Squatting is one of the most important exercises, and is a favorite technique across various disciplines, from weight training to powerlifting and even CrossFit.
The benefits of the squat are immense, as it works the whole body and is arguably the most challenging of all the different compound exercises that exist.
It targets the legs, core, and almost the whole body to some degree due to the intense difficulty of the movement, particularly when using weights to overload and increase difficulty.
Anyone taking their training seriously should be doing squats, and using weighted squats to help accelerate your strength gain and progress.
But this can be difficult particularly for beginners, as it can be hard to assess your own strength levels, as well as what weight you should be lifting according to your own strength, experience, age, and size.
There are many factors that will dictate how much you can squat, and these are just some of the ones which can have a big impact on your performance capabilities.
Everyone’s strength is different and even people with broadly similar attributes will find considerable differences in their strength as a beginner or a more experienced lifter, and this can make choosing a weight to lift incredibly difficult, and confusing.
In this guide we’re going to look at how much you should be squatting for your weight, and how squatting strength standards work, as well as a host of other key information such as what can affect your starting weight, what strength standards are, and how you can improve your squat to help increase your weight and progress more effectively into heavier lifts and better performance.
But first, let’s establish what squats actually are for total beginners.
What Are Squats?
Squats are a compound exercise that targets the legs and buttocks primarily but also targets areas of the whole body making it one of the most comprehensive exercises that you can do.
Squats can be done just with your body weight, however, many people do weighted squats either using kettlebells or more commonly a barbell across the shoulders which adds strain and increases the difficulty of the exercise making it very challenging but also very rewarding.
There are many rumors about squats but they are by far the most effective weight lifting exercise and promote strength and flexibility and should make the core of almost every workout regime.
However finding a good weight for this exercise can be difficult, so let’s take a look at how much you should squat, depending on certain key factors and attributes.
How Much Should I Squat For My Weight?
This depends a lot on the type of squat you’re doing, so we’re going to break this section down into various popular squat exercises and look at some benchmarks for each different type to give you a better idea of what you should be aiming for.
This is one of the more simple exercises to break down as it doesn’t use any weight.
Some benchmarks include;
- Good – 20 +Reps
- Better – 50 Reps
- Excellent – 100 Reps
- Barbell Squats (Standard Squats)
This exercise is the most popular type of squat and helps stimulate the most muscle growth of almost all the different exercises.
There are many different benchmarks and your starting point will be dictated by your weight primarily, as well as health and age but let’s take a look at some rough numbers to get you started.
- Newbie – 65lbs
- Beginner – 70-75% of body weight
- Intermediate – Bodyweight + 10/15%
- Advanced – Bodyweight + 20/30%
- Expert – Bodyweight + 50/70%
- Pro – 2x Bodyweight
- Olympian – 3/3.3x Bodyweight
- Newbie – 45lbs
- Beginner – 55/60% of Bodyweight
- Intermediate – 80/100% of Bodyweight
- Advanced – Bodyweight + 15/25%
- Expert – Bodyweight + 30/50%
- Pro – Bodyweight + 60/80%
- Olympian – 2x/2.5x Bodyweight
Barbell Overhead Squats
This alternative type of squat has the lifter hold the barbell overhead while squatting, making the exercise considerably different and more difficult, with a host of alternative benefits for lifters who use this technique.
Some benchmarks are as follows;
- Newbie – 20 – 50% bodyweight
- Beginner – 50/75% bodyweight
- Intermediate – 75/100% bodyweight
- Advanced – 100/150% bodyweight
- Expert – 150/175% bodyweight
- Pro – 150/175% bodyweight
- Olympian – 175/200% bodyweight
- Newbie – 10/35% bodyweight
- Beginner – 35/50% bodyweight
- Intermediate – 50/75% bodyweight
- Advanced – 75/100% bodyweight
- Expert – 100/125% bodyweight
- Pro – 125/150% bodyweight
Does Age Make a Difference to Squat Weight?
Age can make a difference to your strength and this affect your squat strength too, however, there is a range of factors to consider and although age is a key aspect of this, age isn’t always the limiting factor people think it is, and with the right training, diet, and regime you can still use squats to improve your physical strength.
Age can make you less flexible and reduce your strength due to changes in hormones, muscle strength, bone density, and overall physical health, but these factors can be incredibly varied, with totally untrained individuals obviously being the least able to use squats, with relatively fit and healthy people able to harness this exercise and use it to their benefit.
What Do Strength Standards Mean?
Strength standards are about working out how much you should be able to lift, or aiming to lift based on an array of factors that try to account for the many variances which can affect your performance and progress.
Strength standards can’t take into account all these different factors but major attributes such as weight, age, fitness level, and health are all key components of this and try to account for how much strength someone has as well as how much they can build.
Naturally, other factors such as diet, lifestyle, and level of physical training are also key factors that are significant but very subjective and difficult to measure, so these are typically left out of the equation except in specific, personalized circumstances.
Other factors such as the type of exercise, gender, use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), and more can also play a part in someone’s strength, as well as their likelihood of hitting a plateau in performance.
Many lifters will hit a plateau even when sticking to their regime and diet religiously, and this can be very frustrating as by all accounts you should continue to gain strength as long as you work hard and eat properly.
Hitting a plateau means you’ve hit a level of performance that your body is struggling to beat or improve on, and often a change of training or technique is required to shock the body into moving it further, but this type of difficulty often requires coaching as it is all a delicate balancing act.
Strength standards are important, but they are by no means an all encompassing and defining categorization, and you may find yourself falling higher or lower on this scale depending on an array of factors, so don’t focus too much on where you are, instead focus on where you want to be and work towards that!
Male Squatting Standards
Female Squatting Standards
How Can I Improve My Squat?
Improving squat performance is very important and also quite difficult, as it’s an exercise with a very specific technique.
In the case of the barbell back squat, and other squats to some extent, there are key things you can do to improve and help support your progress. In this section, we’re going to look at these briefly to give you some ideas and tips on how to continue improving your squat.
Also, think about this: Squatting can improve your bench press. So while you are concentrating on your squats, you may not even notice that your that your bench press max is improving.
Other Leg Exercises
Don’t overfocus on the squat. While it is an immensely useful and important exercise, you shouldn’t neglect other key muscles in your legs and upper body, as this can lead to inefficiencies, flexibility, and posture issues as well as potential injury.
Building up evenly and targeting all areas of your legs is very important, and while compound exercises are great, isolation exercises can help a lot with this issue.
Don’t be afraid to work in leg extensions, lunges, calf raises, and a whole spectrum of leg workouts and exercises to support your progress on the squat rack.
The deadlift is a great choice.
There are other exercises you should consider using too, and other areas to focus on such as…
Engage Your Core
Engaging your core is incredibly important when squatting, as it’s what helps keep you stable while performing the main squat.
Without a strong core, you will struggle to squat safely, and will feel unsafe and uncomfortable while squatting, or could potentially seriously injure yourself.
Building core strength is critically important, so don’t avoid core sessions no matter how much they hurt!
Work your abs with crunches, as well as dips and other exercises that strengthen the core and promote solidity and strength.
In this vein, building a strong back is similarly important as this supports a lot of weight in the barbell squat and can help you prevent injury and stay safe while squatting, keeping your back straight and secure.
If you’re struggling, consider investing in your core and attempting to build up your supporting muscles.
Work on Technique
Good technique is essential when squatting.
Keep your head up, your back straight and make sure you are going deep enough, at least until the rear of your thigh is parallel to the floor at 90 degrees.
While there is some debate about the best squat technique, particularly how deep to squat, keeping your head up and back straight is a must for good form and to prevent injury.
Setting your feet properly is key too, as well as lowering down steadily and rising steadily. Bursts of power can risk injury and also could make you pass out due to the massive bloody pressure increases this exercise can lead to.
The technique will of course vary depending on your particular squat, be it overhead barbell or barbell back squats, but these fundamentals will help you a lot regardless of the specific squat you’re working on improving.
Good flexibility is key to preventing injury and allowing a good range of movement, which is important for all exercises, particularly squats.
Good movement in the hips, shoulders, and legs can help you stave off injury and remain in control even during heavier squats or more difficult maneuvers such as barbell overhead squats.
Good recovery is critical when looking to improve, regardless of the regime or exercise, and knowing how to get rid of sore legs from squats is vital in achieving a speedy recovery.
This means getting enough rest after training, taking rest days, and organizing your split efficiently so that you aren’t risking injury to certain body parts or fatiguing too quickly, as this can affect your performance severely.
Diet is also important to recovery, and it’s impossible to work on your squat without a healthy, balanced, and protein-rich diet to support the development of the larger leg muscles that squats utilize.
While finding your weight is very important, and basing this on your own strength standard is also very important, knowing when to overload to drive progress is absolutely key to actually becoming stronger.
Overloading means adding weight in a structured way to force your body to adapt, growing muscles and accelerating growth.
Use overload well and look at strategies for using this to maximize your gains and progress.
It’s important to know where you are in your development with squatting. Knowing how much your should be squatting for your weight can be a good assessment tool. It could let you know that you need to to change up your routine if the current one isn’t meeting the standard.
Knowing where you stand is not the end all be all. We are all unique and may not fall into the averages so don’t get discouraged and squat on!