Thursday, September 24, 2009

How strong is strong?

In India, 3 of us went to gym to benchmark our bench press max.

I lifted 50 kg in this unfamiliar move. I had started to train 3 months earlier twice a week.

Samppa lifted 70 kg. He was sporty in his youth, without specializing in any single sport. Was.

Juha-Matti competed in Finnish championship in weightlifting when he was young, but now at the age of 31 he had been drinking, smoking and eating greasy pizza more than the others combined. He still lifted 85 kg.

Pasi had not trained at any point.

Later Jani joined us. He was the most fit of us. Sports is his lifestyle, and it means gym and skiing in the winter and jogging and cycling in the summer. He didn't bench press, but he would have surpassed all of us - and if not, his total fitness was undeniably the best because he practised regularly. He convinced me that life is a maraton when it comes to staying fit, and good lifestyle choices produce good fitness results. Having "good genes" or identifying as "athlete" as teen is good for you, but your own lifestyle choices trump them at age 30.

So here's my scale for judging strength, based on this very small sample. The scale is for educated office workers - if you get any practise in your work, or lack the middle-class healthy habits, your game is different.

Bench press max:

  • probably below 50kg: You are in the bottom 20%. Train a bit. Begin with some non-scary individual sport like jogging. Listen to your body.

  • Over 50 kg: You are weaker than average. Find a sport which you like, and practise it regularly.

  • Around 70 kg: You are smack in the middle 20%. You know what suits you and how to stay fit. Don't stop like Samppa did.

  • Around 85 kg: You are in good shape, either because you have good lifestyle or good sports history. Congratulations!

  • Over 100 kg: You are strong enough for all practical purposes. Your marginal benefit from more weightlifting is going down sharply. Switch to some other hobby where you learn new things - or good luck for competitions, if that's why you train.

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