the joy of strength training


July 17th, 2012 at 10:48 am

10 bodyweight strength goals for women

Girl squattingThere’s something magical about being able to chuck your own bodyweight or its equivalent around in a variety of ways!

It makes you feel strong, able, agile and athletic.

If you can push, pull and otherwise move your body around, you’re self sufficient in movement.

So if you are looking for a goal or you just want to know how you compare to other people, try working your way through this list!

(See below for more on the rationale behind the list.)

Ten bodyweight goals for women

1. Bodyweight deadlift

2. Press up

3. Bodyweight squat

4. Bodyweight floor to overhead

5. Dip

6. Pull up

7. Bodyweight bench press

8. Handstand press up

9. Muscle up

10. Bodyweight strict press

More about this list

Sally doing pull upsMovements that are performed with external weight such as a barbell are noted as ‘bodyweight’, e.g. bodyweight deadlift means a barbell loaded with the equivalent of your bodyweight.

Movements that are performed just with your own body, like a pull up, are just named as usual. These would be performed strictly in their full versions with no momentum, kipping etc.

The list is roughly in order of difficulty. Of course, you can argue variations, such as bodyweight bench press should come before pull up, but it’s a rough guide. Your size, weight distribution, biomechanics, athletic background and training regime will hugely impact on what you achieve in what order.

The great thing about a bodyweight goal is that it is relative to you, not an arbitrary number.  You can more easily compare yourself to someone of a completely different size, introducing a bit of friendly competition.

There’s a caveat to this: bodyweight goals are generally harder for heavier people. The upside is that if you are a heavier person and you achieve a bodyweight goal, you can be extra proud of yourself!

This list is also specific to women. A list for men would have many of the exercises in a different order, due to the different muscle mass distribution of a man.

Is the list achievable?

Well, I’m pretty sure that Samantha Briggs, top UK Crossfitter of Train Manchester can do them all, so yes, they are achievable.

The first five could, in my opinion, be achieved by most women during the first year or two of training, if you had access to a good trainer and a decent training facility.

The second five would take more work and focus. A couple of the movements are quite technical, such as floor to overhead (e.g. the clean and jerk or snatch) and the muscle up, and require specialist coaching.

I suspect that many women would be able to do all of these if they trained them consistently, but it doesn’t always happen in the real world. I don’t know many women who seriously train the strict press, for example. It doesn’t seem to capture the imagination for women in the way that getting a pull up or a muscle up do.

To be fair, although it is good to do some shoulder pressing, there’s some justification for not devoting your life to pressing your bodyweight if you’re a woman, as it’s not as useful for general health and fitness as, say, squats. However, if you fancy a challenge, I reckon far fewer women can press bodyweight than can muscle up. Just sayin’.

So what do you think of the list? Are you inspired to go out and work towards some of these goals? Would you change anything?

More from Gubernatrix

Bodyweight or bust!

Strength standards for women

How to deadlift

How to handstand push up

No more girly push ups!

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  • 1

    I don’t do any weights* but can do press-ups, dips and pull-ups. Am working towards a HSPU, but mostly trying to get a muscle up. It is hard, and don’t know how long it’s going to take, but hopefully will get it this year.

    * Not out of a particular dislike, but don’t know how to do them, am not a member of a gym and don’t have the time and money to learn right now.

    Fi on July 17th, 2012
  • 2

    PS – Ify told me about you and your blog BTW. Like it a lot 🙂

    Fi on July 17th, 2012
  • 3

    Great article.

    Is the strict press the shoulder press technique you showed us at Wonderbar1? I am trying to use that technique at the moment but find it difficult to keep my elbows forward, think I need to work on some mobility. You say it may not be useful for general health and fitness but it makes your shoulders look awesome. Which is good enough reason for me!!

    Hadn’t considered dips, will have to add them and see what I can do.

    Helen on July 17th, 2012
  • 4

    I could quibble with your order of difficulty but your caveat about genes lets you off the hook 🙂

    My genes say I’m a long-distance runner … but I’m in denial, and therefore I’m still working on that bodyweight bench (but getting close, heh) and I’m further still away from bodyweight strict press. But by god, me and my microplates will keep trying until we get it. Yes, I’m one of the sad ones – my life *is* devoted to it.

    Rach on July 17th, 2012
  • 5

    Funnily enough that’s my goals too, to be able to lift/press my own body weight.

    Richard on July 17th, 2012
  • 6

    Cheers Fi, you sound strong, I’m sure you’ll get that HSPU soon!

    gubernatrix on July 17th, 2012
  • 7

    Hi Helen,
    I didn’t mean the shoulder press in general wasn’t useful for health and fitness – it is and every woman should shoulder press. However, a bodyweight shoulder press is not as useful IMO as a bodyweight squat or deadlift.

    Yes, the press is what we did at Wonderbar.

    gubernatrix on July 17th, 2012
  • 8

    Rach – awesome! Keep it up!

    gubernatrix on July 17th, 2012
  • 9

    Sorry I was just being a little silly re:reason for shoulder press 🙂

    Thanks for the clarification of technique.

    Am printing this list and putting it on my fridge, important to have goals and all that!

    Helen on July 18th, 2012
  • 10

    All this sounds good to me, but for my education, I would ask: is there a drug-free woman who has managed a strict press of her bodyweight overhead?

    It’s not a lift in competition except strongman competitions (and there is usually a push press or jerk), and is not terribly popular in gyms (even less than proper squats) so the web doesn’t show us much in the way of presses, strong or weak or in between.

    Kyle on July 19th, 2012
  • 11

    The woman I mentioned in the post.

    gubernatrix on July 19th, 2012
  • 12

    Samantha Briggs has an old crossfit athlete profile which mentions her having a bodyweight of 62kg. She has a current training site [] where she mentions that in March this year she did,

    Shoulder press 1-1-1-1-1
    45, 48.5, 51, 53.5 & failed 56kg

    Commonly crossfitters will do a push press rather than a strict press, but we’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.

    In January this year she did a 135lb (ie her bodyweight) clean and jerk for 12 reps. And she’s snatched similar amounts. So she can definitely get her bodyweight overhead, but can’t do a strict press with it.

    I don’t know what she’s done in the past, but she cannot currently do a strict press of her bodyweight or more.

    Crossfit competitions are generally not drug-tested, so it’s not always clear whether the lifts the people are achieving are achieved drug-free. I mention this simply because you’ve offered standards here, and most women trying to achieve these standards will be drug-free. So I’d restrict examples to athletes who are at least tested occasionally.

    Thus it’s still fair for me to say that I don’t know of any drug-free female who has achieved a strict press with her bodyweight.

    I’d love examples because it’s the sort of thing which really inspires women in the gym, and helps push them to greater efforts.

    Failing that, nine goals would work as well as ten, there’s nothing magical about the number ten.

    Kyle on July 20th, 2012
  • 13

    I like this list, it’s so good for people (not just women) to have benchmarks to measure their fitness, and in weightlifting it’s so important for women to have something to work towards. We generally have *no* benchmarks outside of professional lifters (which is the same as no benchmark at all, really).

    Here is me, now:
    1. Bodyweight deadlift – currently 5kg off double bodyweight, which I’m hoping to hit tomorrow.
    2. Press up – did 41 military push-ups in my last fitness test.
    3. Bodyweight squat – did 80kg 3×3 last night. I weigh 57.5kg, for reference.
    4. Bodyweight floor to overhead – never tried! Will def give this one a go, I don’t do cleans or snatches very often.
    5. Dip – can do 3-4 hanging dips, never tried a PR run.
    6. Pull up – PR is 10.
    7. Bodyweight bench press – Hoping to get this in the next week.
    8. Handstand press up – trying, but not quite yet.
    9. Muscle up – been doing the drills, but haven’t tried the movement itself yet.
    10. Bodyweight strict press – my strict press PR is 40kg, with 45kg as my push-press PR. This is a definite challenge, which I have accepted!

    As an aside, given that April Shumaker can bench twice her bodyweight, it would strike me as unlikely that bodyweight strict press would be out of reach for any drug-free woman willing to put the time and effort in to training that lift. Training is always the key, so the lack of a role model speaks not to female ability to put weight overhead, to me, but the point Kyle made about it not being a competition lift (and therefore not one that people, let alone women, generally train). As stated above, challenge accepted – if I get it, I’ll be sure to send you the officially sanctioned measure Kyle and I can be your inspirational role model 😉 lol!

    The best thing about these goals is when you hit them, you can just chuck the numbers up and keep going! There is no reason not to dream big 😉

    cledbo on July 21st, 2012
  • 14

    cledbo, that is the right attitude. Now you just need a blog so we can see how you do things.

    Having examples of not just what was done, but how it was done, is very important. Just yesterday I gave a routine to a woman in the gym, she’s a gymnastics coach, she can still do a single pullup and will no doubt get more in time. She said, “I’m so unfit,” and I had to correct her. I asked how she got her young athletes to their first pullups, she told me and it was much the same as what we do in the gym.

    It’s always good to have people to learn from, both as coaches like gubernatrix here, and as examples.

    Kyle on July 22nd, 2012
  • 15

    I checked with Sam, her best strict press is 58kg.

    Not sure what her bodyweight was exactly; last time I saw her it was 60kg, but like my own weight I’m sure it fluctuates by a couple of kilos either way depending on circumstances.

    gubernatrix on July 25th, 2012
  • 16

    Hey, just wondered what these exercises are based on in regards to reps/sets. Or is this a one-rep max?

    Lexi on August 28th, 2012
  • 17

    Yes, one rep max.

    gubernatrix on August 28th, 2012
  • 18

    Thanks for this list, Gubernatrix.

    How do you find teaching the dips in terms of stresses going through the shoulder? I have tended towards teaching close-grip push ups for that reason.

    Jason on March 3rd, 2014
  • 19

    Hi Jason,

    I don’t find teaching the dip an issue unless someone has existing shoulder problems. I think it’s a good strengthener. I myself struggle a bit with dips due to having shoulder issues but when I work on them, the shoulder issues improve. So long as they are progressed appropriately – using bands, floor etc – they can help.

    gubernatrix on March 5th, 2014
  • 20

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