How Much Weight Can the Average Man Lift?

"Average" is a tricky word when it comes to weight lifting. Each individual's fitness level, body type and exercise experience make for a whole spectrum of variation, but bench press standards can help you get a grasp on roughly how much weight a typical man can lift when confronted with the bar.

Based on bench press standards and the average body weight of an American male, an untrained or novice man can often lift between 135 and 175 pounds.
Credit: Ryan Edy/The Image Bank/GettyImages

Beyond the bench, you can also take a look at the current male standards for tried and true tests of strength, such as the classic deadlift and weighted squats. This helps paint a broader picture of how much weight the average American man is able to lift — or should be able to lift under normal conditions — at different fitness experience levels.

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Based on bench press standards and the average body weight of an American male, an untrained or novice man can often lift between 135 and 175 pounds.

What Are Strength Standards?

According to ExRx.net, strength standards estimate the single maximal weight-lifting repetition for adults over the age of 18. These standards are based on data collected from competitive weightlifters and powerlifters dating back to the 1950s. In any weight-lifting category, standards are based on lifts performed with no assertive training gear (with the exception of belts, which are allowed) and executed according to international competitive guidelines.

Bear in mind that this accumulated performance data is not intended to be predictive or to establish a strength "norm" for men or women. As Dr. Lon Kilgore, Ph.D. and Olympic-style weightlifting champion, at ExRx.net writes, "Tables for the basic barbell exercises are based on nearly 70 years of accumulated performance data and are not predicted or regression derived. These performance standards should not to be confused with strength norms."

What bench press and other standards indicate, though, is a rough baseline of expectation for an "average" healthy adult man with a barbell in his hands, as illustrated by decades worth of men of different weight groups and experience levels picking up the bar. In terms of experience levels, the tables are broken up into training performance categories, including a few categories that apply specifically to noncompetitive lifters.

"These performance standards should not be confused with strength norms." — Dr. Lon Kilgore, Ph.D., ExRx.net

Bench Press Standards and Averages

Body weight plays a key role in how much weight an individual is able to lift. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that, as of their 2015 through 2016 figures, the average American adult man weighs 197.8 pounds, which aligns rather closely with the 198-pound category on bench press standards provided by ExRx.net. Per ExRx, an untrained 198-pound man should be able to bench press 135 pounds of weight.

Here, "untrained" means that this person does not regularly perform the exercise in question or has never performed it, but is capable of executing the lift correctly. A novice — which the standards define as someone who has performed said movement for several months — of the same body weight should be able to bench press about 175 pounds.

In the 198-pound weight category, the standard for an intermediate lifter (someone who has trained for a few years) is 215 pounds. For an advanced lifter (someone who has trained for many years), it's 290 pounds. For an elite lifter (basically a competitive athlete), it's 360 pounds. Even when considering the elite lifter, however, weight-lifting standards are not representative of the highest possible level of strength performance.

Read more: 9 Essential Strength Benchmarks for Men

Bench Press: Body Weight Standards

Focusing on what might be considered the more "average" experience levels of ExRx's bench press standards, here's a look at the figures for untrained, novice and intermediate adult men in a wide variety of different weight classes outside of that 198-pound category:

  • 148-pound body weight: 110 pounds (untrained); 140 pounds (novice); 170 pounds (intermediate)
  • 165-pound body weight: 120 pounds (untrained); 150 pounds (novice); 185 pounds (intermediate)
  • 181-pound body weight: 130 pounds (untrained); 165 pounds (novice); 200 pounds (intermediate)
  • 220-pound body weight: 140 pounds (untrained); 185 pounds (novice); 225 pounds (intermediate)
  • 242-pound body weight: 145 pounds (untrained); 190 pounds (novice); 230 pounds (intermediate)
  • 275-pound body weight: 150 pounds (untrained); 195 pounds (novice); 240 pounds (intermediate)
  • 319-pound body weight: 155 pounds (untrained); 200 pounds (novice); 245 pounds (intermediate)
  • 320-pound body weight and above: 160 pounds (untrained); 205 pounds (novice); 250 pounds (intermediate)

"Bench press has been a staple exercise for both testing and training the upper body strength" — Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, Volume 12, 2013

As it turns out, all those guys at the gym who ask you how much you bench as an indicator of strength may actually be on to something.

In March 2013, the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine's modest study of 29 physically active college-aged weight lifters found that an individual's maximal bench press loads are significantly correlated with their max loads for at least four other assistance exercises (hammer curls, barbell biceps curls, overhead triceps extensions and dumbbell shoulder presses).

No wonder the researchers there write that the "Bench press has been a staple exercise for both testing and training the upper body strength of athletes in many professional sports including American football and basketball," noting its consistent use as a measure for upper body strength among numerous studies among the nonathlete population too.

Read more: The Average Bench Press for Adults

Deadlift Standards: Men

In addition to the many benefits of deadlifting — which range from toning the glutes to strengthening the legs and spine — this classic barbell lift is a reliable and repeatable way to assess one-repetition maximums. In a small study conducted on 11 trained athletes and published in the March 2018 edition of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, researchers have found that one-repetition maximum predictions showed "high reliability."

In the 198-pound weight class of the average American man, deadlift standards reported by ExRx.net are 155 pounds in the untrained category. In the novice category, that figure jumps to 290 pounds, and then up to 335 pounds in the intermediate category. In other weight groups, deadlift standards break down as follows:

  • 148-pound body weight: 125 pounds (untrained); 235 pounds (novice); 270 pounds (intermediate)
  • 165-pound body weight: 135 pounds (untrained); 255 pounds (novice); 295 pounds (intermediate)
  • 181-pound body weight: 150 pounds (untrained); 275 pounds (novice); 315 pounds (intermediate)
  • 220-pound body weight: 165 pounds (untrained); 305 pounds (novice); 350 pounds (intermediate)
  • 242-pound body weight: 170 pounds (untrained); 320 pounds (novice); 365 pounds (intermediate)
  • 275-pound body weight: 175 pounds (untrained); 325 pounds (novice); 375 pounds (intermediate)
  • 319-pound body weight: 180 pounds (untrained); 335 pounds (novice); 380 pounds (intermediate)
  • 320-pound body weight and above: 185 pounds (untrained); 340 pounds (novice); 390 pounds (intermediate)

Read more: What Muscles Does a Deadlift Work Out?

Squat Standards: Men

Alongside the bench press and deadlift, the old-school squat completes the barbell strength-training trifecta, serving as a solid indicator of overall strength. As the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research puts it in a small study of 17 people from May 2015, the squat "is a reliable testing measure that can provide a strong indication of changes in strength and explosiveness during training."

On ExRx.net's table of male squat standards, untrained men hovering around that 198-pound body weight average often squat 125 pounds, while the standard for novices is 230 pounds. The squat standard for intermediate 198-pound lifters is 285 pounds, while other body weight groups break down as such:

  • 148-pound body weight: 100 pounds (untrained); 190 pounds (novice); 230 pounds (intermediate)
  • 165-pound body weight: 110 pounds (untrained); 205 pounds (novice); 250 pounds (intermediate)
  • 181-pound body weight: 120 pounds (untrained); 220 pounds (novice); 270 pounds (intermediate)
  • 220-pound body weight: 130 pounds (untrained); 245 pounds (novice); 300 pounds (intermediate)
  • 242-pound body weight: 135 pounds (untrained); 255 pounds (novice); 310 pounds (intermediate)
  • 275-pound body weight: 140 pounds (untrained); 260 pounds (novice); 320 pounds (intermediate)
  • 319-pound body weight: 145 pounds (untrained); 270 pounds (novice); 325 pounds (intermediate)
  • 320-pound body weight and above: 150 pounds (untrained); 275 pounds (novice); 330 pounds (intermediate)

Beyond Average: World Records

Stepping well outside of the average, the International Weightlifting Federation keeps track of the most exceptional weightlifters on the planet via records set at the worldwide Olympic games. As per IWF rules, athletes perform a series of snatch and clean and jerk barbell lifts, with the best weight of each individual lift being added into an overall total.

In terms of the absolute most weight hoisted in a single lift regardless of body weight class, Hossein Rezazadeh of Iran, who competes in the 105-kilogram-and-above category (105 kilograms, by the way, is about 231.5 pounds) lifted a massive 580 pounds in a single clean and jerk at the 2004 games in Athens. At least as of 2019, that's the very top of the heap.

In the other weight classes for male lifters, the current records as of 2019 are:

  • 56-kilogram weight class: 375-pound clean and jerk, Long Qingquan (China), 2016
  • 62-kilogram weight class: 390-pound clean and jerk, Oscar Albeiro Figueroa Mosquera (Columbia), 2012
  • 69-kilogram weight class: 432-pound clean and jerk, Galabin Boevski (Bulgaria), 2000
  • 77-kilogram weight class: 472-pound clean and jerk, Nijat Rahimov (Kazakhstan), 2016
  • 85-kilogram weight class: 478-pound clean and jerk, Tian Tao (China), 2016
  • 94-kilogram weight class: 493-pound clean and jerk, Szymon Kolecki (Poland), 2008
  • 105-kilogram weight class: 522-pound clean and jerk, Ruslan Nurudinov (Uzbekistan), 2016

An American man of average weight, then, would fall in the 85-kilo category with Tian Tao, who can clean-and-jerk over 260 pounds more than the intermediate bench press standard for the same weight class (keep in mind, he's lifting that weight over his head). And while that figure is pretty much superhuman, who couldn't use a little motivation on their next lift?

Read more: The Average Weight Bench Press for a 15-Year Old

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