The Mike MacDonald Thread

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The Mike MacDonald Thread

Postby Wassung » Mon Apr 17, 2006 10:19 am

Roger Benjamin of Lincoln used to be one of the officials at many of Mike's records attempts and he told me on more than one occasion that Mac was "nuttier than a fruitcake" and had spent time in mental hospitals-

I also remember reading that he would do high rep squats in a sauna in order to cut weight for a contest

Anyone have any good Mac stories?

(from American Powerlifting website)

Mike MacDonald set 36 world records in the bench press across four different weight classes. He was the first to break the 500# barrier in the 181# class and the first to break the 600# barrier in the 242# class. All time personal best bench presses in official competition included bench presses of 522# at 181#, 562# at 198#, 580# at 220#, and 608.87# at 242#. He held the world record in the bench in 4 weight classes at the same time for five years straight, from 1976-1981. These lifts have to be viewed with respect to the time frame during which they were performed. Mike’s lifts were often well ahead of his competitors and all of his records were performed without the aid of a bench press shirt or elbow wraps. Furthermore there was only a single lifting organization at that time. This is not to discredit today’s lifts or lifters, but rather to emphasize just how amazing Mike’s accomplishments were. At the Oklahoma Grand in 1978, an out door meet that took place in about 100 degree temperatures, Mike actually set four world records in the bench press in one day. Mike followed himself on all four attempts and it was at this meet that he became the first to break the 500# barrier in the 181# class. These are certainly hard credentials with which to argue.

Amazingly Mike was able to continue to set world records in 9 separate years, from 1973 through 1981. Two of his bench presses remain as the official IPF records to date, his 576.5# bench done at the 1977 Seniors in Santa Monica, CA being the oldest IPF bench press record. On November 5, 1977 at the Twin Ports Open at the Duluth YMCA in Minnesota, Mike’s home state, Mike became the first 242# lifter to bench press over 600 pounds. This was a successful second attempt, which was officially weighed out at 603 pounds and done at 240# bodyweight. At that time, the lift was exceeded by less than 10 men, all superheavyweights. Witnesses at the meet felt that Mike was good for another 20#. By his own account, Mike felt that a 610# second attempt would have been successful had he tried it, but as he had only 3 minutes to rest prior to taking such an attempt, Mike elected to forego any further tries. This was again a lift performed without the aid of a bench press shirt or elbow wraps. As per witnesses, all of his lifts were performed in the strictest fashion and with minimal back arch.

The 603# bench press was not his heaviest lift made in competition however, as Mike made a 606# bench (officially weighed out to 608.87#) while weighing only 232# at the Body Expo in Anaheim, CA in August of 1981 (a lift that appeared on the cover of the September 1981 issue of Powerlifting USA). Although this lift was successfully locked out, it was not accepted as what would still be the official IPF world record because of a small infraction, having slightly touched the upright just prior to lockout. Under today’s rules this lift would be accepted. Like all of his lifts, it was performed without the aid of a bench press shirt and followed a best training single of 612#. Shortly after this meet unfortunately, Mike would suffer one of the only serious injuries of his career, thus ending his record setting ways. After achieving a 617# single in training the week before, Mike tore his left triceps attempting a 622# bench in preparation for the 1981 Oklahoma Grand. Although Mike would later make an attempt at a comeback, he would never again reach his previous greatness.

When asked what his greatest lift was, Mike is quick to respond that his best bench pressing performance was that of his 562# lift in the 198# class performed at Ft. Tejon, CA in October of 1980. This lift followed a 556# lift and on that day Mike felt that he could have actually done a 570# lift had he tried. It was also at this meet that Mike felt he was in his best condition, looking pretty muscular and cut…quite different than the physique that Mike showed off at a full 242#.

As for his training, Mike was very unique. He often trained alone, despite handling phenomenal poundages. In order to lift in this fashion, Mike filed down the lip of the uprights of his bench, would set the rack at about three-quarter height so as to ease the lift off, and then slide the weight out to himself for pressing. He used spotter racks set at just below chest height to protect himself in the event of a failed attempt. Mike eventually reached training singles in the bench press of 620# and 625# at about 242# bodyweight in this fashion. He benched 600# or more on about 8 different occasions. In training he never did pauses, only light touch ‘n goes, saving the pauses for meet attempts only. As for sets and reps, he tried them all, like most of us. What he found worked best for him was the good old “5 sets of 5 reps” using a pyramid system, increasing the poundage each set (best 530# x 5 reps). He’d work up to a heavy triple or so (his best being 565# x 3 reps) and then test himself with a touch ‘n go single or two just prior to a contest to get an idea of what he would be good for at the meet.

Of coarse one of Mike’s most famous training aids was that of the cambered bench press bar. Although not the inventor, it was Mike who popularized the devise. He would perform this exercise for three to five second pauses for sets of three reps at the end of his regular straight bar routine. This devise replaced what had previously been accomplished by performing push-ups with weight piled upon his back. This gave Mike what he called, his “blast off power” for explosion off the chest. He’d finish up with shoulder with close grip partials to build lockout power. Sometimes he’d simply reverse the camber of the cambered bar to perform these sets. Although he utilized other training exercises from time to time, including rack work, the aforementioned exercises made up the majority of his bench workout. Mike believed that benching made you strong in the bench...a simple concept indeed.

Let’s not think that Mike was merely a bench presser. Mike actually won the Junior Nationals one year, placed 2nd at the Seniors one year, and even placed 3rd in the 1974 World Championships. His best total in official competition was 1835#, and he squatted and deadlifted near 700#. His bench press was simply far and away his best lift and given his record setting abilities, he often concentrated on this lift at the expense of the others.

As for disappointments, he’s had a few despite a remarkable career. He regrets never having broken the 600# barrier in the bench press in the 220# class. Twice while lifting in this class he almost achieved this goal, including a third attempt of 602# which fell just short of lockout at the 1977 Senior Nationals. He would have just loved to have been the first to break the 600# barrier in the 220# class, especially without a bench shirt. It was a lift that he had done in touch ‘n go fashion in training. Not having put the 242# record up a little nearer the 625# range was merely a function not being able to keep his bodyweight up and avoiding injury. It seemed that he was on this track just prior to his career ending triceps injury. Certainly one of the most remarkable careers in powerlifting regardless of such.
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Postby steve polychronopoulos » Mon Apr 17, 2006 10:51 am

mike was incredible. the thing that impressed me most, other than the incredible poundages he pushed, was the unimpressiveness of his physique. he was no doug young, thats for sure. i cant image those arms ever measured much(if at all) over 17 inches, and his wrists were pretty damn slender. even his upper body didnt exactly scream" huge weights lifted here". he was a freak of nature. i remember using the cambered bench press bar because of him, and feeling like i was going to tear my arms off.
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Postby kneeland » Mon Apr 17, 2006 10:58 am

First time posting here.I was at that 1978 outdoor meet in Oklahoma and witnessed MacDonald`s four successful attempts.I was lifting that day also,and,yes,it was about 100 degrees that day.I remember walking in on Mac in the mens room as he was swallowing 5 or 6 Vivarin tablets(I guess it was Vivarin.He dropped the empty bottle on the floor as he exited).
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Postby Ox » Mon Apr 17, 2006 11:17 am

The Vivarin bottle may have just been used for transportation.

I'm too young to know much about this guy, but holy shit! I need to do some researchin'.
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Postby Chuck Deluxe » Mon Apr 17, 2006 11:42 am

Now this is the kind of training that makes sense to me. Benching to build the bench, 5x5 or other basic rep schemes, some kind of extended rom lift to build power off the chest for shirtless benching. I love that Am PL Evolution site.
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Postby Ed Thompson » Mon Apr 17, 2006 12:48 pm

If memory servers, Iron Man ran a piece on Mike at the end of the seventies which claimed that he had 14.5 inch arms.

I may have the magazine wrong, might have been Muscular Development or a powerlifting newsletter.

I do remember one thing. At 19, when I was training particularly hard on bench, I often referenced MacDonald as a rationale for my own arms which at that time came in at 15".

Interestingly, Although I did at one time concentrate on getting my arms up to 18" (right arm 18.25) at a weight of 205 lbs, height of a shade more than 6 ft, it is noteworthy that it added nothing to my major lifts.

My strongest lifting was done when my arms came in at about 17.25". Arm size has little correlation to strength and power in my experience.

As a side note, a 6'3" Mohammed Ali, weighing about 212 lbs only had arms that tapped a bit more than 15". Big arms simply mean big arms.

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Postby Tyler » Mon Apr 17, 2006 2:12 pm

What's Mac up to these days?
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Postby BLACKFLAG » Mon Apr 17, 2006 4:33 pm

too bad Americanpowerliftevolution ain't updated anymore.
It's been among my top 5 sites for a long, long time.
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Postby Chuck Deluxe » Mon Apr 17, 2006 7:19 pm

I copied the whole damn thing to my hard drive.
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Postby dazw01842 » Sun Apr 23, 2006 4:44 am

best 530# x 5 reps

Fucking brilliant!
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Postby Brian Amundsen » Sun Apr 23, 2006 7:38 am

To put that 530x5 in perspective I believe that Kaz did 600x5 at the same time weighing roughly 100 pounds more.
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Postby Never_Scared » Sun Apr 23, 2006 8:26 pm

Ed Thompson wrote: Big arms simply mean big arms.


Yup. In any given gym you've got plenty of guys doing curls the entire time with 17" arms who then bench an amazing 135 and don't bother with any other serious lift.
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Postby steve polychronopoulos » Mon Apr 24, 2006 4:49 am

Big arms simply mean big arms.
unless your jeff magruder, chris confessore, doug young, etc...

the fact is, mike had slender arms for a guy pushing the weights that he did and it was obvious.
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