“What’s your bench?” Like it or not, it’s often the first question people ask when they meet a powerlifter — there’s something about the bench press translating to brute strength. Regardless of the sport, the bench press can improve overall pressing strength, forge pecs and delts of iron, and help fill out a t-shirt like no other exercise.
While pressing exercises go back to Greco-Roman times when soldiers would train push-ups and other weighted exercises, George Hackenschmidt is widely credited with performing the first recorded floor press in 1899. He lifted 164 kilograms (362 pounds), though he is believed to have lifted it over his face.
Hack’s record stood for seventeen years until Joe Nordquest broke it by a kilogram in 1916. One hundred years later, the exercise evolved into the bench press and the world’s heaviest lift more than doubled Hackenschmidt’s original press and significantly increased its range of motion.
As the years passed and powerlifting progressed, exercise physiologists developed not only advanced training regimes to enhance performance, but assistive clothing as well. Here is the divergence from “raw” bench presses to “equipped.”
Equipped bench presses are performed in a bench press shirt, made from extremely strong fabric that, due to its elastic energy, helps the lifter’s arms snap upward from the bottom of the lift. Different federations allow different thicknesses and materials in the shirts, but it makes a big difference. Scott Mendelson, for instance, has benched 467.2 kilograms (1,030 pounds) in a bench shirt, but his best raw lift is 324.3 kilograms (715 pounds).
[Related: The Tale of the First 1,000lb Bench Press]
We’re not saying raw or equipped is inherently better. More weight is more weight, and the bench press shirt should receive a lot of recognition for its role in pushing the threshold of human performance. But we wanted to know the records for bench presses that could be performed by a person just strolling into the gym in a t-shirt. (And maybe, in Sarychev’s case, a couple of wrist wraps.)
Take a look at our graphic of the world’s heaviest raw bench presses in the open, drug-tested, female, masters 50-59, and Masters 60+ categories. The information is arranged by name, the weight pressed in pounds and kilograms, the athlete’s weight class, their country of origin, and the federation in which they were lifting. All information is courtesy of Powerlifting Watch.
Featured image via @sarychevkirill on Instagram.