Not sure how much weight you should be able to squat? Weightlifting performance standard tables — and the help of an appropriate calculator — can help you set goals or decide where to start, but sometimes a little trial and error is the best way to find your starting weight.
Finding Your Average Squat Weight
There's a nearly endless combination of sets and repetitions that you can assemble into a weightlifting workout. With that in mind, the easiest way to standardize an estimate of your average squat rate is by linking it to your one-rep max, sometimes abbreviated as 1RM. As Champ Uniformed Services University's Human Performance Resources explains, the 1RM is exactly what it sounds like — the maximum weight you're capable of lifting just one time.
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That doesn't mean you have to rush out and lift the heaviest weight you can imagine. Although one-rep max tests are common for seasoned athletes and weightlifters, they should be administered under appropriate protocols that allow for the athlete's safety, and only when the athlete has already mastered proper technique.
However, you can use the reference standards published by ExRx.net to estimate your probable one-rep max squat weight — and once you've found that, you can use your 1RM to calculate appropriate squat weights for your target number of repetitions.
Read more: The 30-Day Squat Challenge
Squat Standards for Men
The following is just a sampling of squat standards for men as published by ExRx.net. These numbers don't constitute a promise of what you'll be able to lift, but instead are a standard of what you can reasonably be expected to lift given your body weight and fitness level, all based on years of observation and scientific study.
If you weigh 165 pounds and have one of the following fitness levels, the standard for your squat one-rep max is:
- Untrained: 110 pounds
- Novice: 205 pounds
- Intermediate: 250 pounds
- Advanced: 340 pounds
- Elite: 445 pounds
If you weigh 198 pounds, your probable one-rep max for squats is:
- Untrained: 125 pounds
- Novice: 230 pounds
- Intermediate: 285 pounds
- Advanced: 390 pounds
- Elite: 505 pounds
And finally, if you weigh 242 pounds, your probable 1RM is:
- Untrained: 135 pounds
- Novice: 255 pounds
- Intermediate: 310 pounds
- Advanced: 425 pounds
- Elite: 550 pounds
Squat Standards for Women
ExRx.net also publishes a corresponding set of squat standards for women, based on the same criteria. Note that for both genders, there is no allowance for body composition; you could be a very fit and lean 165 pounds, or you might be the same weight and have a lot of adipose tissue.
Also, remember that these amounts represent standards — the weight you could reasonably be expected to lift given a certain set of criteria — as opposed to norms, which would be based on testing of a certain population.
To put it another way, these standards will be a place to start for some, and a goal to meet for others. Your mileage may vary quite a bit in either direction — as is usually the case with any sort of fitness test.
Now, on to a sampling of standards for women:
If you weigh 114 pounds and have the following fitness level, the standard for your squat one-rep max is:
- Untrained: 55 pounds
- Novice: 100 pounds
- Intermediate: 115 pounds
- Advanced: 150 pounds
- Elite: 190 pounds
If you weigh 148 pounds, the standard for your one-rep max is:
- Untrained: 65 pounds
- Novice: 120 pounds
- Intermediate: 140 pounds
- Advanced: 185 pounds
- Elite: 230 pounds
And if you weigh 181 pounds, the standard weight for a one-rep max squat is:
- Untrained: 75 pounds
- Novice: 140 pounds
- Intermediate: 165 pounds
- Advanced: 215 pounds
- Elite: 270 pounds
Read more: 15 New Squat Variations for Every Fitness Level
Finding Your Submaximal Weight
If you're not gunning for a one-rep max — and unless you're into powerlifting, you probably aren't — how do those standards for a one-rep max translate into your normal quota of sets and repetitions?
If you're lifting less than your one-rep max, it's termed a submaximal set or submaximal repetitions; and if you know how many repetitions you want to do, you can extrapolate an appropriate amount of weight from your one-rep max. Just keep in mind that because your 1RM is based on a standards table — as opposed to a hands-on fitness test — you might be able to lift more or less than the standards. But it's a reasonable place to start.
If you're doing typical sets of eight to 12 repetitions to build a mix of strength and endurance, you can just whip out your calculator and estimate 60 to 80 percent of your one-rep max. As the American Council on Exercise notes, that 60 to 80 percent range represents the amount that you can typically expect to lift for a set of eight to 12 reps. If you don't want to do the math yourself, you can use the ExRx.net online calculator to find the appropriate percentage of your estimated one-rep max.
If you'd like to aim for a different number of repetitions, you can use training load charts, like the one provided by the National Strength and Conditioning Association, to calculate how much weight you should be lifting based on your estimated one-rep max. They also work for the inverse, using ability to lift a submaximal weight for a certain number of repetitions to calculate your likely one-rep max.
Technique Is Important
No matter what goal you're working toward that involves meeting — or beating — an average squat weight, remember that maintaining proper form trumps all other considerations. Doing squats with improper form is likely to lead to hurting your knees or back. Some of the most common mistakes in form to watch out for include:
- Leaning too far forward
- Pressing your knees too far forward/not letting your hips move naturally back
- Not keeping your knees aligned over your toes
A particularly controversial point is how far down you should go during your squats. Although expert recommendations vary from going as far down as possible (full squats) to hitting a right angle at the knee, a common standard is that your thighs should be parallel to the ground — and that's the form expected in the previously discussed ExRx.net table of standards for squat weight.
It's also worth remembering when choosing squat weight whether or not you're doing a compound move, like a squat thruster. The weight you can comfortably squat might be too heavy for also pressing overhead. You want to always choose a weight that can allow you to do the entire exercise with good form.