How Strong? pt. 2

In my previous post How Strong? Pt. 1 I discussed why the typical gym-goer benefits from having an answer to the question “How strong should I be?” Today I’ll try to answer that question for myself using Dan John’s Strength Standards.

We can all agree that strength is important.  I want to get stronger but I don’t have unlimited time and energy to put into training.  The same is probably true for most people reading this. We can all clearly benefit from knowing how much is enough and how to get there as efficiently as possible.

Whenever I have big questions about anything training related I have a handful of go-to resources. Right at the top of this list are Dan John and Pavel Tsatsouline.  If you’ve worked with me in the gym you have undoubtedly heard their wisdom repeated countless times. Fortunately for me, Pavel and Dan have both attempted to answer this “how strong?” question themselves.  

In his book Intervention and in seminars Dan John has laid out what he calls his Strength Standards.  Each standard is divided into male and female categories and is based on an individual’s body weight. The standards are further divided into “expected” and “game changer” and the meaning of these categories is pretty self-explanatory.  For the purposes of this article I’ll leave the full list out and just refer to how I stack up to a couple of the movements we perform regularly in the gym. For the full list and a lot of really great resources see his website

Push: Expected = Bodyweight bench press

Game-changer = Bodyweight bench press for 15 reps

Pull: Expected = 5 pullups

Game-changer = 15 pullups

Hinge: Expected = Bodyweight to 150% bodyweight deadlift

Game-changer = Double-bodyweight deadlift

Squat: Expected = Bodyweight squat

Game-changer = Bodyweight squat for 15 reps

So how do I measure up? First, the good news: I comfortably exceed the expected standards for the pull, hinge and squat.  In fact I’m within spitting distance of the Game Changer standard on each of those.  I’m about 3 reps short of both the pull-ups and squats and about 30 pounds short of a double bodyweight deadlift.  My current plan should get me to these numbers by the end of the summer.

Now the not so good: My bench press falls way short.  The truth is that the bench is my least favorite of the lifts and I’ve neglected training it for this reason.  One nice thing about standards like this is that they force you to acknowledge your weaknesses, something that rarely happens outside of a competitive environment.   I could ignore these numbers and still get a lot out of my training. Instead, I’ll use them as a helpful reminder to keep myself in balance.


In the next article, I’ll see how I stand up against Pavel’s standards.