Illustration showing a man doing a barbell back squat.

How Much Should You Be Able to Squat?

The common strength goal for natural lifters is to overhead press two plates, bench press three plates, squat four plates, and deadlift five. That’s a 405-pound squat. 180 kilos.

Those are lofty goals, and I don’t doubt you could do it. Many natural powerlifters do, but most casual lifters never get there, even after decades of training.

We surveyed 580 of our readers to see how long they’d been lifting and how much they could swat. Squatting three plates (315 pounds) is rare at commercial gyms. Most guys never get past two plates (225 pounds).

We can break the data down even further, giving you realistic expectations about how much you should be able to squat based on how long you’ve been training. I also made graphs so that you can see what percentile you’re in.

Caveats

We gravitate towards squat variations that are better for building muscle: high-bar and front squats. Powerlifters favour the variation that allows them to lift the most weight: the low-bar squat. Low-bar squats are around 10% heavier than high-bar squats and 25% heavier than front squats. Thus, if you’re doing front squats, expect to lift a little bit less. If you’re doing low-bar squats, expect to lift a little more.

Next, we aren’t powerlifters. We aren’t optimizing our training to improve our 1-rep max. Some of our readers haven’t even tested their 1-rep max. Some of these numbers are from guys doing 3–6 reps per set.

The other thing to keep in mind is that I also run Bony to Beastly, a bulking site for naturally skinny guys. That means our audience leans thinner than average. If you’re built like a truck, you should be able to squat more weight.

I checked the numbers over at StrengthLevel, though, and our numbers line up fairly well. They estimate that the average beginner could squat just over 135 pounds after three months of training, and the average intermediate could squat 285 pounds.

The highest numbers I’ve seen come from Greg Nuckols at Stronger by Science. He found that the average powerlifter could squat 475 pounds after 5–10 years of powerlifting training (reference). Mind you, those numbers probably skew high. The sport of powerlifting tends to attract guys who are naturally strong, and the ones who stick with it tend to excel at it.

How Much Can Beginners Squat?

Survey results graph showing that the average beginner male squat strength.

Most beginners start off squatting around 65–105 pounds for 5–10 repetitions. It’s normal to squat even less, especially if you’re doing goblet squats or front squats.

Within your first year of training, you have about a 50% chance of being able to load at least 135 pounds on the bar. You can drastically increase your odds by squatting more often and eating enough food to support muscle growth.

A few guys were able to squat two plates within their first year. 1 guy squatted 315 pounds, which is more than most lifetime lifters ever lift.

After 1 Year of Squatting

Survey results graph showing how much weight the average man can squat after 1 year of training.

After a year of training, most guys are able to squat 135 pounds for several repetitions. 1 in 7 can squat two plates. 1 in 25 can squat 315. Nobody squatted 405.

After 3–9 Years of Squatting

Survey results showing how much intermediate lifters can squat.

The numbers stayed fairly similar between 3 and 9 years. Most intermediate lifters squat with 1–2 plates on the bar, with only 1 in 7 squatting with 3 plates. After 3 years of squatting, 1 in 100 guys could squat 405 pounds. After 5 years, that rose to 1 in 50.

After 10 Years

Survey results graph showing how much the average natural male lifter can squat after a lifetime of lifting weights.

After a decade of lifting weights, almost everyone can squat with more than 135 pounds on the bar, and most guys can squat at least two plates for at least a few repetitions. As before, only around 1 in 6 lifetime lifters have ever squatted 315 pounds, but now 1 in 17 can squat 405.

These numbers are a little lower than I expected. Most men can’t squat much more than they can bench press. Perhaps people lose interest in getting bigger legs, whereas the quest for bigger arms and a bigger chest is eternal.

That’s not as crazy as it sounds. Most people train for a mix of reasons: strength, fitness, health, fun, and aesthetics. Even if aesthetics isn’t your main goal, it’s probably still a goal, and once your legs look reasonably athletic, making them even bigger probably won’t do much for your appearance (survey results). Then, when you consider how difficult squats are, it might be hard to find the motivation to put in the work to get stronger at them.

Summary

Most beginners need about a year of weight training before they can do their working sets with 135 pounds on the bar. It takes most guys at least three years to squat 225 pounds. Only 1 in 6 lifters ever squat 315 pounds, even after over a decade of weight training. Thus, if you can squat three plates you’re one of the stronger guys at the gym.

A 405-pound squat is probably realistic for guys who devote 5–10 years to powerlifting training. Most guys don’t do that, so it’s quite rare to see a four-plate squat. It’s an impressive feat of strength for a natural lifter.

Alright, that’s it for now. If you liked this article, we have similar articles about how much you should be able to bench press, overhead press, and deadlift.

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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