Last updated on November 15th, 2022 at 10:54 am
So, you’re looking to find out the ideal bench press to overhead press ratio.
Both are fantastic compound exercises that will really test your pressing muscles.
Plus, in the main, we can all typically bench press more weight than we can overhead press.
With that being said, some of us find that the two lifts are fairly similar when it comes to weight used.
Whereas others may find a huge discrepancy between the two.
So, how much of a difference should there be between bench press and overhead press in terms of weight?
Allow me to reveal all.
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Bench Press to Overhead Press Ratio
The ideal bench press to overhead press ratio is 3:2. In effect, for the average lifter, your bench press should be 50% more than your overhead press. So, as an example, if you bench press 300lbs you should be able to overhead press 200lbs. With that being said, factors such as arm length, grip width, elbow position, plus when and how often you perform both exercises may cause a difference.
The Average Lifter’s Bench Press to Overhead Press Ratio
When looking at bench press to overhead press ratio I guess it makes sense to look at what an “average lifter” should be able to achieve.
By this I mean that there are certain factors which could make quite a difference when comparing the two movements.
And I’ll touch on these more in a moment.
However, for now let’s look at the figures based on what most of us should be capable of pressing.
The ideal bench press to overhead press ratio is 3:2.
So, in effect, you should be able to bench press 50% more weight than you overhead press.
Therefore, if you can bench press 150lbs you should be able to overhead press 100lbs.
Something else that is interesting to note is that your overhead press can actually help to improve your bench press, but the same isn’t true the other way round.
Both exercises hit the shoulders and triceps quite hard.
However, bench press is mainly focused on hitting the pecs, whereas you’ll also feel shoulder press in your traps, and maybe even your lats.
Nevertheless, working towards increasing and improving your overhead press can have a great knock on effect on your bench.
This is especially true when it comes to benching from the mid-point and upwards.
You use your pecs to get the bar away from your chest, but by the mid-point your triceps take over.
Plus, your front delts are constantly working hard throughout the movement.
So, the simple fact that the overhead press works your delts and triceps so well will automatically help you to perform the second half of the bench press better.
Factors That Affect Your Bench Press & Overhead Press
There are a number of factors which can affect both your bench press and overhead press.
Firstly, limb length can completely change the way you look at performing a wide variety of exercises.
However, if you have long arms then you’ll typically find it harder to bench press and overhead press than someone with shorter arms.
This is simply because the bar has further to travel during both exercises.
So, in effect, you have a slightly longer time-under-tension and a further distance to travel, thus making both exercises much more intense.
Therefore, if you have two people of the same weight and training experience, you would expect the person with shorter arms to be better at both pressing movements.
You can reduce the distance the bar has to travel by placing your hands further apart.
However, a wider grip, while suitable for the bench press, may cause joint issues with the overhead press.
Arm & Elbow Position
Your arm and elbow position can also impact your potential bench press to overhead press ratio.
You don’t particularly want to perform either exercise with your upper arms at 90 degrees to your torso.
This would mean that your elbows are pointing out to the sides.
For the bench press your upper arms should be at approximately 45 degrees to your body.
And having your elbows pointing forwards will take the stress off your joints when overhead pressing.
Upper Pec Strength
Something else to consider is your upper pec strength.
I know many gym-goers like to focus on their upper pecs, as it gives your chest a fuller and more aesthetically-pleasing appearance.
With that being said, I also know there are those who go to the gym and perform every chest-related exercise on a flat bench.
However, a stronger upper chest can transfer quite well into helping you overhead press more weight.
So, you may find that your overhead press is actually closer in terms of weight to your flat bench press.
This is especially true if you spend a lot of time incline benching.
Something else which will affect both exercises, but more so the overhead press, is tricep strength.
Now, don’t get me wrong, your triceps will certainly impact your bench press, but you’ll definitely notice this more when you overhead press.
So, if you find that bench press is far more than the 3:2 ratio when compared to your overhead press, it could be time to look at your tricep training a little closer.
When & How Often Do You Bench and Overhead Press?
There are even more factors that could affect the 3:2 bench press to overhead press ratio.
Something to consider is how often you perform both movements.
I will say that most regular gym-goers potentially perform both movements equally, but it wasn’t always this way.
For many years the bench press was the “go-to” lift in the gym.
In fact, many of us probably made our way straight to the bench press area on our very first day in the gym.
The bench press just happens to be the most popular exercise in the gym environment.
However, this wasn’t always the case, and the overhead press was once viewed as the ultimate test of upper body strength.
With that being said, if you are performing one movement much more than the other, this could be the reason that you have such a discrepancy between the two.
Basically, the lift you perform more often is going to be the one you’re stronger at performing.
Furthermore, I know that many of you like to have a push-specific day in the gym.
This would typically involve performing bench press and overhead press on the same day.
It stands to reason that the exercise you perform first will be your stronger movement.
I would hazard a guess that most people would typically start a push-day with the bench press.
Therefore, they always perform the overhead press later in their workout.
This will obviously have an affect on your ratios.
Personally, I believe you should regularly swap the order of your exercises, which stops your body from adapting to your routine.
Plus, this will ensure that you get to perform both movements when you’re at your strongest.
The Best Science-Based Push Workout For Growth
So, as you can see, the ideal bench press to overhead press ratio is 3:2.
Therefore, you should generally be able to bench press 50% more weight than you can overhead press.
However, there are also many factors which may affect this ratio.
These include arm length, grip width, arm and elbow position, upper pec strength, tricep strength, etc.
How often and the order in which you perform both exercises (if done on the same day) can also cause differences to the standard ratio.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.