Weightlifting Performance Standards

When someone asks “how much can you bench press?” the next question that must be asked is “and how much do you weigh?” Why? Let’s look at an example.

Who is stronger Person A or Person B (ignore other lifts for now, let’s just look at bench press as an example)?

  • Person A: can bench press 185lbs at a bodyweight 175lbs
  • Person B: can bench press 185lbs at a body weight of 225lbs

Person A weighs 50lbs less than Person B but can lift the same amount of weight. They are stronger on a “strength per lb of bodyweight” basis.

Ultimately, what I was curious about is: is there a way to evaluate weightlifting performance that takes bodyweight into account?

There is. I did some research online and came across a set of weightlifting performance standards provided by Dr. Lon Kilgore, PhD.

Here is some important context on how they were calculated:

  • Tables for the basic barbell exercises are based on nearly 70 years of accumulated performance data and are not predicted or regression derived. 
  • The performance standards are adult standards (>18 years old) for a single maximal repetition (1RM) based on competitive weightlifter and powerlifting classification systems in use from the 1950’s to present.
  • Standards are based on lifts with no assistive training gear (belt is acceptable) as described in each lift’s official international competitive and/or as shown via link to exercise.
  • These performance standards should not to be confused with strength norms.

The training levels used in the performance standards fall in to 5 categories

UntrainedAn individual who has not trained on the exercises before, but can perform them correctly.
NoviceAn individual who has trained regularly for up to several months.
IntermediateAn individual who has trained regularly for up to a couple years.
AdvancedAn individual who has trained multiple years.
EliteAn athlete competing in strength sports. Keep in mind, the standards shown in the tables do not represent the highest level of strength performance possible.

Lastly, the values in the tables below are based on a one-rep max value for each lift. If you do not know your one-rep max, here is a calculator that can predict it for you.

Bench Press Standards

In order for these standards to apply, the bar must make contact with the chest above the bottom of the sternum with a momentary pause and be pressed to full elbow extension.

Deadlift Standards

In order for these standards to apply, knees, hips, and upper back must completely extend.

Press Standards

In order for these standards to apply, knees must be kept straight, torso cannot lay back with the shoulders behind hips, and elbows must completely extend.

Squat Standards

In order for these standards to apply, squat must be performed with thighs traveling below parallel to floor.

Power Clean Standards

In order for these standards to apply, the bar must be caught above or at 90° knee angle and ridden down no lower or well above thighs falling below parallel to floor.

Power Snatch Standards

In order for these standards to apply, the bar must be caught above or at 90° knee angle and ridden down no lower or well above thighs falling below parallel to floor. No press out is allowed.

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