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  • Writer's pictureJoshua McDool

TWO Exercises To Use As 'Health Indicators'

The 'Big Three'; Back squat, bench press and deadlift have been used as metrics for absolute strength for a long time.

Arnie did them in the 70's, as did the majority of bodybuilders through to the 2000's, and then powerlifting became more popular with the rise of social media from 2011 onwards.

Absolute strength is the maximum amount you can lift, typically for one rep.

For the general population, I don't believe these are good indicators for strength for two main reasons:

  1. The heavier you go on these lifts, the risk of injury multiplies dramatically. Especially when technique hasn't been drilled for hundreds/thousands of reps.

  2. Bigger individuals with higher body fat percentage will often use this as an excuse to neglect higher volume training or conditioning/cardio based training.

I'm not saying you should not train to improve these lifts or your absolute strength at all, but rather consider improving your fitness and allowing more longevity with your training.

Train for relative strength - the amount you can lift or perform at for your body composition.

Here are two exercises you can use as an indicator for your health, training longevity and relative strength...


If you cannot do one full push-up to depth (chest just above the ground), you most likely need to get leaner and/or practice them more.

Obviously there are exceptions and some people will have disadvantages compared to others, but assuming you're healthy, already exercising or have been for some time, the above is generally true.

Males should be aim to perform at least 10 reps to depth.

Females should be aim for at least 5 reps to depth.


Grab a weight that is equivalent to 50% of your bodyweight and see how many reps you can do.

Again, the leaner you are, the better you are likely to perform.

This is different to a standard barbell squat as you have to hold the weight at your chest as opposed to resting it on your shoulders/back, which is a hell of a lot tougher.

Because lower body muscle distribution is fairly similar in both sexes, the standard to aim for on this exercise is at least 10 reps.

Give these tests a go, note down your result, incorporate variations of each into your training and monitor your nutrition.

Take the test again in 1-2 months and aim to beat it!

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