June 2017 Featured Lifter

USAPL-NY would like to spotlight some of the stand-outs in the state. We will feature a new lifter each month, and ask them some random questions to get some insight into what makes them tick…..

This month’s featured lifter is ADAM ZEHR.

My name is Adam Zehr and I am 37 years old. I am the current American Record holder in the 66kg Single Lift Bench at 170kg. I recently competed in Killeen Texas at the IPF Classic Bench World Championships and finished third with a bronze medal. My wife Melissa and I live in Lowville, NY which is a little town upstate. I am an IT Director at Lewis County and train at Double Play Community Fitness Center.

A little about (insert name)

Home City: Lowville, NY

Question and Answer time!!

USAPL-NY: What got you interested in Powerlifting?

Adam Zehr: I started lifting weights during the winter to get into better shape for racing motocross during the Spring and Summer. Injury had forced me to give up racing and I really enjoyed lifting so I stuck with it. I found that I had a decent bench press for my weight (250lbs raw at 120lbs at the time) and decided to pursue it a bit further.

USAPL-NY: Where was your first meet?

AZ: I competed in my first meet in 2002 in Brewster, NY. It was a USAPL meet and Bruce Swanson Sr. was the meet director. Bruce is a great bencher and was very gracious to me at the meet. We stayed in contact by email after the meet. As a beginner lifter, he was a very helpful resource early on. Everyone benched in shirts back then, I was probably the only raw/classic bencher at the meet. How things have changed!


USAPL-NY: What have you learned since that first meet?

AZ: I am still learning after every meet. Just this past weekend at Bench World’s I talked with many competitors both from the US and from other countries. I am a classic over-trainer and never think I am doing enough. I need to scale back a bit and train smarter. Especially as I get older, the wear and tear on the joints is starting to catch up with me a bit. I have always trained like a power builder, mixing cues from the powerlifting and bodybuilding world. This has led to great strength, but I have a lot of work to do in terms of technique. Over this next training cycle I need to meld my raw strength with better technique to be able to increase my bench.


USAPL-NY: What goals do you have for the future?

AZ: My goals for the coming year are to return to Bench Nationals and lift in the 66kg class with the hopes of qualifying for Classic Bench Worlds in 2018. They will be held in Helsinki Finland which looks like a very cool place to visit. I also hope to hit a 400-pound competition bench press this year. Since they now allow you to lift raw/classic and equipped at bench nationals, I am thinking of getting back into a bench shirt. You spend all the money and time traveling to nationals, it would be cool to get 6 lifts in as opposed to 3. Especially as a bench specialist where you are only doing a single lift.


USAPL-NY: What is your favorite lift and why?

AZ: I am a bench press specialist, so the bench is my favorite. I do enjoy to squat as well even though I am not very good at it. I had a double hip replacement in 2012, so I have to be careful when training legs. I squat and deadlift every week, but will never hit the numbers I would need to be competitive, so I will continue to focus on the bench press. I do believe squatting helps with the bench, both from the core strength aspect and leg drive.


USAPL-NYWhat is your least favorite lift and why?

AZ: (See above)


USAPL-NYDo you follow a specific training program? And if you do what is it? 

AZ: I have tried a couple of different training programs the last couple of years. Recently, percentage based working up to a peak on a meet day. I feel I have stalled a bit with this and have not seen much of an increase as of late. I am probably going back to a max lift type method, where I will hit a predetermined max based on a final meet day number each week and focus on singles. Some of the percentage based programs are based on heavy triples, but in a meet, you wouldn’t do a triple. My thought is, train like you are competing with a max you want to hit each workout and hit singles up to the max at 85% and 95% concentrating on perfect technique. Jen and Donovan Thompson utilize this method and are both very accomplished lifters. Jen just missed hitting the highest Wilkes score of all time last weekend at Bench Worlds. Using this method, you are working with heavy maxes more often which always worked better for me. I also need to cut back on the volume and scale my workouts back a bit. I have moved away from heavy military presses and incline work. I need to return to these movements as I think heavy shoulder and upper chest work helps with a big bench press. Heavy back work with barbell and dumbbell rows also have helped me increase the bench.


USAPL-NY: Do you lift as part of a team? Who are they and how did you become part of that group?

AZ: I lift alone during the week and sometimes get together with a group on weekends. I typically bench in a power rack where I can set the pins to lift safely without a spotter. I have always trained alone and am comfortable doing so. Put some tunes on and get after it. Also, it allows me to move at my own pace. I am going to have to get Jim Kipp to help me out with some bench shirt training soon through! Might have to make a couple of trips down to Cohoes and train with the shirt master!


USAPL-NY: What advice would you give any new lifter young or old?

AZ: My best advice to a novice lifter is stick with one program or training philosophy and keep things simple. The internet is a blessing and a curse in terms of information. There is no magic program out there. You just have to put the time in and build a strong base. Train like you compete, with pauses and commands so that meet day is second nature. Proper rest, diet, and nutrition are essential. What you do outside of the gym is just as important as the training. For older lifters, never stop learning. I have been involved in this sport for over 15 years and am still learning. Also, encourage and help out young lifters at meets. The thing that always kept me involved in the sport is the comradery lifters have with one another. Always provide positive reinforcement to young lifters coming up through the ranks.


USAPL-NY: Tell us something about you that others in the PL world don’t know about you?

AZ: Since I work at a desk all day, I really enjoy spending time outdoors on my time off. I own a large heavily wooded parcel of land and have a bulldozer which I use to build roads and skid out trees. Although benching heavy weights is good for stress relief, pushing trees over with heavy equipment does the trick also!

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