Larry “Wheels” Williams is no stranger to the strength sports sphere. A bodybuilder, powerlifter, strongman, and popular YouTuber (roughly 2.25 million subscribers), Wheels is one of the more recognizable names in a community of elite athletes. On April 3, 2022, Wheels made waves with his strength when he achieved a one-rep, 661-pound paused bench press in training
Per Open Powerlifting, Wheels’ mark eclipses his best-ever traditional bench press in a powerlifting competition by 16 pounds. He’s also pressed 675 pounds, raw, in training. And this lift was also raw, while Wheels wore elbow and wrist wraps for his paused bench press. Given the bench press variation that some might consider more challenging, it’s an impressive strength showing.
Check out Wheels’ staggering lift below, courtesy of his Instagram page:
Benefits of the Paused Bench Press
The primary distinction between the paused bench press and the traditional variation is time.
A powerlifter will take a short pause during a paused bench after lowering a loaded barbell to their chest. It is only after the break that they lift the weight back up. In contrast to the standard bench press, which is touch-and-go — the lifter does not pause the rep at the bottom.
One reason powerlifters elect to sometimes train with a paused bench is to strengthen the bottom phase of their standard bench press. And competitive powerlifters are required to implement a pause. During a sanctioned event, the lifter has the dual expectation of performing the full range of motion of the bench press, and making sure the barbell is entirely motionless in a short pause at the bottom before locking out the rep. Anything less, and an officiant may not recognize the rep.
The paused bench press can act as a helpful simulation of a meet’s stipulations.
As far as strength challenges, the paused bench press can create strength progress by eliminating one crucial component.
In a touch-and-go bench press, a powerlifter has the benefit of having their strength and the natural stretch reflex — the momentum they generate while lowering their barbell helps with the lift. By pausing at the bottom, the powerlifter takes the stretch reflex out of the equation, and relies entirely on their strength to finish the rep.
If a powerlifter can utilize the paused bench press well, it’ll likely be to their benefit. Research shows that while the pause increases the chance for failure, it also increases potential strength gains and endurance over time — especially with improved volume. (1)
By training with a paused bench press, someone like Wheels could prepare for a competition and increase his volume simultaneously.
It’s been over two years since Wheels last competed in a formal powerlifting event. This latest paused bench press seems to reiterate that he does not need meets to showcase his strength. A relatively recent 430.1-kilogram squat (950 pounds) performed with chains, and an 11-rep set of a 337.9-kilogram deadlift (745 pounds) show Wheels has incredible, adaptable power — regardless of whether he shows it in a competition.
- Korak, J.A., Paquette, M.R., Brooks, J., Fuller, D.K., Coons, J.M. (2017). Effect of rest-pause vs. traditional bench press training on muscle strength, electromyography, and lifting volume in randomized trial protocols. European Journal of Applied Physiology; 2017 Jun; 117, p. 1891–1896
Featured image: @larrywheels on Instagram