T Nation

All-Time Best at the Bench Press

When I was living in Texas during the 1960s, powerlifting was just getting started as an AAU sport. I was around some of the strongest bench pressers in the world.

Who did I consider the best of the Texas bench pressers at that time?

How much did you bench at what bodyweight? What is your approach to training bench for powerlifting? Did you do full meets too or bench-only?

My best training lifts at a body weight of 210 pounds were

Bench: 380
Squat: 500
Deadlift: 500

My total during actual competition was about 60 pounds less from above. That won me a Best Lifter award in a Novice contest in Oklahoma City in 1965.

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In 1965 I bench pressed 380 pounds. Yet, ten years before that, there wasn’t even a bench with attached racks in the small Texas town I lived in. My first bench presses, in fact, were performed on the ground.

I drove to the YMCA in downtown Houston in 1960 to see my first bench with attached racks.

Houston and Dallas eventually became hotbeds of powerlifting. And I suppose I was, in some ways, apart of the the beginnings of the official AAU competitions.

Back then, in the early 1960s, a 300-pound bench press was a real accomplishment. And 400 pounds would put you in the elite category.

I still remember the man who impressed me the most with his bench pressing ability. He was focused and smooth in his efforts and he seldom missed a lift. And oh my, was he strong.

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Maybe Reg Park. IIRC, he sported about a 500 lb press way back in the day (not sure if he ever lived in Texas though).

Ronnie Ray ?

Yes, Ronnie Ray.

Ronnie was one of the first bodybuilders I ever met. He entered a teenage contest with me in the early 1960s and should have won, but placed second. He had the thickest chest I’ve ever seen, even then as a teenager, and I’ve seen some championship chests.

In 1963, I entered a Powerlifting meet at the YMCA in Tulsa, OK. Ronnie was also entered and it may have been his first Powerlifting contest, as it was called Odd Lifts at that time. There were five lifts: bench, squat, deadlift, curl, and upright row.

If I remember correctly, Ronnie won the bench and curl. In fact, he bench pressed more than he squatted. Interestingly, I won the upright row, by doing 195 pounds, while weighing 193 pounds. The awards were determined by applying the Hoffman formula.

Eventually, Ronnie set several world records in the bench press. The one I remember best was at a body weight of 198 pounds he bench pressed 540 pounds.

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Many years back I witnessed a powerlifter in a gym bench press 505 for two solid reps (and it was not even an all-out effort). However, he must have been well over 300 pounds in bodyweight - plenty of fat and muscle combined. Still, just an amazing feat of strength to witness in person.