Strength and Conditioning Benchmarks: 2023
Higher expectations, harder capacity, more endurance.
It’s been almost 1 year since I started working on the “Strength and Conditioning Standards” I published in 2022. The premise was simple.
I complied a list of metrics / movements:
Power : Weight Ratio (work capacity, really)
Then, I drew references ranging from Dan John’s strength benchmarks (r) to the UFC’s 2018 analysis of their athletes (r).
The categories or measurements were divided into three tiers as described by Dan:
Expected: every athlete should be able to do this.
Game Changer: every athlete will likely see the most bang for their buck here.
Cut Off: past this point will require specialization.
Since then I’ve gotten away from the verbiage of “standards” and referred to these intervals as what they really are, benchmarks. Additionally, people seemed confused by “cut off”; so more clearly that’s been re-described as the “specialization” tier.
Metrics and Measures:
There are still the same four strength metrics / movements (push, pull, hinge, squat). Dan’s original work substitutes more difficult movements for the more developed skill tiers. However, I find it easier to keep the test or measuring stick the same to see where you stack up (e.g. the same exercise for a given movement patter — all push movements tested with bench pressing).
Each tier roughly translates to the standards on strengthlevel.com:
Expected = between novice and intermediate
Game Changer = between intermediate and advanced
Specialized = advanced in most categories
The conditioning (endurance and capacity) measurements are much more mature in the 2023 edition. Endurance, for example, now avoids the debate over VO2max and simply gives you a test with no upper limit, you just simply want to score better (higher).
Alternatively, though, you could compensate for efficiency (or lack thereof) by altering the scoring methods:
Without Account for Efficiency:
SCORE = total calories
With Efficiency Considered:
SCORE = total calories / average heart rate
Similar growth is seen in the (work) capacity field. The duration of the test is shorter, but the increase in work rate is considerable. Technically this could be broken down into different intervals as well (5 min, 10 min, 20 min, etc.) with the benchmarked output decreasing 1% for 10% increase in volume.
5 min “Game Changer” = 53% BW in calories
volume = -50%
output = +5% / 10 min pace
10 min “Game Changer” = 100% BW in calories
20 min “Game Changer” = 180% BW in calories
volume = +100%
output = -10% / 10 min pace
Such an endeavor might be very informative to find out “where the wheels fall off” while increasing duration as well as keeping yourself honest with the intensity of shorter efforts.