Unleash Your Best Bench Press Yet
One question that will always be heard around the gym: How much do you bench? The bench press is important for bragging rights, but it’s also one of the greatest measures of overall upper-body strength, says Todd Durkin, C.S.C.S., author of musclemorphosis.com, and owner of FitnessQuest10 in San Diego. Being able to press at least your body weight—or a good portion of it—above your chest proves to all fellow men that you’re hitting the mark in the gym.
When it comes to figuring out exactly how much you should be able to bench for your age, Durkin suggests testing your 3-rep maximum (3RM) over your 1-rep maximum (1RM). “You’ll measure your strength and pushing power without running the risk of injury that comes along with a 1-rep max test,” he says. And if you fall flat, try Durkin’s bench-press-boosting advice to push past your plateau.
THE AVERAGE GUY’S 3RM BENCH
Age Total (weight)
20-29 100% of your bodyweight
30-39 90% of your bodyweight
40-49 80% of your bodyweight
50-59 75% of your bodyweight
Make sure you always have a spotter.
Warm up with presses. Do 5 to 10 reps of a weight that’s equal to half your body weight. Perform 3 sets, increasing the load 10 to 15 percent each set, and resting for 1 to 2 minutes between each set. On your fourth set, choose a heavy weight that you can bench for only 3 reps in a row. Then compare how you did to the average guy in the 3RM bench chart above.
Go Beyond Average
If you miss or just hit the average mark, Durkin has your power pointers. “For most guys, they fail in one of two places: when attempting to move the weight off of their chests at the bottom of the move or when trying to straighten their arms like the couple inches at the top of the move,” he says. “You need to strengthen the weakest parts of your lifts with eccentric training.”
Your muscles can handle more weight during the lowering portion of a move. That means you can use a higher amount of weight to build strength and power throughout the movement, eliminating your sticking points over time, explains Durkin.
Do this: With a spotter, load up a barbell with weight that is 10 to 20 percent heavier than your 3RM. Instead of performing the move from start to finish, take 5 to 7 seconds to lower the bar to your chest. Then have your spotter assist you in pressing the bar back up to the top. Perform 3 sets of 3 to 5 reps, resting 2 to 3 minutes between sets. Do this for 4 to 6 weeks before testing your 3RM again.