The easy way out here, of course, is simply to figure out how much Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale, Ben Affleck and Robin Pattinson were legitimately capable of bench pressing at whatever moments they first donned the cowl.
But where’s the fun in that? I mean, we’re talking about a franchise where one of the most famous lines is, “Riddle me this, Batman?” So in the spirit of The Riddler, let’s do this thing for real: How much would a man of Batman’s size, athleticism and body composition reasonably be expected to bench press as a representation of the pinnacle of human performance locked within his specific mortal form?
I will, though, offer one caveat: I don’t care what weight totals some artists who have never seen the inside of a weight room drew on the barbells that Bruce Wayne has been seen pressing in print. One of the things that defines the essence of Batman is his physical perfection as contained within the rational limitations of a human body. The world record for a raw bench press is presently 782 pounds, and is owned by a man who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs roughly 450 pounds. This is a 1.73-times bodyweight bench press from a guy who essentially devotes his entire life to the pursuit of bench-pressing glory. I don’t want to hear one word about how 210-pound Bruce Wayne can somehow be the world-record holder in the bench press by lifting roughly four times his bodyweight “… because I’m Batman!”
Not. One. Word.
Batman is not superhuman. Period.
Fine. But how do we develop an estimate for Batman’s bench-pressing might?
To realistically project Batman’s peak bench-pressing output, we have to make some logical extrapolations based on his height, weight and perceived fitness level. In the most widely circulated Who’s Who guides and entries printed by DC Comics, Batman is listed at 6-foot-2 and the aforementioned 210 pounds. With the understanding that Batman represents an athlete in peak physical condition at that height and weight, we should find some bench-pressing figures for some similarly proportioned individuals.
To that end, a decent analogue for Bruce Wayne would be someone like former NFL wide receiver Miles Austin, who at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds ran a 4.47 in the 40-yard dash at the 2006 NFL combine, while also unleashing a 40.5-inch vertical leap, a 123-inch broad jump and 21 repetitions on the 225-pound bench press. Also, Austin looked like this at the time:
So if we use Austin’s 21 repetitions on the bench press as our base figure, we can plug that into any of the online software that calculates one-rep max predictions. This places our estimate for the bench press of someone at Austin/Wayne’s height, weight, athleticism and general shreddedness at anywhere from 382.5 pounds to 507 pounds. That’s a very wide range, but I’m going to give Bruce Wayne the benefit of the doubt and say that it’s much closer to that 500-pound total, which is partially owed to the fact that I’m convinced Bruce Wayne is on the juice.
Why would you assume that Batman is taking performance-enhancing drugs?!
Through a combination of logic and deductive reasoning. First of all, Batman has been far from a saint in his depictions in nearly every form of media since the 1980s. Not to mention, Batman is facing the hardest of the hardcore criminals, some of whom are sociopathically deranged, several of whom are superhumanly enhanced and none of whom permit their evil ambitions to be hindered by a code of conduct or a sense of morality.
Under those circumstances, do I think Batman would draw the line at drug use if a reluctance to use steroids would prevent him from meting out justice while preserving his own life? No chance. The Bat is as dirty as the day is long, and I can’t say that I blame him. Besides, it’s not like a drug-testing failure would get an asterisk placed next to his logo on the Bat Signal, or get him booted from the Hall of Justice. He’s also only on the record stating that his one rule is “no killing”; I haven’t heard him make any reference to “no juicing.”
So put it down in ink: The Caped Crusader can bench a little over 500 pounds, bro.