Fitness Standards for Strength and Cardio

Fitness Standards
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At one end of the spectrum is the lounge lizard who is overweight and rarely exercises other than to get another beer from the fridge. At the other end is the elite athlete of the NBA or NFL, tennis circuit or the Olympic team. In between are most of us. Yet how do you know how fit you are and what you should work on? Here is a range of fitness and strength standards to refer to. Bear in mind that these standards are estimates of above average fitness but not too advanced or elite standard.

Body Fat

Rather than BMI, waist measurement and hip measurement are better indicators of excess fat weight. Waist for men should be at or under 37 inches (94 cms), and for women at or under 31.5 inches (80 cms). Waist to hip ratio (divide waist measure by hip measure) should be at or under 0.9 for men and 0.8 for women.

If you have access to a reliable technology for direct total body fat measurement, men should be under 15% and women under 25%. Very fit amateurs will be lower than that, and athletes in certain sports will aim even lower — under 10% for men and 15% for women. Age differences may be taken into account.

Aerobic Fitness

Aerobic or cardiorespiratory fitness is a measure of your capacity to transport and use oxygen during exercise. The VO2max is your maximum value. You can get this tested on a treadmill with a specific protocol, which requires an oxygen mask. Fifty is good for men in their 30s, as is 40 for women in their 30s (ml/kg/min oxygen). You can see a range of standards for all ages and fitness levels table.

Alternatively, if you can run a mile in 8 minutes (5 min/km) for men and a little more for women, you are in good aerobic shape. This will drop off as you age beyond 40 years.

Deadlift Strength

This is a little trickier because training in a lift can help you increase the weight lifted substantially, and age and body mass affect standards. Even so, if you are a middle-aged male and you lift 250 pounds (114 kilos), and a middle-aged woman and can lift 150 pounds (68 kilos) you are doing well.

The Plank

With the plank, you balance face down on your forearms and toes, body suspended off the ground. Brace the abdominals and if you can hold for more than 2 minutes you are doing very well, and more than 3 minutes is superior.

Overhead Press

The overhead press requires you to push a barbell or dumbbells above overhead with straight elbows. A middle-aged man is performing well at pressing 130 pounds (60 kilos), and a woman of similar age, 65 pounds (30 kilos). Weight training can progress these numbers.

Chair Squats

You can use this to test for general leg strength and endurance at any age. Sit on a chair against a wall or anchored in some way. Place your hands on your hips. Stand up and sit down in one motion and repeat until you can't do anymore.

Standards vary for men and women by age, but more than 30 for men and more than 25 for women is good.


Last, the notorious pushups, which test arm and shoulder strength and the abdominals. Adopt the professional pushup position, on the ground facing down, hands and toes supporting your body with straight arms at the starting position. Lower your body until your elbows are at right angles. A good standard is 30 pushups for men and 25 for women in their 30s.

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