Rating strength better, the early years of Strength Level

Strength Level began with a post back in 2007. Back then I was breaking my own lifting records weekly and training over 5 times a week in the gym. I noticed back then I was not always just increasing muscle mass. If I ate a lot I would also put on fat. I wanted a way of detecting this so that you would realise that more strength is not always a good thing if you are becoming less athletic overall.

The first weekend

I came up with the idea during lunch at college and coded the first version that weekend.

I have created a new Internet utility to measure strength levels. It is unfair to judge strength on the magnitude of weight lifted alone, or even as a ratio to bodyweight because people are built in different ways.

This is what the first version looked like:

Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 13.16.12

How did I create the strength levels? The source data was ExRx.net’s strength standards. I copied these standards into an Excel spreadsheet and used a mathematical technique (linear regression) to come up with a formula.

The strength ability calculator processes data on experience against bodyweight and weight lifted and calculates an experience level. These levels generally range from untrained (1) to elite (5). Of course the top professionals and world record holders exceed this range and some people may not reach untrained.

I used the new calculator to find the strongest powerlifters pound-for-pound. Konstantin Konstantinovs received 8.49 for his massive 430 kg deadlift at 125 kg body mass. This beat Andy Bolton’s world record deadlift of 460 kg  at 160 kg bodyweight, rated at 7.97. I felt that the calculator was showing me a number corresponding better to the physique of the lifter than any other rating I had seen.

Detecting imbalances in the body

I tried to refine the description back in 2009. At that point, I was very strong at the deadlift, and intermediate in the bench press. However, my squat was about 60 kg (absolute beginner). I wanted to detect these imbalances in the body so that I could work on my weak points.

… bodyweight affects your health, your strength level should be consistently high across all the main compound exercises. For a normal body type, a strength level of 3 indicates that you are strong and athletic. If the levels vary across the exercises it is a bad indicator: young lifters often overdevelop their chests without thought to their back or legs.

I wanted to provide lifters with advice to work on these imbalances:

My strength ability calculator can be used for more than gauging strength in compound exercises. An athlete with a strength level over intermediate (3) in every compound exercise will have an impressive physique. To have a balanced physique the levels should not vary — there should be no weak points. Put additional effort on ironing out these problem areas.

Using it myself to get stronger

I built the tool because I wanted to use it. My goal was to become advanced in every exercise by improving my technique and losing body fat. This meant I had to get these 1RM with the original standards:

Exercise Target 1RM /kg
Clean and press 77
Bench press 122
Power clean 114
Deadlift 192
Squat 167

I never made it to advanced across the board, but I still believe in the original concepts of balance and overall athleticism. These days, I work on my squat the most and it is no longer a weakness.


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