The National Football League-225 Bench Press Test and the Size–Weight Illusion

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The purpose of this study was to test reports that size and arrangement manipulations of weight plates (i.e., inducing a size–weight illusion [SWI]) effect athletic weightlifting performance. The participants were 72 experienced, weight-trained collegiate American football players. Across three weeks, each athlete performed three different repetitions-to-fatigue bench press tests (NFL-225, SWI-225, and SWI-215). A multiple regression revealed a positive association between participants’ strength relative to the test load and repetitions for NFL-225 and SWI-215, but no association with SWI-225. To explore these results, players were ranked into quartiles based on their one-repetition maximum relative to 102.27 kg (225 lb), and a 3 × 4 repeated measures analysis of variance was conducted. The primary finding was a significant Test Condition × Quartile interaction (p = .004). Bonferroni-corrected pairwise comparisons revealed that Quartile 4 (those with lowest strength relative to test load) completed more repetitions for SWI-225 compared with NFL-225 (p = .049). These results suggest that alternate weight plate arrangements may be beneficial for those whose bench press load is near the lifter’s one-repetition maximum. However, variations of the SWI do not appear to affect the performance of repetitions-to-fatigue bench press tests for the majority of collegiate American football players.

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