For as long as men and women have put heavy iron discs on bars, the bench press has been what can only be considered a bench-mark of physical strength. Some insist that if you’re not benching at least 2 plates on the bar that you’re not anything special. Others say, you should be able to bench your own weight or even twice your weight.
But is the bench press really the hallmark of all upper body strength? The answer, there is really nothing special about the bench. While it gives a general idea of upper body strength, it’s not a true measure because it does not factor in back strength as well. The better option for measuring upper body strength? Pushups, pullups, anything that really involves the full upper body and bodyweight on its own.
Why push ups or pull ups? They reflect more on relative strength because you’re working with your own body weight. Whereas, the bench press tends to vary based on different body types.
So why does the bench press have such a choke hold on the bodybuilding and fitness community as a whole? The answer is simple, you’re able to work with higher weight amounts on the bench press than most other upper body exercises.
How Much Should You Be Able to Bench?
A definitive answer doesn’t exist for the question of, how much should you be able to bench? Why? Because answers are based more on individual factors. Think about your overall fitness goals, fitness level, how long you’ve been consistently training, and even your anatomical stature. True, there are milestones that you can hit for your personal goals. However, those are still dependent on the individual.
Usable Standards for the Bench Press
There are dozens of calculators, charts, and tools online that are meant to help you decide how much you should be able to bench press. These tools have the potential for being helpful. However, they’re not an end all be all answer for your lifting goals. They’re also not the most reliable and can give you weight goals that can’t even be loaded onto your bar.
If you’re a seasoned lifter and can bench your own body weight or more, you’re doing pretty well. However, if you’re just starting out, don’t expect to immediately be able to hit this goal. Instead, shoot for a goal of half your body weight. In other words, say you weigh 200lbs, shoot for 100lb as a goal.
Another option is to base your training goals on the length of time you’ve been training. For example, as a beginner meaning within your first year of lifting, shoot for the goal we mentioned above of half your body weight. Once you are within one to three years of consistent training, then work toward benching your bodyweight or your body weight plus about 25%. If you’ve constantly trained for three or more years, that’s when shooting for double your bodyweight is a reasonable goal.
Of course, these numbers are just suggestions, meaning that if you hit them or exceed them earlier on, then that’s great! If it takes a bit longer that’s okay too! Just remember to set realistic goals and not get discouraged if you don’t initially reach them.
How Progressive Overload Affects Your Bench Press
Progressive overload is defined as a systematic increase to training frequency, volume, and intensity of various combos over time. In other words, you’ll plan to regularly increase the challenge to your muscles while working out.
The basic concept of progressive overload is simple. To lift more, you need to challenge your muscles by increasing weight slowly over time. By doing so, you’re keeping your muscles in a constant state of change and not letting them plateau.
Other ways to avoid plateaus can be through the use of SARMs which are selective androgen receptor modulators. Not to be confused with steroids, SARMs are more selective in their binding and primarily assist with both muscle and bone health and growth. Learn more about SARMs to buy from Paradigm by visiting our SARMs product page.
Other Ways to Increase Your Bench
- Bench More Often:
If you’ve created a “bench day” in your routine, then you’re less likely to really achieve goals over time. Why? Because you’re not training on the bench press enough to really challenge those muscle groups. In reality, working on the bench press 3 to 4 times a week is more beneficial.
- Push Through:
Have you ever done multiple reps and just got stuck on the last one? You’re not able to fulfill the rep and it basically gets stuck? One way to combat this is by working with pin press sets.
- Change Up Your Reps:
The most conventional way to light weights is by doing the same number of sets and reps consistently for a while and then increasing those amounts throughout your experience. Instead of running the same sets and reps every time, change it up.
While the bench press has long held its status as a symbol of upper body strength, it may not be the ultimate benchmark it’s often perceived to be. The fixation on bench press numbers tends to overshadow the importance of assessing overall upper body strength, incorporating factors like back strength, and considering individual body types.
Pushups and pullups emerge as more reliable indicators of relative strength, emphasizing the significance of working with one’s own body weight. The bench press’s dominance in the fitness community may be attributed to the ability to handle heavier weights, but this shouldn’t overshadow the value of a more holistic approach to upper body strength assessment.
Determining how much one should be able to bench is a subjective matter, contingent on factors such as personal fitness goals, experience level, and anatomical stature. While various online tools and calculators exist to offer guidance, they should be viewed as aids rather than definitive benchmarks. Ultimately, the key takeaway is to set realistic goals, understanding that progress varies among individuals, and to embrace a well-rounded approach to strength training.