Training Log

Starting Strength in the Real World

Can the Average Man Deadlift 500?

by Andrew Lewis, SSC | May 03, 2022

Can the average man deadlift 500lb? Yes. Will he? No. An average man has the physical potential to deadlift 500lb, but it takes a lot of elements coming together to make it happen. It's not enough for him to go to the gym three times a week, do the lifts, and go home.

Besides programming and technique – which are absolutely critical, but won't be discussed here – there are three additional elements that must be supported. Supporting these elements will require the lifter to reorganize many aspects of his life. Consistency, sleep, and diet are what takes the average man from a 315lb to a 500lb, 600lb, or 700lb deadlift, but most men are not willing to do it.

Training Consistency

A brutally strong lifter will appear insane because of how he organizes his schedule and life. His dedication and grit are obsessive. He works out every time he's supposed to. He might work out on Christmas, with injuries if he can, after a night up with the baby – he doesn't miss, and he doesn't give up. He might make changes to work around or fix an injury, but that is an additional optimization within the context of training.

The gyms are closed for Christmas? Government won't let his gym operate? He gets a home gym. Traveling all day for work? He stops for a break in the middle and works out in a gym halfway between destination and start. Stressed out and tired? He lifts anyway and does what is required.

The importance of training consistency cannot be overstated. Every missed workout, bailed set, and unfinished workout inhibits continued progress. Racking the weight because “There's no way I'll get the next rep” is never in a brutally strong lifter's mind. Instead, he thinks, “I may not get this, but I'm going to try as hard as I can and not give up until the bar is moving down when I'm trying to push it up.” He also has perspective. He remembers the many times when he believed without a shadow of a doubt that he was going to fail the next rep, but tried it anyway and was able to complete it. And he remembers that these occurrences greatly outnumber the times he was confident he could finish the next rep and was unsuccessful.

Some may argue, “What if safety is a factor and I don't have the equipment to safely attempt a weight I don't know I can do?” A brutally strong lifter creates the situation where the training he needs to do can be done safely. He spends the money on a home gym with the correct equipment. He might leave his current gym for a gym that is properly equipped either with correct equipment or with fellow lifters who will spot him. “Correct equipment” includes chalk, bar quality (a bent bar is a dangerous bar for most lifts), and power racks.


Consistency is a common theme in the life of the brutally strong lifter. It applies to his sleep and eating too. He goes to bed every day at the same time and gets up at the same time. He makes sure the conditions are optimal for sleep. Like eating, he doesn't sleep when he feels like it. He does it when it needs to be done. If the dog or cat keeps jumping up on the bed, it goes in the basement at night. He puts up black out curtains if the light from outside is too bright. He takes his blanket and pillow on trips if he can't sleep well without them. He doesn't stay out late drinking with friends at parties. (As an alternative, I highly recommend getting drunk midday, sobering up throughout the night, and then going to bed sober and hydrated at a normal time.)

He troubleshoots sleeping problems and fixes them. If coffee at 5pm is okay, but 6pm will keep him up, he doesn't drink coffee after 5pm. He might want to take a nap during the day. If he naps too long, he won't get to bed at a good time, so he controls that aspect too with an alarm for his nap. If he's tired all of the time and his spouse notices he snores, he might suspect he has sleep apnea (a relatively common condition in adults). So, he gets a sleep study and gets it treated. He doesn't sleep with a TV or radio on. He doesn't fall asleep on his couch, wake up at 2am, and then go to the bedroom. Everything is controlled and consistent.


He schedules his grocery shopping, cooking, and eating around his schedule so he'll have the right food and right amount to eat at the right time. He eats enough to be recovered. This might mean that he gained 30 or 40 or 70lbs in the process of getting stronger over several years, depending on how light he was when he started and how tall he is.

He doesn't eat when he wants to. He eats when he must to facilitate his training goals. He might not be hungry when he eats lunch. He might be full halfway through the meal. He keeps eating anyway, because that's what needs to be done. It's not fun, and it is not to be glorified. It's just necessary. Food can be delicious, but at its foundation, food is fuel to a lifter. When thin guys say they eat “a lot,” they are legitimately confused. A brutally strong lifter thinks in terms of the pounds of food he ate today, not bowls or plates of food. A thin, weak lifter has never seen three half-pound baked potatoes and thought “Yeah, I can eat those like apples on the way to work.” Two eggs is nothing to a brutally strong lifter. A half-dozen scrambled eggs is a snack, not a meal. A brutally strong lifter might not count calories, but he has a way of tracking if he is eating enough and can tell if he's getting recovered. He knows he's getting enough protein (at least 1g protein per pound of bodyweight). He eats plenty of complex carbs – potatoes, rice, bread, bagels, pasta – he doesn't do keto, because it doesn't produce adequate recovery from strength training.

He doesn't neglect fiber, minerals, and vitamins in lieu of only carbs and meat, and like sleep, troubleshoots problems that come up. His training is an educational endeavor as much as a physical one.

Most lifters are not willing to do these kinds of things, and that's okay. Not every man needs to deadlift five, six, or seven hundred pounds. But that's where the honesty should be: “I'm not willing to do what is necessary for this big deadlift.” But again, that's fine. You're not a bad person for wanting to get drunk at a party with some friends or stay up late with your wife because you're having quality time. Furthermore, your strength training is not a waste of time if you don't want to do all that is necessary to be as strong as possible. Going from a 135lb deadlift to a 315lb will be a big change in a man's life. More so if he gets to 365lb, and even more so if he gets to 405lb and 455lb.

Don't be dissuaded from strength training if you're reading this article and you don't want to train, eat, and sleep like an obsessive-compulsive masochist. But if you do want to be brutally strong, you must be willing to control your situation, be consistent, not make excuses, and do what needs to be done.  

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