“Sir, how much do you bench?”- Every high school student ever who realises I lift weights.
Maybe I’m alone in this, or maybe I’m just not enough of a meathead, but I hate this question.
I want to take this question out to the paddock and quietly euthanise it, put it out of it’s misery.
In gyms all around the country men are erroneously completing half reps, barely bending their elbows, and stacking on too much weight, in a vain attempt to be able to boast to their friends, “Yeah bro, I totally benched over 100 today.”
Meanwhile every pull up they do is some warped variation of an epileptic kip where their body goes one way, and their legs go the other.
True, the bench press is a good evaluation of your upper body strength. The bench press can help you build immense power, incase you ever need to defeat a hulked up, maniacal super villain, and improve bone density to make sure that, when the world needs you again, you can rise from the ashes and protect the people you love.
And of course, how could you do the Pec Pop of love without banging pecs.
But if I’m a fan of the bench press, and I move heavy weights, why does that question send me into fanatical, rants and raves, or illicit a supercilious and ridiculously inaccurate response?
Because the number means nothing.
How much do I bench?
Do you want my 1 rep max, my 5 rep max, do you want to know how much I can bench press while reciting the alphabet backwards and gurgling on water?
Do you know what my form is like? Do I move my elbows or do I unrack the weight, shift it one inch, then re-rack it and jump around like a moron?
And most importantly, do you know what PERCENTAGE of my body weight I’m lifting? A 100kg guy lifting 100kg is nowhere near as impressive as a 50kg guy bench pressing 100kg.
In a recent T-Nation article, S&C legend Dan John set a series of ‘expected’ and ‘game changer’ values for men and women.
Expected: Bodyweight Bench Press
Game Changer: Bodyweight Bench Press for 15 reps
Game Changer: Bodyweight Bench Press
It’s not about the number, it’s about the percentage body weight moved.
This isn’t a cry against the bench press. Or a call to have it removed from gyms.
Like many other guys I love the rush of endorphins you get when you unrack a heavy bar, almost crush yourself to death and, at the last moment, find the will to drop the bar to your chest, then back up again before you have a hernia.
All I want is for people to stop asking me how much I bench.
Instead, ask me what percentage body weight I press.
It may not be as sexy, but it’s damn well more accurate.