The bench press is a given in today’s lifting world, but this was not always the case. According to Josh Levin at Slate Magazine for much of the 20th century, serious competitors were judged primarily on how much they could lift over their heads. They sneered at the idea of supine weightlifting â€” “boobie-building,” they called it, and it wasn’t until after WW2, when bodybuilding entered the mainstream, that bench pressing came into its own.
Amazingly, Scott also holds the biggest RAW bench press record too, at 715 lbs, although as many followers of the sport know, the rivalry between the big guys is far from over. Today, along with the squat and dead lift, the bench press is known as not only the ultimate test of strength, but also of technique.
Is that Escape Velocity System or are you just pleased to see me?
And this is largely due to a saucy little item of super-gear called The Shirt. The Shirt, or Inzer Phenom, invented by John Inzer in 1983, has caused bench press records, steadily rising since Canadian Doug Hepburn became the first man to bench 400, 450, and 500 pounds in 1957, to crumble in the last two decades.
Its much touted Escape Velocity system may or may not be science, but the proof is in the lifting. As the first man to bench 800 lbs in 2002, Ryan Kennelly says, “The whole raw thing, you’re just asking for trouble if you’re going to be dealing with any kind of weight. If you rip your pec, you rip your rotator cuff, you’re out of there. Thank God for bench shirts.”
Nowadays, according to Levin, every top bench presser uses the shirt for safety and power. Check out the details here. As you’d expect, the shirt has its naysayers. While its inventor claims the shirt “brings out the deeper strength of a power lifter”, opponents, including Indiana University biomechanics professor Jesus Dapena, poo-poos it as a mere mechanical aid not to the muscles but to the arm bones themselves. “You might as well have a pulley, ” he sniffs.
But hey, shirt or no shirt, you know you’re alive when there’s half a ton of metal bearing down on you, never mind a ton. Raw or geared, there is no better way to show off both brute strength and technical skill than with some good old-fashioned “boobie-building.”
We must, we must, we must increase our bust.