Pretty much every lifter has either been asked or asked someone else “how much do you bench?” While it’s a common question, it does lead to a valid point – how do you measure up with your fellow lifters? If you all entered some sort of strength test, could you keep up with your ‘gym bros’ (or gals)? Here are some elements that make up a good strength test, as well pointers on how to improve yourself if you need to.
Base it on Bodyweight
While you might think that a strength test should be all about who can lift the most, you still have to take bodyweight into account. You can’t – and shouldn’t – compare what a 275-pounder can lift with what a someone half their size can. This is why powerlifting, Olympic lifting, and strong man competitions all have weight classes. But you can simplify things by comparing your performance on the basic lifts to your bodyweight.
What the Four Main Strength Test Lifts Should Be
Any good strength test should be comprised of four main lifts:
As mentioned, instead of using a target weight to hit for each lift, base your performance on how much you weigh. In other words, think of your lift as a factor of your bodyweight. Here are some good goals to shoot for:
To further explain – say you weighed 200lbs. If you could overhead press 135, bench 185, squat 275, and deadlift 250, you’d compare all those lifts to 200. So your breakdown would be as follows:
Overhead press – .68x bodyweight (135 / 200)
Bench press – .93x bodyweight (185 / 200)
Squat – 1.38x bodyweight (275 / 200)
Deadlift – 1.25x bodyweight (250 / 200)
Here are some goals to shoot for:
Overhead press – .5x bodyweight
Bench press – 1x bodyweight
Squat – 1.25x bodyweight
Deadlift – 1.5x bodyweight
Overhead press – .75x bodyweight
Bench press – 1.25x bodyweight
Squat – 1.75x bodyweight
Deadlift – 2x bodyweight
Overhead press – 1x bodyweight
Bench press – 1.5x bodyweight
Squat – 2x bodyweight
Deadlift – 2.5x bodyweight
How to Improve Your Strength Test Stats
There are two main ways you could improve your strength test stats. The first would be the obvious answer – just get stronger. Doing each of the four lifts once per week for 3-5 sets of 5-6 reps each is a good start. Try to add weight each week and do a couple of assistance exercises for 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps. Another idea would be to do a workout dedicated to increasing your 1RM – check out our one rep max calculator here.
An alternative way to improve your stats would be to cut body fat. If you can drop bodyweight as a whole while keeping your strength numbers the same, then the ratios will all improve. For instance, say the 200-pounder above kept his lifts the same, but was able to cut from 200lbs to 185lbs. His numbers would improve as follows:
Overhead press – from .68x bodyweight (135 / 200) to .73x bodyweight (135 / 185)
Bench press – from .93x bodyweight (185 / 200) to 1x bodyweight (185 / 185)
Squat – from 1.38x bodyweight (275 / 200) to 1.49x bodyweight (275 / 185)
Deadlift – from 1.25x bodyweight (250 / 200) to 1.35x bodyweight (250 / 185)
By basing your strength performance numbers on your bodyweight, you can do two things. First is that you can ensure that you’re still getting stronger as a whole by looking at what you’re putting on the bar. But just as important, you can make sure you’re putting on the right amount of strength you should have for how much you weigh. Keep your strength going up in relation to your bodyweight, and your stats will always look good.