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Are You Stronger Than NFL Athletes?


Jan 18, 2023
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It would be almost impossible to boil strength down to a single measurable in order to even suggest being “stronger” then an NFL athlete.

Strength is a vague term that is often hard to define.

However, in the gym we look at strength in numerical terms, most commonly weight and reps.

If you want to compare your “strength” to a workout partner you either see who can lift the most weight or who can do more reps with a given weight.

Luckily for us, the NFL has a test that provides a look into how strong some of the players are in our own gym rat terms.

The test is the famous 225lb bench press for max reps. Every year the NFL hosts a scouting combine where college players go and participate in a bunch of different events. The combine gives teams a chance to see how athletic the college prospects are. In addition to the bench press the other events are: 40 yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump, and shuttle runs.

I can hear you now discrediting the bench press and I agree, it’s not the best measure of how well someone will perform in the NFL.

Listen, I didn’t put it in there, I’m just writing about it. But a sport like football needs at least one test for upper body strength, right?

Test of Upper Body Strength or Muscular Endurance?

Technically, how the bench press test is currently set up is more of a muscular endurance test than anything else. If you read the last post on the site by my boy Nick Smoot, you will remember he talked a lot about rep ranges.

One of the points he made was a set containing 15+ reps builds/requires muscular endurance.

With that being said, if you want to perform better than your favorite NFL player, the 225lb bench press for max reps is going to be a test of muscular endurance, not maximal strength.

However, there is at least a correlation between muscular endurance and muscular strength. Someone who is able to do a lot of reps with 225 will also probably be able to crush some serious weight for a 1 rep max.

Why the 225 bench press test you ask?

If I had to guess, the NFL uses a standard weight such as 225lbs in order to keep things easy. It would be difficult and time consuming to run the combine like a powerlifting meet and have everyone max out. Plus, it could be argued a 1 rep max wouldn’t be any more valuable.

If it was up to me I would use a different exercise entirely in order to test strength/power and not worry about testing muscular endurance with a barbell.

In my opinion, a 3RM power clean would be a more applicable exercise but again you would be dealing with a logistics nightmare.

How You Stack Up

So, the moment you have been waiting for…how do you stack up against the NFL?

First, you have to go and see how many reps you can get with 225lbs (keep your ass on the bench, touch your chest, and come to full extension at the top).

Once you do that check out the NFL Website and look at the top performers here.

I recently tried my hand at the test and got 25 reps.

Video or it didn’t happen brah…

So how did I stack up?

Well, in this past years NFL combine (2014) I would have came in 3rd amongst all running backs, tied for 5th and 8th in tight ends and linebackers respectively, and either 1st or tied for 1st in safeties, corners, and wide receivers.

Am I surprised? Sort of.

I guess when you think of NFL athletes you immediately think of the biggest, strongest, most bad ass people on the planet. All that is true, but, when you really break it down, it becomes semi easy to see how their bench press numbers are not overly impressive. At least not from a strength sports perspective.

First, football is a sport which requires a lot of impressive skills outside of just strength. Power, speed, athletic ability, etc. are all equally important, if not more important, than strength. Even though professional football players are freaks, chances are their skill set are more equally distributed than someone who is a freak competing in a strength sport.

Second, what makes people great at football often times challenges them in the weight room, especially on the bench press. I’m talking about biomechanics.

Take someone like me for example, I’m built to bench press with my short t-rex arms. Short arms are obviously a limiting factor in football. It is advantageous to a football player to have longer limbs for running, catching, and tackling.

Lastly, and in my opinion most importantly, football players are too busy actually playing football to focus on being as strong as possible. Like I mentioned in the first point – football requires a lot of skills besides strength. Football players can’t spend all their time trying to be as strong as possible. The majority of their free time would be best spent on improving their football skills. Do they spend a lot of time in the weight room? Of course, but not as much or with as much energy as a strength sports athlete.

Also, anyone who has played a physically demanding sport like football, wrestling, or hockey will know it is pretty much impossible to gain strength during the season. The practices are too demanding. So, for half the year, at best players are just maintaining strength.

How to Master the 225lb Bench Press Test

Add 30lbs to your MAX Bench...click for more info. Add 30lbs to your MAX Bench…click for more info.
If you want to improve your 225 bench press test, the bottom line is you need to get stronger.

It can’t get much simpler than that.

Like I mentioned above, generally speaking the stronger you are the more reps you will get with 225lbs. The reason is, the higher your one rep max is, the lower percentage 225lbs is to your max.

For example, if your max is 405lbs, 225 is only around 55% of your 1RM. If your max is only 315lbs, 225 would be about 72% of your 1RM.

Beyond that you will want to work on improving your muscular endurance on the bench as well.

A good way to set this up would be to have one bench day a week focused on maximal strength and a second bench day for endurance.

An upper/lower split would work perfectly.

Here is how I would break it down into a 4-6 week program

Day # 1 – Upper (Max Effort Bench Press)

A1: Bench Press 6 x 3 @80% of 1RM * Goal is to add 5lbs to the bar each week.

B1: Bench Press 1 x AMRAP @75% of 1RM

C1: Floor Press 3 x 5 @ 7-8 rpe

Accessory Work: Upper Back, Lats, Shoulders, Triceps

Day # 2 – Lower Hypertrophy

Day #3 – Upper (Muscular Endurance)

A1: Bench Press 3 x 20 @ 40-50% of 1RM * Goal is to add 5lbs to the bar each week.

B1: Bench Press 1 x AMRAP @ 65% of 1RM

Accessory Work: Upper Back, Lats, Shoulders, Triceps, Biceps

Day # 4 – Lower Strength

Kyle Hunt bench press

Last Words

In the title, I asked if you were stronger than NFL Athletes. While you might not stack up well against the league, we might be able to find a player or two you can beat.

In 2013, Arizona Cardinals Safety Tyrann Mathieu out of LSU only managed 4 reps on the bench press. No that is not a type-o, a starting NFL safety only got F O U R reps with 225lbs. I would expect most of the male HF readers to be able to do that. So, there you have it, you can say you are “stronger” than an NFL player.

If that is not impressive enough for you there is this. In 2012, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Sean Spence from the U (Miami) only got 12 reps! How cool would it be to say you are stronger then an NFL linebacker? Pretty damn cool if you ask me!