Strength Standards – How strong are you?

Strength Standards

Strength Standards - Weak Link

How can you gauge your progress?

Strength Standards are a notoriously difficult beast to wrangle.
There are a wide range of opinions, and more than one of them is correct.
Obvious strength benchmarks for a powerlifter (Squat, Bench, Deadlift) aren’t necessarily relevant to an Olympic Weightlifter (Snatch, Clean&Jerk).My goal is to provide as comprehensive a guide as possible for non-specialists to gauge their strength progress.
To put it another way, this isn’t definitive for powerlifters, strongmen or olympic lifters.
This is for regular folks who want to know how they’re doing, strength-wise, and what they may need to work on.
So whether your strength training includes barbells or kettlebells – there’s something here for you.

This isn’t meant as an “I must get to 10/10 in everything” challenge. (If you’re getting all 10s here then everyday strength probably isn’t your issue.) Use this tool to see if there’s a chink in your strength armour. Do you get a 5/10 in squat and hip hinge, a 4/10 in push and a 2/10 in pull?
Maybe you need to work on your pull!

Recognition of those who have gone before (influences on this project and any modifications I’ve made, and why):

  • Using the framework of a very elegant Dan John principle of Squat / Hip Hinge / Push / Pull to classify movements. I’ve added a fifth movement class (strength-endurance / stability) which covers Turkish Getup and Farmer’s Walk. I feel these movements are part of strength and too useful to ignore but don’t really fit anywhere else;
  • strstd.com (currently broken) 🙁 for a very neat strength graph for back squat, bench, deadlift and press. It clearly shows both further absolute benchmark levels and the lifts relative to each other. It has helped inform my understanding of relative strength. It also provides a great Wendler 5/3/1 calculator;

  • ExRx.net for general strength benchmarks and great calculators and tools;
  • Bob Takano for a great explanation of the relationship between Back Squat and Clean & Jerk and Clean and Jerk to Snatch Ratios which makes the Olympic lifts easier to compare with powerlifting movements;
  • Starting Strength – because no strength standards synthesis would be complete without Starting Strength’s Standards. 🙂

For strength standards for Olympic lifting specifically, please check out the Catalyst Athletics Guide.

*Please note: ‘Hip hinge’ and ‘pull’ both have intentional gaps. I wanted to include only commonly held standards, rather than filler*

That being said, here is my synthesis of strength standards. This is a work in progress. Feedback is welcome and encouraged. 🙂

Strength Standards for Men

Squat Movement

1. Squat with proper form
2. Goblet squat: 0.25 BW x 10
3. Goblet squat: 0.33 BW x 10
4. 2xKB Front Squat: 0.25 BW ea x 10
5. Back Squat: 1.25 BW x 1 / Front Squat: 1.00 BW x 1
6. Back Squat: 1.00 BW x 15
7. Back Squat: 1.75 BW x 1 / Front Squat: 1.40 BW x 1
8. Overhead Squat: 1.00 BW x 1
9. Back Squat: 2.25 BW x 1 / 1.25 BW x 15 / Front Squat: 1.80 BW x 1
10. Overhead Squat: 1.00 BW x 15

Hip Hinge Movement

1. Hip Hinge with proper form
2. Kettlebell Swing: 0.25 BW x 20
3. Kettlebell Swing: 0.33 BW x 20
4. 2xKettlebell Clean: 0.33 BW ea x 10
5. Deadlift: 1.50 BW x 1 / Clean&Jerk: 0.95 BW x 1 / Snatch: 0.75 BW x 1
6.
7. Deadlift: 2.00 BW x 1 / Clean&Jerk: 1.33 BW x 1 / Snatch: 1.05 BW x 1
8.
9. Deadlift: 2.50 BW x 1 / Clean&Jerk: 1.70 BW x 1 / Snatch: 1.35 BW x 1
10.

Push Movement

1. Pushups with proper form x 10
2. 1xKettlebell Press: 0.25 BW x 5
3. Press: 0.60 BW x 1
4. 2xKettlebell Press: 0.33 BW ea x 5
5. Bench Press: 1.00 BW x 1 / Press: 0.60 BW x 1
6. Weighted Dip: 0.50 BW x 1
7. Bench Press: 1.25 BW / Press: 0.85 BW x 1
8. 1xKettlebell Press: 0.50 BW x 1
9. Bench Press: 1.50 BW x 1 / 1.00 BW x 15 / Press: 1.10 BW x 1
10. 2xKettlebell Press: 0.50 BW ea x 1

Pull Movement

1. Batwings: 2xKettlebell 0.16 BW ea x 10 sec
2. Supine Row: (TRX or Rings) BW x 20
3.
4. Supine Row: (TRX or Rings) BW x 10 – Feet Elevated
5. Chinups x 5
6.
7. Pullups x 8-10
8.
9. Pullups x 15
10. Weighted Pullup: 0.50 BW x 1

Strength-Endurance / Stability Movement

1. Turkish Getup: 0.12 BW
2. Turkish Getup: 0.18 BW
3. Farmer’s Walk: 0.25 BW each hand
4. 5 minute KB Snatch for reps (0.25 BW) – benchmark 100
5. Farmer’s Walk: 0.33 BW each hand / Turkish Getup: 0.25 BW
6. 5 minute KB Snatch for reps (0.30 BW) – benchmark 100
7. Farmer’s Walk: 0.50 BW each hand / Turkish Getup: 0.36 BW
8. 5 minute KB Snatch for reps (0.36 BW) – benchmark 100
9. Farmer’s Walk: 0.75 BW each hand / Turkish Getup: 0.50 BW
10. The Bear Complex: 60kg

Strength Standards for Women

Squat Movement

1. Squat with proper form
2. Goblet Squat: 0.18 BW x 10
3. Goblet Squat: 0.25 BW x 10
4. 2xKettlebell Front Squat: 0.18 BW ea x 10
5. Back Squat: 1.20 BW x 1 / Front Squat: 0.95 BW x 1
6. Back Squat: 0.75 BW x 15
7. Back Squat: 1.65 BW x 1 / Front Squat: 1.30 BW x 1
8. Overhead Squat: 0.75 BW x 1
9. Back Squat: 2.00 BW x 1 / 1.20 BW x 5 / Front Squat: 1.60 BW x 1
10. Overhead Squat: 0.75 BW x 15

Hip Hinge Movement

1. Hip Hinge with proper form
2. Kettlebell Swing: 0.18 BW x 20
3. Kettlebell Swing: 0.25 BW x 20
4. 2xKettlebell Clean: 0.18 BW ea x 10
5. Deadlift: 1.20 BW x 1 / Clean&Jerk: 0.90 BW x 1 / Snatch: 0.72 BW x 1
6.
7. Deadlift: 1.60 BW x 1 / Clean&Jerk: 1.25 BW x 1 / Snatch: 1.00 BW x 1
8.
9. Deadlift 2.00 BW x 1 / Clean&Jerk: 1.52 BW x 1 / Snatch: 1.20 BW x 1
10.

Push Movement

1. Pushup x 1 (Excellent Form)
2. 1xKettlebell Press: 0.18 BW x 5
3. 1xKettlebell Press: 0.25 BW x 5
4. 2xKettlebell Press: 0.18 BW ea x 5
5. Bench Press: 0.75 BW x 1 / Press: 0.50 BW x 1
6. Weighted Dip: 0.33 BW x 1
7. Bench Press: 1.00 BW / Press: 0.75 BW x 1
8. 1xKettlebell Press: 0.33 BW x 1
9. Bench Press: 1.25 BW x 1 / 0.75 BW x 15 / Press: 1.00 BW x 1
10. 2xKettlebell Press: 0.33 BW ea x 1

Pull Movement

1. Batwings: 2xKettlebell 0.16 BW ea x 10 sec
2. Supine Row: (TRX or Rings) BW x 20
3.
4. Supine Row: (TRX or Rings) BW x 10 – Feet Elevated
5. Chinup x 1
6.
7. Chinups x 3
8.
9. Pullups x 3
10. Weighted Pullup: 0.33 BW x 1

Strength-Endurance / Stability Movement

1. Turkish Getup: 0.12 BW
2. Turkish Getup: 0.18
3. Farmer’s Walk: 0.25 BW each hand
4. 5 minute Kettlebell Snatch for reps (0.25 BW) – benchmark 100
5. Farmer’s Walk: 0.33 BW each hand / Turkish Getup: 16kg
6. 5 minute Kettlebell Snatch for reps (0.30 BW) – benchmark 100
7. Farmer’s Walk: 0.50 BW each hand / Turkish Getup: 0.36 BW
8. 5 minute Kettlebell Snatch for reps (0.36 BW) – benchmark 100
9. Farmer’s Walk: 0.75 BW each hand / Turkish Getup: 0.50 BW
10. The Bear Complex: 40kg

Would you like to track your strength standard progress?

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What is Fitness? Learn how to measure your progress

What is fitness? – A measurable definition!

Fitness is being physically able to do what you want to do, when and how you want to do it. If you are wholly-fit, you can do your job, play games and sports, and do the normal activities of daily living on any level you wish without limitations produced by illness, injury, low self-esteem or stress.

Physical fitness is how you look, feel and perform. It comprises two related concepts: Health-related fitness (a state of health and well-being) and Functional fitness (a task-oriented definition based on the ability to perform specific aspects of sports or occupations). Physical fitness is generally achieved through exercise, correct nutrition and enough rest. It is a vitally important part of life.

Fitness is relative. Just as your fitness will affect your goals, your goals will affect your fitness.


Health-related fitness

Crossfit Sickness Wellness Fitness Curve Diagram

This is a depiction of the the sickness-wellness-fitness curve in the 2002 Crossfit Journal Article defining fitness. (I’d look at body composition rather than just body fat; our understanding of cholesterol has developed since 2002; Systemic inflammation (through C-Reactive Protein and other markers) is also something I’d want to measure as a ‘wellness’ marker. This diagram IS a good starting point for understanding Health-related Fitness.)

Health

One way of looking at health is as our ability to survive and thrive RIGHT NOW. What’s your blood pressure? Blood sugar? Mental outlook? Stress level? Immune response? Ability to survive falling off a 12’ ladder? This is perhaps a simplistic view of health but I think it works quite well.

The indicators of sickness and wellness are measurable. The relative health of a person can be estimated using a range of biomarkers. Please keep in mind that across a population there are large variations in “normal”.

Using the scale, “Sickness” implies something may be amiss e.g Blood Pressure is above 140/90. This doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a problem or illness, but can spark further investigation and preventative measures if required. “Wellness” indicates normal or average health e.g BP of 120/80. A lower (but not too low) reading would suggest greater cardiovascular efficiency and greater “fitness”. Health and fitness do overlap, but the ‘ultra-fit’ do tend to be more prone to illness than ‘fit’. (Probably due to compromised immunity through chronic stress or inflammation)

Longevity

What if we considered health (the moment to moment ability to survive) over time? We would have longevity. Longevity is health over the long haul.

Longevity CAN simply mean surviving for a very long time. Quality of life does matter. One’s health may be such that any stressor, a cold, a fall, will be more than the individual can deal with. Conversely, perfect health, as measured on the day-to-day level, may curtail longevity. People who have a cold here and there tend to have lower rates of cancer. An occasional drop off in health may translate into improved longevity.

Functional fitness

Capability: Put simply, are you physically able to do the task?

Capacity: What volume of work/task are you able to accomplish?

The Crossfit model of fitness would include the concept that “He or she who does best at the widest variety of tasks is on average the “fittest”.” I would say that would make you the best generalist, or best at Crossfit. Ultimately, your ‘fitness’ is highly dependent on the tasks you wish to do.

Measures of Physical Fitness Summary Table

Recovery

The ability to recover after a physical challenge or illness is in itself an indicator of fitness. Consider two people. Both perform a gruelling task e.g shovelling a large load. At the end of the day, both are shattered. The following day, one is able to continue the task, the other can barely move. They have different levels of fitness / capacity (at least for that task).

Performance Health Longevity Optimal Venn Diagram

Having a performance bias may be at odds with health and longevity. Loads of endurance training may lead to oxidative stress, immune compromise and suboptimal dietary requirements necessary to fuel such efforts. If endurance sports are your thing, that’s fine. It’s perhaps good to know some of the down sides so one might make smart alterations to nutrition and training plans. Similarly if you aspire to be a Super Heavy Olympic Lifter you may need to consume an amount of food and carry a body mass that is absolutely at odds with health and longevity.

Another model is the notion that to be fit one should have a good balance in the development of all the engines that drive human activity: the ATP/CP pathway, glycolytic, and aerobic paths. The specifics of these energy pathways, ways to train them and implications for everyday life will feature in future articles.

What all this boils down to is for general fitness you need capability in various modalities, physical adaptations and metabolic engines, and capacity across a wide variety of tasks and time-frames. This offers a quantifiable way of measuring fitness. Do more work in less time and you are fitter!

Once again – Fitness is relative. Just as your fitness will affect your goals, your goals will affect your fitness.