|Top Bodybuilders and Raw Bench Pressing
by Ben Tatar of CriticalBench.com
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
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".
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
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.
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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