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A Bloomington pastor looks to break bench press record, then race home in time for Easter sermon

A man sits at a bench press rack with weights behind him.
Emily Bollinger
Pastor Tim Allison wants to break his 501-pound bench press record at the UPA Missouri Madness powerlifting competition on March 30, 2024.

Pastor Tim Allison of Reconcile Church in Bloomington has a busy weekend ahead as he attempts to break his own national bench press record.

Allison is putting the final touches on his preparations for this weekend's United Powerlifting Association's Missouri Madness competition. He's attending with Bloomington’s Be Strong Power Team and hopes to surpass the record he set last year by lifting 501 pounds over his chest.

Allison benched about 340 pounds when he started working out at Be Strong gym in south Bloomington. He walked in with a goal to bench 500 pounds. That took about four years to achieve, something Be Strong coach Dave Overholt said is unusual.

“It’s impressive for anybody,” said Overholt, who’s also competing this weekend, aiming to dead lift thrice his body weight. “For Tim, it’s just dedication — that’s what Tim is. Everything across his life is dedication. He had a goal and he told us what that goal was.”

The church leader, father of three and strength coach for Bloomington High School didn’t initially plan to compete, but found it helped him stay consistent to achieve his goal. And he started exploring other lifts — power lifters typically specialize in bench, dead lift or squat — and dabbles in CrossFit to maintain all-around fitness.

“I was looking around and Be Strong kept coming up over and over again,” Allison said. “The day I walked in the door and after that first workout, I knew this checks all the boxes for me. After that first day, I knew this is where I wanted to be.”

Be Strong's strength programs, administered by Overholt, are designed by owner/operator Drew Whitted.

A man takes a weight plate off of a barbell
Allison hopes to break his previous 501 pound record, as part of an elite class of athletes who can bench press more than 500 pounds.

“It’s more of a passion project of mine,” Whitted said. “I like putting great programs in the hands of really good athletes and seeing them come to life. Tim has the perfect mindset for an athlete that's going to be a high achiever. He has the right energy each and every time he comes in.”

Allison makes his gains at Be Strong, but he finds his strength in God. Dedication and focus are intersecting themes in his fitness and his faith. But the gym also is a place where Allison can take his mind off the stressors that come with leading a church.

“It helps me to relax my mind,” Allison said. “Then when I leave, I’m able to have a clearer mind on how to lead ministry. There’s a lot of intersection in terms of my fundamental belief of my faith in Christ — and then how do I live that out in everything I do, including how I train? What I believe flows through every aspect of my life.”

The competition falling on Easter weekend is a coincidence — and a challenge. But this power lifting preacher is nothing if not up for a challenge.

“That’s also reflective of my life and my passions,” Allison said. “When you’re passionate about something, you’re willing to sacrifice for those things. I’m willing to sacrifice to be able to go and compete with the power team and also willing to sacrifice to come back and preach the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Sunday morning.”

Updated: April 1, 2024 at 3:30 PM CDT
We're happy to report that Pastor Tim broke his record, setting a new national bench press record at 507 pounds.
Lauren Warnecke is a reporter at WGLT. You can reach Lauren at lewarne@ilstu.edu.