Is 225 a good barbell bench press?

Is 225 a good bench?

It’s pretty normal to want to know how our bench press stacks up compared to other guys (see how strong is the average guy.)

Is benching two plates, 225 pounds (100kg) impressive? And what’s the road to get there, if you’re not there yet?

There are a few questions we need to answer first:

  • Who are we comparing ourselves to?
  • What does “impressive” mean to you?

And for our curiosity, we’ll look at what other strong guys can bench (college football teams, the elite military, etc.)


Compared to the average man in the USA

In 2018 the CDC published the “National Health Statistics Reports: Number 122” on the average American body. The latest statistics they had were from 2015–2016. The average male between the ages of 20 and 39 was:

  • 176 cm in height (5’8 feet tall)
  • 89.3 kg in weight (197 pounds heavy)
  • 98 cm waist circumference (38.5″ waist)

That would put the average young guy in the USA with a BMI at 30—not only overweight but class 1 obese.

And in a 2018 article in the Atlantic covering a study on push-ups with interviews on the researchers, a Mayo Clinic researcher Dr Michael Joyner said that he estimated that only about 20–30% of the average American could do a single push-up.

So is a 225 bench good? Well, compared to the average man in the West who can’t do a single push-up, I’d say it’s very good.


Is a 225 bench impressive?

What does impressive mean to you? The definition from Oxford is:

“evoking admiration through size, quality, or skill; grand, imposing, or awesome.”

In psychology, there is a law called the “Just noticeable difference” or the Weber–Fechner law.

It’s based on “perceived change.” For example, if you have 0 white hairs, and you get one white hair. You noticed a change. But if you already have 100 white hairs and get one more white hair, even though the same amount of hair turned white, you won’t notice a change.

A more relevant example would be if you worked out at an entry-level gym with total beginners, a 225 bench at that gym might be impressive. But if you go to an elite athletics gym, there are a lot of people benching 225 here, so your 225 bench wouldn’t be impressive. It’d be one white hair among many.

So the weaker and less-trained the person is that you’re talking to, the more impressive a 225 bench press would be. Obviously, there are factors like interest in lifting and whatnot. I doubt many women would care what you bench compared to other men as long as you’re sufficiently strong enough and healthy looking.

As far as impressing the average man, well, most can’t do a push-up. So I would imagine that they’d see a 225 bench as pretty impressive.


What do other strong guys bench?

While we don’t know what the average guy benches, we do have a number of studies that can tell us what specific people can bench.

In a 2009 study, researchers took American college football players to compare how their grip strength compared to their bench press. They found that the average teammate could do a 1RM bench of 123.90kg or 273 pounds.

StrongerByScience, a great website on training created by Greg Nuckols, asked his newsletter subscribers to fill out a survey about realistic training goals. Quoted from the survey results:

“The men training for less than 3 months, on average, benched 85kg (185-190lbs), and the men training for between 3 and 6 months benched 96kg (210lbs) on average, for a difference of about 3.4kg (7-8lbs) per month.”

Those numbers seemed really high to us, and Greg admitted they seemed high to him as well. My guess is that the audience of not only being interested in lifting but actively seeking out to learn more to find his newsletter skewed the results a bit higher. But you can see that even for someone who’s interested in lifting hasn’t reached a 225 bench even after training diligently for over half a year.

Public domain image of Special Operation Forces

In a 2018 review on “elite tactical units,” which included military special forces and SWAT teams, researchers looked at 14 studies on their fitness profiles. The researchers wrote:

“These units require their personnel to routinely perform at the highest level; above and beyond the expectations of civilians and regular tactical personnel (i.e. general soldiers or general-duties police officers). Consequently, their training is typically more demanding than that of elite athletes.”

What can they bench?

Depending on the study, they benched as low as 90kg (198 pounds) or as high as 106kg (233 pounds). Averaged out, it was 100kg (220 pounds).

These elite tactical units could also do an average of 61 push-ups in two minutes and 8 pull-ups.

I suspect that these guys aren’t training their bench press all day, and so those results are pretty impressive to me.


The road to a 225 bench

We know that with practice, you can rapidly improve your strength. Not only does your body get better at neurological firing and coordination, but over years of practice, your muscles will pull on your bone to make it better adapted for what you train it for. For example, if you bench press for years, your body will adapt to get better at that. We see this all the time, such as on Eric Cressey’s article on how swimmers get more angled collarbones and elevated shoulder blades, and baseball pitchers get flatter collarbones and lowered shoulder blades (scapular depression).

So, how long will it take to get your bench up to 225 pounds? Looking at the survey from StrongerByScience, it seems like guys were adding 7–8 pounds to their bench each month.

Now, obviously, growth isn’t linear. You may run into injuries, catch a cold, or run into a family emergency, etc.

There’s also the consideration of plateaus and diminishing returns. The closer you get to your genetic ceiling, the slower your results will be. This is why ectomorphs (skinny and skinny-fat) can get such rapid gains in muscle size and strength compared to an advanced lifter who’s been training hard for 15 years.

But let’s say you wanted to get from 135-pound bench to 225 pounds. You might use Greg’s survey results as a starting point and guess that it would take around 13 months of training at 7 pounds added each month or 11 months at 8 pounds per month.

So going from one-plate to two-plates? Based on what we know, I’d guess that it might take between a year or two of consistent and reasonably smart training.

What if you’re a skinny ectomorph? Well, your starting line has been moved back quite a bit. For example, I was only benching 75ish pounds for a couple reps when I first started lifting (I was dangerously underweight at 6’0 ft tall.) Even if I added 7 pounds to my bench every single month, it might take me nearly two years of focused lifting to get to two plates.

Don’t make the mistake I did

The key thing to remember is that your training should match your goals. Don’t expect your bench press to climb if you spend most of your training doing squats and deadlifts, like I did for a long time. If you want to get good at the bench press, you’ll need to spend a lot of time benching and pressing in general using a wide variety of rep-ranges, loads, and with a lot of assistance work for variety.


Stubborn chests, grip width, and assistance exercises for the bench press

Some guys have shorter collarbones, and so it makes it harder for their chest to activate, like me. My arms love jumping into any sort of pressing motion. Some guys have longer collarbones, and their chests are easily activated, but they might end up having more stubborn arms.

If you find that your bench press and chest, in general, is lagging, there are lots of tweaks that you can do to get your bench press and chest bigger and stronger.

For example, take a look at this illustration from Shane and Marco’s article about the bench press over at Outlift:

Outlift Bench Illustration
Illustration from Outlift.com

“What we see here is that the standard bench press creates longer moment arms between our collarbones and the barbell, making the lift harder on our shoulders and upper chests. Then, with the wide-grip bench press, we see that the moment arms between our sternum and arms are a little bit longer, making the lift a bit harder on our mid and lower chests.”

So using a wider-grip, even if it means going down in weight for a few weeks, will cause a better stimulus on your chest, allowing you to build up a better bench press.

I’d highly recommend checking out “The Bench Press guide” on Outlift, if you want to learn more about the bench press, using exercise variety like the dumbbell bench press and weighted push-ups for optimal gains, and using assistance exercises like pause bench presses, close-grip bench press, and more to keep increasing your bench press strength as you get stronger.

Otherwise, if you’re looking to get bigger and stronger in general, but don’t know where to get started—check out our True Gains lifting and nutrition program for men.

True Gains Program

43 thoughts on “Is 225 a good bench?”

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  4. Depends how you look at it. If your goals are not strength focused, or your a smaller man like under 160lbs then yes 225 is a good bench. But if your working out regularly with weights in a attempt to become bigger and stronger then 225 should be a goal for your first year of working out. Back in highschool 225 was the goal for most of the freshman and jv football team. By the time we were seniors 300 was the goal. I would say 315 is probably a good attainable strength goal for the average man who’s interested in strength training in he’s first 3-5 years.

    1. Totally. But if you’re playing high school football, you’re already in a niche group of young athletic men interested in hard-hitting contact sports. You’re already much, much stronger than average.

      That 300 pound senior year bench would make you 35% stronger than the average guy in the Elite Tactical Units—that’s pretty damn good to me in terms of bench press strength.

      But yeah, if you’re into strength training, you’re entering a new world to compete in. (For example, Hafthor Björnsson benching 550 pounds—absolutely insane.)

        1. Hey Russell,

          I haven’t come across any data on that.

          As we age, we run into the issue of sarcopenia—which is age related muscle loss. So the older a person gets, without any intervention, the weaker they’ll get. (You can delay this through weightlifting, eating a high-protein diet, sleep, maintaining mitochondrial health, etc.)

          This is a ballpark, but if the average weight of someone from the USA is 196 pounds. A push-up is loosely 65% of your total bodyweight (source).

          And only 20-30% of the population can do a push-up. And this study found that men bench 63% less reps than they can do of push-ups.

          I’d put a really, really loose number that 20% of the USA population can do a push-up (127 pounds of load) and according to one 2020 study, we bench 63% less reps compared to push-ups.

          So, it might be that many people may only be able to bench 80 pounds for 12 reps. Through a 1-RM max calculator, that’s around 111 pounds for a 1-RM bench press max of average male American (as a suuuuuuper rough estimate.) I believe it’s only natural to assume 70-year olds would be lower than that.

          This is all just a thought experiment, it may have no mark on reality whatsoever. (And obviously, a 70-year-old man who’s been lifting weights his whole life may be pretty damn strong!)

          Are you 70? What can you bench?

          1. I am 71 and benchpress 225.5lbs (102.5kg).
            However at present i am stuck on 96kg and can’t seem to go up. I train from home.

          2. Hey Danny,

            Great bench! I hope that I’m in that condition to be able to bench that weight when I’m in my seventies!

            If you’re benching heavy, could be worth switching things up a bench lighter in the 10-12 rep territory. I like the reverse pyramid progression. May even try and build some new mass. New research on older guys find that they can build muscle pretty good too. Focusing on lots of meat. (Some studies show good results with creatine on older folk.)

          3. I am 74 benchpress 225 10 rips easily could do quite a bit more than that 315 10 Reps before I got her a year ago and I’ve only been lifting for around five years but used to live when I was young

        2. My guess is less than 150. But equal to or more than 125.
          Pretty pathetic, avg, 70 y.o. is roughly the same as,…say 14 -15 year old.

          1. I’d suspect that’s fairly close.

            Average life expectancy is in the 70s, so it makes sense that the average 70-year-old wouldn’t be too strong by this point.

            But I don’t know if it’s pathetic—different strengths for different seasons of life.

      1. This is a lot of BS. If you’re only going up 7 to 8 pounds a month in your Max bench as a beginner you doing something wrong. I don’t know this from a study I know this from experience for myself and people I have trained with. Weight lifting is like anything else you get out of it what you put in …and if your training, diet, and rest are on point A conservative estimate would be 15 pounds and that’s being very conservative .

        1. Hey Travis,

          Those results are from an 1,800 person survey from StrongerByScience. The guy who ran the survey, Greg Nuckols, worked at Juggernaut Training, and runs one of the top research reviews with Eric Helms. It seems legit to me.

          That said, it doesn’t surprise me that your personal experience shows better results than an average.

          In an average, some people will have gained a lot more strength, some a lot less.

          You might have great discipline and great genetics. You might have made more sacrifices in hitting your diet goals. You might be more torso dominant and less limb dominant—who knows.

          Either way, glad to hear what you’re doing is working out for you, keep it up man!

  5. I am not 70, only 67. Bodyweight around 163 lbs, height 5 ft 6 ins. I only do reps on bench. My recent best is 14 reps with 198 lbs, in fairly good style, but without pausing. Which is equivalent to a single of about 286 lbs. But I have worked out most of my life and am weaker on other lifts, eg . I can only deadlift 330 lbs.

    1. Badass. I hope to have quality strength like that at your age. A 3-plate deadlift+ is strong in my books, especially at 67. Seems like most 50 year olds (maybe even some 40 year olds…) would have hard time lifting a bag of concrete, let alone 330 pounds.

    2. I’m 66, 182 pounds , 5′ 9. I bench press 225 pounds 20 reps. I take and 80 second break, Then do 16 reps on my 2nd set. 3rd 4th and 5th sets are between 12 and 14 Reps.

  6. Have to admit, too lazy to read the whole article, but going of the headline short answer is NO. 225 is a decent bench if your focus is not strength training. If it is, 225 should be 135, essentially nothing but warmup weight. Speaking as someone who is in the mid upper 3s, 405 isn’t even all that impressive when you get around truly strong people.

    1. Definitely. Your gym/crew will define what is “normal” to you.

      But you’re definitely benching over 100+ pounds more than the averaged out numbers from elite tactical units—sounds pretty damn strong to me.

      1. I’m 62 and last year I had a 425 bench press and I get 20 reps with 225 for warm ups I also do flys with 100 lbs 3 sets of 10 I’ve been working out for 48 years

    2. “Elite tactical units” are not a great comparison for raw strength. They have some monsters for sure, but their training focus is on endurance which is detrimental to absolute strength. These guys do a ton of running, bodyweight exercises, and long road marches with a heavy ruck.
      Any guy with normal testosterone levels should be able to bench 225 within the first year of consistant strength training using any smart linear progression program. Lift heavy, be consistent, add weight every time you lift, and get enough groceries in you and you’ll get there pretty quickly. Another year or so after that you should be getting close to 300.

      1. Let’s say I invite 15,000 regular Americans to a stadium to watch you bench against a strong guy on a SWAT team, and you crush him. Then we asked the audience if you are you good at benching—what would the answer be?

        I covered your point in the article, which is fair. Inside elite gyms, 225 may (and will likely be) an entry level lift. That doesn’t make it any less “good” in the grand scheme of things.

        With a 225 bench, you have the raw press strength needed to handle the unpredictable circumstances that the men in these elite units need to face. And for a man seeking well-rounded strength, maybe he ought to do some conditioning as you mentioned.

        1. I agree with your article that the answer completely depends on who is being compared to as the standard. For an average untrained male 225 is very good (though I would argue not “impressive”). For the elderly or females that is very good and quite impressive. For the average gym goer that is a good milestone.

          When you start comparing to athletes there will also be mixed answers. A 225 bench would be impressive for a marathon runner, but very subpar for a football lineman. On that spectrum elite military and police units will usually be somewhere in the middle but tend to be a little closer to the marathon runner. Bench pressing isn’t really relevant to the missions that soldiers or police have to perform. Their jobs require more generalized fitness and endurance.

          So it is true that there is a perception of special operations soldiers being strong, but I’ve know a lot of them that were pretty skinny and relatively weak (though they did ultra marathons on the weekends for fun).

          My point was more that 225 isn’t this massive number that is only obtainable by elite athletes. Stating that elite tactical units average 220 makes it seem like that number may be out of reach for most people as the men in these units tend to be above average athletes. Any male in their prime should be able to reach that benchmark (see what I did there?) with a little bit of structure and consistency, even skinny ectomorphs.

          By the way keep squatting and dead lifting too as that helps promote natural testosterone and growth hormone production which will aid in muscle growth in the whole body.

          1. Hey Allen,

            I think we found some common ground—I agree with all your points. Yes, even skinny ectomorphs can gain enough muscle to hit 225—even for many, many reps. It’s attainable for many with enough effort and focus.

          2. I’m 55 and have been benching and working out continuously since I was 19. In my 20s I could throw 315 up for 7 to 10 reps and 225 warm up reps of 15 to 20. Over the years my shoulders started bothering me. So now I only decline bench. My work out consists of 15 reps of 135, 5 reps of 205, and then 7 to 9 sets of 275 of 6 to 8 reps. Consistency is the key. But be aware, over time the flat bench will wear on your shoulders. It will happen to all of us eventually…just adjust your work out routine.

  7. Love the internet. People are really bad at math. A gym where 405 isn’t impressive? There is a lot of juice being passed around in that place! Most combine RB’S, DB’s, OLB’s, TE’s and Edge rushers can’t hit 405. 405 proper bench press is an AMAZING, near world class bench clean, and still very impressive if you are on steroids/HGH. And what high school are all these guys at were the average players’ goal was 300? I played DII ball in college. Take away the hogs (interior lineman) and maybe 5-10% could hit a 315 bench proper… Everyone was Superman in the past. I think I am gonna go listen to Bruce Springsteen’s classic Glory Days. Now in reality, 6-8 pounds of newbie gains a month for six months is respectable and pretty standard for a guy who eats right and sticks with the plan. That is 36-48 pounds of gains in six months. Completely respectable, in fact a success, if you are clean and beginning. Next a proper 225 bench isn’t an amazing accomplishment. But nothing to laugh at or feel embarrassed about. You have probably 80% of the men out there beat (not 80% of gym goers, but 80 percent of the general population, including many gym goers).

  8. I started lifting when I was 16. I got a Sears weight set for Christmas. I was about 5′ 10″ and 135. I could bench press 65 lbs for about 10 reps. By the time I was 20 I was 6’1″ 205 and could bench pretty close to 300. I’m 56 and even after taking several years off just did 280 for 5 reps in my basement. Start and stick with it.

  9. Ive always been curious about this stuff because im rather competitve. Its all mindset and dedication so if you want to “be it” or “do it” then “live it!” So surround yourself by people who are doing the same. Thats what i did about 8years ago.. and all along the way i was curious how i “stacked up” . I remember reading somewhere that the average american male weighed 165lbs and could also bench 165lbs. Anywho, now im 36 5ft10 and 233lbs and i hit 500lbs raw on the flat bench for the very 1st time this past monday (09/14/20). 8 years ago i was really over weight 270lbs and a size 44 waist but i could bench 350lbs one time. So thats roughly 18lbs a year? Just a basis of comparison. i read some of your comments on here in regard to gains and it was def different every year.I had 1 year i only gained 5lbs on my bench . =/

    1. I hear you Phillip, some years are a slog when it comes to gains. Those years where you only add 5 pounds are definitely tough. Sounds like, overall, you’re doing quite amazingly. Cool to hear about your general pace too.

  10. Ok , I am 58.5 years old I can bench 225 for 27 reps I can bench 275 for 15 reps . Wkat does that calculate to in a one Rep Max. By the way I am 6’3″ 320 lbs . I have benched 507.1 at a meet back in July. It still seems with those rep numbers it should be more. Touch and go in tbe gym 515

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