How Much Can the Average Man Lift? – Outlift (2023)

How much can the average man lift? How much can they squat, bench press, deadlift, overhead press, and barbell curl? How does the strength of the average untrained man compare with the strength of the average lifter? And how strong can the average man expect to become after a year of training? Or what about a decade of serious lifting?

In this article, we’ll go over the best data we have on how strong the average man is, how much he can lift, and how strong he can become.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Barbell Strength Standards By Lift
    1. How Much Can the Average Man Squat?
    2. How Much Can the Average Man Bench Press?
    3. How Much Can the Average Man Deadlift?
    4. How Much Can the Average Man Overhead Press?
    5. How Much Can the Average Man Barbell Curl?
    6. How Much Can the Average Man Barbell Row?
  3. Can the Average Man Really Lift That Much?
  4. How Much Can the Average Skinny Guy Lift?
  5. What’s the Best Way to Get Stronger?
  6. Summary
How Much Can the Average Man Lift? – Outlift (1)

Introduction

There are two good sources of data on how much the average person can squat, bench, and deadlift. The first is a survey conducted by Greg Nuckols, MA. Greg runs Stronger by Science, a site that focuses on helping powerlifters gain strength. His survey asked untrained, beginner, intermediate, and advanced lifters how much they could lift on the three big powerlifting lifts: the barbell back squat, the barbell bench press, and the barbell deadlift.

The second source is ExRx, who have been collecting data on how much people can lift for the past seventy years. Their methodology is a bit less current, and lifting technique doesn’t appear to be standardized, but even so, they have the largest dataset of all sources.

Barbell Strength Standards By Lift

How Much Can the Average Man Squat?

If we take a man of average bodyweight on ExRx, we see that an untrained man is only able to lift 125 pounds the first time he tries the squat. But keep in mind that the average person doesn’t know how to lift weights, so it’s not fair to measure their strength during their very first workout. If someone hasn’t learned how to do a barbell back squat yet, their coordination won’t be very good, and so they won’t be able to squat much weight, especially for a 1-rep max.

With a few weeks of practice, coordination stops being a limiting factor, and we begin to see how much someone can really lift with their muscles. At this point, ExRx found that most novice lifters can squat around 230 pounds. This was confirmed by Greg Nuckols’ survey, which found that with 3 months of practice, most men can squat 225 pounds.

This gives us a good idea of how much the average person can squat without serious training and without gaining much additional muscle mass. That means the average man you meet on the street has enough muscle mass and strength (but not the coordination) to squat:

  • 225 pounds as their 1-rep max.
  • 200 pounds for 5 reps.
  • 180 pounds for 8 reps.
  • 170 pounds for 10 reps.
How Much Can the Average Man Lift? – Outlift (2)

Now, keep in mind that these are powerlifter-style squats. Think of a low-bar position, a wider stance, and a depth of about parallel, maybe a bit deeper. This squat technique is designed to allow people to lift as much weight as possible, not to stimulate muscle growth. If someone is training for muscle size or general strength, they might be doing high-bar squats or front squats, might be using a more modest stance width, and might be squatting as deep as possible. As a result, the average person who squats might be similarly strong, but because of the technique they’re using, squatting something like 30% less weight.

Most men aren’t in the habit of regularly squatting, so those numbers are a good approximation of how much weight the average man can squat. Even if we consider the average lifter, many guys neglect their legs, favouring their upper bodies instead. But if they train the squat seriously for a year, the average man can lift:

  • 330 pounds as their 1-rep max.
  • 285 pounds for 5 reps.
  • 265 pounds for 8 reps.
  • 245 pounds for 10 reps.

If we look at experienced lifters who have been in the gym for 5–10 years, seriously training for strength, and routinely fighting for strength gains on their back squat, then the numbers get quite a bit higher. The average advanced powerlifter can squat:

  • 475 pounds as their 1-rep max squat.
  • 415 pounds for 5 reps.
  • 380 pounds for 8 reps.
  • 355 pounds for 10 reps.
How Much Can the Average Man Lift? – Outlift (3)

If you choose to train the front squat instead of the low-bar squat, those numbers drop by around 25%. And if you’re training for to build muscle instead of powerlifting, you might favour moderate rep ranges. That means that the average beginner should expect to front squat 135 pounds for a set of 8, ultimately working their way up to 285 for 8 after a decade of hard work.

So, how much can the average man squat? Around 225 pounds for a single repetition. But if he keeps training the low-bar squat seriously for ten years, it’s realistic to be able to squat 475 pounds.

How Much Can the Average Man Bench Press?

According to the data from Greg Nuckols and ExRx, the average male beginner can bench press around 135 pounds on his first try, and then with a few months of practice, around 175–185 pounds for a single repetition. That means the average man you meet on the street has enough muscle mass to bench press roughly:

  • 175–185 pounds as their 1-rep max bench press.
  • 160 pounds for 5 reps.
  • 150 pounds for 8 reps.
  • 140 pounds for 10 reps.
How Much Can the Average Man Lift? – Outlift (4)

As with the squat, remember that we’re talking about the powerlifting bench press, so consider that these guys are probably using an arch, benching with a wide grip width, driving with the their legs, bringing the barbell all the way down, pausing with the barbell on their chest, and fully locking out the bar at the top. If you’re bench pressing for muscle growth or general strength, your technique might be a bit different, and so your numbers might be a little bit lower.

Talking about intermediate lifters now, if the average man keeps training the bench press, after their first year of lifting, they can expect to bench press about:

  • 215-235 pounds as their 1-rep max bench press.
  • 185–205 pounds for 5 reps.
  • 170–185 pounds for 8 reps.
  • 160–175 pounds for 10 reps.

Most men who go to the gym do keep training their bench press, but some people train more seriously than others, and they be training with varying goals. These numbers reflect people who are actively training for strength, and often that means that they’re not only lifting hard, they’re also actively training for muscle growth, intentionally gaining weight.

If the average man keeps training the bench press somewhat seriously for 5–10 years, he can expect to bench press approximately:

  • 290–335 pounds as their 1-rep max bench press.
  • 250–290 pounds for 5 reps.
  • 230–270 pounds for 8 reps.
  • 215–250 pounds for 10 reps.

Now, are you going to see a lot of guys benching 335 in the typical gym? Probably not. Those numbers are reserved for the guys who seriously pursue their bench press strength. These are the numbers that aspiring powerlifters are bench pressing after a decade of hard work.

So, how much can the average man bench press? Around 185 pounds for a single repetition. But if he keeps training the bench press seriously for ten years, it’s realistic to be able to bench press 290–335 pounds.

How Much Can the Average Man Deadlift?

The average untrained man can deadlift around 155 pounds. Then, with three months of practice, he can deadlift 285 pounds for a single repetition. That means the average man you meet on the street can deadlift roughly:

  • 285 pounds as their 1-rep max deadlift.
  • 245 pounds for 5 reps.
  • 225 pounds for 8 reps.
  • 215 pounds for 10 reps.
How Much Can the Average Man Lift? – Outlift (5)

Again, remember that we’re talking about the powerlifting deadlift, done without lifting straps in either a conventional or sumo stance, from the ground to a full lockout. Someone using lifting straps or doing touch-and-go reps might be able to deadlift a bit more.

If the average man keeps training the deadlift, after their first year of lifting, they can expect to deadlift about:

  • 335–405 pounds as their 1-rep max deadlift.
  • 285–350 pounds for 5 reps.
  • 270 pounds for 8 reps.
  • 250 pounds for 10 reps.

If the average man keeps training the bench press somewhat seriously for 5–10 years, he can expect to deadlift roughly:

  • 460–535 pounds as their 1-rep max deadlift
  • 395–460 pounds for 5 reps.
  • 365–430 pounds for 8 reps.
  • 345–400 pounds for 10 reps.

The deadlift is a good reflection of general strength, and a lot of people find that they continue to get stronger at the deadlift even if they don’t train it very often. With steady squatting, Romanian deadlifts, and barbell rows, deadlift numbers tend to gradually increase. Still, most casual lifters neglect their legs, squatting and deadlifting with less voracity than they bench press. As a result, it’s rare to see lifters actually hitting these numbers unless you train at a special powerlifting gym.

So, how much can the average man deadlift? Around 285 pounds for a single repetition. But if he keeps training the deadlift seriously for ten years, it’s realistic to be able to deadlift 460–535 pounds.

How Much Can the Average Man Overhead Press?

There’s a lot of great data about the “big 3” powerlifting lifts, given that they’re part of the sport of powerlifting. When we go outside of that, lifting technique is less standardized, and there’s quite a bit less data available. The good news is that the overhead press and barbell curl are sometimes done in competition with standardized technique.

According to data from ExRx as well as from Mark Rippetoe (of Starting Strength), the average untrained man can press 85 pounds overhead for a single repetition. Then, with a couple months of practice, he can overhead press 115 pounds. That means the average man you meet on the street has enough muscle to overhead press roughly:

  • 115 pounds as their 1-rep max overhead press.
  • 100 pounds for 5 reps.
  • 90 pounds for 8 reps.
  • 85 pounds for 10 reps.
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This assumes that they’re doing a strict barbell overhead press, bringing the bar all the way down to their chests and then fully locking it out at the top. This technique lines up well with what stimulates muscle growth, and it’s how most people train the overhead press (unless they’re using dumbbells).

After a year of seriously lifting weights, the average man is able to overhead press roughly:

  • 145 pounds as their 1-rep max overhead press.
  • 125 pounds for 5 reps.
  • 116 pounds for 8 reps.
  • 110 pounds for 10 reps.

Then, if he keeps training the overhead press for 5–10 years, the average man can expect to lift:

  • 175 pounds as their 1-rep max overhead press.
  • 150 pounds for 5 reps.
  • 140 pounds for 8 reps.
  • 130 pounds for 10 reps.

So, how much can the average man overhead press? Around 115 pounds for a single repetition. But if he keeps training the overhead press seriously for ten years, it’s realistic to be able to lift 175 pounds.

How Much Can the Average Man Barbell Curl?

Moving down the list of what we have data for, we come to the strict barbell curl, which is sometimes trained in competition. According to the data collected by Strength Level, the average untrained man can barbell curl 65 pounds with strict technique. Then, with a few months of practice, he can curl 90 pounds. That means that the average adult man you meet on the street has big enough biceps to curl roughly:

  • 90 pounds as their 1-rep max barbell curl
  • 80 pounds for 5 reps.
  • 70 pounds for 8–10 reps.
How Much Can the Average Man Lift? – Outlift (7)

These curls are done with “strict” technique, which mean starting with the barbell against your legs, keeping your torso fully upright, and curling the barbell up until your arms are fully flexed. They’re typically done with the back up against the wall, to ensure that the torso stays upright, and they can be done with either a barbell or a curl bar.

If the average man keeps training the barbell curl for a year, he can expect to lift roughly:

  • 120 pounds as their 1-rep max barbell curl
  • 105 pounds for 5 reps.
  • 95 pounds for 8 reps.
  • 90 pounds for 10 reps.

Then, if he keeps training the barbell curl for 5–10 years, the average advanced lifter can expect to lift:

  • 155 pounds as their 1-rep max barbell curl
  • 135 pounds for 5 reps.
  • 125 pounds for 8 reps.
  • 115 pounds for 10 reps.

So, how much can the average man barbell curl? Around 90 pounds for a single repetition. But if he keeps training the barbell curl seriously for ten years, it’s realistic to be able to lift 155 pounds.

How Much Can the Average Man Barbell Row?

We don’t have much data on how much the average man can barbell row. However, there’s an old adage that we should be able to row as much as we bench press. That’s not quite true. It’s okay to be stronger at some lifts than others, even if that strength is disproportional. So there’s no need to make sure that your bench press and barbell row strength are perfectly aligned. However, most people can learn to row as much as they bench press, and so we can use similar strength standards.

How Much Can the Average Man Lift? – Outlift (8)

There are different ways of doing the barbell row. Bodybuilders typically do them from a Romanian deadlift position (as shown above) to emphasize their upper backs. Powerlifters tend to do them from the floor, more similar to a conventional deadlift, to emphasize their lower backs and hips. Both variations are great, and both allow you to lift similar amounts of weight. It just depends on your style of training and your goals.

A beginner can expect to barbell row:

  • 175–185 pounds as their 1-rep max.
  • 160 pounds for 5 reps.
  • 150 pounds for 8 reps.
  • 140 pounds for 10 reps.

After their first year of lifting, they can expect to row about:

  • 215-235 pounds as their 1-rep max.
  • 185–205 pounds for 5 reps.
  • 170–185 pounds for 8 reps.
  • 160–175 pounds for 10 reps.

After 5–10 years of serious training, it’s realistic to be able to barbell row:

  • 290–335 pounds as their 1-rep max.
  • 250–290 pounds for 5 reps.
  • 230–270 pounds for 8 reps.
  • 215–250 pounds for 10 reps.

So, how much can the average man barbell row? Around 185 pounds for a single repetition. But if he keeps training seriously for ten years, it’s realistic to be able to row 290–335 pounds.

Can the Average Man Really Lift That Much?

The other thing to note is that Greg Nuckols found these numbers somewhat high. He thought that people who were weaker may be less interested in lifting weights, less like to participate in his survey, less likely to persist. Then, as people become intermediate and advanced lifters, we’re seeing more of a selection bias taking place. The people who are stronger, better at pushing themselves, and better at building muscle are the ones who stick with lifting and keep seeing improvements in their numbers.

Mike Israetel, PhD, has an interesting stance on this, too. He says that most fit guys who weigh in the neighbourhood of 160 pounds, after lifting for several years, can squat 225 pounds, bench 185, and deadlift 315. Those numbers aren’t anywhere even close to the numbers we’ve talked about in this article. Part of that is simply because most men don’t train that seriously, and that’s totally cool. There’s no need to orient your life around lifting. It all depends on your goals. If you’re benching 185, that’s okay.

So, if you can’t lift as much as a powerlifter who’s been training hard for the past ten years, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. But if you want to fight to hit those strength standards, you probably can. The main reason most people aren’t strong is because they don’t train to become stronger. If you train well, you can probably become stronger than almost everyone else at your gym, outlift almost everyone you know.

How Much Can the Average Skinny Guy Lift?

If you’re starting off skinny, these numbers might seem, ah, high. Keep in mind that the average man is overweight, which means they’ve been routinely carrying fifty-some extra pounds up flights of stairs for their entire lives. It’s no wonder, then, that their legs and hips grow quite strong before they even touch a barbell.

How Much Can the Average Man Lift? – Outlift (9)

If you’re a skinny guy, the opposite is true. Instead of carrying an extra fifty pounds around, you might be fifty pounds lighter than the average man. As a result, your legs and hips will likely be quite a bit smaller. I know that for me, at least, it took me quite a bit of training before I could squat 135 pounds. I remember doing my bench press with just the barbell, getting excited when I could add five pounds to either side.

How Much Can the Average Man Lift? – Outlift (10)

According to data collected by the CDC, the average American man is 5’8 and weighs 197 pounds, giving him a BMI of 30—obese. To put that into perspective, before I started lifting weights, I was 6’2 and weighed 130 pounds. So 6 inches taller, 67 pounds lighter. Even now, after having gained over sixty pounds, I still weigh less than the average American man, even though I’m half a foot taller.

How Much Can the Average Man Lift? – Outlift (11)

The good news is that if you’re starting skinnier and weaker than the average man, you can expect to gain muscle size and strength faster, at least until you catch up. These numbers are still realistic for you, it just might take you an extra year to reach them. For example, after lifting weights 2–3 times per week for the past eight years, I can bench press 225 pounds for 15 touch-and-go repetitions and 315 pounds for an awkward single. And that’s roughly what you’d expect for someone with my lifting experience, even though I started at 130 pounds, and have incredibly long arms and absurdly tiny wrists.

For more, here’s our article on strength standards for skinny guys.

What’s the Best Way to Get Stronger?

There are a number of factors that influence our strength, including immutable ones, like our limb lengths and tendon insertions. Of the factors we can influence, though, there are only a few:

  • We can build bigger muscles. The bigger a muscle is, the stronger it is, meaning that one of the best ways to increase how much we can lift is to build bigger muscles.
  • We can practice the lifts. The better we are at doing the lifts, the more weight we’ll be able to lift with them. This includes improving our lifting technique, but it also includes adjusting our technique for better leverage. For example, bringing our hips closer to the bar when deadlifting can help us lift more weight by shortening our moment arms.
  • We can lift in lower rep ranges. Lifting in lower rep ranges isn’t great for stimulating muscle growth, but it does help us improve our 1-rep max strength by teaching us to activate more of our motor units simultaneously. This won’t necessarily improve our general strength or rep maxes, but it will help us lift more weight for a single repetition.
How Much Can the Average Man Lift? – Outlift (12)

For guys who are interested in powerlifting, they’ll want to go through hypertrophy phases, where they actively focus on building bigger muscles, as well as strength phases, where they practice going heavy on the low-bar squat, bench press, and deadlift.

For guys who are interested in being strong in a more general sense, they can drop the strength phases, focusing on improving their rep maxes instead. Getting stronger in the 6–12 rep range is just as good for gaining general strength as the 1–5 rep range, but it’s also easier on our joints, has a lower risk of injury, and is better at stimulating muscle growth. They may also want to focus on different compound lifts, such as doing the front squat or high-bar squat instead of the powerlifter’s low-bar squat.

Summary

The average man is overweight and out of shape, and he won’t have the coordination to properly test his strength on the big barbell lifts. Still, if we test his 1-rep maxes, the average man can lift:

  • 125 pounds on the back squat.
  • 135 pounds on the bench press.
  • 155 pounds on the deadlift.
  • 85 pounds on the overhead press.
  • 65 pounds on the barbell curl.

But that’s not an accurate representation of his strength. We’re testing him at something he’s not any good at. The average man’s muscles are capable of lifting more than that. With just a couple months of practice, the average man has 1-rep maxes of:

  • 225 pounds on the back squat.
  • 175–185 pounds on the bench press.
  • 285 pounds on the deadlift.
  • 115 pounds on the overhead press.
  • 90 pounds on the barbell curl.

After a year of training, the average man can lift:

  • 330 pounds on the back squat.
  • 215–235 pounds on the bench press.
  • 335–405 pounds on the deadlift.
  • 145 pounds on the overhead press.
  • 120 pounds on the barbell curl.

Those numbers line up fairly well with what you can expect to see men lifting in the gym, and they represent a perfectly healthy amount of muscle mass and general strength. But with a decade of serious lifting, the average man can expect to be able to lift quite a bit more than that:

  • 475 pounds on the back squat.
  • 290–335 pounds on the bench press.
  • 460–535 pounds on the deadlift.
  • 175 pounds on the overhead press.
  • 155 pounds on the barbell curl.

You might not see men lifting that much very often. That’s how much the average can lift after ten years of serious training. The average man doesn’t train seriously for ten years. Those numbers are quite impressive, often showing a lot of hard work under the barbell.

How Much Can the Average Man Lift? – Outlift (13)

As always, if you want a customizable workout program (and full guide) that’s designed to help you gain muscle size and strength on the big barbell lifts, check out ourOutlift Intermediate Bulking Program.We also have ourBony to Beastly(men’s) programandBony to Bombshell(women’s) programfor skinny and skinny-fat beginners. If you liked this article, you’ll love our full programs.

Shane Duquette

Shane Duquette is the co-founder and creative lead of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell, and has a degree in design from York University in Toronto, Canada. He's personally gained 65 pounds at 11% body fat and has ten years of experience helping over 10,000 skinny people bulk up.

Marco Walker-Ng, BHSc, PTS

Marco Walker-Ng is the co-founder and strength coach of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell, and is a certified trainer (PTS) with a Bachelor's degree in Health Sciences (BHSc) from the University of Ottawa. His specialty is helping people build muscle to improve their strength and general health, with clients including college, professional, and Olympic athletes.

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