What Strength Coaches & Researchers Say You Should Be Able to Deadlift: Including Official And Unofficial Deadlift Strength Standards For Weightlifters, Athletes, And Regular People. Plus, Average Test Results, The Latest World Records, And More! (Plus, Some Free Resources to Help You Deadlift More!)
If you’re wondering, “how much should I be able to deadlift?” this article will show how you measure up to the various deadlift standards and also help you set a challenging, but doable goal for yourself.
The short answer to the question, how much should I be able to deadlift, is that, it depends on your goals, conditioning level, how old you are, and how many years you’ve been training, among other things. It just depends. That said, this guide will cover some general standards you can use to rate your performance in the deadlift exercise, whether you’re a complete beginner, a recreational weightlifter, or a competitive powerlifter.
Deadlift Strength Standards
There are many different deadlift strength standards out there – and many unique lists, charts, and formulas for calculating your ideal 1-rep max. So, let’s look at some of the most common recommendations, and read between the lines to simplify this complex issue.
For example, strength and conditioning specialist, Dan John, suggests in his book, Intervention: Course Corrections For The Athlete And Trainer, that the average weightlifter should be able to deadlift between 1 and 1.5 times their body weight. I think that’s a good general recommendation for most people who are interested in health, fitness, longevity, and quality of life. However, Coach Dan John also considers a deadlift using double your bodyweight to be a game-changer. So, there are certainly benefits to be had from doing more than the minimum.
Note: click here for my interview with Dan John.
If you want to get a little more technical, Dr. Lon Kilgore, coauthor of Practical Programming for Strength Training (2nd edition), claims that an average male novice (i.e. with minimal training experience) can deadlift roughly 133% of his bodyweight. Whereas, novice females can deadlift about 101% of their bodyweight, on average.
Similarly, as an intermediate lifter, the average increases to about 150% of body weight for men and 118% for women. Advanced male lifters will deadlift 210% of their body weight (females 160%). Finally, an elite male lifter will deadlift at least 260% of his body weight, on average. Whereas, an elite female will deadlift at least 200% of her body weight, on average. And then the actual professionals will blow these figures out of the water.
Keep in mind that these percentages are rough estimates based on averages and are greatly influenced by many factors (see below for more info).
So, what kind of poundage are we talking about here?
Strength training and weightlifting experts, Mark Rippetoe and Lon Kilgore, estimate that an average 198 pound male can lift 155 pounds even without training (i.e. untrained). After a couple of years of proper training, that same lifter should be able to deadlift 335 pounds (i.e. intermediate). Then 460 pounds a year later (i.e. advanced).
Tim Henriques who has been a competitive powerlifter for over 20 years, has set several records, and coached his powerlifting team to winning championships offers these standards for the deadlift (Source)…
- Decent – 315 lbs or 1.5x bodyweight
- Good – 405 lbs or 2x bodyweight
- Great – 495 or 2.75x bodyweight
- Decent – 115 lbs or 1x bodyweight
- Good – 185 lbs or 1.5x bodyweight
- Great – 225 or 2x bodyweight
Now, if we look to the military, most Navy SEAL candidates can deadlift between 1.5 and 2.33 times their body weight (Source). And they’re encouraged to be able to deadlift at least 1.75 times their bodyweight (or 1.5 times bodyweight for five reps).
Lastly, your typical fitness magazine or online publications will generally list deadlift standards between 1.5 to 2.5 times body weight for men (e.g. see examples from Men’s Fitness here, Men’s Health here, and Livestrong here).
What About Us Ambitious Types?
Christian Finn who is a well-respected fitness coach says that, “deadlifting twice your bodyweight (for a single repetition) represents a good level of strength for most people.” (Source) He also says that a “500-pound deadlift for a single lift is impressive for a drug-free, genetically “average” male weighing around 190 pounds.” (Source) Similarly, Stuart McRobert, author ofBrawn, agrees that 500 pounds is a respectable goal to strive for.
So, for the guy who wants to get big and strong, but isn’t necessarily interested in competing, 500 pounds is a common recommendation for serious, non-competitive lifters. This is approximately 2.5 times body weight of the average American male, and is nearing the upper end of what a heavyweight, recreational lifter will be able to achieve. On the other hand, skinny, lightweight lifters can expect to be able to deadlift over three times their bodyweight with a comparable amount of training. So, as mentioned before, many factors play into the equation.
What about older lifters?
Lifters who are older than 40 years old can expect their age-adjusted deadlift standards to be roughly 10-40% less than those listed above, depending on your age. Generally speaking, the older you get, the lower your standards will be. (Source)
Here’s a rough estimate of how deadlift standards for older folks will differ from the conventional figures:
- Over 40 years old – approximately 10-15% less than general standards
- Over 50 years old – approximately 15-25% less than general standards
- Over 60 years old – approximately 25-40+% less than general standards
John Sifferman’s Totally Unofficial Strength Standards
for the Barbell Deadlift Exercise
Newbie = 65 lbs
Beginner = 75-80% of your body weight
Intermediate = 110-120% of your body weight
Advanced = 140-160% of your body weight
Expert = 180-200% of your body weight
Master = 2.1-2.35 times your body weight
Wicked Sick = 2.4-2.65 times your body weight
Superhuman = 2.7-3 times your body weight
Olympian = 3-3.35 times your body weight
Deadlift Immortal = More than 3.35 times your body weight
Newbie = 45 lbs
Beginner = 55-65% of your body weight
Intermediate = 85-100% of your body weight
Advanced = 115-135% of your body weight
Expert = 140-165% of your body weight
Master = 175-200% of your body weight
Wicked Sick = 2-2.25 times your body weight
Superhuman = 2.25-2.5 times your body weight
Olympian = 2.5-2.75 times your body weight
Deadlift Immortal = More than 2.75 times your body weight
Deadlift World Records
The world records for the heaviest barbell deadlifts are:
MEN: On April 2nd, 2011, Benedikt Magnusson of Iceland performed a barbell deadlift with a weight of 460.4 kg (1015 lbs) in Dallas, TX. (Source)
WOMEN: On November 5th, 2005, Becca Swanson of the USA performed a barbell deadlift with a weight of 310 kg (683.4 lbs) at the World Powerlifting Organization in Helsinki, Finland. (Source)
How Much Weight Should YOU Deadlift?
Choosing a deadlift goal is a very personal decision. And just because some strength coach says you should be able to deadlift 500 pounds, doesn’t mean you really have to. There are pros and cons to increasing your deadlift, and you’ll want to weigh the risks and benefits when making your decision.
Plus, there are many factors that determine how much you should be able to deadlift. The most influential factors are:
- Your age, gender, and weight
- Your conditioning level and/or the number of years of training experience
- Your body type, proportions, and structure (e.g. the anatomy of your hips, and the length of your limbs relative to the length of your torso)
So, keep all of this in mind when you’re setting your goal.
And if you’re going to compare yourself to other weightlifters, remember that people of different ages, sizes, and body composition (e.g. muscle vs fat) will have different levels of strength. So, the only real competition is against yourself.
So…how much should I be able to deadlift, John?
Well, I think that most people who are not strength athletes (e.g. powerlifters), should strive for reaching or exceeding the Advanced Category in the standards above. For men, that is a deadlift with roughly 150% of your body weight on the bar. For women, it’s roughly 125% of your body weight on the bar. I think that’s an ambitious, yet doable goal for most people.
You want numbers? I’ll give you numbers!
If you want to take it to the next level, and you’d like some nice round numbers to aim for, here you go:
100-150 lb Males: 225 lb deadlift
150-200 lb Males: 315 lb deadlift
200+ lb Males: 405 lb deadlift
90-125 lb Females: 135 lb deadlift
125-175 lb Females: 225 lb deadlift
175+ lb Females: 315 lb deadlift
So, what’s it going to be?
Are you going to settle for a sub-par performance, which is what most people do? Or, are you going to set yourself an ambitious goal and get to work?
Just between you and me, I think that anyone who can meet the advanced deadlift standards listed above – with proper technique and full range of motion – is light-years beyond your average fitness trainee.
And quite frankly, most people don’t need to be any stronger than that to function at a high level in life, work, and sport. I mean, even the Navy SEAL candidates are just fine with a deadlift max around 1.75x their body weight, which is a challenging, but very achievable goal. Of course, there is value to working toward even higher levels, but you’ve got to weigh the costs, too.
The good news is that it’s completely up to you. And the greatest factor is how badly you want it. So, whether you want to break world records or just be able to lift safely, if you think you can do it, I think you can, too. So, get after it!
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P.P.S. Photo credit courtesy of pricenfees.com: 1.
P.P.P.S. Since some of you always ask whenever I publish these strength standards posts, my deadlift PR is 315 pounds for a single at 165 lbs bodyweight.
- John, D. (2013). Intervention: Course Corrections for the Athlete and Trainer. California: On Target Publications.
- Rippetoe, M., Kilgore, L. (2009). Practical Programming for Strength Training (2nd edition). Texas: The Aasgaard Company.
- Rippetoe, M. (2011). Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training, 3rd edition. Texas: The Aasgaard Company.
- Ritti-Dias, R. M., Avelar, A., Salvador, E. P., & Cyrino, E. S. (2011). Influence of previous experience on resistance training on reliability of one-repetition maximum test. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 25(5), 1418-1422.[PubMed]
- Seo, D. I., Kim, E., Fahs, C. A., Rossow, L., Young, K., Ferguson, S. L., & So, W. Y. (2012). Reliability of the one-repetition maximum test based on muscle group and gender. Journal of sports science & medicine, 11(2), 221.[PubMed]
- Soares-Caldeira, L. F., Ritti-Dias, R. M., Okuno, N. M., Cyrino, E. S., Gurjão, A. L., & Ploutz-Snyder, L. L. (2009). Familiarization indexes in sessions of 1-RM tests in adult women. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 23(7), 2039-2045.[PubMed]
Looking for a chart of deadlift standards or a calculator? Here are some of my favorites…
Deadlift Standards Charts: Lon Kilgore has a great chart in a PDF file here, which includes adjusted standards for older lifters. EXRX.com also has an often-referenced chart here.
Deadlift Standards Calculators: My preference is the calculator at SymmetricStrength.com, which you can find here. StrengthLevel.com has a calculator based on user submissions, which I suspect will offer skewed results, but you may find it helpful, too. You can find it here.