the joy of strength training


February 15th, 2008 at 11:16 pm

Benchmark your strength and fitness

I came across this interesting tool on the Crossfit Seattle website: a programme of athletic skill levels. It covers four levels from well-rounded beginner through intermediate, advanced and finally elite. The programme lists, by type of strength or conditioning, an appropriate benchmark for each of the four levels

What makes this ranking different from the rankings you often find in fitness magazines is that the upper levels are genuinely challenging and all-encompassing. For example, the Level 1 benchmark for ‘push’ is 10 push-ups, whereas the elite level is 60 push-ups on rings and/or 1.5 x bodyweight bench press.

By way of comparison, check out this fitness test from Men’s Health. The top level is actually quite achievable for anyone training regularly for a couple of years. Also, the chosen tests don’t cover all aspects of strength and fitness (e.g. maximal strength).

It’s easy to sound elitist when talking about this stuff and I am aware that not everyone wants to or has the time to achieve super fitness. However, the opposite is also true: people find it difficult to think beyond the next training cycle or the next competition. I’m guilty of this myself; I am very good at setting short term goals but I rarely think about where I might be in three, five or ten years time.

A decent benchmark is also useful for anyone who trains on their own or who doesn’t have a peer group pushing them harder. I myself have really felt the lack of a peer group since I moved away from London. It is all too easy to get complacent and think you are the bees’ knees just because you are a bit fitter than the handful of people who go to your local health club.

And for those who feel that they are not particularly fit and strong, why not set your sights higher? It’s amazing the number of people every year who decide to train for a marathon or an Ironman. That kind of ambition is fantastic, I’d love to see more of that in strength training. This is something that Crossfit does quite well, by encouraging everyone to aim for the muscle-up, a genuinely impressive exercise that is nonetheless achievable with a lot of hard work and dedication. Ross Enamait‘s challenges, such as the 100 burpee challenge, are also good ways to benchmark yourself against others.

Got any more good benchmarks to suggest?

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  • 1

    The tests from Mens Health just go to show you how feeble these magazines are.

    Davie on February 16th, 2008
  • 2

    Nice setup, but the descriptions threw me off a little bit. “Engaging in combat or highly competitive sports without possessing the abilities of Level III is inviting injury or failure.” Well, that is rich. I little bit too much testosterone with the author methinks 😀

    Rolfe on February 16th, 2008
  • 3

    Hi Rolfe, yes I agree the rhetoric is a little pompous. Some of the prose on the Gym Jones site is in a similar vein. But I guess you have to look through all that, as the content is worth it.

    gubernatrix on February 16th, 2008
  • 4

    That’s a fun list of goals! Highly motivating. One question though, for Level I, does anyone else find it much easier to run 400m in 2:04 than to row 2000m in 8:10?

    Michael on February 18th, 2008
  • 5

    Mike, each person will find different skills have different levels of difficulty depending on their physique and training background. For example, all the skills I’ve tried I can do at level 3 (and some at level 4) except rowing which I find really really hard. Probably my arms and legs aren’t long enough to be really good at rowing. Now somebody with a different build would find rowing much easier, but might find, e.g., a front lever very difficult.

    Noel on February 18th, 2008
  • 6

    I haven’t tested my 400m recently (now there’s something to do soon) but I certainly find that rowing is a much more technical activity than running, so if you don’t row much or have never learned proper technique, your rowing will probably be comparatively poorer.

    gubernatrix on February 21st, 2008
  • 7

    I can barely do 30 burpies!!!! I think I should be hitting the gym a LITTLE bit more.

    Roger on February 22nd, 2008
  • 8

    @ Roger: you’ll find if you do them regularly that you build up very quickly 😉

    gubernatrix on February 24th, 2008
  • 9

    I’m ashamed to discover I’m only average even by the MH criteria.

    lelak on April 9th, 2008
  • 10

    Lelak, put in some hard work and you will surprise yourself I’m sure!

    gubernatrix on April 9th, 2008
  • 11

    I am really amazed with this site, thanks for all the info. Still I have not found anything about women lifters with discapacities… OK let me explain, I love weight training, it is also the only sport I can do after an accident and 2 surgeries where I almost lost my right knee. I can not do anything with my legs, which is really frustraiting and makes my training sometimes hard. My cardio has to be limited to the cross machine and for no more than 20 min max. So it is also hard to keep my body weight down (fat wise). I train hard, most of the time and I think it looks extreme because I am the only woman at the gym who goes all the way with heavy weights. I go to World Gym in Guatemala, Central America, go figure! Well, after this intro, I have also noticed that there are no trainers for women like me, they think that a woman does not want to be big, have a wide back, thick chest and big arms, it makes me angry sometimes, most of the time I just ignore my surroundings and go deep in my workout.
    So at last one question,: how to get fit, reduce body fat without the proper cardio, and get bigger and have more definition in a situation like mine? I just started supplements like soy protein and creatine seriously, cut most of the fat in my diet and well…I will tell you what happens. Take care.

    Cris on July 7th, 2008
  • 12

    Hi Cris! Keep going with your training, it is really great to hear about people who are out on their own, working hard despite what others think. The key to reducing body fat and getting more definition is diet. If you get your diet right, and keep up the weight training, you will start to get into shape very quickly. It sounds like you are on the right track, so good luck!

    gubernatrix on July 7th, 2008
  • 13

    […] Benchmark your strength and fitness […]


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