What Is A Respectable Bench Press For An Average Lifter?
Updated June 13th 2021
When pumping iron in the gym, there is only one exercise that really shows how alpha you are— the bench press.
Sure, it is admirable to get a big deadlift or squat.
You will get many head nods and fist bumps from all the veteran lifters.
But one exercise will always reign supreme, even if we do not want to admit it.
As animals, we try to achieve and demonstrate to the world that we are the strongest.
One of the best ways to do that is by showing the world that we have a big chest.
Gorillas do it.
So do humans.
So, what is a respectable bench press for an average lifter?
Respectable bench press
A 225lbs bench press is a very honorable bench press for the average lifter. If you are a competitive powerlifter, a double bodyweight bench press is very good.
To be regarded as an excellent bench presser, a 500+lbs bench press would put you in that category.
Without diving too deep into surveys done, a 225lbs bench press is a very respectable bench press for the average lifter.
A typical weight for a male lifter is between 160lbs and 210lbs.
Of course, the less you weigh, the more impressive your lift is.
But regardless of bodyweight, bench pressing 2 plates looks good in any casual setting.
If you are a competitive athlete, a 2x bodyweight bench press is very respected.
A lot of very elite powerlifters who compete in bench press competitions do not have a double bodyweight bench press.
So, even in the top 1%, you still have a lot of room for growth in order to be the best of the best.
Then, you have people who want to make a name for themselves.
They want to stand out and hit an absolute bench press number.
Only, what is it?
A 500+lbs bench press would put you in a god-tier category of lifters to have ever walked this planet.
Sure, as you climb the ranks of bench press weights, there are fewer people who are able to conquer those limits.
405lbs (4 plates) is usually a threshold for many lifters to stop progressing.
How many times have you seen a 405lbs bench press in a commercial gym?
That is how rare a 405lbs bench press is.
But to really give yourself the extra edge to be great, a 500lbs bench press should be the goal to shoot for.
What is an impressive bench press?
An impressive bench press for any person is a 2x bodyweight bench press or a 405lbs bench press.
1.5x bw bench press would great and slightly above average.
- Tons of motivation to train upper body - more people will have bigger numbers on average
- Bench press measuring stick - a ton of organizations still use this as a measurement of upper body strength
250lbs is a decent bench press but it depends on a ton of different factors:
- Your goals
- Your training history
- Your genetics
- Your motivation
I can give you two scenarios,
A high school senior that never lifted weights and can bench press 250lbs for 3 reps in his first time in the gym.
Contrast this to a 10 year strength training athlete that bench presses 250lbs for 1 rep for the first time in his life.
Who would you consider stronger?
Does it even make sense to compare the two?
In the first situation, he would be considered to have a strong bench with great potential.
In the second situation, he would be considered average. If compared to all males, he would be considered weak.
Compared with himself, this is a lifetime accomplishment since he never got to that weight before.
Bodyweight bench press
A bodyweight bench press is usually classified between a novice and an intermediate lifter.
This would mean that it took some time to get to a bodyweight bench press.
This would typically range from several months to two years.
This is the usual progression for a beginner lifter who just started lifting weights.
One reason for slow progress may be that you are bench pressing with bent wrists.
But let us dive into what some bench press numbers look like for some bodyweight:
From this table, the trend seems to be that an advanced bench press is your bodyweight +100lbs while an elite bench press is around 2x bodyweight.
This should be a general guideline for anyone looking to break future bench press records.
Even these elite numbers are nowhere close to taking home first place in any national powerlifting competition.
Bench press weight progression
For most lifters, bench press progression starts off linear.
You will be able to add weight after every successful workout for at least a couple of months.
The reason for this is that you have not lifted weights at all.
So, the stimulus is challenging and your body is doing its best in order to recover.
After being unable to make weight progressions every workout, the next step is to make progress every week.
This may be the linear progression limits of your program.
Your body has become more efficient at performing a bench press so it needs more time in order to recover from heavier weights.
The next logical step from improving every workout is to improve every week, just like you would if you deadlift every week.
This would mean that every week, you will challenge yourself by adding more weights.
This can last for several months or years, depending on the lifter.
After you are not making progress every week, you will be forced to make progress every month.
At this point, you would be considered an “advanced” lifter.
By this time, you should have a thorough understanding of strength training programming.
You should know what works well for you and what does it.
Like if you want to do strength training 6 days a week or not.
If not, it would be a very good idea to determine and figure out your strengths and weaknesses.
One way of doing that is by making sure you have the proper bench press accessories to supplement your program if you have that option.
Ohp accessories may also help your pressing strength too.
My bench press weight progression
Through Starting Strength, I advanced my bench press from 115lbs to 185lbs in terms of working set weights.
This process took about 5 months for me.
In terms of adding weight, that was a no-brainer to do.
However, I did screw up a lot of other factors that caused me to not advance my bench press as quickly as I wanted.
And fast-forward to 2020 when I am running 5/3/1, my max probably has increased but I have not tested it yet.
I am beginning to understand and apply strength training principles while staying injury-free.
Before, I would chase working set PRs without focusing on the big picture.
My mind was so laser-focused on making sure my current workout will end up with me hitting a new training PR.
Over the years, this has not happened and it caused a lot of frustration until very recently.
Currently, my working sets are between 145lbs-155lbs with lots of sets.
This is "easy" for me but I am just following the 5/3/1 protocol at the moment.
And if you have been strength training for any time, you will know how paramount it is to follow your program strictly.
Not thinking about programming
When I originally started doing linear progression programs, I thought “This is great. I can just improve every workout for at least one year and have a monster squat, bench press, deadlift, and overhead press.”
Sadly, this is not reality.
The cold harsh reality is that you will not continue to progress every workout.
Even chillier than lifting weights in a cold garage.
While it is ideal that you do, there are so many variables that determine how quickly a lifter can recover from a heavy bench day.
And you know what I did?
After stalling and failing my first linear progression program, I would restart another linear progression program.
At the time, my logic was that there must be some secret sauce that was keeping me from obtaining my goals.
If I can just find a couple of training variables to manipulate at the right times, my numbers would skyrocket.
Though there is more than one reason why I chose a linear progression program, I would have been more proactive about transitioning into a different program to carry on the training momentum.
Or I should have realized that strength training is not linear and I should have been learning about establishing principles and systems that work in order for me to progress in my long term bench press goals.
This is a methodology I took away from 5/3/1 Forever, a program commonly criticized for its low volume.
However, just because your program has low volume, that does not mean you will not make progress long term and break through your current limitations.
Here is another way to illustrate progressing with your bench press.
This is Nick Wright, who started out bodybuilding and transitioned over to powerlifting.
He used to bench in the 200s and then he gradually increased his bench press strength as he improved his bench press technique and overall body composition.
His video scratches the surface of powerlifting and some fundamental principles about long term progression in lifting weights:
This can make or break your career.
It could lead to a sudden loss of strength in the bench press.
If you are injured, you cannot train.
If you cannot train, you cannot be the best.
In reality, some of the best athletes in the world are the best because they are able to stay injury-free for long periods of time.
Don’t get me wrong— injuries are a part of every sport.
But minimizing injuries and taking care of your body can elongate your health and spirit.
Ironically, a lot of my injuries occurred when I was very near my bench press stall.
I would get close to 185lbs during my working set.
Then, I would have some injury derail me for months.
This happened to me twice— once I had a back injury from squats and another time in an accident.
And both times, I thought it would be best to just jump back into a linear progression program to rebuild my strength (good choice).
What I failed to do is figure out an exit plan to continue my positive momentum and I just keep running into a wall of frustration with my bench press by refusing to adapt my programming (bad choice).
Do not worry about others, stay focused on your progress
You have probably seen so many lifters who seem to be much younger than you and can double your bench press weight.
Or they are taking your max and doing it for multiple sets of 10.
You need to stop comparing yourself to others and just focus on yourself.
Block out all of the distractions.
This is making you unhappy and weak.
Rather, be grateful that you have the opportunity to get better.
That you made progress from last year.
That you are able to train without any injuries.
Because if you have been training for 10+years, you will definitely not be comparing yourself to anyone.
In fact, your bench press will be very respectable too.
For instance, I recently saw a relatively young lifter, 26 who has been lifting for 9 years.
He weighed about 160lbs and can bench 225lbs for 10 reps easily.
He definitely looked like he had more in the tank as well.
You can be on either side of viewing this accomplishment:
- He is weak at 9 years, some lifters are setting world years with 9 years of training
- Awesome for 9 years. A lot of people stay stagnant for many years
Who is right?
Are you improving? Yes?
Do you still want to train? Yes?
Then, that is all the motivation you need to continue building your strength and physique.
Doing only compound exercises for your physique can be a good strategy to build a strong foundation for your future.
If your goal is to achieve a respectable bench press, almost all lifters who are doing all the right things inside and outside of the gym will probably get there.
It could take several months if you are a fast responder.
That would mean you should decide whether or not you want to do paused bench vs touch and go.
It could take several years if having a big bench press is not your primary goal.
But regardless, with a proper training program and nutrition plan, your goals will come if you put in the hard work.