The Big Man with the Bigger Spirit: Powerlifter Anthony Clark

We don’t know what you were doing when you were 16 years old, but Anthony Clark was bench pressing 600 pounds. Six years later, in 1992, he benched pressed 700lbs. One year after that, he broke his own record and hit 735lbs. At the Arnold Classic in 1997, he became the first man to 800 pounds. 

And you thought your 16 year old bodyweight bench was impressive.

For some sort of context, since we’re pretty sure most of us haven’t successfully budged 700lbs in any way, 700lbs is roughly the equivalent of a 16 foot long Nile crocodile or an average sized grizzly bear.

Of course, Clark himself was not a small man. Born in 1966 in the Phillippines, Clark measured in at 5’ 8” and 330 some odd pounds. Though he was known primarily for his bench pressing, Clark could also squat 1,025lbs and deadlift 748lbs. At one point, he held World Record total of over 2600 lbs. He also made headlines after pushing a 6000lb elephant in a heavy duty wheelbarrow during a strongman demonstration in Japan.

According to strongman Bud Jeffries, who as a teenager frequently worked with Clark, “Anthony was the biggest human I’d ever seen up close. He had a legit 25 inch arm. It was psychotic, like seriously. He drank like 15000 calories in protein shakes a day. He ate 5000 to 8000 in actual food and another 15000 in protein shakes a day. He was massive in a way that’s hard to describe.”

Clark’s lifting was sometimes controversial. He lifted equipped, with a two-ply polyester bench pressing vest, and was open about dabbling in steroids (though he said he stopped them at 22 years old, because “all they did was increase my blood pressure.”) He preferred to bench press in a reverse grip, so his palms faced inward instead of outward. Though he once hit 707lbs regular grip, he stopped training the regular grip in the early ‘90s. His preference caused many of his successful competition lifts to be overturned after the fact (including his historic 800lb lift), which frustrated Clark because he believed he was competing within the rules of the time.

Though his physical accomplishments are numerous, Clark’s purpose in life was to use his strength for the greater good of humanity. In his youth, he said he was a scrawny kid who regularly got beat up by his father. He tried to commit suicide three times, and it wasn’t until he started picking up weights that his life turned around.

Clark aimed to impart his life lessons on other kids in tough situations, so he frequently traveled around the country performing strongman demonstrations for underprivileged youths, often working with young people in and out of the prison system. He believed that throwing numbers at kids didn’t really get their attention, but “show them that Mom’s sedan can be moved all over the yard, and they snap to attention.”

Unfortunately, Clark struggled with heart trouble and was in an out of hospitals in his 30s. He passed away on May 22, 2005 at the age of 38.