It has been a meaure of upper body strength for many years and I believe it is a matter of tradition at this point. There are many other measures used such as 40 time, agility testing, vo2, etc. It really counts more for the linemen where it translates directly on the field. I personally train many prospective NFL players for this exact lift. Just a direct measure of upper body strength in their eyes. And it is an exciting competition to watch. Larry Allen currently holds the record with I believe off hand to be 42 or so but dont hold me to it (the number). Many lifts (benches) are counted which are not even full ranges of motion per se. Really not to sound arrogant or come off as a dick but at well under 200# right now at 42 I can do 50 @ 225 any day of the week.
So then I should be a NFL player right? LOL And paid like one. Like said it is just 1 measure outdated exciting lift to watch and the players really get up for it. Love it when the qb's or punters get 6.