How Strong Are You? Realistic Strength Standards For Busy Individuals
Do you have a tendency to compare yourself to others?
Everyone does. Humans have a natural desire for competition. If this weren't true, then sports wouldn't be as popular as they are.
Comparisons are also prevalent in the realm of fitness. This is mainly due to the fact that we have objective ways of measuring your strength, speed, and body composition.
While you should never compare yourself to anyone for various reasons, it is interesting to know how you compare to your cohort.
So how strong are you compared to the general population?
In today's post, we will go over realistic strength standards for both men and women.
Let's see how you stack up.
How Strong Should I Be?
First, I want to start with a disclaimer.
There is no level of strength that you have to be. If you are content with your body and your strength levels, then you already are as strong as you need to be.
Never compare yourself to someone else in the hopes of being as strong as they are. You have your own strengths, and your own weaknesses.
The purpose of this post is for you to measure how strong you currently are, relative to how strong you can become.
With that said, if you want to optimize your body's capabilities, then there is a bare minimum strength standard that you should set for yourself.
There are 5 Stages of Strength as Defined by The WCT
I believe that everyone should strive to get as close to an Optimal level of strength as possible.
This is for numerous reasons:
- So that you can pull yourself up from a cliff if you happen to be hanging off a ledge somewhere while on vacation.
- So that you can pick up your kids and play with them without straining a muscle
- So that you can move your furniture without breaking your back
- So that you can pick up and carry someone who is in danger, to safety
- So that you carry lean muscle mass on your frame and decrease your risk of preventable illnesses.
You can aim to go above the Optimal level and reach the Advanced and Athletic levels, however these levels of strength will begin to have diminishing returns. If your goal is health and fitness, you only need to cross a certain threshold of strength to maintain a healthy body.
Achieving an Advanced or Athletic Strength level is simply a matter of hobby. Brittany and I personally love strength and do our best to go above and beyond what would be an acceptable level of strength for the average individual.
How Strong Am I? How Should I Measure My Strength?
It is important to note that this article is referring to strength standards for the major compound lifts that we discuss in Every Fitness Training Program Must Include These 3 Things.
Compound exercises are the best method we have of measuring total body strength as these movements allow you to express the maximum amount of power your body can generate as a unit.
For the major barbell exercises, the strength standard will be expressed as a one rep maximum.
A 1 rep max is the most amount of weight that you can safely lift (with good form) one time.
*This point cannot be stressed enough. You must ensure that your technique is above average before testing your one rep max strength. Failure to do so can result in serious injury.*
The four major barbell exercises are
- The Back Squat
- The Bench Press
- The Deadlift
- The Overhead Press
For the body weight exercises, the strength standard will be expressed as the maximum number of repetitions you can perform in one unbroken set.
The three major body weight exercises are
- The Push-Up
- The Pull-Up
- The Plank
The standards presented below are not going to qualify you for the Powerlifting Championships. These numbers are realistic benchmarks that the average busy professional can expect.
For the sake of simplicity, we will not stratify each strength standard by bodyweight. Instead, we will provide an absolute strength number and a relative strength number.
The relative standard automatically takes your body weight into account.
Both are provided because relative strength is not a perfect calculation. A lighter individual will always have an easier time developing their relative strength over a heavier individual.
So without further ado, let's get to the numbers.
How Much Should I Be Able To Squat?
The squat is often regarded as the king of all exercises.
It is performed with a barbell on your upper back, and it requires you to squat down to below parallel (your hips are below your knees when looking from the side).
Having a strong squat allows you to maintain your ability to sit and rise from a seated position, and it strengthens your entire core and lower body musculature. Here are a few other reasons why you should squat.
Wan't to know how to do it correctly?
Check out our How to Squat Correctly and Safely Tutorial to see a full written description of this exercise.
Male Squat Standards
Decent: 185 lbs or 1x Body weight
Good: 225 lbs or 1.2x Body weight
Optimal: 255 lbs or 1.5x Body weight
Advanced: 315 lbs or 1.75x Body weight
Athlete: >365 lbs or 2x Body weight
Female Squat Standards
Decent: 95 lbs or 0.8x Body weight
Good: 135 lbs or 1x Body weight
Optimal: 185 lbs or 1.3x Body weight
Advanced: 215 lbs or 1.5x Body weight
Athlete: >235 lbs or 1.75x Body weight
How Much Should I Be Able To Bench?
The bench press is the king of upper body barbell exercises.
This is the upper body exercise that allows you to lift the most amount of weight possible.
A strong bench press allows you to push items away from you while maintaining a stable shoulder position.
Check out our How to Bench Press Correctly and Safely Tutorial to see a full written description of this exercise.
Male Bench Standards
Decent: 135 lbs or 0.75x Body weight
Good: 185 lbs or 1x Body weight
Optimal: 235 lbs or 1.3x Body weight
Advanced: 275 lbs or 1.5x Body weight
Athlete: >315 lbs or 1.75x Body weight
Female Bench Standards
Decent: 80 lbs or 0.65x Body weight
Good: 95 lbs or 0.7x Body weight
Optimal: 115lbs or 0.85x Body weight
Advanced: 135 lbs or 1x Body weight
Athlete: >165 lbs or 1.25x Body weight
How Much Should I Be Able To Deadlift?
There are two kinds of lifters in this world. Those who love the deadlift, and those who hate it. If done correctly, you will feel the deadlift in almost every muscle in you body.
The deadlift should be your strongest exercise. It is the movement that allows you to lift the most amount of weight possible.
Having a strong deadlift is beneficial because it will allow you to maintain a healthy spinal position when lifting items off of the floor.
Check out our How to Deadlift Correctly and Safely Tutorial to see a full written description of this exercise.
Male Deadlift Standards
Decent: 185 lbs or 1x Body weight
Good: 245 lbs or 1.3x Body weight
Optimal: 300 lbs or 1.65x Body weight
Advanced: 350 lbs or 2x Body weight
Athlete: >405 lbs or 2.25x Body weight
Female Deadlift Standards
Decent: 135 lbs or 1x Body weight
Good: 185 lbs or 1.3x Body weight
Optimal: 215lbs or 1.65x Body weight
Advanced: 265 lbs or 2x Body weight
Athlete: >295 lbs or 2.25x Body weight
How Much Should I Be Able To Overhead Press?
Out of the four barbell exercises, the overhead press is the one where you will lift the least amount of weight.
It requires you to bring a barbell from your shoulders to a complete overhead position without the use of momentum.
As simple as it sounds, it requires a lot of focus, strength and dedication.
Check out our How to Overhead Press Correctly and Safely Tutorial to see a full written description of this exercise.
Male Overhead Press Standards
Decent: 95 lbs or 0.5x Body weight
Good: 135 lbs or 0.65x Body weight
Optimal: 165 lbs or 0.85x Body weight
Advanced: 185 lbs or 1x Body weight
Athlete: 200 lbs or 1.25x Body weight
Female Overhead Press Standards
Decent: 45 lbs or 0.35x Body weight
Good: 65 lbs or 0.5x Body weight
Optimal: 95lbs or 0.75x Body weight
Advanced: 105 lbs or 0.8x Body weight
Athlete: 120 lbs or 0.9x Body weight
Squat, Bench Press and Deadlift Max Strength Calculator
What if you don’t know what your one rep max is?
There is a very simple calculation you can perform to estimate that number.
Weight lifted x Reps x 0.333 + Weight Lifted
I don’t know who came up with it, but Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 is the first place I saw it.
For example, let’s say you lift 185 lbs for 5 reps.
Your estimated one rep max would then be
185 x 5 x 0.333 = 31
30.8 + 185 = 216 lbs
I have found that the formula is fairly accurate +/- 5-10 lbs.
However, it does become less accurate with an increasing amount of repetitions. Ideally, you should only use 6 reps or less when doing your calculation.
Barbell Strength Standard Summary
These strength standards have been created with symmetric strength in mind.
To achieve your most optimal body, it is important to have a good baseline level of strength in all of the key functional movement exercises.
To optimize the health of your body, you should be able to squat and deadlift ~1.5x your bodyweight, bench press ~1.25x your bodyweight and overhead press ~0.75x your bodyweight.
However, it isn’t enough to be able to lift heavy weights. You should also be able to move your own body around too.
Strength Standards For Body Weight Exercises
What about the core bodyweight exercises?
What is the optimal amount of pushups or pull-ups you should be able to do?
How long should you be able to hold a plank for?
Here is what you should be able to do in an ideal situation.
How Many Push-Ups Should I Be Able To Do?
The pushup is long regarded as one of the best markers of upper body strength. If you cannot do a single push-up, then you really have to start getting things back in order.
We have created an entire 10 Step Push Up Progression that you can do at our 31 Day Exercise Challenge For Busy Professionals.
Male Push-up Standards
Female Push-Up Standards
How Many Pull-Ups Should I Be Able To Do?
The pull up is probably one of the most difficult exercises of all time. Most people cannot perform a single pull up. This is unfortunate as the pull up is the king of upper body exercises.
Don't worry, you can still benefit from this exercise by performing negative pull ups which we describe in detail in How To Do Pull Ups Correctly and Safely.
Male Pull-up Standards
Female Pull-Up Standards
How Long Should I Be Able To Plank?
The plank is by far the best core exercise there is. It is so simple, yet so effective.
Ab exercises should rarely ever involve any movement of the spine. And if you are still doing sit-ups, please stop. (Here are 9 Horrible Exercises You Should Never Do).
You must be able to hold a plank for at least 1 minute if you want to have a healthy body. This is certainly doable compared to what others have done.
Male and Female Plank Standards
Decent: >20 seconds
Good: >45 seconds
Optimal: >60 seconds
Advanced: >90 seconds
Athlete: >120 seconds
Now Go Achieve Your Weightlifting Goals
I hope that these numbers have motivated you (and not discouraged you) to achieve optimal levels of strength.
Now is as good a time as any to set and achieve whatever weightlifting goal you desire.
Don't worry. This is why we have created The Best Workout Template For Busy Individuals.
In that post, we discuss all of the necessary components any training program should have, all with an emphasis on the big 4 exercises as well as some other honorable mentions.
In addition, if you would like a simple 15 week program that is already set up for you, check out The WCT Strength Program For Busy Professionals.
It’s a pre-made Template that allows you to input your exercises and weights to get an efficient 35 minute workout session.
There are both male and female options.
Now we turn it over to you.
What do you think of our bench marks?
Are you close to the optimal bench marks?
Do you see yourself accomplishing these goals?
Any other standards you would add to the list?
Comment below and let us know.
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