Weight Lifting, Weight Training, Bench Press & Bodybuilding
June 15, 2024

Interview With Bench Specialist Paul Key of NGBB Elite
As told to CriticalBench.com by Curt Dennis Jr. "The Brute" of Planetrage.com - June 2008

Bench Press Specialist Paul Key of NGBB Elite

PAUL KEY...I've known Paul for 5 years now when he used to post his log on my forum...I also learned a lot from him and respect him a great deal. He had a pec injury back in 2004-2005 that caused him to be on the shelf...but not for long. He slowly but surely starting get better and was making a comeback. This past march, Paul benched 835 which was a PR from before he was injured and took at stab at 900...hell, he even beat me at a rep-out contest at the end of the meet. I got a chance to train him with a few time at NGBB as well(though he swears its bad luck for me to train with him...lol!). He continued to shock people when he decided to do deadlifts...LOL!! Read on and findout why Paul is Paul...

CRITICAL BENCH: Hey, thanks for doing this interview, Paul, Please introduce yourself.

No problem Curt. Well, my name is Paul Key. I am a bench press specialist competing in the 308 pound weight class. My current best competition lift is 835 pounds…(for those readers familiar with Tommy Fannon's Outlaw board..theres your answer to all the trolls asking how much I benched lol)

I also am currently taking classes to obtain my B.S.S in Sport Coaching and my CSCS from NSCA.

CRITICAL BENCH: How long have you been into powerlifting?

I competed in my first bench press competition in 2000…so eight years now. Wow! It doesn't feel like it has been eight years. I guess time flys when you are doing something you enjoy! I can remember that first competition like it was yesterday. I guess that means I am getting old in this sport, huh?

CRITICAL BENCH: Age is a state of mind Paul! Tell us about your childhood and how you got into powerlifting?

I grew up a typical skinny kid. I reached my full height of 6'2" by 10th grade and I weighed 160 pounds. When I first started lifting I could bench 165 pounds. I started lifting for football, like a lot of kids do. I competed in weightlifting in Florida, which was a combination of bench press and clean and jerk for a total. This was my first taste of competing in a strength sport. I got into powerlifting after moving to Columbus Ohio. I was lucky enough to be invited to train at Westside Barbell by Lou Simmons and was first introduced to powerlifting through that environment.

CRITICAL BENCH: Couldn't ask for a better place to start. Who did you look up to when you were coming up as a powerlifter?

Well, most would say that I'm not really a powerlifter…Im a bencher! Lol I have no problem with that…I like to bench..it's fun! And that's what I like to do this for! I have the utmost respect for lifters competing in all 3 lifts! Takes a ton of hard work and smart training to compete as a full power lifter. Not that the same isnt true for bench specialists…just not as much work! I looked up to some of the older benchers..guys like Ted Arcidi, Pat Casey, Anthony Clark, also to some of todays benchers…guys like George Halbert, Clay B. Ryan K. and others.

NGBB Paul Key 915 2 board

CRITICAL BENCH: What would you say to a novice lifter or to a lifter who's just starting out in powerlifting?

I would tell them to not talk as much and to listen more! Find elite lifters In your area and train with them. While you are training with them…listen! The internet is full of 17 year old "experts" who like to think they know all there is to know about lifting…when in reality they know next to nothing. If you are dedicated and prepared to work hard to become an elite lifter…find and surround yourself with already elite level lifters…listen to them, because they know what it takes to get there.

CRITICAL BENCH: Good advice. Do you have a favorite out of the three or is it all 3 lifts?

Umm…what do you think? I'm a bench press specialist…it's the only fun lift out of the three! Although, I have found that pulling can be interesting….squatting just sucks all around! lol

CRITICAL BENCH: What are the challenges of coming up as a powerlifter?

I would say that there are some challenges. Finding dedicated training partners is usually one that is hard to overcome. Good training partners are hard to find, so if you are lucky enough to find them..make sure you appreciate their efforts. Finding good advice is another challenge. The internet is a good tool for information, but the information is sometimes hard to understand or implement correctly. For example…Dynamic Effort benching. The concept works and anyone who doesn't perform some type of speed training in their training program is missing part of the total package of strength training. The problem is most lifters don't understand the concept or how to integrate it into their training program effectively by only reading articles on the internet.

CRITICAL BENCH: Tell everyone here the difference between someone who wants to look "pretty" and someone who does what we do?

The difference between a workout and a training session. I'm not sure of the difference..I look pretty damn sexy as I am! At least that's what the strippers tell me…I can believe them right? lol

CRITICAL BENCH: Yup they always tell the truth. What would you tell a powerlifer if they are trying to get to the next level in the sport? Do you believe that powerlifters' have a lifestyle of their own?

I would tell them that, to get to the next level, they will have to train harder, be more determined, have greater patience, and BELIEVE that they will reach the highest level. Benchmark yourself against the highest level lifters and train to beat them…Who trains to be second place right?

CRITICAL BENCH: How driven would people say you are about being a powerlifter? How does it effect you outside of the gym?

I would say that most people who know me think I am driven regarding this sport…most people outside of this sport think I am crazy for pushing so hard, for beating myself up so badly, but I want to be the best….if you want to be the best, you are going to have to deal with some pain to get there.

CRITICAL BENCH: What was it like training at Westside Barbell? How often did you train there?

Westside has a very competitive atmosphere! You compete for your place on the record board, your numbers in training, even the order in which you will lift. That type of system can be very beneficial for lifters..evidenced in the many great lifters that come out of there. I was greatly benefitted by my time at WSB. I learned everything I know about lifting from there. The "westside" style of lifting works…and it works well, when it is understood correctly. I always tell everyone who asks that I owe a lot to George Halbert, Lou Simmons, and Clay Brandenburg..without those 3 guys…I wouldn't have the knowledge I needed to be as successful as I have.

Bench Press Specialist Paul Key of NGBB Elite

CRITICAL BENCH: How is it now that your at North Georgia Barbell (NGBB)?

NGBB is different from WSB in that the competition between lifters is less intense. NGBB is more lifter friendly, if you get what I mean. NGBB has produced some great lifters as well. Jon Groves has been around the sport for a long time and understands what it takes to get to the top..and he provides an awesome place to help lifters achieve that.

CRITICAL BENCH: What are your workouts like? How are they setup?

I train to increase my bench press…all my training is devoted to that. With that being said I looked at the top ten benchers and noticed that almost all of them train the squat and deadlift…so I changed my training some. A basic setup is like this:

Mon. DE bench
Tues. Deads
Wed. off
Thur. ME Bench
Fri. off
Sat. Back
Sun off

This training schedule has worked well for me. I train my high boards lockout work on my ME day before my primary exercise. Deads might be ME or maybe working for 5's or triples. My sat back day is usually lighter and more bogybuilding style of back movements.

CRITICAL BENCH: What would you suggest to someone on how to get stronger on all 3 lifts?

Haha…why would someone ask me on how to get stronger on squatting or pulling? Now benching I can help with. I have been getting stronger with pulling, by just performing the exercise….I am still a beginner with pulling. Squatting? Hell…just squat I guess! lol

Paul Key bench Press specialist

CRITICAL BENCH: What drives you as a lifter?

I want to be the best. I have a long road still ahead to get there…but that's what drives me! I look at some of the guys in the sport that are currently the best in their respective divisions and I want to be a part of that group. Lifters like Ryan Kennelly, Rob Luyando, Sean Frankl, George Halbert, Clay Brandenburg, Jay Fry….all these guys and others drive me to be better and to push the envelope..

CRITICAL BENCH: Was your training any different prior to your last meet?

Yeah, my last meet was my first push/pull meet, so I trained some deads. It was a good experience…and I learned a lot about strength and a lot about guts! It takes a ton of intestinal fortitude to gut out a ME pull! I am still trying to increase my pull….it has been a great builder of back strength for my benching. I used to only do bodybuilding style work on my back and I had issues with stability and twisting while benching. Pulls straightened that right out! My benching has become much better since training my back differently…..

CRITICAL BENCH: Do you think using bench shirts/gear are cheating?

Haha….ummm…no! Its just misunderstood by some and hated by others. The ones that hate equipment are the usually the ones who suck at using it! Its just a diffent type of strength. The primary movers in equipped benching are different than the ones in unequipped benching. Equipped benching is far more technical than unequipped. In my opinion, equipped benching provides more of a challenge. When the weight is as heavy as is being used in todays lifting…technique as well as strength is tested. No one can tell me that there is no strength being tested by using todays equipment…anyone who believes that hasn't attempted to use the equipment.

CRITICAL BENCH: What is your view on training in equipment and learning them?

I used to be more of the mindset that once I learned the techinques involved with using equiment then I could train mostly unequipped and still get the most out of the equipment. It took an injury to force me to learn the equipment and to train in it almost exclusively before I really started to understand how equipment can help. I tore my right pec tendon off in a meet 2 yrs ago and it has forced me to forego almost all of my unequipped training. Since then my lifts have surpassed what I was doing prior to the injury…learning the equipment better is mainly the reason for that..

CRITICAL BENCH: What is the reason for the interests in deadlifts? Will you be squatting soon?

The interest in pulling is mainly to increase my back strength, so i can perform better on the bench. Nothing can replace pulling for back strength! You can do all the lat pulls, bent over rows, hammer rows you want, but pulling will put the mass and strength in your back needed for a big bench!

No..I wont be squatting soon. The only squatting I have done is Hatfield squats in training...and thats all i plan on doing! The only reason i do those is they seem to help me fire my legs when pulling. Don't look for any competition squatting from me...


CRITICAL BENCH: What do you think is the reason for all the big numbers as of late like Kennelly's 1070 and Frankl's freakish total or Hoornstra's raw strength? Has strength training evolved?

Yeah, I really believe that strength training has evolved. Now is some of the reason for the lifts increasing because of the equipment? Sure, but training has evolved as well. Lifters have figured out what kind of training supports increases in equipped lifting, and what doesn't…that's training evolution.

CRITICAL BENCH: Do you think the standards went up in the sport?

Standards? I'm not sure this sport ever really had any standards. Judging standards, in some cases, have went down. Lifting standards are about the same…

CRITICAL BENCH: What is your nutrition like now?

Umm….not enough nutrition would prolly describe what my nutrition is now. I really don't eat enough or enough quality food either. My kids usually eat everything good before I can get to it! Is there any good nutrition company's out there looking for a good representative? I could sure use it. lol

CRITICAL BENCH: At every meet I've been to with you, your always so laid back and cool...Why is that?

Laid back and calm is my normal personality. I try to stay calm until its time..i figure it's a good way of conserving energy and dealing with any nerves or such that come up before a competition. State anxiety (anxiety before a comp) will kill your ability to lift max effort weights!

CRITICAL BENCH: What changes are you going to have to make to go to the next level?

Tricep strength! I have to get my triceps stronger to deal with the increased load. I have been using in excess of 1000 pounds in training and I am finding that with weights in the 800-900 range I have the strength to lockout….1000+ is a different animal! Also CNS training….my CNS has to adapt still to the heavier loads. I have been incorporating more 1000+ pound attempts using boards and bands to force my CNS to adapt to that level of weight.

CRITICAL BENCH: Is there anyone you would like to thank right now?

I would first like to thank my family for supporting me in my endevours. I would also like to thank Clay Brandenburg, George Halbert, and Lou Simmons for passing on their wealth of knowledge to me. I would like to thank John at Inzer Advance Designs for supporting me and supplying me with the best powerlifting equipment, even when I was out of the game for a while. Also Alan at APT who has supported me and is also a huge supporter of powerlifting in general. Last, but not least, all the training partners that have helped me achieve what I have. George Halbert, Clay Brandenburg, Tony Ramos, Drex Welch and others at WSB. Steve Conner and Gene Weaver at Worlds Gym, and Jon Groves, Mike Lanier, Mike Wood, Todd Groenig, Glenn Baggett at NGBB…without good training partners and support …you cant succeed.

NGBB Paul Key 835 benchpress



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