Rick Bretz is not your run-of-the mill champion. Last month, Bretz, a retiree and novelist in his late 60s, shattered the benchpressing records for his age and weight.
On June 4, in San Antonio, Texas, he won the U.S. Powerlifting Association National Benchpress and Deadlift Championship. In addition to winning the national championship for his age and weight, he received the Best Bench Press Lifter award and set new International Powerlifting League records on three consecutive lifts.
At the competition, Bretz smashed the previous IPL record lift of 365 pounds by lifting 380 pounds.
Bretz’s achievement is even more impressive considering that he started lifting relatively late in life.
“I started lifting weights about 10 years ago and it was just a natural [progression] from my cardio activity in the gym,” Bretz said, adding, “I continued on and gained more and more each year over the 10 years but really didn’t become interested in competing until I was in the gym last September. One of the young fellows on the bench next to me said, ‘You ever think about competing?’”
The thought hadn’t crossed his mind, but at that young man’s suggestion, Bretz decided to give competition a try. In October 2015, he entered his first benchpress competition. Since then, his goal has been to break records.
Though Bretz can lift more weight than men half his age can, he remains humble, congratulating the gentleman who set the record before him, saying that the man was not only a tough competitor, but “a very strong man.”
Now Bretz is looking forward to competing for the world record, a mere 345 pounds. With his current IPL record of 380 pounds, that may seem like a walk in the park, but he cautioned that competing is never easy.
Bretz explained that, although he lifted more than the world record at the national championship, he did not automatically break the record, because the competition didn’t have the appropriate umpires and was not sanctioned.
“To be eligible for the world record, it has to be a major event or a national event; that way, the correct umpires are there and they know you are doing it according to all the world rules.”
The USPA is very strict when it comes to qualifying: Competitors have to lift in a three-tier process, which requires them to hold on to the weight longer, making it one of the most difficult competitions for benchpressing that exists today. Bretz also lifts “raw.” In lifting speak, this means he does not wear any special clothing that makes his lifts easier to perform.
Somewhat surprisingly, Bretz is not on a special diet. He said the only food he has stopped eating since he started lifting seriously is French fries; burgers, on the other hand, are one of his favorites. He said that on a normal day, he eats cereal and a protein bar for breakfast, whatever he can pull out of the refrigerator for lunch and the same for dinner.
His advice to all the men and women who want to be power lifters is simple: “Leave your cell phone in the car … I see so much texting. If you are going for a physical activity, give your mental activity a break.”
On an average day, Bretz works out at least two hours in the morning, usually at Florida Extreme Fitness Center. Bretz said, “That is where the serious competitors go to work out, because they have competition-grade benches and workout equipment.”
He doesn’t limit himself to the benchpress; he works on everything.
There is one very proud fan at all Bretz’s competitions: his daughter Meredith. She said, “I’m really proud of my Dad — he always taught me to set goals and to work hard to achieve them. He has done just that — set out to become state record holder and now world record holder for the benchpress. He has had a game plan and a goal in mind the entire time. Determination, dedication, and drive got him there.”
Even though Bretz is retired from CSX where he was a director of risk management, he doesn’t plan to slow down any time soon.
In his spare time, Bretz enjoys educating people about coins. He has published two books, Rick’s Legacy, Pedigree & Hoard/Coins and Currency and Fitzgerald Silver Dollar Collection — ‘The Purple Gang Set.’
In his books, Bretz doesn’t just identify coins, he informs the reader about the history behind the coins. His main focus, and the topic about which he is most passionate, is The Purple Gang, which was led by Lincoln Fitzgerald in the early 1900s. Fitzgerald was a casino owner and mobster thought to be behind several conspiracies that are still unsolved today.
Right now, Bretz is focused on upcoming competitions, including the World Powerlifting Congress Exposition on Aug. 27 and 28 at Prime Osborn Convention Center in Jacksonville.
“I want to set a new world record with the World Powerlifting Congress,” Bretz wrote via email.
He’ll then focus on the IPL Benchpress and Deadlift Championship.
This is one powerful, determined individual. “My goal is to be the IPL National champion and increase my world record.”