Netane Muti benched 225 pounds for 44 reps at the 2020 NFL Combine, tying the highest number since 2010. / NFL video

The NFL combine bench press is not a true test of strength. Collegiate football players, hoping to boost their NFL draft stock, bench press a 225-pound (102 kg.) barbell for as many full, consecutive reps as possible. When guys are doing over 20, it’s as much a test of muscle endurance as muscle strength. It’s also a unique challenge, not a typical training method. Therefore, many well-known names you might expect to show up here are nowhere to be seen, just as some of the names here are likely unfamiliar to even the most rabid NFL fans. Some of these guys peaked at the combine, flat on their backs.

Let’s see what the numbers say as we delve into the NFL combine bench press records in several categories.

BENCH PRESS RECORD: THE TOP 5

Only 19 players have bench pressed 40 or more reps at the NFL combine, a list that includes NFL Hall of Famer Larry Allen (43), as well as Dontari Poe (44), Isaac Sopoaga (42), and Vita Vea (40). All but one, Terna Nande, are either offensive or defensive linemen.

Here’s the top five:

51 REPS: JUSTIN ERNEST

NFL combine bench press record
Justin Ernest at the 1999 NFL combine / YouTube

Justin Ernest (6’3″ 284 lbs.), a defensive tackle from Eastern Kentucky University, put up 51 reps in 1999. This mark comes with an asterisk, because Ernest, who went undrafted, never played in an NFL game.

49 REPS: STEPHEN PAEA

NFL bench press record
Stephen Paea locks out rep 49. / YouTube

The NFL considers Paea’s mark of 49 reps in 2011 the official combine record because he played in the NFL. Stephen Paea (6’1″ 295 lbs.) played seven seasons (2011-17) for the Bears, Redskins, Browns, and Cowboys.

45 REPS: MIKE KUDLA, LEIF LARSON, MITCH PETRUS

2006: Mike Kudla (6’2″ 265 lbs.), a defensive end from Ohio State, never played in the NFL but is the lightest player to bench 225 for 45 or more reps.

2000: Norwegian-born Leif Larsen (6’4″ 300 lbs.), a defensive tackle from the University of Texas, El Paso, was drafted by the Buffalo Bills and played two NFL seasons.

2010: Mitch Petrus (6’3″ 315 lbs.), a guard from Arkansas, played three NFL seasons (2010-12) for the Giants, Patriots, and Titans. He blocked in Super Bowl XLVI for the winning Patriots.

BENCH PRESS RECORD: DEFENSIVE LINEMAN

51 REPS: JASON ERNEST (all-combine participants)

49 REPS: STEPHEN PAEA (NFL players)

BENCH PRESS RECORD: OFFENSIVE LINEMAN

45 REPS: MITCH PETRUS

BENCH PRESS RECORD: LINEBACKER

41 REPS: TERNA NANDE

NFL combine bench press record
Terna Nande gets drafted / NFL

Terna Nande (6′, 230 lbs.), a linebacker from Miami of Ohio University, was drafted by the Titans in 2006 and, while playing for them for one year, made his one and only NFL tackle. He was then on the practice squads of the Colts and Chargers.

BENCH PRESS RECORD: RUNNING BACK

32 REPS: JERICK MCKINNON

Jerick McKinnon (5’9″, 209 lbs.), a running back for Georgia Southern, was drafted by the Vikings in 2014 and currently plays for the Chiefs.

BENCH PRESS RECORD: QUARTERBACK

26 REPS: JASON BOLTUS

Quarterbacks rarely perform the bench press at the combine. Only 44 have benched since 1987. Jason Boltus (6’3, 225 lbs.), Hartwick College, got 26 reps in 2009, but this is another record that comes with an asterisk since Boltus never played in the NFL but did quarterback professionally for eight seasons of Canadian and arena football.

In 2022, former NFL quarterback, 34-year-old Tim Tebow was filmed doing his own combine challenge and hit 31 reps with 225. Tebow did not bench when he participated in the 2010 combine, but, if he had, he likely would’ve broke Boltus’ mark from one year prior.

BENCH PRESS RECORD: UNDER 200-POUND BODYWEIGHT

27 REPS: CHRIS HOUSTON

NFL combine bench press records
Chris Houston with the Lions / Jeffrey Beall

Chris Houston (5’11”, 185 lbs.), a cornerback with Arkansas, benched 27 reps in 2007. Houston was drafted by the Falcons and played seven seasons for the Falcons and Lions.

BEST NFL COMBINE BENCH PRESS

TERNA NANDE

We salute the big numbers of Ernest and Paea and the pound-for-pound strength of McKinnon and Houston, but best of all is a combination of both: the lightest guy in the 40 Rep Club. That would be linebacker Terna Nande benching 225 for 41 reps in 2005 when he weighed only 230. For that, Nande is the GOAT of the NFL combine bench press.

See also: 10 Strongest NFL Players Ever