How Much Should You Be Able To Bench Press?

When it comes to bench pressing, knowing how much you should be able to lift depends on your experience level, body weight, and gender.

As a quick guide: beginners should aim for 0.5 to 0.74 times their body weight (men) and 0.25 times (women), intermediates 0.75 to 1.24 times (men) and 0.50 to 0.75 times (women), and advanced lifters 1.25 times or more (men) and 1.00 to 1.25 times (women).

Keep reading for a detailed breakdown to help you set and achieve your bench press goals.

Understanding Your Experience Level

Understanding your experience level is key to determining how much you should be able to bench press.

By categorizing yourself as a beginner, intermediate, or advanced lifter, you can set realistic and achievable goals tailored to your current abilities and training history.


A beginner lifter is someone who is new to strength training or has been training consistently for less than six months.

At this stage, the focus is on building a foundation of strength and learning proper form.

For male beginners, the expected bench press range is typically 0.5 to 0.74 times their body weight.

For instance, if a man weighs 160 pounds, he should aim to bench press between 80 to 120 pounds.

Female beginners, on the other hand, should aim for about 0.25 times their body weight.

So, if a woman weighs 140 pounds, she should start with around 35 pounds.

To give you a clearer picture, let’s look at some examples:

  • A 180-pound man: 90 to 133 pounds.
  • A 120-pound woman: 30 pounds.

Beginners should focus on gradually increasing the weight they lift while ensuring they maintain proper form to avoid injuries.

Consistency in training, combined with proper technique, will help beginners make steady progress.

Intermediate Lifters

Intermediate lifters have usually been training consistently for six months to two years.

They have moved beyond the initial stages of building basic strength and are now looking to increase their lifting capacity more significantly.

For men at this level, the expected bench press range is about 0.75 to 1.24 times their body weight.

For example, a man weighing 160 pounds might bench press between 120 to 198 pounds.

Women should aim for approximately 0.50 to 0.75 times their body weight, so a 140-pound woman should lift between 70 to 105 pounds.

Let’s break it down further with examples:

  • A 200-pound man: 150 to 248 pounds.
  • A 150-pound woman: 75 to 113 pounds.

Intermediate lifters should incorporate progressive overload into their training, gradually increasing the weight they lift to continue building strength.

This stage also allows for more variation in workouts, such as incorporating different bench press angles (incline and decline) to target various muscle groups.

Advanced Lifters

Advanced lifters have been training consistently for over two years and have developed significant strength and muscle mass.

They have refined their technique and are capable of lifting heavy weights.

Men at this level can typically bench press about 1.25 times their body weight or more.

For instance, a man weighing 160 pounds might be able to bench 200 pounds or more.

Advanced female lifters often bench press around 1.00 to 1.25 times their body weight, so a woman weighing 140 pounds should aim for 140 to 175 pounds.

Here are some specific examples:

  • A 220-pound man: 275 pounds or more.
  • A 180-pound woman: 180 to 225 pounds.

Advanced lifters need to focus on maintaining proper form and preventing injuries, as they handle heavier weights.

Incorporating accessory exercises that target supporting muscles and ensuring adequate recovery time are crucial for continued progress and avoiding plateaus.

Determining Your Body Weight Bench Press Ratio

Determining your body weight bench press ratio is a crucial step in understanding how much weight you should be able to lift.

This ratio helps set realistic and personalized goals, ensuring that your training is both effective and safe.

Calculating Your Bench Press Ratio

Calculating your bench press ratio is straightforward. It involves dividing the weight you can bench press by your body weight.

For example, if you weigh 160 pounds and can bench press 120 pounds, your bench press ratio is 120 divided by 160, which equals 0.75.

This ratio is significant because it provides a benchmark relative to your body weight, allowing you to set achievable and progressive goals.

Instead of comparing yourself to others, you can focus on improving your own ratio, which is a more personalized and accurate measure of strength.

To calculate your ratio:

  1. Weigh yourself to get your current body weight.
  2. Determine the maximum weight you can lift for one repetition (one-rep max).
  3. Divide the bench press weight by your body weight.

For instance, if you weigh 140 pounds and can bench press 70 pounds, your ratio is 70/140 = 0.5.

Knowing your bench press ratio helps in setting incremental targets, which can be adjusted as you progress.

It also allows you to track your improvements over time and ensure that you are lifting within your capacity to avoid injuries.

Examples Based on Common Body Weights

To make this concept clearer, let's look at some practical examples for both men and women across different weight categories.

For men:

  • A 150-pound man who can bench press 112.5 pounds has a ratio of 0.75.
  • A 180-pound man who can bench press 180 pounds has a ratio of 1.0.
  • A 200-pound man who can bench press 250 pounds has a ratio of 1.25.

For women:

  • A 120-pound woman who can bench press 60 pounds has a ratio of 0.5.
  • A 140-pound woman who can bench press 105 pounds has a ratio of 0.75.
  • A 160-pound woman who can bench press 160 pounds has a ratio of 1.0.

These examples show how different body weights and lifting capacities translate into various ratios.

Adjusting your expectations based on these examples can help set realistic and personalized goals.

Your training history also plays a vital role.

If you’ve been lifting for a shorter period, your initial ratios might be lower, but they will improve with consistent training.

Conversely, those with more lifting experience should aim for higher ratios, reflecting their advanced level of strength.

The Role of Gender in Bench Press Standards

Gender plays a significant role in bench press standards due to physiological differences between men and women.

Understanding these differences helps set realistic expectations and training goals tailored to each gender.

Physiological Differences

Men and women differ in several key physiological aspects that affect strength and muscle mass.

Generally, men have a higher percentage of muscle mass compared to women, largely due to higher levels of testosterone, a hormone that plays a crucial role in muscle development.

This hormonal difference results in men typically having greater upper body strength, which is essential for bench pressing.

Women, while generally having a higher percentage of body fat, can still build significant strength with proper training.

However, their muscle mass is usually distributed differently, with a relatively lower concentration in the upper body compared to men.

This doesn't mean women cannot excel in bench pressing; rather, their benchmarks will be different due to these inherent physiological differences.

Bench Press Standards for Men vs. Women

Bench press standards vary significantly between men and women due to these physiological differences.

For men, the expected bench press weight is generally higher across all experience levels.

For male beginners, the typical bench press range is 0.5 to 0.74 times their body weight.

As an example, a man weighing 160 pounds should aim to lift between 80 to 120 pounds.

For women at the beginner level, the range is about 0.25 times their body weight, meaning a 140-pound woman should aim for around 35 pounds.

At the intermediate level, men should aim for 0.75 to 1.24 times their body weight.

A 160-pound man would therefore bench between 120 to 198 pounds.

Women at this level should target 0.50 to 0.75 times their body weight, so a 140-pound woman should lift between 70 to 105 pounds.

Advanced male lifters can typically bench press 1.25 times their body weight or more.

For instance, a 160-pound man might lift 200 pounds or more.

Advanced female lifters, on the other hand, often bench press 1.00 to 1.25 times their body weight.

A 140-pound woman should aim for 140 to 175 pounds.

Addressing common questions and misconceptions is crucial in this context.

Many people believe that women cannot achieve significant strength gains in bench pressing due to their lower upper body muscle mass.

However, with consistent training, proper nutrition, and progressive overload, women can make substantial progress.

It’s essential to focus on personal growth rather than comparing oneself to others, recognizing that individual progress varies widely.

Age and Weight Class Considerations

Age and weight class are important factors that significantly influence bench press capability.

Understanding how these factors affect your strength can help you set realistic goals and tailor your training program effectively.

Impact of Age on Bench Press Capability

As we age, our muscle mass and strength tend to decline, a process known as sarcopenia.

This natural loss of muscle mass begins around the age of 30 and accelerates after the age of 60.

Consequently, older lifters might not be able to lift as much as their younger counterparts, but this doesn’t mean they can’t achieve impressive strength gains with proper training and nutrition.

Younger lifters, especially those in their teens and twenties, often have higher relative strength due to peak hormone levels and muscle mass.

For example, a 20-year-old male weighing 160 pounds might easily bench press 1.0 to 1.5 times his body weight.

However, as lifters enter their 30s and beyond, maintaining this level of performance requires more focused effort on strength training and recovery.

Age-specific benchmarks can help set realistic expectations. For instance:

  • Teens (13-19 years): Rapid strength gains can be achieved with proper training, often lifting close to or above their body weight.
  • Young Adults (20-29 years): Peak strength years, with many able to bench press 1.0 to 1.5 times their body weight.
  • Adults (30-39 years): Strength levels can be maintained or even improved with consistent training, aiming for similar ratios as in their 20s.
  • Middle-Aged (40-59 years): Slight declines might occur, but strength can still be significantly high, often bench pressing around 0.8 to 1.2 times their body weight.
  • Seniors (60+ years): Focus on maintaining muscle mass and overall strength, with expectations adjusted to around 0.5 to 0.8 times body weight, depending on health and training history.

Adjusting your training to include adequate rest, proper nutrition, and exercises targeting muscle maintenance can help mitigate age-related declines.

Incorporating resistance training and staying active are key to maintaining strength as you age.

Influence of Weight Class

Weight classes are used in competitive lifting to ensure fairness and balanced competition.

They group lifters of similar body weights to compete against each other, providing a level playing field.

Your weight class can significantly influence your bench press standards, as strength relative to body weight varies across different classes.

In general, lifters in lower weight classes tend to have higher relative strength compared to those in higher weight classes.

This means that lighter individuals might lift a greater percentage of their body weight than heavier individuals.

For example, a man in the 132-pound weight class might bench press 1.25 to 1.5 times his body weight, whereas a man in the 220-pound class might aim for 1.0 to 1.25 times his body weight.

Understanding how weight class affects your benchmarks can help set realistic goals:

  • Lightweight lifters (e.g., 132-148 pounds): Typically have high relative strength, often lifting 1.25 to 1.5 times their body weight.
  • Middleweight lifters (e.g., 165-198 pounds): Aim for 1.0 to 1.25 times body weight.
  • Heavyweight lifters (e.g., 220+ pounds): Focus on lifting close to or slightly above their body weight, around 1.0 to 1.2 times.

These variations occur because as body weight increases, the additional mass is not purely muscle, impacting the overall strength-to-weight ratio.

Lifters in higher weight classes often have more absolute strength but lower relative strength compared to their lighter counterparts.

Progressive Overload and Training Variations

To continually improve your bench press performance, it's essential to incorporate progressive overload and training variations into your routine.

These methods ensure that your muscles are consistently challenged, helping you break through plateaus and achieve your strength goals.

Importance of Progressive Overload

Progressive overload is the gradual increase of stress placed on your muscles during exercise.

This concept is crucial for building muscle and strength, as your body adapts to the increased demands by growing stronger.

Without progressive overload, your muscles won't receive the necessary stimulus to improve, leading to stagnation.

To apply progressive overload to your bench press routine, follow these practical tips:

  1. Incremental Weight Increases: Gradually add small amounts of weight to your bench press. This could be as little as 2.5 to 5 pounds per week. The key is to increase the weight in manageable increments that allow you to maintain proper form.
  2. Increase Repetitions or Sets: If adding weight isn’t feasible, try increasing the number of repetitions or sets. For example, if you’re currently doing three sets of eight reps, try to increase to three sets of ten reps before adding more weight.
  3. Adjust Training Frequency: Another way to apply progressive overload is by increasing the frequency of your bench press workouts. If you bench press once a week, consider increasing to twice a week, allowing adequate recovery time between sessions.
  4. Enhance Time Under Tension: Slow down the eccentric (lowering) phase of the bench press to increase the time your muscles are under tension. This method can intensify your workout without immediately increasing the weight.

By consistently applying progressive overload, you can ensure continuous improvement and avoid hitting performance plateaus.

Training Variations

Incorporating different bench press variations into your routine can target various muscle groups and add diversity to your workouts.

This approach helps in overall muscle development and prevents overuse injuries.

Incline Bench Press: This variation targets the upper portion of your pectoral muscles.

By adjusting the bench to an incline (typically 30-45 degrees), you shift the focus to the upper chest and shoulders. To perform an incline bench press:

  • Set the bench at an incline.
  • Use a lighter weight than your flat bench press since this angle is more challenging.
  • Perform the press with the same form as a flat bench press, focusing on controlling the weight throughout the movement.

Decline Bench Press: This variation emphasizes the lower part of your pectoral muscles.

By setting the bench to a decline, you can engage the lower chest more effectively.

To perform a decline bench press:

  • Set the bench at a decline.
  • Use a secure foot placement to ensure stability.
  • Execute the press with proper form, maintaining control and focusing on the lower chest engagement.

Benefits of Incorporating Variations:

  1. Balanced Muscle Development: Different angles target different muscle fibers, promoting balanced growth across your chest.
  2. Prevention of Plateaus: Variations keep your workouts fresh and challenging, helping to prevent stagnation.
  3. Reduced Injury Risk: Changing up exercises can prevent overuse injuries by varying the stress placed on your muscles and joints.

Example Workout Routine:

  • Day 1: Flat Bench Press (4 sets of 8 reps)
  • Day 2: Incline Bench Press (3 sets of 10 reps)
  • Day 3: Decline Bench Press (3 sets of 10 reps)

By incorporating these variations, you can ensure comprehensive development of your chest muscles and maintain steady progress in your bench press performance.


Consistently applying progressive overload and incorporating training variations are key to improving your bench press performance.

By understanding your experience level, calculating your bench press ratio, and considering age and weight class, you can set realistic goals tailored to your needs.

Stay committed to your training, and you'll see steady progress in your strength and muscle development.