The bench press is a multi-joint movement and key strength development exercise for the pectoral (chest) muscles, shoulders and triceps. This movement is a determining factor in many athletic and sports events, such as the NFL combine, where NFL coaches ask prospective NFL players to test their bench press as a marker of fitness.
This exercise will help develop pure upper body strength, endurance and power. While many factors come into play in determining your bench press, such as training level, bodyweight, age and gender, there are certain benchmarks athletes should try to achieve when training their bench press.
Your bodyweight-to-bench-press ratio is dependent on your age, gender and level of fitness. For example, a man that is under 20 years old should be able to bench press greater than 1.34 times his bodyweight if he's in excellent condition.
According to the Cooper Institute for Aerobic Research, if a man is in fair to good condition, he should be able to bench 0.9 to 1.19 of their bodyweight. As age increases, strength declines.
For a female lifter, her best performance will come between the ages of 20 to 29 years old. A superior lift would be 0.81 of her bodyweight while a fair to good performance would be 0.52 to 0.7 of her bodyweight. As her age increases past 29 years old, her strength will typically decline.
How to Do a Bench Press
A study led by the University of Wisconsin in 2012 determined that the barbell bench press had the highest amount of muscle recruitment in the pectoral muscles compared to other chest exercises.
The barbell bench press is performed by lying on your back on a bench. Place a barbell in your hands with your hands shoulder-width apart. Take a deep breath in and take the bar off of the rack or, if not using a rack, push the bar up toward the ceiling.
Contract your abs as you lower the bar down with control so it touches your chest. Once the barbell touches your chest, push the bar up and away from your body until your elbows lock out as you breathe out.
While it is important to train the bench press to increase your one-rep max bench press, there are also additional exercises that can help increase your bench press.
The Standing Cable Press, where one stands up and uses a cable to press outward similar to a bench press, is an effective way to improve your one rep max bench press. The internal obliques and latissimus dorsi are improved by training the single-arm standing cable press. In addition, the standing band press activates ancillary muscles that will help support
A supplementary exercise that is beneficial to the bench press is the push-up. As the push-up activates the same pectoral pushing muscles while also activating your core, mimicking the same movement as the bench press. For added resistance, place a weight on your back while performing the push-up. Complementary exercises also include cable crossovers or a pec deck.
- American Council on Exercise: Top 3 Most Effective Chest Exercises
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: A Kinetic and Electromyographic Comparison of the Standing of the Standing Cable Press and Bench Press
- The Physical The Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research: Fitness Specialist Certification Manual