Let's say you're the average American guy -- around 5 feet 9 inches and 196 pounds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Are you likely to be able to walk up to a barbell and hoist nearly 860 pounds, like the record-holding American in your weight class, Ed Coan? Not without many years of assiduous training, of course. The figure you are likely to be able to lift has been carefully calculated by experienced powerlifters Mark Rippetoe and Lon Kilgore, both also published fitness authors.
Under Age 40
If you are between the ages of 18 and 40, and weigh around 198 pounds, you should be able to deadlift around 155 pounds even without training, Rippetoe and Kilgore calculate. This means you could, in theory, at least stand above an Olympic barbell weighing 45 pounds, with 110 pounds of weight plates split evenly and clamped to its ends, and raise the barbell up to your groin level, before lowering it with full control to the floor. With about two years of training, you should be able to deadlift 335 pounds at the intermediate level and hit 460 pounds as an advanced lifter with additional years of training. An elite lifter -- one who competes in strength sports -- can expect to deadlift 565 pounds.
If You Weigh More or Less Than 200
Deadlift averages vary according to your weight, with smaller, lighter guys able to lift a higher proportion of their body weight. If you're a skinny guy aged 18 to 40 and weigh just 114 pounds, you can probably deadlift 95 pounds without training. If you're much bigger at 242 pounds, you likely can start at around 170 pounds. With plenty of training, the skinny guy can deadlift more than three times his body weight, at 385 pounds, while the hefty fellow can achieve 595 pounds, about 2.5 times his body weight.
Rippetoe and Kilgore provide adjustments for what they call вЂњthe inevitability of aging.вЂќ The average man over 40 who weighs 198 pounds can lift 135 pounds as an untrained lifter and 485 pounds in the elite category. If he is in his 50s, he can start with 120 pounds and work up to 430 pounds, and if in his 60s, start with 90 pounds and work up to 325 pounds to attain elite status. Even if you are an older gent wishing you could start with 150 pounds like the younger guys, the deadlift still offers profound benefits -- strength will make you less likely to die from any cause, Kilgore notes, citing a 2008 study in the "British Medical Journal."
About the Averages
The deadlift averages are, like other performance standards, a вЂњcrude estimateвЂќ of what you should be able to do, Kilgore notes. They represent what lifters call the вЂњ1RM PB,вЂќ which stands for a single maximal repetition -- that is, the most you can lift one time -- with PB referring to вЂњpersonal best.вЂќ He also notes that elite averages do not represent the highest level attainable, as is seen by the fact 595 pounds qualifies a 198-pound male as an вЂњelite lifter,вЂќ while Coan's world record stands at nearly 860 pounds.