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20(ish) Questions Revisited With ATWR Bench Presser

I recently asked Jeff Miller to assist in an interview with his wife Rae-Ann Miller; below is the result of that interview.

1. JM: Tell us about your background information. Who, What, Where, Why, When.

RM: I’m 46 years old. Born and raised in Niagara Falls, New York. I’m the second to youngest of 5 children of my parents, Richard and Lydia Coughenour. I’m the mother to two children. Tyler, who passed away at the age of 14 and Kylie who is 22. I work as a customs broker. I’m married to Jeff Miller and we live in Barker, NY.

2. JM: Tell us about athletic background.

RM: I played no organized sports growing up.

3. JM: How and when did you get into lifting?

RM: My husband's a power lifter. And when I met him, he told me that he went to the gym every day for up to 3 hours a day. He said if I couldn’t handle it then there was no use of even starting a relationship. So I went with him. I was 20 years old at the time.

4. JM: How and when did you get into competing? Numbers?

RM: Actually there’s a funny story about that. Sometime, a little after I started working out, you got the idea to put me in a bench shirt. (Laughs) That didn’t work out well.

JM: Oh yeah. We put you in a denim shirt. You took it down half way and didn’t even bother pressing it. You just said “Get me out of this thing.” Then told me it was the stupidest thing you ever heard of.

RM: So then a couple years later I entered the Red Brick Bench Competition run by Dennis Brochey. I think I did 185lbs. Yeah, because I didn't bench 200 until the meet at that nightclub, Malibu.

JM: That's when Bill Crawford was head judge and pushed me out of the way and set you up the correct way.

RM: Yeah, I like him. Ha-ha

5. JM: What goals did you set at the beginning of your career?

RM: I didn’t really have any. I was doing Strongman too.

6. JM: Best meet lifts, titles won, records, rankings.

RM: 640 lbs squat, 535 lbs Single ply bench, 630 lbs Unlimited bench, 500 lbs deadlift and 1600 lbs in multiply. I have the biggest bench ever by a woman in both single ply bench press of 534.6 lbs and unlimited bench with 630 lbs. I’ve competed and won at The Olympia, The Arnold, Summer Smackdown, F8 Northeast Bench Invitational. According to Open Powerlifting I have won 23 out of the 28 meets I’ve competed in since 2013. I’ve been competing since 2002 so there’s a bunch more. I came in third place at the 2007 NAS strongman nationals when they only had two weight classes. I lost to much larger women. Those are the big ones. As far as rankings and records, I don’t pay attention to all that stuff. To me the only list that counts is the all-time list. Oh and the Buffalo Weightlifting Hall of Fame class of 2020.

JM: You have tons of all-time world records in the master’s class.

RM: Shut up.

JM: What are your raw lifts?

RM: Who cares? You don’t ask a NASCAR driver what he runs in the 40 yard dash.

7. JM: What does a week of your training look like? Philosophy?

RM: Sunday is Max Effort Upper with lats and biceps, Wednesday is Dynamic Upper with shoulders and triceps, and Friday is Squat/Deadlift and lower body accessories. We alternate heavy squat and deadlift each week. We’re too old to handle squatting and deadlifting heavy every week. Then GPP throughout the week.

8. JM: Favorite/Least Favorite lift? Why?

RM: Favorite is bench. My least favorite is deadlift. Nobody ever asks what you squat or deadlift.

9. JM: What gear do you use?

RM: Wrist wraps: KLA 2000 (under 500) KLA 3500 (over 500)

Knee wraps: KLA 2000

Belt: Lever. I recommend a thin bench belt to get an arch

Bench Shirt: SP- Evil Twin, MP-double Katana, UNL-F8

Squat Suit: Super Boss wide stance w/ Boss briefs

Deadlift Suit: Super Boss wide stance

Shoes: Chucks but I like deadlifting in socks

JM: Why do you prefer the lighter wrap to the stiff wrap on the squat and the stiff wrap on the bench?

RM: I like the tightness. How they can get the 2000’s wrap really tight. You can pull on it and yank it and get it tight. I like the tightness not the stiffness, if that makes sense. Okay, like in the bench I don't want my wrist to move at all. So I want to keep that straight. My knees have to bend so too stiff makes it harder to get depth.

10. JM: What is your greatest personal trait that has led to success on the platform?

RM: I can’t think of a part of my personality but my body recovers fast and responds to training very well. I heal from injuries pretty quickly too. Except, this stupid shoulder. Maybe I stay calm in those high pressure situations?

JM: You don’t use your anger like me?

RM: You use the dark side of the force. Ha-ha

11. JM: Has there been anything that has inhibited your progress? Obstacles overcome?

RM: Having to be a mom and my kids coming first. Every strongman nationals coincided with youth football playoffs. Plus the travel is expensive. Now that Kylie is 22 there is more time and money to focus on competing. I’ve torn my MCL, triceps, messed my thumbs up pretty bad dumping the weight.

12. JM: How do you balance life with lifting?

RM: Training is one or two hours three times a week. Get in to the gym, punch the time clock then go live your life.

13. JM: Advice for new lifters?

RM: It's not for everybody. Work on building lean muscle mass for a while before trying to step on the platform. As far as geared lifting goes. First putting on equipment hurts like a b***h. It's suffocating and constricting. But once you get it’s wonderful. So keep at it.

14. JM: How have you evolved since you began training?

RM: I’m more mindful of what exercises do what. I mean when I first started, I kind of just went along with whatever you told me to do. Now I actually know what I'm doing. I could actually, if I wanted, program my own training. I actually understand what training is better for what muscles and what works for me.

15. JM: Why Anderson?

RM: Oh my God. I can’t even begin to talk about everything Ken and Kevin have done for me. You can add Rob Forell in there too. The equipment is the best. The customer service is untouchable. They care about the people they sponsor. But we know people who call and end up directly on the phone with Ken or Kevin who aren’t sponsored. But get treated like they are. We are all part of one big family. I think I’m Kevin’s favorite, too. HaHa. I want to do well for them because they believe in me.

JM: Every time you break a record I couldn’t wait to tell Kevin.

RM: It’s always in the back of my mind that they are counting on me. I hope I’ve made them proud.

16. JM: Name one thing you would like accomplish before your powerlifting career ends?

RM: I’ve done more than I’ve ever dreamed. Everything else is a bonus.

17. JM: Fondest memory looking back on your PL career?

RM: Heaviest bench ever

18. JM: Lifters you most admire/inspire you?

RM: Becca Swanson is the strongest woman ever. Laura Phelps was so great in multiple weight classes. Kara Bohigian is who I copied for bench technique. Brooke Fineis was the first great woman lifter I saw in person. Allison Hind is on her way to being the greatest bench presser ever. Shawna Mendleson for her long legacy of greatness. Jill Mills because strongman is my favorite. Leah Reichman (Squat God) because she has no idea how great she is. Emma Ylitalo-James because I don’t know how she is as busy as she is and still so great on the platform.

19. JM: Why the band shirt?

RM: I was chasing a 605lbs bench in multiply. I was getting close but my shoulder is completely shot. I’ve never had it checked because I know it will probably be the end of my competing when I do. Then the band shirts came out. It gave me a second life because I don’t have to tuck in it. Which kills my shoulder. Also we were afraid someone else was going to break Becca’s record. I had been grinding all these years and I didn’t want someone coming out of nowhere and beating it. I wanted 605 not only for me but to honor Becca. She has been a huge supporter of mine for years. She is so encouraging and really motivated me to chase after that bench. I wanted her to know the person who moved passed her on that list knew how significant that was and had infinite respect for her. Let’s be honest. My record was broken like a month after. It will be broken again and again. Yet only one person got that torch passed from Becca. That means everything to me. Plus, truthfully we are all still Chasing Becca.

20. JM: Why Metal Militia?

RM: I’ve lifted in almost every federation there has ever been. Some don’t even exist anymore. To be 100% honest I usually compete as close to home as possible. I hate flying, especially next to my big ass husband. I first broke the ATWR at a MM meet. I signed up for Nationals in Ohio. Matt Hodge and Nick Durse ran a well-run, fun meet and treated me like gold. Then we went to Elmira. Again, Wallace(Ted) and Bobbejo Kohler ran a great, fun meet and treated me like gold. The late Mike Wolfe was a huge supporter of me and Jeff. I regret not being able to compete at his meet. He was one of a kind. I’ve lifted the biggest bench ever 4 times. Three have been at a Metal Militia meet.

21. JM: Anyone you would like to thank?

RM: Everyone at Anderson for believing in me. My training partners at Absolute Performance. Especially Tom Schmidt, Kris Herbert, Art Dispenza and Paul Childress for teaching me how to use the shirt. My training partners at The Azzylum, especially Dan Zahno. Thank you for handling me at meets and overcoming your fear of flying to help me out. My husband. Know that I love you. And if it wasn't for you, I wouldn't be where I am.

22. JM: How do you want to be remembered/legacy?

RM: You know, just that I was strong and consistent. And I worked hard and I was humble about it. And I didn't take people for granted.

23. JM: Is Metal Militia Worlds on December 10th in Queensbury, NY your last meet?

RM: We’ll see. Never say never. If it is, it’s been a wonderful ride.

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