One good measure of real upper body strength is the ability to bench press 2x your body weight for 1 rep. Not many normal folks can come close to it, but many try. I actually saw a contest on TV a few months ago where guys were bench pressing 3x their body weight. Amazing stuff.
As Chuck said, something about the bench press tends to make guys do stupid things to try and impress folks. Many a rib has been broken on the bench. Barbells don't bounce much off a chest.
From your posts, it sounds like you are looking to gain some in-depth knowledge on strength training. Go to www.exrx.net
and start reading all the articles. You'll learn a lot and can develop a weight traininig routine that is appropriate for you and your goals. There is a lot of BS out there concerning weight training, but its really quite simple. Work a muscle past its current strength capability and it will grow, given appropriate recovery time to form and recruit new muscle fiber. What works for me, your friend or the guy selling personal training advice may or may not work for you. Best thing to do is read, read, read and experiment in the gym to find the best routine for your body. One nice thing about weight training is that if you are just starting out, you will see impressive progress if you stick with it for 3-4 months.