CriticalBench.com is a popular Web site created by Mike Westerdal in 1999. Mike is an interesting guy who knows his stuff and walks the walk. His passion is power, and he’s successfully bench-pressed more than 600 pounds in competition. Here’s Mike.
How old are you, and where are you from? I’m 36. My parents were immigrants from Sweden. I was born and raised in Virginia, but we moved to Connecticut during high school, and I stayed there for college as well. I currently live in sunny Clearwater, Florida, with my wife and daughter.
What got you into lifting, and how old were you when you started? I started in my parents’ basement as a lanky 15-year-old. My motivation was simple: First, I didn’t want to be the skinny kid who got picked on—an easy target for fights. Also, I wanted to try out for the freshman football team. Both of those goals required that I pack on some muscle and strength.
How often do you work out now? My workouts are set up in a power-building style. Basically, I want to be strong like a powerlifter but have more of a bodybuilder look to my physique. To accomplish that, I set up a four-day split. Instead of grouping them by muscles, I set up my days by lift. Day 1: bench press; day 2: squat; day 3: deadlift; day 4: bodybuilding or makeup day.
For the main lifts I do lower reps with heavier weights to work on my strength, but I follow up with assistance exercises in the eight-to-12-rep range for hypertrophy work. In addition, I’ll add in some sprints and metabolic resistance training at the ends of the workouts or on an extra day to assist with fat burning.
What is your best training tip? As the creator of the best-selling Critical Bench Program 2.0, I’m always asked for bench tips. Since that is my specialty, I’ll share my best tip with you, something you can try out today.
Shorten the distance the bar travels. Move your fingers out an inch or two on the bar. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, and flare your lats to create a nice solid base to press from.
Push your chest out, and keep your shoulders blades retracted and back. Next, arch your back so that your traps and butt are in contact with the bench and your feet are planted on the floor. You should be able to fit a foam roller under your lower back.
Combine those techniques, and you’ve reduced the distance the bar travels by six inches or more, which should give you a nice boost in the weight you can move. Don’t forget to stay tight by holding your air during the lift!
For more bench tips download my free report, The 7 Fastest Ways to Increase Your Bench, at www.critical
What are some diet tips that have helped you achieve your lifting goals? Anyone can improve overall strength and health by making these modifications.
• Don’t go on rapid-result-oriented diets that you can’t stick with long term. In order to avoid totally crashing after the diet, you need to make smaller changes over time that you can live with and incorporate into your lifestyle.
• Drink more water and less soda, alcoholic beverages and fruit juices.
• Fat is not going to make you fat. You need fat to transport vitamins, keep your joints healthy and reduce inflammation. I eat fat every day, and my cholesterol is fine. That leads to my next tip.
• Avoid trans fats and hydrogenates oils. They are the real killers!
• Try to eat more raw foods like vegetables and fruits. The enzymes they contained are essential to your vitality.
• Eat more whole foods and fewer processed foods. Eat foods the way God made them, not the foods that are heavily processed with fillers and preservatives.
• It’s expensive, but consider eating organic foods. Wouldn’t you rather that the animal you’re eating was vibrant and healthy during its lifetime rather than sick, depressed and loaded with antibiotics and hormones?
• Sugar is a poison. Try your best to avoid it or make it a special treat.
• Cut back on grains. Cereal, pasta and bread should not be the foundation of your diet.
• Again, be a realist. Nobody is perfect, so just get informed and make some better decisions. It’s okay to cheat from time to time. Do your best 90 percent of the time, and you’ll be fine.
Do you have any upcoming projects we can look for? Yes, I’m so excited about a new system that was just released in October. Injury specialist Rick Kaselj and I teamed up to create a program called Fix My Shoulder Pain. There are so many guys I know who avoid certain exercises or can’t give 100 percent in the gym because of nagging shoulder issues. FMSP allows you to assess the problem yourself, make some changes and get back to pain-free workouts without the hassles or expenses of appointments, surgeries or medication. You can find more information on it at www.CriticalBench.com.