This is the beginning of something great!
Earlier this spring we built the Shrugged Strength Test. The Barbell Shrugged coaches and I spent some time to designing a strength test that we could use to gather some data from our listeners and see how strong people are! Folks love taking a test, so we liked the idea of being able to create something fun, and challenging.
We’re proud of taking the first steps into a project that we hope will ultimately help a tremendous amount of people stay healthier and reach their goals quicker. We also hope we’ll be able to give coaches, not perfect, but a more accurate idea of individual clients strengths and weaknesses.
We’re so happy with the outcome, having learned a ton from this initial experiment. We’re very excited to get more people involved so we can improve the accuracy & effectiveness of our test as we build a bigger database.
However, we could never have gotten started without your contribution, accuracy, hard work, and honesty in reporting! After reviewing these preliminary findings of our pilot study that we just had to share them with you. Be aware this data is preliminary and some numbers might change as we continue to collect more data.
In this article, we’ll go over some of the data we collected and share some of our observations, theories, and thoughts on what these numbers mean to us.
A few things we had to consider in designing the test:
1. Time – We aimed to have a good testing environment. Since there are 13 movements, we tried to make sure it wasn’t crammed into a single day. By splitting into three days and alternating between upper body and lower body (for the most part), there should be enough rest to fully recovery for each movement to get the best result possible. After running some clients through the test before the launch, the 3-day format seemed to worked well. Plus, we wanted to leave time for some extra training (most importantly, making sure that this training would not interfere with the next days testing results) as we understand people are following programs and didn’t want to completely derail for 3 days.
2. Equipment – A lot of our audience trains in garage gyms and globo-facilities. So we did our best to keep the equipment selection rather simple. Barbells, squat rack, plyo-box, and pull-up bar. The biggest issues in terms of equipment was the farmer carry and the single arm press. In this case we understand every gym does not have T-handles and a wide selection of dumbbells. So we had to take a chance on that and some of the data was removed based on a lack of equipment. (for example, several people did not have the dumbbell weight that would equal 40% of their 1RM standing press, so they went lighter).
3. Simplicity/Efficacy – Our message and purpose for each movement needed to be very clear and easy to setup. If you watched the standards video, all the movements were simple to setup and follow. We tried to leave as little room as possible for error.
If you haven’t see them yet, here are the tests:
- Shrimp Squat – 1 rep for each leg
- Overhead Squat – 1 rep max
- Front Squat – 1 rep max
- Front Rack Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat – 5 rep max
- Strict Handstand Push-Ups – 1 attempt max unbroken reps
- Standing Barbell Strict Press – 1 rep max
- Weighted Strict Pull-Up – 1 rep max
- Single Arm Seated Dumbbell Strict Press – Rep max at 40% of Strict Press Per Arm
- Strict Pull-Ups – 1 attempt max unbroken reps
- Weighted Strict Ring Dip – 1 rep max
- Strict Ring Dips – 1 attempt max unbroken reps
- Overhand Grip Deadlift (no hook grip) – 1 rep max
- Farmer Carry – Max Distance with 50% of deadlift 1 rep max in each hand
- Bench Press – 1 rep max
- Inverted Strict Bar Row – 1 attempt max unbroken reps
- Bar Push-Ups – 1 attempt max unbroken reps
*For full standards and video demos, check out www.shruggedstrengthtest.com
Now, let’s dig into the data!
I’d like to keep this piece mostly about what we learned from the test. If you’d like to know more about why we chose each exercise and how to improve it, be sure to listen to Episode 209. We talked for over an hour about how to train and improve each of these movements.
My head was spinning when it came time to analyze some of the numbers we collected. There was a lot to choose from and I didn’t know what exactly I wanted to pull from it. We have weight classes and years trained, so it would great to separate from “beginners”, “intermediate”, and “advanced.” But, just because someone has trained for 5+ years doesn’t mean they are necessarily advanced. They could have been really inconsistent in their training, or not following the best program suited for them.
My hopes, after you finish this, is to provide some insight into where you can get started setting your own definition of strength and have a clear idea of what you want to improve!
To give those who took the test a good idea of where they stack up relative to the audience, we compiled the averages and created a male and female avatar.
Let’s call them “Brian” & “Brooke.”
Here’s the data (click image to enlarge):
Here are some observations and things we found awesome:
90% of the Men could do a shrimp squat! Congrats!
For Males, the front squat is 77% of Overhand Grip Deadlift.
For Ladies, the front squat is 75% of the Overhand Grip Deadlift. Almost got em!
For Men, the bench press was 125% of their body. Ladies were 75%. But no worries! That’s pretty normal
Ladies, get stronger. Guys, get more mobile.
Female shoulder press to bench press was ratio was 75% and Males were 65%. Nice work ladies, you got them here! We think this ratio is slightly lower for men because, generally, Men have much more trouble with overhead mobility which in part could be from tightness in the pecs from having spent much a lot time bench pressing.
For Females, strict ring dips score was 3 reps. Which is really good! Typically, when teaching more complex gymnastics movements, a few strict rings dips and strict pull-ups is what we look for. It shows you have enough strength and stability to control yourself on the rings. But since the max reps are lower, it makes it tough to train the movement. Doing isometric holds, and even more bench press will allow you to train a little more volume so you can get stronger in the upper body.
For both Men & Women, the inverted bar row scores (17 for men & 7 for women) were much higher than we expected. Based on what we witnessed with in person testing, for men the issue was shoulder extension + some upper back horizontal pulling strength, & for women, mainly upper back horizontal pulling strength.
Do more rows!
Initially we said we would like the bar rows & bar push-ups to eventually be equal. Right now the relationship is about 50% bar rows to push-ups. We think moving that ratio up to 75%, by aiming for more bar rows, would be a good goal. It would help bring more carry over to strength in other upper body exercises and shoulder health.
To improve your horizontal pulling strength, try some exercises like single arm dumbbell rows, bent over barbell rows, or even more inverted bar rows with an adjust angle. Start with 3 sets of 10-12 reps; with 1-2 minutes rest between sets, 1-2 times a week. Increase the load by a few pounds or add a few more reps each session. Then retest after a few weeks!
While horizontal pulling may not be in high demand for a lot of sports, we do think it is very important for health and longevity of your joints and being able to build a higher pulling capacity in any plane. Rows are fun! Do more rows!
Next, we went through and pulled the top scores for each movement. A few of them were excluded (the farmer carry, based on some data entry errors) and the single arm exercises as the comparison for those is to be balanced on both sides (Meaning, we weren’t necessarily looking for the load, but what the relationship was between left and right side).
Also, for accuracy, we followed up with all the top male & female scores to verify things were performed correctly. A few of the numbers had to be pulled based on either incorrect testing or data entry.
Check them out!
“Brian’s” Scores vs. Top Males Scores (click images to enlarge):
“Brooke’s” Scores vs. Top Females Scores (click images to enlarge):
The females highest score on HSPU was 22. Holy crap that’s impressive! But with the average being 1.6 reps, and after reviewing the data there were a lot who could not complete a rep. No problem, though. We discussed earlier how to work on it. More strict pressing and bench pressing is a good start!
Something else we found interesting…
We noticed a pattern in body weight for males & females throughout training years. Athletes 0-1 years trained and 5+ years trained, tend to have a higher bodyweight than those 1-4 years trained, on average.
My guess is that as a beginner, weight loss is likely at it’s highest after a year or so of training, then over the years, you accumulate muscle mass, begin to reach plateaus, or reach burnout in your training program and gain the weight back. Which could account for the heavier bodyweight for the more trained athletes. This is a pretty general assumption, and it’s completely theoretical based on the limited data we have, but it certainly makes sense and tends to trend in line with what I’ve witnessed as a coach and trainer.
My solution to this would be to seek out a program or a coach that understands where you are in the progress curve, understands periodization, and can prescribe the correct type and amount of training stresses so you can break through these plateaus.
Let’s wrap it up.
We did our best to pay attention to the years trained, because if we truly want to figure out what percentages are optimal in terms of strength balance, we need to know who that is relative too and to what “sport” it is relative to. If we created a list of %’s and said your front squat needs to be X, who is that relative to? The general pop? Rich Froning? Or Dmitry Klokov?
So, thank you again for helping us get started!
If you’re just getting started on your fitness journey, and looking to “feel” strong and balanced, comparing to “Brian” or “Brooke” is a great place to begin.
Try to beat their scores!
If you’re someone who discovered that you’d like to improve in a few of these strength categories, but not let your conditioning fall too far off, you gotta check out the Shrugged Strength Challenge that we created for this exact reason. There is no longer any excuse to “let your fitness go” if you’re trying to get stronger. There are smart and efficient ways to train both. We designed this program to do just that!
Thanks for reading!
Very cool look at the data. I’d love to see histograms and a little more statistical analysis as well. If you make the raw data available (anonymized, of course) I could take a stab at some visualizations, and I’m sure others would as well.
Thanks, Jonathan. We’ll keep you posted on the next steps. I’d like to rerun the numbers in a few months, collect, then hopefully have a cool system make the data public and sort through different fields as you wish.
Would you recommend the Strength Challenge to someone who is currently struggling to meet, or even come close in some movements, “Brooke’s” averages. I am not new to the movements but have definitely run the course of ups and downs the past few years in my fitness level. I am at a point now where I want to re-focus and get over this “hump” but afraid I might be to far behind in strength to handle the volume.
I think the SSC would definitely be something for you. This will be a program that can get you stronger. We have scaling and adjustments written out in there for you if you can’t do certain lifts or movements. You won’t just be thrown into the program with no guidance on how to adjust things.
Hope that helps
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Awesome idea to give your readers a look into how they can improve their overall strength levels! I think the lack of pull strength to push strength is very common. I’ve seen it in the majority of my clients.
I have a home gym (crossfit) with no globo gym machines. Would free weights and typical crossfit apparatus (general I know) be sufficient enough to get me through the challenge?