“Hey man, how much do you bench?”
This is a common question in any gym. One’s bench press max seems to have become the standard calculation for determining one’s strength. However, the question doesn’t really have a simple answer, according to fitness writer Mark Casselman
“Sure. You can stumble through some primitive mathematical calculations – like adding 10 pounds for every rep you get with a certain weight – or have your training partner supply a capricious estimation to impress the front desk hottie,” says Casselman.
But, he says, to get the most accurate accounting of your max bench press, you should try the NFL-225 test.
What is the NFL-225 Test?
The NFL-225 Test is part of the NFL Combine, which is a three day physical challenge for college players who are NFL hopefuls. The Combine allows NFL teams to watch previously studied players in greater detail. It includes several physical tests, including the NFL-225 Bench Press Test.
According to Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist Jimmy Smith, the NFL-225 is more a test of endurance than strength. There’s a common misconception that the ability to do more reps is an indication of strength, but Smith says that’s just not true. And, he says, those who judge the NFL hopefuls at the Combine don’t leave much room for error.
“The thing about the 225-bench test is that you must go all the way down and touch your chest while finishing with full lockout,” Smith points out. He says that the NFL Combine judges are pretty strict and don’t tolerate shortcuts like bouncing the weight off your chest.
Tighten Your Technique: More Weight, More Reps
Bench pressing your own body weight is a great way to get started, and will eventually help you to build up to the NFL-225 test. Make it your first long-term bench press goal (or short-term, if you’re not a beginner).
Combine trainer Andy Barnett agrees, also mentioning that if one can bench one’s own bodyweight for at least ten repetitions and in a controlled fashion, it can significantly improve your overall sports performance.
Once you can bench your own weight, you can work up from there. While you increase your reps, don’t forget to increase the weight in comfortable increments as well.
“If you’re doing a circuit that includes two sets of bench press, make it a point to have weight that challenges you for eight repetitions,” suggests fitness writer Pete Williams.
He advises that when doing consecutive sets, you combine them with a lower body exercise.
"Go for 10 reps in the first set, 8 in the second, and 6 in the third," Williams says. Be sure to adjust the weight too. This technique will challenge the muscles and still allow you to have proper form and technique.
Things to Consider
Never push yourself beyond your limits. Remember that over-training can cause injury and actually impede your progress. If you do find yourself with an injury, be sure to take at least 48 hours off (depending on the severity–longer if necessary) and eat plenty of protein during that time to help your muscles heal.
As with any type of exercise, discuss changes to your fitness routine with your doctor.