Demystifying the Bench Press: What’s Your Number?
The classic bench press question – “How much should I be able to bench press?” might have crossed your mind a few times.
There is no universal answer that fits everyone. But it is generally noted that the beginner with some experience can bench press between 0.50 to 0.74x of their body weight. While the bench press average for an intermediate lifter is 0.75 to 1.24x their body weight. An advanced lifter on average bench presses 1.25x their body weight or more.
Keep in mind that your own bench press numbers can be significantly influenced by variables such as your experience, gender, lean muscle mass, age, and body weight.
Read on because I simplify all of this and lay out an 8-week workout plan to help you increase your upper body strength and achieve a good bench press.
Benefits Of A Strong Bench Press
Before we get too far into the weeds about bench press standards, let’s talk about what makes the bench press a staple of weightlifting.
Whole Body Strength: While primarily targeting the chest, shoulders, and triceps, the bench press is a compound lift that can increase upper body strength levels.
Bone Health: Regularly performing weight-bearing exercises like the bench press can improve bone health, enhancing bone density and reducing the risk of fractures.
Functional Strength:* The pushing movements in the bench press mimic those used in everyday activities, helping improve functional strength and making daily tasks easier.
As you can see, developing a solid bench press is extremely beneficial and plays a significant role in overall fitness. The outcomes even carry on outside the gym in almost any physical activity you do every day.
Deciphering Bench Press Standards
Strength standards serve as a good starting point on your bench press journey. They consider several factors of your body weight and training experience to give you an idea of how you compare to the average bench press weight of others.
However, remember that these are averages and should not kill your vision of what you can achieve.
You can do more than you imagine, so don’t let plain numbers get in the way of progress or define who you are.
Male and Female Averages:
Let’s not get into this debate. You are as strong as you are. There are some differences in strength between the average male and females, but for the most part, the difference is not Earth-shattering among those who have training experience.
A study at Princeton University concluded that the strength gap between male and female power-lifters is close.
No, we aren’t all power-lifters. I get that.
But my point is, “Don’t get hung up on gender differences” because it doesn’t matter.
Again, you are as strong as you are. Here’s what the study concluded in a nutshell:
- Women’s powerlifting world records range from 60% to 80% of men’s records.
- Recent women’s records indicate they are closing the strength gap with men.
Age and Strength:
Your strength potential generally peaks in your late twenties to early thirties and then gradually tapers off. Therefore, it’s common to see the average weight lifted to be higher averages in these two age groups and brackets compared to others.
Body Weight Influence:
As a basic rule, larger individuals possess more muscle mass. They are typically stronger, often translating into a higher bench press average.
Keep in mind these figures stem from varied sources, and their accuracy might be limited. Factors like individual genetic predisposition, dedication to training, and dietary habits can result in substantial variations in bench press strength.
However, for the purpose of this article, we are keeping the number of variables to a minimum. I do this to keep things from becoming too confusing when determining how much you should be able to bench press weight with proper form.
So we start with data collected based on community feedback and later calculate your estimated one rep max.
Average Bench Press Lift Percentage According To Experience
I gathered over 1000 data points from community resources such as Reddit, BodyBuilding Forums, reader input, and Strength Level to back up the numbers.
I’ve boiled that data down into three levels: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. To help you determine how you compare to others with similar experiences.
Beginner: If you’re just dipping your toes into the world of lifting, a bench press equivalent to about .5x to .74x of your body weight is usually a realistic and encouraging target to kickstart your journey.
Intermediate: As you gain experience and your muscles become stronger, a good aim to set your sights on would be bench pressing anywhere from .75 to 1.25 of body weight.
Advanced: For those who’ve weathered years of lifting and have fine-tuned their technique, benching more than 1.25 times their body weight is solid.
Average Bench Press (Experience Level) Table
|Experience Level||Bodyweight Ratio|
|Beginner||0.50 to 0.74x|
|Intermediate||0.75 to 1.24x|
|Advanced||1.25x and beyond|
These average bench press weight figures are not set in stone but are rough guidelines, and individual outcomes are likely to differ.
Remember, we are just setting a baseline and getting you in the ballpark of knowing where you are, among others.
How To Determine Your Bench Press Maximum
I like to keep it simple. So I go with the 1 Rep Max formula to determine my bench press strength.
We know that many factors go into determining the average bench, such as age, body weight, fitness level, and lifting experience, (among other things). But all of that makes determining how much you can or should lift frustrating.
Why Is Knowing Your 1 Rep Max Important?
Remember that this calculation is an estimate. The actual number can be higher or lower for some.
But knowing this will help you gauge where your strength compares to community averages and where you currently sit on our scale: Beginner, Intermediate, or Advanced.
The 1 Rep Max (1RM) calculation, known as the Epley Formula, is the most common equation to estimate the maximum amount a person can bench press for one repetition (1RM).
The One Rep Max Formula (1RM) Is As Follows:
1RM = weight + (weight reps 0.0333)
Formula Variables / Input:
- “Weight” refers to the amount of weight lifted.
- “Reps” refers to the number of repetitions performed to fatigue.
How To Calculate Your 1 Rep Max:
Here’s a quick example of calculating your one rep max for bench press.
Let’s say you can bench press 200 pounds for five reps.
According to the Epley formula, you would calculate your 1RM for the bench press as follows:
Example 1RM Calculation
1RM = 200 + (200 5 0.0333) = 200 + 33.3 = 233.3 pounds
So your estimated 1RM for the bench press is 233.3 pounds.
Example 1 Rep Max Table
For comparison, I’ve put this table together to present the estimated 1 rep max for people who can bench press their body weight five times. The numbers are raw calculations and not rounded.
|Body Weight (lbs)||Lifted Weight (lbs)||Repetitions||Estimated One Rep Max (lbs)|
Crafting Your Weight Training Goals: A Personal Touch
While strength standards provide a valuable point of reference, the importance of personal goal setting to improve your fitness levels is a must.
Suppose your bench press statistics need to catch up with where you want to be. In that case, don’t let it dampen your spirit! Remember, that even the elite athlete began at square one. Use these moments as fuel to drive you forward on your path.
Ultimately, the aim is personal advancement, not competition with others.
Elevating Your Bench Press Performance
Armed with a firm understanding of bench press variables and what goes into determining your baseline, it’s time to level up your game. Let’s jump into strategies you can use to improve your bench press.
You could dive off the deep end and dwell on dozens of factors and “things you can do” to improve your bench press.
But let’s cut out the noise. Stick to these big three guidelines, and you’ll see progression on your fitness journey.
Have A Plan And Stay Consistent
Consistency in strength training is your passport to success. Strive for at least 2-3 bench press sessions weekly to make significant headway. Moreover, remember that strength-building is a marathon, not a sprint – patience is your greatest ally.
In weightlifting, emphasizing proper technique is the key to maximizing gains. Prioritize precise form over lifting heavy weights. The focus should be on maintaining proper form and striking the right balance between weight and volume (aggregate reps and sets).
This strategy ensures the correct muscles are targeted effectively and helps prevent injuries. Remember, quality execution trumps quantity in terms of weight, contributing to safer strength augmentation and muscle hypertrophy.”
No amount of training can offset the negative impacts of a bad diet. Consuming nutrient-dense meals supports your workouts and aids recovery. Strive for a diet rich in proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats, the pillars of muscle growth.
Building Your Strength: A Comprehensive Guide
Armed with a clear understanding of how to calculate our bench press targets, insights into community averages, and the top three strategies for enhancing bench press performance, it’s time to make a plan.
But to save some time, I’ve put together a simple 8-week workout plan that will help increase the amount you can bench press. Feel free to modify it based on your skill, fitness level, and your own goals.
So let’s not complicate things. The plan calls for dumbbells and barbells, but you can use either.
8-Week Bench Press Strength Gains Plan
You’ll be working out four days per week. It’s a 3-day split that will work your chest, triceps, legs and shoulders, back, biceps, and core.
But I’ve added a 4th day that pulls in cardio and effective chest exercises.
If you can access a full gym, add or substitute any alternative exercise you want. Reference the alternatives in this article for inspiration.
Rinse and repeat for 8 weeks.
What Do You Need To Get Started?
Read this guide as many times as needed to become familiar with the process: Choosing the right weight to lift, tempo, progressive overload, and how to perform each exercise.
- Calculate your One Rep Max and record it for the week (do this every week to track progress)
- Dumbbells, barbells, or access to a gym.
- Towels, hydration, your favorite music. You get it.
- Get your pantry cleaned out. Remove the bad foods.
- Focus for 8 weeks and be consistent.
Choosing the Right Weight
The weight you lift should be challenging but manageable. As a guideline, choose a weight that allows you to complete the desired number of repetitions while maintaining good form.
The weight is too heavy if you can’t hit the lower end of the rep range. The weight is too light if you can easily exceed the upper end of the rep range.
Progressive overload is a key principle for strength gain. Increase the weight you’re lifting as you build strength and progress through the weeks.
A common approach is to gradually increase the weight when you can comfortably perform more than the recommended maximum reps for all sets of an exercise.
- Aim to lift approximately 70-75% of your one-repetition maximum (1RM) for the prescribed reps for the first two weeks.
- For weeks 3-4, increase this to around 80% of your 1RM.
- For weeks 5-6, aim for around 85% of your 1RM. For the final weeks (7-8), try to lift approximately 90% of your 1RM.
Tempo is the speed at which you perform an exercise represented by a three-digit number.
The first digit is the time (in seconds) you take to lower the weight (eccentric phase), the second digit is the pause, and the third digit is the time you take to lift the weight (concentric phase).
For example, a tempo of 2-0-2 means you should take 2 seconds to lower the weight, have no pause, and then take 2 seconds to lift the weight back to the starting position.
Please remember these are just guidelines. Everyone’s body reacts differently to exercise, so it’s important to listen to your body.
If a weight feels too heavy or light, or if the tempo is too challenging to maintain, adjust so that you can complete the total number of reps.
Be sure to warm up 3 to 5 minutes before starting any workouts. The idea here is to get your heart rate up and prepare yourself for the lifts.
Do each exercise for 30 seconds with little to no rest in between. If you can’t make it through the full 5-minutes, decrease the number of exercises, but add them as you progress through the program.
|Jumping Jacks||30 seconds|
|High Knees||30 seconds|
|Arm Circles||30 seconds|
|Butt Kicks||30 seconds|
|Mountain Climbers||30 seconds|
|Side Lunges||30 seconds|
Day 1: Chest and Triceps
|Barbell Bench Press||4||8-10||2-0-2||Barbell|
|Incline Dumbbell Press||3||8-10||2-0-2||Dumbbell|
|Close Grip Bench Press||3||8-10||2-0-2||Barbell|
|Overhead Dumbbell Extension||3||10-12||2-0-2||Dumbbell|
Day 2: Legs and Shoulders
Day 3: Back, Biceps and Core
Day 4: Cardio and Full Body
Mastering the Bench Press Technique: Lift Right, Lift More
Becoming good at the bench press technique is a non-negotiable for lifting heavier weights and ensuring safety. So, let’s get into the “how’s and why’s” of bench pressing.
How To Bench Press Properly
Understanding the basic movement is a big deal to reduce the chance of injury and maximize results.
Here’s a thorough, step-by-step guide on performing a bench press correctly and safely.
The Starting Position
- Lie on a flat bench, ensuring your back is neutral. Your head, shoulders, and buttocks should make contact with the bench.
- Place your feet flat on the floor for stability, shoulder-width apart.
- Hold the barbell with a grip slightly wider than shoulder-width. Your palms should face the ceiling, and your fingers should securely wrap around the bar (known as a ‘pronated’ grip).
The Lowering Phase
- Starting from the racked position, unrack the barbell with full elbow extension. The barbell should align directly above your chest, with your eyes beneath the bar.
- Slowly and controlled, lower the barbell to your mid-chest region, maintaining your elbows at approximately a 45-degree angle from your torso. Avoid excessively flaring your elbows.
- As you slowly lower the barbell, inhale, filling your abdomen with air and keeping your chest expanded.
The Pressing Phase
- From your chest, drive the barbell upwards and slightly backward, concentrating on contracting your chest muscles.
- Exhale as you lift, maintaining tension throughout your body.
- At the top of the movement, extend your arms fully without locking out your elbows.
- The end position should mirror your start position, with the barbell above your chest and your arms fully extended.
Repeat the movement for your desired number of repetitions.
Remember, executing a successful bench press relies on your strength and sticking to proper form and technique
Ensuring you’ve got these basics down will shield you from injuries and set the groundwork for improvements in strength and performance.
Exploring Bench Press Alternatives
While the bench press is a powerhouse in its own right, it’s not the only ticket to increasing your strength and body composition.
Incorporating various exercises into your routine can enhance muscular balance, dodge the dreaded workout plateau, and keep your workout sessions from feeling repetitive and boring.
Bench Press Alternatives Worth Considering:
It goes without saying, but there are dozens of exercises that help build upper body and chest strength. But here are a few that could be helpful with increasing the amount of weight you can bench press.
Mix them with other lifts in your workout plan as an additional exercise or an alternative as desired.
Targeted muscles: Pectorals
Advantages: The pec deck offers highly controlled movement, making it an excellent choice for those just starting or anyone grappling with shoulder issues. It hones in on isolating the chest muscles, paving the way for enhanced muscle growth and strength.
Bent-forward Cable Crossover
Targeted muscles: Chest, arms, and shoulders
Advantages: Utilizing cables ensures continuous tension throughout the exercise, encouraging optimal muscle engagement. It also enhances core strength and balance, courtesy of the stability and control of the exercise demands.
Incline Dumbbell Flyes
Targeted muscles: Upper pectorals
Advantages: This exercise zeroes in on the upper chest and shoulders for well-rounded muscle development. Plus, they offer a greater range of motion than the bench press, promoting increased muscle stretch and recruitment.
Incline Bench Press
Targeted muscles: Upper pecs and front deltoids
Advantages: The inclined position shifts the focus onto different muscle fibers in your chest, fostering comprehensive chest development. This variant engages the shoulders and triceps less than the flat bench press, allowing a more targeted focus on the upper chest.
Decline Bench Press
Targeted muscles: Lower pectorals
Advantages: The declined position targets the often neglected lower region of the pectorals. This bench press variant can ensure your chest training is comprehensive, leaving no muscle group out in the cold.
Targeted muscles: Pectorals (chest muscles), deltoids, and triceps
Advantages: The standard push-up effectively engages multiple major muscle groups, promoting balanced upper body strength development. Its versatility allows for numerous variations to target specific muscles differently.
For instance, altering hand placement can shift focus between chest muscles and triceps. For a detailed guide on starting a push-up workout routine and exploring its variations, please check out my article: How to Start a Push-Up Workout Routine.
Wrapping It Up
Remember, bench pressing isn’t just a numbers game; it’s a journey of self-growth. It’s not just about “How much should I be able to bench press” but mastering your form, understanding your limits, focusing on your mental grit, and setting achievable goals.
Whether you’re a rookie or a seasoned lifter, consistency is the secret sauce to building muscle. Regular workouts, a balanced diet, and plenty of rest will steadily ramp up your bench pressing game, and you’ll enjoy health perks far beyond muscle strength.
Bench pressing isn’t a strength training competition with others; it’s you versus you getting better with each rep. Success isn’t just in the weight lifted but in the determination to keep going.
Armed with these tips, you’re all set to excel in your bench-pressing journey. Keep pressing on!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Bench Pressing
What is the role of genetics in bench press performance?
However, while genetics play a part, remember that consistent effort and proper training can lead to significant improvements.
Can you bench press every day?
It’s not advisable to bench press daily as your muscles need time to recover and grow. A typical recommendation is to rest at least 48 hours between intense bench press workouts.
How to break a bench press plateau?
Mixing up your routine with different bench press variations, altering your rep ranges, and implementing periodization techniques can all help you smash through bench press plateaus.
How To Prevent Bench Press Injury?
Safety is paramount to reap all the benefits of the bench press without getting sidelined by injury. Start with a proper warm-up and cool-down.
A good warm-up increases muscle elasticity, making injury less likely. Similarly, cooling down helps your body transition from active to resting, speeding up recovery. Also, be sure to maintain good form and don’t lift above your ability.
What Is The Average Bench Press By Age And Bodyweight?
As I mentioned earlier, my data is based on over 1000 pieces of information. But still, there is a wide range of sources that can help someone narrow down how their average bench press compares to others.
The community standards at Strength Level are based on millions of data points and I’ve summarized them here for averages based on age and body weight.
The data below represents the upper averages for beginner, intermediate, and advanced weight lifters based on community input.
Average Bench Press By Age:
Average Bench Press By Body Weight:
Citations And Sources:
Heckman, K. (2023, June 8). Epley formula (1 rep max) – VCALC. vCalc. https://www.vcalc.com/wiki/vCalc/Epley%20Formula%20(1%20rep%20max)
Brzycki, M. (n.d.). GENDER DIFFERENCES IN STRENGTH: A COMPARISON OF MALE AND FEMALE WORLD-RECORD PERFORMANCES IN POWERLIFTING. Princeton University. https://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/brzycki/files/mb-2002-01.pdf
Weightlifting Standards Calculator, vCalc. (n.d.). Weightlifting strength standards. Strength Level. https://strengthlevel.com/strength-standards
Krzysztofik, M., Wilk, M., Wojdała, G., & Gołaś, A. (2019, December 4). Maximizing muscle hypertrophy: A systematic review of advanced resistance training techniques and methods. International journal of environmental research and public health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6950543/#:~:text=Muscle%20hypertrophy%20occurs%20when%20muscle,muscle%20protein%20breakdown%20%5B8%5D.
- 5 Best Power Towers For Your Home Gym - July 19, 2023
- What Does Natty Mean in Body Building? Is It Good or Bad? - June 26, 2023
- How Much Creatine Is In Bang? The Amount Might Surprise You - June 25, 2023