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:
20 -29 17-33
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.
Centers for Disease Control. “Trends in Strength-Training: 1998-2004”
ExRx.net. “Weightlifting Performance Standards”
American College of Sports Medicine.