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How Strong Are You? (General Strength Standards)



How many of you have wondered if you are actually strong or not? NASM (2018) defines strength as “the ability of the neuromuscular system to produce internal tension (in the muscles and connective tissues that pull on the bones) to overcome an external force [or external load].” Or simply one’s ability to exert force on a physical object.


Within the gym we mainly use barbell lifts as the physical object which provides the external load paired with various movement patterns to which we need to recruit our neuromuscular system to exert force.


The question of how strong you are doesn’t really have a definitive answer as your body structure, genetics and age does play a contributing role in determining this.


Nonetheless, what we can explore in this article is relative strength through measuring our 1 rep max in what we consider to be our functional main strength lifts. Which are:

  1. Squat

  2. Bench Press

  3. Deadlift

  4. Power Clean

The following movements are those used within the realms of strength and conditioning for athletes and exercise enthusiasts alike. If strength training is your thing, then knowing the following metrics could greatly benefit you in where you stand and what to improve when compared to a normative data set.


Squat

The squat is a lower body movement where the prime movers are the quadriceps and gluteus. As this is a free weight movement which enables us to use the most load. The squat could be considered to be a good indication of overall leg strength. The following list below list out the key strength levels for this movement in relation to one’s gender and bodyweight.


Males

Beginner: 0.81x Bodyweight

Novice: 1.12x Bodyweight

Intermediate: 1.51x Bodyweight

Advance: 1.97x Bodyweight

Elite: 2.43x Bodyweight


Females

Beginner: 0.45x Bodyweight

Novice: 0.725x Bodyweight

Intermediate: 1.09x Bodyweight

Advance: 1.52x Bodyweight

Elite: 2x Bodyweight


Bench Press

The bench press is utilised when measuring upper body push strength, as the pectoralis, deltoid and triceps are considered to be the prime movers. In this movement, we have an exercise where we potentially move the most load. Thus, making it a good indicator of upper body push strength. The following list below list out the key strength levels for this movement in relation to one’s gender and bodyweight.


Males

Beginner: 0.6x Bodyweight

Novice: 0.84x Bodyweight

Intermediate: 1.16x Bodyweight

Advance: 1.5x Bodyweight

Elite: 1.85x Bodyweight


Females

Beginner: 0.26x Bodyweight

Novice: 0.46x Bodyweight

Intermediate: 0.715x Bodyweight

Advance: 1x Bodyweight

Elite: 1.4x Bodyweight


Deadlift

When performed correctly the deadlift utilises the Hamstring, Gluteus and Erector Spinae. This movement measures a basic human function, being able to pick things off the ground. Did you also know that in the US Army the deadlift is used to measure the strength standard of each recruit. The following list below list out the key strength levels for this movement in relation to one’s gender and bodyweight.


Males

Beginner: 0.98x Bodyweight

Novice: 1.36x Bodyweight

Intermediate: 1.8x Bodyweight

Advance: 2.27x Bodyweight

Elite: 2.8x Bodyweight


Females

Beginner: 0.58x Bodyweight

Novice: 0.89x Bodyweight

Intermediate: 1.3x Bodyweight

Advance: 1.79x Bodyweight

Elite: 2.32x Bodyweight


Power Clean

Lastly, we have a ‘Power Exercise’. The Power Clean is an exercise that we use to measure strength and speed. When it comes to ‘Power Training’ this movement is much easier to understand and execute than the full snatch or clean. Moreover, we can significantly use enough load to really make a difference. Therefore making this a great option for all athletes and gym goers when performed correctly. The following list below list out the key strength levels for this movement in relation to one’s gender and bodyweight.


Males

Beginner: 0.58x Bodyweight

Novice: 0.81x Bodyweight

Intermediate: 1.07x Bodyweight

Advance: 1.4x Bodyweight

Elite: 1.74x Bodyweight


Females

Beginner: 0.41x Bodyweight

Novice: 0.58x Bodyweight

Intermediate: 0.8x Bodyweight

Advance: 1.05x Bodyweight

Elite: 1.32x Bodyweight


Aforementioned, the rationale for this article is to inform the readers to measure their strength in relation to a normative data set. We hope that you take some of the data. Apply it to your own training. Find areas you would like to work on and improve. However, we strongly encourage you to never compare yourself to others, or use it in any negative way. Training should be challenging, but first and foremost fun and exciting. To achieve this is a huge success in itself :)

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR




Sirapob Puangin is a decorated Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He also holds qualifications from the IWF NSCA and NASM and is currently a graduate student of Sports Science at Chulalongkorn University. He serves as the weightlifting and head coach at Iron Hive Gym. And has competed in numerous Weightlifting and Powerlifting competitions.


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