How Strong Should I Be?

How Strong Should I Be?

How Strong Should I Be?

Throughout high school and college, it was always more, more and more. Bench press as much as you can and squat as many times your body weight as you can. As we age, our bodies begin to fight back through pain and injuries letting us know that it may not be the wisest thing to just lift as much weight as we can.

Weight training is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. Without it, research shows that you will lose an average of 5 pounds of muscle every 10 years. This can lead to weight gain, decreased metabolism and loss of bone mineral density, among other things. In fact, if it was possible for you to consume the exact amount of calories and activity levels beginning at age 30, it is possible that you will still not only lose muscle, but gain weight as well. This in part is due to your lowered basal metabolic rate.

Assuming that my feeble attempt at scaring you into hitting the gym works, the question remains: How strong should I be?

One way to determine your upper body strength level utilizing the free-weight bench press is called the “One Repetition Maximum” or 1 Rep Max (1RM). Basically, it’s how much weight can you lift for one repetition. This assessment is only suitable for those who demonstrate good form and should not be done without a spotter (you can contact Pedro for instructions on proper form). One of the problems with the 1 Rep Max is the high risk for injury. In high school and college that was probably that last thing on your mind, but as we grow older and wiser we must determine what activities to engage in and yet still be able to walk or move our arms the next day.

To reduce your risk for injury, we can determine your 1 Rep Max by using your 10 Rep max. Research shows that you can complete 10 repetitions with 75% of your 1 rep max. This way, you are pushing less weight and you can spare your shoulders from any injury.

For example, if the most you can bench press for 10 reps is 120 pounds, Your 1 Rep Max is estimated at 160 lbs. (120/75%).

Here’s another question most people want to now: How do I compare to others in my age group? The tables below provided by The Cooper Institute in Dallas, Texas ( provide some norms based on research done primarily on trained male athletes utilizing the One Rep Max (before you look at the table you need to estimate your One Rep Max using your 10 rep max). The tables show your Bench Press Weight Ratio which is:

Bench Press Weight Ratio = Weight Pushed/Body Weight)

Now, before you look at this table and get discouraged, remember, much of the research is done using trained male athletes and is derived from bench press, squat, and power clean exercises and has not been effectively validated using other exercises. So if you consider yourself a “trained male athlete” then it will more accurately represent you, but if you are just starting off, you need to give yourself at least 12 weeks of consistent weight training before you can assess yourself. Lastly, I would not attempt any maximum repetition exercise without a spotter or a professional fitness trainer.

So go ahead, see how you much up. Good luck!

Upper Body Strength (men)
One-rep Maximum Bench Press (Bench Press Weight Ratio = Weight Pushed/Body Weight)


  % <20 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-59 60+
Superior 95 1.76 1.63 1.35 1.20 1.05 .94
Excellent 80 1.34 1.32 1.12 1.00 0.90 0.82
Good 60 1.19 1.14 0.98 0.88 0.79 0.72
Fair 40 1.06 0.99 0.88 0.80 0.71 0.66
Poor 20 0.89 0.88 0.78 0.72 0.63 0.57
Very Poor 5 0.76 0.72 0.65 0.59 0.53 0.49


Upper Body Strength (women)
One-rep Maximum Bench Press (Bench Press Weight Ratio = Weight Pushed/Body Weight)


  % <20 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-59 60+
Superior 95 0.88 1.01 0.82 0.77 0.68 0.72
Excellent 80 0.77 0.80 0.70 0.62 0.55 0.54
Good 60 0.65 0.70 0.60 0.54 0.48 0.47
Fair 40 0.58 0.59 0.53 0.50 0.44 0.43
Poor 20 0.53 0.51 0.47 0.43 0.39 0.38
Very Poor 5 0.41 0.44 0.39 0.35 0.31 0.26


Pedro began his fitness career as a Professional Fitness trainer at San Diego State University and is certified through the American Council on Exercise. After thousands of personal training sessions with a myriad of clienele, Pedro set his sights on the corporate level by managing corporate fitness centers throughout San Diego. Through his network of trainers, Pedro works with the best in the industry. Yoga instructors, bootcamp, strength coaches and personal trainers, Pedro is able to meet the needs of any individual and organization.

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