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Ideas of Elite Powerlifter Progress After One Year of Training?

I’m sure this information has been disclosed elsewhere but I was wondering if anyone had an idea of “elite” powerlifters’ progress after one year of serious training? For example, how much could Ray Williams squat, bench, DL after one year of training? Obviously this could pertain to elite powerlifters across the body weight spectrum and is not limited to the best of the best (anyone who regularly competes in national competitions would suffice).

Honestly I dont think there is an answer to this question, its going to vary hugely based on an endless criteria list and I dont see how there could be any consensus or meaningful average.

What counts as their first year of training? I mean say one guy was playing high level football for 10 years, hitting lots of weights and strength work but with no real focus on the power lifts, who then transitions into specific PL training, which year is his first year?

What about a bodybuilder who never really worked on 1rm but was working the movements?

These guys might have the same potential and end up in the same place, but their first years and progression to that point might look completely different, equally different would be a guy with great genetics who didnt ever touch weights and knows shit about training, who fucked around doing everything wrong in his first year.

More directly in response to your question though, what would you do with this information if you did get an answer? While I dont think the question can be answered in any satisfactory way, I also dont see what the value of having the answer is?


Way too many variables to account for. However, making some assumptions of completely ideal conditions (no job, unlimited financial support, full time accesses to top level coaching and nutrition support, etc…) but starting from completely untrained (i.e. never touched a weight in their life or done any type of consistent manual labor) I think someone you could get someone with the “average” genetics of an elite level powerlifter between a 400 and 500 Wilks, but probably closer to 400. Maybe more if you throw drugs in the mix, but that’s not something I have enough knowledge of to comment on.

I understand there are a lot of variables but I was curious if there were any guys out there who were set on powerlifting from a young age and disclosed (via YouTube, interviews, person to person, etc.) their progress after 1 year, 2 years, etc. I thought it would be interesting to see how much progress these guys make in year 1 and then how they progress through year x. I’ve also lifted on and off for many years and just recently got (somewhat) into powerlifting. So in many ways I fall into the same concept you describe but wanted to benchmark my own progress against certain elite lifters.

One thing to consider is that what makes one elite can be different. Some people have crazy physical traits, and get strong very fast. Others become elite through being smarter. They maybe don’t progress as fast, but they keep getting better and eventually become elite. I have seen both.

Additionally, some just start super strong, so their progress is minimal. I believe Kaz claimed that his first deadlift session he pulled either 6 plates (585 lbs) or 600 lbs at 16 years old. His lifetime best was something like 915 lbs. I have added more lbs per year than Kaz, but I am not pulling 915.

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I think the problem is that by looking specifically at the elite, you are by definition using a small pool of people. The sample is so small that none of them will have the same path. I suspect most of them will have some sort of gym bro or other athletic background that involved weight training, but some will have transitioned to PL after one year while others, like myself, made the jump to PL after lifting for 10 years. I put 475lb on my total in my first 6 months (from 1000 to 1475) after the switch, but thats mostly because I had a lot of untapped strength potential from training hard for 10 years but never really training the movements directly, and not doing work near 1rm, so it would be disingenuous to call that my ‘progress’.

I think the only way to ‘benchmark’ your progress is to look at your current numbers and either look at them as a % of ‘elite’ in your weight class, or if you really need to fill out then look at them as a % of top guys your height I guess.

Kaz said he overhead pressed his own bodyweight the first time he ever touched a barbell.

I think it was Andy Bolton who pulled 600 his first time.

Not only that, but these are people with well above average genetics, there is no point in comparing yourself to them if you aren’t making incredibly fast progress. Some people get very strong very fast, for most people it takes years. Another factor is that a lot of people start off training in a way that doesn’t work well for them and only make significant progress after figuring out a better way to train.

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I could swear it was Kaz, but after searching I can’t find it. Maybe it was Bolton. Either way not something I could do.

I think a good question is what does the average person add to their squat, bench and deadlift per year? What does a competitor add?

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A beginner will usually add more in the same time. And elite lifter is already elite so they don’t have so much room to progress, unless they gain a ton of weight or start taking drugs if they were clean before. Everyone else is somewhere in the middle.

There are a million videos, podcasts and interviews with great lifters out there. Checkout Mark Bell’s “Power Project.” He usually asks strong dudes about how they got started out.

Just for fun and to talk about one of my heroes; Kaz pressed bodyweight his first time with the weights. Some time later, after doing a physical job he tried deadlifting for the first time and did 600.

Ed Coan talked about squatting when he was starting out as a skinny kid. He said he just added weight every workout and made it to 405 before he needed any kind of training plan.

It seems like all good benchers could bench 500 in high school.

There’s a guy who lives in Ottawa named Leon Brown who holds a bunch of IPF records, apparently he was benching 405 in high school. He didn’t bench 500 until he was over 50 years old. Not sure how his training was for the 25 or so years before he started competing in powerlifting, but progress isn’t linear. Unfortunately he tore a pec last I heard.

There are some other old guys who are strong as hell too, looks like some guys don’t actually reach their peak strength until they are 40-50+ years old. Tony Harris, Dave Ricks,Sam Watts, Mark Robb all come to mind and all compete drug-tested. Another thing is that out of these guys they are all black except Mark Robb, maybe black guys have some advantage in terms of longevity. Harris, Ricks, and Watts have all been competing for several decades too, they didn’t start out at the top but got there after years and years of training. Mark Robb was a bodybuilder before switching to PL.

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Interesting thing I just remembered… last fall the strongman group at our gym threw an unsanctioned “novice” strongman comp that I did for fun. One of the guys competing convinced his buddy last minute to try it out. Dude doesn’t lift AT ALL, just works a moderate intensity labor job in a factor I think, similar body weight as me. Granted, I’m no strongman competitor but this dude out rep’d me on the 1 minute log clean and press for reps (think the weight was around 185-200 lbs) and hung with on everything else. Can’t remember but I think he pulled over 500 on an axle bar (with straps) that day too. Keep in mind, I’ve got a 450 raw bench and am in damn good conditioning by fat guy powerlifting standards, and this dude legit does not have a gym membership.

Point is, there are some people that are just made of something much, much better than the rest of us, and there is nothing we can do to change that. Although there can be some useful things to learn from observing others (success leaves clues), we are all much better off putting most of our focus on what it is about US that makes US better.