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The Greatest New Ways To Measure Strength

woman deadlifting

Just because the person next to you can bench 300 pounds, or can dead-lift 500, doesn't mean the strength work you're doing in the gym has no significance. Those are impressive numbers, but there's no reason everyone should be held to such otherworldly and intimidating standards. Find out how you measure up with a few of the better ways to measure strength!

In a recent article on MensHealth.com, renowned strength coaches, top personal trainers, and trusted members of the fitness world came together to create the gold standard in measuring strength. The difference exists in the fact that those nice, round numbers are a thing of the past, because they don't account for different body types.

Essentially, the how each individual measures up on strength levels has a lot to do with body weight. For example, would it be fair to say that a 150 pound exerciser who can squat 300 pounds is only equally as strong as a 250 pound individual who can squat the same weight? Again, that 300 mark is a nice, solid number, but the fact that the 150-pounder is doubling their bodyweight would indicate higher levels of strength.

In a sense, these tests develop a sense of subjectivity to tag along with the objectivity of testing yourself against the total fitness population -- because your specific body type is put into perspective. Take a look at the different tests below, follow the instructions, and get out to the gym to test yourself! Each test comes with a list of ranges to make sure you know just exactly where you're at in your strength levels.

3-Minute Push Up Test

As stated in the article on Men's Health, this test is 'devised by Martin Rooney, creator of the Training for Warriors system.' The rules are pretty straight-forward, simply complete as many full push ups as you can in a three minute time period. You can rest, you can stop; just do as many as you can! As most have known since grade school, push ups are not just a great exercise, but also a very effective tool to measure upper body strength and endurance. After finishing the test, take your number of push ups, and take a look at Rooney's Strength Scale. It breaks down like this:

Below Average: Less than 54 push ups

Average: 55-74 push ups

Good: 75-99 push ups

Excellent: 100-110 push ups

Extraordinary: 111+ push ups

Deadlift Test

Kelsey Cannon of Men's Health credits this particular test to James Sjostrom; StrongFirst team leader and well-known CrossFit gym owner. The dead lift is a great exercise that measures the strength and power of nearly your entire lower body (hips/glutes/hamstrings), which often aren't worked as hard during the routines of many gym-goers out there. It's very important that you understand how to perform the deadlift, as it is slightly more complex than something like a push up. Once you feel you're ready, the object of the test is to get to your one-rep maximum amount of weight. In terms of measuring strength, Sjostrom offers up a couple different ways to measure. His rating scale, based on total weight lifted in one rep:

Below Average: Less than bodyweight

Average: Bodyweight

Good: Bodyweight every minute, on the minute for 10 consecutive minutes (10 total reps)

Excellent: 2 times your bodyweight

Extraordinary: More than 2 times your bodyweight

Squat Test

Another assessment of the strength in the lower half of your body is the barbell squat. Developed by Tony Gentilcore of Cressey Sports Performance, the test is a 3-rep max system; finding the most weight you can squat, while still performing clean reps. For those of you who are unsure when beginning the test, slowly add 10-20 pounds during each set, resting enough in between to recharge your strength reserves. Once you reach a weight that is simply too much, don't risk injury by going any further. Then, take a look at the ratings scale below to see where you scored.

Below Average: 75% of your bodyweight

Average: Bodyweight

Good: 1.25 times your bodyweight

Excellent: 1.5 to 1.75 times your bodyweight

Extraordinary: More than 1.75 times your bodyweight

Chin Up Test

Another client assessment designed by Tony Gentilcore, the chin up test 'serves as a rude wakeup call that [his clients] aren't as strong as they think.' However, many people who are able to plow through a number of chin ups may need to go through a slightly different testing method. For this reason, Gentilcore tests strength in a '3 rep max' of chin ups by seeing how much weight can be added to bodyweight, while still performing three strict chin ups. In your attempts to find the right weight, that may include completing a few sets before getting there, in which its best to take 3-4 minutes between those sets, in order to recover properly to make the test count. Gentilcore's rating scale breaks down like so:

Below Average: 0-1 reps (chin ups) at bodyweight

Average: 3 reps at bodyweight

Good: Bodyweight plus 10 pounds (3 strict reps)

Excellent: Bodyweight plus 25 pounds (3 strict reps)

Extraordinary: Bodyweight plus 50+ pounds (3 strict reps)

Get-Up Test

The strangest, but most effective measure of total body strength and balance is found in the Turkish Get Up exercise. It may not look like much -- simply moving from a laying down position to full standing -- but each individual part involves focus and power. Developed by legendary fitness writer and strength coach Dan John, the Get Up is 'a foundational movement because it helps to draw out issues...and point to gaps in athletes' training.' As strange as the movement is the actual testing method, in which you balance a full cup of water on the fist of your extended arm (which will stay that way through the entire movement). If you can make it beyond that balance test, you can graduate to adding heavier weights. Check out the ratings scale for Dan John's 'Getup Gauntlet.'

Below Average: 1/2 Turkish Get Up, no weight

Average: Full Get Up, no weight

Good: Full Get Up with full water cup

Excellent: Full Get Up with a 16kg kettlebell

Extraordinary: Full Get Up with a 24kg kettlebell


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    Nice article! Relative strength is one of the more important concepts to understand if you're training for sports enhancement.