How Strong Is The Average Man?

For ages, men have had it hammered into their skulls that physical strength is integral to their identity. History writes that "the strongest men in history hoisted cattle and crushed stones to show their might." Among them were phenoms like Milo of Croton, an ancient Olympic wrestler who racked up 10 wrestling titles and allegedly scarfed down 20 pounds of meat per day. He even played with his food in a powerful way. Historian Michael Poliakoff tells of how Milo apparently "carried a four-year-old bull around the stadium at Olympia before eating it in the course of one day." Perhaps even more impressively, Belgium's Catholic University of Leuven says Milo's grip was supposedly so strong that you no one could pry a pomegranate from his hand, yet "so careful" that he wouldn't crush it.

Nowadays, men wrestle with pickle jars just to get them open. That's not necessarily a bad thing unless you love pickles. After all, masculinity isn't a rigid box of traits, and you don't need freakish pomegranate grip strength. Even so, some men lament their comparative lack of strength. Paleoanthropologist Peter McAllister sums up that sentiment in his 2009 book, Manthropooly: "If you're reading this then you — or the male you have bought it for — are the worst man in history." Even so, you might be curious about how bad the average man is.

Raising the barbell

If we're being honest here, a topic like this begs the question of what constitutes "the average man." Is it a skin-sack full of sentient potatoes mashing a keyboard and waxing philosophical about male strength? Is it some amorphous idea of what the average guy should be? How much does "the average guy" differ across countries? Unfortunately, these questions will be met with a weak answer: there just isn't room, time, or easily accessible data for adequately addressing these issues. To compensate for that weakness, let's consult the appropriately named LiveStrong.

To determine what counts as average, LiveStrong cites figures from the National Center for Health Statistics, which found that between 2015 and 2016, "the average American adult man [weighed] 197.8 pounds." The standard for strength is based on information collected about the maximum amount of weight adults over 18 could lift in accordance with competitive powerlifting and weightlifting guidelines. With those qualifiers in mind, an average man can properly bench press 135 pounds without prior training. That average Joe could deadlift 155 pounds, and generally squat 125 pounds. Given that this is based on gym attendance, a lot of average men probably don't lift squat.