Tuesday, May 20, 2014

J.M. Blakley Interview (1997) - Mike Lambert

J.M. Blakley's Secrets of Bodyweight Manipulation for Competitive Sport (complete):

Mike Lambert [ML]: At one time I thought there must be two J.M. Blakley's in Ohio. With all your  jumping up, down, and all around the weight classes, I figured it could not be just one person doing all the lifting you were doing. Do you actually go through four different weight classes in a year. What prompted you to take this route?

J.M. Blakley (JM): I enjoy the challenge of making weight. Not the actual execution, but the challenge. 

I compete in four weight classes, at least, each year, sometimes five.

It started out when I was dieting for a  bodybuilding contest. I noticed in training that although I would fatigue very easily during the workout my strength was pretty stable for the first set. I reasoned that must be good for powerlifters, because they could diet down, and still stay strong for a one rep lift. My previous best bench press in training was around 400. I knew that a good bench press was considered to be around two times bodyweight, so as I was dieting I challenged myself to get down lower and lower and try to get the bench up a little bit. I dieted down to 220 and I was able to get the bench to 440 for a gym rep. Then I learned about the pause. As soon as the bodybuilding contest was over, I wanted to do it legit. In Columbus, gym lifts don't mean anything. No matter how impressive they sound, there is an established proving ground, and that's the meet. I wanted to get it in the books, and do it for real. I went to a local bench press meet, and I went 400, 420, and 440 in a T-shirt and some Spandex pants, but with a legitimate pause. That was the very beginning of it. I've been hooked ever since.

I learned two very important things that day. One is, that there is not a law that states that someone has to lose strength as their bodyweight goes down. Number Two was that one can count on a few extra pounds on contest day with all the excitement and adrenaline.

I don't go up in weight classes and bodyweight so that I can compete against bigger men. I do it so that I can gain strength. Every time I put weight on, I end up getting stronger and stronger, and then I diet down, and I see how much of the strength I can hold.

ML: I believe you've benched in some competitions without a bench shirt. Which type of shirts do you use and how much do they add to the bench? Does the effect vary with bodyweight?

JM: Certainly with changes in bodyweight come changes in body mechanics involving internal tissue pressures, leverages, etc. I own 23 bench shirts fit me from 198 lbs up to 296. I've had good results using a denim shirt with the seams reinforced and the arms moved by me seamstress Karen Mitchell, who is a world class power athlete and bodybuilder herself. All my shirts are customized by her and all of them but two have been blown in competition, yet she miraculously brings them back to life to be used another day.

A word about the bench shirt - the groove is different with a bench shirt than without. One needs to respect that. One needs to spend time and effort in learning the groove and learning the shirt's optimal mechanics. This is a skill that has to be practiced and mastered. People who complain about bench shirts probably have not paid their dues. It's not uncommon for me to show up at the gym with two duffel bags, filled with 7 or 8 shirts, each one slightly different. I always, painstakingly, try to find the one that's matched for my body size at that time.

Why spend so much time to find the right groove on a shirt? Because you can get 100 lbs out of it. Yeah, a hundred pounds. I personally have never gotten 100. I have gotten 90 on one occasion. On two or more occasions I was clearly able to get 120 or more pounds had things gone right for me that day. The work pays off. My first bench shirt that I put on added exactly 5 lbs to my bench. I didn't know anything about them, but I realized that I needed to master this aspect of the competition because, like it or not, some guys will take the time to learn this skill, and they will blow the shirts, and they will spend the money, and they will pinch nerves in their arm, and they will pass out trying to squeeze into a shirt that is just a little bit tighter. They will, in short, pay their dues.

I spotted a lifter here in Columbus, and watched him, right before my very eyes, get 150 lbs out of a denim shirt. I know this to be true. I spotted him in the gym and I was at the meet, and I saw it happen. I realized right then and there, that if he could do it, so could I. When I feel frustrated, or when I blow a shirt, of I let a weight fall out of the groove and almost get crushed by it, I remember how easy he made it look, and how he never did a workout without practicing with that bench shirt on at some point. He learned the groove, he learned his own mechanics, and he mastered it. He as maximizing the shirt's potential. Don't envy the guys that get 70 to 100 lbs out of their shirt. Do the work, and become one of them.

I sometimes compete without a shirt, if I'm tuning up for a big attempt of helping others at the meet and I'm not quite ready to compete at 'full go' myself. My best, in competition, no-shirt benches are 525 at 263, and 468 at 219. While training for my first run at a 700 bench, I regularly handled 605 to 615 without a shirt, just during my training, and not in competition. I do enjoy the no-shirt lifting a lot more, because there's fewer things that can go wrong. You don't get crushed into the shirt. You don't have to have special people there to help you out. (It takes two to three people to put me in my shirt.) You don't have to worry about the shirt tearing and losing a lift. You don't have to worry about the shirt tearing and getting injured. There's just so much less to worry about and I really do enjoy no-shirt lifting. It's more relaxing, a lot more fun, and I'd like to do a lot more meets that way.

As for the effect of the shirt a different bodyweights, I definitely have noticed a difference, not in the final outcomes - as far as pounds lifted, but in what the shirt provides for you. It's been my observation that in the lighter classes the shirt offers more stability and support, while in the heavier classes I think it adds more kick. In the heavier classes I think this effect is most likely due to compression of the extra adipose tissue and the interstitial fluids being compressed, providing as elastic effect inside the body. In the lighter classes the shirt has more of a bracing effect. It still boils down to mechanics. You must learn how to use your equipment.

ML: You have goals of 630 in the bench at 242, 730 at 275, 750 at 308, and 775 at SHW in your quest to become King of the Bench Press. How will you achieve these goals and when can we expect to see it happen?

JM: Yes, I want to become King of the Bench Press. I say that because no one gets excited about small goals. It takes big ideas to get people interested, and I'm going to keep saying it, because I want to interest people. The truth is I'm not trying to be the king of anything, really, except myself. My goals are my own. I want to improve myself and constantly challenge myself and, in turn, the world records. There have been many great benchers before me, and many will come after me. I respect every single competitor. You can ask any one of them. I'm sure that they'll say that. If they don't, they're mistaken. Maybe if I was too focused for the moment, I didn't seem amicable. Bottom line is that I respect all of them. I've learned amazing things from just watching the great benchers and being aware of their strengths and weaknesses. I've learned about explosive power from George Halbert.

George Halbert - H-Roll:
The H-Roll is a tremendous prehab/rehab technique for anyone seeking to maximize their benching potential. To perform this exercise you need an adjustable incline bench. Set the incline to roughly 10-15 degrees. Lie face-down on the bench with your upper chest hanging off the end (i.e. the top of the bench comes to roughly your lower pec line). Hold a dumbbell in each hand and begin by using a controlled "swing" to bring the dumbbells from your hip area to above your head. Your head should remain down during the movement and your arms should form the upper part of an "H" at the top of the range of motion (thus the name). There is rotation at both the shoulders and elbows during this movement.

No one I've ever seen literally throws the weight off their chest like George. I've learned about tenacity and a die-hard attitude from Kenny Patterson and Willie Wessels. I've seen both of those guys set world records that never could have made it up, but they did. The wouldn't give up, they wouldn't say no, they were determined and their will power was incredible. I learned technique from Craig Tokarski, who almost effortlessly flipped 705 up with flawless execution. I don't follow his technique, but I am in awe of his mastery of the form he uses, which suits his body type. I hope to someday master my own technique in a similar way. I learned about pure strength from watching Glen Chabot manhandle weight with nothing but pure strength. I've watched Chris Confessore warm up with total control of the bar, no matter how shaky the lift-off. He doesn't let it do anything he doesn't want it to. I've talked to Ken Lain about injury prevention and training for the big attempts and learned to back off when it's necessary. I spoke briefly with Ted Arcidi on the phone years ago. He may not even remember me, but at the time I was just attacking 500, and I learned from Ted to expect more from myself. He said, on the phone, "You know, J.M., after five, comes six." That never left me. "Expect more from yourself!" I learned about quiet confidence and humility from Anthony Clark. He just exudes a notable aura of strength. I want to cultivate a presence like that.

Anthony Clark and Jim Williams

I could go on and on about this, but my point is that becoming the King of the Bench Press is my own self-motivation. I am indebted to many, many people and my admiration goes out to all these lifters, and there's a lot of them I didn't mention here. If they've been in a meet, and they've moved big weight, and I've been there, I've probably learned something from them. I mean no disrespect in trying to rule the bench press. The fact is, i am a Top Five competitor in four different weight classes. Each year I do that. My monarchy is over the event and it's personal challenges, not over any great lifters or their accomplishments. I need to make that clear.

I will achieve my goals the same way I've gotten to where I am today, by increasing my performance five pounds at a time. Building one block on the other. My goal for the 242s was 645. This time around I was able to hit that. Now I'm going to the 275s and I'm nearly ready now for a record attempt - maybe June of July. It's 730 lbs. Kenny Patterson is at 728, and that's an incredible, amazing record. It may take me a while to chip that one down, but I think I'll be ready for an attempt at that at the APF Sr. Nationals. After that, it's back down to the 220s. I'd like to hit 605 at 220, then back to the 242.s for that 685. Then I'm going to skip right through the 275s and go to the 308s for my big 750 attempt, and if that goes well, and the weight comes up, and I gain the weight fine, I'll go to 309 and try that 775. This will all be attempted during 1997/98 and then I'll do a lot of shirt-free meets after that.

ML: How do you manage your diet?

JM: I believe in simplicity. I have some very exotic and detailed diets I used for bodybuilding, but I don't really use them anymore. I can go to them if I have to, but they haven't been necessary. I stick with simplicity. My dieting techniques are extremely simple.

To cut weight, when I'm heavy, I maintain less than 300 calories a day, and I begin doing 30 minutes of cardiovascular a day. No days off. I gradually build up to, believe it or not, 4 hours of cardiovascular training a day. I never go lower  than 2500 calories. My protein intake is low, about 80 grams a day of protein. My fat intake is low, about 20 grams, and the rest is carbs, from any source. That is the 'amazing' diet plan that I used to lose 77 lbs in 12 weeks. The bottom line is - I burned it off. I went out walking, and I spent some time doing road work. That was good, though, because it gave me some time to myself. I used to walk 12 miles every day, sometimes more. It was good private time for myself. I used to do mental training, visualization, mental practice. I figure now I have lifted 730 lbs about 400 or 500 times - in my mind. It was a private, personal developmental laboratory. You can do a lot of mental drills in four hours of walking.

To gain weight, I ramp up. I start out trying to get 4,000 calories in. I do that about two weeks, and then I pump it up to 4,500. Then to 5,500 or 6,000. I hit that for about three to 4 weeks. Then I go maybe 6,000 to 6,500 for another month. Maybe 7,000, if I can stretch it. Usually another month a that. If I need to, I try  8,000, and as a last resort I'll go to 8,500. I have gone 9,000 a day, for about two weeks or ten days. I find this amount of food a day is nearly impossible for me to consume. I have done it, but I haven't lived a normal life doing it.

I hear stories about it all the time, about people eating a huge amount of calories, but I really am skeptical that they're actually measuring what they're eating. I can only maintain that level for about ten days, 8,500, then I have to drop it down to 6,000 a day for a week or two. Then, maybe retry 8,000 for another ten days, if I can stand it. I'm 6 feet tall, and I have a large frame, but I don't have an extra large frame. It takes all I've got to get those numbers up.

No food is ever forbidden on my diet. I eat everything. I jokingly follow the 'Rule of Twos'. If I have one cookie in one hand, I have another cookie in the other hand; one slice of pizza in my right hand, and another slice in my left. If I've got a Quarter Pounder on one side, I've got a Big Mac on the other. I try to eat large portion sizes all throughout the day.

I have 4-6 full checkups a year, at least. Blood work, urine, everything. It depends on how many times I diet during the year. I work with two sports medicine specialists, my general practitioner, two cardiologists, one orthopedic surgeon, one physical therapist, and two athletic trainers. I know what's going on with my body. I do all these things. I gain weight, I lose weight, and I know the risks involved in putting my body on the wire like that. I try to minimize the effects while still challenging myself to do what I can and still stay as healthy as possible. I'm very thankful for all this medical supervision that I have and all the support I get from this crew. I monitor everything that I do and I try to know my limits. So far so good. I'm not ignoring any potential danger, I'm just adamant about trying to control it. In fact, contrary to ignoring the dangers, I am actually very, very aware of the dangers, and that's what I think sets me apart.

ML: Describe your philosophy about mental training.

JM: I'm always looking for ways to improve. I feel that if you think you know it all, then you're stuck right where you are. How will you get better? I need to find new ways to improve. I've spent the last two years searching for ways to make myself better, and I've focused in on mental training. I looked at everything that could affect my bench press - my physical training, my recovery, my diet, everything.

Something I thought was a weakness was my mental training. I wasn't spending enough time on that, so, for the past two years I've been spending 1.5 to 2 hours a day reading books on psychology, visualization, self-hypnosis, dream manipulation, focusing concentration, Zen, peak performance techniques, biofeedback, and, in general, anything that is related to unseen energies of the mind. At first, I read just the sports related books, but that led me to the general psychology books, and even some sales and marketing books, and that led me to books about relaxing, and flow, which led me to books about meditation and concentration, and on and on. My library is literally stuffed with books from very unlikely sources.

I really believe in human potential. I believe we've got a long way to go to really tap into it. During heavy training periods, I spend about 5 hours in the gym, that's 3 hours on Sunday for the bench workout, and 2 hours on Wednesday for the tricep workout, and I don't do any other bodypart work. I spend about hours a week doing mental drills. That's 4 hours a day, every day. You can see it's a very important part of my training. I've just recently begun to reap the benefits of this, and I can truly say that the improvement I saw is directly related to my studies and not to my physical training. I would encourage everyone to explore some areas outside their physical training as an avenue to improve; a Yoga class, visualization, tapes, whatever you're comfortable with.

There's a lot of mainstream books about sports psyching, and there are books that are a little more esoteric, like Ki energy, mind over matter, things like that. Work with whatever fits your style or whatever you're ready to accept. Some are very, very practical, some are not so practical, but they all will move you in the right direction. People should give it a try. Either way, you become a better person for it. I've seen it work for me. I believe in it wholeheartedly and believing in yourself is almost as important as anything else. I'm often quoted as saying attitudes are more important than facts.

ML: What happened as a result of your back surgery?

JM: Back in 1990, I had back surgery. The L-5, S-1 disc was removed but no fusion was performed. Instead, they put a small pad of fat in there as a temporary cushion. I was told that it would be absorbed in about three years and the bones would eventually fuse. Recent X-rays have shown that, 7 years later, there's still a space there. My suspicion is that because I have kept active, and included stretching and Yoga in my daily therapy program, I've been able to maintain the structure. When I was first put down, laid flat on my back, I was allowed up for only one hour per day, and there were three long months of that. I was advised never to lift more than 50 lbs again. My rehab was that I had to change my lifestyle. I was crushed, but after a brief emotional setback, I set out to show them, and myself, what I could do. I forgot about the things I could not do and I focused on the things that I could do. My first exercise, back in my house, was to go down to my basement, lay face down on a bench and do one arm dumbbell curls underneath it. My second was the bench press. I reasoned that with my back supported by the stability of the bench, this was something I could still do. I really never liked bench pressing too much beforehand, but it was about all I had left to work with. In reality, my back surgery was an opportunity for me to focus my efforts on one thing. When someone puts all their efforts and human potential into just one thing, the results can be overwhelming. It's happened to others, and it's happened to me. Gradually, I was able to train other parts of my body, but I never lost my focus. My point about all this is that a so-called 'crippling' injury was really the opening of a door to personal achievement. It took away a lot of other things that were distracting me, and it forced me to learn how to focus my energy, to singularly apply myself to a task. I've used that lesson over and over again in my life. Should I still be lifting? Well, the doctors say no, but I say something different.

ML: How did you do in each of your meets during '96?

JM: The first meet was the APF Extravaganza. Terry Dangerfield was the meet director, up in Chicago. I did a no-shirt meet there, 470 at 241. The next meet I did was the APF sanctioned Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic, by the special invitation of Jim Lorimer and Lou Simmons, in Columbus. I ended up doing 660 at 274. My next meet was an IPA meet, up in Lorain, Ohio. I ended up with just my opener, 605 at 285 lbs, but I had an exceptionally strong lock-out at 700 with three red lights. I never quite got it down to my chest. The shirt was just too tight, but - Boy - I threw it up awfully strong. Then I went to an APF meet, the Central Ohio Bench Press Championships, a Dean Glitt event down in Circleville, Ohio and I ended up with 675 at 285. I made another 700 attempt, and I could not get it down to my chest, and it rolled out onto my stomach. I was still chasing that big Seven. So, I went to an APA meet, the Indiana State meet in Indianapolis. I was credited with 700 at a bodyweight of 285. I wasn't quite satisfied with my own execution, but the judges were, and they passed it. I think I got a little bit of an early press signal on that one, but everybody was excited and they wanted to see me get it, and I certainly did lift the weight. Then I went to an APF meet in Wilmington, Ohio. Tina Parrish was the meet director. I ended up with 620, my opener again, at 292. I tried a 720 lift there and had some shirt trouble. Then I went down to Curtis Leslie's APF Senior Nationals in Atlanta, Georgia. I had a nice strong opener at 615 and that's what I was credited for. I was weighing 288, and I locked out one side of 685, and could not squeeze the right side out. Awfully close, but I couldn't get it passed. Then I went to a meet for fun in Ohio, and did another no-shirt attempt. It was the Biggest Bench in Ohio, another Dean Glitt event, in Chillicothe, Ohio, and I did 525 at 275 shirtless. I then went up to Dan DeFelice's meet, the APF Freedom Hill in Detroit MI. I ended up with 605. I had started my diet, and was down to 267. I took a run at 640, but couldn't quite squeeze it out. Then I went out to Las Vegas. Ernie Frantz sponsored the WPC/APF Can-Am Open out there. I was back down to 241. I was in the middle of my diet and just doing it for the enjoyment of it. I ended up with a missed lockout at 601. Referee Carl Smith had the bar pulled by the spotters on uneven extension. I was working my way up with it, and I definitely think I could have locked it out, but I didn't get the opportunity due to my right arm fading a little bit on me.

Then I did it. I dieted all the way down to 220. I went to an IPA meet, a national qualifier, at Kenny Leistner's and Ralph Raiola's gym in Oceanside, New York. I ended up with 560 at 219. It was a very big day for me, as I had just killed myself to make weight, and I had a real nice meet. I felt really, really good about that one. Then I did the Ohio State full meet. Of course, I took some token lifts. It was the APF Ohio State meet by Dean Glitt in Chillicothe and I got a state record 615 at 241. Then I went to Jamie Harris' meet in Pittsburgh, PA. At that IPA Monster Bench Press, I ended up with a tricky 629 at 241. The Grimwoods were there and they actually weighed out all the plates. I wanted exactly 630, which was my goal for the day, and they got as close as they could. The face value of the bar was 625, which is what I was credited with, but the actual weight was 629 exactly. From there I went out to Kenny Lain's meet, the only non-sanctioned meet I went to that year. It was the Baddest Bench in Texas. I wanted to go, because I wanted to meet Ken. I ended up with a nice 620 at 240, and I missed a 650 lockout because I just wasn't strong enough. I just couldn't squeeze it, but, damn, I came close. Again, I locked my left, and couldn't squeeze out my right. I started working on that specifically in training. I went back to an IPA meet at Iron Island Gym in Oceanside, New York and got a real satisfying 645 at 239. This is something I'm very proud of. I brought my strength up, and that was my goal for the 242s. I had achieved it and I felt great about that. Then I finished out the year going over to Vienna, Austria, for Carl Smith's EPC/WPC/APC World Cup for Bench Press. I did it for fun and enjoyment, and to get some international competition. Boy, was I surprised by how strict the judging was over there, amazingly strict. I ended up with my opener - 611, and I though I was good for about 650, and they talked me into trying to break the 300 kilo barrier, 661. I gave it two good efforts, but they pulled them both on unseen extension because, again, the right was dragging a little bit. I think I could have squeezed one out, but they're so very strict over there that they pulled the weight right off me. That's a synopsis of what happened last year for me.

ML: I hear you've done some sports modeling - for what kind of products, and how did you get into that line of work?


JM: As far as the sports modeling, I've done a good bit of it. I live in Columbus, and I've made a lot of good connections here with some people who've been very good to me. I've modeled for stock shots. In fact this month's issue of MUSCLE ampersand FITNESS has me on page 140 at the bottom of an article about "Bodybuilding and the Mind." I didn't have anything to do about writing it. I'm just there at the bottom to add color. I've had a couple of stock photos in that magazine. I've had lots of shots in all the muscle mags in advertisements for different clothing companies, like NO LIMITS. The Michael Scott Agency is up in Delaware and I'm pretty good friends with those guys and they try to squeeze me in whenever they can. I get in catalogs of weight belts, the GNC catalog, stuff that's related to fitness. Usually I model when I'm a little lighter, down in the 220's or light 242's. I don't do too much modeling at 290. I do it for fun - it's a blast. I have a good time with it. I think it's good for the sport, promoting a positive, clean-cut image. We've got enough bad guys in Powerlifting, tough guys. I'm as tough as I need to be, but this is a blast, and it makes me some extra money. I got into it because of the people I know at the gym - boy, that's where a lot of people have taken care of me. It's another one of the things that I do. 

I do a lot of live staging, escorting models on and off stage in a tux. I've even done some character gigs - including Tarzan - at some corporate picnics. The money's good, I have a blast, and I love dealing with people. It's a good deal.

ML: You're on sabbatical from your Ph.D. work in Exercise Physiology at Ohio State. What are your plans once you get your Doctorate?

JM: Yes, I am on sabbatical from my Ph.D. right now. What do I plan to do when I get my Doctorate? First things first. I need to pursue this dream of power right now. I can finish my Doctorate at any time, but I have some youth left, and I have chosen to spent that on trying to be the best, and I think that it's a wise choice that I've made. A lot of people disagreed with that earlier on, but now that I'm doing a lot better they seem to be coming around - as if, maybe we shouldn't have sold you short, maybe you can be the best in the world - go for it.

I've done everything but my dissertation. I've gotten all the course work done, and I learned everything they had to teach me. I took all the courses. All they wanted me to do then was finish my project. Now, I could not spend 16 hours a day in the lab and in the library and still compete at the level that I'm at. So, I had to make a choice. I chose on the side of youth. I also chose on the side of my dreams. This is something I've wanted to do since I was a young man and throughout my whole adult life, I wanted to be a strong, powerful person. I've admired that, and I just had to give it a try. I'm so glad that I did, not because things are working out, but because, King or Clown, win or lose - I can say that I stood toe to toe with the world's best, and I gave it my best shot. I was there! I'm very proud of that. Whether I set records or not, I made the right choice. I did what I felt was right, and that was to go after my dreams. What I'll do afterwards, who knows, but there's a lot of options out there for me. Ideally, I would like to bridge the gap between research on strength and actual practical applications. There's an unsettling lack of knowledge about strength. We have great knowledge about aerobics, fitness, cardiovascular exercise and not a great body of knowledge about strength and power. I'd like to do some research about strength and power at a major university, and maybe be the strength coach there also, because I love doing that, and teach classes on the side as wel.

ML: Were your powerlifting training philosophies applicable when you served as Assistant Strength Coach for the Ohio State Football team? Who are some of the great Ohio State athletes you've worked with? 

JM: That was at a time when I learned a lot from the athletes, a lot from Steve Bliss - our Head Strength Coach, and a lot from our assistant coaches. It was a growing period for me. I was getting an influx of information from everywhere. I was in school, learning in classes about physiology and how the body works. I was learning about how to deal with athletes while training the guys. I was learning about my own physical training. I learned about the tremendous powerlifting tradition here in Columbus. You can't live in Columbus and not know about powerlifting, because a lot of people here powerlift, more so than I've ever seen anywhere else. Definitely, some of the powerlifting philosophies were applicable to the strength coaching job at Ohio State, but some of them were not. A lot of things weren't applicable because of the recovery demands that the athletes had to deal with. 

I worked with a lot of great athletes - not to name drop, but a number of pros came back to visit, and I got exposed to a lot of great training ideas. One thing that I learned from a particular athlete, Chris  Spielman, back in 1987/88, was intensity. I watched him train, I helped train him, I watched him play. I saw how he got prepared. From him I learned focus, I learned determination, I learned the value of having a single purpose. He was absolutely driven to do one thing - play professional football. Everything he did was a means to that end.

ML: What image would you like to project to the general public, as a powerlifter?

JM: I'd like to project a more athletic image to the public. I'd like to project a more intelligent image to the public, a more intelligent image to the public, a more well-spoken image. I'd like to project a more accessible image, meaning being likeable, as a sport and as a personality. Powerlifting is Fun! I want to get people involved. I want to project confidence without coming off cocky. You've got to believe in yourself if you're going to put yourself under a big pile of metal. I want people to know about powerlifting's positives. I'm tired of all the negatives. We're not just muscleheads, we're not just fat slobs; there's plenty of guys out there who are athletic, intelligent, and well-spoken, and I think that's an image we need to project to the public to get more people involved and interested in what we're doing. Powerlifting is a blast. It's a wonderful sport for self-image, it's wonderful sport for personal satisfaction, and I certainly think it can be accessible to the public, but the athletes themselves need to go a long way in projecting a more positive image. A 'Bad Boy' image sells a little bit, but too much 'bad boy' is not going to work.

ML: You've been to some of the biggest bench meets in the world - which ones stick out in your mind and why?

JM: I'm very grateful for some of the special invitations to so many great meets. I definitely talk to each meet director who invites me, in person, and thank them. All of them stand out in my mind, because each one was a building block. I learned something from each meet, but one that sticks out in my mind, clearly, mostly because of the emotional impact it had on me was John Inzer's Greatest Bench in America. Some of the biggest names in bench pressing were there, and some of the biggest names in bench pressing were noticeably absent. It was a wonderful time, an absolutely first class meet, all the way. Every athlete was treated like they were a 'somebody.' I did very well at that meet. 

Emotionally speaking, I was so tuned into doing what I had to do that I was literally in tears between attempts. I knew that was my day to hit 700. That was my first time to attempt it, and I did miss it, and I know why I missed it - from reading some of my mental training literature. I wasn't mentally prepared to hit it. I was physically ready, but not mentally ready. What  wonderful experience it was, and part of that was because I was physically 'on', and a lot of it was because John just put on a hell of a meet. To pull off a gathering of so many great athletes with so much on the line, and so many great benches were attempted - I don't know if anyone will ever be able to pull that off again. It was wonderful to get some first hand experience in knowing who some of these great benchers really are. I learned a lot at that meet simply by watching people.                       

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