Few exercises stir up as much weight room bravado as the bench press — sometimes, it feels like "How much do you bench?" is the gym equivalent to "Hi, what's your name?"
But don't get too bent out of shape over numbers. As kinesiology professor Stuart Phillips told the Chicago Tribune in a July 2012 interview, "Consistent practice combined with good nutrition and practicing good form and working to fatigue — no matter what the load — is what makes up the majority of results."
So while average figures can help you find a starting point or a barometer, it's essential to focus on the "your" when talking about your workout.
Average Bench Press
As of 2017, the most recent data from the Center's for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics puts the average American woman's weight at 170.5 pounds, while the average male clocks in at 197.8 pounds. With that info in hand — or your own stats in mind — you can pop on over to the National Strength and Conditioning Association-approved ExRx.net official Bench Press Standards chart.
For a 198-pound man — a very close match for the national average — who has no experience benching whatsoever, ExRx.net places the standard at 135 pounds. That jumps up to 175 for a novice and 215 for an intermediate lifter. At the advanced level, the number is 290 pounds.
Meanwhile, the average bench press standard for an untrained woman who weighs 165 pounds is a bench of 80 pounds, or 95 for a novice. For an intermediately experienced woman of average weight, the standard is 115 pounds, or 145 pounds for an advanced lifter.
Your Workout, Your Weight
Though ExRx.net's chart serves as a handy rough guideline for fitness enthusiasts, newbies and trainers alike, knowing the average isn't the be-all and end-all.
Going back to Phillips, his findings — published as a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology in July 2016 — reveal that lifting three sets of weight at 30 percent of your one-rep maximum (the amount of weight you can lift, at most, for a single repetition) actually makes for more muscle gains than lifting at 80 percent of your maximum.
In his Chicago Tribune interview, the professor lays his well-researched findings out flat:
"I think a lot of the variables in a resistance training program — rest, sets, loads and other variables — are largely redundant in their capacity to bring about strength and (bigger muscles). Get to the weight room, consistently practice, work to fatigue — this is 80 percent of the job."
Use Proper Form
It's important to use proper form when bench pressing, not only for more accurate measures of your average bench press, but also to help prevent injury.
- Lie on your back on the weight bench with the barbell roughly at eye level.
- Plant your feet firmly on the floor and tighten your abs.
- Unrack the bar and straighten your elbows. Bring the bar over your mid-chest.
- Lower the bar until it lightly touches your chest; then press back up.
- Chicago Tribune: "Light Lifting, Big Muscles?"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "National Center for Health Statistics: Body Measurements"
- ExRx.net: "Bench Press Standards"
- Journal of Applied Physiology: "Neither Load nor Systemic Hormones Determine Resistance Training-Mediated Hypertrophy or Strength Gains in Resistance-trained Young Men"
- ExRx.net: "Barbell Bench Press"