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About Me

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  1. How I Train the Bench Press (1977) By Mike MacDonald * Some of the info below is from Issue #7 of PLUSA * Mike was born September 4th, 1948 and unfortunately died January 9th, 2018 at the age of 69 after a long battle with leukemia. News of his death can be read here. His legendary status will forever live on. Greatest condolences to Mikes family and friends. During the last 13 years the World's Greatest Bench Presser has set 12 official World Records and 4 unofficial ones . . . He presently holds the mark at 181, 198, 220, and 242 and he's eager to go for the SHW mark and the 275 lb class as soon as it's recognized internationally. Mike recently benched 603 at 240 for another unofficial mark and was going to go up to 255-260 in bodyweight for a shot at 635 as a SHW, but lack of qualified officials in his area and Christmas time business commitments made him decide otherwise. He's in hard training for another assault on the SHW BP mark this coming spring, though. ~ PLUSA Remember back in 1967 when Pat Casey (pictured above) made that incredible bench press of 615 pounds? . . . He was way ahead of his time on the bench and nobody could even come close to him . . . he was phenomenal in upper pectoral power. The most beneficial exercise he did for his bench press was when he took those huge dumbbells and did dumbbell bench presses . . . so he could go deeper than the bar allows. It worked fantastically for him but it was a lot of extra work getting them in position. I will give you an explanation of how I use the same principle as Pat Casey. You will notice that my bench press has been steadily climbing for many years, but I am basically a very small man and not even medium-boned . . . but small-boned with 6.5" wrists so it took me longer than Casey to go over 600 officially. I used the Casey principle by doing push-ups (see photos above) between chairs with weight piled on my upper back and got that extra stretch which developed the chest, especially the upper pectorals and the tendon and ligament strength. This procedure always had its hangups, because you had to have somebody else to do all that work of loading your back up and unloading it . . . so I quit it for a couple of years. My bench really leveled off and wasn't going up anymore, but I didn't want to mess up anybody else's workout. I had in mind an idea for a special piece of equipment, but I didn't know if it could be built, until I ran into Warren Tetting (RIP 2019)in St. Paul, Minnesota who builds the Iron Man equipment. Warren built me a bar with a camber to it, and I went crazy. I did not have this bar built with any other intention in mind but to increase my bench press, but I can't keep secrets very well either and I love to help others any way I can. Now I can just take the bar out of the rack and I don't have to bother anybody else to get that all-important stretch of the pectorals. I am now very confident that I will exceed 700 eventually. There is no doubt in my mind that I can go that high. Here is the routine I follow twice a week. My biggest worry is overtraining, which can happen easily with all that stretch. Straight Bar Bench Press first: 135x8 / 225x5 / 325x5 / 445x3 / 565x3. All these previous sets are done concentrating on technique and strictness. Then 475x5. I do this one set with a shoulder-width grip and pauses to feel more triceps and front delt work. Now the cambered bar Bench Press: 450 x 2 sets of 3 with pauses and wide grip. After this my upper chest feels just fantastically pumped up and that is when I make new gains. IMPORTANT NOTICE: The two days I bench are not always the same days, because if I can take a broomstick and bring it to the chest and feel a soreness in the pecs or front delts, I will wait another day. The muscles must recuperate first . . . many lifters overtrain and defeat their purpose by working out with sore muscles. My diet is very complete, but my favorite supplement is dessicated liver tablets of which I sometimes take 160-200 a day before a contest. I feel they work wonders for me. The main thing that I believe in is to have everything going for you at the same time. That means diet, training system, rest, easy job (no physical labor), no mental stress or worry, and there are so many other factors. When you look at my natural potential for bench pressing it is much less than the big men because I have such a small bone structure and can't carry the muscle mass they can. But my persistence has paid off, over a ten year period. I've seen big benchers come and go but it's the one that doesn't give up who will make it, and new knowledge keeps accumulating over time. Additional Photos and Records: Is the Cambered Barbell Safe? Mike's Training MORE INFO ON MIKE... Some questions and statements from fellow Strength Oldschool fans...regarding bench press specialist Mike MacDonald... QUESTION: ANSWER: "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 ADDITIONAL COMMENTS REGARDING MIKE... "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.
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