Folks love standards, mostly because we love to compare ourselves to other people and see where we lie on the continuum. It validates us. It gives our ego this little tiny boost that makes us feel good for a minute.
And usually, I’d write a post telling you to forget about standards. Forget what other people are doing. Get off of Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. Stop watching other people live life and giving yourself massive FOMO while you sit on your couch with re-runs of The Office in the background.
But I think standards can be helpful now and then. They give us metrics to compare ourselves to ourselves, to see how we’re doing. We can pit our strengths against our weaknesses and uncover the areas of our health & fitness that we need to work on.
I actually get this question a lot, “Like, okay, where should I be? What should I be able to do? How much should I be lifting?” And truthfully, I don’t have an exact answer. It’s really up to you. It depends on your lifestyle and your goals and a multitude of other things.
I guess if I was going to sum it up, it would sound like this: we strive to bring all of our members to a place of strength and conditioning where they’re never precluded from performing any activities or tasks, recreational or otherwise, for lack of physical fitness.
I don’t have all the answers. All I have are about 10 years of practical experience with myself, my clients, and now my members.
I’m not an M.D., so this post won’t cover things like blood glucose, cholesterol, or blood pressure. What we will cover is your strength, both bodyweight & absolute, as well as your cardiovascular ability. I’m going to put forth two categories for each exercise or test: Satisfactory and Great. If you’re in the Satisfactory category, good, you’ve achieved a base level of fitness that will most likely allow you do perform any and all activities that you’d ever want to do.
But if you’re looking, as a casual gym-goer, for a little bit of a challenge, feel free to reach for greatness. These are standards that will provoke questions from your friends & family like, “What have you been doing in the gym recently?” and “Wow, that [insert feat here] was amazing!”
Are you ready?
We’ll start with the barbell because that seems to me to be the most obvious place to begin.
Great Deadlift: 2x bodyweight
Satisfactory Deadlift: 1x bodyweight
Great Back Squat: 1.75x bodyweight
Satisfactory Back Squat: 1x bodyweight
Great Front Squat: 1.5x bodyweight
Satisfactory Front Squat: 1x bodyweight
Great Power Clean: 1x bodyweight
Satisfactory Power Clean: 0.5x bodyweight
Great Bench Press: 1.25x bodyweight for men, 1x bodyweight for women
Satisfactory Bench Press: 1x bodyweight for men, 0.5x bodyweight for women
Great Overhead Press: 0.75x bodyweight for men, 0.5x bodyweight for women
Satisfactory Overhead Press: 0.5x bodyweight for men, 0.25x bodyweight for women
A caveat: these lifts won’t be good enough to win you any powerlifting competitions. But they will make you stronger than 95% of the population, including all of your family and friends. You’ll be able to scale large mountains and
leap tall buildings in a single bound carry heavy boxes upstairs from your basement.
You’ll notice that there are different standards for women regarding upper-body-dominant movements. This is due to obvious differences in upper body musculature and the differences are negligible (if they even exist at all) when it comes to lower body movements.
In fact, a 1x bodyweight squat, bench press, and deadlift are all part of our Bodyweight Challenge here at the gym and only three folks have been able to complete it. But that provides a nice segue into our next section.
Great Chinups: 10 reps for men, 5 reps for women
Satisfactory Chinups: 5 reps for men, 1 rep for women
Great Pushups: 20 reps for men, 10 reps for women
Satisfactory Pushups: 10 reps for men, 5 reps for women
Great Plank: 2 minutes total
Satisfactory Plank: 1 minute total
You should also be able to complete 10 inverted rows from a completely horizontal position, as well as at least 10 bodyweight split squats on each side (and probably more). Bodyweight exercises are one of our best tests of body composition. It’s pretty difficult to perform any amount of chinups when you’re carrying a spare donut (or a few donuts) around your mid-section.
And now that we’ve brought up your nagging insecurities over those few extra pounds, let’s dive into the section on cardio standards!
Great 2000m row: 8:00 for men, 10:00 for women
Satisfactory 2000m row: 10:00 for men, 12:00 for women
Great 500m row: 1:45 for men, 2:00 for women
Satisfactory 500m row: 2:00 for men, 2:30 for women
Great 1-mile run: 8:00 minutes for men, 10:00 for women
Satisfactory 1-mile run: 10:00 for men, 12:00 for women
Great 10-minute Assault Bike: 3.5 miles for men, 3.0 miles for women
Satisfactory 10-minute Assault Bike: 3.0 miles for men, 2.0 miles for women
And even sometimes, folks can power through some of these “shorter” cardiovascular efforts with no real cardiovascular endurance at all. Cardiovascular health encompasses a wide range of abilities and it would be impossible to include all of them on here.
A great test of your cardiovascular health is your resting heart rate. A “normal” resting heart rate (RHR) is said to be somewhere in the range of 60-100 beats per minute (bpm). High-capacity endurance athletes, on the other hand, usually have RHR’s of 30-50 bpm. So where should you fall?
Great resting heart rate: Less than 60 bpm
Satisfactory resting heart rate: 60-70 bpm
If your resting heart rate is in the 80s, 90s, or higher, you definitely want to think about working on your cardiovascular endurance a bit. Resting heart rate is more than just a stat, fewer beats each minute means less stress to your arterial walls and to your cardiovascular system as a whole. Don’t worry though, a few days of low-intensity steady state cardio on the order of 20-30 minutes should be enough to bring your resting heart rate down (when combined with an intelligently-designed strength program).
And that brings us to our last section: the miscellaneous stuff.
Other Miscellaneous Tests
Great Farmer’s Carry: 1x bodyweight for men, 0.75x bodyweight for women
Satisfactory Farmer’s Carry: 0.75x bodyweight for men, 0.5x bodyweight for women
Great Kettlebell Swing: 0.5x bodyweight for 20-50 solid consecutive reps
Satisfactory Kettlebell Swing: 0.25x bodyweight for 20-50 solid consecutive reps
And there are a few more things should be in the back of your mind. We do take and record circumference measurements at our gym (e.g. arm, waist, hip, and thigh). But if you’re looking for something a little bit simpler, here’s a guideline: your waist circumference should be around half of your height, both in inches. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
Flexibility-wise, you should be able to perform a near-perfect back-to-wall shoulder flexion test, as well as a fairly deep unassisted squat. Both of these things tell us that your core is firing on all cylinders. They also let us know that your hips, ankles, & shoulders are free of mobility issues.
Phew, okay, that was a lot of stuff.
Look, it’s not my job to tell you what you should be capable of. Only you can determine where you need to be fitness-wise. But these should serve as some basic guidelines to get you started. Achieving these primary goals will help you become a well-rounded, strong, athletic human being who’s never precluded from performing any activities or tasks, recreational or otherwise, for lack of physical fitness.