By Casan Scott
How much can you bench? This is usually one of the first questions that come up when meeting a person who lifts weights. Although the bench press was initially tested at the NFL Combine as a measure of upper-body muscular strength and endurance, there is now a nearly universal dismissal of its importance in NFL talent evaluation. Some believe the bench press still holds merit as an indicator of work ethic. Regardless…it is always fun to marvel at amazing feats of strength!
A previous study on 289 Division I football players exhibited that bench press reps with 225 pounds significantly correlated with one-rep-max in the bench press r=0.95, r2=0.90).
Eq.) One-Rep-Max Bench Press (lbs) = 221.8 lbs + (6.81 x Reps @ 225 lbs)
Using the equation above (Mann, Stoner, and Mayhew 2012), bench press one-rep-max estimates were made for the strongest players overall and at each position dating back to 1999.
Justin Ernest still owns the NFL Combine record for bench press, with 51 reps of 225 pounds, but never managed to play a down in the league. Stephen Paea, an All-Pac 10 defensive tackle at Oregon State, came close to breaking the record in 2011, but fell 2 reps short. Since 1999, Ernest and Paea are the only two players with extrapolated one-rep-max presses of over 550 pounds, which would have beaten all but two super heavyweight raw powerlifts in the 2015 IPF World Powerlifting Championships. Baylor defensive tackle Andrew Billings broke the National High School Powerlifting record for total (805 lb squat, 500 lb bench, 705 lb deadlift), so he should theoretically challenge for the record after 3 years in the Baylor Strength and Conditioning program. Whether or not you are a fan of the bench press, the forty yard dash, or even the vertical jump, these drills at the NFL Combine are simply fun to watch. For historical comparisons by position, check out the tables below.