No other lift evokes so much excitement as He-man-esque lifters go to war to lock out their barbell and his ~16 plate friends.
…but you already know about that; talking about how “exciting” deadlifts are isn’t why you came here today.
You want to know what the “deadlift standards” are.
Most likely, you want to know how you stack up to these deadlift standards.
Fair enough and lucky for you, we have all of the stats to back up what these standards are by gender, weight, age, and deadlift variation.
Down the rabbit hole we go!
Table of Contents
“How Much Should I be able to Deadlift?”
As we discussed in our article on squat standards and the amount that each lifter should be able to squat, there are a lot of different factors that contribute to one’s ability to put up big numbers of the platform.
As per usual, we’ll start with the powerlifting standards from the man who has done more for powerlifting and general strength development over the last few decades than anyone else.
Although Mr. Rippetoe may not have as much confidence in his strength numbers as millions of other people do (Dunning-Kruger effect in action?), for years, they have been the gold standard.
For the barbell deadlift, these numbers look like this:
There are obviously some gaps present here and, in order for these charts to be useful, you’ll have to put your 2nd grade rounding abilities to work (just round up, it’s easier).
…but what exactly is a “Cat” in this context? Is Garfield showing up to the gym for the first time in his life?
Each “Cat” refers to a different strength “category” with higher numbers representing more advanced strength levels. They are divided as follows:
Cat I = Beginner (0-6 months of weight training experience)
Cat II = Novice (6-12 months of weight training experience)
Cat III = Intermediate (12-24 months of weight training experience)
Cat IV = Advanced (24-48 months of weight training experience)
Cat V = Elite (more than 48 months of weight training experience)
So now you know what “cat” you’re in, but even this might create more questions than it answers. What if, for instance, you’re like me and have significantly more than 4 years of “weight training experience” yet still find yourself in the “advanced” or, shudder, “intermediate” categories in the deadlift?
Have no fear…all will be revealed in due time!
One of the most obvious factors influencing how one stacks up against “established” deadlift standards is their method of training. If you’ve got yourself a powerlifting coach, are committed to a powerlifting-style of training, and faithfully train your deadlift (and accessory work) as needed, Rippetoe’s deadlift standards should be right in your wheelhouse.
To that, even among powerlifting enthusiasts and competitors, “standards” vary a bit. Take a look at the different deadlift numbers put up in these three recent meets.
We’re focusing on the 67.5-69kg female weight class. I know that this is a slight weight difference, but you get the point. First up are the results from the United States Powerlifting Association (USPA) 2023 Georgia State Meet, Smyrna, Georgia meet.
Congratulations, Amber! You’re the state champion! Your 137.5kg deadlift is nothing to sneeze at!
As you can see, while Olivia won her 69kg weight class, her top deadlift (130kg) was actually the lowest of anybody else in the competition. The 52kg champion, Hungary’s Acs Fruzsina actually lifted 5kg more than Ms. Lapsanska did.
Whoa…that escalated quickly! Ms. Marusa and Ms. Ida tied, each successfully pulling 170kgs. Even the 6th place finisher in the 69kg class pulled 2.5kgs more than the champions from the other two competitions.
So what does this all really mean? Even if your training is geared towards competitive powerlifting, the deadlift standards can greatly vary based on the types of meets you participate in!
If you do CrossFit where you have a dedicated day of “building to a heavy set of x” on deadlift every couple of weeks with a deadlift WOD like Diane thrown in every once in a while, your deadlift will certainly get better. However, you’re not likely to ever reach an “elite” level with this style of training.
Finally, if you still refuse to embrace the sound that heavy plates make as they crash against the floor of your garage and prefer the zen aura of your local Planet Fitness you…probably don’t deadlift at all
In this case, stop reading this article and instead read about all of the muscles you’re currently not working as a result of your lack of deadlifting.
Then feel ashamed
(Note: if you go to one of the gyms where they actually have one of these alarms, don’t be deterred! One day, a few little abuelas rang it to report ME at some globo gym in Merida Mexico. In the aftermath, some young-ish kid asked me about deadlifting..in my heart of hearts, he is now a contender for the Mexican powerlifting crown!)
In our previous article on squat standards, we introduced the expert of master’s-level (35+ or 40+ years-old, depending on the sport) strength, endurance, power, and speed standards.
We won’t go into his full array of calculations for determining the…drop-off in physical performance as we age (you can check these out in great detail in his excellent article on the topic). What I will do for you is post his age-group deadlift standards so you can get a good deal of what the average deadlift by age looks like for different categories of lifters.
Let’s start with the men:
And now for the women:
Now that you know the “truth’ about how age affects deadlift standards, don’t discount the accomplishment of the 55-year-old guy at the gym who regularly reps out sets of 5 with 315!
With so many deadlift variations, it can be difficult to develop universal deadlift standards to cover all lifts. I mean, just check out the sheer number of variations you can find information for on strengthlevel.com:
To be honest, I haven’t even heard of half of these!
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the deadlift standards for the variations that you are most likely to perform and/or see someone (attempt to) perform.
We went into a deep dive with the sumo deadlift in one of our previous articles…tldr…if you have short arms and a long torso, you should really consider “going sumo”.
For many powerlifters, particularly those in lighter weight classes, this is the preferred method of deadlifting. As you can see, the deadlift standards for sumo deadlifts are slightly higher than they are for “conventional” deadlifts.
The caveat? Well…there are actually a few…
First, you pretty much can never get away with sumo deadlifting in a “formal” CrossFit workout. In most cases, you see some kind of strict rule like this stated in the standards:
Second, if you don’t have the “correct” body type for performing sumo deadlifts, you’ll probably not derive the same PR boosts as someone with the “right” body type will.
My abnormally long arms and short-ish torso pretty much put the sumo deadlift off limits for me!
(NOTE: the following number are assuming you’re in the 18-39 year-old age range and are around the average weight for Regionals “CrossFit training” men and women (200 and 140 pounds, respectfully). We also include stats for those slightly smaller (170 and 120 pounds, respectfully) and bigger (230 and 160 pounds, respectfully) for each lift.)
Hex Bar Deadlift
Hex bars seem to have exploded in popularity over the last few years and it’s no secret that the U.S. Army spent a lot of money purchasing thousands of them for the updated Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT).
Ironically, I remember maxing out on “deadlift” in high school using one of these. Seeing the strength standards for these (in relation to conventional deadlift standards)…I guess I wasn’t as strong as I thought!
We have also discussed hex bars quite a bit on the site and, truth be told, for many people, they can be an excellent alternative to standard barbell deadlifting.
On to the Romanian Deadlift (RDL), the best thing to come out of Romania since 1920!
Truth be told, the RDL isn’t so much a deadlift variation as much as it is almost a completely different exercise. I mean, you’re still lifting the barbell up and down, although the barbell should not come in contact with the ground throughout the set.
Also, the descent should be facilitated by forcing the hips back, keeping the legs mostly straight.
The RDL is more of a hamstring and glute-development exercise than the conventional deadlift is and, in most cases, will not replace any of the other deadlift variations on this list as the deadlift of choice for any lifter.
Dumbbell deadlifts are programmed into CrossFit metcons from time to time, but they are more of a niche movement to add a degree of variety to workouts. Nobody is going to be able to lift as much weight with a couple of dumbbells as they can with a single bar so for max strength development, stick to deadlifts involving some type of barbell.
Dumbbell deadlifts can be useful for those with limited mobility (or other types of physical limitations).
However, this population is not likely to come anywhere close to the “elite” levels of dumbbell deadlift standards that we see here.
Factors that Influence Deadlift Numbers
As you might imagine, there are a few different key factors that can influence which deadlift variation might be “best” for you and the deadlift standards associated with it.
Don’t get lazy, though!
Just because you can sumo or hex bar deadlift more weight than you can when performing conventional deadlifts doesn’t mean you should cease the O.G. movement altogether!
Limb and Torso Length
As previously discussed, the sumo deadlift is generally a position more anatomically favorable for lifters with short arms and long torso. By shortening the range of motion, sumo deadlifters with these physical attributes can load up the weight, move the bar a significantly shorter distance, and reach lockout in a way that their gorilla-armed counterparts can only dream of!
In the Army?
Are you like Pauly Shore and are “in the Army now”?
If so, you probably come across hex bar deadlifting in a manner that is really disproportionate in relation to the general gym-going population. However, when the test dictates a hex bar deadlift…you do hex bar deadlifts.
That being said, you can certainly perform well with a hex bar even if you rarely use one in training. I can assure you that Ben Smith and McKenzie Flinchum rarely hex bar deadlift and…just skip to the 0:20 second mark in the video to see how easy they make their 100-point attempts look.
Unfortunately, the relationship doesn’t quite work as well going in the opposite direction (hex bar deadlifting to conventional deadlifting). If you’ve built up your hex bar deadlifting abilities, prepare to take a small step back as you readjust to the more technically difficult conventional deadlift execution.
Been Neglecting your Hamstring and Glute Work…?
If you’ve been neglecting your hamstring and glute development work, RDLs can be pretty tough.
If you’re used to using the stretch reflex to bust out big sets of touch-and-go deadlifts, RDLs can be really tough.
If you don’t have the best grip strength or access to lifting straps and notice that you have a few sets of 10-12 heavy RDLs programmed…well…good luck.
…Now Go Pick up a Heavy Barbell
You might be walking away from this article thinking that deadlift standards can be a little…confusing. With so many variations and even implements used to perform deadlifts, can one really standardize the “standards”?
It’s a good question, I’ll give you that.
Instead of spending an excessive amount of time going into painstaking detail asking yourself “how much should I be able to deadlift?” simply load up a barbell with some heavy plates…and deadlift.
Your body will thank you and, besides that, it’s good for your soul!
Now that you’re an expert on deadlift strength standards, you’re probably started to get interested in competitive powerlifting. Check out our article on squat standards as well as the answer to the age-old question of “how many people can bench press 225” as you prepare your big three lifts for your next (first?) meet!