Weight Lifting, Weight Training, Bench Press & Bodybuilding
March 4, 2024
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Top Bodybuilders and Raw Bench Pressing
by Ben Tatar of CriticalBench.com

Would Ronnie Coleman kick ass in a powerlifting meet? Many people have been asking me about how a Pro Bodybuilder would do in a RAW bench contest against the strongest power lifters in the world.. Names that come up include Greg Kovaks, Marcus Ruhl and Ronnie Coleman. I can see exactly why this question comes up. We have seen Ronnie Coleman dumbbell benching 200lbs for 10 easy reps and have heard about Ronnie benching 225 for 75 reps, which equals a 731 1 rep max in theory. As we know, theory doesn't always equal truth since we know that doing 225 for a load of reps involves mostly slow twitch fibers and doing 731 for 1 would include fast twitch fibers, and finally we know that slow twitch and fast twitch fibers work in opposite directions.

Then we hear Greg Kovaks at 410lbs incline bench pressing 700+ pounds. Then finally, we have Isaac Nessar, the man with the biggest muscular chest, measuring 74 1/2 inches claiming that he has benched 825. The bottom line is that with all these amazing claims the same question always enters our minds "How would these monster bodybuilders do against the strongest RAW benchers of the world and why aren't these mastodons in bodybuilding not hitting the world records in RAW bench competitions or even competing among even the powerlifters who are almost, but not quite at the top"?

Well, to answer the question, on external levels, many top lifters have constantly seen bodybuilders that can hit 505 for almost and more than 10 reps on the bench press, and then they get smashed by 600 for 1! See, Strength is different than rep power; bodybuilders don't have the Central Nervous System (CNS) training that power lifters have. My 750 bencher friend, Mike Witmer, saw a guy at world gym, that could sling 405 around for 10 easy warm up reps, but he couldn't bench 550! Bodybuilders have a certain make up of muscle that allows them to genetically get huge, and rep big weight, but central nervous system can pop a bigger one rep max! On the other hand, maybe the top RAW benchers in power lifting couldn't rep 405 as many times as the strongest bodybuilders, but again they have a higher 1 rep max.

To quote "George Halbert"...

"About 4-5 years ago I was training close-grip low pin presses overhead against the rack with Arnold Classic winner Mike Francois. The bar was loaded to 315 which I proceeded to do one. Mike struggled to do one then proceeded to blast out about 8 more reps and I swear-every rep he did seemed to get easier and his muscles blew up like a balloon right in front of my eyes. I then loaded the bar to 350 and did one rep and mike tried and failed to do one. Why? My muscles were trained to lift maximal effort lifts and his muscles were trained to grow maximal size. Body builders train for the pump, power lifters train for maximum lifts. Most of my training is singles or speed work neither of which builds much muscle size but both build a great deal of strength".

Mike Witmer's Opinion To quote " Mike Witmer"

"I was in world's gym on Saturday and I had just finished 3 board presses, and was on to some close grip benches. There were some pro bodybuilders in there and he was a guest poser at the gym. He was going to guest pose for a bodybuilding show in FT. Myers. He had just received his pro card, wasn't a big name yet. But he was FREAKIN HUGE! He kept watching me and looking at me. He was training chest and tris. He walked up to me and said, "hey big man, can I do some close grips with ya?" I said sure! We went 225 for 8. Then I hit 315 for 5, he did it for 8. We then did 365, I did 5, he did 8. We then went 405, I hit 3, and he did 5. We then went 455. I did 3 easy reps and he barley did 1 and couldn't get rep number 2 off of his chest! It's the way they train! Bodybuilders don't have the same strength that powerlifters have".

You see, power lifters have to train differently than bodybuilders and all their training is geared towards a 1 rep max. Therefore, according to Lou Simmons, the Soviets, Russians, etc, etc, the main focus of the power lifter is to train the central nervous system, as bodybuilders put their priority on muscle hypertrophy, therefore the bodybuilder won't have the MAXIMUM EFFORT strength for a single that the top power lifter would have. Power lifters also use different techniques in the bench press and they have a purpose to get stronger throughout the range of motion. Power lifters who train the bench are using bands, boards, speed days, maximum effort days, etc. etc and these techniques allow the power lifter to get stronger for a 1 max rep. The power lifter also has more tendon strength (reps 1-3) than the bodybuilder since the bodybuilder is soo focused on hypertrophy and aesthetic appearance. As the bodybuilder might develop amazing slow twitch fibers, hypertrophy and the sarcoplasmic muscle fiber, they really need to train like the top RAW benching power lifters to be one of them, have their explosive power, tendon strength or even compete among them, which would take years for the top bodybuilders to do.

Yes Ronnie Coleman, etc, etc, trains through Diesel, but still he nor Jackson, etc, train to be the strongest of the strong...If they were to, you would discover that their appearance would go down dramatically! It's give to gain, bro, we have to make sacrifices to achieve different goals.... So if you want to see bodybuilders SUCCEED, as far as functional strength is concerned... The question shouldn't be "Who is the strongest for 1 rep", but who is the strongest for 10 reps... And then we would see a lot more bodybuilders doing strength shows. Else, they would be entering the IPF world bench championship, the WORLDS STRONGEST MAN, etc and they would be getting killed in this day.

Bodybuilders Bench Pressing So maybe this will answer some of your questions about the "TOP BODYBUILDER FANTASY, against the TOP POWERLIFTERS". However, if we changed the competition to reps instead of singles, then what would happen?

Even if the top bodybuilders competed against the top powerlifters in benching as far as strength is concerned in a 6 rep competition, I would still bet on the powerlifters, however, the gap would tighten. Even if Ronnie Coleman can bench 200 for 10 with dumbbells on flat bench, Big Clay, who is 150lbs off the world record with gear, can easily incline bench 210lbs dumbbells and would beat Ronnie. The lighter we increase the weight, the more reps invovled, the better the chances of Ronnie would win would be, but then the more reps and the lighter the weight, the more it becomes about endurance and the less it comes about RAW power. So we might as well have the Anrold Push up champion be the champion!

As amazing as Greg Kovak claims to be in strength, we have to remember that according to Ed Coan and other lifters he does his lifts on smith machines. Therefore, he wouldn't have the stability maximum effort strength to match the strongest powerlifters on free weights, like Kennelly, where technique, balance and stability is vital. Isaac Nessar claims a bench max over 825, RAW, which is way over Henderson's IPF 711 record, the bottom line is that Henderson has a chest that is well larger than Nessar's and he could out bench Isaac by about 175lbs. He just doesn't get credit for having the World's most muscular chest because he carries over 15% body fats which are required to get into Guinness. In fact, heck, if you want to get real technical the men that weigh over 1400lbs, or the heaviest woman at 1600+ pounds has a chest girth of over 100 inches, but that's another story...

Finally, in conclusion, the powerlifters rule the world of power and the bodybuilder's rule the world of size and aesthetics. That's the way it is and the way it will always be. If you want to know the ultimate man as far as bodybuilding and powerlifting is concerned or in other words the ultimate power builder look at Dave Waterman, Ken Lain, etc! After all, the best will be the best in the individual sport according to the time and we have to remember that as time goes on, nutrition, training and everything evolves. Therefore, if we want to now compare eras, the best will just keep getting better! Until then, keep enjoying the moment of champions, let the failures, victors, teach the future and enjoy the passion.


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