What Is Strong? Real World Strength Standards For Raw, Natural Lifters

What is strong? I've analyzed the national records for several major drug-free powerlifting federations, and compiled my own set of raw strength standards.

What is strong? We live in a world filled with 1000 pound squat and 800 pound bench press Youtube videos. Kind of makes you feel weak, doesn't it? It sure makes me feel weak. There are a couple of key things you need to know about most of these lifts.

1000 Pound Squats and 800 Pound Bench Presses?

Strength StandardsHow are these guys able to move Herculean amounts of weight? Here are 2 major reasons.

#1 - Training Gear. The guys putting up these monster numbers are for the most part using training gear. What is training gear? Training gear includes the use of specialized squat suits and bench shirts that are designed to help powerlifters add hundreds of pounds to each lift.

So when you see a guy benching close to 800 pounds with a bench shirt on, there's a good chance he "only" benches 500 without a bench shirt. The same goes for squats suits. A squat of over 700 without a squat suit is fairly rare. Add in a squat suit, along with knee wraps and squat briefs, which go under a squat suit to help move even more weight, and these guys are squatting over 1000 pounds.

Training gear is not magical though. It requires an amazing amount of dedication and practice, and few can master it.

#2 - Drugs. Another factor adding to these monster totals is an obvious one - steroid and human growth hormone usage. Now it is certainly not my intention to label everyone with a big lift as a drug user. I've seen some pretty staggering natural lifts in my day. With that said, drug use is fairly common in the sport of powerlifting, and I'm not going to lie to you and pretend it's not.

There are some natural-only federations. Outside of this realm, your guess is as good as mine as to who is clean and who isn't.

Anti-Gear, Anti-Steroids?

Before we move on any further, I want to make something very clear. The point of this article isn't to bash lifters who use training gear or drugs. This article exists to provide natural and raw strength standards to lifters who will never use either. Period, end of story. I respect the iron, and the men and women who move it, and am not here to judge or stir up debates.

Raw, Natural Strength Standards

Let's dive into the topic of raw, natural strength standards by analyzing the national records of several drug-free powerlifting federations. Some of these federations are large, and some modest in size.

  • 100% Raw
  • NASA
  • UPA-AD

These numbers will give you somewhat of a reasonable look at "elite" strength levels. They are not meant to be elite standards in and of themselves. I will make an attempt to define my opinion of elite standards later on.

National Raw Records for Men
Weight Class USAPL 100% Raw NASA ADFPF UPA-AD
 132  479.50  530.90  275.58  247.50  None
 148  473.75  550.90  473.99  445.50  220
 165  534.50  530  512.57  447.70  529
 181  562  601.10  540.13  500.50  529
 198  573  610  644.85  550  600
 220  650.25  650.30  699.96  583  633
 242  705.25  700.70  650.36  621.50  705
 275  766  850  755.08  599.50  640
 308  854.25  826.70  766.10  599.50  704
Bench Press
National Raw Records for Men
Weight Class USAPL 100% Raw NASA ADFPF UPA-AD
 132  314  330.40  231.48  187  None
 148  337.25  360.40  294.31  302.50  165
 165  402.25  400  363.76  374  314
 181  385.75  385  363.76  385  364
 198  443  425  418.87  374  412
 220  523.50  490  451.94  423.50  425
 242  462.75  485.60  415.57  451  457
 275  501.50  585  507.06  511.50  440
 308  546.50  520  476.19  484  501
National Raw Records for Men
Weight Class USAPL 100% Raw NASA ADFPF UPA-AD
 132  578.50  450  358.25  341  None
 148  523.50  540  567.68  473  353
 165  661.25  630  567.68  535.70  567
 181  677.75  641.10  617.29  638  600
 198  706.50  661.30  661.38  671  630
 220  727.50  672.40  677.91  654.50  677
 242  699.75  760.50  722.01  704  645
 275  832.00  800  705.47  632.50  650
 308  843.25  760.50  810.19  665.50  744

So, what do these numbers tell us? The first thing I noticed is that the following lifts are extremely hard to achieve:

  • Squat - 600 pounds
  • Bench Press - 400 pounds
  • Deadlift - 650 pounds

It's safe to say that if you hit these numbers, you're well into Elite territory for a raw, natural lifter. It should also be noted that it is darn near impossible to hit a 2000 raw, natural powerlifting total. Only a small handful of natural lifters have performed this amazing feat.

Strength Standards

The lifting standards I am about to present are merely guidelines. Use them to assess your progress, and potential for future gains. Don't be discouraged by the numbers of the top one percent of lifters. You can make amazing strides forward without having the best genetics, so remain patient and train smart. If you do so you will exceed your expectations.

Before I move forward, here are some simple definitions for standards names.

  • Pro Strength - The very best of the best. Superhuman. Supreme strength.
  • Elite Strength - You should be extremely competitive at a National level powerlifting meet.
  • Extremely Strong - You will be one of the top lifters at most local, natural powerlifting meets. Your strength levels land you in the top 1% of humanity.
  • Very Strong - In the muscle building and strength training realm, this would be considered intermediate level strength.
  • Strong - Your lifts are around a 200 raw bench, 300 raw squat and 400 raw deadlift. This doesn't seem strong compared to powerlifting records, but you are still stronger than 90% of men walking the earth.

Raw Natural Strength Standards Based On Weight - Men

Pro Natural Raw Strength Standards
Men - By Weight
Weight Squats Bench Deadlifts
 132  430  270  440
 148  460  300  470
 165  500  330  540
 181  540  350  580
 198  570  380  610
 220  610  410  640
 242  640  430  660
 275  670  450  680
 308  700  470  700
Elite Natural Raw Strength Standards
Men - By Weight
Weight Squats Bench Deadlifts
 132  400  250  410
 148  425  280  435
 165  465  305  500
 181  500  325  535
 198  530  350  565
 220  565  380  595
 242  595  400  610
 275  620  420  630
 308  650  435  650
Extremely Strong Natural Raw Strength Standards
Men - By Weight
Weight Squats Bench Deadlifts
 132  325  205  330
 148  345  225  355
 165  375  250  405
 181  405  265  435
 198  430  285  460
 220  460  310  480
 242  480  325  495
 275  505  340  510
 308  525  355  525
Very Strong Natural Raw Strength Standards
Men - By Weight
Weight Squats Bench Deadlifts
 132  290  185  300
 148  310  210  320
 165  340  225  365
 181  365  240  395
 198  385  260  415
 220  415  280  435
 242  435  290  445
 275  455  305  460
 308  475  320  475
Strong Natural Raw Strength Standards
Men - By Weight
Weight Squats Bench Deadlifts
 132  250  155  255
 148  265  175  270
 165  290  190  310
 181  310  205  335
 198  330  220  350
 220  350  235  370
 242  370  250  380
 275  385  260  390
 308  405  270  405

I used the following multipliers to determine these numbers:

  • Elite = Pro x 92.5%
  • Extremely Strong = Pro x 75%
  • Very Strong = Pro x 67.5%
  • Strong = Pro x 57.5%

Strength Standards

The Last Word on Natural Strength

Most of you aren't competitive powerlifters, nor do most of you have the goal of weighing 270 pounds or more. So with that in mind, I want to end by presenting you with an easy set of natural strength standards to remember.

The following goals are perfect for the lifter who wants to get big and strong, but who may never have any interesting in competing in bodybuilding or powerlifting. Reach these goals while focusing on conventional hypertrophy (muscle building) rep ranges, and you will not only add muscle to your frame, but also have the power and strength to back it up.

  • Bench Press - 300 pounds
  • Squats - 400 pounds
  • Deadlift - 500 pounds
  • Power Clean - 225 pounds
  • Overhead Press - 225 pounds
  • Barbell Row - 300 Pounds

There have been fewer than 85 men who have ever hit a 2000 raw powerlifting total. Of these men, only a very small handful accomplished this feat while competing in major drug-tested federations. I hope this helps put powerlifting numbers in perspective.

The use of bench shirts, squat suits, steroids and growth hormone has made it difficult for most natural athletes to understand just what strong means. I see far too many strong forum lifters refer to themselves as weak, simply because they do not understand what reasonable natural standards are. They talk themselves out of competitive powerlifting because of a misguided vision that everyone is putting up 2000 pound totals. Not true at all.

A 1200 pound 3-lift total (bench press, squats and deadlifts) is more than 95% of gym rats will ever accomplish. A 1500 pound 3-lift total is a huge accomplishment, and will be hard to beat at most local, natural powerlifting meets.

For those of you who are doubting this, let me leave you with some numbers from my first powerlifting experience. In 2011 I competed at a local ADFPF meet. This was my first competition and I had no idea what to expect. I certainly had no clue that I would be the strongest lifter at the meet. My 3-lift total was 1501 that day. The second best total was approximately 200 pounds below this level.

This reveals that a 1300-1500 pound total at most local, raw and natural powerlifting meets is fairly impressive. Those that achieve these levels usually move on to national-level competitions.

I currently hold 2 national-level deadlifting records, one in the ADFPF, and one in the UPA. Certainly not a legendary achievement (far from it), but my records do provide further evidence that a 1500-1600 pound total is noteworthy in the natural lifting world.

Did this article help? Let me know in the comments. I would also like to know where your strength levels currently are, and what natural goals you are after. Good luck, and smash PRs!

About The Author
Muscle & Strength's Content Team is a group of fitness industry experts dedicated to publishing the highest quality articles, workouts and guides on the M&S Website.

95 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Mon, 01/28/2013 - 17:28

I started lifting around 2 months ago so I'm a newbie!! I would like to know what would be the preferable set/rep range to increase my strength and power, because I know size comes with those two!! I'm doing only the big lifts: squat, deadlift, bench press, barbell row(pendlay) and overhead press!!

Thank you!!

Steven's picture
Posted Mon, 01/28/2013 - 17:35

Stick with "about" 5-10 reps for most major compound lifts, and focus on progression. You need a fair amount of reps to not only work on form, but to also build muscle tissue which will help add more strength.

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Posted Mon, 01/28/2013 - 17:29

Thank for for this very informative article. It goes to show that most of the fitness and strength articles out there are by those who cheat. It is nice to know that we should look at what these folks say we should be doing for a program, knowing that they are cheating (special clothing and drugs).

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Posted Mon, 01/28/2013 - 17:38

it helped me I was alil worried about giving a competition a try but I will work harder an give it a shot this yr thanks

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Posted Mon, 01/28/2013 - 18:05

I'd love to see this same type of write up/comparison for women too...

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Posted Tue, 04/28/2015 - 14:02
Sarah Goodwich

Unfortunately, women cheat on lifts even worse than men, often thinking that it's "allowed" as an "equalizer." For example, there's a viral video about a 13-year old girl supposedly benching 240#, but it's the most non-regulation lift I've ever seen, and is simply a case of people fooling themselves to impress with numbers; and it's a very expensive ego-trip, since it sets themselves up for injuries as well.

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Posted Mon, 01/28/2013 - 20:41

I have a ? Steve Im entering my first NASA meet been working out 10 weeks now hit 300 on bench 400 on dead lift haven't started squat yet but leg press 600 any tips on increasing strength and starting on squat Im 5'10 194 body weight

Steven's picture
Posted Mon, 01/28/2013 - 21:37

My only real advice is to start squatting. Nothing else will prepare you for squats. What's preventing you from squatting currently?

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 01/28/2013 - 20:44

This is great information, and very useful for a comparison scale, but you left out half the population. Where are the stats for females?

Steven's picture
Posted Mon, 01/28/2013 - 21:36

Hi Lauren,

I will definitely get around to sorting some numbers for women.

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 01/28/2013 - 22:14

Ain't quite sure how to do proper form

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 01/29/2013 - 00:23

Join the forum, we'll help you out.

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 01/29/2013 - 00:09

Hi Steve, are the chart numbers for a one rep max scenario or for what you are able to rep?

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 01/29/2013 - 00:24

One rep max.

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Posted Tue, 01/29/2013 - 00:10
kb thakur

very good article steve now i am planning to get in
Extremely Strong category in next 8-10 months.

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 01/29/2013 - 00:24

Good luck!

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Posted Tue, 01/29/2013 - 00:15

Great article! I have been using 531 for a while and loving the gains it has been giving me. I always leary of entering any type of competition due tp the massive numbers I saw

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 01/29/2013 - 00:25

You would do very well at a natural show, and probably be hooked.

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Posted Tue, 01/29/2013 - 09:09

Any chance you could add an addendium talking about how long it takes the average lifter to hit these goals? Obviously so much goes into a projection like that, but some type of timeline could provide realistic goals for people.

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 01/29/2013 - 09:37

Good idea. I will see what I can do.

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 01/29/2013 - 09:51

I'm 6ft2, shirt sleeve length 35". At 198 I had no problem reaching 330 on squats, but could never bench above about 165. I notice shorter guys with shorter arms benched far higher weights. Does arm length factor into the above bench weight number?

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 01/29/2013 - 10:27

No, I do not factor in natural leverages, or lack there of. The reason being is that I've seen far too many guys with what might be considered poor leverages lift amazing amounts of weight. Training time couple with proper training usually overcomes things such as sub-optimal leverages.

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Posted Tue, 01/29/2013 - 14:00
Zach C.

I'm 6'1" with a 34" sleeve length, and when I started lifting I was 182. When I began working out in earnest, in 5 months I went from struggling to get 185 up to pushing toward 350 without taking protein or any supplements.

I'm not sure what your feelings toward benching are but I know that if I don't like doing something or don't like the way it feels while doing it I'm more than likely not going to do it, let alone do it well enough or frequently enough to get better at it.

I love bench, leg-press, squats, deadlift, straight-leg deadlift, rows. My numbers on those grow steadily as I work at them. I'm not super excited about pull-ups or curls, and you can probably guess that those numbers leave me wanting more, and I'm working on trying to find more reasons for enjoying those exercises.

Finding something that you like in each exercise makes working out more enjoyable rather than slaving away to reach a desired weight loss number or one rep max number. If you love it, you're going to want to get better at it and quick.

So just get on the bench and discover something you love about it.

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Posted Tue, 01/29/2013 - 19:47

Richard I know how you feel. Im 6ft with a 38inch sleeve length. Thats right i said 38 inches! Anyway I train and workout very hard. I can squat 455, deadlift 525, row 265 but I cant for the life of me bench 225 for even 3 reps. Its terrible because all my other lifts continue to rise without the sheer dedication that I have for the bench. I have tried just about everything. I also was under the impression that my arm length may be to my disadvantage

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Posted Thu, 01/31/2013 - 06:49

Steve I really enjoyed the article. I have been looking at several different areas trying to set my goals. It is good to find a place that breaks it down for a "normal" guy to understand. I was getting discouraged with my weight training, but now I can set realistic goals. Thanks.

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Posted Sat, 02/02/2013 - 18:53

You know what would be awesome? If you could also provide such charts with the data for women. :-)

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Posted Mon, 02/04/2013 - 09:44
Andy H

I take it that at these meets the deadlifts are done without the aid of straps?
How do I improve this. I can lift good weight with straps but without, my grip is pathetic.

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Posted Thu, 02/28/2013 - 11:51

Andy, I was in the same boat as you for quite a while and honestly all you can do is work on your forearms as well as take off the straps. It may be frustrating at first feeling like you can't do as much without the straps on but honestly what you want to do is slowly eliminate them from your workout, I went from struggling on shrugging 225 without straps on to dead-lifting over 400lbs strapless in 6-8 months of weekly forearm workouts. I usually only do 2-3 exercises with 4 sets of 10-15 depending once a week of things like wrist curls or reverse bicep curls with a straight bar or preacher bar and work your weights up. That along with trying to not use straps unless absolutely necessary will get your grip strength building before you know it. Also farmers walks without straps are great.

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Posted Tue, 02/05/2013 - 09:35
Trevor M

Just a question about the numbers (and in counting weight in general). Do these numbers include the standard 45lb olympic bar or are these numbers strictly in plates?

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 02/05/2013 - 10:58

Hey Steve, great read.

I'm 47 and have been lifting on and off for 20 years but still consider myself intermediate at best. I'm 170 pounds and have 5 rep maxes of 225 for squat, bench and dead lift. I know I need to work squat and dead lift. I had shoulder surgery a few years back which led to an inability to hold a bar for squats and gave a sensation of pulling my arm off on heavy dead lifts. My shoulder now feels great and I'm really wanting to focus on increasing my strength.

My concern is my age. Is it too much risk to train with low reps on the big three at 47? I know guys do it but I have no background in focusing my workouts on these lifts. If so can you recommend a good routine to follow?

Above all I want to be healthy and strong leading into my 50's


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Posted Fri, 11/08/2013 - 18:30

Not the expert Steve is, but I was in about your same boat a few years ago when I was working with a trainer with a small group. I was proud when I was the best of the 4 of us guys. But they were 20 years older than me and 1 of them might have still been better. they used heavy weight, low reps. I've since quit with the routine and I'm sure they are well ahead of me now.

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Posted Wed, 02/06/2013 - 10:45

Yes this helped thank you. I was wondering why my lifts seemed strong at the gyms but not on the Internet.

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Posted Fri, 03/15/2013 - 18:25

Great article, would have loved to see some women's numbers!

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Posted Sun, 03/17/2013 - 21:39


Thank you for your article. I am eager to read more of your work. Others have complemented you on the content of your post and I wholeheartedly agree. I would also add that you write well and communicate clearly - I learned a lot and am eager for more.

Best of luck on your quest.

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Posted Tue, 03/19/2013 - 05:59

Thanks for the great article, I have always felt very weak in comparison to the numbers i hear people pushing. I weigh about 193 pounds and am currently lifting about 240 bench, I wont mention deadlift and squat as my training has been terribly inconsistant and am still trying to build the deadlift and squat. Your article has put my own strengths into perspective and while 1200 pound powerlift total is still quite a distance for me I feel more confident that I can achieve such totals one day.

No Profile Pic
Posted Thu, 03/28/2013 - 07:15

Hi Steve,
Thanks for the article.After reading it i realized that i am very weak in my squat.
my height is 5'8" and i weigh 145-150 lbs and my lifts are:


I was thinking of starting with your 5day power muscle burn split in 5 weeks
For someone like me who needs to drastically improve his squat,would you recommend the 5 day split workout as it is or wd some changes (Days on which to train a particular body part)?or should i go for some other workout routine?


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Posted Thu, 04/04/2013 - 19:45
Paul Kelso

Very good article. You proposed weight goals for the five lifts are on the money.

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Posted Tue, 04/16/2013 - 16:52
Steve avery

Im 148-150lb. In your formula, squats seem high and bench and deadlift are low. I know it's going to be different for everyone, but bench isn't even a strong lift for me and I'm above the "extremely strong" standard. Just doesn't seem right.

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Posted Tue, 04/23/2013 - 16:17
Steve Williams

Hey Steve,great article I have been reading some articles on the conjugated method of training and purchased some bands from westside barbell. Which color of bands would suitable for me to use on my dynamic effort days on my 3 main moves. I have the purple,green and blue bands my lifts are deadlift 350, squat 315, bench 240. Im 32, and weigh 175

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Posted Tue, 04/23/2013 - 17:14
Steve Williams

Great article Steve. I have recently started trainign using the conjugated method and puchased 3 different color bands from westside to use on my dynamic days. Which bands should I be using for my 3 main lifts. My lifts are: Deadlift 350,Squat 315,Bench 240

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 06/04/2013 - 15:47
R Benson

Did this article help? HELL YEAH! Just turned 45, mid life crsis now! Just read a few of your articles at Muscle and strength. All of em GREAT!!! I am 5'6'' 185lbs Bench 340,squat 450 never checkd Deadlift, but I can still run a 7:15 min mile after that I just lose my wind. I use to run 11:40 2 miles, when I was 21. MY GOAL IS to cut fat.Because I dont like being 5'6'' with a 34 inch waist damn it. I would like to get 170 lbs body weight and maintain bench at 340, or bench double my body weight. But I really want 170 weight . I would like to get back to at least a 12 min 2 mile run time too, because I am going for a K-9 policeman job which is usually givien to younger officers. Right now I look like a freak being almost wide as tall. SO like I said my goals 340 bench at 170 lbs and a 12 min 2 mile run. I never used drugs but I have used multi vitiamins, ammino and BCCA. Greatly appreciate any advice you would have. Great info in your articles.

Thank you
R. Benson

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Posted Fri, 06/07/2013 - 19:22

I am currently about to turn twenty I weigh 185 at 5,8 and I bench 315 deadlifts 525 and squat 465 my goal is to add one hundred pounds to everything by next year

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Posted Sun, 07/14/2013 - 17:04

These numbers seem off. The deadlift seems high, the squat about right and the bench low. I have yet to see someone who can deadlift over 400 but can't bench 300 even with a flat back. Rack pulls maybe ...perhaps there is a weak posterior chain epidemic in the northeast.

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Posted Sat, 09/14/2013 - 21:02

Matt, gotta say that imho YOU are off. I am a competitive powerlifter and the numbers in this article look dead on to me. There are many bench "freaks" who specialize in the bench but are weak (relatively) in squat/dead. I compete at 198 and my best competition (drug-tested/raw) numbers are 550 squat, 340 bench, 585 dead. For the "Elite" standards listed here in this article that places me +20 at squat, -10 at bench and +20 at dead. Each person has different strengths and weaknesses. The author of this article has used data to arrive at these numbers.

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Posted Tue, 08/06/2013 - 03:43

@Matt: Well I'm another one with a weak bench. Real tested 1RM: 215Kg (474lb) standard height deadlift, 155Kg (342lb) back squat and only 117.5Kg (259lb) bench. 37 years old, 6 foot tall training for about 18 months. I think my history of club level rowing has given me a way stronger back and pulling ability than anything else. I'd love to be able to bench over 136Kg (300lb) but it'll take another 18 months to get there and my deadlift will probably have passed 500lb by then.

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Posted Thu, 09/05/2013 - 16:20

I'm in the very strong cat, should I change my routine novice falls beginner by mark ripptoe, or should I stick it out I'm still making strengh gains ??

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Posted Tue, 09/24/2013 - 00:47

steve please guide me to improve my power for powerlifting i am already a powerlifter for five years and now i have given two years gap now i am starting from the bottom

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Posted Sun, 11/10/2013 - 19:32

Im in the strong category at 165, i have already beaten the bench & deadlift easy. But my squat lacks.. 17 years old 6 foot tall

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Posted Thu, 12/26/2013 - 14:13

Adds a lot of perspective, Steve. It is easy to set unrealistic goals if you don't know what is reasonably achievable. Great article.

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Posted Tue, 01/14/2014 - 23:44

Today I just pressed 295lbs 3 times at 1 inch from my chest during my workout.
I though I was a dick if I get a look to the raw bench press world record of nearly 800 pounds but your article just convinced Im not that bad.

Thanks buddy