Ken Lain – The Bodybuilder Who Became The Record Holder in The Bench Press

Ken Lain was training as a bodybuilder in the town of Abilene, Texas in the 1980s. Bench pressing became a very popular competitive strength test at that time through out the United States, with John Inzer of Texas also promoting the lift as well as his bench press shirt. Ken had a 525 bench press and then he began his odyssey of becoming the best bencher in the world for three years beginning in 1989 when he broke Ted Arcidi’s 705 bench with a 708 effort done in Texas.

After breaking the all time world record, Ken went on a mission that had him breaking the superheavy weight bench record three more times with a 711, 717, and 722. This crusade brought Arcidi out of retirement and the two began trading possession of the all timeworld record at that time.

After pushing his bodyweight to an uncomfortable level for him, the bodybuilder in Ken re-appeared and he reduced in weight to set the then all time records of 655 at 242 and 670 at 275. Ken was 42 years old when he did these incredible feats. I was at the 1991 Malibu Classic where Ken benched 655. Speaking with Ken after his attempt, he had an amazing physique and he told me that with the 24 hour weigh in, on the morning of the competition he had rehydrated to 275.

Ken then ate himself up to 275, benched 670 and called it a career at age 44. He retired undefeated in every bench meet he competed it- as Arcidi and him never benched at the same meet. Ken was interviewed in Powerlifting USA and said that he retired after setting the all time world record 5 times, in 3 weight classes with nothing to prove to anyone. Ken said it was hard for him to get to his heaviest weight, 294lbs, because he got sick of eating. Ken was an avid lake go-er and said at 290 he broke a couple tow ropes and could not water ski effectively to escape the Texas heat.

I was lucky enough to buy Ken’s VHS training tape and I recently viewed it after 30 years!
Lessons from Lain:

  1. Repetitions between 3 and 6 build your strength- do not max out frequently as singles increase your chance for injury and do not build strength.
  2. Work your legs. Ken demonstrated a great squat, leg press and calf raise workout on his tape. Sets of 10 reps and a focus on squatting because as Ken says: “Squats make you big all over and as a result you can bench more with a bigger rib cage as the bar will have to travel less distance in the bench.
  3. Learn how to really shrug your shoulders back before you bench in order to protect your shoulders and cut the distance you have to bench down by a number of inches.
  4. Your body cannot store protein. You can store fat as well as carbohydrates- but protein cannot be stored so it must be supplied to your muscles through out the day in order for you to grow and recover. You must eat 5 or 6 whole food meals per day. If you cannot do that, you must supplement your diet with protein- either in the form of shakes or amino acid capsules.
  5. Weighted dips, flat dumbbell flyes and triceps pushdowns are a great assistance exercise for bench press strength. They should be done on the same day as your bench press in order to improve that lift.
  6. Set goals both long term and short term. Study mental training strategies and determine what works best for you.
  7. Technique in the bench press is very important. Make sure your technique is always the best possible.

I am always impressed when I find information about a person who started off with general bodybuilding training and became a star powerlifter, bench presser or strongman competitor.

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