What Is Strong? Real World Strength Standards For Raw, Natural Lifters

What is strong? I've analyzed the national records for several major drug-free powerlifting federations, and compiled my own set of raw strength standards.

What is strong? We live in a world filled with 1000 pound squat and 800 pound bench press Youtube videos. Kind of makes you feel weak, doesn't it? It sure makes me feel weak. There are a couple of key things you need to know about most of these lifts.

1000 Pound Squats and 800 Pound Bench Presses?

Strength StandardsHow are these guys able to move Herculean amounts of weight? Here are 2 major reasons.

#1 - Training Gear. The guys putting up these monster numbers are for the most part using training gear. What is training gear? Training gear includes the use of specialized squat suits and bench shirts that are designed to help powerlifters add hundreds of pounds to each lift.

So when you see a guy benching close to 800 pounds with a bench shirt on, there's a good chance he "only" benches 500 without a bench shirt. The same goes for squats suits. A squat of over 700 without a squat suit is fairly rare. Add in a squat suit, along with knee wraps and squat briefs, which go under a squat suit to help move even more weight, and these guys are squatting over 1000 pounds.

Training gear is not magical though. It requires an amazing amount of dedication and practice, and few can master it.

#2 - Drugs. Another factor adding to these monster totals is an obvious one - steroid and human growth hormone usage. Now it is certainly not my intention to label everyone with a big lift as a drug user. I've seen some pretty staggering natural lifts in my day. With that said, drug use is fairly common in the sport of powerlifting, and I'm not going to lie to you and pretend it's not.

There are some natural-only federations. Outside of this realm, your guess is as good as mine as to who is clean and who isn't.

Anti-Gear, Anti-Steroids?

Before we move on any further, I want to make something very clear. The point of this article isn't to bash lifters who use training gear or drugs. This article exists to provide natural and raw strength standards to lifters who will never use either. Period, end of story. I respect the iron, and the men and women who move it, and am not here to judge or stir up debates.

Raw, Natural Strength Standards

Let's dive into the topic of raw, natural strength standards by analyzing the national records of several drug-free powerlifting federations. Some of these federations are large, and some modest in size.

  • USAPL
  • 100% Raw
  • NASA
  • ADFPF
  • UPA-AD

These numbers will give you somewhat of a reasonable look at "elite" strength levels. They are not meant to be elite standards in and of themselves. I will make an attempt to define my opinion of elite standards later on.

Squats
National Raw Records for Men
Weight Class USAPL 100% Raw NASA ADFPF UPA-AD
 132  479.50  530.90  275.58  247.50  None
 148  473.75  550.90  473.99  445.50  220
 165  534.50  530  512.57  447.70  529
 181  562  601.10  540.13  500.50  529
 198  573  610  644.85  550  600
 220  650.25  650.30  699.96  583  633
 242  705.25  700.70  650.36  621.50  705
 275  766  850  755.08  599.50  640
 308  854.25  826.70  766.10  599.50  704
Bench Press
National Raw Records for Men
Weight Class USAPL 100% Raw NASA ADFPF UPA-AD
 132  314  330.40  231.48  187  None
 148  337.25  360.40  294.31  302.50  165
 165  402.25  400  363.76  374  314
 181  385.75  385  363.76  385  364
 198  443  425  418.87  374  412
 220  523.50  490  451.94  423.50  425
 242  462.75  485.60  415.57  451  457
 275  501.50  585  507.06  511.50  440
 308  546.50  520  476.19  484  501
Deadlifts
National Raw Records for Men
Weight Class USAPL 100% Raw NASA ADFPF UPA-AD
 132  578.50  450  358.25  341  None
 148  523.50  540  567.68  473  353
 165  661.25  630  567.68  535.70  567
 181  677.75  641.10  617.29  638  600
 198  706.50  661.30  661.38  671  630
 220  727.50  672.40  677.91  654.50  677
 242  699.75  760.50  722.01  704  645
 275  832.00  800  705.47  632.50  650
 308  843.25  760.50  810.19  665.50  744

So, what do these numbers tell us? The first thing I noticed is that the following lifts are extremely hard to achieve:

  • Squat - 600 pounds
  • Bench Press - 400 pounds
  • Deadlift - 650 pounds

It's safe to say that if you hit these numbers, you're well into Elite territory for a raw, natural lifter. It should also be noted that it is darn near impossible to hit a 2000 raw, natural powerlifting total. Only a small handful of natural lifters have performed this amazing feat.

Strength Standards

The lifting standards I am about to present are merely guidelines. Use them to assess your progress, and potential for future gains. Don't be discouraged by the numbers of the top one percent of lifters. You can make amazing strides forward without having the best genetics, so remain patient and train smart. If you do so you will exceed your expectations.

Before I move forward, here are some simple definitions for standards names.

  • Pro Strength - The very best of the best. Superhuman. Supreme strength.
  • Elite Strength - You should be extremely competitive at a National level powerlifting meet.
  • Extremely Strong - You will be one of the top lifters at most local, natural powerlifting meets. Your strength levels land you in the top 1% of humanity.
  • Very Strong - In the muscle building and strength training realm, this would be considered intermediate level strength.
  • Strong - Your lifts are around a 200 raw bench, 300 raw squat and 400 raw deadlift. This doesn't seem strong compared to powerlifting records, but you are still stronger than 90% of men walking the earth.

Raw Natural Strength Standards Based On Weight - Men

Pro Natural Raw Strength Standards
Men - By Weight
Weight Squats Bench Deadlifts
 132  430  270  440
 148  460  300  470
 165  500  330  540
 181  540  350  580
 198  570  380  610
 220  610  410  640
 242  640  430  660
 275  670  450  680
 308  700  470  700
Elite Natural Raw Strength Standards
Men - By Weight
Weight Squats Bench Deadlifts
 132  400  250  410
 148  425  280  435
 165  465  305  500
 181  500  325  535
 198  530  350  565
 220  565  380  595
 242  595  400  610
 275  620  420  630
 308  650  435  650
Extremely Strong Natural Raw Strength Standards
Men - By Weight
Weight Squats Bench Deadlifts
 132  325  205  330
 148  345  225  355
 165  375  250  405
 181  405  265  435
 198  430  285  460
 220  460  310  480
 242  480  325  495
 275  505  340  510
 308  525  355  525
Very Strong Natural Raw Strength Standards
Men - By Weight
Weight Squats Bench Deadlifts
 132  290  185  300
 148  310  210  320
 165  340  225  365
 181  365  240  395
 198  385  260  415
 220  415  280  435
 242  435  290  445
 275  455  305  460
 308  475  320  475
Strong Natural Raw Strength Standards
Men - By Weight
Weight Squats Bench Deadlifts
 132  250  155  255
 148  265  175  270
 165  290  190  310
 181  310  205  335
 198  330  220  350
 220  350  235  370
 242  370  250  380
 275  385  260  390
 308  405  270  405

I used the following multipliers to determine these numbers:

  • Elite = Pro x 92.5%
  • Extremely Strong = Pro x 75%
  • Very Strong = Pro x 67.5%
  • Strong = Pro x 57.5%

Strength Standards

The Last Word on Natural Strength

Most of you aren't competitive powerlifters, nor do most of you have the goal of weighing 270 pounds or more. So with that in mind, I want to end by presenting you with an easy set of natural strength standards to remember.

The following goals are perfect for the lifter who wants to get big and strong, but who may never have any interesting in competing in bodybuilding or powerlifting. Reach these goals while focusing on conventional hypertrophy (muscle building) rep ranges, and you will not only add muscle to your frame, but also have the power and strength to back it up.

  • Bench Press - 300 pounds
  • Squats - 400 pounds
  • Deadlift - 500 pounds
  • Power Clean - 225 pounds
  • Overhead Press - 225 pounds
  • Barbell Row - 300 Pounds

There have been fewer than 85 men who have ever hit a 2000 raw powerlifting total. Of these men, only a very small handful accomplished this feat while competing in major drug-tested federations. I hope this helps put powerlifting numbers in perspective.

The use of bench shirts, squat suits, steroids and growth hormone has made it difficult for most natural athletes to understand just what strong means. I see far too many strong forum lifters refer to themselves as weak, simply because they do not understand what reasonable natural standards are. They talk themselves out of competitive powerlifting because of a misguided vision that everyone is putting up 2000 pound totals. Not true at all.

A 1200 pound 3-lift total (bench press, squats and deadlifts) is more than 95% of gym rats will ever accomplish. A 1500 pound 3-lift total is a huge accomplishment, and will be hard to beat at most local, natural powerlifting meets.

For those of you who are doubting this, let me leave you with some numbers from my first powerlifting experience. In 2011 I competed at a local ADFPF meet. This was my first competition and I had no idea what to expect. I certainly had no clue that I would be the strongest lifter at the meet. My 3-lift total was 1501 that day. The second best total was approximately 200 pounds below this level.

This reveals that a 1300-1500 pound total at most local, raw and natural powerlifting meets is fairly impressive. Those that achieve these levels usually move on to national-level competitions.

I currently hold 2 national-level deadlifting records, one in the ADFPF, and one in the UPA. Certainly not a legendary achievement (far from it), but my records do provide further evidence that a 1500-1600 pound total is noteworthy in the natural lifting world.

Did this article help? Let me know in the comments. I would also like to know where your strength levels currently are, and what natural goals you are after. Good luck, and smash PRs!