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Road to the World Bench Press Championships

Road to the World Bench Press Championships

When did you first start lifting?

I started training in 2010 and everything was perfect up until I graduated from high school in Lithuania.

There are very few opportunities for work and careers in Lithuania, so I decided to work in the United Kingdom. I was working five to six days a week with twelve-hour shifts, often at night. It was hard to find time to train and I didn’t have much energy or motivation to go to the gym.

From years of training I managed to keep some muscle but wasn’t in great shape. I really thought my competitive days were behind me.

My first job in Australia was in construction. I just couldn’t keep my weight up working on building sites in the Australian heat – it is so much hotter than Europe! I didn’t really get back into the sport up until late 2016 when I somehow managed to trick Sam into employing me. After that I had no excuses not to train, plus having access to the showroom with all the newest gym equipment gave me all the inspiration I needed.

For the last 18 months I have been able to train consistently and making some decent progress. Although I don’t have a powerlifting coach, I am lucky to have Matt “Trunk” Grimshaw as a mentor who has excelled at many different sports. It is great to have someone to give me a prod if I am thinking about skipping a workout.

Who got you started in the sport and why did you get started?

My childhood friend was going to a gym and I decided to tag along as I was a bit heavy sitting at round 70kg which was slightly too much for a 14-year-old. It didn’t take me too long to fall in love with the gym and everyone in it. Training in a competitive environment always kept me coming back.

Strength sports are much more popular in Lithuania than in Australia. When you go to the gym there are always competitive lifters training. You get to learn a lot. Plus, there is a lot of friendly rivalry.

What achievements have you made?

Easily my greatest achievement is making the Australian team for the Bench Press World Championships. Given the obstacles in getting here which I talked about above, I am still pinching myself that I will be in Finland competing in the World Championships.

Prior to that, I competed in over 30 powerlifting and strongman competitions and my biggest achievement up to date was winning Lithuanian Scholar Bench Press Championships back in 2014.

However, I would have to say that the most influential competition was the Junior Strongman competition, when after just 9 months of training I was able to place third, it gave me motivation to pursue strength sports.

Who has been your most influential person in sport?

I would have to say that it was my coach in my first gym – Mindaugas Rusteika. He was devoted to the sport, I was able to learn quite a few things from him, he would always assemble a team of the gym members and we would go to a local competition in a nearby town.

These people are the backbone of the sport. They give up their time to promote the sport.

Greatest competition?

The biggest competition I went into was the one I mentioned above, the Lithuanian Scholar Bench Press Championships in 2014. There were around 220 competitors – this was just for bench press! This gives you an indication of how popular powerlifting is in Lithuania. With a population of just 2.8 million I think this shows that we are crazy for lifting weights!

In this competition there were many lifters who have gone on to break World, European and National records. It was a great experience.

What was also great was competing in novelty events. These were great in that they tested different aspects of lifting.

An example of one of these competitions to bench half your body weight for as many times as you can in a single set. I managed to squeeze out 60 repetitions and I was stoked about the result until my friend somehow managed to do 150 repetitions, after that I decided that I should stick to single lift events.

These were great events as they gave people who didn’t necessarily have the best one rep strength the opportunity to compete. Training for them created some rivalry in the gym and was a great way to attract new lifters to the sport.

Injuries?

Luckily have never had any serious injuries, an occasional muscle strain or joint pain would occur but nothing permanent. This comes back to training with experienced competitors who show you the correct form on each exercise. It is always emphasised to make small consistent gains over the long period.

Greatest athlete you ever lifted against, when and where?

I participated in over 20 competitions back in Lithuania and 4 here in Australia. Back in Lithuania my biggest loss was to 3 European champions who competed in strongman and powerlifting, the event organiser decided to not have any weight classes but to have age groups which wasn’t suitable for me.

Here in Australia it is to Luke Ashton, I thought I was getting closer to the Junior Australian Bench Press record, but he managed to smash it by 20kgs which sent me back to the drawing board. I am determined to beat this record by the end of the year, when I will no longer be a junior.

Luke’s great lift has made me take my training to a whole new level. I now see how these powerlifting records keep tumbling. Someone raises the bar, and that inspires others to train harder.

I owe a lot to Sam Lucas and the team at Sam’s Fitness who pushed me forward and helped to get where I am today. Without the help from Sam and Matt I would still be working in construction and talking about my powerlifting days.

Massive thanks to Julie and Sean and the whole Australian Powerlifting Union team for sticking up with me and helping me to wear the Green and Gold in World Championships!

Big thank you goes to Lithuanian Powerlifting Federation for allowing me to represent Australia.

Linas Valuckas
Posted by Linas Valuckas

My name is Linas, I moved to Australia from Lithuania to study. I work part time at Sam's Fitness as a Digital Media Specialist which involves uploading and managing the content on the many platforms we operate on. So this combines my two passions - weight training and computers! 

 If you have any questions about bench pressing I am more than happy to share my Soviet era bench regimes - all the secrets from behind the Iron Curtain!