How Much Weight Should You Bench Press?

How Much Weight Should You Bench Press?

The bench press is a quintessential exercise in the world of strength training. For many, it serves as a benchmark of upper body strength and an emblem of power in the weight room. But when it comes to the age-old question of “How much weight should I be able to bench press?” the answer is far from straightforward. In this article, we’ll delve into the intricacies of bench pressing and explore what your bench press standards should be. It’s not just about lifting heavy weights; it’s about understanding your body and setting achievable goals.

The Magic of the Bench Press

The bench press has long held a special place in the hearts of strength enthusiasts. Some preach that you’re not serious about strength unless you can press at least two plates, while others argue that you should be capable of benching your body weight or even double that. The reality, however, is less clear-cut.

Shawn Arent, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., chair of the Department of Exercise Science at the University of South Carolina, aptly notes that the bench press, while a classic benchmark of upper body strength, isn’t the only indicator. In fact, pushups, which rely on your body weight, may provide a more accurate gauge of relative strength. The intricacies of bench pressing, including various body types and biomechanical factors, make it challenging to set universal standards.

Despite the complexities, the allure of bench pressing lies in the ability to handle substantial weights, making it a gym-goer’s favorite exercise. If the desire to lift heavier weights motivates you to hit the gym, that’s the magic of the bench press.

How Much Weight Should Men Bench Press?

The question of how much weight a man should be able to bench press doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all answer. Several factors come into play, including individual goals, fitness levels, training experience, and unique body compositions. While there are milestones like the revered 225-pound mark at the NFL Combine, benching your body weight, or stacking more plates, these are personal achievements.

Setting a Bench Press Standard:

  • Beginners (0 to 12 months of experience): Aim for half your body weight.
  • Lifters with 1 to 3 years of experience: Target 1 to 1.25 times your body weight.
  • Lifters with 3-plus years of experience: Aim for 1.5 times to double your body weight.

Kurt Ellis, C.S.C.S., owner of Beyond Numbers Performance, suggests this tiered goal system based on your training age. These standards provide clear, attainable benchmarks to strive for and work as concrete motivators for building strength.

Increasing Your Bench Press

Reaching and surpassing these standards requires a dedicated approach to training. The key to improving your bench press, or any lift, is progressive overload. The principle is simple: to lift more weight, you need to increase the stimulus over time. This means progressively increasing the total amount of weight you lift week by week, month by month, and beyond.

Here are additional tips to boost your bench press:

  1. Bench More Than Once Per Week: Dedicate more than one day to bench pressing. For beginners, four sets per week can suffice, while advanced trainees may need to hit the bench 12 or more times weekly, including various bench press variations.
  2. Bust Through Sticking Points: Address sticking points by using sets of pin presses. This technique involves lifting from a point just beneath the sticking point to strengthen your weaker areas.
  3. Don’t Stick With One Rep Scheme: Don’t limit yourself to a single rep scheme. Vary the number of sets, reps, or sessions you perform to increase your total bench press volume. Testing your max bench and changing your approach for four to eight weeks can help break plateaus.
  4. Be Patient With Progress: Building strength is a long-term endeavor. Consistency in training is the key to success, and patience is essential. Keep training consistently, and you’ll reach your goals.
  5. Watch Your Form and Add Accessories: Maintaining proper form and incorporating accessory exercises for the chest, shoulders, triceps, and lats is crucial for long-term strength gains.

Bench Press Alternatives

The barbell bench press may not be suitable for everyone. Some people may find it painful due to fixed hand positions and shoulder angles that don’t align with their anatomy or mobility. Dumbbell bench presses offer a greater range of motion and flexibility, making them a preferred alternative for some lifters, including former Olympia champions Jay Cutler and Phil Heath.

Other bench press alternatives, such as the machine chest press or the pushup, provide viable options for developing chest strength without compromising shoulder health.

While there are no universally fixed standards for how much weight you should be able to bench press, setting personalized benchmarks based on your training experience and body weight is a motivating way to track your progress. Progressive overload, consistency, and dedication to proper form will help you increase your bench press over time. And if bench pressing isn’t your forte, don’t worry; there are alternative exercises and methods to help you build upper body strength.

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