Dumbbell bench pressing is without a doubt one of the best exercises to build a bigger chest. But how much weight should you be doing on the dumbbell bench press for it to be considered respectable?
On average, a male should aim to dumbbell bench press 200-lbs for 1 repetition as a respectable weight. This weight is for both dumbbells combined. However, the exact weight deemed respectable will also be influenced by the person’s current training level, body weight, and rep number.
As a beginner, I knew I was bench pressing heavy.
But the competitive side of me also wanted to know how I was performing compared to others.
Therefore this article will help you benchmark your performance against others.
I’ll also share tips on how I increased my numbers.
Hopefully, these tips will help you increase your own numbers if they’re below average!
Let’s “press” on!
- Respectable Dumbbell Bench Press Weight For The Average Man
- Beginners: Respectable Dumbbell Bench Press Weight
- Intermediates: Resepectable Dumbbell Bench Press Weights
- Advanced Lifters: Resepectable Dumbbell Bench Press Weights
- How Good Is Your Dumbbell Bench Press Vs Others?
- Why You May Be Struggling With The Dumbbell Bench Press
- How To Improve Your Dumbbell Bench Press
- Bench Press Training Levels Explained
- How 1RM & 6-10RM Affects Your Bench Press
- How Were These Standards Calculated?
Respectable Dumbbell Bench Press Weight For The Average Man
Here’s how much the average man who weighs 200-lbs should be able to dumbbell bench press:
|Training Level||1-rep max||6-rep max||7-rep max||8-rep max||9-rep max||10-rep max|
I’ve also converted the dumbbell press standards into Kg for the UK folk.
These standards are based on Strength Level’s database of 219,000 dumbbell bench presses.
3 factors affect your dumbbell bench press weight.
Your dumbbell bench press is influenced by 3 factors:
- Training level. People who’ve been lifting for many years will naturally be able to press heavier loads compared to beginners who have just started.
- Rep number. The lower the rep number, the heavier the weight you can shift.
- Body weight. Heavier people naturally have more muscle mass compared to lighter people and can therefore press heavier dumbbells.
I’ve already explained how the first 2 factors influence your bench pressing weight.
Next, I’ll explain how body weight affects how much you can press.
If you’re interested, you can also check out my other article on the best dumbbells for beginners to start with.
Beginners: Respectable Dumbbell Bench Press Weight
Here are the average dumbbell bench press standards for a male beginner:
|Bodyweight||1-rep max||6-rep max||7-rep max||8-rep max||9-rep max||10-rep max|
Therefore as a beginner, you should be able to dumbbell bench press 23-49% of your body weight.
If you’ve only been training for under 1 month, and you can do this, then that’s a respectable weight and you should be proud of yourself!
But if you’re below average, then there’s room for improvement.
Intermediates: Resepectable Dumbbell Bench Press Weights
Here are the average dumbbell bench press standards for a male intermediate:
|Bodyweight||1-rep max||6-rep max||7-rep max||8-rep max||9-rep max||10-rep max|
Therefore as an intermediate, you should be able to dumbbell bench press 68-101% of your body weight.
If you’ve been training for under 2 years and you can do this, then you’re above average.
But if you’re below average, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t strive for higher numbers.
You may also be interested in my other post to find out how the weight standards compare between a dumbbell and barbell bench press!
Advanced Lifters: Resepectable Dumbbell Bench Press Weights
Here are the average dumbbell bench press standards for a male advanced lifter:
|Bodyweight||1-rep max||6-rep max||7-rep max||8-rep max||9-rep max||10-rep max|
Therefore as an advanced lifter, you should be able to dumbbell bench press 89-144% of your body weight.
If you’ve been training for 5 years or more, and you can do this, then that’s a very respectable weight.
You’ve reached a level most people will never reach.
If on the other hand, you’re below average, then there’s room for improvement.
But don’t beat yourself up too much.
Getting to these standards requires years of consistent and dedicated training.
How Good Is Your Dumbbell Bench Press Vs Others?
Another way to determine if your dumbbell bench press weight is respectable is by comparing it with how much others can lift.
Here are the percentages of males who can dumbbell bench press their body weight:
|Dumbbell Bench press 1 RM As A Fraction Of Bodyweight||% Of People Who Can Do It|
- 75% of men can dumbbell bench press 0.75x their body weight. If you’ve reached this point, then you’re in the lower quartile of dumbbell bench pressers. Good job, but there’s no reason why you can’t push for higher numbers.
- 50% of men can dumbbell bench press 1.00x their body weight. If you’ve reached this point, then you’re in the median quartile of dumbbell bench pressers. This is very respectable target for beginners to aim for.
- 25% of men can dumbbell bench press 1.30x their body weight. If you’ve reached this point, then you’re in the upper quartile of dumbbell bench pressers! This is a very respectable target for intermediates to aim for.
Simply work out how much your bench press weigh is as a fraction of your bodyweight.
Do this by dividing the weight of both dumbbells by your bodyweight.
Then see which percentile you belong to!
Why You May Be Struggling With The Dumbbell Bench Press
As a beginner, many hurdles prevent you from bench pressing heavier dumbbells.
Common issues include:
- Lack of grip strength. A competent degree of grip strength is required to hold the dumbbells as you go through the movement. Most beginners simply haven’t developed this yet. As a result, you may find it very hard to press heavy weights. Grip strength is also required to set up the lift. This requires you to kick the dumbbells from the thigh and stabilise them mid air. And a lack of grip strength could mean you struggle to set up heavy dumbbells.
- Weak stabilisers. The dumbbell bench press doesn’t just require the activity form your pecs and triceps. It also requires a lot of stabiliser activity from the deltoids, core and back. Just like and underdeveloped grip strength, many beginners simply have underdeveloped stabilisers too. And this means you can’t press as much weight as you would like.
- Poor form and technique. As a beginner, you’re still learning the nuances required for dumbbell bench pressing. This includes things like planting your feet into the ground, bracing the core, not letting your elbows flare out, and actively pushing with your chest rather than your arms. If these thing’s aren’t done right, your dumbbell bench press weight will be significantly reduced.
- Naive muscles. Beginners just haven’t given their muscles the time required for strength development and hypertrophy. Be patient and consistent!
Why intermediates struggle with heavier dumbells.
As an intermediate, you’ve likely nailed your form and technique somewhat.
But it’s not uncommon for an intermediate to hit a strength plateau.
This describes the phenomenon whereby your bench press simply won’t increase despite your best efforts.
It’s often a result of stagnating gains in stabilizer and pec strength.
Another reason why strength plateaus occur is if you’re constantly working in the same rep range.
When you do this, your muscles don’t get the same stimulus required for muscle growth.
If you’re a skinny guy trying to build a stronger physique, there are some essential tips you should know. Check out my other article to learn how to build your first 10 pounds of muscle! You’ll learn to avoid the mistakes I made when I first started training.
How To Improve Your Dumbbell Bench Press
If you’re a beginner and have a sub-par dumbbell bench press, the good news is that this is completely normal.
With less than 1 month of training, you’re muscles just aren’t developed yet.
And this issue could be further compounded by poor form and technique.
You can optimize dumbbell press gains by:
- Eating a caloric surplus with high protein diet. Aim for at least 1g of protein per pound of body weight and 5-15% caloric surplus every day. This will fuel strength and size development in the pectorals, deltoids, and triceps.
- Pressing slow to maximize muscle activation. At this stage, forget about your ego and lifting heavy dumbbells. Concentrate on perfecting your form instead. I recommend counting 2 seconds up and 3 seconds down. Youtube tutorials are excellent free resources.
- Progressive overloading regularly. Add 5-lbs increments per dumbbell whenever you’re able to perform the dumbbell bench press at your current weight with good form.
- Being patient! It can take up to 1-3 weeks to add an extra 10-lbs to your dumbbell press. Consistent training is the key. Aim for 2 chest workouts per week with at least 24 hours rest in between.
- Learn good form and technique. Youtube tutorials are an excellent free resource.
Top tip: Protein powders are an affordable way to reach your protein/calorie targets if you struggle to eat enough food.
Skinny guys under 12% body fat can try the Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass weight gainer to bulk up fast. Each serving contains 50g of protein and 1250 calories.
Adding a scoop of MyProtein Creatine Monohydrate is also a great way to help your muscles generate maximum power during the dumbbell press (it’s a natural compound used for muscular energy production).
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How an intermediate can increase their dumbbell bench press.
Tips to help you break strength plateaus include:
- Varying rep ranges. Decrease to 3-6 reps per set with a heavier weight (extra 5-lbs per dumbbell). Once you can do 3-6 reps with good form, start increasing the reps and to reach 10-reps per set. This could take a few weeks. But when you’ve reached this point, you’ve broken the plateau! For this to work, you’ll need a pair of dumbbells that go heavy and have small weight increments of 5-lbs.
- Increase training frequency. Rather than concentrating all your weekly chest sets into a single training day, try spreading those sets over 2 or 3 training days. This is called equating training volume. The higher training frequency gives your muscles a greater growth stimulus whilst also preventing overtraining.
- Time under tension training. If you slow the downward/upward phases to 4 seconds each, your muscles will experience an entirely different kind of metabolic stress. As a result, they will adapt and you’re strength will increase.
Important note: I would recommend trying only one method at a time to prevent overtraining.
Top tip: I’ve tried all 3 methods and they work great to break plateaus. But ideally, you should have a pair of dumbbells that are durable, heavy, and have small 5-lb increments.
If you don’t have ~300 bucks, then the Yes4All spinlock dumbbells are a cheaper alternative. But these dumbbells have quite large increments.
Alternatively, you can check out my other post for my favorite dumbbells for chest training.
How advanced lifters increase their dumbbell bench press.
As expected, it takes years of dedicated and consistent training to reach advanced dumbbell bench press standards.
At this stage, you’re probably a casual bodybuilder/powerlifter.
You might even be training to compete.
I thought the answer to fixing my bench press was doing more bench presses, and it wasn’t. Sometimes, the key is utilizing other exercises, strengthening supporting muscle groups to drive your bench press upwards.David Otey C.S.C.S
Either way, you’ll need to be doing more than bench presses to increase your numbers if you want to reach the advanced stages.
Many bodybuilders will also work on a variety of accessory exercises to strengthen the stabilizer muscles involved in the dumbbell bench press.
- Rows- to strengthen the back muscles which stabilise the entire dumbbell bench press movement and also contributes to the downward phase of the dumbbell bench press.
- Close grip bench press- to strengthen the triceps and inner chest muscles which contribute to your upper body pressing power.
- Dumbbell pull-overs – to strengthen the upper chest and back to stabilise the dumbbell bench press.
- Dumbbell chest flyes- to strengthen the pectorals which are the primary drivers for the bench press. These should be done at flat and incline angles.
- Incline dumbbell bench press- to strengthen the upper pectorals which help stabilise the flat dumbbell bench press.
If you don’t have a bench, you can check out my favourite chest exercises without a bench!
Top tip: if you want to transform a skinny chest into a killer chest at home, an adjustable bench is invaluable to do the exercises mentioned above. If you’re on a budget, then I highly recommend the Flybird FB149 (link for cheapest Amazon price).
It’s not the cheapest bench out there, but it’s fully adjustable. Thisx allows you to hit your upper chest as well as mid-chest. It can also fold up to save space after your workout.
You can find my Flybird adjustable weight bench review here.
Advanced lifters will also likely be mixing up their rep ranges regularly.
For example, they may do an entire month of low rep/heavy weight training and then switch to higher rep/lower weight training the next month.
By doing this, they can promote both sarcoplasmic hypertrophy (size gains) and myofibrillar hypertrophy (strength gains).
If you’re looking to buy dumbbells, then you can find out how much dumbbells should cost in my other article!
Bench Press Training Levels Explained
- Beginners: have been regularly performing a lift for up to a month. These people can also be classified as newbies and are still learning the correct form and technique required to safely lift heavy weights.
- Intermediates: have been regularly performing a lift for up to 2 years. These people represent the majority of gym-goers. They’ve been training regularly for a substantial amount of time and know how to lift heavy loads with good form.
- Advanced lifters: have been regularly performing a lift for up to 5 years. These people are often casual bodybuilders or powerlifters. They don’t compete but have been lifting long enough to have mastered the technique and can lift extremely heavy weights with good form.
Therefore the duration of time which you’ve been practicing the dumbbell bench press will determine what’s considered a respectable weight for you.
Put simply, a respectable weight for an advanced lifter is going to be much heavier than a respectable weight for a beginner.
How 1RM & 6-10RM Affects Your Bench Press
1RM is short for 1 rep max and 6-10RM is short for 6-10 rep max.
1RM refers to the amount of weight you can press for a single rep.
It’s an indicator for maximum pressing strength.
In contrast, 6-10RM refers to the amount of weight you can press for 6-10 reps.
It’s known as the hypertrophy range (i.e. the rep-range best for building muscle).
Since most people are performing the dumbbell bench press to build a bigger and stronger chest, these are the weights I shall be comparing in this article.
Generally speaking, doing 1-6 reps allows you to press heavier weights and emphasize chest strength.
In contrast, doing 7-10 reps means you’ll to press lighter weights but emphasize chest hypertrophy.
But it’s also important to note that strength and hypertrophy are closely related.
In other words, building strength will also lead to hypertrophy and vice versa.
How Were These Standards Calculated?
Here’s how I got the numbers for this study.
Average dumbbell bench press standards.
Dumbbell bench press 1RMs were taken from the Strength Level database.
These were then multiplied by different fractions to get the 6-10RM weights, as follows:
- x0.84 for 6RM.
- x0.82 for 7RM.
- x0.80 for 8RM.
- x0.78 for 9RM.
- x0.73 for 10RM.
% of people who can bench press a fraction of their body weight
The Strength Level database also allows for different dumbbell bench press weights to be sampled against their total population.
I sampled a variety of dumbbell bench press weights for a 160-lb male beginner aged 24-39
A respectable dumbbell bench press weight varies depending on training level, body weight, and rep numbers.
I’ve used the Strength Level database to share with you the averages for different people based on these metrics.
If your dumbbell bench press matches the average, then you’re doing a good job.
If it’s above average, then even better.
And if it’s below average, you can try my tips to help you improve your numbers!
How much weight do you currently dumbbell press?
Let me know in the comments!
Thanks for reading guys!
(Biochemistry BSc, Biomedical Sciences MSc, Ex-Skinny Guy)