The second lift in any sanctioned powerlifting competition, following the squat and preceding the deadlift, is the bench press. It’s a staple movement for muscle hypertrophy and strength gains of the elbow extensors, shoulder flexors, and horizontal adductors. (1) The foundation of the bench press is widely credited to George Hackenschmidt but was an underused lift until the 1940s.
Heaviest Bench Presses of All-Time
Nowadays, the bench press is performed in training and competition as both a raw and equipped lift. Some notable athletes are specialists in this lift, such as raw bench press world record holder Julius Maddox.
Raw vs. Equipped
Raw powerlifting in competition generally means no additional equipment is used. However, most raw powerlifting competitions may allow approved lifting belts, wrist wraps, knee sleeves, and/or chalk.
Single-ply and multi-ply suits generate elasticity and, therefore, more strength. A single-ply suit has one layer of fabric, while multi-ply suits have two or more layers. If a contest allows unlimited equipment, lifters can wear any bench shirt with no restrictions. This means athletes could wear different equipment despite competing in the same contest.
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Heaviest Competiton Bench Presses of all Time
Below are the heaviest bench presses ever performed raw and various equipment in competition. These lifts were cross-checked using Open Powerlifting‘s database.
Julius Maddox — 355 kilograms (782.6 pounds) | Raw
Maddox has seemingly been in a class by himself since claiming the raw bench press world record from Kirill Sarychev. In August 2019, Maddox lifted 335.5 kilograms (739.7 pounds) — a half-kilogram more than Sarychev’s still second heaviest ever bench press of 335 kilograms (738.5 pounds).
Maddox holds the current raw world record bench press of 355 kilograms (782.6 pounds), scored at the Hybrid Showdown on Feb. 21, 2021. Since standing atop the raw bench press throne, Maddox’s sights have been set on being the first human to score a raw 362.9-kilogram (800-pound) bench press. He attempted that milestone at the “Beasts of the Bench” event on the World’s Ultimate Strongman (WUS) “Feats of Strength” series in June 2020 but was unable to make a legitimate attempt due to a misload.
April Mathis — 207.5 kilograms (457.5 pounds) | Raw
April Mathis is not simply a bench press specialist. She currently holds the raw squat world record of 278.9 kilograms (614.7 pounds) in addition to the raw bench press world record of 207.5 kilograms (457.5 pounds). Mathis hit that world record at the 2016 Southern Powerlifting Federation (SPF) Gritmas Classic.
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Jimmy Kolb — 508 kilograms (1,120 pounds) | Single-Ply
Bench press specialist Jimmy Kolb scored the all-time heaviest single-ply bench press of 508 kilograms (1,120 pounds) at the 2021 International Powerlifting Association (IPA) Strength Spectacular Powerlifting Championships on June 27, 2021, at York Barbell Club in York, PA. This lift was a jaw-dropping leap in weight from the previous all-time world record of 455 kilograms (1,003 pounds) by Blaine Sumner. Sumner scored that previous world record in the superheavyweight division. Kolb’s all-time world record, featured in the video below, was performed in the 140-kilogram class.
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Rae-Ann Coughenour-Miller — 242.5 kilograms (534.6 pounds) | Single-Ply
Rae-Ann Coughenour-Miller scored the heaviest female single-ply bench press of all time of 274.4 kilograms (605 pounds)* in July 2021 at the 2021 Metal Militia (MM) National Power Lifting Invitational at the Bayfront Convention Center in Erie, PA. However, that lift was performed in Unlimited competition. The all-time world record single-ply lift is her 242.5-kilogram (534.6-pound) press, scored in the +90-kilogram weight class. She advanced the previous world record held by Sandra Lönn by 7.5 kilograms.
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Tiny Meeker — 500 kilograms (1,102.3 pounds) | Multi-Ply
On Dec. 14, 2013, Tiny Meeker scored the current multi-ply bench press world record of 500 kilograms (1,102.3 pounds). Since making his competitive powerlifting debut at age 24 in 1996, Meeker has competed in 77 sanctioned meets. He finished either on the podium or without posting a total in every event. He is the 1998 Natural Athlete Strength Association (NASA) World Cup Champion and a 10-time World Association of Bench Pressers and Deadlifters (WABDL) Champion (2001-02, 2005, 2007-13).
Becca Swanson — 272.5 kilograms (600.8 pounds) | Multi-Ply
Becca Swanson‘s name is next to the multi-ply world record of 272.5 kilograms (600.8 pounds). She scored that lift at the 2008 American Powerlifting Federation (APF) Big Iron In-House Open held on March 8, 2008. Check out the lift below, courtesy of SDBD Videos‘ YouTube channel, wherein Swanson’s eccentric motion of the lift moves at a glacial pace — a testament to the control she maintained through to the lockout.
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Will Barotti — 503.4-kilogram (1,109.8-pound) | Unlimited
In 2021, Meeker was the promoter of the International Powerlifting Association (IPA) Baddest Benchers contest which saw powerlifter Will Barotti stand atop the podium via a 501.2-kilogram (1,105-pound) lift. Barotti is the reigning all-time bench press world record holder in the Unlimited category, meaning no restriction on the type of bench press shirts lifters can wear. Barotti exceeded that lift at the 2020 MM World Championships when he posted a 503.4-kilogram (1,109.8-pound) bench press.
Katrina Bielomyza — 275.5-kilogram (607.4-pound) | Unlimited
The heaviest bench press ever by a woman via Unlimited competition belongs to Katrina Bielomyza. She scored a 275.5-kilogram (607.4-pound) lift at the 2021 Revolution Powerlifting Syndicate (RPS) Maine State Powerlifting Championship on Sept. 18, 2021.
Future of the Bench Press
The current bench press world records are extremely heavy. However, there still appears to be room for the records in each division to grow. Considering Kolb, Maddox, Bielomyza, and Coughenour-Miller hit their current records in 2021, who knows how heavy the lifts will be in 2022. The potential for the first-ever 800-pound bench press could be on the horizon when Maddox squares off in a bench press battle against Danial Zamani at Iron Wars V on Jan. 24, 2022. Although the record books are forever, the records within them are not.
- Mausehund, L., Werkhausen, A., Bartsch, J., & Krosshaug, T. (2021). Understanding Bench Press Biomechanics-The Necessity of Measuring Lateral Barbell Forces. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 10.1519/JSC.0000000000003948. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0000000000003948
Featured image: @irregular_strength on Instagram