What’s happening, Fringe Fam? As we continue to recover and thaw from Snowmageddon last week, we want to talk about something that’s near and dear to our hearts (especially PK’s). We know that this topic is relative to every single person reading or watching, with a garage gym, a box gym, or any kind of goals for strength or health, but what we’re discussing today is an often-asked and valid question.
How strong is strong?
At 41 years old in February 2021, PK is no longer chasing records in the weight room. Of course, there was a time in his life when he really wanted to be strong, to destroy his gainz goals, and even get to the CrossFit Games.
Now, that’s just not him.
He’s interested in being amazing on the soccer field, being fast for a lifter, strong for a runner, and being able to physically do anything he wants to do. But, he obsessed when he was younger about just how strong is strong. He was focused on specific numbers, and wondered just how strong he should be as a man.
So, just how strong is strong? Let’s talk about strength standards.
If you were to ask a powerlifter, he would tell you one thing, while if you ask a CrossFitter or a marathon runner, they’re going to have different answers to that question, too. There are a few highly esteemed people who PK respects and have done some really good thinking on this matter: Mark Rippetoe, and Lon Kilgore.
These two gentlemen wrote a book called Starting Strength, and within some of their other work, they’ve produced strength tables. Categorized into different lifts, you can look at your bodyweight on one side, and apply your level of strength to find the category you fit into.
These days, they’re leveling by category 1, category 2, category 3, etc, but in the old days, they used to call those levels untrained or novice, intermediate, advanced, and elite. You can look into these categories, regardless of their name, and say “I want to be in an advanced or elite category, so I need to lift this much in my bench press because I weigh this much.” Because it’s all based around body weight, there’s a little cheat you can apply sometimes to get into the next category by cutting a little weight and maintaining as much strength as possible.
The reason that PK likes the charts that Rippetoe and Kilgore published is because they are male and female and based around your bodyweight, so it makes it very easy to determine your level of strength and where your strength should be.
Another reason that PK likes these charts so much is because while Rippetoe is a strength coach, PK believes that these are more applicable to most people than powerlifting charts.
For powerlifters, if you’re interested in “how strong is strong?” its super easy because powerlifters and powerlifting federations have different strength standards for different classes of lifter, by weight and gender. With that being said, if you’re interested in being strong for a powerlifter, there’s a gentleman named Tim Henriques who has produced some strength charts for powerlifters.
PK likes Henriques' charts better than one of a powerlifting federation because Tim is less focused on strength against competition, and more on raw strength. If you’re focused on strength for competition and you use standards of a powerlifting federation, you’re going to find lifts that will put you in different categories for competition and that might not be what you’re looking for.
That being said, PK likes Rippetoe’s charts and insights a little bit more because he comes from a background of training for sport, whereas Tim comes from a background of training for the sport of powerlifting, which is focused on all-around strength.
Another set of great strength standards come from Dan John. Dan John is a very respected strength and conditioning coach in the track and field realm. The reason that PK likes John’s strength standards so much is because they’re so easy. John’s standards list expected strengths and game-changing strength standards. This takes out having to factor in body weight and percentages, and if you can meet x-level strength or even surpass that and reach y-level, then you’ve got game-changing strength by these standards. These standards are much simpler to apply and understand. Because John comes from a track and field background, he’s not just getting people strong to be strong; he’s getting people strong so they can excel outside of the gym and in their sport.
Another great set of strength standards are put out by Atomic Athlete. PK has a soft spot for Atomic because they’re great friends of his and he trains there, but what he loves about their strength standards is that they gear their standards, more than those previously mentioned, toward what an athlete can do in the gym that translates into their sport or life outside of the gym. If you’re interested in training in the gym to better your life outside of the gym, these are the standards for you. These come with a disclaimer: the Atomic Athlete strength standards are very well fleshed out for male athletes, but not as well for female athletes.
Another thing to consider when determining the best set of strength standards for yourself is that none of these mentioned, and most of those out there in the world, are not rated by age, and that’s important to consider because what’s strong for a 25 year old athlete is definitely not going to be the same as what’s considered to be strong for a 75 year old athlete.
We know that we’ve mentioned quite a few different (and undoubtedly a little confusing) strength standards, but we’ve got some tips to determine, easily, what is strong.
Now enters the “4-wheel” standard of strength. When PK has used these 4-wheels in the past to determine his level of strength and his goals for his strength, he felt that every activity athletically and otherwise in his life were really affected by the levels of strength in the 4-wheel method.
PK had a goal to bench 2 wheels, squat 3 wheels, and deadlift 4 wheels. A wheel, in this case, is a 45lb weight plate, so that means benching 225lbs, squatting 315lbs, and deadlift 405lbs. When PK reached those goals and hit all of those wheels, he saw a massive flow through into other athletic events in his life.
To make things simple, get yourself a quality barbell, some bumper plates, and a squat rack, or a garage gym starter package (and shoot us a message if you're interested in one!). You can, and will, make massive strength gains on your own, in your garage gym, with simple and minimal equipment to reach your strength goals.
What do you think? Did PK miss something? What strength standards do you use for yourself? Talking about strength in a relative sense is extremely important and interesting to us because we love strength and improving lives through it so much.
Comment down below if you know of other strength standards you’ve had success with. What about the 2, 3, 4-wheel standard of strength method? Do you disagree? What about for females - should it be a 1, 2, 3-wheel method instead? Let us know your thoughts on this below. We’d love to discuss these standards with you.
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As always, lift heavy, lift happy :)