90's to guys I have met recently.

5) CRITICAL BENCH: What is your favorite part about competing in powerlifting?

John Dolan: My favorite part of competing in powerlifting is the entire meet for you is contingent upon your performance alone, there is nobody else to blame except yourself for failing. But mostly I just love to lift weights, at the gym or at a meet. I just really love to lift.

Big Bencher John Dolan Getting Awarded a Trophy For His Bench Pressing Skills

6) CRITICAL BENCH: How did you get started in powerlifting? Did you play any other sports?

John Dolan: I started lifting weights in high school for football and wrestling. I continued wrestling in college and kept lifting there. I got interested in competing in bench meets in 1995, from reading Powerlifting USA.

7) CRITICAL BENCH: John, what muscle groups do you feel are most important for a bigger bench and what exercises do you enjoy training most for that bigger bench press? If you could only do one assistance exercise for a bigger bench press what would it be?

John Dolan: I personally feel the most important muscle outside of the chest is shoulders. My favorite assistance exercise, hands down is the behind the neck military press. If I were to do only one assistance exercise that would definitely be it. I also do overhead dumbbell presses and heavy shoulder shrugs. I also do tricep pushdowns on a lat machine with a semi-wide grip.

8) CRITICAL BENCH: What is the most weight you have pressed over your head before? It's interesting that you picked overhead presses as your favorite assistance exercise when going after that bigger bench! Was there an article or an experience that you had that made overhead presses your number 1 assistance exercise when training?

John Dolan: I would read any article I could on how to get a better bench. One of my favorite articles was one I read with Ted Arcidi, he was saying how he would do behind the neck overheads, since then that has been the staple of my assistance exercises. They have helped my bench tremendously, I have previously hit 450 lbs. for a single on overheads.

9) CRITICAL BENCH: That's super strong! You said earlier in the interview that you competed from 242 to SHW. How big and strong were you in high school? Who inspired you back then?

John Dolan: I was about 200-215 lbs. when I finished high school and could bench 405, though definitely NOT a competition lift. I was fortunate to have two coaches that were knowledgeable about lifting, Keith Peak and Brian McDonough, both of whom helped me tremendously and taught me the most important thing about lifting, DEDICATION. I continued to lift in college for wrestling. After college my main ingredient for working out was just grinding out the lifts. I have been lifting weights for twenty five years and prior to 2005 the longest I went without lifting was one week.

10) CRITICAL BENCH: Are you very laid back in general about your lifting or always super intense?

John Dolan: I am very laid back when it comes to lifting. It probably comes from the fact that I have been lifting for 25 years and enjoy doing it. I don't get psyched up until I lay down and touch the bar, then it's time to get down to business. Once I rack the weight, or someone does it for me, time to put a smile back on.

Bench Presser John Dolan 11) CRITICAL BENCH: What do you think are the 5 most important factors for a bigger bench press and what are the 5 biggest common mistakes you see other lifters make when going after a bigger bench press?

1. With anything in lifting, I feel having a positive mental attitude towards the lift is the single most important factor, your body can do most anything, but it's your mind that has to be convinced.

2. Recovery. You have to let your body recuperate to be able to sustain the heavy workouts that are needed for a great bench. This includes getting enough of a protein intake.

3. Being willing to fail. Just don't accept it. Get back on the stick and succeed.

4. Get a good support system, family and friends.

5. Enjoy yourself!

The 5 things people do wrong.

1. Overtrain. You have to listen to your body, especially the older you get.

2. Listening to too many people. Everybody has advice on what you should do. If something you are doing works for you, stick to it.

3. Being hypocritical here, not listening to people. If a guy like Ed Coan offers you advice, give it a try.

4. Bearing down. Getting a big bench is not going to come overnight, it takes several years.

5. Negative attitude. If you don't think you will get the weight, you never will.

12) CRITICAL BENCH: Thanks for the tips. What is your goal for benching in the future?

John Dolan: For benching I would like to hit a 665 bench in competition, unequipped.

13) CRITICAL BENCH: Do you think powerlifting or bench pressing could go mainstream?

John Dolan: I think the entire sport of powerlifting, especially bench could become pretty popular. I know a lot of people talk about the Olympics for powerlifting. The average person who works out, I would guess would be a lot more apt to watch benching than say waterpolo, gymnastics or even weightlifting, in that they could relate to benching as opposed to the other sports. If you look at the amount of people that workout on a regular basis, you could get your fan base from that alone, they would be able to compare themselves with World Class lifters. I have been competing for over 10 years and have met so many great people at bench meets, that I can't name them all, so from the human interest perspective of marketing the sport, people watching would be able to identify with those lifters as opposed to some elite style athletes, to help keep interest.

14) CRITICAL BENCH: Good points. What in powerlifting would you like to see change?

John Dolan: I'd like to see more camaraderie. I have an enormous respect for anyone who is willing to get on the platform in front of people and lift. I see no reason to badmouth anyone in the sport, from the meet director to the spotters to the other lifters.

15) CRITICAL BENCH: Where do you train?

John Dolan: I train at several gyms in the Chicago area. As meets approach, I train at Chicago Fitness Center located at 3131 N. Lincoln in Chicago, it has the best atmosphere and equipment of any gym I have ever lifted at. Right now, because of a hectic work and family schedule I train alone, though, occasionally I lift with my brother in law Joe. For years I trained with Jim Zielinga and Dan Wilson.

16) CRITICAL BENCH: What is your diet like? What supplements do you take?

John Dolan: I keep a heavy protein intake at all times, I also, unfortunately, eat lots of other stuff, the other food groups, cookies, donuts and soda. I should really watch my intake, but that's why I am a Heavyweight!! I currently only use ACT energy drink at this time.

17) CRITICAL BENCH: What is your favorite thing about yourself?

John Dolan: My favorite thing about myself is I have the best family and friends.

18) CRITICAL BENCH: What people in life do you respect the most?

John Dolan: The people who I respect the most (My father, mother, Father in law, Mother in law, Coaches Dave Hejtmanek, Brian Mcdonough, Keith Peak and Ron Stuart, amongst others) never gave me the proverbial "words of wisdom", just led by example. I'll take that.

19) CRITICAL BENCH: Would you like to break Mendy's RAW bench press record of 713lbs? Is there anything else in life you'd want more?

John Dolan: I would love to break Mendy's record! I would also like to fly. I think I have a better chance of flying! There are so many great young lifters out there that it's bound to happen. Guys like Nick Winters, Brian Siders and Jeremy Hoornstra are so strong at such a young age that the next few years are gonna be great to watch these guys. The next few years will be interesting to watch the progression of all of the bench records. With the push towards unequipped lifting, these guys and others will definitely make it a fun time for Bench Press fans. It'll also be great to watch the equipped benching records continue to fall, as well. Guys like Kennelly, Luyando and of course the Chicago Police Departments own Tommy Harrison will keep us all dropping our jaws. Years from now it would be great to see an 800 lb. unequipped bench.

big Bench by John Dolan at the Raw Unity Meet
Photo by SAS Digital Memories - All Rights Reserved

20) CRITICAL BENCH: Well, you are only 85lbs away! You're definitely leaving a mark on the bench press. John, you are honest, realistic and most of all positive. Is there anything about competing that you dislike? What is the worst part?

John Dolan: The worst part, just a little joint pain here and there, that's about it.

21) CRITICAL BENCH: Where does your motivation come from?

John Dolan: My motivation is easy, I just love to lift. Besides there's very few advantages to being short and fat, just good leverage. I don't worry about other peoples numbers, I don't worry about things I can't control.

22) CRITICAL BENCH: You're well accomplished and you are currently sponsored by BMF Sports. What is it like working with Shawn Bud Lyte and BMF Sports?

I am very fortunate to be sponsored by BMF Sports. I competed in a 100% Raw meet in Dec. of 2005 and met Shawn "Bud" Lyte and became friends with him since then. After that he began to sponsor me, so it is nice to be sponsored by a friend and somebody you respect. I can pick up the phone and get a hold of Bud at anytime, plus he is a Chicago guy.

CRITICAL BENCH: Bud's a cool dude. John it's been great talking to you. Critical Bench wishes you the best in your powerlifting from here on out! In closing, we leave you with John Dolan's bench press routine for the 600+ bench ..

John Dolan's Sample Bench Routine

Bench press
1 x 8 x 135
1 x 8 x 225
1 x 8 x 315
1 x 5 x 405
1 x 8 x 500
1 x 4 x 585
1 x 2 x 600
1 x 1 x 615
1 x 1 x 625

I do not have a set routine. I always go by feel, though I do set goals for each workout.

Behind the neck
1 x 8 x 135
1 x 8 x 225
1 x 8 x 315
1 x 5 x 365
1 x 3 x 405
1 x 1 x 425

Overhead Dumbell
2 x 8 150's

Several sets of shrugs with sets of 8 up to 855 (with straps, without I could probaly get 100 lbs.)



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