The three-time and reigning IPF World Classic Powerlifting champion Jesus Olivares is among the most dominant powerlifters in the superheavyweight category. He holds the all-time world record raw total of 1,152.5 kilograms (2,540.8 pounds), set at Malta’s 2023 IPF Sheffield Championships.
In a video published to Mark Bell‘s YouTube channel on Aug. 29, 2023, Olivares pulled back the curtain on his bench press technique and shared how to lift the most weight while reducing injury risk. Check it out below:
We can take the same principles from the squat and apply them to the bench.
According to powerlifting bench press rules, the lifter’s head, shoulders, and buttocks must always be on the bench throughout the lift. While some lifters elevate their chest off the bench by arching their low and mid back, using their shoulders and buttocks as touch points, others keep their low and mid back flat on the bench. Olivares belongs to the latter category.
Leg Drive & Sink the Barbell
Olivares relies on leg drive and sinking the barbell into his chest at the bottom for a strong press. The only disadvantage of this technique is if the window of opportunity to transfer momentum from the feet to the arms is missed, the barbell can mis-groove from the sunken position, leading to a loss of balance.
Find the position that [helps you] generate the most force.
Olivares prefers the sink technique over the ‘soft touch’ — when the barbell barely touches the chest at the bottom. The former method allows him to use his upper back strength in addition to his leg drive, chest, and triceps. In contrast, the soft touch technique eliminates lat engagement.
Rack Height, Set Up, & Grip
Olivares set the rack height so the barbell was about an inch and a half over the J-cup lips when unracked. He laid with a flat back on the bench, so his glutes, lower and upper back, shoulders, and head were in a straight line.
Olivares positioned his hands on the bar with his index fingers gripping the outermost ring. Known as a “max grip” in powerlifting, it is the widest legal grip in sanctioned competition.
Olivares wiggled his upper back on the bench to find a strong base. “Think of [the upper back] like your launch pad,” Olivares said. “You want your launch pad to be as secure as possible.”
Unracking the Barbell
Once he established a solid base and grip, Olivares drove his feet into the floor to unrack the barbell. He assumed the starting position and raised the barbell above his chest, ensuring his shoulders, elbows, and wrists were aligned.
Olivares lowered the bar slowly to his chest while maintaining tension throughout his body. He let the bar sink into his chest at the bottom before driving through his mid-foot, engaging his quads and glutes.
The world powerlifting champion emphasized the importance of completing the lift as quickly as possible. The longer an athlete stays under the bar, the more challenging the lift becomes, as muscle fatigue is imminent.
Although Olivares hasn’t confirmed his participation yet, he is expected to compete at the 2023 Powerlifting America raw nationals scheduled for Sept. 14-17 in Memphis, TN, to earn his spot on Team USA for the 2024 World Classic Championships. This contest is a qualifier for the 2025 World Games in Chengdu, China.
Featured image: @mega.gojira on Instagram