Back to all

10 tips and drills for the NFL Combine bench press test

Updated on May 17, 2024
10 mins read
10 tips and drills for the NFL Combine bench press test
10 tips and drills for the NFL Combine bench press test

The NFL Combine Bench Press is among the most recognizable drills at the Scouting Combine. It is a relatively straightforward test where the prospect lies flat on a bench and lifts 225 pounds for as many repetitions as possible. The NFL Combine Bench Press results offer scouts and team owners a baseline to compare players in terms of upper body muscle strength and stamina.

While all football players need to be tough, the Combine Bench Press improves draft stock for offensive and defensive linemen the most. As players manning the most physically demanding positions in the gridiron, the Bench Press allows them to showcase their potential to disrupt the line of scrimmage.

Here’s a look at the NFL Combine Bench Press test. We get into the details of how this drill works and the tips and exercises that athletes use to improve their NFL Combine Bench records.

The History of the NFL Combine Bench Press Record

The best NFL Combine Bench Press Record is often regarded as a badge of honor by athletes drafted into the league.

Former Eastern Kentucky defensive tackle Justin Ernest boasts the most Bench Press reps in the NFL Combine at 51 repetitions in 1999. Unfortunately, the NFL did not recognize this record because Justin went undrafted. On the other hand, the worst NFL Combine Bench Press record belongs to former Redskins cornerback, Fred Smoot who managed only one rep.

These are the top 5 Bench Press records in history:

  1. Stephen Paea- 49 reps, 2011, Oregon State (DT)
  2. Mitch Petrus- 45 reps, 2010, Arkansas (G)
  3. Mike Kudla- 45 reps, 2006, Ohio State (DL)
  4. Leif Larsen- 45 reps, 2000, UTEP (DT)
  5. Netane Muti- 44 reps, 2020, Fresno State (G)

Top NFL Combine Drills Results

40-Yard Dash

The most popular event at the NFL Combine, the 40-yard dash, indicates a prospect’s acceleration, speed, agility and quickness. John Ross currently holds the fastest 40-yard dash run at 4.22 seconds (2017), closely followed by Chris Johnson, who ran a 4.24 at the 2008 NFL Combine.

Vertical Jump

The Vertical Jump in the NFL Combine is a measure of a football player’s explosive power. The highest Vertical Jump record in the history of the NFL belongs to North Carolina Safety Gerald Sensabaugh at 46 inches at the 2005 Combine. The second-highest Vertical Jump is by Penn State linebacker Cameron Wake who delivered a 45.5” at the same Combine.

Broad Jump

Like the Vertical Jump, the NFL Broad Jump drill is a reliable indicator of explosiveness. Scouts also use it to evaluate NFL Draft hopefuls’ lower body strength- an important attribute to possess, especially for safeties, linebackers and offensive and defensive linemen. Byron James, the former UConn Cornerback, holds the record for the longest Broad Jump in the NFL. Byron delivered a 12’3” Broad Jump at the 2015 NFL Combine Testing to crush Jamie Collins’ 2013 record of 11’7” by 0.6 inches.

3-Cone Drill

The 3-cone drill (also known as the L-drill) is primarily run to measure speed, agility, change of direction and balance. Oklahoma CB Jordan Thomas has the best 3-cone drill time of 6.28 seconds. His performance in 2018 crushed the previous 2011 3-cone drill record by Jeff Maehl by 0.14 seconds.

Shuttle Drill

The Shuttle Drill (commonly referred to as the 5-10-5 drill) also tests acceleration, speed and change-of-direction. This event improves draft stock for Wide Receivers, Running Backs and Pass Rushers the most. The fastest shuttle drill time recorded is 3.73 seconds by former Wide Receiver Kevin Kasper in 2001.

60-Yard Shuttle

In this fitness drill, the prospects run 5, 10, and 15 yards, down and back to complete 60 yards. Football scouts use the 60-yard shuttle drill to measure an athlete’s speed endurance. This drill also evaluates the ability to accelerate, decelerate and change direction safely. The best NFL Combine 60-yard shuttle time recorded is by Shelton Gibson at 10.71 seconds in 2017.

Wonderlic Test

The Wonderlic test is an IQ test used to estimate the intelligence of the players. The Wonderlic test in the NFL Combine Testing requires the prospects to attempt 50 questions in 12 minutes. The average score is 20 out of 50. The highest Wonderlic score in NFL history belongs to Pat McInally (50/50), followed by Mike Mamula (49) and Ryan Fitzpatrick, who scored 48 points.

On the other side of the spectrum, Darren Davis has the lowest Wonderlic Test score in NFL Combine history at 4 out of 50.

Drills, Exercises and Tips to Prepare for the Combine Bench Press

Power Push-Up

Push-ups are easily one of the best workouts for improving the bench press. That is because push-ups are essentially inverted bench presses. Both activities target the same muscle fibers and boast similar gains in upper body strength.


  • Four Blazepod pods per station


  • Place four pods in a row on the floor 50 cm from each other.
  • On the Blazepod App, set the pods to light up in three different colors randomly with a Light Delay Time of two seconds.
  • Use the ‘Cycles’ button to set the number of repetitions (1-20) and the time between cycles (5-60s).

How to

  1. The player starts in a plank position facing the row of pods.
  2. When the first pod lights up, the athlete moves sideways to the lit pod and performs two wide push-ups before tapping out the pod.
  3. Next, he moves to the second lit pod, performs two narrow push-ups, and then taps the pod out.
  4. At the third lit pod, the athlete does a jump/clap plyometric push-up and then taps out the pod.
  5. Continue for 30 seconds. That’s one rep.
  6. Rest for the time set and continue for the number of cycles selected on the App.

Blazepod Kick-throughs

Kick-throughs are a whole body workout that challenges and strengthens the core, glutes and shoulders. In addition to upper body strength, these exercises also improve balance and coordination.


  • Six Blazepod light-based training pods.


  1. Arrange six pods in two rows of three.
  2. Leave a distance of 1-2 meters between the rows and 50 cm between the pods in the same row.
  3. Each cycle lasts 30 seconds. From the Blazepod App, choose the number of cycles to repeat from 1-20 and the time between the cycles (5-60 seconds).

How to

  1. The athlete starts in a high plank position between the two rows. The hands should be about shoulder-width apart. Only the feet and hands should touch the ground throughout the drill.
  2. When a pod lights up in the right-hand side row, rotate the body by lifting the right hand while sliding the left foot under the body. Extend the left foot to reach and tap out the lit pod.
  3. Repeat the same process to tap out a pod on the left row.
  4. Encourage the player to do the workout with speed and intensity for maximum benefits.

Barbell Rows

Barbell rows are integral to bench press because they train explosiveness besides developing more muscle mass and a strong back. These benefits carry over to the bench press by strengthening the front delts, triceps and pecs.

How to

  1. Start by standing behind the barbell with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bend over and grab the barbell just outside the shoulder-width with an overhand or underhand grip.
  3. Deadlift the weight up into a standing position. Bend forward slightly into a 45-degree angle while keeping the back flat.
  4. Lift the weight by driving the elbows up and backward until the bar almost touches your lower chest.
  5. Finally, lower the bar back down to straighten your arms. That’s one rep.
  6. Repeat five sets of five reps, resting the weight on the floor between the sets.

Spoto Press

The Spoto press is named after Eric Spoto- an American wrestler and one of the most reputable powerlifters in the world. This movement is identical to a paused bench press in that it involves holding the weight midair for a second. The only difference here is that the barbell is halted 1-2 inches over the chest.

Levitating the barbell midair forces the body to engage more muscles like the triceps and shoulders to boost stability. Doing Spoto presses regularly develops pressing power at the bottom of the lift and helps with muscle hypertrophy.

How to

  1. Lie flat on the bench with the head beneath the barbell.
  2. Grip the bar in an overhand grip and with hands just slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  3. Push the barbell off the rack into the starting position.
  4. Inhale and slowly lower the bar until it is 1-2 inches over the chest.
  5. Hold the bar over the chest for a second, then exhale and push it up to the starting position. That’s one rep.
  6. Repeat five sets of three repetitions, taking a break after each set.

Overhead Press

The shoulder press is considered a Combine Bench Press enhancer because it develops most of the large muscles in the body, including deltoids, pectorals, triceps and trapezius.

How to

  1. Start by placing the bar in a rack at shoulder height.
  2. Grip the barbell to unrack it and support it on the chest as you step back from the rack.
  3. Plant the feet shoulder-width apart and the palms facing upwards.
  4. With the back straight and chin in a neutral position, breath out and press overhead into a full extension. Hold the weight there for a second or two.
  5. Breath in when lowering the bar while slowly returning it to the front of the throat. That’s one rep.
  6. Do four sets of 8-10 reps.

Holding the weight overhead for 2-3 seconds helps with upper back and shoulder development. The athlete also gets comfortable with stabilizing a lot of weight above their head.

5 Tips to Improve Your Bench Press


Warming up before lifting a heavy weight helps activate more muscles, particularly the arm, pectoral and shoulder muscles. Recruiting more muscles means that more fibers are at work, making it possible to push more weight. Also, simple mobility warm-ups like shuffling, skipping and jogging will fire up the heart rate, dramatically increasing the blood flow to the muscles.

Avoid bouncing the bar on the chest

If your athletes have to bounce the bar off their chest, the chances are that it’s heavier for them. The barbell should touch the body only so lightly to maximize strength development. Advise your players to pause the bench for a few seconds, an inch or two over the chest, to train muscular tension.

Focus on the 8RM and 2x2 rules

Repetition maximum (RM) refers to the weight an individual can lift for a defined number of consecutive movements. For instance, if an athlete can press 200 lbs for six reps, his rep Max for that weight is 6RM. If an athlete can do two more reps with the same weight for two consecutive workout sessions, the 2x2 rule suggests adding the load.

Have a spotter nearby

It’s dangerous to bench press without a spotter unless the power rack has safety pins (catches). Safety aside, a spotter helps the player lift off the barbell to the starting position without undoing his posture. Secondly, there’s a reason why cheering is encouraged at the NFL Combine Bench Press drill: prospects push their fellow athletes to give their all. That’s what a good spotter does during regular training.

Pause before descent

Nothing helps break through plateaus more than paused bench presses. Pausing the descent for some seconds trains your muscles to remain in control of all the movements when bench pressing. More time under tension also works on the athlete’s form, making it easy to adjust to heavyweights.

Here are additional drills and exercises to give your athletes’ bench press a significant boost!

How DOES the NFL Combine Bench Press Testing Work?

The bench press is among the first drills that the participants undertake at the NFL Combine Testing. Scouts use this as a significant test of strength, cardio and endurance. These three attributes convert to the ability of the player to withstand proper training programs.

The NFL Combine Bench Press weight is 225 lbs. It consists of four 45-pound metal plates and a 45-pound bar. These are the NFL Combine Bench Press rules:

  • The participant lies flat on his back on the bench.
  • Hands must be positioned shoulder-width apart on the barbell.
  • The goal of the drill is to press as many times as possible.
  • When pressing, the participant must keep his hips on the bench and touch his chest slightly with the bar without bouncing it off the trunk. Arching the back and bouncing the weight causes rep nullification.

The average footballer is capable of benching 225 pounds and even more. Although more reps improve draft stock, especially for offensive and defensive linemen, the NFL has a baseline for different players by their position on the gridiron.

NFL Combine Bench Press Average

  • Defensive backs and receivers- 15-20 reps
  • Running backs- 20-25 reps
  • Tight ends and linebackers- 25-30 reps
  • Linemen- 30-39 reps

In Conclusion

Exercise selection is critical when getting the most bench press reps in the NFL Combine. But even more important is getting the full benefits of each exercise. The Blazepod Flash Reflex and Reaction Training Pods offer an innovative system for coaches, trainers and athletes to enhance their workouts. Learn how Blazepod is revolutionizing the way players prepare for the NFL Combine Testing bench press here.


What is the average bench press at the NFL combine?

The NFL has an acceptable range of bench presses for footballers based on their size; Linemen (30-39 reps), Tight Ends and Linebackers (25-30 reps), Running Backs (20-25 reps) and Defensive Backs and Receivers (15-20 reps).

Who holds the NFL combine record for bench press?

The official Combine Bench Press record is 49 repetitions by Stephen Paea, DT, 2011. Although Eastern Kentucky defensive end Justin Ernest managed 51 reps in 1999, his performance was not officially recognized by the NLF.

Are there any NFL players that can’t bench 225?

While most NFL players are generally known for their big build, some have recorded extremely low numbers for NFL players. For instance, Fred Smoot has the worst NFL Combine Bench Press results to be drafted. It’s reported that in 1999, Smooth managed only one rep of the 225 pounds.