How much weight you can lift is relevant to your weight, conditioning, age and other things. If you weigh 140lbs and you’re disheartened because your 200lbs mate can lift far more than you, then that’s understandable, to say the least.
Or if you are 50 years old but you are comparing your numbers to what you could lift 10 years before, then this is likely to change.
In this article, we will discuss how much weight you should be lifting in comparison to your weight, age and condition.
There are many different strength standards, one formula may work for one person but not another. Here we will look into some of the more common recommendations and try to simplify what is ultimately a complex topic.
For example, to simplify greatly, Dan John suggests in his book, (Intervention, Course Corrections For The Athlete And The Trainer) that an average weightlifter should be able to deadlift between 1x and 1.5x their body weight.
This is ultimately fairly accurate for the ballpark of an average person of suitable health and strength. That’s not to say there aren’t benefits from being able to do more than this.
In fact, in Dan John’s book, he says that there are great benefits to being able to lift more than 2x your body weight.
How Much Poundage Are We Talking About?
Experts Mark Rippetoe and Lon Kilgore have estimated that an average 198lbs male can lift 155lbs with no training.
After a few years of proper training, the same person should be able to deadlift 335lbs, then 460lbs a year after that.
Here's a rough guide to some standardised weights for trained lifters:
- Average (Decent) - 315lbs or 1.5x bodyweight
- Good - 405lbs or 2x bodyweight
- Great - 495lbs or 2.75x bodyweight
- Average (Decent) - 115lbs or 1.5x bodyweight
- Good - 185lbs or 1.5x bodyweight
- Great - 225lbs - 2x bodyweight
To be a contender for the Navy Seals, you need to be able to lift between 1.5 and 2.4x your bodyweight. And it’s expected of them to be able to lift 1.75x their body weight for at least five reps.
What If I Want To Try And Lift More?
If you are the competitive type with a lot of ambition, then it’s said that 500lbs is a good goal to strive for.
Oddly enough as the lifter's body weight goes down, the expectation of how much they should be able to lift in comparison to bodyweight goes up to 3x bodyweight. As I mentioned before, this isn’t a straightforward topic, there is no "one size fits all."
Lifting With Age
As you get older, 40+, you can expect your numbers to drop gradually. From 10-40% as time gets on. Below is a rough calculation of how strength declines with age.
- Over 40 - 10-15% decrease
- Over 50 - 15-25% decrease
- Over 60 - 25-40% decrease
- Over 70 - 35-50% decrease
Deadlift World Records
Men - Benedikt Magnusson from the USA completed a barbell deadlift with a weight of 1015lbs (460.4kg) on the 2nd of April, 2011.
Women - Becca Swanson from the USA completed a barbell deadlift with a weight of 683.4lbs (310kg) on the 5th of November, 2005.
How Much Weight Should You Be Deadlifting?
Like most things in this area, choosing your deadlift goals is a very personal decision, and shouldn’t be influenced by others.
You should set your goals with your capabilities in mind, something that would be great for you, but achievable.
If you set the bar unrealistically high you may end up disappointed or injured. Before setting your goal there are these factors you should consider.
- Your current conditioning
- Years of training
- Body type
- Proportions (limb length relative to torso)
From John’s book, when we asked him the direct question, “John, how much should I be able to deadlift?”, his response was, “I think that most people who are not strength athletes (powerlifters), should strive for reaching or exceeding the advanced category in the standards listed above.
For men, that is a deadlift with roughly 150% of your body weight on the bar. For women, it’s roughly 125% of your body weight on the bar. I think that’s an ambitious, yet doable goal for most people”.
Here are some exact numbers John gives, ignoring all the complexities discussed above, assuming you are of decent strength and capabilities.
- 100-150lbs Men - 225lbs
- 150-200lbs Men - 315lbs
- 200+ lbs Men - 405+lbs
- 90-125lbs Woman - 135lbs
- 125-175lbs Woman - 225 lbs
- 175+ Woman - 315+lbs
Figuring out how much you can lift is dependent on many factors as we’ve discussed. Similarly, knowing how many sets of deadlifts per week you should do depends on what your goals are. Are you the tenacious type that will always want to prove yourself at all costs?
If so then you can aim for the bigger numbers, remembering to stay safe and work within realistic parameters.
If you are more relaxed about the whole thing and are looking to gradually build up your strength, then sticking to the more widely used parameters is a good way to go.
If you are slightly older and are worried about overdoing it, recognising the natural declines with age may help you get more out of your sessions.
Some of you out there will be obsessed with the numbers and have an idea in your head about what you want to lift, and that is great.
But equally, many of you aren’t so fussed about the exact numbers and will have other motivations, both have their place. The key is to enjoy yourself, keep challenging yourself within what works for you.
And above all, lift with good form and allow sufficient time to recover and build strength so you can continue to see encouraging results.
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