Strength-Training: How Much Weight Can the Average Woman Lift?

by

Strength-Training: How Much Weight Can the Average Woman Lift?You lift weights regularly and understand the benefits a strength-training program offers. You feel more confident and can lift more than when you started. You’ve even noticed changes in your physique. Goodbye flab – hello firm! Have you ever wondered how you compare to other women who lift? Are you as strong as other women your age? Don’t worry if you’re not quite there. That you strength train at all puts you in a special class. The majority of women still don’t do any form of resistance training but the number that do is growing.

What Percentage of Women Strength-Train?

According to the Centers for Disease Control’s survey in 2004, only about 17.5% of women strength trained two or more times per week. That’s lower than 21.9% of men who strength-trained during that time period. The good news is the numbers increased slightly for women from 1998 to 2004. Hopefully, more women get the message that strength-training is vital for maintaining muscle mass and bone density and for warding off the effects of aging.

What determines whether or not a woman strength trains? Age is a factor. Based on this study, women over the age of 65 were least likely to do any form of strength training, although the number of women who did rose from 1998 to 2004. Unfortunately, this is a group that may need it the most. As muscle mass declines with age, the risk of falls goes up. Strength-training helps to prevent age-related decreases in functionality and helps to maintain a more youthful body composition but it’s never too late to start. Research shows that even the elderly can improve strength and increase lean body mass through strength-training.

How Do You Compare?

Of course, you’re only competing against yourself but it’s still nice to know how you compare to other women, both trained and untrained. Keep in mind the figures below are for a single maximal repetition or one-rep max.

How strong is your lower body? A 132 pound woman who has never trained should be able to squat one time with 59 pounds of resistance. A “novice” who’s trained for more than 3 months but less than 9 should be capable of squatting with 110 pounds of resistance. At the intermediate level, after training regularly, for a year or two, that number rises to 127 pounds. After a year or two of training, you should almost be able to squat with a resistance equal to your body weight. An elite female of this weight who competes should be able to squat around 211 pounds.

How do you compare on bench press? If you weigh 132 pounds and are untrained, you should be able to bench press around 64 pounds. Once you’ve trained for a few months, around 82 pounds. At the intermediate level, you should be able to press around 95 pounds. Compare that to an elite 132 pound female who would be expected to bench press around 110 pounds. At the ultra-elite level, Jennifer Thompson, a 132 pound powerlifter, broke her own bench press record and set a new record by bench pressing 300 pounds, almost 2.3 times her body weight.

When it comes to the deadlift, an untrained 132 pound woman should be able to lift around 74 pounds. After training for 3 to 9 months, about 137 pounds. At an intermediate level after a year or two of training, 159 pounds. How about at the highest level of training? Elite women at that weight can dead-lift 273 pounds.

 Are You Strong Enough to Pass the Marine Corps Initial Strength Test?

To be in the marines, you have to maintain a certain level of fitness. How fit must you be? You’ll need to pass the USMC Physical Fitness test every six months. This series of three tests are designed to measure strength, muscular endurance and speed. Here’s the minimum you need for a passing score:

  • Run one mile in 10:30 minutes
  • Do 35 sit-ups in 2 minutes
  • Hang by flexed arms for 12 seconds

 How about Push-Ups?

Push-ups measure muscle strength and endurance. According to The American College of Sports Medicine, here’s how many MODIFIED push-ups you should be able to do based on age:

Age             Push-Ups

20 -29          17-33

30-39           12-24

40-49           8-19

50-59           6-14

60+               3-4

How do you compare? For full push-ups with toes on the ground, not knees, the average would be lower, but, hopefully, you’re working towards doing full unmodified push-ups. If you can do 8 to 10 unmodified push-ups, you’re doing better than the overwhelming majority of women. The ability to do push-ups is an excellent indicator of overall muscle strength and endurance.

The Bottom Line?

It’s not a contest, but it’s always fun to know where you fall on the strength and fitness scale and what you can aspire to. The good news is you can improve over time with focused training. Keep working towards improving your strength and muscle endurance by challenging your body to do more – and be prepared for positive changes to happen. They will.

 

References:

Centers for Disease Control. “Trends in Strength-Training: 1998-2004”

ExRx.net. “Weightlifting Performance Standards”

American College of Sports Medicine.

 

Tags: , , , , ,

16 Responses to “Strength-Training: How Much Weight Can the Average Woman Lift?”

  1. Avatar for Rita
    Rita June 17, 2013 at 10:10 am #

    I’m glad to know I’m not the average woman, I’m 43 can run an 8 minute mile, do at least 20-25 pushups on my toes, and I strenth train 3-4 days a week! plus cardio at least 2-3 days a week!…I am a Cathlete!!!!

  2. Avatar for Karen
    Karen June 17, 2013 at 11:03 am #

    I am 57. I strength train 2-3 times per week. I can do at least 40 full pushups on my toes. Probably can do more. I know I can lift heavier than I do, but I have to be careful that I do not injure myself. I do cardio, mostly Cathe’s workouts. I must have 50 or more of her DVDs. I can do the entire tabata workout, and keep up with Cathe in most of her workouts. I do tend to need more water breaks. I can complete with only minor modifications most of cathe’s workouts, including her newest xtrain set. I consider myself a cathlete also, but have to alternate days of high impact and low impact and longer with shorter workouts, because at my age, I want to continue working out. I do not want to injure myself. I have to be very mindful.

  3. Avatar for Nia
    Nia June 17, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

    @ Karen and Rita…that is so inspirational to read! I’m currently in the best *muscular* state I’ve ever been and I owe quite a bit of that to STS. I’m weary of reading on a particular other forum that pushing the weights isn’t fun and if there is a dread factor, why bother. The best thing women could do for themselves is lift weights and give it time to work its magic instead of instantly thinking its bulking them up, which is fat (or water bloat) on top of muscle.

  4. Avatar for Robbin
    Robbin June 17, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

    I have been strength training, cardio, yoga since high school, but more seriously for the past 10 or so years. I do all Cathe videos, and I know I’m in shape (for one) just by looking at myself, along with compliments from others. I am 54. There is no way I can squat with 115 pounds on my shoulders. I am 5 feet, 7 inches, and according to this I should be able to squat my weight, which would be 115, though trying to go up to 125 lbs. In fact, I cannot do any of those strengths mentioned above. I never thought I was so weak. I know I workout to burn when I strength train, and even have muscles, but when I do squats, I have anywhere from 2-10 lbs, or 2-12 lbs or 2-15 lbs on each shoulder, depends on the workout, and that kills me alone. Am I misunderstanding these calculations?

  5. Avatar for Nia
    Nia June 17, 2013 at 1:28 pm #

    @Robbin…I believe that squatting those numbers are based off of machines (Smith, leverage, etc) and not free weight with dumbells on the shoulders. Even if you went free weight style using a barbell, you’d need to have an Olympic bar to safely hold over a 100 pounds and I’d have a spotter just in case.

    I bet if you went to a gym and used their squat and bench press machines the numbers would be higher then with free weight.

  6. Avatar for Josephine
    Josephine June 17, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

    I am 64 years old, and have started weights. I am going slow because of arthritis, but truly enjoying it. If I can do it, so can anyone who is sincere.

  7. Avatar for Cheryl
    Cheryl June 17, 2013 at 5:15 pm #

    @Josephine — I’m going to be 62 in August. I’ve been working out to Cathe DVD’s for 8 years. I can keep up with almost all of her work-outs but take a few extra, short water breaks. I can do 33 full push-ups. Since we’re just about the same age I thought I’d share this with you. I feel better now than I did when I was 40.

  8. Avatar for Jennifer
    Jennifer June 17, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

    Ladies you are all so inspirational! I’m 40 and was wondering how long I would be able to keep up my fitness routine. I also have several Cathe DVDs cardio and weights and look forward everyday to my workouts. From the looks of these posts, I can count on another 20+ years of high intensity exercising! Thanks for sharing :)

  9. Avatar for Lisa
    Lisa June 17, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

    I used to be in phenomenal shape – thanks to Cathe. I was the talk of the gym. then I got arthritis in the knee,several injuries and now arthritis in the hips. Arg – and only 54. Now I’m out of shape, 10 lbs over weight and missing my muscles. I work out still with Cathe but only 2/ week. You ladies inspire me to go at it seriously again – 40 push ups – Wow! I’m coming after you! Thank you all for posting

  10. Avatar for Shannon
    Shannon June 17, 2013 at 5:39 pm #

    Wow, I was really disappointed when reading about the one rep max for squats, deadlifts and bench press. I feel like I often match Cathe and crew in weight during STS workouts, and my 1RM are nowhere near the average. That bums me out.

  11. Avatar for Michelle
    Michelle June 17, 2013 at 9:27 pm #

    Can someone please clarify the weight lifts in this article? Is this an assisted lift or lifts using standard barbell and dumbells, I thought I was doing good with my lifts doing my 2nd rotation of STS, but its no where near benching 110 or deadlifts at 150, that’s discouraging!

  12. Avatar for Alisha
    Alisha June 18, 2013 at 9:11 am #

    I’m not as fast a runner, but I tend to be quit strong. I prefer body weight strength training or kettlebells (which sort of fly in between strength and cardio.) I strength train because I want to avoid bone loss. Its known to improve bone mass which is especially important for women as we age.

  13. Avatar for Marcia
    Marcia June 18, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

    I think the weight values mentioned in the article are “one rep max” numbers. So they will be higher than what you use in STS workouts. But even knowing that, I still feel they are pretty high. I’m 52 and also consider myself very fit (best shape I’ve ever been in thanks to Cathe)!! Those values seem challenging to me, and I can bench press 100 pounds free weights for at least 8 reps, and squat the same.

    I also have almost every one of Cathe’s DVDs! Love her!!

  14. Avatar for Michelle
    Michelle June 21, 2013 at 8:51 am #

    An udate on the Marine Corps’ initial strength test. The Corps is in the process of transitioning from the flex arm hang to pull-ups for women recruits. Female Marine recruits should be able to do 1 pull-up before stepping on the yellow footprints (entering bootcamp) and a minimum of 3 pull-ups by the time they graduate from bootcamp earning the title of a U.S. Marine. The PFT requirement for women Marines also is transitioning from the flex arm hang to pull-ups: minimum of 3, max of 8 for a perfect score. For male Marines, the pull-up PFT requirement is 3 minimum, 20 max for a perfect score.

  15. Avatar for Hoosier8
    Hoosier8 February 13, 2014 at 10:45 pm #

    Hi! I am 135 pounds and bench press 163 with free weights. Been lifting for about 6 months. 6 days a week. I’m 39 5’5. Would like to get to 200 and compete.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Be Well: Where did the shirts go? | Name's Not Ashley - July 31, 2013

    [...] sources: 1 / 2 / 3 / [...]

Leave a Reply