If so inclined, Mike Bencsik can lift a gorilla over his head.
He can also carry a piano, or a refrigerator in each hand if he feels like multi-tasking. Each of those items weigh around 200 to 400 pounds, which is what Bencsik successfully lifted at the second annual Power By You Classic on Saturday.
The Kelowna resident was named the competition’s best male lifter after he clean and jerked 185 kilograms, or 407 pounds. For the sake of comparison, Nelson’s Cody Abbey of Maverick Fitness lifted the second most weight of the day — 42 kg less than Bencsik.
Bencsik, the last lifter of the event, started with a weight of 175 kg before moving up to 185. He attempted 191 twice to the cheers of a packed gym before stepping away from the barbell.
The 27-year-old said the secret to lifting so much weight is all in the first movement.
“It’s the first millimetre off the floor,” said Bencsik. “You have to be in a strong position and a lot of people mess that up. Basically everybody who’s ever lifted has spent time correcting that part of the lift. Once you’ve done a lot of practice, it’s not something that comes naturally. You have to force it.
“Lifting weight over your head in a way is natural for the body when you have the mechanics right. But it’s unnatural to lift, period.”
Bencsik was one of 34 male and female athletes who converged on the Power By You gym for the event. Jen Schneider, who also works out with Bencsik at Kelowna’s Vikings Weightlifting Club, was named the best female lifter.
Also notable was the performance of Jaydon Wouters. The 17-year-old, who is a Grade 12 student at L.V. Rogers, snatched 83 kg and clean and jerked 109 kg to secure a trip to the provincial weightlifting championships in December.
“I felt pretty nervous,” said Wouters. “I wasn’t aware provincials were in December. I was thinking I was going to have one more attempt up until today.”
Bencsik is also preparing for a bigger spotlight. He’ll be at the World University Championships in Merida, Mexico, on Nov. 13 to 17, where he hopes to surpass his personal best competition lift of 190 kg.
Bencsik started lifting in November 2003 and has been entering competitions for the last eight years. The trip, which he is preparing for while studying full-time to be a registered massage therapist, will be a highlight for Bencsik, who said he initially got into the sport as a way of changing his life.
“It was a gateway to something better,” he said. “It even helped with school. It changed my whole life completely. I went away from it for three and a half years, and in those years I didn’t accomplish anything really, so I came back to it in March 2012. Now I’m here.”
He still remembers the exact date he first lifted 400 pounds over his head: Aug. 18, 2013. The date is seared into his memory for being the last time his father saw him compete before passing away.
“The thing that got me back into [weight lifting] was him telling me that you have to look back on your life and be proud of everything you’ve ever accomplished. If you’re not, do something about it now,” said Bencsik. “So I trained for pretty much 11 months to win that competition in Kelowna. I won it and lifted 400 pounds.”
— Star reporter Tyler Harper is a member of Power By You. For full results, click here.