How Much do You Bench, Bro?

GameStop, Inc.

“How much do you bench?” Sound familiar? If you’ve ever hit the gym chances are you’ve been asked this. As a lifter myself, I absolutely hate this question because it suggests that your overall strength is defined by a lift that over half the people in the gym don’t even do properly. While the bench press alone is an inaccurate measurement of your overall strength, it is a compound movement any serious lifter should implement into their program. Bart Kwan, YouTube famous comedian and power lifter, invited Mark Bell to the new Los Angeles location of Barbell Brigade to teach a seminar on how to increase your bench press.

While Kwan has stated his primary passion is comedy, he is not too shabby as a competitive power lifter. After years of lifting at a commercial gym, Kwan wanted something different and decided to start his own gym. Alongside his girlfriend, Geo Antoinette, Kwan created “Barbell Brigade” as a sanctuary for lifters to unleash their inner-Hulk without having to hear “please do not drop the weights.” Originally in Monterey Park, Barbell Brigade has moved to a bigger location just outside of downtown Los Angeles.

Mark Bell is an elite powerlifter that has been lifting since he was 12 years old. He has held both American and World records as an equipped powerlifter with a 1,080 lbs squat, 854 lbs bench press, and a 766 lbs deadlift. Even after transitioning to raw powerlifting, Bell can still bench press over twice his weight (556 lbs), a feat difficult most gym-goers. Bell has come to Barbell Brigade to share his years of experience and knowledge to those that wish to increase their bench press strength.

Bart Kwan and Mark Bell Source: (@bartkwan (Instagram)

Bart Kwan and Mark Bell Source: (@bartkwan (Instagram)


Throughout the seminar, Bell demonstrated proper form and technique and shared the experience and knowledge he gained from almost 30 years of lifting. He always came back to one idea, safety. Safety is always a priority because while Bell has state he learned the most from his injuries, injuries still set you back. So always have a spotter, practice good form and technique, and listen to what your body is telling you.

After Bell’s lecture and a short Q&A, Barbell Brigade was set up to accommodate nearly 100 people to bench (impressive for a gym smaller than an “Active” 24hr Fitness) and implement what we just learned then aim for a one rep max. The biggest bench press attempt of the night was an impressive 655 lbs by a guy named Steve who unfortunately did not complete the lift due to his arms giving out at the top of the lift. Remembering Bell’s words of always ending on a good note, he then knocked out an easy 545 lbs and left the seminar with a smile. While many individuals with a high bench press may have chicken legs, Steve was one of the exceptions.

After two hours of encouragement, we circled around Bell as he reminded us to always prioritize safety. There’s no point in making all your progress only to be set back and start from scratch again. So remember, always have a spotter, practice proper form and technique, and listen to what your body is saying. Happy benching.

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