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Strength Standards or "Yardsticks"

Posted: Fri Dec 10, 2010 2:03 am
by Velcropop
As a disclaimer I'd like to mention that I take most of what I read on TN with a hefty pinch of salt. That being said I came across this today:
I have some simple rules yardsticks regarding what I call an Advanced Beginner (males) in the lifting world:

Bodyweight Bench Press

Double Bodyweight Deadlift

You should also be able to clean and front squat your bodyweight, too.

Folks, that's a pretty low level of strength. Although you "could" play high school football at this level, I'd still suggest you keep coming back to the weightroom.
It's a fairly equivocal statement but it got me thinking; what is an appropriate "yardstick" in relation to strength:bodyweight for an "advanced beginner"? In other words, what defines a strong base for a trained individual at the novice/intermediate level? I read a post on these forums recently that opined what I thought was a reasonable estimate, but I can't for the life of me find it. I've also consulted my copy of Starting Strength but there isn't anything in there (and to be fair I don't think it was on the authors' agenda in that book to state any such claims).

The most shocking point for my mind was the 2xb/w deadlifts. That translates to 180kg (~400 lbs) for me and way beyond my capabilities, although I could happily 1RM bench press my b/w and regularly train my BP at 82.5-87kg (~180-192lbs). I couldn't imagine cleaning my b/w either, but I am much less experienced in that exercise.

So, what are your thoughts?

Posted: Fri Dec 10, 2010 2:13 am
by Velcropop
In anticipating any direction to view the Performance Standards listed on ExRx, I am aware of them but nevertheless sceptical of 1RM-based standards.[/url]

Posted: Fri Dec 10, 2010 2:50 am
by Jungledoc
WHO CARES? The only way that those sort of standards could have any validity is if we were all the same size and shape (including limb proportions), and the same age. Only people who are pathologically competitive need to have that kind of standard. For me, weight training is about getting better, healthier, stronger. My only competition is with myself. If I'm better than you in some way, what does that really mean? That I'm superior to you? It's that kind of competitive attitude that leads the rats in the gyms to brag about how much they used to lift, or how much they could lift if only they hadn't hurt their elbow in a car wreck in 1998--they feel the need to justify their inferior lifts, so as not to be thought to be an inferior person.

And what am I supposed to do about it if I discover that a guy half my age and who has been training 10 years longer than I have can lift twice his BW on a lift on which I can only manage half of mine? I say "good on him", and will still try to improve my lift.

Or do people who suggest such standards think that people will try harder if they find that they are below the standards? I don't yet DL 2xBW. If I see this in print, will I be any more motivated to do it than I am now? Not hardly. I'm going to DL 400 (which is more than twice my BW) before I die, even if it kills me! That was decided without reference to anyone else's standards.

And what would I do if were above these standards? Cut back on my training? Quit? Post it on Facebook so that everyone would know how great I am?

Good grief. You really pushed my rant button with that one! Sorry. I'm calmer now.

Posted: Fri Dec 10, 2010 3:26 am
by NightFaLL
Strength standards are a fun thing to play around with, but really should be taken with a grain of salt.

I like to look at it like this: Do you feel strong?

Then you are strong. There are tons of types of strength and you have to ask yourself, do you feel like a beast?

I like to think I feel like a beast.

Posted: Fri Dec 10, 2010 3:38 am
by RobertB
For me it just satisfies curiosities regarding averages - it's more of a tool for seing how I am in terms of ability comparitivley - for example, I deadlift and overhead press a sensible amount more than the intermediate average - yet I am barely past a novice bench, and my squat sits in between novice and intermediate.

Therefore I work harder to program my bench - watch more bench videos, and put lot of effort/focus on my squats - the others can wait, they are certainley not neglected, but I don't go for this "nothing is impossible" attitude, I am learning to feel how much energy/strength I have and predict at what part of my routine I will be weaker or stronger, and slightly shift over a bias to my weaker lifts.

But it is marginal, it satisfies a curiosity - and you seem to contrast my target doc - you say why compare yourself to others - but the reason for my comparison to averages is to determine where my ability is bias and to try narrow the gap, even if I am naturally more suited to two lifts more than the other two.

Sorry to drop in numbers here but since you have, OP - I do deadlift double my BW (actually I cap at 5 kilos less because my gym is a toy one for "fitness" at work and that's everything I can on the bar), but I dont even bench x1 my BW *shrug*

Posted: Fri Dec 10, 2010 5:17 am
by stuward
Beginner, intermediate and advanced labels describe how fast you can gain strength. Even then, the distinction is only so you can select an appropriate training progression. Do you improve every workout, every week, does it take longer than a week? All you should care about is that you're in better shape than you were and your goal should be to improve from where you are now.

Posted: Fri Dec 10, 2010 8:14 am
by RobertB
Not in the exrx standards - They are observed abilities from a couple of sources to lable people depending on their lifting numbers - they do not relate to the rate at which you can gain strength. I know which is the more important consideration however, and using the standards will always be secondary to my own goals and progress.

Posted: Fri Dec 10, 2010 9:04 am
by stuward
RobertB wrote:Not in the exrx standards - They are observed abilities from a couple of sources to lable people depending on their lifting numbers - they do not relate to the rate at which you can gain strength. I know which is the more important consideration however, and using the standards will always be secondary to my own goals and progress.
Those standards are just a ballpark for a young healthy person of average (I guess) ability. Rippetoe has since said he regrets creating those charts. They seem to create more questions than they answer. However they do help to answer the question "am I strong?". I guess that's just a natural question to ask yourself, it just happens to be meaningless. Still Jeff Marcone said that strong is lifting 100# TGU and I'm going to that before I die. Possibly immediately before.

Posted: Fri Dec 10, 2010 9:17 am
by KPj
I generally agree with the "who cares" attitude, and think the number one person you should be competing with is yourself.

I do think standards can be fun, though. Also, when you train in a commercial gym, the standards can be so low that I believe it can limit you mentally. So it can be good to get a "real world" perspective.

I think the biggest value is knowing where you are in the beginner - advanced spectrum. Loads of beginners think they're advanced. They'll stray away from the basics and jump straight on to the fancy stuff. An extreme example of this is a lot of the young males I see who can barely do a push up but are trying to get their bench up to - insert number -. I just tell them to forget benching until they can knock out 15 push ups with EASE, and i think that's me being generous! So, I think it can be a decent ego check for some people.

I believe that was a Dan John article - he's one of the better coaches that write for that site, in my opinion, and he's pretty much always stressing the basics - do the big lifts, get stronger, eat a tonne. Where as, your average weekend warrior is trying to work out the best angle to hit his pecs at, or how to bring out the "peak" on his biceps (when he barely even HAS a bicep to add a "peak" to!). The take home is almost always - get a foundation THEN worry about the details. Some "standards" can help to enforce this point.


Posted: Fri Dec 10, 2010 1:37 pm
by Higgy
I agree that standards are more for fun but do help you compare your gains to the rest of the world. But, the most important person to compare yourself to is you when you lasted came into the gym. I think a more helpful standard to look at is not so much how much you can lift in a particular exercise but comparing your lifts to each other. This helps you figure out your weak points and then focus your training to be more well rounded. I read an article on T-Nation I think that gave a percentage of lift so you could equate them For example, if you were to have a BP of say 100 lbs you should have a squat of 150% of your BP or 150 lbs. Yes, I know we are all different, but if you are healthy and have no limiting factors you should be dead lifting a lot more then you do in the OP.

Posted: Fri Dec 10, 2010 3:29 pm
by JimKe
I'll concur with most of what has been written here, and add that these standards (along with world PL records) are great for keeping my ego in check. I am pleased that I can lift more than some people, but it helps to realize there plenty of stronger people out there, which in turn reminds me to be modest and not denigrate others with different abilities. In the end, the only question you should ask yourself is "Can I lift as much as I am able?" And the only chart that matters is your own workout log!

Posted: Fri Dec 10, 2010 6:17 pm
by Velcropop

@Jungledoc, my intent is much more humble than you presume. I actually considered appending my original post with some information about my goals and that my telos is getting better and stronger for myself, but I decided not to for fear of making the post too long. However, I'm glad I could envigorate you into such a rant, I hope you feel better now ;). (Hey, it might be helpful to somebody else who comes across this thread!)

I think we might all agree that the best gains are made working smarter, not harder. Furthermore, I believe there is a certain psychological advantage having specific (although flexible) strength goals and the desire for relative affinity between exercises in a program (a "strong base"). In other words it DOES help ME. I was hoping to draw on the collective experience of the ExRx participants in this discussion to address what I perceive as an imbalance in my strength standards considered in light of my training.

It's all well and good saying that it doesn't matter ("who cares") as long as I'm getting stronger but there's always a case for saying that if there is disparity between performance in exercise x relative to performance in exerxcise y then somebody might suggest a tip (or exercise z) to improve the situation. I concede though that much of this will depend on physiology but there should be a reliable enough consensus on standards based on bodyweight and time spent training, no?

For me personally it could be that my deadlift isn't up to scratch or that I am simply more proficient in the bench press all things considered. Looking at the ExRx table I'm all over the shop in terms of "level" of training. (According to it I am, variously, at the Novice, Intermediate and Advanced "level" for different exercises.) I am perhaps guilty of being too vague in my OP and coming off as a "bro" (is that the right term? - we don't use it much in Australia) bent on seeking validation.

@stuward, thanks for noting that Rippetoe has since regretted creating those charts. I was surprised to read that the chart is lifted from Practical Programming since he expounds a method for developing functional strength - and thus inevitably getting stronger - although he never seemed too concerned with having ideal strength "standards".

Posted: Fri Dec 10, 2010 8:07 pm
by bam
Depends on your goals... If you're lifting to be stronger, then you should define "stronger". If that means DLing 2xBW to you, then there's your goal.

Posted: Fri Dec 10, 2010 8:32 pm
by Jungledoc
Yes, I'm much calmer this morning, thank you. I may even go and make nice on the "Glute Problem" thread. Maybe.

I do agree that some sort of way to compare one's own lifts to each other is a good idea, at least in theory. If one sees that a particular lift is lagging, it just might help him to fix a problem with it. But there are so many reasons for these differences that it may well be impossible to work out a useful explanation, and then there may not be much that you can change.

I read all of the training logs. Occasionally I'll notice discrepancies in the proportions of my lifts, compared to someone else. As in, "hey, he benches a lot more than me, but DLs less--I wonder why." But there aren't any clear patterns. The next guy benches what I do, but DLs a ton more. Body proportions probably account for a lot of this. Previous training (did someone start benching well before they started squatting or DLing?), previous injuries ("I could DL as much as Andy Boulton if it weren't for that darn amputation back in '86"), or just the mysterious forces of nature that I don't understand (gravity is stronger under the bench than it is at the squat rack). So even if it is interesting to know that one of my lifts is weaker or stronger in proportion to my other lifts, there is often not much that I can do about it except keep plugging away, doing my best on all of them.

I also recognize that a lot of competitiveness in just in good-natured fun. As long as you don't take it too seriously, it's probably no big deal.

Posted: Fri Dec 10, 2010 9:10 pm
by robt-aus
I was hoping to draw on the collective experience of the ExRx participants in this discussion to address what I perceive as an imbalance in my strength standards considered in light of my training.
It seems the best answer to your question might require a longer message detailing age/weight/height, training and ex history.

There's a wealth of experience in here and you'll no doubt receive respectful and diverse views on approaches to improving performance with ex Z in light of performance in ex Y compared with ex X. Of course, i try to employ Jungledoc's approach - 'keep plugging away, doing my best' - it's a nice feeling to know i've given everything i have.

I use bodyweight percentages as a goal for my strength training (if it can be called that) for several reasons: my basis of comparison and progress is personal and immediately apparent; if i change so does my goal, and they are clear objectives. I'm happy i've got work to do to achieve them.

edit: typos and tags removed