How Much Can the Average Female Bench Press?
You might have wandered over to the bench at your gym and pressed a perfectly respectable 80 pounds on your first try. But you’re not sure how that compares with what you should be capable of. You may never come close to the 600 pounds that women’s world record holder Becca Swanson benched -- 2.5 times her body weight. Still, realistic norms for the women’s bench press can help you tailor your goals to your experience level and other factors.
If you stand around 5 feet, 4 inches tall and weigh 166 pounds, you meet the U.S. average for women over the age of 20 years old. If you are completely untrained, you should be able to press 80 pounds on a first try, according to metrics for women under age 40 developed by powerlifter Len Kilgore. With additional experience, generally a year or two at each level, you can bench 95 pounds as a novice, 105 pounds as an intermediate, 145 pounds as an advanced lifter and 185 pounds as an elite lifter.
The amount you can bench press increases in proportion to your body weight. Untrained lifters, for example, can generally bench about half their body weight -- 50 pounds for women weighing around 97 pounds, and 90 pounds for those weighing 198 pounds. An elite lifter -- one who competes in strength competitions -- can lift right around her body weight, or a bit more. For example, an elite 97-pound woman can bench 115 pounds, and an elite 198-pound woman can bench 205.
As you get older, estimates for your bench press maximum tend to drift downward. If you weigh 165 pounds, for example, and are an intermediate lifter with around two years of experience, you can expect to hit the bench standard of 100 pounds if you are older than 40, 90 pounds if you are older than 50, and 65 pounds if you are in your 60s. Still, it’s worth continuing to perform upper-body strength moves such as the bench press, especially as you get older. Greater strength equates to longevity, Kilgore notes, based on studies reported in medical journals.
While Swanson holds the overall poundage record, Laura Phelps-Sweatt has lifted the highest multiple of her body weight, benching 530 pounds when she weighed 163 pounds, or 3.25 times her body weight. Even if you weigh less than 100 pounds, you can work your way up to benching north of 260 -- emulating Justina Kozdryk of Poland. In “Strength Training for Women,” trainer Lori Incledon explains the importance of measuring strength relative to your body weight. Simply put, a 100-pound woman who can bench 150 pounds is twice as strong as a 200-pound woman who can do the same. Thus normative values of how much the average female can bench press help quantify whether you really qualify as strong or not.
- YouTube: Becca Swanson 600# Bench
- Powerlifting Watch: All Time Historical Women’s Powerlifting World Records in Pounds/Kilograms
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Body Measurements
- ExRx.net: Bench Press - Adult Women
- Lon Kilgore: Bench Press Strength Standards
- Strength Training for Women; Lori Incledon
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.