Bench Press Challenge

bench press challenge

Here’s challenge number two.

It started with the deadlift challenge: bodyweight on the bar for two sets, one set for max reps without rest, one set for max reps in three minutes.

Good times all around.

A day after this challenge I tackled the bench.

Now I love to bench press.

Here’s a secret: I’ve considered getting breast implants but would never would. One reason is I’d have to give up my beloved bench press for the six to eight weeks of recovery.  But, if I considered implants, I’d get a ‘DD’ so I wouldn’t have to move the weight so far on a bench press and I’d have a massive bench.


bench press


Clearly my priorities are whacked. Having a massive bench is more important to me than having a massive chest… BTW, I won’t be getting implants now or ever. =)

Now that you know a little too much about me, I’ll tell you about the bench press…

It’s a great compound movement that engages the chest, shoulders, triceps, serratus and back muscles. It’s been known to be the definition of upper body strength, although I take issue with this to a certain extent. Anyone entering a gym, (men in particular) are often challenged with the question, ‘how much do you bench?’

Out of curiosity, I did some research on training for strength-endurance with the bench press and there’s not as much info out there as you’d think. Getting that one rep max seems to be the ‘be all end all’ in the bench pressing world.

To that end, if you’re interested in comparisons, here’s an abbreviated set of standards, one of many out there. Check out your body weight on the left and see what you could be pressing for a single rep.

How do you measure up?

bench press

I feel a better measure of fitness is more than purely a strength question. Strength doesn’t always equate in real life. For example, I knew a man that was a power lifting champion totally well over 1700 lbs in the ‘big three’ power lifts. I worried one day going up some stairs with him when I thought I’d have to revive him after only one flight.

Most people that train for strength aren’t necessarily in need of strength alone. What most want is strength-endurance. People that use programs that focus on increasing a one rep max (as in some powerlifting programs) tend to be less fit in many real life situations. Functional fitness is very low. Strength just won’t hold up in situations where exertion is longer than a few seconds. The ability to be strong over an extended period of time is more desirable (to me) than being extraordinarily strong for a short burst.

To achieve strength-endurance, you need to train with heavy weights. You couldn’t ask a champion bench presser to just do push ups to increase strength gains. For anyone to get stronger, they need to lift heavy. They need to ‘go to failure’ or lift until their body can’t lift anymore.

In addition, in order to build endurance, a reduction in rest time is needed. You want your body to be able to exert maximum strength when not fully recovered aerobically.

Volume with shortened rest periods will give you strength-endurance.

It’s this simple:

Strength-Endurance = Heavy Weights + Short Rest + Volume

Having said this, let’s get on with the challenge…

This challenge is similar in nature to the deadlift challenge.

It requires two sets:


Set One: Put your bodyweight on the bar and bench press like there’s no tomorrow. Time your set, reps must be continuous, no racking the weight until you’re ready to put it down for good. How many reps total can you get?

Rest one minute

Set Two: Keep your body weight on the bar. Set your timer for 3 minutes. Get as many reps as possible with in that 3 minute window. Rack the bar, rest as needed, just keep pushing out those reps, as many as you can in that time.

Here’s the video of me doing this challenge:

As you’ll see, I didn’t have a spot and you’ll want one to eek out a few more reps and keep you honest. My reps get ugly I know. Don’t go emailing me about my form, I now realize (after viewing the video) that I need to keep my bum on the bench. I got a little competitive and forgetful in the midst of the challenge and I really needed someone nagging me DURING the challenge…(I’ll re-do and let you know…but for now, here you go):



FYI, if you don’t watch the entire video, I got 17 non-stop reps and then 26 reps (in a 3 minute window) one minute later. That was a tough one…

Ready to give this one a try?

Post your results in the comment section and let’s inspire each other. It’s all about setting standards and then crushing them over time.

Happy bench pressing!

Oh, need some help? My friend Mike Westerdal has a program called Bench for Reps that you’ll love. This is an awesome program that will have you increasing your bodyweight bench score in 8 weeks.

By the way, this program is brand new and I did this test a while back, I’m going to implement the program and see how it improves my score. My cheating reps with my bum up wouldn’t count for the test (so a re-do is in order). I just gained access to the program now and I can already tell that by improving my form (keeping my bum down!), and paying attention to the four other points of contact that he goes over in the video tutorial, I’ll definitely increase my scores.

I love the program because it’s a very ‘meat and potatoes’ strength/endurance building program for your upper body on one day and your lower body on day two. It includes metabolic conditioning as well as strength building. You’ll need basic gym equipment for this, not just bodyweight, but nothing fancy.

There are great video tutorials as mentioned and the program is very well laid out and easy to follow.

challenge workouts


Check it out HERE to see if the program is right for you.