T Nation

Strength Ratios & a Stuck Bench


What is the is the normal ratio between bench press and bent-over rows? I've heard that your bent-over row should be 90% of your bench, can only confirm that?

Speaking of ratios, what is the ratio between the front and back squat? I've heard that you should be able to front squat 80% of what you can back squat, is that right?

Last question. My bench press growth is agonizingly slow. It would be one thing if all my lifts were progressing slowly but that isn't the case. All my other lifts, even ones very similar to the bench press (i.e. incline DB bench press) are progressing nicely.

I can't figure why my bench is going slow, any tips on how to get it moving again. For the record I can only bench my bodyweight ( measly I know).


Your bench is stuck because you're spending too much time worrying about little details like the ratio of rows to bench. Keep them close, everyones different, just keep them reasonable close.

If you only bench your bodyweight, there isn't some secret reason why your bench isn't moving. Its not a lagging body part and you don't need to find some magical set rep scheme.
Your a beginner, if your bench isn't going up its cuz your not training it hard enough, or because your training it too much. Figure out which and adjust accordingly.


As a beginner, a good way to increase your bench is to stop doing it for 4-5 weeks and focus on other chest exercises like weighted dips and pushups. Once you get back to benching, it may not have increased, but advancing from there will be easier to do since your body hasn't done the exercise in over a month.

PS Don't forget to do rotator cuff and scapula exercises.


I'm looking for ratios so I can set weight goals. I'm not laboring over the subject but I prefer to operate with a definitive goal.

Thanks! I was actually thinking the same thing. Would changing the style of bench press, as in decline instead of regular, count as that? Or should I just drop it all together for a bit?


The best article I've read on the matter is...


Table 1
Optimal strength ratios in the male elite athletes involved in upper body dominated sports as they related to a 1RM, 160 kg performance in the 36 cm close-grip bench press (Poliquin, 1997)

  Optimal Strength Ratios

  Close Grip Bench Press
  Absolute score: 160 kg (352 pounds)
  Relative score: 100%

  Incline Barbell Press
  Absolute score: 133 kg (293 pounds)
  Relative score: 83%

  Supinated Chin-Ups
  Absolute score: 130 kg (286 pounds)
  Relative score: 81%

  Behind-the-Neck Presses
  Absolute score: 102 kg (224 pounds)
  Relative score: 64%

  Scott Barbell Curls
  Absolute score: 74 kg (163 pounds)
  Relative score: 46%

  Standing Reverse Curls
  Absolute score: 48 kg (107 pounds)
  Relative score: 30%

  External Rotation SA*
  Absolute score: 15 kg (33 pounds)
  Relative score: 9%

  *Done for eight reps


Thanks for the response DaMadMonk. Anyone else know about this stuff?


Here's an article that gives you the specific strength standards in many exercises.



How old are you?, and what is the purpose of you lifting?


Are you lifting by yourself? If so, that is going to hinder throwing on the heaviest weight you can handle which in turn hinders building your bench. If lifting by yourself do you have access to heavy dumbbells?

If so, use the heaviest ones you can handle and progressively try to go heavier. I have never heard of anyone building their bench by doing push ups. You can build up the amount of push ups you do but not increase the amount of weight you can handle on the bench.



I think there is a certain time in one's training that pushups can really benefit chest development as well as possibly increase one's bench press. Generally, it seems that it would be best for people with bench press numbers in the high 100's/low 200's.

Different variations of pushups can be performed (I prefer having feet elevated on a bench) and more importantly you can progressively load heavier weights using a weighted vest. Anyway, my main point was that it's often necessary to switch up routines, which sometimes means taking out flat bench press and using its variations and/or other chest exercises for several weeks.


I pretty much agree with you especially on variation. However, to bench bigger one needs to hit variations on the bench as in different programs centered around benching being flat, incline, and decline. I do throw pushups in our workouts at times especially after heavy benching or to kick off higher rep full body centered workouts. I do get your point and again pretty much agree.

Take care,



26 and my purpose in lifting is relative strength. I've always been more interested in being "strong for my size" than just strong. That is not to say I want to be small, mind you. That's why I was looking for ratios (and in turn strength standards).

I am lifting by myself and I do have access to heavy dumbbells. That is actually one of the odd things for me. In addition to barbell bench press I also preform dumbbell incline bench press. My incline bench press is progressing well but not my bench even though they have roughly the same length in training time.

In any case, I appreciate everyone's help. I'm at a toss up between weighted dips or decline bench press right now. I'll make a decision and go from there. Thanks again everyone.


What does your training routine currently look like?

Also, why are you training for "relative" strength? Do you compete in a sport/activity where weight is a factor (gymnastics, wrestling, etc...)? Are you also training with low reps and high intensity (% of 1RM)? Are you eating enough? Do you perform any exercises for your rotator cuff?

You may need to except the fact that you will have to build muscle if you wish to continue getting stronger. Really very few (if any) people get tremendously strong (even relatively) while limiting themselves in terms of building muscle.

Even of the athletes that I mentioned above (gymnasts for example), the ones that get extremely strong relatively have the genetic potential to get that strong. They are also usually quite small individuals, and have optimum lever lengths, muscle belly lengths, hormonal levels, etc.., which allow them to reach those levels of strength. These are the genetic elite, not the average.

My advice to you is to really think about why you want to avoid building muscle mass. If it's for aesthetic reasons, then fine. But realize that you may have to sacrifice being really strong due to your aesthetic preferences.

Some might disagree. But that's been my experience.

Good training,



Are you doing flat bench barbell?

My personal preference would be to do weighted dips over decline bench.

I would post your routine like another asked for. It appaers you may not be doing an optimal routine. Just a suggestion.


You should probably row a good bit more than you bench but the two exercises shouldn't be paired together since in the row your scapula move and in the bench press your scapula don't.

You should be able to do weighted pull ups (count bodyweight) with the same weight you can bench. Or pull-up slightly more.

But what I want to know and I hope someone will answer this: should you be able to barbell row more than you can pull up?


I go to the gym three times a week and cycle through these four workouts:

Workout A
Front Squat 5x5
Single Arm DB Row 5x5
Single Arm Incline DB Bench 5x5
Lateral Raise 3x10
EZ Bar Curl 3x10

Workout B
Military Press 5x5
T-bar Row 5x5
Single Leg RDL 5x5
Single Leg Leg Curl 3x10
Wrist Propinator/Supinator 3x10

Workout C
Bench Press 5x5
Weight Pull Up 5x5
Pistol Squat 5x5
Single Leg Leg Extension 3x10
Rear Delt Raise 3x10

Workout D
Sumo Deadlift 5x5
Bentover Row 5x5
Single Arm DB Shoulder Press 5x5
Tricep Rope Pulldown 3x10
Seated Calve Raise 3x10

I don't participate in any sports that require relative strength. It's just something I've always been more interested in. I would rather be the 175 lb guy that can deadlift 500 than the 230 lb guy that deadlifts the same. Those are just arbitrary numbers by the way.

I'm not afraid of gaining muscle (I need to badly actually), and I have no problem with getting big. I just want to be strong for my size. Yeah I know I don't really have the genetics for this, but I'd prefer to try.

Okay I'll take your advice and do weighted dips.