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Strength Standards for Women

Women who turn to weightlifting as a means to manage their health, fitness and weight are far better off and more knowledgeable than women who don’t. I say this because typically these women have a more clearly defined goal than “stay slim” or “lose weight.” Women with those kinds of goals just haven’t done their research or been exposed to a lot of good information about health and fitness.


The women who embrace strength training understand that weightlifting will shape and sculpt the body, burn more calories throughout the day (increase in Basel Metabolic Rate, BMR), increase bone density, and preserve overall mobility.


But for a beginner starting out in weight lifting and interested in getting strong, what is a reasonable goal, and how do you know how strong you are compared to everyone else?


This woman is doing great but that guy in the back? Horrible technique!

As a general rule, we look at short feats of strength to test your abilities. The most common form is the 1RM (one rep max, highest weight you are able to move for ONE repetition) of large barbell lifts.


The less common but very impressive of these are multiple rep max: double, triples and sets of 5, 10, or 20. Women tend to do very well in these tests. Other tests of power and strength are truly endless and very fun to do: pulling a car, lifting a rock, unbroken farmer carries, unbroken pull ups, 1 mile run, vertical jump, and the like.


Strength Standards are universal and always in relation to your body weight. If your 1RM squat is 100 pounds, that doesn’t mean much if you are 200 pounds; i.e. you are not that strong in relation to your size. But that same 100 pound becomes impressive if you weigh only 80 pounds. This means your squat is 1.2 of your body weight (written 1.2 BW or 120% BW)


Decent (beginners goals, achieved usually within 2 years of regular weightlifting)

Squat: 1 BW

Bench Press: .75 BW

Deadlift: 1.25 BW

Pull ups: 2

1 Mile run: Sub 9 min


Strong (intermediate goals, fairly easy to maintain life long once achieved)

Squat: 1.5 BW

Bench Press: 1 BW

Deadlift: 1.75 BW

Pull ups: 5

1 Mile run: Sub 8 min


Very strong (advanced goals, obtained by those dedicated to strength training)

Squat: 1.75

Bench Press: 1.25

Deadlift: 2 BW

Pull ups: 8

1 Mile run: Sub 7 min


When you have accumulated some solid technique for your lifts, I suggest you test your strength right away. Yes, it is kind of scary but this is why we have friends, gym partners and coaches. Firstly, you always perform better when someone is watching. Secondly, if anything goes wrong (happens almost never if you have decent technique) or you get nervous, your gym bros can talk you off a ledge and get you confident again.




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