Starting Strength Standards | A Minimalist Strength Guide

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For the most of us, strong enough is good enough to achieve our athletic endeavours. Here’s some starting strength standards to aim for.

We all say we want fitter, faster, stronger.

Once we go down a path of pursuing physical excellence we can sometimes find our big audacious goal is often way further down the road than what we really need. If we talk about getting stronger most of us simply want to be strong enough to be competent in our roles as parents, professionals and chosen athletic pursuits.

A double bodyweight bench press is usually not the answer.

Starting strength standards can be defined as standards to aim for that will allow you to achieve most things. They’re the goal posts to aim for when starting on your journey or looking to maintain a level of general physical preparedness that will allow you to play with the kids, hike a trail and look a bit better naked.

Here’s what you need to know about starting strength standards:

  • These are basic guidelines for both men and women
  • They are usually “enough” for most athletic pursuits for general people
  • You might find on your journey that close enough might be strong enough for your goals
  • You might also want to get stronger in some areas
  • You should always aim for pain free movement first, and then performance
  • Some standards will have multiple options to test depending on the equipment you have available
  • These standards do not equal sports specific performance but are a pillar for it.

Follow the path

These standards are nothing new, I first learned the need for standards from Dan John. Mark Rippetoe also has starting strength standards using the traditional barbell movements, bench, squat, deadlift and power clean.

Make no mistake, if you want to get strong use a barbell. The starting strength standards you will see below will place you around the “Category III” of Mark’s standards you can find in his book.

This means there will be a certain level of investment required to achieve the standards, but with time, patience and effort is totally achievable for most people. I believe it’s the sweet spot and gives you enough to aim for and maintain to drive motivation in training.

Before we begin

Before we start down the path we need to assess whether or not our body is ready to add load. Completing something like the 10 Step Self Screen is an easy way to know if you have the requisite mobility and stability to being the journey. If you have access to someone who can complete a functional movement screen (FMS), this would also be another layer of assessment.

Complete the screen, work on any weaknesses you find. It doesn’t mean you stop strength training but using an integrated approach of mobility, stability and strength like you will find in Unlock Your Movement will work here.

This also might mean focusing on body composition, if you are carrying extra weight you will notice the effects on movements such as pull-ups. Don’t let this dishearten you, use it as a point to find an optimal weight for your version of “strong enough”.

Exercise Selection

Most standards will be able to be executed with a few kettlebells and a pull-up bar. If you lack double kettlebells just halve the weight where required and get moving. Supplementing for dumbbells will also work.

You will also notice a large amount of single leg and split stance work for the lower body, as we build strength this can cover off on weaknesses or asymmetries in the body giving you bang for you buck in your training regime.

Minimalist Starting Strength Standards

For Men:


Bulgarian Split Squat ½ BW for 15 reps each side (half each hand)

Pistol Squat 5-10 reps each side


Single Leg Deadlift ½ BW for 15 reps each side (half each hand)

KB Swing 24kg for 50 reps


½ – ¾  Bodyweight Double KB Press for 5-10 reps (half each hand)


10 Pull-ups (Chest to Bar)

Loaded Carry

2 x 24kg Carry for 90 seconds (no drops) and;

24kg Get Up 5 left and right in 10min

For Women:


Bulgarian Split Squat ½ BW for 10-15 reps each side (half each hand)

Pistol Squat 1-5 reps each side


Single Leg Deadlift ½ BW for 10-15 reps each side (half each hand)

KB Swing 16kg for 50 reps


½ Bodyweight Double KB Press for 1-5 reps (half each hand)


1-3 Pull-ups (Chest to Bar)

Loaded Carry

2 x 16kg Carry for 90 seconds (no drops) and;

16kg Get Up 5 left and right in 10min

What’s next?

Some of you will no doubt be questioning my sanity, particularly if you’re no where near the standards now. If this is the case it might just simply mean that it’s time to get to work. As mentioned earlier in the article, these are starting strength standards to aim for and for the average person can be achieved within 12-18months of training.

A program like Minimalist Easy Strength will help you get there.

If you’re already above the standards, keep going if that’s what pleases you. From my experience passing RKC Level II and training clients for the better part of a decade that unless your sport or pursuit of excellence requires levels above this, most people are pretty happy here.

The principle is simple, it’s the journey that counts. Set out to achieve the standards or find your version of strong enough. Be like Goldilocks and try to land in a spot that’s just right

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