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 to your strength potential.
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Okay, let’s get started.
Am I Strong? How Strong Should I Be?
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.
What Are Strength Standards?
Strength standards are an arbitrary level of strength that an average person can reasonably expect to achieve.
Everyone is built differently and will have unique abilities to achieve a certain strength level. As such, strength will be impacted by your genetics, age, and anatomy.
- An average sized man will likely be stronger than an average sized woman.
- A 25 year old woman will likely be stronger than a 70 year old woman.
- A 6 foot 3, 225 lb man will likely be stronger than a 5 foot 9, 150 lb man
- Someone with long arms will be a better deadlifter and a worse bench presser
What Are “Good” Strength Standards For Resistance Training?
Regardless of your sex, age, or anatomy, here are some good strength standards you should aim for.
First, there are 5 levels of strength.
There are 5 Levels 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.
Having this level of muscle strength is beneficial for numerous reasons:
- 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 Level or Athletic Level, 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 Athletic Strength level is simply a matter of pride and hobby.
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 How To Design An Effective Training Program
Compound exercises are the best exercises to measure total body strength and force production.
For the major barbell exercises, the strength standard will be expressed as a one rep maximum, aka your maximum strength.
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 bodyweight exercises, the strength standard will be expressed as the maximum number of repetitions you can perform in one unbroken set.
The three major bodyweight exercises are
- The Push-Up
- The Pull-Up
- The Plank
The standards presented below are not going to qualify you for the Powerlifting world records. These numbers are realistic performance standards that the average busy lifter can expect.
For the sake of simplicity, we will not stratify each strength standard by weight class.
Instead, we will provide an absolute strength number (in pounds) 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, and the best way to demonstrate leg strength.
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.
Want to know how to do the squat movement 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 Bodyweight
- Good: 225 lbs or 1.2x Bodyweight
- Optimal: 255 lbs or 1.5x Bodyweight
- Advanced: 315 lbs or 1.75x Bodyweight
- Athlete: >365 lbs or 2x Body weight
Female Squat Standards
- Decent: 95 lbs or 0.8x Bodyweight
- Good: 135 lbs or 1x Bodyweight
- Optimal: 185 lbs or 1.3x Bodyweight
- Advanced: 215 lbs or 1.5x Bodyweight
- Athlete: >235 lbs or 1.75x Bodyweight
The Bench Press
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 Bodyweight
- Good: 185 lbs or 1x Bodyweight
- Optimal: 235 lbs or 1.3x Bodyweight
- Advanced: 275 lbs or 1.5x Bodyweight
- Athlete: >315 lbs or 1.75x Body weight
Female Bench Standards
- Decent: 80 lbs or 0.65x Bodyweight
- Good: 95 lbs or 0.7x Bodyweight
- Optimal: 115lbs or 0.85x Bodyweight
- Advanced: 135 lbs or 1x Bodyweight
- Athlete: >165 lbs or 1.25x Bodyweight
How Much Should I Be Able To Deadlift?
There are two kinds of lifters in this world. Those who love the barbell deadlift, and those who hate it.
If done correctly, you will feel the deadlift in almost every muscle in your 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 Bodyweight
- Good: 245 lbs or 1.3x Bodyweight
- Optimal: 300 lbs or 1.65x Bodyweight
- Advanced: 350 lbs or 2x Bodyweight
- Athlete: >405 lbs or 2.25x Bodyweight
Female Deadlift Standards
- Decent: 135 lbs or 1x Bodyweight
- Good: 185 lbs or 1.3x Bodyweight
- Optimal: 215lbs or 1.65x Bodyweight
- Advanced: 265 lbs or 2x Bodyweight
- Athlete: >295 lbs or 2.25x Body weight
The Overhead Press
How Much Should I Be Able To Overhead Press?
Out of the four barbell exercises, the overhead press aka the military 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 Bodyweight
- Good: 135 lbs or 0.65x Bodyweight
- Optimal: 165 lbs or 0.85x Bodyweight
- Advanced: 185 lbs or 1x Bodyweight
- Athlete: 200 lbs or 1.25x Bodyweight
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 0.0333 + 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 0.0333 = 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.
Summary of The Barbell Weightlifting Standards
These strength standards have been created with symmetric strength in mind.
To achieve your most optimal health, 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.
Ok, now let’s talk about the other three exercises.
Here’s A FREE Workout Template To Help You Get Started!
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 30-Day Exercise Challenge For Busy Professionals.
Male Push-up Standards
- Decent: 10
- Good: 25
- Optimal: 35
- Advanced: 50
- Athlete: 60
Female Push-Up Standards
- Decent: 5
- Good: 10
- Optimal: 18
- Advanced: 30
- Athlete: 40
You can also check out our post on how many push-ups should you be able to do to get started.
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
- Decent: 3
- Good: 8
- Optimal: 12
- Advanced: 15
- Athlete: 20
Female Pull-Up Standards
- Decent: 1
- Good: 3
- Optimal: 5
- Advanced: 8
- Athlete: 12
Check out our post on how many pull-ups should you be able to do to learn more.
How Long Should I Be Able To Plank?
The plank is one of the best core exercises there is. It is so simple, yet so effective.
Ab exercises should rarely involve excessive movement of the spine. And if you are still doing sit-ups, please stop.
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
Bonus: Grip Strength
How Strong Is your Grip?
Last but not least – it’s important for you to have a strong grip.
It’s also a great way to make a good first impression when shaking someone’s hand.
So what’s the easiest way to test your grip strength?
Hanging from a bar.
The good news is, training the pull-up and the deadlift will improve your grip strength indirectly.
But here are some benchmarks you should shoot for.
Grip Strength Standards
- Decent: 30 second hang (two arms)
- Good: 45 second hang (two arms)
- Optimal: 60 second hang (two arms)
- Advanced: 15 second one arm hang
- Athlete: 30 second one arm hang
How Do I get Stronger?
Getting stronger requires three things.
- Proper exercise selection
- An easy to follow workout program
With that said, it is important that you set reasonable goals. 95% of people should reach the Optimal strength level within their lifetime.
A much smaller percentage will reach the Advanced level. But that’s okay.
You should only focus on improving yourself day after day, week after week.
How Do You Compare To These Standards Of Strength?
I hope that these numbers have motivated you (and not discouraged you) to achieve optimal levels of standard strength.
Now is as good a time as any to set and achieve whatever weightlifting goal you desire.
This is why we have created The WCT Strength Training Program For Busy Professionals.
It is a 15-week weight training program designed to get you results fast while minimizing the time you need to spend at the gym.
- what exercises to do
- how to do them with proper form
- how much weight to use
- how many sets and reps to do
- when to increase weight
- and more
There are both male and female options.
Final Words On Achieving An Elite Level of Strength
We chose the basic barbell exercises as our tests as they allow you to train many muscle groups at once and display a high level of functional strength.
With that said, there are many other ways to demonstrate strength such as in the Olympic lifts (which includes the clean & jerk and snatch) and sprinting.
However, these movements require a high degree of skill and aren’t applicable to a large number of people.
But now we want to hear from you.
What do you think of our overall strength standards?
Do you see yourself accomplishing these goals?
Any other standards you would add to the list? Leg Press? Barbell Row?
Comment below and let us know.
Related Articles On Strength Standards:
- How Often Should I Workout?
- How Many Sets and Reps Should I Do?
- How Should I Structure My Training Program?
In addition, you can also check out How To Workout Effectively & Efficiently to see it all put together in one place!
Alex Robles, MD, CPT / Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT
Alex & Brittany Robles are physicians, NASM CPTs, health & fitness experts, and founders of The White Coat Trainer: a site dedicated to improving the health and fitness of busy professionals. Their advice has been featured on KevinMD, The Doctor Weighs In, My Fitness Pal, Reader’s Digest, Livestrong, and The Active Times. Learn more about them here.