Being able to lift “two plates” in the bench press is one of the most common strength training goals for men.
It refers to using two 45 lb (or 20 kg) plates per side, including the 45 lb barbell, which adds up to 225 lb, or 100 kg.
For women, a similar strength level is around 110–135 lb (or one 45 lb plate per side), and this guide is equally valid for reaching that goal.
Let’s begin by addressing: how difficult is this goal?
Let’s turn to data from our app.
According to training data from 17 296 male users of our app StrengthLog, a 225 lb bench press is just over an intermediate lift.
Intermediate means that it is right at the 50th percentile of male users. But bear in mind that:
- This is a demographic that is very interested in strength training.
- The bench press is by far the most popular exercise among the 50 000+ active users of our app, and we have tons of bench press training programs aimed at increasing your bench max.
That our data is slightly skewed, because of a very bench-focused demographic.
With that said, the data puts a 225 lb bench press as an …
- Intermediate lift for a 200 lb lifter
- Advanced lift for a 170 lb lifter
(Intermediate = stronger than 50%. Advanced = stronger than 75%)
Bench Press Standards for Men (lb)
Obviously, your body weight is going to impact your strength a lot.
Or rather, your muscle mass will.
This means that if you are small and light, this goal will be more challenging. And the contrary if you are a big dude.
Actually, while we’re at it, let’s talk a little about muscle in the bench press.
Muscles Used In the Bench Press
You bench press mainly with your:
Out of these, the pecs and front delts contribute 74% of the joint moment force in the sticking point in the bench press, while your triceps only contribute 26%.1
Moreover, there is a strong correlation (r=0.866) between chest muscle thickness and bench press 1RM (one-rep max).2
Wanna bench big?
Build a big chest.
We’ll get to that. But first, let’s talk about technique.
Proper Bench Press Technique
Developing a proper bench press technique will hopefully let you gain strength faster, and might decrease your risk of injury.
You’ll have to develop your own bench press technique, suited to your anatomy over time. With that said, there are still some best practices that you should start by trying.
Our bench press guide begins with a short overview of the lift, but delves into a lot of detail further down in the article. I suggest you read it all and try it out on your next few workouts.
Also: record yourself!
Prop up your phone and record your bench press sets. Study your technique during your rest periods, and try to improve it.
Decide how you want your lifts to look, and then strive to make each rep look like that.
Training for a 225 lb Bench Press
Finally, let’s talk about the actual training.
If you’re brand new to bench pressing, start with an empty bar and do 3 sets x 10 reps.
Two or three days later, bench press again but increase the weight by a small amount, depending on how easy it felt, and do 3 sets x 10 reps again.
For the next few weeks, bench press twice per week, do 3 sets x 10 reps each workout, and add 2.5 kg / 5 lb to the bar every time you manage to do all 3 x 10 reps.
If you don’t get 3 x 10 reps, stick with that weight for a few workouts until you do.
Within a month or two, this will start to get pretty heavy.
Since you have got a strength goal in mind (100 kg / 225 lb for a single rep), you can now move on to doing 3 sets x 5 reps.
This will enable you to keep adding weight to the bar each workout.
You should really use a workout log to keep track of what you lifted, and when. Our app StrengthLog was built for this. It is also free.
Read more about StrengthLog here, or download it on the links below.
Now, benching twice per week, doing 3 sets x 5 reps and adding 2.5 kg / 5 lb every time you complete all reps will be enough to take some of you all the way to benching two plates.
When you can do 3 sets x 5 reps at 85 kg / 190 lb, you should be really close to doing a single rep at 100 kg / 225 lb. (You can use our 1RM calculator to play around with this)
Especially if you practice lifting heavy by doing a few singles in the workouts leading up to it.
But what if it’s not enough to get you to that level?
If you’ve tried and tried and tried several times, but can no longer add 2.5 kg / 5 lb and complete 3 x 5 at around 190 lb or more, and you’re also eating and sleeping enough to support muscle growth, then you probably need to adjust your training.
And, for 95% of lifters that eat and sleep enough but don’t get stronger, the answer is to increase the training stimuli.
Stimulate your body to grow by asking more of it.
The easiest way to do this is to increase your training volume slightly.
There is not one single correct way to do this. You can go about it in a ton of ways.
But one way is to:
- Keep one workout in which you try to do 3 sets x 5 reps and progressively add weight each time you succeed.
- And then the other workout can focus on accumulating volume.
The goal of this second workout is simply to get a lot of bench press work in.
You can do this in many ways:
- 5 sets x 5 reps with 90% of your latest 3 x 5-workout.
- Do a pyramid of sets, up to a heavy single, then back down again to a medium rep set of around 10 reps.
- Or higher rep, hypertrophy-focused work, like 5 sets x 10 reps, and maybe additional chest and triceps work.
The important thing is that you need to ask more of your body, for it to adapt.
Put more in, to get more out.
Do this for a few months more, and be obsessive about trying to add a little weight or a rep to your sets from the last workout.
Eat and sleep to support growth.
This should eventually get you within striking distance of two plates.
Time to prepare for maxing out.
Maxing Out in The Bench Press
Strength is highly specific.
If you want to lift the heaviest single rep you can, then you need to practice at it.
When you feel like you want to max out soon, start preparing by adding in some singles or doubles (1 or 2 reps) into your training.
You can do these on the second workout of the week, and keep the heavy 3 sets of 5 reps as a foundation.
Or not. You decide.
The point is to submaximally practice at lifting one or two reps. That means you’re not maxing out, but rather leaving plenty of kilos in the tank.
If you can do 3 sets x 5 reps at 85 kg or 190 lb then you might practice doing singles and doubles at about 5 kg or 10 lb more than that.
Three sets of one or two reps with plenty of rest in between is about right for one workout. (Then you might want to do some higher rep backoff sets for volume)
The important thing is how you practice these singles. Remember to be consistent and controlled.
Lift as if the bar was loaded with your maximum capacity.
Be powerful and intentional.
After a few workouts of practicing at lifting singles, it is time for a max attempt.
- Set the safety racks so that you can squeeze out under the bar if you fail.
- Instruct someone on how to spot you safely (and don’t touch the bar unless you fail).
For best results, make sure to warm up properly.
Warming Up for Your Max Attempt
A good warm-up can make or break a PR attempt.
Use our warm-up calculator to get suggestions for what jumps you should do in weights, and how many reps to do.
Here’s an example of how you might warm up for a 1RM attempt, with 100% as your goal:
- 40% x 8 reps
- 50% x 5
- 60% x 4
- 70% x 3
- 80% x 2
- 90% x 1
- 95% x 1
- 100% (max attempt!) x 1
And one last thing: make sure to set up your phone and record your attempt. You’ll want to have it on video.
Good luck hitting that 225 pound bench press, buddy!
Take Your Bench Press to the Next Level
We have tons of programs to take your bench press to the next level.
Here are three programs aimed at different training levels:
- Beginner Bench Press Program. 2x/week. A super simple yet effective beginner bench press program that will give you quick gains and a great start to your bench press career.
- Intermediate Bench Press Program. 2–3x/week. A bench press program for the intermediate lifter who has left the beginner phase behind, but is not yet ready for advanced bench press training.
- Advanced Bench Press Program. 3 x/week. A bench press program for the advanced lifter, who needs to do a lot of training in order to progress. Nine weeks long, and ends in a short peaking phase and a max attempt.
Or, browse all of our bench press programs.
More bench press articles:
- The 25 Best Accessory Exercises to Improve Your Bench Press
- Bench Press Grip Width: Close-Grip vs Wide Grip Bench Press
- Floor Press vs. Bench Press for Strength: Benefits & Differences
- Chest Press vs. Bench Press: 17 Pros and Cons
- 5 Differences Between Incline Bench Press vs Flat Bench Press
- Front Sports Act Living. 2020; 2: 637066. A Biomechanical Analysis of Wide, Medium, and Narrow Grip Width Effects on Kinematics, Horizontal Kinetics, and Muscle Activity on the Sticking Region in Recreationally Trained Males During 1-RM Bench Pressing.
- J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Jun;28(6):1778-82. Relationship of pectoralis major muscle size with bench press and bench throw performances.