How Much Can the Average Man Bench?

Note: since this entry was first written in 2014 there has been some new data added to several sites on this topic that you may want to check out. 

  • Strengthlevel.com has a chart of bench press standards based on their users (nearly 6 million to date). 
  • Livestrong.com has a good article on how much weight the average man can lift.  They cite Lon Kilgore, a researcher at the University of the West of Scotland’s Institute for Clinical Exercise and Health Science as a source. 
  • My original research include information from Men’s Health as well as the Center for Disease Control in the USA. 

Somewhere recently I was either blogging or telling someone that at one time I was actually able to bench press 350 pounds (1 rep only, never tried again, and I need to find some documentation on this – you know how memory plays tricks I know I was at 315 once for sure).  Which got me to wondering what can the average guy press? Not important in the everyday world but I’ll bet that if you talk to someone who’s obviously muscular sooner or later you’re going to ask “what can you bench?” More than any other exercise or activity it’s the universal measure of strength in most people’s minds.

The truth, as best as I can figure from my research, is actually somewhat surprising for me. When asking “how much can the average man bench” the short answer turns out to be no one really knows because the average man doesn’t do bench presses and is considered untrained! This is hard to believe on Mondays at the gym, of course, when it seems that every guy in town is waiting for a bench, but I’m sure it’s true. So, from the few studies that have been done I’ve found that among those men who do bench press the stats look something like this:

Pounds the average 175-pound man (aka : average weight, average height is 5’9 1/2) can bench press at one time:

Age: 20-29 – 180 lbs

Age: 30-39  – 158 lbs

Age: 40-49 – 143 lbs

Age: 50-59  – 128 lbs

Age: 60-69 – 116 lbs

Note: taking an average from this gives the result that the average male, ages between 20 and 69 can bench press 145 lbs.

So, from the above I was way above average ranges, not only for my age group but for all age groups! Of course I’m above average height (in North America at least) and well above average weight as well. But, even at my heaviest weight, the fact that I could bench press more than I weigh (by about 70 pounds – you can do the math) also puts me well above the average man who cannot bench his own bodyweight. Of course, at least one article I read said that to be considered strong a man should be able to bench 1.5 times his body weight. In my case that means that currently I’d need to get my bench up to 340 pounds in which case I should just go for my old max of 350 lbs. Or, I suppose, better yet, get my weight down to 200 lbs and then I only need to get back to a 300 lb max! Since I’m several years older option two may be the most reasonable.  But I know that even in my current out of shape condition I’m still above the norm of any age group – not bad for a geezer!

Sounds like a new goal for me. Onward!

Stupid Weight Lifting Tricks…

Okay, I probably shouldn’t even admit this one – but I tried something I hadn’t done in a long time but I’m curious if anyone else has done some odd or downright stupid things in the pursuit of muscle… So, today I had a long drive to drop off something to someone on the other side of the state – we met halfway, but it still meant a little over three hours on the road. Since I would be in car with essentially nothing to do but drive on the expressway and listen to the radio I took along a 15 lb dumbell and performed curls (one arm at a time) while driving to see how many reps I could get in! I learned this trick from my training partner who was once in retail and spent a lot of time on the road. He developed some extreme bicep peaks during this period of time (I know much is genetic) as well as muscle stamina so I’ve occasionally done this on long trips. Of course, I don’t recommend doing this as driving is an inherently dangerous activity and requires concentration. But, on those long stretches with light traffice (I never do this in the city and/or heavy traffice, construction zones, while merging, etc) I figure it’s probably a safer activity than talking on the cell phone and much of the other crazy things you see drivers doing these days. So, on reflection I promise not to do this anymore (unless I’m the passenger) but does anyone else have any odd/weird things they’ve tried in the pursuit of muscle? It might be entertaining to share stories!