A bench press uses the entire upper body, building strength and muscle in the chest, back, shoulders and arms. When performed properly, it also engages the lower back, glutes, and legs, adding power and stability to the lift.
Even though a bench press engages all of your muscles, though, it’s not a true full-body lift, as the positioning of the legs makes it impossible to utilize the majority of their strength.
This makes the bench press a good test of upper body, as opposed to whole-body, strength.
One Rep Maximum Bench Press
If you’re asking how much you should be able to bench, you’re probably talking about your one-repetition maximum. Your one rep maximum is the highest amount of weight you can lift in a single repetition while still maintaining proper form.
While you can figure your one rep max out on your own (with a spotter, of course) by increasing your weight until you top out, it helps to start with a general idea of what your maximum weight should be. There are multiple online calculators designed to calculate your one rep max, but we’re going to keep it simple.
Your one rep maximum should be roughly 1/3 or 33% more weight than the maximum weight you can bench for ten clean reps before you reach muscle fatigue.
For example, if your maximum bench for 10 reps is 200 pounds, your one rep max will be somewhere around 266 pounds.
200 x .33 = 66
200 + 66 = 266
As you can see, your one rep maximum is highly dependent on your general lifting ability. And vice versa.
Once you know your one rep maximum bench press, you can use your one rep max to calculate how many reps you should be able to do at various weights.
Endurance Maximum Bench Press
While knowing your one rep maximum bench press is beneficial (especially if you’re doing a training program that asks you to perform a certain number of reps at 30 or 40% of your max) and gives you some idea of your raw power in a single burst, it tells you very little about performance potential.
Here’s why –
Your single max lift is just that – a single burst of power, which, by its very definition, you can only use one time. After you bench your one rep max weight, you can’t do another immediately after. (If you can, it’s not your one rep max.)
You likely can’t even do a bench press at only 90 or 80% of your max weight. Basically, you tap out all your strength and have nothing left.
This is obviously not how most activities, especially sports, are typically performed. The majority of activities are endurance activities, which means how much weight you can bench over a period of time may be a better indicator of true strength when it comes to performance.
Testing your endurance maximum is quite simple:
Simply set a time limit – like a minute – and keep your reps all the same pace. A timer with audible beats or a metronome can be useful for this purpose. Try to do a set amount of reps in the time allotted.
As you gain strength and stamina, you should be able to lift heavier weight over the same amount of time at the same pace. This is a test of your lifting endurance.
So, how much weight should you be able to bench?
It depends on multiple factors, but mainly sex and age. Men can generally bench more weight than women, and everyone loses muscle as they get older, beginning in their thirties.
Generally speaking, a small to average-sized man in his twenties who has just started weight training should be able to lift between 75 and 100% of his body weight.
A woman in her twenties who has just started training should be able to lift between 50 and 66% of her body weight.
These numbers will decrease by decade, with men able to lift 75% of their body weight on average by their 50s and women able to lift around 50% of their body weight on average.
It’s important to note these numbers are for a single lift for a small to average-sized person with minimal training.
The amount of weight any lifter will be able to lift will increase with regular, dedicated training, and the more someone weighs the more difficult it is to meet these averages.
Is benching your body weight good?
Absolutely. For starters. If you lie down on a weight bench for the first time and bang out a bench press that weighs as much as you, you’re doing well for a small man and stellar for a woman or a larger man.
Then, things get a little more complicated.
A small to average-sized man with training should be able to lift more than his body weight, while a man who weighs more than 220 pounds is unlikely to lift his own body weight without a serious training regimen.
Small to average-sized women with substantial weight training may not be able to bench their entire body weight, but should edge up on it.
What is a respectable bench press?
This is the real question, isn’t it? How much weight do you need to be able to lift to not embarrass yourself at the gym? The good news is it’s probably not as much as you think.
A lot of experts state a 200 to 225-pound bench press as quite respectable. But, keep in mind, that is a one rep max. Most men at the gym are doing multiple reps with weights between 130 and 180 pounds.
Is bench press a good measure of strength?
Yes. If the bench press wasn’t a decent measure of total upper body strength, it wouldn’t be one of the three exercises used in powerlifting competitions.
It’s one good way to monitor increases in chest, back and arm strength.
How much can The Rock bench?
Here’s a comparative question. How much can a hulking powerlifter and former wrestling god like The Rock lift?
Well, he doesn’t love the question when it’s posed by reporters, but based on his multi-rep workouts, we can estimate The Rock has a one rep max between 450 and 500 pounds.
Looking for ways to increase your bench press? Check out our article on How to Increase Bench Press.
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