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Realistic Strength Goals for your 1st year in the gym

Just like any other goal in your life, they probably will be different for others. However, this article will attempt to layout “realistic” strength goals that are attainable after your 1-year journey in the gym. This assumes you are a typical male (average genetics). For my Singaporean audience, this would mean you would be around 170-175cm in height and 60-70kg in weight. This also assumes that you focus on training for strength. This means, week after week, you come into the gym and aim for a higher weight number on the barbell. To make things simple and more generic, we will only look at the 3 big lifts, bench press, squat and deadlift.

I’m just gonna lay it out here first.

TypeBefore (1RM)After 1 year of SERIOUS training (1RM)
Bodyweight6065
Bench4095
Squat50120
Deadlift60140

Now let me explain how I got those numbers. They are mainly based on personal experience as well as talking to other peers who have achieved those numbers as well.

Firstly, to the untrained eye, these numbers seem very huge. Like how can a 5kg increase in your body weight lead to more than a double in your total weight of lifts? The answer is newbie gains. When you are new, you will take time to form neural connections to set up for the lift. Then you will put on strength very easily. At the start, this is because you become more efficient at the lift because your mind is able to recruit more muscle fibres for the lift. After a while, the 5kg increase in body weight will add to your overall strength.

Secondly, to the trained eye, this one year progress is kind of trash. The numbers are nothing outstanding. Going onto Reddit or bodybuilding.com, you can see significantly better progress. But remember, these are REALISTIC strength goals for the average bloke on the street. You may have gotten better progress and that’s good for you. 🙂

Bench

Firstly, the starting weight really depends on your existing strength. Assuming you are just an average person, your starting weight will probably be 40kg, which is a barbell and 10kg plates on each side.

From that point, just focus on improving your form. Use a linear progression program like Stronglifts 5×5. Add weight to the barbell every week without sacrificing your form. After you hit about your bodyweight in bench, you will begin to stall a little bit.

You will feel a bit of a plateau. For bench press, unlike the other 2 lifts, it is more correlated to your body weight. Therefore, if you have reached that point, you probably need to start eating a little more. Just a 200 calorie surplus. That is like one Fillet-O-Fish. I’m not asking you to binge on some ice cream or eat so clean that you might puke. Eat something you are comfortable with and have easy access to.

After that, you will begin to continue seeing some bench gains.

Squat

For me, squat is my strongest lift. I really focused on the form really early on. I nailed the form at 40kg and my squat just kept on increasing every workout session. This stopped until around the 90kg mark. I had to slow down the progressive overload a little.

All I changed was to add weight every week instead of every session. As I said, squat is my strongest lift. After 1 year, I reached a higher number than 120kg, but I think everyone will have different strengths and weaknesses. So, 120kg is the most common number I see after 1 year of serious training.

Deadlift

Your deadlifts are so important. Do not neglect them. They build everything, especially your posterior chain.

The Importance of the Posterior Chain | Repke Fitness

But deadlifts are very tricky. I would say they are as dangerous as doing a bench press (lots of people get shoulder issues with bench pressing). When deadlifting with improper form and heavyweight, you could just herniate your disc. It is no joke. If serious, you can even become a vegetable.

So, leave your ego out of the door. Start with the bar. Nail the form down. Really go in-depth. Film yourself. Critique yourself. Ask others to critique your form. Correct your form.

Don’t be worried. Once you have done that, slap one plate onto the bar and do it again. Repeat the process.

Improving your deadlift is really not hard. 140kg should be easily attainable with proper form.

Bodyweight

The reason why I think you will need to bulk a little is that I had to. I was a skinny boy. I underwent body recomposition, where my body simultaneously gained muscle while losing fat. Most people will experience it as a beginner. However, unless you really optimise everything, your training, diet and sleep, it is almost impossible to keep it up after 7-9months (as per my experience).

Once you hit the plateau, probably on the bench press first, begin to go into a calorie surplus. No need to worry about your “skinny boy abs”, they are not real abs. Accept gaining a little fat on your midsection. It is all part and parcel of natural bodybuilding, to obtain realistic strength goals.

If you got any questions, leave it in the comments, I will be glad to answer them.

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