Fitness Standards for Strength and Cardio

woman performing pushup

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Recording and tracking your progress is a fantastic way to measure your success and help guide your training. Knowing where you stand in terms of fitness and strength standards can motivate you to improve and indicate where you are already successful.

Here is a range of fitness and strength standards to refer to. Keep in mind that while these estimated standards are above average levels of fitness, they're not so advanced that they're out of your reach.

Body Fat

Rather than referring to your body mass index (BMI), waist and hip measurements tend to be more reliable indicators of excess fat weight. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a healthy waist measurement for men should be at or under 37 inches (94 centimeters) and for women at or under 31.5 inches (80 centimeters). Waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), your waist measurement divided by your hip measurement, should be at or under 0.9 for men and 0.8 for women.

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a dated, biased measure that doesn’t account for several factors, such as body composition, ethnicity, race, gender, and age. 

Despite being a flawed measure, BMI is widely used today in the medical community because it is an inexpensive and quick method for analyzing potential health status and outcomes.

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) calculates percentages of the total body. Acceptable levels are under 24% for men and 31% for women. For fitness, ACE posits under 17% for men and 24% for women. Very fit athletes will be lower than that, as low as 6–13% for men and 14–20% for women. Age differences are also taken into account.

Aerobic Fitness

Aerobic or cardiorespiratory fitness measures your capacity to transport and use oxygen during exercise. The VO2max is your maximum value (mL/kg/min oxygen). Typically this test is performed on a treadmill with an oxygen mask.

A VO2max score of 50 is superior for men in their 30s, with 40 and above considered good or excellent. For women in their 30s, a VO2max of 40 is deemed superior, with 30 and above regarded as good or excellent. You can see a range of standards for all ages and fitness levels on this table.

You can try the 12-minute run Cooper Test or the Rockport 1 mile walk test to determine aerobic fitness level.

Other tests, such as the Cooper Test, are valuable for testing your fitness. With the Cooper Test, your fitness level is determined based on your age, sex, and distance ran. A female in her 40s is considered to have above-average conditioning if she is able to run 1,900 to 2,300 meters in 12 minutes. For a man in his 40s, running 2,100 to 2,500 meters is considered above average.

Plank Standards

With the plank, you balance face down on your forearms, balls of your feet, and toes, with your body suspended off the ground. Research on university students has shown that the average length of a plank hold is 110 seconds for males and 72 seconds for females. 

These results include both athletes and non-athletes. Athletes had test durations 48% higher than non-athletes. The average length of a plank hold of 104 seconds was the median score for athletes and 83 seconds for non-athletes.

The research mentioned above was performed on college students who are younger than many adults. Keep this in mind when comparing yourself to the time standards reported in the study.

Pushups

Pushups test the arms, shoulders, and abdominals. Upper body strength is necessary for many movements in fitness and daily life and is vital for athletes.

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 17 to 21 pushups for men aged 30 to 39 and 13 to 19 for women in their 30s..

Deadlift Strength

Deadlifts are one of the main compound lifts that are a functional movement essential for building back strength and stability. Learn proper form before ever attempting to push toward the weight standards for your sex and weight. If you are trying to increase the amount of weight you can lift for the deadlift but are stuck, try these tips for getting out of a deadlift rut.

If you're a healthy male weighing 181lbs and you lift 275lbs (125kg), you're doing well (novice level), and if you lift 315lb (143kg), you're considered intermediate level. Similarly, a healthy woman weighing 148lbs is a novice at 150lb (68kg) and intermediate level if she can lift 175lbs (79kg). You can refer to this chart to see more recommendations for different weight categories and levels of fitness.

Overhead Press

The overhead press requires you to push a barbell or dumbbells overhead with straight elbows. According to this chart, healthy adult men weighing about 200lbs perform at the intermediate level pressing 145lbs (66kg). Similarly, healthy adult women could press 65lbs (30kg). Consistent weight training can progress these numbers.

Squat Standards

The squat is one of the major compound lifts and relies on the entire lower body and core to perform. When you are just starting, it's essential to learn the proper form before you load a barbell. Even practicing with a broomstick is better than using a bar with incorrect form and potentially injuring yourself. After you have the form down, you can work toward the strength benchmarks for your sex and weight.

Using the example of a 181lbs man, a novice strength standard is 220lbs (99.8kg), and an intermediate lifter's strength standard is 270lbs (122.5kg). For a 148lbs woman, those standards are 140lbs (63.5kg) and 185lbs (83.9kg) for novice and intermediate.

Bench Press Standards

The bench press is a third major compound lift and part of what is called the "big three" along with the squat and deadlift. It and variations of this lift are the main compound excise performed for the chest muscles. Again, it's vital to learn the proper form for the bench press before loading in hopes of reaching a strength standard, even at the beginning weight.

For a 181lb man, 165lb (74.8kg) is considered novice and 200lb (90.7kg) for intermediate. For a 148lb woman, these standards are 90lb (40.8kg) for novice and 105lb (47.6kg) for intermediate.

A Word From Verywell

There's much more to health and fitness than strength and cardiovascular standards and you can be a very healthy individual while falling far short of the benchmarks. However, knowing where you stand can help you create goals to work toward if this is something that motivates you. If you feel discouraged, don't worry, with consistent practice, getting stronger and more fit is always possible. No matter if you match the standards set out for your sex and weight, being physically active and getting stronger comes with many benefits.

If you want to work toward a new strength or fitness level to reach a benchmark, getting the help of a certified personal trainer is wise. A trainer can help you find any form flaws that may be holding you back and create a plan to get you working toward your goal.

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12 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  9. ExRx.net: Deadlift Strength Standards

  10. ExRx.net: Press Strength Standards

  11. ExRx.net: Squat Strength Standards

  12. ExRx.net: Bench Press Strength Standards