I decided to create this graph so women, personal trainers, and strength coaches could gauge their progress in lower body strength exercises and create expectations, goals, and benchmarks. The graph below represents the hypothetical average lower body strength gains for a woman who trains with me two times per week.
Let me make some clarifications before posting the graph.
- I didn’t take actually calculate averages; this is hypothetical.
- These strength levels are in the 3-8 rep ranges.
- Obviously someone training with me is going to see a lot quicker progress compared to someone training by themselves or training with a crummy trainer. There’s an art and science to developing maximal strength, and the majority of individuals just don’t understand it.
- Obviously these are just averages. While the deadlift and hip thrust are more consistent, the squat varies dramatically, mostly due to anthropometry, starting fitness levels, and age. Cases in point:
- My girlfriend Diana (weighs around 120 lbs) was squatting 225 within 6 months of training with me, but she was already in good physical shape from rock climbing and she also has a good build for squats. I trained a client several years back who took several months just to be able to perform a bodyweight low box squat due to age (she was in her late 50’s), poor mobility, and inferior strength in her knees and posterior chain. I had to start her out with ultra-high box squats where she barely squatted down, but at the six month mark, she was performing goblet full squats with a 30 lb dumbbell for 10 reps.
- My client Sammie (weighs around 125 lbs) was hip thrusting 385 within 6 months of training with me, but she was already in good physical shape from working out, and she is a natural at hip thrusting. Older clients might just get to 135 after 6 months of training with me as they’ll progress a bit slower than younger clients.
- My client Karli (weighs around 125 lbs) was deadlifting 275 within 2 months of training with me, but she was already in good physical shape from working out, and she is a natural at deadlifts. Older clients might only be deadlifting 135-155 lbs after 6 months of training with me.
- Obviously heavier individuals will have an absolute strength advantage compared to lighter individuals; this graph assumes around a 120-150 lb weight range.
- Not everyone can full squat or conventional deadlift properly due to anatomical mobility restrictions or prior injuries. Most can squat to parallel over time, and most can safely perform box squats. Similarly, most can perform rack pulls from below the knees over time, and most can safely perform trap bar deadlifts.
- These averages are for individuals who train with me twice per week. If they trained more often, their progress would be greatly fast-forwarded. In fact, if they trained 4 times per week, I imagine that progression-rates would double.
- This graph assumes a starting point of 0 lbs (just bodyweight) for squats and hip thrusts, and 45 lbs (just the bar) for deadlifts. This is a typical starting point for a brand new beginner who is in good health but new to strength training. Diana, Sammie, and Karli started off with heavier weights due to good prior fitness levels.
- This graph also assumes proper form. Obviously you could just “get someone better at sucking” by adding weight to their crummy movement patterns, but time must be taken to develop proper squat and hip-hinge patterns. Hip thrust patterning isn’t so hard though as it doesn’t require as much mobility, stability, or coordination.
As you can see, graphs that report averages can be useful but they don’t paint the entire picture. Nevertheless, hopefully this graph will provide you with some insights.
Here’s what you might notice:
- Women tend to be strongest at the hip thrust, followed by the deadlift, followed by the squat, assuming sound training is performed for all three exercises.
- After a solid month of training, healthy beginner females tend to be using around 65 lbs for 3-8 reps for the squat, 95 lbs for 3-8 reps in the deadlift, and 135 lbs for 3-8 reps on the hip thrust.
- Strength gains are fastest in month one and have slowed down markedly at the six month mark.
Genetics and Glutes
Last thing – there’s a huge genetic component to developing nice glutes (click HERE to read about the genetics of glutes and click HERE to read about bodybuilding genetics in general). Many lucky ladies can develop amazing glutes without going too heavy by just focusing on glute activation and using a controlled tempo with lots of time under tension. For example, Nathalia Melo has some of best glutes in the world and she doesn’t use very heavy weights. However, she highly activates her glutes and performs a ton of volume. Conversely, there are many unlucky ladies who gain tremendous strength and still don’t possess great glutes. Therefore, you should always make sure your strength is gained through great form and proper glute activation. However, everyone can indeed improve their glutes, and you just do the best you can with what mother nature gave you!
I hope this graph was of value to you!
This is great for goal setting! Thank you 🙂
You’re very welcome Karen! Glad you like it.
Good to know for setting program goals! Thanks for mentioning the bar weight as that was a question I had when you say 135, does that include the bar? I leave it out as I wasn’t sure how much the bar weighed, but know that I know, that really boost my strength. I love your blog it really helps out and keeps a person motivated! thanks
Oh and I just got my ankle weights today, thanks your interview with the brazilian model and Kellies workout!
Always count the bar. It may be 30#, 45#, or 55#. 135# usually is made up of two 45# plates and a 45# bar.
Yep. Bar is 45 lbs, so two 45 lb plates plus the bar would equal 135 lbs.
Vow, I am impressed by the performance and energy. Can I do this as well? I am over 40.
Very informative post Bret, it’s very useful for a woman to know what her potential is. For us men it is easier because pretty much everyone knows somebody that works out, but with women it is not that way.
Keep it up
Excellent use of pictures!
thank you always enjoying reading and applying your sciences!
I’ll be fifty next week and I need to change my body and lose some weight in the process. Can you help me do it online? I can’t afford to pay a trainer but if you can give me some guidance I will do it at home and follow you online. Will you please help me or direct me somewhere? I’m a doughy, weak mess @ 5’8, 165 lbs. with no strength at all. Let me know…..Carol
I can’t be the only one wondering how weight loss would affect these numbers. Especially for people that don’t have much weight left to lose, and don’t have a super high body fat percentage. I know advanced lifters might stall completely, but what about beginners?
Excellent post, thank you! I am 115 pounds and deadlift ~135 now, I have a goal for the next 3 months thanks to you graph.
As an encouragement, I am 68, started lifting about 3 months ago and am squatting with 95 pounds (5 x 3 reps) and dead lifting 135 lb (3 x 2 reps). I am 5-5 and 150 pounds. Can’t wait to see my next bone density test results in 9 months.
How many days of training per week does this graph assume?