Bench Press Session With The World Champion



Photo by Kirsi Yläpelto


Sami Huhtala is an actor playing Ray Coleman – one of the lead characters – in Carnival Of Gangs. He is also an elite level powerlifter with multiple championship titles and also some world records in his name. Here are some of the Sami’s achievements on the field:


  • 2015: EQ SinglePly World Champion
  • 2015: EQ MultiPly World Champion
  • 2014: Multiply Equipped bench press World Champion, gold
  • 2014: Singleply Equipped bench press World Champion gold with world record
  • 2013: RAW bench press World Champion gold
  • 2012: RAW powerlifting World Champion silver with World record on bench press
  • 2012: RAW bench press World Champion gold
  • 2011: RAW bench press World Champion gold


Sami’s best lifts are:


  • Bench: 250 kg (~551 lbs) raw and 385 kg (~849 lbs) with a shirt at bodyweight 110 kg (~243lbs)
  • Deadlift: 260 kg (~573 lbs) at bodyweight 85 kg (~187 lbs)  (1995)
  • Squat: 240 kg (~529) lbs at bodyweight 85 kg (~187 lbs) (1995)


As you can see he’s not just a regular gym goer ripping it bro-style. Sami first got in to strength training by doing other sports that involved gym training. In this sense the passage was kind of natural and traditional since the weight lifting incorporated in other training made him little by little more interested in strength training per se and and ultimately powerlifting. Funny thing is that from a regular person’s view Sami is crazy strong but he himself doesn’t consider himself to be. That’s the problem of adaptation and setting goals that is present in everything we do. Whether it’s you lifestyle choices, income, spending, lifting etc. your achieved goals become the new normal and they no longer satisfy.


Sami said that the basis for his training is simple off-season and on-season periodization. Off-season is for basic strength and on-season to peak for competition. As for the future, he aims to compete year by year and see how far it goes. Acting wise Sami’s goal is to land bigger roles in bigger movies and series.


A while ago I had the privilege to watch one of Sami’s bench sessions at the “Paja” gym (“Forge” in English). Paja is a kind of garage style private gym with a good atmosphere. Just the right kind of place to “Forge” yourself into a better man. An original “no bullshit man gym” one might say. Free weights and…free weights. Just the way it was meant to be.



None of this shit at the Paja.



This is what a gym looks like.





The session itself was basically a maxout session with a slingshot. Here’s a brief overview video from the session:

Not long ago Sami had a shoulder operation and he has been rehabilitating them since. The goal of the session was to see Sami’s strength level at this point after the surgery by doing singles all the way up to 300 kg (~661 lbs) with a slingshot.


There are numerous articles on how to bench press more and top tips for bench pressing but let’s get a few from Sami also. I have this funny feeling that when talking to a world class lifter, you should listen. It’s worth considering that the lifter’s level and other individual factors affect the way one should train so one shouldn’t try to copy blindly all the things that elite level lifters do.


Be that as it may, here are Sami’s general tips on how to lift more weight (applies to other lifts as well):

  • Hone your technique. There’s much you can do better with this since the lifts are very technical.
  • Train hard
  • Enough rest and food. Important to balance with the previous point.
  • Keep your head together with the lifts the whole time. Train smart and focus on the lifts. Big part of the game is mental.
  • “Satisfaction kills the progress”. Adopt the right mindset.


So basically it’s all about focusing on the right things on the long run, prioritizing and balancing.


What about the Slingshot then, why to use Slingshot? The Slingshot is originally invented by the powerlifter Mark Bell. The “slingshot” used by Sami in this session was actually a similar version custom made by Sami’s coach Antti Kurtti to better fit the needs and proportions of Sami.


According to Sami he did the session with the Slingshot because it takes some of the load off from the shoulders which is kind of a wise thing to do particularly when rehalibilitating them after a surgery. Another clear benefit Sami mentioned is that the Slingshot helps you a little off the chest so you can handle more weight.



A Slingshot by Mark Bell.


P.S. If this sounds like a thing worth trying and you want to lift more weight safely, you can get a Slingshot here.