So You Think You’re Strong?

So You Think You’re Strong?

By Chris Young

Yesterday I brought home my old, battered copy of Dinosaur Training by Brooks Kubik, to lend to one of my training partners; it usually resides at the gym I run as its required reading for all trainers there. As I was flicking through I came across one of my favourite parts; Mr Kubik was describing what strong was, and used the great American double Olympic Weight Lifting Champion John Davis as his example!

Chris’ favourite book on training

Brooks spoke of comparing yourself to Davis, so if Davis could Bench 425lbs at 233lbs bodyweight, that’s a ratio of 1.82x bodyweight; that’s what we should aim for! Yeah, well thanks for that Brooks The truly humbling part of Brook’s story was his account of how Davis Bench Pressed 425lbs (191kg).

The great John Davis lifting the Apollon Wheels; moments later he passed out!
The video is on youtube and well worth watching.

Davis didn’t have access to a bench with uprights so in order to perform a Bench Press he Deadlifted the weight, then sat on a bench, lay back and rolled the bar over his body to the start position for a bottom up Bench Press; from here he performed his reps before reversing the process to set the bar back on the floor. Right now I’m feeling really weak! Oh yeah, one last point, Davis won his Olympic gold’s in ’48, and ’52, the pre-steroid era; I now feel even weaker, I can’t even use my “he was on gear” excuse!

So perhaps we can admire John Davis without quite approaching his excellence; if you disagree then don’t let me stop you from trying to emulate him. Good luck!

So, we have to look elsewhere for our guide to what strong is. With this in mind I turned to another of my favourite writers, Mark Rippetoe, who along with Lon Kilgore wrote the excellent “Practical Programming”.

Another excellent book

Right at the end of “Practical Programming” Rippetoe and Kilgore have a “Basic Strength” section where they give you a guide for 5 main lifts. I’m not going to scan the whole lot because that’s naughty, but here’s how a 100kg male, and a 64kg female would rate on their scale. I’ve changed the scale from US pounds to Kilos, so some of the weights might look a little strange.

100kg Male

Beginner Novice Intermediate Advanced Elite
Press 40 55 70 82.5 115
Squat 60 111 137.5 186 240
Bench Press 65 82.5 101 139 172.5
Deadlift 74 139 160 217.5 262.5
Power Clean 44 80 99 134 157.5

64kg Female

Beginner Novice Intermediate Advanced Elite
Press 20 27.5 32.5 42.5 50
Squat 30 50 64 85 105
Bench Press 32.5 41 47.5 61 75
Deadlift 37 68 80 110 134
Power Clean 22.5 40 46 60 75

One thing to take into account when looking at this chart is that Mr Rippetoe runs the Wichita Falls Weight Lifting Club, so the basic level of beginner strength there will be different to a regular gym; but apart from a high beginner level on some lifts I don’t think he’s far off; maybe with the exception of Power Cleans.

Allow me to state some of Rippetoe and Kilgore’s definitions:

  • Beginner – Someone who is healthy and can perform the exercise correctly.
  • Novice – Weight training regularly for 3-9 months.
  • Intermediate – Weight training regularly for up to 2 years.
  • Advanced – Someone with multi-year training experience, with definite goals, often in the higher levels of competitive sport.
  • Elite – Those competing at the higher levels in strength sports, less than 1% of the weight training population will ever reach this level.

If I’m honest I’m pretty much a fat 100kg lifter (I weigh more than that but shouldn’t!), I’ve competed at World level and I have Squatted 240kg, I reckon with some specific training I could make elite in the Press, and with my fixed shoulder the Bench, and Deadlift as well, so I guess it’s pretty accurate.

Looking at these numbers I really don’t see why a motivated healthy individual couldn’t reach advanced on most or all of these lifts (although Power Cleans don’t look easy!).

One last way of seeing how you rate. The Powerlifting federation I lift with, the British Drug Free Powerlifting Association (BDFPA) have these rather helpful tables in their handbook. Sorry that it looks a bit of a mess but if you roll across the screen you can see that if I lift in the 110kg class I would have to total (best Squat+ best Bench+ best Deadlift =) 655kg to be considered an International Elite Athlete.

Like Rippetoe and Kilgore’s table it’s quite nice, in that even Chad Chicken Legs who Benches and Curls 3x a week can see how he adds up. Chad doesn’t weigh much because his legs are kinda light, and he’s gotta have the Abz; but at his lean 67.5kg bodyweight, to be a Gold Bencher he’d have to Bench Press 115kg. That’s all the way to the chest Chad, yes, you have to bend your arms, with a pause, and your hips staying on the bench!

BDFPA Standards

Powerlifting Totals Grading – Unequipped Men
Class 52 56 60 67.5 75 82.5 90 100 110 125 145 145+
Int Elite 367.5 400 432.5 480 525 562.5 597.5 630 655 670 702.5 730
Elite 345 375 405 450 495 530 560 595 615 630 660 685
Master 322.5 352.5 377.5 422.5 462.5 495 525 557.5 575 590 617.5 640
Class I 300 327.5 352.5 395 432.5 462.5 490 515 535 550 577.5 597.5
Class II 280 302.5 327.5 367.5 400 430 455 480 495 510 535 557.5
Class III 257.5 280 302.5 337.5 370 395 420 442.5 457.5 472.5 492.5 512.5
Class IV 235 255 275 310 337.5 362.5 385 405 417.5 432.5 452.5 470
Squat Singles Grading – Unequipped Men
Class 52 56 60 67.5 75 82.5 90 100 110 125 145 145+
GOLD 122.5 132.5 142.5 160 175 187.5 197.5 210 215 222.5 232.5 242.5
SILVER 112.5 122.5 132.5 147.5 162.5 175 185 192.5 200 207.5 217.5 225
BRONZE 105 112.5 122.5 140 150 160 172.5 180 187.5 192.5 200 207.5
BLACK 97.5 105 112.5 127.5 140 150 160 167.5 172.5 177.5 185 192.5
BLUE 90 95 105 117.5 127.5 137.5 145 152.5 157.5 162.5 170 175
BROWN 80 87.5 95 105 115 125 130 140 142.5 147.5 155 160
GREEN 72.5 77.5 85 95 105 110 117.5 125 127.5 132.5 140 142.5
Bench Press Grading – Unequipped Men
Class 52 56 60 67.5 75 82.5 90 100 110 125 145 145+
GOLD 87.5 95 102.5 115 125 135 142.5 150 155 160 167.5 172.5
SILVER 80 87.5 95 105 117.5 125 132.5 140 145 147.5 155 162.5
BRONZE 75 82.5 87.5 100 107.5 115 122.5 130 135 137.5 145 150
BLACK 70 75 82.5 90 100 107.5 112.5 120 122.5 127.5 132.5 137.5
BLUE 65 70 75 82.5 90 97.5 105 110 112.5 117.5 122.5 127.5
BROWN 57.5 62.5 67.5 75 82.5 90 95 100 102.5 105 110 115
GREEN 52.5 55 60 67.5 75 80 85 90 92.5 95 100 102.5
Deadlift Grading – Unequipped Men
Class 52 56 60 67.5 75 82.5 90 100 110 125 145 145+
GOLD 147.5 160 170 192.5 210 225 237.5 252.5 260 267.5 282.5 292.5
SILVER 137.5 147.5 160 180 195 210 222.5 235 242.5 250 262.5 272.5
BRONZE 127.5 137.5 147 167.5 182.5 195 207.5 217.5 225 235 242.5 252.5
BLACK 117.5 127.5 137.5 152.5 167.5 180 190 202.5 210 215 222.5 232.5
BLUE 107.5 117.5 125 142.5 152.5 165 175 185 190 195 205 212.5
BROWN 97.5 105 115 127.5 140 150 160 167.5 172.5 177.5 187.5 192.5
GREEN 87.5 95 102.5 115 125 135 142.5 150 155 160 167.5 172.5
Powerlifting Totals Grading – Equipped Men
Class 52 56 60 67.5 75 82.5 90 100 110 125 145 145+
Int Elite 412.5 450 485 540 590 632.5 670 707.5 735 752.5 790 820
Elite 387.5 422.5 455 507.5 555 595 630 667.5 690 707.5 742.5 770
Master 362.5 395 425 475 520 557.5 590 625 645 662.5 695 720
Class I 337.5 367.5 395 442.5 485 520 550 580 600 617.5 647.5 672.5
Class II 315 340 367.5 412.5 450 482.5 510 540 557.5 572.5 600 625
Class III 290 315 340 380 415 445 472.5 497.5 515 530 552.5 575
Class IV 265 287.5 310 347.5 380 407.5 432.5 455 470 485 507.5 527.5
Powerlifting Totals Grading – Unequipped Women
Class 44 47.5 50.5 53 55.5 58.5 63 70 80 90 90+
Int Elite 222.5 240 250 257.5 267.5 277.5 297.5 322.5 355 380 412.5
Elite 210 225 232.5 242.5 250 262.5 280 305 335 360 387.5
Master 195 210 217.5 225 235 245 262.5 285 315 337.5 362.5
Class I 182.5 192.5 202.5 210 220 230 245 267.5 292.5 315 337.5
Class II 170 180 190 195 205 212.5 227.5 247.5 272.5 292.5 312.5
Class III 155 165 172.5 180 185 195 210 225 250 270 290
Class IV 142.5 150 157.5 165 172.5 180 192.5 210 230 247.5 265
Squat Singles Grading – Unequipped Women
Class 44 47.5 50.5 53 55.5 58.5 63 70 80 90 90+
GOLD 75 80 85 87.5 92.5 97.5 100 110 122.5 130 140
SILVER 70 75 80 82.5 85 90 92.5 102.5 112.5 122.5 130
BRONZE 65 70 72.5 75 77.5 82.5 87.5 95 105 112.5 122.5
BLACK 60 62.5 67.5 70 72.5 75 80 87.5 97.5 105 112.5
BLUE 55 57.5 60 62.5 65 70 75 80 90 95 102.5
BROWN 50 52.5 55 57.5 60 62.5 67.5 75 80 87.5 92.5
GREEN 45 47.5 50 52.5 55 57.5 60 65 72.5 77.5 82.5
Bench Press Grading – Unequipped Women
Class 44 47.5 50.5 53 55.5 58.5 63 70 80 90 90+
GOLD 45 47.5 50 52.5 55 57.5 62.5 67.5 75 80 85
SILVER 42.5 45 47.5 50 52.5 55 57.5 62.5 70 75 80
BRONZE 40 42.5 45 47.5 50 52.5 55 57.5 65 67.5 75
BLACK 35 37.5 40 42.5 45 47.5 50 52.5 60 62.5 67.5
BLUE 32.5 35 37.5 40 42.5 45 47.5 50 55 57.5 62.5
BROWN 30 32.5 35 37.5 40 42.5 45 47.5 50 52.5 57.5
GREEN 27.5 30 32.5 35 37.5 40 42.5 45 47.5 50 55
Deadlift Grading – Unequipped Women
Class 44 47.5 50.5 53 55.5 58.5 63 70 80 90 90+
GOLD 92.5 100 102.5 107.5 112.5 117.5 125 135 150 160 172.5
SILVER 87.5 92.5 97.5 102.5 105 110 117.5 125 140 150 160
BRONZE 80 85 90 92.5 97.5 102.5 107.5 117.5 127.5 140 147.5
BLACK 75 77.5 82.5 85 87.5 92.5 100 107.5 120 127.5 137.5
BLUE 67.5 72.5 75 77.5 80 85 90 100 110 117.5 125
BROWN 60 65 70 72.5 75 77.5 82.5 90 100 105 115
GREEN 52.5 57.5 62.5 65 67.5 70 75 82.5 90 95 105
Powerlifting Totals Grading – Equipped Women
Class 44 47.5 50.5 53 55.5 58.5 63 70 80 90 90+
Int Elite 250 270 280 290 300 312.5 335 362.5 400 427.5 462.5
Elite 235 252.5 262.5 272.5 282.5 295 315 342.5 377.5 405 435
Master 220 235 245 255 265 277.5 295 320 355 380 407.5
Class I 205 217.5 227.5 237.5 247.5 257.5 275 300 330 355 380
Class II 190 202.5 212.5 220 230 240 255 277.5 305 327.5 352.5
Class III 175 185 195 202.5 210 220 235 255 282.5 302.5 325
Class IV 160 170 177.5 185 192.5 202.5 215 235 257.5 277.5 297.5

For more age related targets go to BDFPA

Conclusion

In my humble opinion one of the main things that holds keen lifters back is that they don’t know what strong is. If you surf the interwebs, the message boards will tell you that everyone is Squatting a grand (1000lbs / 455kg) and Benchin’ 600 (272.5kg)! This is really strange because you see the gym stop every time Meathead Mickey half Squats 3 plates (140kg)!

Now you have a standard to compare yourself to; not the pussies at the Fitness Centre, and not the virtual lifters on the interwebs; but to honest, hard working, drug free athletes. Now get off your computer and get lifting!

Chris is a British and World Champion Drug Free Powerlifter who has worked in the fitness industry since 1985, he currently runs the gym at the very prestigious Spa at Pennyhill Park (http://www.thespa.uk.com). Along with Powerlifting, Chris has competed nationally in Martial Arts, and has dabbled in Drug Free Bodybuilding. Chris can be contacted through www.getmightynow.com.