Now THAT'S What I Call Impressive!

TAGS: Oleksandr Kutcher, records, Travis Rogers, world records, matt ladewski, steve goggins, metal gear, Chuck Vogelpohl, bench, strength, deadlift, squat, powerlifting, bench press

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I have been going to powerlifting meets since 2000. In the 19 years since then, I have seen the bench record go from the 700s to over 1,000 in a full meet. The all-time deadlift record went from the low 900s to over 1,000. Raw squats went over 1,000 pounds along with many other crazy lifts. You can see many videos on the Internet, but those will never do them justice.

At meets, the crowd roars from up on their feet as they watch something that is totally unexpected. Adrenaline pours through the crowd with people standing on their chairs just to get a glimpse at something that had never been done before.


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Two of the three lifts that I’m writing about were done in those atmospheres. The WPO in the early 2000s couldn’t be beaten when it came to crowds and an electric atmosphere. The best of the best came together to face off and push superhuman numbers to new heights.

Other times, crazy things happened and went undocumented by video, only to become training lifts of lore. Those lifts are talked about as if you were speaking about Sasquatch.

One such lift happened when Chuck Vogelpohl took a 700-pound box squat with nearly 600 pounds of band tension on the bar during my first visit to Westside on December 20th, 2000. Yes, I remember the date because it was my first visit. The heat was completely off when we walked into the gym at 7:30 a.m. and the way he moved that bar was beyond comprehension.

Another undocumented example I saw during a different visit was when George Halbert did bench speed work with halved light bands on the four-inch cambered bench bar to a two-board and 335 pounds of bar weight. I witnessed six sets without any change of speed. Those were just as impressive as any meet lift you will ever see.

But these three lifts below will forever be burned into my memory as experiences that I am truly happy to say I was there to witness.

Steve Goggins Breaking the 1,100-Pound Barrier

As third attempts go in a normal meet, it means it is time for a PR. During the WPO, third attempts were breaking new ground and new ATWRs. And not just gear records but more weight than had ever been lifted before.

There had been rumors of a possible World Record attempt that would be above 1,050 but also a possible 1,100-pound attempt. Who could have even fathomed?

The great thing about powerlifting is that someone will be the first, but it will also pull a few more to that new level very soon. But Steve was still the first.

Steve Goggins came out, buried, stopped, and then came up with more weight than anyone before. The crowd energized many great lifters before but none were as important as this one.

Travis Rogers’ 605 Raw Bench After 900 in Shirt

Many of you have never heard of Travis Rogers even though he had a short stint with elitefts. For those of you who don’t know, Travis was a bench specialist from western New York who had lifted in the WPO Bench Bash a few times around 2004 and 2005.

This story is one that will go down as legend. It was not filmed, there was no Instagram, and it was only witnessed by the 10 or so lifters in the gym at that time.

Travis was breaking in his new Metal shirt and trying to touch 900 pounds. He had taken three or more attempts and could not figure out the groove. He touched a one-board but could not get the last inch. Frustrated, he called it a day and took off his bench shirt.

The group moved on to finish their workouts as he was stripping the bar. Partway through, he sat on the bench. He looked like he was just resting. Then he lay back, kicked one foot, set it, kicked the other foot, and set it. He pulled the bar out of the rack without a spotter even remotely close to the bench and proceeded to lower the bar to his chest and pressed it!

The number is not the biggest bench ever, but I do not know of anyone who could handle 900 pounds on multiple singles only to come back to raw bench over 600 in the same training session. This is by far one of the most impressive displays of strength I have ever seen.

Oleksandr Kutcher at the 2006 WPO

World records are amazing to watch in real life, especially when it is done at one of the biggest meets in the world. No replay, no rewind, no pause. In real life, nothing is more exciting than a huge deadlift that is more than anyone in that weight class has ever lifted.

Oleksandr Kutcher came from the Ukraine to compete in the WPO, traveling to compete halfway across the world is hard enough. On top of that, he cut weight and broke the work record... AMAZING!

Kutcher had already squatted a massive 871 pounds and opened his deadlift just shy of 700 pounds. On his third attempt, he called for 793. Even in a perfect starting position, the bar flexed but barely budged. Yet Kutcher kept pulling.

It was as if time had slowed down, and the moment would last forever, and then, the bar started to move. It was slow, but he wouldn’t quit. I can’t say he would have pulled 794, but 793 was to be his on that day.

Not one of those lifts was mini, and I had nothing to do with them other than being a fan of strength, and in some cases, a witness to these feats.

I hope that each of you will have the experience of being a part of history. Enjoy those moments and celebrations of strength.

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