Saturday, August 21, 2010

How Much You Bench?

I get asked this question SO much... and I can't stand it.

Here's what happens... I'll meet a guy for the first time, and they'll look at me and figure that I work out. So he'll bow up and start giving me the whole... "Yeaaahh, I work out... 3, 4 days a week..." Like I am supposed to be impressed, or intrigued by this news. Rarely do they look like they've ever actually even seen the inside of a gym. Then comes the inevitable... "So, how much you bench?"

This question alone sets the tools apart from the rest. As soon as that question comes out it's all I can do to keep from rolling my eyes. I mean, who really gives a shit? What difference does it make if I bench 1lb or 1000lbs. How does that change your day, or how you view me? If that's what you're going to judge me on then I don't want anything to do with your ass anyway cause you obviously don't know what you're talking about.

I appreciate ANYONE who puts forth the effort to exercise regularly at all. Everybody has different goals with their training, and the means to get to that end always varies. So trying to judge someone's ability in the gym based on their strength on ONE lift is just stupid.

More often than not these guys fall into one of two categories:

1. They either want to know so they can tell you that they bench more, or know someone who does.

2. They want to gauge how strong you are. 

Most guys, not all, but most will tell you they bench more than you, and are completely full of shit. This is not me stroking my ego in any way. I have never boasted any kind of superior strength over anyone. Yeah I'm stronger than some people, but there are plenty of people stronger than me. There is ALWAYS a bigger fish, and I am FAR from the biggest guy in my gym. I'm just sayin' when you've been around the fitness world as intimately, and as long I have you can get a pretty good idea of where someone stands physically from not only looking at them, but talking to them. You can just tell when someone is bullshitting you. 

I'm more interested in someone flexing their intellectual muscles. I train myself 6 to 7 days a week, and am a personal trainer. Working out really isn't topping my list of things I feel like talking about. But if I must, I'd rather talk about it with someone who actually genuinely knows their shit, are educated on the subject, and not just think they know what they are doing cause' they lifted back when they played high school football... still clinging to their short lived glory days.

There are some guys who are genuinely impressed with your physique, and are asking the question because they want to get some idea as to how strong you are. Which I suppose should be flattering, but the problem is that they really have no frame of reference. So if I say I bench 200lbs or 400lbs you're going to get the same reaction. Either way they usually say, "WOW"... and then start telling you how they need to start working out.

Here's the thing...

One of the most frustrating aspects of this question is that I don't really have an answer for it. If someone asks you how much you bench it typically refers to your 1 rep max on a straight bar. I haven't done that since I was 16 years old in Sam Chapin's strength training class. I have no reason to. It's not how I work out.

My training can cycle from lifting heavy from 6 to 8 reps with 2 minute rest periods to lifting 12-15 reps with 1 minute rest periods. How much weight you lift is going to differ based on these variables. I exclusively lift with dumbbells, and can tell you I haven't benched with a straight bar in 15 years. Bodybuilders have no reason to push as much weight as they can for 1 rep. It does absolutely nothing for you other than put you at risk for injury. If you're a powerlifter it's a different story, and a much more relevant question. But I am not.

Again, your fitness goals will ultimately determine the way you work out. Your body needs to be trained very specifically to attain specific goals. 1 rep maxes just don't factor into what I do.

I know the majority of the population do not understand these things. Regardless the question gets old, not having a good answer for it, and trying to explain why, does as well.

I'm not saying you're an asshole if you ask or have asked the question. I'm just saying it's a very generic query where even if I gave you an answer it would hold little meaning for you. So why bother?

My other favorite question I get even MORE than "How much you bench?", is "You work out?" 

I ALWAYS say no... I tell them I've never lifted a weight in my life, and I can't stand working out. I prefer a couch, a TV, and a bag of chips. 

I mean... isn't the answer in the question on that one?

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