I’ve been exercising, with a focus on weight training, for about a year. I feel myself getting stronger. I can tell by looking at my workout logs that I’m definitely stronger. But am I strong enough? How strong am I in comparison to the rest of the population? I can see folks both stronger and weaker than me at the Y. I know I’m not the strongest guy in the gym, and I wouldn’t expect to be after only a year of lifting. But its always one of those questions–how strong am I?
Last week, the whole family went to the Y, and I showed the kids how to use a few of the machines. They were able to do 30-40 pounds on the leg press for a set of 10. Their jaws hit the floor when they saw me move 320 pounds of plates. But they are easily impressed.
I recently watched a really skinny, nerdy-looking guy (No, I wasn’t looking in the mirror, smart ass!) do bench presses on the Hammer Strength machine. I’d never used the machine before, and the weight he was using looked impressive–more than I could do on a standard bench press. So at the end of my workout, I tried the weight he was using on the HS bench. I was able to complete as many reps as he did, but not a single extra. Now, comparisons like this are problematic at best. I don’t know what his routine was like (having watched just that one exercise), nor how fatigued he was when he got to that exercise. I was definitely fatigued, since I’d already done three sets of eight on the regular bench press, and three sets of eight dips.
So, contemplating this at home I felt slightly embarassed for doing that kind of superiority-complex-comparison. But I was still wondering, Am I strong?
I recently stumbled on an article that can help me answer that question. First, lets be sure to take into account the author’s perspective–he is a professional trainer and writer for a strength-focused website and magazine. His standard of strength is probably a wee bit higher than the average population. But still, since I’ve kindof immersed my self in this strength-training atmosphere, his perspective is valuable to me.
So, how did I do? Um, erm, just barely “Decent”. He clarifies how he thinks of “Decent Strength”: “My guess is that most people would achieve this level after 6-12 months of training.” Well, I suppose I’m on target then. So, here’s the detail of what I can do right now.
- Squat: I’m not currently doing squats, so I don’t know. I keep saying I want to start, but I keep not starting. Hrm.
- Bench Press: My estimated (see note below) 1 rep max is 197. The standard for “decent” is 225. I’ve got work to do.
- Deadlift: I’m not currently doing deadlifts.
- Standing Military Press: I’m currently doing seated dumbell military presses, and have an estimated 1RM at 110. Dumbbells are generally considered harder than barbells, but seated is a little easier than standing, so those probably off-set. The standard for “decent” is 105. Phew, just barely made it.
- Leg Press: My estimated 1RM is 420. The standard for “decent” is 410. Just barely made it.
- 45 degree 1/4 bent over row: I don’t do this exercise.
- Pushups: The last time I tried to do as many push ups as possible I think I was able to do 30. The standard for “decent” is 30. Phew.
- Dips: The standard for dips is 20 in one set with no added weight. I don’t ever do more than 12, but I can do that with 30 pounds addded on. I’ll try going for as many as possible some time–I might just make it.
- Pull Ups: I can do 10 pull ups in a set. The standard for “decent” is 10. Phew.
- EZ Bar bicep curl: I don’t do this exercise
- Skull Crusher: I don’t do this exercise
- Elbow Plank: I don’t normally do this exercise, but it seemed easy enough to try last night. Had I not been shooting for the “decent” goal of 90 seconds, I probably would have stopped at 60. But I was able to make it to 90 seconds since I had that added goal.
So, I just barely made the “decent” grade on all but one of the exercises I’m currently doing. Now my goal is a) improve on bench press to “decent” within 6 months, and b) get to “good” on several exercises in another year. I think the most attainable are pull-ups, dips, push ups, and standing military press.
Note on estimating 1 rep max: most articles I’ve read have discouraged actually testing for a 1 rep max (the most weight that could be lifted in that exercise just one time) due to the risk of injury. So I’ve used a 1RM Calculator to take my actual results in a workout to estimate the 1RM. Also of note is that these are during the course of a workout, where I don’t always go to “failure” on a set. These numbers might be a low estimate, but only by a little bit.