What percentage of the population lift weights?
Trends in Strength Training — United States, 1998—2004
Strength training is physical activity intended to increase muscle strength and mass. Adults who engage in strength training are less likely to experience loss of muscle mass ( 1 ), functional decline ( 2 ), and fall-related injuries than adults who do not strength train ( 3 ). Studies on strength-training interventions have indicated that inactive older adults who begin regular strength training achieve substantial strength gains within a few months ( 4 ). Because certain health benefits are linked to strength training, a national health objective for 2010 is to increase to 30% the proportion of adults who perform physical activities that enhance and maintain muscular strength and endurance on > 2 days per week (objective 22-4) ( 5 ). This objective is also recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine ( 6) . CDC analyzed 1998—2004 data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) ( 7 ) to determine the annual prevalence of strength training among U.S. adults by age group and race/ethnicity. This report describes the results of that analysis, which demonstrated that although the national prevalence of strength training for U.S. adults increased slightly during 1998—2004, only 21.9% of men and 17.5% of women (age adjusted) in 2004 reported strength training two or more times per week. This is substantially lower than the national 2010 objective of 30% and underscores the need for additional programs to increase strength training among adults. NHIS consists of face-to-face interviews regarding health status, use of health-care services, and health behaviors of the U.S. civilian, noninstitutionalized population. Data on strength training were collected every year during 1998—2004. The sample size ranged from 30,801 (1999) to 33,326 (2001), and the response rate ranged from 69.6% (1999) to 74.3% (2002) ( 7 ). Respondents were asked to report the frequency with which they engaged in strength training by answering the following question: «How often do you do physical activities designed to strengthen your muscles, such as lifting weights or doing calisthenics?» The same question was asked each year and was available in Spanish for Spanish-speaking respondents beginning in 1999. Respondents were categorized as meeting the national strength training objective if they engaged in strength training two or more times per week ( 5 ). Prevalence estimates by age and sex were weighted to account for nonresponse and were age adjusted to the 2000 U.S. standard population ( 8 ). Statistical software was used to account for the complex sampling design of the survey. Pairwise comparisons were performed to calculate t statistics, and differences were considered significant at p<0.05. When multiple comparisons were made, the Bonferroni adjustment was used (p<0.05 / number of comparisons). Only significant differences are reported in the results. The age-adjusted prevalence of reported strength training two or more times per week among all respondents increased significantly, from 17.7% in 1998 to 19.6% in 2004. The difference between 1998 and 2004 was significant for women but not for men (Figure). In 2004, the age-adjusted prevalence of those who met recommended levels of strength training was significantly higher among men than women (21.9% versus 17.5%, respectively). In 2004, strength training was least prevalent among those aged > 65 years (14.1% among men; 10.7% among women). Prevalence of strength training among men and women decreased significantly as age increased (p<0.001) (Table). However, men aged > 65 years had a significant increase in prevalence during 1998—2004, and women aged 25—34, 45—64, and > 65 years had significant increases during the same period. During 1998—2004, the prevalence of strength training increased significantly among non-Hispanic white men and women. In 2004, the prevalence of strength training among men was similar for non-Hispanic whites (23.1%), non-Hispanic blacks (22.9%), and those classified as «other» (21.3%). Strength training was least prevalent among Hispanic men (15.0%). In 2004, strength training among women was significantly higher among non-Hispanic whites (20.4%) than among non-Hispanic blacks (11.3%), Hispanics (9.1%), and those classified as «other» (12.9%). Reported by: J Kruger, PhD, S Carlson, MPH, H Kohl III, PhD, Div of Nutrition and Physical Activity, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, CDC.0.05.>
The findings in this report demonstrate that the national prevalence of strength training for U.S. adults increased slightly during 1998—2004. Nonetheless, only 21.9% of men and 17.5% of women (age adjusted) in 2004 reported strength training two or more times per week, which is substantially lower than the national 2010 objective of 30%. In addition, the greatest yearly increase was from 2000 to 2001 (p <0.001); however, since 2001, no further progress has been made. Although women experienced a significant increase during 1998--2004 and men did not, overall strength training levels among women remained lower than among men. The prevalence of strength training was lowest among respondents aged >65 years; nonetheless, respondents in this age group experienced the largest increase overall during 1998—2004. The factors that led to the increase in strength training in this group cannot be determined from this analysis, but possible explanations include increased promotion of active lifestyles among older adults ( 9 ) and programs that specifically promote strength training, such as Growing Stronger ( 10 ) and the Strong-for-Life program ( 4 ). Despite these gains, additional measures to promote strength training among adults are needed. Strength training throughout life can sustain functional independence for activities of daily living ( 1 ), such as the ability to carry groceries, rise from a chair, or walk up a flight of stairs. Findings from this analysis suggest that some racial/ethnic groups have a significantly lower prevalence of strength training than others. Strength-training prevalence was consistently lower among Hispanic respondents than among non-Hispanic white respondents during 1998—2004. However, all subgroups are at risk for not meeting national health objectives for 2010. Identification of barriers to strength training among all racial/ethnic groups, especially Hispanics, can guide the design of culturally appropriate interventions. One of the most important barriers for many adults, regardless of racial/ethnic subgroup, is initiating a strength-training program. Including another person in the program, such as a coworker, spouse, neighbor, or friend, can provide encouragement and motivation. The findings in this report are subject to at least two limitations. First, information on strength training is self reported and subject to response and recall bias. Second, misclassification errors in reporting might have affected prevalence estimates of strength training. For example, respondents might have interpreted the survey question differently or might not have understood the definitions of strength training and calisthenics. The survey question specified weight lifting and calisthenics, but because respondents were not asked to provide details, activities such as stair climbing might have been missed. Although the NHIS data indicate that the prevalence of strength training increased from 17.7% to 19.6%, the 2004 prevalence falls far short of the 2010 objective of 30%. Evidence-based studies have indicated that strength-training programs for older adults, such as Strong-for-Life ( 4 ), have resulted in strength improvements among participants; more programs like this are needed. Additional opportunities for adults to engage in strength training (e.g., in places where adults already pursue leisure-time physical activity, such as schools and community centers) could increase the prevalence of strength training. Additional opportunities are especially important for racial/ethnic groups with lower prevalences ( 9 ). The findings in this report also underscore the need to increase education on the benefits of strength training among targeted adult populations.
- Seguin R, Nelson ME. The benefits of strength training for older adults. Am Prev Med 2003;25(Suppl 2):S14—9.
- Chandler JM, Duncan PW, Kochersberger G, Studenski S. Is lower extremity strength gain associated with improvement in physical performance and disability in frail, community-dwelling elders? Arch Phy Med Rehabil 1998;79:24—30.
- Butler M, Norton R, Lee-Joe T, Coggan C. Preventing falls and fall-related injuries among older people living in institutions: current practice and future opportunities. NZ Med J 1998;111:359—61.
- Jette A, Lachman M, Giorgetti M, et al. Exercise: it’s never too late: the strong-for-life program. Am J Public Health 1999;89:66—72.
- US Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy people 2010, 2nd ed. With understanding and improving health and objectives for improving health. 2 vols. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office; 2000.
- American College of Sports Medicine. American College of Sports Medicine Position Stand. The recommended quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, and flexibility in healthy adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1998;30:975—91.
- US Department of Health and Human Services. National Health Interview Survey (NHIS): public use data release. Hyattsville, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services; 2006. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhis.htm.
- Klein RJ, Shoenborn CA. Age adjustment using the 2000 projected U.S. population. Healthy people statistical notes, No. 20. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics; 2001.
- Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. National blueprint: increasing physical activity among adults age 50 and older. Princeton, NJ: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; 2001.
- Seguin R, Epping J, Bloch R, Buchner D, Nelson M. Growing stronger: strength training for older adults. Washington, DC: Tufts University; 2002. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/physical/growing_stronger/growing_stronger.pdf.
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What percentage of the population lift weights?
What Percent of the Population Can Bench 225? Less than You Think
published by: Debbie Luna
reviewed by: Daniel Dominick TE, PTRP
April 12, 2023
A lifter’s maximum bench press load is often a point of pride and competitiveness for many – especially since the bench press is considered to be one of the best tests of upper body muscular strength.
One commonly discussed figure in this vein is that of 225 pounds, referring to the total amount of weight on the barbell (of which itself weighs 45 pounds).
When speaking in terms of global population, being capable of performing the bench press with 225 pounds of weight is a rather impressive feat – especially if one considers the fact that the estimated number of people strong enough to do so is less than 1%.
How Heavy is a 225 Bench?
A bench press repetition of 225 pounds or just a little over 102 kilograms is considerably heavy, often reaching up to 1.3x to 1.5x the actual body weight of the lifter itself.
This is all the more impressive a feat of strength when one factors in that the majority of adult males can only perform a bench press at approximately two-thirds of their total bodyweight.
When compiling data from numerous lifters, one can see that a bench press of 225 pounds would place the average gym goer at an advanced level of training, with exercisers below a bodyweight of 150 pounds being placed in the elite category as the load-to-bodyweight ratio makes such a press even more difficult.
Performing a single repetition of the bench press at 225 pounds has – in recent years – become somewhat of a fitness-culture goalpost, wherein many a novice or intermediate weightlifter will strive to achieve such a physical achievement and dedicate much of their time and energy to doing so.
Are “2 plates” and 225 Pound Bench Press the Same?
A common colloquialism in fitness and lifting culture is counting weight by “plates”, such as in the case of a “2 plate” bench press, or a “3 plate” squat.
This term refers to the 45 pound or 20 kilogram weight plate that is considered standard in many official weightlifting competitions, alongside the 45 pound or 20 kilogram standard Olympic straight barbell.
Furthermore, the term “2 plate” counts these weight plates in pairs, meaning that in order for a certain exercise to be considered “2 plate”, 4 standard 45 pound weight plates must be attached to the barbell (2 on each side).
Tallying up the weight of these plates alongside that of the barbell will equal a total load of 225 pounds, meaning that a “2 plate” bench does indeed mean 225 pounds.
Why is a 225 Pound Bench Press Significant?
The 225 pound bench press is considered an achievement because of the exercise knowledge, training intensity, and general effort required to reach such a level of physical strength.
Generally, being able to move that much weight in a vertical pressing motion will require that the triceps brachii, pectoralis muscle groups and deltoid muscles of the lifter be significantly developed, both in terms of pure muscle mass and in total athletic ability.
Being capable of bench pressing 225 pounds means that an individual is at an advanced training level and likely quite dedicated to weightlifting.
What Percentage of Gym Goers Can Bench 225?
Though we can safely say that – based on national statistics – less than 1% of the population can bench press 225 pounds, this figure becomes somewhat more dubious when changing the sample size to only individuals that visit the gym.
As a safe bet, when factoring in the number of individuals that own a gym membership and dividing it by relative bodyweight, gender, training age and length of time that such individuals have held their gym membership; we can arrive at the estimate of approximately 2% of all gym goers being capable of performing a 225 bench press lift.
While this number is likely inaccurate and it is entirely possible that a higher percentage of weightlifters are capable of such feats, the majority of weightlifting-related media seem to agree on such a number as a general guideline.
How Long to Reach a Bench Press of 225 Pounds
The exact length of time it may take a lifter to reach a 225 pound repetition of the bench press will vary greatly, and often be shortened due to certain personal factors such as a history of previous resistance training or a relatively high bodyweight-to-lift ratio.
A complete novice weightlifter employing proper training and recovery methodology can expect to reach this milestone within a year or so, while individuals with previous muscle memory of the bench press or certain genetic outliers may even be able to do so in less than six months.
It should be noted that the total load of a compound exercise is often determined by a number of concurrent factors, such as an individual’s gender, the length of their limbs and even what sort of mental state they are in at the time of the lift.
As such, it is quite difficult to determine the actual length of time it may take you to reach a 225 pound bench press – though one can be entirely assured that it is achievable with time, proper training, rest, and nutrition.
How to Achieve a 225 Pound Bench Press
If you wish to achieve the much sought-after 225 pound bench press, you must ensure that the correct type of training stimulus is being induced by your training program – alongside proper recovery methods and the usage of bench press techniques that ensure a safe and stable lift.
This will involve performing heavy weightlifting exercises two to three times a week, ensuring that you intake enough calories and protein, as well as devoting time and attention to mastery of proper bench press form and technique.
1. High Resistance Compound Movements
In order to stimulate the skeletal muscular tissue and joints to reinforce themselves, one must apply sufficient training stimulus within certain intervals so as to ensure the maximum level of muscular hypertrophy and strength developments are achieved.
This is made possible by performing heavy free weight compound movements that train the same muscle groups involved in the bench press; namely, the pectorals, the deltoids and the triceps brachii.
Some exercises that may be performed in order to train these muscle groups are the overhead press, the push up or the dumbbell chest press.
It is of particular importance that these exercises are of a free weight and compound nature, as free weight exercises will ensure that the synergist muscles involved in the bench press are sufficiently trained, and compound exercises have been established to be superior in terms of strength development in comparison to isolation exercises.
2. Utilizing Correct Bench Press Mechanics
It isn’t enough to perform the bench press – in order to maximize the total weight one can lift, they must make full use of all possible mechanics.
Maximizing their torso arch, making full use of leg drive, ensuring an advantageous elbow tuck position and ensuring a stable and correct bar path are just a few of the numerous exercise mechanics and biomechanics that can increase the total amount of weight an exerciser can lift while bench pressing.
For novice weightlifters unsure of how to perform these mechanics, they are best served consulting an experienced athletic coach who can aid in fixing their bench press performance.
3. Proper Training Programming
Another factor the exerciser should optimize is that of their training program, wherein the total volume and resistance in each workout session is sufficient enough to induce muscular growth without tipping into the category of overtraining.
Furthermore, exercisers training to achieve a 225 pound bench press will wish to place the bench press among one of the first exercises performed within a workout’s order of exercises, simply because this will allow them to practice the bench press with a fully rested and non-fatigued body.
In addition, when attempting to test their bench press one repetition maximum, the lifter may see some benefits from the utilization of advanced training programming techniques, such as periodization and volume training.
Of course, no matter what sort of training methods are used, one should always seek to induce progressive overload so as to avoid stagnation and ensure progress towards their goal of a 225 pound bench press is achieved.
4. Rest, Recovery, and Prehabilitation
Proper rest and recovery is the most important factor when training to bench press 225 pounds, as it is during the recovery period that the lifter’s body develops the majority of its strength and size.
Having sufficient enough sleep, taking up to 48 hours between training sessions of the same muscle group and performing proper recovery work such as stretching and mobility drills will all ensure that your progress does not stall or slow down.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Women Bench Press 225 Pounds?
Yes, women can indeed reach the 225 bench press milestone, though it is considerably more difficult than it would be for an individual with higher levels of testosterone, as it is this particular androgenic compound that is responsible for strength and muscular developments brought on by exercise.
On average, a woman of approximately 160 pounds performing a maximal load bench press repetition of 225 would be placed in the elite category – showing that it is possible for a woman to bench press such an amount.
Can the Average Man Bench 225?
No, the average man cannot bench press 225 pounds. This is simply because of the sedentary lifestyle the average person lives, leading to a lack of sufficient stimulus placed on their skeletal muscles and therefore resulting in the average man being too physically weak to bench press 225 pounds.
A 225 pound bench press is considered impressive even among the average weightlifting population, and as such the average sedentary male is unlikely to even come close to being able to lift such an amount.
What is a Respectable Bench Press?
What is considered a “respectable” bench press will vary between fitness sub-cultures and individuals of different characteristics. However, a healthy-lifter being able to bench press their own bodyweight is generally considered to be the intermediate standard and a sign that they have surpassed the novice stage.
As can be gathered from this article, being able to bench press 225 for even a single repetition is no small feat, and is a clear indicator that you know what you’re doing in the gym.
However, just like any other milestone in fitness, one should always avoid comparing themselves to others – as every individual progresses at their own pace. With proper training and patience, being able to bench press 225 pounds is only an inevitability.
1. Global action plan on physical activity 2018–2030: more active people for a healthier world. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2018. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.
2. MAYHEW, JERRY L.1; WARE, JOHN S.2; BEMBEN, MICHAEL G.3; WILT, BILL4; WARD, TOM E.5; FARRIS, BILL3; JURASZEK, JOE6; SLOVAK, JOHN P.5. The NFL-225 Test as a Measure of Bench Press Strength in College Football Players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: May 1999 – Volume 13 – Issue 2 – p 130-134
3. Bartolomei S, Grillone G, Di Michele R, Cortesi M. A Comparison between Male and Female Athletes in Relative Strength and Power Performances. J Funct Morphol Kinesiol. 2021 Feb 9;6(1):17. doi: 10.3390/jfmk6010017. PMID: 33572280; PMCID: PMC7930971.
4. Hernández Ugalde, José Alfredo. (2022). Rendimiento de atletas de levantamiento de potencia (Powerlifting) durante su vida. MHSalud, 19(1), 41-54. https://dx.doi.org/10.15359/mhs.19-1.4
Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team’s programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
How can strength training build healthier bodies as we age?
Some people perform incredible feats of strength and endurance well into their retirement years. The great news is: You don’t have to bench press 300 pounds or run a marathon to show off the benefits of strength training.
NIA-supported researchers have been studying the effects of strength training for more than 40 years and have identified multiple ways it can benefit older adults, including maintaining muscle mass, improving mobility, and increasing the healthy years of life. Learn more below about these findings from NIA-supported researchers, along with their tips for maintaining strength or becoming stronger as we age.
The group sessions also encourage bonding and accountability among participants, which helps keep them motivated and sticking with it, according to Fielding and his colleagues.
Fielding doesn’t just talk the talk, he’s an advocate of strength training himself.
“I’ve always run three or four times per week, but, about three years ago, I started making strength training part of my routine, and I feel stronger,” he said. “My goal is to be able to do things I enjoy, including downhill skiing, as long as I can, and the best way to do that is to try to stay active.”
Can strength training help prevent obesity as we age?
While strength training is great for otherwise healthy older adults, what about those who are overweight or living with obesity? NIA supported scientist Dennis T. Villareal, M.D., a professor at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, has found that incorporating weightlifting into an exercise and diet intervention for older adults with obesity yields better results than diet or aerobic exercise alone.
Villareal and his colleagues work with older adults with obesity, including volunteers from a nearby Veterans Affairs hospital and others recruited from the surrounding community. Their study participants are still functionally independent but are at risk of losing that ability.
“We work at the intersection of two big changes for society: aging and obesity,” Villareal said. “About one-third of older adults have obesity and that number is rapidly expanding.”
Villareal has been studying the nexus of muscle and metabolism for nearly 25 years. He got his start in the field in the 1990s at one of NIA’s Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Centers. He helped with an exercise training study in frail adults over age 75 and was impressed with how it was possible for people to get motivated to exercise even at an advanced age. After losing about 20 pounds in recent years (thanks to a lower calorie diet combined with exercise), he himself experienced the benefits of weight loss, including more energy and improved physical fitness.
According to Villareal, it’s not well understood that older adults with obesity can also be frail, which creates a vicious cycle of mobility and independence loss as the years and pounds add up.
“Folks with obesity need more muscle mass to carry their body weight,” Villareal said. “When they get older, they can’t compensate by producing more muscle mass, so you get sarcopenic obesity, which is the worst of both worlds.”
Villareal’s year-long exercise training intervention known as the Lifestyle Intervention to Improve Bone Quality (LIMB-Q) targets this high-risk population. As people lose weight with diet and aerobic exercise, they have an increased risk of losing lean muscle mass and bone density, both of which are important for everyday activities and avoiding falls.
“That’s where strength training has an important role,” said Villareal.
Villareal’s team found that a healthier diet combined with a workout mixing aerobic exercise, resistance training, and balance was most effective for helping reverse frailty in obese older adults.
“Resistance training is the most important component because it builds muscle and reduces the loss of muscle mass,” he said. “As the relationship between body mass and muscle becomes more positive, participants lose more fat than they lose muscle, so the relative sarcopenia is improved significantly. Combining the two types of exercise had additive effects so they were better together than separate.”
One of the big rewards for Villareal and his team is observing participants who make positive changes and stick with them. Some volunteers have even exceeded the 10% body weight loss target, losing as much as 20% of their body weight. The weight losses combined with building muscle mean they feel better and become more independent and mobile.
Villareal notes that starting slow and attending regular group classes are important steps to building confidence and connections among participants.
In previous studies of how to prevent the bone loss that comes with weight loss, Beavers and Nicklas saw that resistance training helped participants lose weight and become more fit, but it was hard for people to stick with the training long term. While not a substitute for traditional strength training, the researchers are now studying if wearing a weighted vest throughout the day can help prevent the bone-density loss that often occurs with weight loss.
INVEST participants wear their weighted vests for eight hours a day in addition to undertaking a 12-month weight loss program. The vests, which can be worn under one’s clothes, are lined with small rectangular pockets that hold one-eighth-pound incremental weights. When a participant loses a given amount of body weight, that same amount is added back to their vest. The compounding effect is to keep the skeleton loaded as excess body weight is lost, avoiding harmful loss of bone density that can increase the risk of fractures.
A pilot INVEST study showed that volunteers who wore the weighted vest as they participated in the weight loss plan also slowed down hip bone-density loss compared to the weight-loss-plan-only group. This support for how different ways to load and challenge the skeleton could reduce the risk of hip fractures, a common and often debilitating injury for older adults.
“The vest is also a nice ‘show-and-tell’ motivational tool,” Beavers said. “They can show friends or family, ‘Look at how much weight I’ve lost!’”
Tips for staying strong in your daily routines
There’s no denying that our ability to respond to exercise gets blunted as we grow older. No individuals, even seemingly superhuman pro athletes who keep winning championships into their 40s, will have the same physical response to exercise at age 70 as they do at 30 or even 40. So, what is some bottom-line, realistic advice to keep strong and moving as we age?
Know what to expect. First, don’t try to compare yourself to younger people. Everyone is unique and we all age differently.
We all should think about how to build up a base of strong muscles to prepare for the loss of muscle and strength that we will experience as we age.
— Barb Nicklas, Ph.D., professor, gerontology and geriactric medicine, Wake Forest University School of Medicine
Nicklas notes, «A 60-year-old is very different from an 80-year-old. We need to be careful about lumping all older people into the same category. Aging starts at birth, and throughout our lifespans, exercising to help prevent disease and disability is very important. Movement, strength, and balance training is important at any age, but we need to adjust our expectations.»
Move mindfully. Beavers points out that low bone density and muscle strength are associated with increased falls and fractures. Exercises that incorporate mindfulness with balance and movement, such as tai chi and yoga, can improve strength in these areas and help prevent falls and fall-related fractures.
Make it part of your daily routine. Villareal emphasizes that if online or in-person group classes aren’t your thing, everyone can still work exercise into their daily routines.
“We encourage people to just walk more,” he said. “Walk around the house or office, walk to the store. In the office you can take brief exercise or stretching breaks every 15-20 minutes and try to use all your muscles.”
Keep it fun. According to Fielding, “It’s about finding things that people want to do and like to do, not just exercise for exercise’s sake, but something we enjoy. Goal setting is also important. We ask our volunteers to list everyday things they want to be able to keep doing as they grow older, like play with their grandchildren or be able to take laundry up and down the stairs. Lots of things count as exercise: It doesn’t have to be running or going to the gym or riding a stationary bike. It could be dancing, gardening, or housework.”
Set realistic goals. Fielding noted that everyone is different and it’s not one size fits all.
“Some like group exercise, others prefer a solitary routine to clear their head,” he said. “But setting realistic goals is important. A good goal is about 150 minutes per week of moderate-level exercise, but you see benefits even at lower levels than that. Older adults should try to get strength training in the mix one to two times per week.”
The bottom line is to get moving.
“Any physical activity is better than no physical activity. Even a couple minutes per day matter, and small changes lead to big improvements.”