Saturday, March 7, 2009

How strong is strong?

How strong is strong? What is the standard by which you measure your strength in the gym and how do you stack up to other gym members?

In the previous posts I mentioned a couple ways to measure muscular development. Now some people made comments and sent me e-mails saying how they didn’t agree with what I was saying and that they didn’t want to be “that big”.

Maybe I wasn’t clear in the post because the suggestions mentioned were not how big the average gym goer or fitness enthusiast should be, it was referring to what is a realistic goal for maximum muscular development that one could strive to achieve after several years of progressive training.

If you are not at that size yet, that’s fine, few people are. However, it is a goal you can strive to acheive. And if you don’t want to take your physique to those levels then that’s ok as well. Not everyone who joins the gym has the desire to maximize their muscular potential. And that’s cool, to each their own.

With that being said I’m going to outline some guidelines that you can go by to measure your physical strength with some big basic compound lifts.

Squats & Deadlifts:
Shoot for at least 150% of your bodyweight for 12 reps.

Bench Press & Bent Over Barbell Rows:
Shoot for 125% of your bodyweight for 12 reps.

Shoulder Press:
Shoot for 75% of your bodyweight for 12 reps.

If you can perform the above lifts while maintaining good exercise form, then you’ll be among one of the strongest guys in most gyms.


  1. Just wondering Lee, can you do all of these lifts at those reps?

  2. what if I weigh 135 lbs? all of those lifts are going to be small weights. My 12 reps weights for those categories are:
    Squat: 260 (193%)
    Bench: 180 (126%)
    shoulder press: 140 (104%)
    I'm not close to looking strong though and I like to think that those weights are pretty good in proportion to my body weight =/.

  3. Thanks for all your insights on this Lee...It is a reality check but good long term goal target. I for one have allot of work to do to reach some of these things but it's excellent to know what it is I can try to achieve. I plan to fully enjoy the journey

  4. What about for women? BTW, do you know any female power lifting blogs?

  5. The suggested targets are over ambitious and might cause injuries or muscle cracks due to excessive weight. As an amateure exerciser i just want to maintain and keep up my physique. Doing weights with moderateration would be fine with one feels comfortable and healthy!!!

    M. Anwar Qureshi
    Tripoli, Libya

  6. I’ll answer these one at a time:

    Please re-read the last post again. These are numbers good strength goals for advanced lifters not beginners.

    For a women I’d say you could keep the squats and deadlifts the same. For the benches go with about 100% of bodyweight and shoulder presses go with say 50% of your bodyweight. These would be good advanced numbers to shoot for.

    Has got the right idea, these are good targets to strive to achieve.

    Great job, you are very strong for your bodyweight. Just make sure you are using good form and a full range of motion for all those lifts. You should even consider competing in powerlifting. You could probably do really well.

  7. what about older lifters
    I am 54 years old and 220 lbs
    I lift 260x20 reps bench
    370x10 squat
    450x10 dead-lift

  8. I can lift at them weights but maybe not that many reps lee i still feel that i am strong at my weight an i could an will progress.Your job is to keep in shape everyday, going the gym is something i love to do and enjoy doing after i have been to work and fed and seen the kids.Help me out and talk in kgs aswel as lbs as in England we use kgs thanks mate keep me informed, scott Liverpool England.

  9. I think you are pretty accurate with that equation. If you can equal those percentages or exceed them, you have the right to put a little hop in your step.

  10. iam 54 and weigh 220 lbs

    i BENCH 120KG X +20

    SQUAT 180 KG X10
    DEADLIFT 220KGX 10


  11. Hi Lee, Following your blog and newsletter for a while now and I have a question.

    Do you think muscular strength and muscular size are directly proportional? There are people saying you need to get strong to get big.

    And there are other camps saying you don't need to be super-strong since you will not be powerlifting. They are also saying hypertrophy ( muscle mass ) and size are not directly related. So you don't need to go super heavy etc etc.

    I would like to know your take on it.

    Thanks a lot and keep up the good work.

  12. Hi Lee.
    For you readers out there I can't really comment on building strength from skinny up, but I can sure tell you how I kept my strength up, and even gotten a little stronger While losing close to 55 pounds going on now 11 months. No crash diets, No diet pills, No slim fast, NO! NO! NO! The point I'm getting to make is these type of diets only rob you of your strength. Diet soda is the worst... I mean the carbonation alone interferers with the calcium in your body. If you want to stay strong and get stronger? just follow ( LEE HAYWARD'S )nutritional advice. For you heavies out there, plan to lose about 1 to 2 pounds a week and eat right if you want to stay strong. Losing more then that can really interfere with your weight training. I have never heard of Lee Hayward until 2 months ago but believe me when I tell ya.. the news letters that he sends out, and the free advise that he post is worth its weight in gold. I'm not A pro bodybuilder or even close, but I speak from experience, a lot of reads, and, research. Lee is the REAL DEAL!
    P.S. Do you want to see what being strong is all about... I just rented a 2 DVD set form netfliks called ( STRONGMAM ) Its the European strongman championships. It is off the hook! Its AWESOME! I'm gonna buy this set.

  13. Hi lee, I weigh 225 lbs and i stand 6'3 tall. My one rep bench max is 350 lbs. Is that a good bench for my size? And i also squat 490 lbs. are them numbers good for my size.