The question of the best amount to bench press is akin to asking, “How long is a piece of string?” Of course, there's almost an infinite number of possible answers. Still, unless you are looking to be the first Nestie to fly the coop into the NFL -- where you’d need to bench at least 15 to 50 reps of 225 pounds -- an appropriate weight can be a far more modest number.
If you know your weight, it’s that simple -- that’s the instant goal for you. “If you're a female, and you can press your body weight once, that's really good,” says Brandon Franklin, a certified personal trainer at Mac Harbor East, a leading Baltimore, Maryland, gym. Should Mr. Nestie join you at the bench, with his greater upper-body musculature he should be able to manage six to 10 reps of his body weight to get a passing grade on general fitness.
Your Body Composition
Your ideal amount to bench press depends also where you are now in terms of size and strength. “If you're an 85-pound woman, it’s a lot easier to bench press 85 pounds, than to be a 200-pound woman trying to bench 200 pounds,” Franklin notes. Your results also depend on whether you are mostly muscle or mostly fat, he adds. The average woman in the United States in her 20s or 30s weighs around 160 pounds, so that gives you a rough idea of an average for an appropriate amount to bench.
The Novice Nestie
If you’ve never benched before, you’ll need to start most likely at around half your body weight. So if you weigh 160 pounds, try to hoist 80 pounds -- the 45-pound bar loaded with appropriate weight plates -- if you are untrained, and 95 pounds if you are a novice, recommends ExRx.net, an online exercise library aimed at fitness professionals and exercisers. If you are a tiny Nestie at 105 pounds, go for benching 55 pounds to start, and more like 90 to 95 pounds if you’re a big, 200-pound woman.
Franklin advises starting light with just the bar, rather than loading up at first. Add a plate on each side and gradually build to your maximum for one repetition. Next, you can back down to a bar loaded with 50 to 70 percent of your body weight for six to 10 reps. Perform an empty-bar warm-up set, a set with the bar loaded lightly and then two to three sets with the bar at 85 percent of your one-rep maximum to increase your maximum weight or number of repetitions in the bench press.
An award-winning writer and editor, Rogue Parrish has worked at the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun and at newspapers from England to Alaska. This world adventurer and travel book author, who graduates summa cum laude in journalism from the University of Maryland, specializes in travel and food -- as well as sports and fitness. She's also a property manager and writes on DIY projects.