“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. Regardless of your sport, it can support overall pressing strength, forges pecs and delts of iron, and it fills 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, lifting 164 kilograms (362 pounds), though he is believed to have lifted it over his face.

George Hackenschmidt

Hack’s record stood for seventeen years until Joe Nordquest broke it by a kilogram in 1916, and a hundred years later, the exercise had evolved into the bench press and the world’s heaviest lift had more than doubled Hackenschmidt’s original press. (And significantly increased its range of motion.)

As the years passed and the sport of powerlifting progressed, exercise physiologists developed not only advanced training regimes to enhance performance, but assistive clothing as well. Here is where we diverge 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. It makes a big difference: Scott Mendelson, for instance, has benched 1030 pounds in a bench shirt, but his raw best is 715 pounds. It’s worth noting that different federations allow different thicknesses and materials in the shirts.

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 tshirt. (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.

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Nick is a content producer and journalist with over seven years’ experience reporting on four continents. His first articles about health were on a cholera outbreak in rural Kenya while he was reporting for a French humanitarian organization. His next writing job was covering the nightlife scene in Shanghai. He’s written on a lot of things.After Shanghai, he went on to produce a radio documentary about bodybuilding in Australia before finishing his Master’s degrees in Journalism and International Relations and heading to New York City. Here, he’s been writing on health full time for more than five years for outlets like BarBend, Men's Health, VICE, and Popular Science.No fan of writing in the third person, Nick’s passion for health stems from an interest in self improvement: How do we reach our potential?Questions like these took him through a lot of different areas of health and fitness like gymnastics, vegetarianism, kettlebell training, fasting, CrossFit, Paleo, and so on, until he realized (or decided) that strength training fit best with the ideas of continuous, measurable self improvement.At BarBend his writing focuses a little more on nutrition and long-form content with a heaping dose of strength training. His underlying belief is in the middle path: you don’t have to count every calorie and complete every workout in order to benefit from a healthy lifestyle and a stronger body. Plus, big traps are cool.