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What bench press weight is good [Article]

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Mar 14, 2017 11:00:00 AM

 what bench press weight is good?

What bench press weight is good?

This is an article to overview which standards are good for bench pressing compared to the wider world. Always remember that good is relative to the goal that you want to achieve. So if you have no clear goal yet start there first. If you can bench press two times your body weight, pat yourself on the back. You are probably stronger than anyone else in your local gym.

Do you even lift, bro?

In search of a guiding principle for your bench press development, you are trying to find out what defines a good bench press. Great start that you are researching. So is it your own bodyweight or twice of that? Does it have to be the magical 600-pound bench press or even a 1000 pounds to be considered good? For what purpose are you trying to achieve a "good bench press weight"?

There are many different standards and forms of bench presses. There is the powerlifting standard of bench pressing as provided by the International powerlifting federation. Here you can press either with or without a bench press shirt, which considerably tinkers with the numbers. Some like to bench press only with a wide grip and for many, many repetitions. This goes especially in the bodybuilding community as the goal set is vastly different from powerlifting. Others prefer the option with your feet up. Especially the Scandinavians seem to love that stuff. Apart from all this you also do not know whether your performance is good compared to your peers. Sex, age, and weight therefore also play a considerable role in what can be considered "good" or "bad".

Goals are very relative

All of this leads to the first important insight for you. First, you have to define your own goals and what is important to you to then define what is good or bad against that criteria. Goals are very relative things compared to the standard they are being measured against. Therefore find the standard that is most important to you and what you want to achieve. Consider from there what weight is most impactful for you on the bench press. 

Reasons for bench pressing are usually the following:

  • Making the criteria for a team 
  • Health
  • Strength
  • Aesthetics

Making the team is straight forward. Your coach will have some performance barriers on a spreadsheet on which it is written what each player has to bench press in relation to their bodyweight to make it on the team. Ask for that number. Anything below that is bad. Anything that meets the line is good. The NFL 225 also has the bench press in it and is a benchmark for NFL scouts.

Health can be a tricky one depending on what kind of disease you have or what rehab program is prescribed. Evaluation criteria might be your range of motion, elasticity or "good" compared to the general population. If you fall under this section, maybe do not get too worked about how much weight you can bench press and focus more on the journey towards your health goals.

Strength depends highly on your gender, age, weigh,t and ambitions. Some might want to compete in a powerlifting competition. Most of these are open to the public, so you do not necessarily need to meet criteria. Still, if you are going to compete in a powerlifting meet you might want to be able to bench press more than 1.5 times your bodyweight before considering it. Relative increases from your current one repetition maximum can also be strength related goals. You might want to state that by end of year you want to bench press 25% more weight for one repetition. This would be a very specific strength goal.

Aesthetics can be a driving factor that leads individuals to do the bench presses. Here the evaluation depends on how good you look to a potential partner for life or judge in a bodybuilding competition. This can include size, symmetry or depth of the muscle depending on the audience. Here your criteria will be whatever weight and repetitions help most to achieve these goals. 

Regarding goals always remember that good and bad is related to the standard that is being used. What is a good weight on the bench press for a crossfitter might be a very measly result for a strongman or powerlifter. Do not compare yourself to others, but to your relevant goal, because there will always be a guy better than you.

So what is a good bench press weight?

A commonly accepted way of looking at performance for the masses is to work with percentiles of the entire population/tested group. This can be made more specific by slicing and dicing the test group depending on their attributes like demographics, background, health record etc. Percentiles work by comparing your performance against the entire number of people who took a test on a certain task (like a bench press to determine upper body strength). Here is a definition for further understanding:

The percentile rank of a score is the percentage of scores in its frequency distribution that are equal to or lower than it. For example, a test score that is greater than or equal to 75% of the scores of people taking the test is said to be at the 75th percentile, where 75 is the percentile rank.

Average is normally defined as being in the 50th percentile. Above average in the 70th percentile and elite in the 90th percentile. You probably have seen such a distribution for college entry tests and when you took an exam that is centrally governed. According to a test run by the American college of sports medicine these are the guidelines for bench presses:

Men 20 - 29 years

  • 106% of body weight to be average
  • 122% of body weight to be above average
  • 148% of body weight to be elite

Men 30 - 39 years

  • 93% of body weight to be average
  • 104% to be above average
  • 124% to be elite

Men 40 - 49 years

  • 88% of body weight to be average
  • 93% to be above average
  • 110% for elite

Men 50 - 59

  • 75% of body weight to be average
  • 84% to be above average
  • 97% to be elite

Women 20 - 29

  • 65% of body weight to be average
  • 74% above average
  • 90% elite

Women 30 - 39

  • 57% for average
  • 63% for above average
  • 76% for elite

Women 40 - 49

  • 52% for average
  • 57% for above average
  • 71% for elite

Women 50 - 59

  • 46% for average
  • 52% for above average
  • 61% for elite

This is what is considered being above average compared against a sample of average joes and ladies. This might not reflect the percentiles within your relevant/desirable group like NFL players, crossfitters or powerlifters which are expected to be immensely higher percentages from body weight.

The easy way of looking at it

In a Men's fitness article I found a pretty simple and straight-forward evaluation which I find realistic to determine whether your bench press weight is good or not:

Bench press your bodyweight to be average

Bench press 1.5 times your bodyweight to be above average

Bench press 2.0 times your bodyweight to be a superhero

Further reading

How to increase your bench press

Bench press like a powerlifter

Bench press like a bodybuilder

Bench press calculator


Topics: Lift stronger, Bench Press