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Entering the weightlifting scene can be intimidating. You don’t know how to perform any of the exercises and everyone is bigger or stronger than you. And yet, many beginners have the same question when they first start weight lifting: How much should I be able to bench press?
Let’s go through the various factors that affect your bench press so you can find the answer.
Bench Press Calculator
Many fitness gurus have made countless variations of the bench press calculator to determine someone’s “one rep max” (1RM) Most people are looking for this answer when they ask the question “how much should I be able to bench”? They want to know the maximum number of pounds they can put on the bar without failing or hurting themselves
The general formula for the calculator is weight x number of reps. The calculator will take those two numbers and provide a rough estimate of your 1RM. For example, let’s say you can bench press 135 pounds (a barbell with a 45-pound plate on each side) for five reps. The calculator would put your 1RM around 158-160 pounds.
Of course, in reality, your 1RM isn’t that simple. Multiple factors might influence your performance. Make sure you’re taking these factors into account when calculating your 1RM.
Some people think that muscle mass primarily determines your strength, but your bodyweight is a bigger influential factor. For example, professional powerlifters and strongman competitors often look obese and out of shape, and yet they’re much stronger than bodybuilders. That’s because powerlifters are usually much heavier than bodybuilders, even though bodybuilders appear like stronger individuals at first glance.
So, next time you see a tall skinny dude or a short overweight person pressing more than you, don’t feel bad. They likely weigh more than you, which means they can push more weight. You shouldn’t compare yourself to other people anyway.
2. Body Composition
Your body structure might also impact how much you’re able to bench. People with long arms have to push the weight farther, which hurts their 1RM numbers. That’s why elite powerlifters often have short limbs. The bar doesn’t have to travel as far, so they’re able to push more weight.
Your clavicle structure and muscle insertions could also impact your bench press total. If you have narrow clavicles or below average chest genetics, these factors will work against you. It doesn’t mean you can never have a strong bench press, but you’ll have to work a little harder.
Your bench press technique (or lack thereof) can add or subtract many pounds from your 1RM. Make sure you check off these physical cues every time you get below the bar:
- Sit on the bench with your legs at roughly a 90-degree angle.
- Plant your feet to the floor and keep them there.
- Lie down on the bench and put your eyes parallel to the bar.
- Pin your traps to the bench and keep them there.
- Grab the bar a little wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Engage your lats, brace your core and squeeze the bar throughout the exercise.
- Try to drive your feet through the floor with each rep.
- Make sure the bar path has an arc. It shouldn’t go in a straight line.
- Remember to breathe!
Yes, the bench press is more complicated than it looks. There are many tiny details that you must master to become an expert. If you’re having trouble with your bench press technique, consider substituting the movement with push-ups or another pushing movement.
4. Athletic Experience
Of course, your overall athletic experience will also impact your bench press performance. A 150-pound person who plays sports is likely to be stronger than a 150-pound person who doesn’t play sports. If you have little to no athletic experience and you’re just starting your fitness journey, progress will likely be slower for you compared to your more athletic peers.
Everyone’s Bench Press Looks Different
The question “how much should I be able to bench press?” has a complicated answer. You could try a generic formula to calculate your 1RM, but the number might not be accurate. Your bodyweight, skeletal structure, lifting technique and overall athletic experience will all influence how much you can bench. Everyone’s bench press looks different as a result.