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Interview with the Expert: Teresa Putchio

In this installment of “Interview with the Expert” we have the privilege of talking with Teresa Putchio, owner of multiple bench press records in the American Powerlifting Federation and United Powerlifting Association. Topics discussed include how she got involved with strength sports, the fallacy of powerlifting ruining a women’s femininity and the workouts that fueled her success.

About Teresa Putchio

Figure 1. Teresa Putchio successfully benching 132 lbs at 107 bodyweight; a United Powerlifting Association National Record. Image posted with permission.

In this installment of “Interview with the Expert” we have the privilege of talking strength with Teresa Putchio. Although she didn’t powerlifting until her late 20’s, she quickly made a name for herself, setting multiple bench press records within the American Powerlifting Federation (APF) and United Powerlifting Association.

Ms. Putchio, on behalf of the readers, I want to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to join us. It’s a true honor to have you with us today.

First off, how did you get involved with powerlifting? Did you engage in any other forms of exercise or participate in sports prior to powerlifting?

My first exposure to powerlifting was at a small competition held in Dubuque, Iowa by a local group of lifters. My husband Brian who owns and operates NUTRI-BODIES, LLC, a nutritional supplement retail store, had several clients lifting at this competition. NUTRI-BODIES, LLC, was also one of the meet sponsors so I tagged along to support him and to see what this was all about. There were only a couple of women lifting but it was enough to peak my interest; I decided to take up the sport and see just how well I could do in it.

Prior to powerlifting, I did mostly light weight training for a toned physique. I also played a lot of racquet ball which was competitively fun and was a high intensity workout.

Very few women enter powerlifting for fear that they’ll lose their femininity. Do you feel this attitude has changed at all in the past 10 years?

I do feel it has changed and I’m a perfect example. At the beginning, I feared that my body would change in a way I didn’t want it to. This never happened. I’m convinced I broke the stigma every time I stepped on stage to lift. Here I was this small, barely five feet tall, less than 110 pounds gearing up to move some heavy weight. And it wasn’t just me; there were other lifters in various federations with a similar body type doing big numbers.

*You’re best known for your bench press. What led you to specialize so heavily
in this lift vs. the other 2 traditional powerlifts (squat, deadlift)?*

I started out with the bench press because that seemed to be the most interesting event to me at the time when I was introduced to the sport. As my strength grew and my technique got better I knew this was the event I wanted to excel in. I also knew that I didn’t want to be in the gym almost every day training heavy for three events.

As mentioned in the intro, you’ve set multiple bench press records within the American Powerlifting Federation (APF) and the United Powerlifting Association (UPA). Can you share with our readers these feats and what it felt like to achieve them?


  • UPA RAW American, UPA-AD RAW American, UPA RAW Iowa, UPA-AD RAW Iowa Bench Record – 132.2 lb Bench in the 114 lb weight class – VIDEO
  • UPA American, UPA-AD American, UPA Iowa, UPA-AD Iowa Bench Record – 209.2 lb Bench in the 114 lb weight class
  • APF American Bench Record – 225.7 lb Bench in the 114 lb weight class
  • APF American Bench Record – 209.2 lb Bench in the 114 lb weight class
  • APF American, APF Iowa Bench Record – 203.7 lb Bench in the 114 lb weight class – VIDEO
  • APF American, AAPF American, APF Submaster American, AAPF Submaster American, APF Iowa, AAPF Iowa, APF Iowa Submaster, AAPF Iowa Submaster Bench Record – 192.7 lb Bench in the 114 lb weight class – VIDEO
  • APF American, APF Iowa Bench Record – 170.7 lb Bench in the 114 lb weight class
  • APF American, APF Iowa Bench Record – 165.2 lb Bench in the 114 lb weight class – VIDEO
  • AAPF American, AAPF Iowa Bench Record – 148.7 lb Bench in the 114 lb weight class – VIDEO
  • APF Iowa Bench Record – 143.2 lb Bench in the 105 lb weight class – VIDEO


Powerlifting USA, APR/2008, Vol. 31, No. 6 = All time Historical Top 50 American Women’s 114 Pound Division Bench —- (RANK: 14) with a Bench Press of 226 lbs at 108 bodyweight achieved in the AAPF drug-free division.

Achieving these records and worldwide recognition has been nothing short of incredible to me. Looking at the records I’ve held you can see the progression that took years of dedication to achieve. As a completely drug-free powerlifter the lifts never came easy and I always had to earn the next level the hard way. I’m most proud of my path in obtaining these records and recognition.

I realize that some people perform better on stage vs. off stage and vice-versa. Are there any impressive “off stage” lifts that you’ve done, that you’d like to share?

It was a great feeling to get those personal records during training but I knew it would mean so much more on stage. One particular accomplishment that I’m proud of was when I was able to lift and lock out 235 lbs with a bench shirt. It was a great feeling because it was around the time I was trying so hard to get into that 220 lb range during competition.

Another personal impressive lift to me was when I came back after three months off, due to a collar bone break during lifting, and I handled 165 lbs (which happened to be a personal record at that time) with no problem. That really confirmed my drive and passion for the bench.

Those lifts are pretty dang impressive lifts. What made you decide to start competing raw vs. shirted? (For those not familiar with the term, it refers to lifting without “bench” shirts. Refer to Bill Carpenters interview on this subject for further discussion.)

I entered the raw division shortly after achieving a 226 lb bench in the regular as well as drug-free categories with a bench shirt. This bench record still holds in the APF and is one of my proudest moments as a drug-free lifter. I was experiencing shoulder pain from holding the heavy weight and wrist pain from the wide grip so I decided to give that a rest and see what I could do as a raw lifter.

Let’s switch gears a little bit and talk training. You’re best known for your bench press. That said, did you spend much time training your back, legs or direct arm work? What types of lifts would you do for these other areas?

I did train those areas in order to increase my bench. A strong back helped with stabilizing the bar while holding the heavier weight. I focused on bent over rows and when I trained for the raw division, I focused heavily on pull ups from the Navy Seal training program that is posted at the NUTRI-BODIES website and can be found by clinking on this LINK.

In order to strengthen my leg drive while benching, I would do lighter squats as well as some dumbbell lunges. For the arms, I paid the most attention to triceps. Strong triceps were critical to locking out the heavy weight. Using the bench shirt gear was mostly beneficial for helping to get the weight up off your chest a few inches. After that, the really strong triceps will help push the weight up and lock it out. Strong triceps = bigger bench!

What did your typical training week look like in terms of muscle groups trained on a given day?

A typical training week for me started on Sunday where I focused on the bench press and chest muscles. Monday was back training. Tuesday was a rest day. Wednesday was dedicated to working the triceps for lockouts and other arm building exercises such as biceps. Thursday was leg day and Friday and Saturday were off days.

As I moved into the raw lifting competition, my schedule changed a little. I still worked the chest with the bench press on Sunday’s. Monday through Saturday I focused heavily on the Navy Seal Training program which consisted of push ups, core strengthening and pull ups. I certainly surprised myself that I could crank out those pull ups like nobody’s business!

For your primary lifts, what type of rep/set schemes, rest intervals, etc. worked best while training for strength?

When training for a competition using a bench shirt, I would do the barbell bench press for warm ups and then move into higher weight for three reps to help build strength. These sets could be as many as ten. As the competition grew closer, I would warm up and then jump up even higher in weight with my bench shirt on for only one or two reps. The rest interval was usually about ten minutes between sets as other lifters were taking their turn to get their lift in.

As I trained for my raw competition, I kept my reps higher unless I was trying to establish my single rep strength. My rest time was minimal between these sets so that I wouldn’t cool down too much. For an example video of one of my raw training days, click here: VIDEO. That day I worked to establish a max bench while also training a few sets at higher reps.

What were your primary assistance lifts you used while focusing in on the bench? Did the lifts themselves, or the rep/set schemes used with them, change as you got closer to a meet?

Training with a bench shirt normally didn’t start for me until about 8 weeks out from a competition. At that time we would train using small wooden boards on our chest. This allowed me to bring the weight down to 2 or 3 inches from my chest without putting too much stress on my shoulders from bringing the weight all the way down. I could then focus on driving the weight up and putting those triceps to work for my lockout power.

Training triceps for locking out the weight usually consisted of heavier weight with 4 boards. Bringing the weight half way down allowed me really focus on using my triceps for support. I was also fortunate to have a great arch when benching in a shirt. It simulated having boards which were obviously not allowed in competition. It became part of my technique and helped me to not lift my rear end off the bench during a lift which would be red lighted, and you don’t want red lights!

Are there any final training tips or advice that you can share with us?

If you’re considering competing in geared competitions (i.e. with bench shirts) be sure to get with someone that is experienced in the sport. The shirts can be difficult and dangerous especially if you don’t have proper fit and form. Also, shirt training requires at least one lift off / spotter, but it’s recommended to have 3 people spotting you for maximum safety.

Also, listen to your body. If something hurts, it’s best to back off and take a break. I didn’t listen to my body early in my lifting career and tried to push through months of pain only to suffer a broken collar bone right where the seam of the bench shirt was sitting.

And the final questions everyone wants to know — It’s been a few years since stepping on the stage… What led to this and will there be any future competitions on the horizon for you?

I felt I needed a break to let my aching bones have some rest. The break turned into a few years as I became interested in outdoor sports such as golf (I hit a mean drive). I did make an attempt about six months ago and started training for the July 2011 raw competition. It was interrupted by a severe reaction to vitamin D toxicity in my body. I plan to get back into it after I have my blood levels checked again in a few months. I’m a very competitive person so don’t look for me to go away!

I realize that thoroughly answering these questions takes a lot of time and effort on your part. Thus, on behalf of our readers, I want to once again thank you for taking time out of your busy day to join us.

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Written on September 08, 2011 by Sean Casey
Last Updated: September 08, 2011

This information is not intended to take the place of medical advice.Please check with your health care providers prior to starting any new dietary or exercise program. CasePerformance is not responsible for the outcome of any decision made based off the information presented in this article.

About the Author: Sean Casey is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with degrees in both Nutritional Science-Dietetics and Kinesiology-Exercise Physiology. Sean graduated academically as one of the top students in both the Nutritional Science and Kinesiology departments.
Field Experience: During college, Sean was active with the UW-Badgers Strength and Conditioning Department. He has also spent time as an intern physical preparation coach at the International Performance Institute in Bradenton, FL. He also spent time as an intern and later worked at Athletes Performance in Tempe, AZ. While at these locations he had the opportunity to train football, soccer, baseball, golf and tennis athletes. Sean is also active in the field of sports nutrition where he has consulted with a wide variety of organizations including both elite (NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars) and amateur athletic teams. His nutrition consultation services are avalable by clicking on the Nutrition Consultation tab.