Illustration of a man doing a conventional barbell deadlift.

How Much Should You Be Able to Deadlift?

The typical goal for a natural lifter is to bench three plates, squat four, and deadlift five. That’s 495 pounds (or 220 kilos). I think that’s realistic, in theory, but most people never even make it to three plates, let alone four, and never even see anyone deadlift five.

We surveyed 540 guys from our newsletter. Most started off deadlifting 95–135 pounds for a few reps. After a couple of years of lifting weights, most could deadlift 225–315 pounds, at which point they plateaued forever. Only around half of us ever load 315 on the bar.

Deadlifting four plates is rare, impressive, and takes quite a bit of structured effort, especially if you’re naturally thin. I suspect your genetic limit is closer to five plates, but most of the people who make it all the way there are powerlifters who weigh over 200 pounds.

Caveats

How strong the average person is depends on what type of people you survey. Our readers lean thinner than average, but our survey results seem to generalize fairly well. For example, Strength Level found that the average male beginner could deadlift 173 pounds for a single rep (reference). That’s right in line with our results.

We didn’t have our readers test their 1-rep max. Some people listed the most they’ve ever deadlifted for sets of 3–6 repetitions. That’s as low as some of us ever go. People who spend more time training for maximal strength will inevitably have higher 1-rep maxes.

For example, Greg Nuckols found that the average male beginner powerlifter could deadlift 286 pounds for a single rep, which is quite a bit higher (article). The standard deviation was 80 pounds, meaning it was normal for a beginner to have a deadlift anywhere between 205 and 365 pounds. However, people drawn to powerlifting tend to be naturally strong, and their training revolves around just three lifts: the squat, bench press, and deadlift.

Beginner Deadlift Strength

Survey results graph showing the average beginner male deadlift strength.

It’s normal to lift less than 135 pounds when you first start deadlifting. That’s a problem because the lighter plates are often smaller, and they won’t always lift the barbell high enough. That’s one of the reasons why beginners often do better with stiff-legged “Romanian” deadlifts.

Your weakness won’t last long. Most guys can deadlift at least 135 pounds for at least a few reps within their first few months of lifting weights and bulking up.

After One Year

Survey results graph showing how much the average man can deadlift after 1 year of lifting weights.

After a year of lifting weights, most guys do their sets of deadlifts with at least 135 pounds on the bar. If you’re loading up 225+ pounds, you’re doing slightly better than average. It’s still quite rare to deadlift 315+ pounds.

It took me 18 months to deadlift 315 pounds for the first time. It took another couple of months after that before I could do it comfortably for sets of 4–5 repetitions.

After Three Years

Survey results showing how much intermediate male lifters should be able to deadlift.

After three years of lifting weights, most guys can deadlift at least 225 pounds for a few repetitions. Deadlifting 315 pounds is more common than deadlifting 135 pounds. And for the first time, the very strongest guys are able to deadlift 4–5 plates.

Most guys take at least three years to deadlift four plates (405 pounds). I suspect dedicated powerlifters will get there much sooner. It took me closer to five years.

After Five Years

Survey results showing how much the average natural lifter can deadlift after lifting weights for five to ten years.

This is where most people plateau forever. If you can deadlift 315 pounds for reps, you’re much stronger than most men and a bit stronger than most lifetime lifters. Our readers are naturally thin, but that doesn’t seem to matter. Strength Level found that the average man plateaued at around 335 pounds for a single rep, which is similar to our average lifter plateauing slightly lighter for a few reps.

If you ever pull 405 pounds, you’ve got an impressive deadlift. It’s rare to see people lifting that much weight in a commercial gym. Mind you, if you’re so inclined, you can probably go even further.

Greg Nuckols found that the average powerlifter could deadlift over 495 pounds with ten years of dedicated powerlifting training (article). Mind you, the people most likely to be interested in powerlifting are naturally strong, and the ones most likely to stick with it are the ones who are especially good at it.

Deadlift Strength By Age

You’ll probably reach your peak strength 5–10 years after you start training (and eating!) for it. That’s true whatever age you start (with a couple of exceptions). After that, your strength gains will plateau (or nearly so). You should be able to maintain almost all of that strength into your sixties, seventies, and perhaps even eighties.

Here are the caveats:

  • Building muscle is harder before puberty, so when guys start lifting weights as young teenagers, it takes them longer to reach these milestones. 
  • As you get deeper into middle age, you’ve had more time to gain muscle and strength, and age isn’t rearing its wrinkled head yet. That’s when most guys are at their strongest.
  • If you start lifting in your seventies or eighties, you should progress similarly to younger lifters during your first few years of lifting, but you’ll likely plateau sooner, never getting quite as big or strong.

It’s common to start very slowly losing strength as you get further away on the other side of sixty, especially if you’re an advanced lifter who’s right at the very limit of your genetic potential. But don’t underestimate yourself. It’s rare to see octogenarians deadlifting 5+ plates, but 3–4 plates are realistic if you still have your health.

For more, we have a full article about how age affects muscle and strength gains.

Conclusion

If you’re a skinny beginner, you should be able to deadlift 95–135 pounds for a few sets of 4–8 reps. After your first year, you should be doing those sets with at least 185 pounds on the bar. After three years, you should be deadlifting 225–315 pounds for a few reps, at which point you’re as strong as most guys ever get.

A 405-pound deadlift is quite rare. Only around 12% of lifters ever get there, and most of them take at least 5 years. Once you can do a few reps with four plates on the bar, most people will think you have an impressive deadlift. I can do eight reps with 405, and that’s usually enough to earn some compliments.

A 495-pound deadlift is rarer still, with only around 4% of lifetime lifters ever lifting that much. I’ve only seen one person pull 495 at a commercial gym, and it was only for a single rep. The most I’ve ever deadlifted is 485. I think I’ll get 495 the next time I train for it.

Alright, that’s it for this article. If you’re curious about your bench press strength, we have similar articles about how much you should be able to squat, bench press and overhead press.

Shane Duquette is the co-founder of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell. He's a certified conditioning coach with a degree in design from York University in Toronto, Canada. He's personally gained 70 pounds and has over a decade of experience helping over 10,000 skinny people bulk up.

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2 Comments

  1. Dino A on May 6, 2024 at 5:02 pm

    In my 20s & 30s I benched 385, squatted 450, and deadlifted 525. Also, I was not natural.

    • Shane Duquette on May 6, 2024 at 5:02 pm

      Those are great numbers, natural or not! I’ve only seen one person deadlift five plates. They weren’t natural, either.

      A 385-pound bench press is incredibly impressive, too.

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