The 5th Percentile

I awoke at O’Dark:30 today for unknown reasons and bleary-eyed, I prepared my morning pre-workout bevvie and scanned Facebook to be sure the world hadn’t ended while I slept. A friend posted an article from Greg Nuckols over at Stronger By Science titled, How to Get Strong, Part 2. Hard to resist such a title, so I popped over to get the secret. As it turns out, it’s a fascinating article attempting to quantify strength in powerlifting by looking at all of the available data and crunching it to give us some useful information. What I found was very distressing, especially before 6:00 AM.

Essentially, everyone who has entered a powerlifting meet and put up a total in my weight class can lift what I can lift. Man that’s a kick in the head. I went to the gym to train half-heartedly questioning the point of it all. I might as well just get on the elliptical machine and then do some rope pressdowns and concentration curls. Nonetheless, I persisted. I deadlift and did close grip bench press, then followed it with miscellaneous light lifting as a kind of GPP. A circuit of cable rows, cable hammer curls, calf jumps and decline situps for 2 or 3 rounds.

After stressing about it for a while, I decided to dig a little deeper. I went into the Open Powerlifting database and sorted it for USAPL Meets, Raw, Masters II lifters in my weight class. I accumulated the data and got myself an average.

Average USAPL

Masters II Lifters 183-lb weight class

  • Squat 331 lbs
  • Bench Press 218 lbs
  • Deadlift 405 lbs

That certainly made me feel better! I’m not particularly proud of being slightly below average, but that certainly is an improvement over my standing in the broader open category, which include young bucks full of piss and vinegar. I’m under no delusions that I’m strong in any objective sense of the word, but among fellow 50-59 year olds, I’m doing quite well. When I first put this site together, it was inspired by the goal of a 900 lb total, which I decided would be good enough to get me back on the platform. Knowing that the average total among my powerlifting peers is 954 is enough to keep the fire stoked and keep me pressing on.

The 1 Rep Max testing I did in February put me at 865-lbs, and honestly, only the Bench Press was a difficult lift, partly because of the rickety rolling bench I used for safety purposes. My 305-squat was not a true maximum, all out effort, but a manageable lift I was confident I could hit. I’m assuming I had a few more lbs in me, perhaps up to 315. The deadlift is where I’d like to focus more attention, because I know I have a lot more in me. I pulled 415 Conventional at 170-lb body weight back in 2013 when I tore my bicep. I’ve been reluctant to attempt anything close to that again, but I’m willing to guess if I had to make a maximum effort, I could pull more than the 365 lbs I pulled in February.

I will continue the relentless pursuit of a total I can be proud of and dammit, I will get on the platform and put my money where my blog posts are. Soon…



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