Impressive Strength Levels

People who lift weights like having targets to shoot for in their training. Several different websites have created strength standards for men and women of different weight classes, mainly for the squat, deadlift, bench press, and military press. However, I have never seen a comprehensive list of strength feats pertaining to a wide variety of exercises. Last year, I wrote a guest article for my friend Ben Bruno where I listed some feats of strength that I find to be impressive in the gym. I recently sat down and updated the list and added more exercises.

2013 Open workout descriptions with Julie Foucher

Obviously, this is very difficult to do. Ideally, I’d have all sorts of data to analyze, but I don’t. This is a subjective list based on my experiences as a personal trainer. Some of the exercises I had to take a wild stab at simply because I don’t prescribe it often to my clients or see it often at the gyms at which I train, for example the barbell step up to thigh-parallel height. In my gym, we do high step ups involving much greater degrees of hip flexion while holding onto dumbbells. Moreover, I don’t have a ton of experience with prescribing Olympic lifts to clients. I’m certain that as I pay closer attention over the next year, I will realize that some of my numbers listed below are too high or too low and in need of adjustments. Therefore, I’m going to update and refine this list over time to be more valid and reflective of realistic but still impressive strength feats. Nevertheless, the advanced lifters always find these list to be too easy while the novice lifters find the same list to be very daunting, that’s just the way it goes.

bench

It’s important to know a few things before working your way down the list. First, smaller lifters have the advantage compared to bigger lifters with regards to relative strength (but not absolute strength). If you’re a 160 lb man or a 100 lb woman, many of the feats of strength on this list will be more easily achieved than they would for a 260 lb man or 180 lb woman. Second, everyone has a unique anatomy and anthropometry such that their leverages are excellent for a few lifts and horrendous for a few other lifts. Therefore, some of the feats listed below will seem very easy to you, whereas for others those same feats will appear virtually impossible. If you’ve been lifting weights¬†for a few years, it is very likely that you can already pull of several of the feats below, but there will likely be others that you would have to work very hard at in order to achieve. Third, these feats are based on regular gym lifters who perform a wide variety of exercises in their training. Obviously competitive powerlifters and weightlifters will find this list to be amateurish. And fourth, this list was created with raw, natural lifters in mind.

squat

Squats and Leg Press

Men

  • A maximum thigh parallel back squat with 2.2X bodyweight barbell load or more (440 lbs for a 200 lb man)
  • 5 or more thigh parallel front squats with 1.5X bodyweight barbell load (300 lbs x 5 reps for a 200 lb man)
  • 10 or more reps in the leg press with 4X bodyweight load (800 lbs x 10 reps for a 200 lb man)

Women

  • A maximum thigh parallel back squat with 1.5X bodyweight barbell load or more (195 lbs for a 130 lb woman)
  • 5 or more thigh parallel front squats with 1.0X bodyweight barbell load (130 lbs x 5 reps for a 130 lb woman)
  • 10 or more reps in the leg press with 3X bodyweight load (390 lbs x 10 reps for a 130 lb woman)

Deadlifts and Good Mornings

Men

  • A maximum deadlift (conventional, sumo, or trap bar) with 2.5X bodyweight barbell load or more (500 lbs for a 200 lb man)
  • 5 or more good mornings with 1.2X bodyweight load (240 lbs x 5 reps for a 200 lb man)

Women

  • A maximum deadlift (conventional, sumo, or trap bar) with 2.3X bodyweight barbell load or more (299 lbs for a 130 lb woman)
  • 5 or more good mornings with .9X bodyweight load (117 lbs x 5 reps for a 130 lb woman)

Upper Body Presses

Men

  • A maximum pause bench press with 1.6X bodyweight barbell load or more (320 lbs for a 200 lb man)
  • A maximum strict military press with 1.0X bodyweight barbell load or more (200 lbs for a 200 lb man)
  • 5 or more reps in the dip with .6X bodyweight additional load (120 lbs x 5 reps for a 200 lb man)
  • 5 or more reps in the close grip bench with 1.4X bodyweight barbell load (280 lbs x 5 reps for a 200 lb man)
  • 5 or more reps in the incline press with 1.2X bodyweight barbell load (240 lbs x 5 reps for a 200 lb man)
  • 50 or more strict push ups with bodyweight

Women

  • A maximum pause bench press with 1.1X bodyweight barbell load or more (143 lbs for a 130 lb woman)
  • A maximum strict military press with .8X bodyweight barbell load or more (104 lbs for a 130 lb woman)
  • 5 or more reps in the dip with .2X bodyweight additional load (26 lbs x 5 reps for a 130 lb woman)
  • 5 or more reps in the close grip bench with .8X bodyweight barbell load (104 lbs x 5 reps for a 130 lb woman)
  • 5 or more reps in the incline press with .8X bodyweight barbell load (104 lbs x 5 reps for a 130 lb woman)
  • 30 or more strict push ups with bodyweight

Upper Body Pulls

Men

  • A maximum strict chin up with .5X bodyweight additional load or more (100 lbs for a 200 lb man)
  • 15 or more strict pull ups with bodyweight
  • 5 or more reps in the Pendlay row with .9X bodyweight barbell load (180 lbs x 5 reps for a 200 lb man)
  • 10 or more reps in the strict one arm row with .5X bodyweight dumbbell load (100 lbs x 10 reps for a 200 lb man)
  • 20 or more feet elevated inverted rows with bodyweight
  • 10 or more reps in the barbell curl with .6X bodyweight barbell load (120 lbs x 10 reps for a 200 lb man)

Women

  • A maximum strict chin up with .2X bodyweight additional load or more (26 lbs for a 130 lb woman)
  • 8 or more strict pull ups with bodyweight
  • 5 or more reps in the Pendlay row with .7X bodyweight barbell load (91 lbs x 5 reps for a 130 lb woman)
  • 10 or more reps in the strict one arm row with .5X bodyweight dumbbell load (65 lbs x 10 reps for a 130 lb woman)
  • 10 or more feet elevated inverted rows with bodyweight
  • 10 or more reps in the barbell curl with .5X bodyweight barbell load (65 lbs x 10 reps for a 130 lb woman)

Posterior Chain Exercises

Men

  • 10 or more reps in the hip thrust with 2X bodyweight barbell load (400 lbs x 10 reps for a 200 lb man)
  • 10 or more reps in the 45-degree hyper with .6X bodyweight load (120 lbs x 10 reps for a 200 lb man)
  • 10 legit swings with .8X bodyweight kettlebell load (120 lbs x 10 reps for a 200 lb man)
  • 1 or more strict Nordic ham curls with bodyweight with no arm assistance

Women

  • 10 or more reps in the hip thrust with 2X bodyweight barbell load (260 lbs x 10 reps for a 130 lb woman)
  • 10 or more reps in the 45-degree hyper with .6X bodyweight load (78 lbs x 10 reps for a 130 lb woman)
  • 10 legit swings with .8X bodyweight kettlebell load (104 lbs x 10 reps for a 130 lb woman)

Single Leg Exercises

Men

  • 20 or more walking lunges with 1.0X bodyweight barbell load – 10 steps per leg (200 lbs x 20 reps for a 200 lb man)
  • 5 or more reps in the Bulgarian split squat with 1.0X bodyweight barbell load (200 lbs x 5 reps for a 200 lb man)
  • 5 or more thigh-parallel step ups with .8X bodyweight barbell load (160 lbs x 5 reps for a 200 lb man)
  • 3 or more pistol squats with bodyweight
  • 5 or more single leg RDLs with .8X bodyweight barbell load (180 lbs x 5 reps for a 200 lb man)
  • 20 or more legit single leg hip thrusts with bodyweight
  • 15 or more single leg prisoner back extensions with bodyweight

Women

  • 20 or more walking lunges with .8X bodyweight barbell load – 10 steps per leg (104 lbs x 20 reps for a 130 lb woman)
  • 5 or more reps in the Bulgarian split squat with .7X bodyweight barbell load (91 lbs x 5 reps for a 130 lb woman)
  • 5 or more thigh-parallel step ups with .6X bodyweight barbell load (78 lbs x 5 reps for a 130 lb woman)
  • 3 or more pistol squats with bodyweight
  • 5 or more single leg RDLs with .7X bodyweight barbell load (91 lbs x 5 reps for a 130 lb woman)
  • 20 or more legit single leg hip thrusts with bodyweight
  • 10 or more single leg prisoner back extensions with bodyweight

Olympic Variations

Men

  • A maximum power clean with 1.3X bodyweight barbell load or more (260 lbs for a 200 lb man)
  • A maximum power snatch with 1.1X bodyweight barbell load or more (220 lbs for a 200 lb man)
  • A maximum hang clean with 1.2X bodyweight barbell load or more (240 lbs for a 200 lb man)
  • A maximum push press with 1.2X bodyweight barbell load or more (240 lbs for a 200 lb man)

Women

  • A maximum power clean with 1.0X bodyweight barbell load or more (130 lbs for a 130 lb woman)
  • A maximum power snatch with .9X bodyweight barbell load or more (117 lbs for a 130 lb woman)
  • A maximum hang clean with .9X bodyweight barbell load or more (117 lbs for a 130 lb woman)
  • A maximum push press with .9X bodyweight barbell load or more (117 lbs for a 130 lb woman)

Conclusion

If you can already nail many of these feats, congratulations! You’re a strong guy or gal. Keep working hard to improve upon your already superior base of strength. However, if you’re mortal like most of us, then this list will help you realize that you’ve got some work to do. I hope you have found this list to be beneficial and inspiring for your training goals.

hip thrust

 

18 Comments

  • Greg Castro says:

    Bret’s is an excellent guideline for gauging strength level and progress. It has assuring awareness across the board for accomplishment.

  • maureen says:

    Oh well according to this list I do nothing impressive… I am ok with that for the moment….I will just have to be impressed with still trying and still going to the gym…This is my new goal to achieve one feat in every category…Thanks for the subtle push in the right direction…And THANKS for bringing the comments back…I don’t do facebook so I was missing that part of the blog… (there are still and handful us out there)
    Great info as always..

  • Max says:

    Would you say that these are stand-alone strength goals? As in, where does conditioning fit in, and would you be considered a power/strength athlete and/or regular gym goer focused on lifting to hit these numbers vs someone who who is more general strength/conditioning in their approach?

    And should we try to hit ALL of them, or just one from each list?

    it’s so tempting to go test all of these now ūüôā

  • maureen says:

    Just curious about how age factors into these numbers….I am on the other side of forty and wondering if I should use these feats as a realistic goal or not…

    • Thomas says:

      Maureen – I’m 54 and I’ve gone from 175lbs to 220lbs in 3 years – all muscle. You can make great progress when you’re older too.

  • Reece says:

    If you meet at least half of the standards in each category, how close will the average guy be to reaching his max muscle potential?

  • Alejandro Daniel Nava says:

    I disagree with some of these standards. I can do 10-12 Nordic ham curls/glute-ham raises, yet I’m just starting weight training. Reason? Probably ’cause I’m a 67 kg skinny guy.

  • Mike J says:

    I think only a genetic freak is capable of all of those simultaneously unless they aren’t clean or are a professional athlete. I’ve not seen anyone who could check every box who wasn’t geared up in 15 years of gym.

    • Heidi says:

      I can’t get the 300lb deadlift or the push press and bench yet…but I only use protein powder from Walmart and can get the rest of these “impressive” feats…

    • bob says:

      Easily achievable in time. Took me 4 years of consistent training and I’d say I’m pretty average genetically. I’m driven though and I train harder and more consistenly than 99% of blokes in the gym. Most i’ve met will turn to drugs before training consistently for a number of years.

    • Rick says:

      No professional athlete is drug free

  • Thomas says:

    How about one arm inverted (bottom up) kettlebell presses?

    My gym only has up to 24kg (53lbs) kettlebells – which I can do at least 10 presses with – so impressive levels might be doing the same rep count with 30kg or 40kg bells, any thoughts? I’m 220lbs and just discovered this great exercise, just having a hard time setting a good goal for myself.

    Thx

  • Ryan N says:

    0.9BWx5 Pendlay Row seems really low. I’m Seal Rowing more than my body weight for sets of 10, and I remember taking a giant hit on how much weight I could use when I switched from Pendlay to Seal.

    Then again, to gym bros who ignore their backs, maybe that is impressive.

    • Mark says:

      Nope, you just have a very strong back. I deadlift 400 lbs at 160 lbs, can do 16 strict form pullups and can only seal row 155 lbs for 8 clean reps.

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