How accurate are bench press calculators?
So should you rely on a bench press calculator for your performance? The short answer is definitely not for estimating real life one repetition maximum attempts. They are a good tool to get estimates to see where to start and whether you are progressing.
You and your progress towards your goals
In the race for new personal records and satisfying the ego calculators of all sorts can and will be used to determine how strong you are. This can be done compared to others or a calculation based on your current performance applied to a different way of executing a certain exercise. There are excel spreadsheets, apps, gizmos of all sorts who can help you track what you are doing in the gym.
These little tools or toys exist for anything you can possibly imagine under the sun. From running to jumping and lifting. Calculators are good things to have to know where you stand and whether you are progressing. The big question is how to determine how accurate they are.
Accuracy and what it actually means (or not)
The challenge with accuracy is that measuring accurately is only possible if you create the same conditions every single time. This is why highly accurate tests are usually done in a laboratory with clear guidelines on how the test has to be conducted and how the exercise is being performed. The aim is to isolate the one variable which you are most interested in influencing. If you paid attention in one of your first lessons in physics on how an experiment has to be conducted you probably know this already. The challenge with bench press calculators is that the parameters are never the same.
Almost everyone in the world has different proportions to start with. Longer or shorter arms, a comparatively humongous triceps vs a laughable meekly chest. Here we are only talking bodies. I did not even get started on mislabelled weight plates, different ways of executing the bench press, daily fitness, how many steroids you have been taking lately and many other factors.
Another challenge is that most calculators either work based on a generalized mathematical formula or based on the performance of a certain group of people which has been measured over a certain amount of time. The first option is fair but will find its limitations to predict performance for individuals, especially near the dangerous limits of one repetition maximums. The second faces the challenge that the samples which are taken for bench press tests are usually too small and done for over too short of a time period to achieve statistical relevance.
Are bench press calculators a waste of your time?
So you might ask whether calculators are useless because they are so inaccurate. Well, you can ask that about any tool which measures something. The question is whether not measuring will also bring you to your personal goals. Usually, it does not. It is good to have a compass to see whether you are progressing generally and how you are progressing even if it not entirely accurate. The caveat is to stay away from areas for which accuracy actually matters. Avoid using a bench press calculator to determine your one repetition maximum on the bench press and then load tat weight on to the bar unless you are keen to deconstruct your face. Also, do not brag that you have a 1RM which you never lifted, but only calculated.
So all in all bench press calculators are generally accurate but specifically inaccurate. Based on this know-how to use them and interpret their findings.
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