Whenever you see a bench over 400lbs you know that athlete took years to get there. On occasion you’ll see people get to that 400lb mark quickly and those are your freak athletes. How often do you see a 500lb bench though? 600? We hear those crickets too. Long before powerlifting went mainstream, it was a sport for outcasts, and during that time we always said one thing when people wanted to get strong; “weight moves weight”. It was a very simple formula. Strength doesn’t always have to come at the cost of weight gain though, but it’s absolutely a way to help streamline it. You don’t see too many skinny 500lb benchers.
In 2015 Ryan Barletto was a consistent 500lb bencher and in the days of Retro Fitness, nobody saw that, ever. It was astonishing to see this 260lb guy bench 500lbs over and over again. At that time, he was a one-trick pony though. He had a 500lb bench with a 400lb squat and 400lb deadlift. Obviously the low hanging fruits here are not the bench press, but when you have such ease at a 500lb press you wonder where it can go from there and what your full potential is.
Ryan’s training has never been full blown “powerlifting”. His workouts hardly ever consist of partial ranges of motion (boards), overloading, variable resistance (bands & chains). In football he learned the purpose of persistence - doing the same thing over and over again until you got better and he took that approach to the weight room. You don’t always have to be going for more weight because sometimes being better at a certain weight has more value to the end goal. Ryan stayed the course with his program and while the focus was always strength his programs followed hierarchy with the competition lifts first and the accessory work was much like a bodybuilder. Now days it’s called “powerbuilding” but that method has been around for a long time. When you mix heavy training, with a lot of accessory volume there is only one way to eat and it’s called the see-food-diet. You see food, you eat it.
With the goal of bringing up his squat and deadlift the bench press went on the backburner. In reality, how much bigger can a 500lb bench go? Very few bench over that raw (although it is becoming more common). With the same training format for legs and back, Ryan attacked his core movements and slowly progressed the accessory work. With intense training comes intense recovery processes and as the weights increased, the calories continued as well. Without paying too close attention, Ryan watched his bench press slowly creep up through the 500’s even though the goal was maintenance for that lift. By the time he was ready to prep for the Philly Fit Expo (2018), his body-weight surpassed the realm of making 275’s so he just kept pushing the calories and food intake. How many grams of protein? All of them of course. At least as much as daily beef and ramen contain.
With a new holding body-weight of 308, and some newly found support muscle from heavy squats and deadlifts, Ryan found his bench getting easier and easier, even at weights that haven’t been touched previously. Maybe all that volume and all those heavy lifts on other movements had done something more for him. Ryan let 600lb fly at the Philly Fit Expo and even after squatting over 700lbs, it went with ease. Something that wouldn’t have happened at 260lbs. If you look at Ryan, it’s not a sloppy 308. There is a lot of quality muscle on that frame, which is what it takes to support that kind of weight. At times when you’re looking for extreme results, it may take extreme commitment. You can condemn this type of eating all you want, but how many people bench 600lb raw in a full power meet? Exactly. Can this last forever? Absolutely not. There is a marginal utility to weight gain and it cannot always be the sole answer for your strength gains but at times it’s necessary and your body will require it for pushing the limits. Remember, additional body-weight also changes your leverages and range of motion and has helped him through the big 3 lifts.
If you want to get bigger and stronger, it doesn’t have to be beef and ramen like Ryan but your training (intensity) should constantly be requiring more calories to optimize recovery and continue fueling strength.
If you want to see the bench, visit it here on IG