Friday, January 04, 2008

How Much Can You Bench?

I swear at least once a month some meathead will ask me this question. Being a personal trainer, I'm an easy target. Everyone at my gym knows I am a trainer, so the big guys like to prove something to themselves by comparing what they bench to what I can bench. And I look pretty small -- at 195 lbs and six feet tall -- so I can't be very strong, can I?

On bench press, I'm not. At best, I can get 275 lbs for one rep. Most of the big guys in my gym are doing 315 or more. Still, as far as I am concerned, and most strength coaches would agree with me, the bench press is not even remotely a good measure of strength.

A better question would be, How much can you squat?

Sam Byrd 1003 Squat at 198

Or better yet, How much can you deadlift?

Konstantine Kostanov 946 lb. Deadlift

Or best of all, How much can you clean and jerk?

Yukio Peter- Clean and Jerk 189 KG (416 lbs)

Any of these three core lifts are better indicators of overall strength than is the bench press.

Those of us who train for general strength and physical preparedness use all three of these lifts (and their variations) as the foundation of a good routine. Yes, we bench press too, but even for a chest-focused pressing movement, weighted dips are a better indicator of overall strength in the chest and shoulders.

Weighted dips - Bodyweight + 145 lbs for 8 reps

So if you work out a gym and someone asks, How much can you bench? Ask them how much they deadlift, or squat, or clean and jerk. They'll probably just give you a blank stare.


william harryman said...

Teeny Yogini posted this comment, but on the wrong post.

Cool vids! But I just wanted to note for any non-powerlifters reading this that the squat and the deadlift are being done with "gear" -- wrist wraps, knee wraps, belts and most importantly, lifting suits -- which allow one to lift MUCH higher numbers than you can "raw." I've never worn a lifting suit myself, but I understand they can dramatically up your pulls. Your ordinary joe (and Jane) is lucky to squat/deadlift 1.5 to 2 times their bodyweight . . . I'm working on it!

william harryman said...

Agreed. I have never used power lifting gear either, but I have seen others do so, and it certainly improves their lifts.

I can squat and deadlift 2x my bodyweight, do dips with bodyweight plus 125 lbs, and clean and jerk about 3/4 of my bodyweight.


Robyn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
william harryman said...

Hey Robyn,

Dips used to bother my shoulders a couple of years ago. But I stopped doing them for a while, did a lot of push-ups (which really strengthen the whole shoulder girdle) and worked on my overhead pressing. Now dips, even going really heavy, don't bother my shoulders as long as I keep the reps under 8-10 or so.

I think if you can do 12-15 reps with bodyweight, it's better to add weight and reduce the reps, as long as you are taking care of your shoulders (doing some light work for the rotator cuffs).

The most important thing is to keep your weight forward, bent hips, so that the chest is doing most of the work. Otherwise, the shoulders will suffer.