Bench Press Competition Credit: Sam Sherman , Sam Sherman

Though lifting weights is physically taxing, it is also mentally strenuous — especially when lifters attempt to push themselves to the limits of their capabilities.

For the competitors at Pottruck Health and Fitness Center’s Seventh Annual Bench Press Competition, this ultimate challenge was nothing more than a fun activity to test their strength.

The event, organized by Penn Rec personal trainers Chris Policastro and Nick Deacon, took place Thursday night in Pottruck’s second floor weight room. About 15 people competed in front of a small group of bystanders for the ultimate weight room prize: bragging rights.

The competition focused solely on the bench press — a common upper body lift that works the chest. Competitors had to unrack the loaded barbell, lower it to their chest, wait for a proctor to say “press” and then press the loaded barbell all the way up without assistance. Competitors could not use wrist wraps, belts, gloves or bench shirts — only raw power and determination.

In the women’s division there was only a single competitor, Nursing senior Caroline Walker.

“I did weightlifting in high school,” she said. “So I decided it would be fun to come out and compete.”

In the men’s division there was more competition, with several weight divisions that made sure competitors went against others their size.

Engineering and Wharton freshman Jake Hart won the overall heavyweight division by pressing 315 pounds with ease.

“I started lifting in high school, and I played football,” he said. “I thought it’d be fun to see how much I could lift.”

Hart was followed closely by fellow heavyweight Evan Rurak, a first-year School of Dental Medicine student who pressed 300 pounds.

“I just wanted to get at least 300,” he said.

For College freshman and middleweight competitor Clement Mihailescu, the competition was a chance to beat a personal record ­— a feat that most powerlifters and bodybuilders value more than any medal or trophy.

Mihailescu pressed a personal best of 280 pounds at a bodyweight of 171 pounds, which put his Schwartz/Malone Formula Total at 181.3. The Schwartz/Malone formula measures pound-for-pound strength in relation to body weight by using a predetermined coefficient to accurately reflect a lifter’s power.

“It was great to hit a personal best. I do both powerlifting and bodybuilding because it’s a great combination of discipline, strength and aesthetics,” Mihailescu said. “Powerlifting is ‘lift things up, put them down,’ whereas bodybuilding is ‘create a masterpiece out of your own body,’ and both are great.”

However, the strongest competitor pound-for-pound was College senior Andrew Ames, who also won the competition last year. He pressed 240 pounds at a bodyweight of 136 pounds, which gave him an impressive 189.67 Schwartz/Malone total.

“I started lifting senior year of high school,” he said. “I did the competition last year and it was a great time. I actually went down [in weight] this year, but it was still fun.”

Policastro, one of the competition’s organizers, was pleased with how the event turned out. “It’s good that there were more weight classes,” he said. “It makes it much more challenging that way.”

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