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Testing a bench press

This is an excerpt from Brockport Physical Fitness Test Manual 2nd Edition With Web Resource by Joseph Winnick & Francis Short.

This test item and its procedures were modified from Johnson and Lavay (1989). In it, participants perform as many bench presses as possible (to a maximum of 50 for males and 30 for females). The test is designed as a measure of upper-extremity (particularly elbow-extension) strength and endurance.

The participant lies supine on a bench with knees bent and feet on the floor or on rolled mats placed on either side of the bench. Individuals who are unable to assume this position should lie on the bench with knees flexed and lower extremities secured or supported. For safety, the tester acts as a spotter or assigns spotters (figure 5.6a). The participant grasps a 35-pound (15.9-kilogram) barbell with both hands directly above the shoulders and with elbows flexed; this is the ready position (figure 5.6b). Hands on the bar should be about shoulder-width apart with thumbs wrapped around the bar.

On command, the participant raises the barbell to a straight-arm position at a 90-degree angle to the body (figure 5.6c), then returns to the ready position. The participant repeats this action without rest until he or she can no longer raise the barbell or has successfully completed 50 repetitions for males or 30 repetitions for females. One repetition should be completed every 3 to 4 seconds at a steady pace. Spotters stand beside and adjacent to the rib cage, rather than behind the participant, so that the participant is encouraged to lift the barbell straight upward. Although a bilateral action with both arms is encouraged, the participant is credited with a successful repetition if the barbell touches the chest and both arms eventually end up in a straight-arm position without rest. The tester encourages the participant through praise and counting of repetitions.
Bench press: (a) setting an upward target, (b) ready position, and (c) up position.


Required equipment includes barbells and weights that together weigh 35 pounds (15.9 kilograms). A sturdy bench is recommended; the bench may be placed on a mat (optional).

Scoring and Trials

One correct bench press involves bringing the barbell from the chest to the straight-arm position. Record the number of correct bench press repetitions performed. Participants stop when they can no longer lift the weight completely or when they complete the required number of correct repetitions (50 for males, 30 for females).

Test Modifications

Be certain that participants with intellectual disability and mild limitations in physical fitness understand how to perform the test. Take whatever time is necessary for the participant to learn the test. Subjects should have the upper-body ability to perform the test. Provide those who have lower-body disability with safe and stable support while they assume the supine position on the bench. Participants can be held or secured as necessary and appropriate for stability.

Suggestions for Test Administration

  • Conduct practice sessions with participants to help them understand the proper method for performing the bench press. Stress safety in a positive manner through demonstrations.
  • Demonstrate and let participants experiment with the proper method of performing the bench press - first with a broomstick, then the bar only, then the bar and lighter weights, and finally the 35-pound (15.9-kilogram) barbell. At the same time, demonstrate and let participants experience the proper position for lying on the bench, proper hand position on the bar, proper leg and foot position, and correct arm movement. Setting an upward target enhances proper upward movement of the bar (figure 5.6c). Give positive reinforcement for properly executed positions and movements. Do not test a participant who does not understand how to complete a properly performed repetition of the bench press.

Learn more about Brockport Physical Fitness Test Manual, Second Edition.

More Excerpts From Brockport Physical Fitness Test Manual 2nd Edition With Web Resource