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A history of bench records and "the shirt"

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  • A history of bench records and "the shirt"

    Found this at BM-Junkyard dog is the original poster-



    Bench MAX (article)
    One Giant Lift for Mankind
    The race for the 1,000-pound bench press.
    By Josh Levin
    Posted Monday, Aug. 9, 2004, at 10:46 AM PT

    Gene Rychlak Jr. is the best bench-presser in the world. Powerlifting experts coo over the 6-foot-1-inch, 380-pound behemoth's physical attributes. His short arms bulge with massive triceps that propel eye-popping weights to the ceiling in an instant. The big stomach comes in handy, too—anything that stops the bar a couple of inches closer to lockout position can't be bad. So, what does it all add up to? Rychlak can bench-press 965 pounds.

    Scot Mendelson used to be the king of the supine weightlifters. Just last year, he set the world record at 875. On Saturday, at a meet in Dubuque, Iowa, the 320-pound Mendelson tried to reclaim the record and become an instant powerlifting legend by becoming the first man to crack the mythical 1,000-pound barrier. "I feel I have a 1,100 pound bench in me," Mendelson promised a few days before the meet. "I think I can go between 1,030 and 1,050 in Iowa." Then he added, "1,005 is really light for me right now." As he lowered more than 1,000 pounds to his chest, Mendelson was sure the half-ton of metal was going right back up—his hypertrophied muscles and a magical denim shirt would make sure of that.

    The bench press's pre-eminent position in American weightlifting culture has come only in the past few decades. For most of the 20th century, lifters were judged based on how much they could lift over their heads. Serious weightlifters snickered at chesty bodybuilders who slaved away on the bench to expand their pectorals—"boobie builders," they called them. As bodybuilding gained wider acceptance after World War II, the three powerlifting disciplines—the squat, dead lift, and especially the bench press—became known as the ultimate tests of strength.

    For years, the bench press world record crept up slowly and steadily. In the 1950s, Canadian Doug Hepburn became the first man to bench 400, 450, and 500 pounds. In 1957, Hepburn told Muscle Power magazine that a 600-pound bench press was possible, but it wasn't until 1967 that Pat Casey cracked that barrier. Ted Arcidi broke 700 in 1985, and it took another 17 years until Ryan Kennelly benched 800 pounds in 2002. Now, just two years later, 10 men have benched 800, and a couple are closing in on 1,000. So, why have records that stood up to the strongest men in the world for 50 years crumbled in the last two?

    A super-shirt, mostly. In 1983, a college student and powerlifter named John Inzer started making shirts that supported benchers' shoulders and deltoids. Word spread that the bench shirt not only prevented injuries but actually helped bounce the weight off your chest. The terminology on Inzer's Web site reeks of pseudoscience—the top-of-the-line Inzer Phenom shirt "features the EVS (Escape Velocity System) built inside"—but the shirt's effect is undeniable. As the record for the shirted bench press shot up to 965 pounds, the unshirted or "raw" mark has stayed at an earthly 713 pounds. (Scot Mendelson has that record.) Nowadays, every top bench-presser uses the shirt for safety and power. "The whole raw thing, you're just asking for trouble if you're going to be dealing with any kind of weight," says Ryan Kennelly. "If you rip your pec, you rip your rotator cuff, you're out of there. Thank God for bench shirts."

    The bench shirt—which comes in denim or polyester—has arms that jut out zombielike, perpendicular to the chest. The position is so awkward and the fit so tight that lifters typically need help swaddling themselves. As the bar starts to press the weightlifter's arms down, a percentage of the load goes to deforming the shirt. High-end shirts are so taut that for the bar to even reach a bencher's chest, the fabric has to be compressed with incredible force. (At one meet, Rychlak had to abandon an 890-pound lift because it wasn't heavy enough to force the weight down to his pecs.) When the bencher starts to push the bar back up, the shirt acts like a spring. As the material snaps back to its original, zombie-arm orientation, the lifter's elbows get a bit of extra help moving the weight back into the air.

    Inzer says the bench shirt "brings out the deeper strength of a lifter." Powerlifting traditionalists and scientists think the opposite. Indiana University biomechanics professor Jesus Dapena says the shirt helps lifters hoist more weight by using their arm bones—not their muscles—as levers. "I would consider it cheating, it's helping you mechanically. You might as well have a pulley," he says. Even so, all the top lifters trot out the same line: "The shirt alone isn't going to lift that weight." And don't think wearing a bench shirt makes 1,000 pounds feel like nothing. Mendelson says that when he's pressing 1,000, "I can feel my bones flexing." The first time Kennelly held a half-ton he heard a humming noise and had blurred vision. "Now my central nervous system has adapted to it. I'm used to it," he says.

    While the bench shirt has been around for two decades, the last couple of years have seen marked improvements in shirt design and technology and an increased focus on shirt-based training methods. Because bench shirts severely restrict movement, lifters must practice and memorize an incredibly precise sequence of steps to bring the weight from the chest to lockout. The bench press has now "become more a finesse and technique sport than a brute strength sport," says bench-shirt guru Bill Crawford, who leads the Metal Militia bench-press team. Rychlak, for one, could "probably put about 40-45 pounds on his bench by changing his body position and his feet."

    About the only thing that could stop world-class benchers before they reach 1,000 pounds is poverty. When Rychak won this year's Arnold Classic, the biggest meet in powerlifting, he only broke even after splitting the $2,500 prize with the three huge spotters he lugged to the contest with him. Because he's the king of the hill, Rychlak has his detractors. He's been accused of hiding bungee cords, Kevlar, and nylon rope in his bench shirt, he says. Others insist he's on steroids because he lifts in meets that don't require drug tests. "If you've got undisputable proof, show it," Rychlak snaps.

    Back in Iowa, Scot Mendelson was trying to make Rychlak old news. In front of about 400 spectators, he bellied up to the bench in his denim Inzer shirt, took some motivational slaps in the face from his wife/coach, and dug his heels in. His first attempt was at 903 pounds. On the press, the bar got about halfway up. Mendelson strained to lock his arms for a few seconds before a couple of men in yellow shirts swooped in to save him from death by crushing. On his next lift, Mendelson went for it: 1,003 pounds.
    But the weight slipped and he couldn't press it back up. He tried again on his final attempt but was just too tired.

    "All that work for three lifts, and I didn't do it. It's depressing," Mendelson said afterward. He does find some consolation in the performance of his bench shirt, though. "Unbelievable," he marveled. "The shirt worked great."

    Special thanks to John Sanchez of American Powerlift Evolution and physicist Tom Steiger.

    Josh Levin is a Slate assistant editor. You can e-mail him at [email protected].

    Article URL: http://slate.msn.com/id/2104915/
    [/QUOTE]
    Last edited by SuperSport; 08-18-2004, 11:49 AM.
    [email protected] http://www.proactivehealthnet.com

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  • #2
    SS, Do you know by anychance who pullingbig from Ology or exmgq from A's board is, well I talk to him on the phone often and he is a 309 lb powerlifter and we were just discussing the shirt thing the other night and talking form on benching.

    I just can't understand how fast those guys went form 700 to over 1000 in just a few years with this shirt.

    He was explaining to me that the shirt keeps you from going to low, I was for some reason under the impression that is did the lifting for you which I am sure it does a bit or we would not see these weights they push now.

    And now I fully understand their bad form on benching is because they get the power from not bending at the elbows and going from their stomach up not their pecs.

    I had a very interesting conversation with him for about a hour and a half over this form thing, very interesting...
    "That damn log book"

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    • #3
      Originally posted by In-Human
      SS, Do you know by anychance who pullingbig from Ology or exmgq from A's board is, well I talk to him on the phone often and he is a 309 lb powerlifter and we were just discussing the shirt thing the other night and talking form on benching.

      I just can't understand how fast those guys went form 700 to over 1000 in just a few years with this shirt.

      He was explaining to me that the shirt keeps you from going to low, I was for some reason under the impression that is did the lifting for you which I am sure it does a bit or we would not see these weights they push now.

      And now I fully understand their bad form on benching is because they get the power from not bending at the elbows and going from their stomach up not their pecs.

      I had a very interesting conversation with him for about a hour and a half over this form thing, very interesting...
      That cool, I always wonder why when they bench pressed it looks different in form from the way a bodybuilder does it.
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      • #4
        Originally posted by In-Human
        SS, Do you know by anychance who pullingbig from Ology or exmgq from A's board is, well I talk to him on the phone often and he is a 309 lb powerlifter and we were just discussing the shirt thing the other night and talking form on benching.

        I just can't understand how fast those guys went form 700 to over 1000 in just a few years with this shirt.

        He was explaining to me that the shirt keeps you from going to low, I was for some reason under the impression that is did the lifting for you which I am sure it does a bit or we would not see these weights they push now.

        And now I fully understand their bad form on benching is because they get the power from not bending at the elbows and going from their stomach up not their pecs.

        I had a very interesting conversation with him for about a hour and a half over this form thing, very interesting...

        Hey IH-

        I have never heard of those guys....I only visit 3 boards as of now. But I am interested in knowing more about the form that your friend speaks of.

        I trained infrequently in the late eighties/early nineties with a couple of HW Marine Corps powerlifting champions-one guy, Gary Ward, I think held the record for a while and was the first marine to bench over 600.

        Ward and another guy-Dan Martinez, a huge dude that was right around the 600 mark-taught me to bench in a fashion that works the pecs hard and generates more power according to them.

        Their method was to arch the back a good bit-raises the sternum and they brought the bar down to the bottom of the sternum-close to the stomache like your friend says to do.

        I thought this would decrease the range of motion-which it does-but by trying to pinch your shoulder blades together it actually increases the true range of motion of the pecs. True the bar does not move as far-but by adding more weight (resistance) and using this method the pecs tend to stretch more and works them harder.

        Ward and Martinez' theory was the pecs are bigger and stronger so let them do the work-of course delts and tri's come into play especially from the mid point of the lift to the completion.

        They also had me bring the bar down low like you mentioned and had me finish the lift with the bar over my eyes. Just like an arcing motion. This will increase the distance the bar travels of course-which seems like it would make the lift more difficult. But no kidding, the first night I benched with these guys they had me using their technique and I cruised past my previous max by 20 pounds or so. Perhaps mechainally some of us are weaker when benching in a linear fashion.

        I have never competed in a powerlifting event-and honestly never have been a "power" guy. I am a classic ectomorph-hard-gainer-from-hell, lol. My long arms are detrimental to being a power guy. My best single with absolutely no accessories(belts, gloves, shirts, etc) was 455 with an extended pause-my bodyweight was 240-245 back then (1997). I doubt I will ever go that heavy again (I felt like I got hit by a truck after that lift, lmao).

        It is just incredible that these guys can handle these big weights...seems like the shoulder socket would break or something.

        Here is a funny story. Around 1989-1990 was the first time in my life that I ever benched 315 for a single with no help. You know, when you hit 315 for the first time it is like you just passed into another zone. You have arrived, so to speak, lol. I loved hearing those plates rattle......lol.

        I was so ecstatic over my achievement I went back to the gym the very next night to do it again....lol. I worked my way up to 315....loaded the 3 wagon wheels on each side, and nailed it again. OH YEAH!!!! I was stoked of course.

        Right next to me on the other bench is Dan Martinez. First time I had ever seen the guy. What a huge dude this guy was. He gets prepared to warm up.

        His warm up on bench was 315.

        Damn. I was crushed, lol. He was doing 315 on his first set and carrying on a converation at the same time with some dude. I lost count of how many reps he did with it-at least 15 while he was talking. lol.

        I broke my bar down sheepishly and went to the other side of the gym as I contemplated just how I was gonna get to 405.....lol.

        I kept my eye on Martinez to see how high he was gonna go.

        505 for 3 reps. Holy Smokes!

        A couple of months later he and Ward got me straightened out on my technique...


        I am curious about your friends technique? What other kind of tips does he have? Just curious.

        IMO they should ban the shirt.....I like the big numbers but for me personally I would rather know I did the weight other than the accessories.
        [email protected] http://www.proactivehealthnet.com

        " We know that to err is human, but the HIV/AIDS hypothesis is one hell of a mistake"
        Dr. Kary Mullis, Nobel Prize Winner in Chemistry for inventing the Polymerase Chain Reaction


        "The fact is that you can not start off with bad science and end up with good medicine"

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        • #5
          SS, Very good story, my buddy is both of those names on different boards, sorry if I didn't make it clear, he is a great guy and very knowlegable when it comes to powerlifting.

          Any questions that you have you can either get a hold of him on Ology or let me know and I can ask him...
          "That damn log book"

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          • #6
            what board do you mean by ology, IH? exmgq helped me out quite a bit back before animal booted me off his board and i miss reading his informative posts.
            It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by nemo
              what board do you mean by ology, IH? exmgq helped me out quite a bit back before animal booted me off his board and i miss reading his informative posts.
              He is at Steroidology and he goes by pullinbig now, you tell him when you talk to him I said he is a pussy, tell him Slim said so.

              He lives here in the training forum:

              http://www.steroidology.com/forum/fo...?s=&forumid=16

              He is not allowed out on the board anywhere else except in the womens section, hehe...
              "That damn log book"

              www.trueprotein.com Highest quality protein at the lowest price...

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              • #8
                thanks in human
                It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.

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