T Nation

Realism: Raw Strength Standards


On another strength forum I frequent, someone asked about how we could define realistic strength standards to aspire to as well as compare various lifters due to weight class differences.

My answer is below and I thought it would be interesting for the guys in this forum as well:
I think elite RAW American powerlifters can help us out quite a bit. Keep in mind the following data may not be 100% accurate, but it is pretty close (powerliftingwatch.com rankings).

Only competitions done in America (USA):
Top 50 RAW Performances / #1 Best RAW Performance:
Squat: 303, 2.29xBW / 530, 4.02xBW
Bench: 253, 1.92xBW / 363, 2.75xBW
Deads: 402, 3.04xBW / 578, 4.38xBW
Total: 890, 6.74xBW / 1361, 10.31xBW

Squat: 391, 2.64xBW / 534, 3.61xBW
Bench: 310, 2.09xBW / 402, 2.72xBW
Deads: 473, 3.19xBW / 606, 4.09xBW
Total: 1102, 7.45xBW / 1482, 10.01xBW

Squat: 465, 2.82xBW / 615, 3.73xBW
Bench: 363, 2.20xBW / 487, 2.95xBW
Deads: 545, 3.30xBW / 655, 3.97xBW
Total: 1285, 7.79xBW / 1570, 9.52xBW

Squat: 515, 2.85xBW / 617, 3.41xBW
Bench: 395, 2.18xBW / 480, 2.65xBW
Deads: 600, 3.31xBW / 705, 3.90xBW
Total: 1420, 7.85xBW / 1655, 9.14xBW

Squat: 560, 2.83xBW / 755, 3.81xBW
Bench: 429, 2.17xBW / 535, 2.70xBW
Deads: 630, 3.19xBW / 750, 3.79xBW
Total: 1526, 7.71xBW / 1840, 9.29xBW

Squat: 601, 2.73xBW / 750, 3.41xBW
Bench: 455, 2.07xBW / 529, 2.40xBW
Deads: 655, 2.98xBW / 744, 3.38xBW
Total: 1603, 7.29xBW / 1901, 8.64xBW

Squat: 617, 2.55xBW / 800, 3.31xBW
Bench: 480, 1.98xBW / 600, 2.48xBW
Deads: 672, 2.78xBW / 865, 3.57xBW
Total: 1660, 6.86xBW / 1960, 8.10xBW

Squat: 666, 2.42xBW / 854, 3.11xBW
Bench: 510, 1.85xBW / 612, 2.23xBW
Deads: 705, 2.56xBW / 832, 3.30xBW
Total: 1752, 6.37xBW / 2226, 8.09xBW

Squat: 630, 2.08xBW / 865, 2.05xBW
Bench: 500, 1.62xBW / 650, 2.11xBW
Deads: 661, 2.15xBW / 825, 2.68xBW
Total: 1690, 5.49xBW / 2165, 7.03xBW

Squat: 650 / 1000
Bench: 501 / 655
Deads: 672 / 840
Total: 1725 / 2215

1) Unless you're very, very short, weighing too little actually HARMS your BW multiples. This is pretty obvious. There aren't many people who are nearing their muscular genetic/drug enhanced limits at 132/148lbs. Guys like Joe Morrow and Tony Conyers are South of 5'4".
2) Most of these guys probably run cycles; they use steroids.
3) There is a point where being fat not only harms BW multiples, but overall total -- at least for Americans. This seems to occur at 275lbs. This likely has to do with the inability to get into a good pull position and the useless added weight during squat. It is even more likely that this is due to the fact there simply aren't many people tall enough to fill out 308lbs with anything even remotely close to lean (15-20% BF).
4) In terms of the Top 50 grouping, BW multiples actually start to decrease after 181lbs. The drop-off becomes more and more significant after 200+lbs.
5) The higher up the weight classes you go, the smaller the difference between the elite and the Top 50 (usually).
6) For most weight classes, ~2-2.25xBW bench, ~2.75xBW squat, ~3-3.25xBW deadlift gets you into the Top 50 American lifters.
7) For most weight classes, ~2.5xBW bench, ~3.5xBW squat, ~3.75xBW deadlift gets you near the very, very best. You're probably one of the ten or twenty strongest raw lifters in the world at your weight.

In my opinion, your table could look like this:
All multiples +/- 0.25 based on nearness to 200lbs. Above 200lbs, -0.25BW multiple. Below 200lbs, +0.25BW multiple.

Trained / Strong / Elite / Champion(Heroic as you called it)
Squat: 1xBW / 2xBW / 2.5xBW / 3.25xBW
Bench: 0.75xBW / 1.5xBW / 2xBW / 2.5xBW
Deadlift:1.5xBW / 2.5xBW / 3xBW / 3.5xBW

Additionally, weight gain should be prescribed to all those under 181lbs (unless they are very short, i.e. 5'5" or less) and fat loss to all those above 275lbs (unless they are very tall, 6'5" or greater).


Interesting stats. I'm more interested in the relative height of the guys in each weight class - could help people figure out what weight they'd be most competitive at.


Very cool post, thanks for doing the work and laying it out. The strength scale at the bottom looks solid.


Yup. I agree. Frame is the most important consideration when determining your weight class.
Take a look at this calculator: http://www.weightrainer.net/bodypred.html

Thanks, man.


Some of your numbers are off. For instance the #1 raw deadlift of all time in the 181's was 792.


These are the American results from the last four years.


Thats a pretty good write up. Good timing, saved me a google search.


Squat seems low for elite to me though. Seems 3x would be where its at.


25-30 years ago there were app 10-15 elite guys in weight classes . These
standards would be better with maybe the top ten or so.


You mean top 10 across the USA?

I dunno, being in the top 10 nationally is pretty heroic. Maybe elite can be the top 1-5% or something.

Come to think of it, a 2.5xBW squat isn't particularly challenging. 3x def feels elite but I'd go with whatever the numbers say.

edit- just re-read the post. Elite weights seem to be a little lower than a top 50 lift. Maybe a 2.75x squat for a 181 is a sweet spot (just a little below the top 50 2.85x).


So, my curiosity about this wasn't satisfied. I went ahead and quickly compiled the Top 10 in each class:

RAW American Top 10:
Top 10 Weight / Top 10 XBW / Top 50 XBW / #1 XBW
Squat:  374, 2.83XBW, 2.29XBW, 4.02XBW
Bench:  303, 2.30XBW, 1.92xBW, 2.75XBW
Deads:  451, 3.42XBW, 3.04XBW, 4.38XBW
Total: 1045, 7.92XBW, 6.74XBW, 10.3XBW
Squat:  451, 3.05XBW, 2.64XBW, 3.61XBW
Bench:  350, 2.36XBW, 2.09XBW, 2.72XBW
Deads:  525, 3.55XBW, 3.19XBW, 4.09XBW
Total: 1235, 8.34XBW, 7.45XBW, 10.1XBW
Squat:  515, 3.12XBW, 2.82XBW, 3.73XBW
Bench:  402, 2.44XBW, 2.20XBW, 2.72XBW
Deads:  600, 3.64XBW, 3.30XBW, 3.97XBW
Total: 1427, 8.65XBW, 7.45XBW, 9.52XBW
Squat:  573, 3.17XBW, 2.85XBW, 3.41XBW
Bench:  430, 2.38XBW, 2.18XBW, 2.65XBW 
Deads:  650, 3.59XBW, 3.31XBW, 3.90XBW
Total: 1550, 8.56XBW, 7.85XBW, 9.14XBW
Squat:  625, 3.16XBW, 2.83XBW, 3.81XBW
Bench:  460, 2.32XBW, 2.17XBW, 2.70XBW
Deads:  685, 3.46XBW, 3.19XBW, 3.79XBW
Total: 1625, 8.21XBW, 7.71XBW, 9.29XBW
Squat:  675, 3.07XBW, 2.73XBW, 3.41XBW
Bench:  500, 2.27XBW, 2.07XBW, 2.40XBW
Deads:  710, 3.23XBW, 2.98XBW, 3.38XBW
Total: 1736, 7.89XBW, 7.29XBW, 8.64XBW
Squat:  675, 2.79XBW, 2.55XBW, 3.31XBW
Bench:  530, 2.19XBW, 1.98XBW, 2.48XBW
Deads:  740, 3.06XBW, 2.78XBW, 3.57XBW
Total: 1800, 7.44XBW, 6.86XBW, 8.10XBW
Squat:  760, 2.76XBW, 2.42XBW, 3.11XBW
Bench:  565, 2.05XBW, 1.85XBW, 2.23XBW
Deads:  755, 2.75XBW, 2.56XBW, 3.30XBW
Total: 1957, 7.12XBW, 6.37XBW, 8.09XBW
Squat:  725, 2.35XBW, 2.08XBW, 2.81XBW
Bench:  567, 1.84XBW, 1.62XBW, 2.11XBW
Deads:  750, 2.44XBW, 2.15XBW, 2.68XBW
Total: 1855, 6.02XBW, 5.49XBW, 7.03XBW
Squat:  800, 650, 1000
Bench:  605, 501, 655
Deads:  780, 672, 840
Total: 2000, 1725, 2215

As you can see, we are actually still seeing very similar patterns:
1) At a glance, 308 is the least competitive of the heavy classes. This largely because it is the least contested.
2) Even the #1 SHW lifter cannot beat Stan Efferding. Damn. Again, the point still stands though; if you are not a large framed human being you probably have absolutely zero business competing above 275, RAW. Then again, depending on what you are taking, the heights/frames aren't nearly as big as what I was initially suspecting.
3) Even when we examine Top 10, performance increases as we move closer to 200lbs. If you aren't really damn short, you probably shouldn't be competing below 165 at the very lightest. 181 is probably more appropriate.
4) There were some other things I wanted to say, but I forgot. So, I'll just note that 242 is also less competitive than the rest of the classes and that 275 is easily the most competitive.

Finally, just to satisfy my curiosity, I tried to dig up heights/pictures of the top lifter in each class (based on total):

Richard Hawthorne, 5'6": http://www.powerliftingwatch.com/node/9535

Joe Morrow, 5'2": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkCja53jT8w

Tony Conyers, 5'4": http://www.criticalbench.com/images/rum/conyers.jpg

Jamie McDougal, 5'8": http://ironmanmagazine.com/blogs/hardcorepowerlifting/wp-content/uploads/Jamie-McDougal-2-500x331.jpg

Ryan Celli, 5'6": http://powerliftingcast.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/ryandeadliftauguspf.jpg

Jay Nera, ??: https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-5ZS5j4buKf8/TW9HR00wklI/AAAAAAAAAF0/QkcFJV8NXKI/s400/47410_443904257056_510482056_5534460_1751638_n.jpg
Jesse Kellum 5'5" (because I couldn't find Nera's height)

Brandon Cass 5'9": http://www.ironmanmagazine.com/blogs/hardcorepowerlifting/wp-content/uploads/LR-Brandon-Cass-5-500x332.jpg

Stan Efferding 6'0": http://www.supertraininggym.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/IMG_8754-800x600-e1316674942270-273x300.jpg

Chad Smith ??: http://a5.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc3/14333_203871812867_203851437867_4138987_5705134_n.jpg

Scott Weech Jr 6'0":http://www.atlargenutrition.com/media/athletes/ScottWeechFarmersWalk.jpg

The best American RAW lifters in almost every class are 6' or under. I think that should tell a lot of people what is required to be competitive at their given height and level drug use.


For some classes, 2.75XBW is probably more appropriate, but that is why I included the wiggle room with the multipliers. I just have my own questions about depth depending on the federation.

If you look, 3XBW gets you into the Top 5, or better, for every single weight class. I think that's too steep of a requirement.


I really appreciate the time and thought that went into this...

my only question is about this statement:

why fat loss for those over 275 (and under 6'5")?


Oops, I missed your hypothesis here... sorry, however why would a super heavy give a rats ass about a bw multiple? They only care about moving the most weight... just like the WSM competitors... some of them have super low bodyfat, however a vaste majority carry around quite a bit of fat on their frames.

as far as inability for fat guys to get into a good pull position, have you taken a look at the 900lbs deadlift club - most of them have big guts and carry around alot of body fat (benni, bolton, frank, alhazov, kenady, mark henry, fought)


Superb post, thanks.


If you look closely above, the guys in the 275 class actually have higher absolute totals, not just BW multiples, compared to the 308 and SHW guys. One possible conclusion you could draw from that, as Izzy did, is that the extra weight beyond 275 is actually harming their total by, for example, hurting their deadlift.

Another possibility is that these guys are simply not as strong or have worse genetics and have tried to overcome that by continuing to gain more and more weight, regardless of how small a marginal increase each pound gives to their total; that these guys would actually be weaker if they "cut" down to 275.

Or perhaps these guys have similar bodyfat % to the 275 guys but are on average taller and maybe have worse levers. No way to really know.


I dont think there is a need for someone to be over 20% fat. I think that is the point that their totals start to take a hit.


I think the science proven sweet spot for strength sports is 18% bodyfat (I think this was from olympic lifters, but I imagine it is largely the same for powerlifting). This holds for the super heavies only though since the others trying to fit in weight classes benefit from more lean tissue.


I just have a question about body fat. How do you determine what your body fat percent is? I'm pretty lean, but acording to that calculator 10% and 15% mean my max weight class would be 181 or 198 respectively.


Keep in mind with that calculator, it's just an estimate. People fall along a bell curve genetically when it comes to maximum muscular potential. If you're closer to being an outlier, it may be inaccurate for you.

The easiest way to get your body fat measurement is to have a PT do a skin fold test with calipers. You can also do hydrostatic weighing and a host of other things. There are tables which compare waist, neck, and weight to give you a number. All of these things can be considered estimates with hydrostatic weighing being the most accurate.

I find it more useful to just get familiar with what certain body fats look like although that can be very deceiving due to genetics.

In short, it is really, really hard to get an accurate body fat measurement without some kind of professional tools.