Some questions and statements from fellow Strength Oldschool fans...regarding bench press specialist Mike MacDonald...
" I have read and heard that when he was cutting weight he would do countless reps of squats and ab exercises does anyone know anything more about this? " ~ Raymo
" From my conversations with Mike over the years, he discovered that the best way to cut weight and still not lose upper body strength and adversely affect his bench press was to use what he called “weight walkers”. He set up something that wrapped around his lower legs, like a medievil knight or a baseball catcher’s shin guards. He would put these on and then “fast walk” for several miles a day. He also tried other things like jumping on a small trampoline. His goal was to cut weight/fat but not loses strength, especially upper body strength. Even though he was known as predominantly a bench press specialist, he actually was a full meet competitor for the most part having totaled elite in several weight classes. He won the Junior Nationals once as a 242#er, placed second in the Senior Nationals as a 220#er, and placed 3rd at the World’s one year. He lifted before even squat suits and had an official, truly raw 670# sqaut and 660# deadlift. The deadlift was as a 198#er. He totaled 1700# the day he officially bench pressed 603# at the Twin Ports Open November 5, 1977 and totaled as much as just over 1800# raw as well. This was not just “enhanced” strength either. Although he was a known and admitted steroid user, he officially bench pressed 405# as a 181#er and 450# as a 198#er in a meet naturally, without steroids, in meets prior to 1972. He squatted and deadlifted around 500# naturally in a meet as a 181#er. He also was reportedly very fast. He claimed that in high school he ran track and could run a 10 second 100 yard dash. He was a pretty amazing athlete in addition to being a strength athlete. Some of his lifting “heroes” were Pat Casey, Mel Hennessey and Ronnie Ray. These days he doesn’t lift heavy anymore, but he does still do high rep body weight bench presses. As recently as about 5 years ago he was benching over 400# naturally and raw at about 200# and most recently he has been cutting body weight bench pressing body weight for near 40 reps. He has cut down to 174# body weight. He is 5’9.5″ tall, so at 174# he’s cut to shreds. He’s over 60 years of age now. He follows a very unique diet…fasts throughout the 1st part of the day taking in only water and honey. The 2nd part of the day he eats small meals every two hours. He is mostly vegetarian, but also eats lots of freshly caught fish he catches in the nearby lake and supplements with lots of whey protein. He also gathers up these pine needles that drop from these pine trees in his woods, grinds them up, and makes an edible powder which he takes everyday. I always thought this rather odd or at the least, daring….but it ends up that these pine needles come from Lash Pines and it ends up that people have been claiming such to be a natural health aid, especially for the immune system. Go figure. These days Mike’s ambition is to live a really long healthy life, citing Jack Lalane as an inspiration. Mike is sort of the modern day Karl Norberg, but instaed of training heavy like Karl, he trains for reps. He hopes to get his body weight bench reps to more than 60 reps before too long. " ~ Chuck Mirabile
(Pic above:) Mike MacDonald - 562 lbs WR Bench Press - 1974
" Mike is truly an amazing bencher, I’d argue the greatest of all time. I remember when the cambered bar first came out and I bought one, it was a serious piece of equipment and like Mike says made regular benches easier because of the stretch. I bought my first bench from Mike when he had the Duluth equipment outlet. He was in his prime and his chest under a t-shirt looked like a horse’s hind quarter, huge. I was training for the Teenage Mr. Minnesota and stopped into his health food store and he commented that he’s never seen such cut up legs, quite a compliment. One article indicated he did 325 @ 160 when 17. I did 360 @ 160 when 19, amazing that I actually beat him as a teenager. Mike may remember me not sure, officially I did 380 raw @ 160 in competition 45 yrs old, which is nothing compared to the 512 @ 181 in Brookings, that is crazy and back in 1978! I’m 57 now and continuing to set records, I encourage Mike to do the same, blow the dust off the heavy weight and turn the 60+ classes on their heads. " ~ JIm
" Great story Jim! Mike was truly a legend on the bench press. I only wish that someone had some photos/film of his 603# bench press done in November 1977 at the Twin Ports Open in Duluth and some film of his 608# bench at body Expo II in Anaheim 1981! Spoke with him today and he said he is staying a lot heavier for health reasons, 230#, and did a 340# paused bench press in training this past winter at 67 years old! He is back in training and hopes to maybe compete again at the Gordy Oie meet. Wish there were more pics / film! " ~ Chuck Mirabile
* If anyone has any additional information / stories on Mike MacDonald or maybe you have tried using the cambered bar for benching and wish to share your experiences of using this special type of bar then please post your comments below. Thank you.
Keep training hard old school fans,
** Mike unfortunately passed away on Jan 9th 2018. His legendary status will forever go on. Greatest condolences to Mikes family and friends.