A recap of the Kern U.S. Open

April 24-25th saw the 2021 installment of the Kern US Open, one of the year’s premier elite powerlifting meets. Many big names attended the meet, from world record holders John Haack and Dan Bell on the men’s side to Marianna Gasparyan and Hunter Henderson among the women competing. The stacked lineup didn’t disappoint, either, as several records fell on both sides. What follows is a comprehensive review of these records and the overall results of the Kern US Open:  

 Hunter Henderson: 75 kg squat and total world records  

A relative novice in the sport compared to top competitors like Marianna Gasparyan (one of her opponents at the meet), the Kern US Open was only Henderson’s 5th ever meet. However, this didn’t seem to phase her as she now holds two of four possible records in the 75 kg weight class. Henderson completed a squat of 295 kilograms raw with wraps, bench pressed 147.5 kilograms and deadlifted 260 kilograms (roughly 650, 325, and 573 pounds, respectively) to total 702.5 kilograms (1549 pounds). This performance took the competition by storm, and her squat and total were enough to set new world records. With her record 702.5 kg total, Henderson also became the first woman to total over 700 kg in the 75 kg weight class. Her squat record also beat that of legendary lifter Kristy Hawkins, a world-renowned female bodybuilder and powerlifter who has held the Ms. Olympia title (the pinnacle of female bodybuilding), as well as world records in squat and total, both raw with wraps and raw overall, in the 75 kg class. Henderson now owns both of those records and managed to add a staggering 12 kg to the existing total record of 690.5 kg, a massive jump in professional powerlifting. Her Wilks coefficient (a measure of relative strength taking into account body weight, gender and weight lifted) totaled 672, good enough for second in the women’s category, after only living legend Marianna Gasparyan, who managed a Wilks score of 692.  

 Chad Penson: 90 kg squat and total world record (in wraps)  

Chad Penson certainly drew himself some attention as he won the overall men’s competition at the US Open, scoring a Wilks of 642. In the process, he also took the squat world record (in wraps) and the total world record in the 90 kg class. Penson hit a third squat attempt of 400 kg, or 881 lbs, becoming the first man in his weight class ever to do so. And he carried this momentum into his bench press and deadlifts, benching 232.5 kg/513 lbs and deadlifting 365 kg/804.6 lbs., enough for a 997.5 kg total and a second world record on the day. Not only did this total secure Penson first place in the meet, but it allowed him to beat out other elite lifters like John Haack (the total world record holder in the 90kg class without wraps) and Daniel Bell (the overall raw squat and total world record holder in wraps).

 Daniel Bell: All-time raw squat world record 

On February 21, Daniel Bell set the all-time world record total at a staggering 1182.5 kg/2607 lbs. On that day, he squatted a massive 500 kg, taking a share of the all-time raw squat record as well, alongside Mojtaba Maleki and Vlad Alhazov. He went one better at the Kern US Open, managing to add 5 kg to his world record and squat 505 kg, or 1113 lbs. Unfortunately for Bell, deadlifts let him down on the day, as despite a PR on the bench at 275 kg/606 lbs, he only managed to pull 390 kg/860 lbs, failing his last two attempts at 410 kg/903.9 lbs due to grip issues and then a loss of balance. Bell still managed a total of 1170 kg/2578 lbs, good for a Wilks score of 619 and third place on the day behind Penson and John Haack.  

 Jenessa Labbate: 67 kg deadlift world record  

A pretty straightforward update here. Labbate managed a total of 615.5 kg/1357 lbs, with the pinnacle of her meet coming on her final deadlift attempt. She managed to pull 255.5 kg/563.2 lbs, adding half a kilogram to the existing world record set by Galina Abramova in 2019. She also managed to set PRs in both squat and bench and put up a squat of 227.5 kg and a press of 132.5 kg (501.5 and 292.1 lbs, respectively). At only age 26, Labbate may be one to watch in women’s strength sports in the years to come.  

 Blake Lehew: 82.5 kg total world record  

It seems John Haack has made this report for several reasons, though none of them quite positive. Blake Lehew managed to take his 82.5 kg total world record at the US Open some 10 days ago, totaling 910 kg/2006 lbs, breaking Haack’s record of 907.5 kg set in 2019. Lehew managed a squat of 340 kg, a bench press of 227.5 kg, and a deadlift of 342.5 kg (750 lbs, 502 lbs, and 755 lbs, respectively). This was quite a noteworthy performance as, despite flying under the radar, it did add 2.5 kg to the record from John Haack, who is regarded as possibly the greatest powerlifter of all time at just 27 years of age. 

 Sara Schiff: All-time women’s deadlift world record 

Competing in the 90+ kg class, Schiff managed to set the record for the highest recorded deadlift in a raw powerlifting meet by a woman in history. Her final attempt, a successful pull at 287 kg/633 lbs, was her second successful pull of over 600 lbs as she had already completed a 277.5 kg/611 lbs lift at her second attempt. This lift broke the world record held by Jessica Springer at 285.8 kg set just over two weeks earlier, on April 11th. Her last major pull compared to her competitors was one for the books.  

 Nick Best: Squats over 800 lbs and totals over 2000lbs, tears lat 

Ending on a mixed note, a lifter I personally look up to is Nick Best, who continued to defy father time by totaling 920 kg/2028 lbs at the age of 52 while competing in the 140 kg weight class. He squatted 370 kg/815 lbs, benched 220 kg/485 lbs and deadlifted 330 kg/727 lbs. Everything was on par with his training numbers up until deadlifts. Anyone who follows Best knows he is comfortably an over-800 pound puller and has been for decades. However, he wasn’t to be on the day, as the second attempt of 372.5 kg/821 lbs saw him tear his left latissimus dorsi (the largest, widest muscle in the back). Nick bowed out with a great total anyhow and has since ensured followers he will make a full recovery.