Home Blog Scientific Proof: Why So Many People Squat 600lbs on the Internet

Scientific Proof: Why So Many People Squat 600lbs on the Internet

Written on July 29, 2010 at 6:30 am, by Eric Cressey

I came across the abstract for this interesting Australian study the other day: Actual versus perceived lifting ability in healthy young men (18-25 years).

Basically, researchers compared what men under the age of 25 SAID they could lift with what they actually COULD lift when tested.  According to the researchers, “One third of subjects were able to accurately self-report their lifting performance, approximately one-third underestimated, and the remaining third overestimated their lifting ability.”

So, out of every three people, we have one person who is pretty even-keeled and honest with himself about his physical abilities.

And, we have another who is either a) intimidated and doesn’t think he can do it or b) lazy and unwilling to “do it.”

Finally,we have everyone’s favorite: the tough guy who talks a big game.  These are the guys who sit behind their keyboards claiming to squat 500 pounds – or bench 400, or throw 95mph fastballs.  However, nobody every witnesses it.  They have big balls on the internet.


How many times have you walked into a commercial gym and seen a 400-pound bench press?  I think I’ve seen it once – and the guy weighed about 330 pounds.

How about a legitimate 600-pound squat?  I’ve never seen it in a commercial gym, only a few times without a squat-suit in hardcore powerlifting gyms, and only twice college weight rooms in my life.

And, I’m certainly not seeing 95mph fastballs at every high school baseball game.  In fact, as I recall reading last year, there are only about eight pitchers in all of Major League Baseball who have consistent 95+mph fastballs.  Maybe the rest of the pros need to spend more time on the internet to be able to throw baseballs faster?

However, go on to any internet forum – whether it’s for lifting or pitching – and you’ll come across all this hidden talent that is yearning to be discovered.  Sorry, folks, but you’re the 1/3 of people I referenced above.  Put up or shut up.  I’d actually say that this 33% figure also applies to baseball fathers; about one in three is CONVINCED that his kid is much better than Junior really is.

Finally, as an interesting little aside, ever wonder why nobody ever lies about their deadlift numbers?

I have to assume that it’s because the deadlift is a pretty “yes or no” exercise.  You either can or can’t pick something heavy up off the floor.  It’s not like a squat or bench press, where you can shorten the range of motion and instantly improve your numbers.

Related Posts

Crazy Dads and Kids Who Throw Cheddar
Shoulder Mobility for Squatting

Please enter your email below to sign up for our FREE newsletter.


33 Responses to “Scientific Proof: Why So Many People Squat 600lbs on the Internet”

  1. Bert Says:

    Mr. Cressey,
    Completely agree with this article. I see it all the time. Two weeks ago, my barber (yeah, the guy who cuts my hair) was claiming on his FB profile to have squatted 405 lbs. for one w/o a belt. Now let me explain something: he is 150 lbs. wet and just started lifting weights a few months ago. Wonder if he counted it as unracking the bar and putting it back on. And I see it with the bench press too. I see alot of guys claiming to handle 225 like a rolled up newspaper and when you watch them they aren’t even full reps down to the chest, only one-half or one-third reps. Funny you should say that but I DON’T see many guys claiming anything on the deadlift because the majority DON’T deadlift!!! Too hard!!!

  2. David Jensen Says:

    Mr Cressey,
    One of your best articles. The problem is a really do work out in a gym where 400lb bench presses and 600 lb squats are common (Golds Gym East Las Vegas. I’ve never really worked out any where else. It’s kind of scewed my perception. Your website keeps my head on straight. But, none of these guys can throw a 95 MPH fastball, let alone hit one.

  3. Jeff Blair Says:

    So true…..

    Then there is the omnipresent commercial gym member who

    ” used” to _______ :

    a. (“squat 900 lbs, bench 400 with one arm, deadlift 500 and bench 400 at the same time,” etc.)

    but do not anymore since _________

    b. (“I am focusing on getting shredded now, , got bored with heavy weights so now I am doing Z60X-which is SO much more intense”, etc.)

    commercial gym member.

  4. Nick Horton Says:

    Great stuff! I get this a lot, which is weird considering I’m an Oly lifting coach. You’d think they’d be worried that once they trained with me I might notice?

    I had a kid recently tell me, “I want to get my squat up to 405 by the end of the summer.” It was June.

    “Ok,” I said, “what do you squat now?” I already knew it was crazy as he was build like a sparrow. But, my curiosity got the better of me.

    “About 330.”

    “Really?” I said. “Wow, that’s pretty solid for your weight.”

    A few days later, I saw him squatting in the rack. First, he loaded the bar to 225 without a warm up … bad sign. He did 2 quarter squats that looked more painful than birthing a child.

    I thought, “Yep, that looks about right.” But, he wasn’t done.

    He added 25’s to each side to get the bar up to 275. He got under it, walked back, started to go down … and went down! He got buried.

    Thankfully, he wasn’t hurt.

    It wasn’t surprising, of course. But, he still hasn’t figured out why he hasn’t gotten that 405 squat.

    Kids …

  5. Sean McBride Says:

    Top post.

    I’m curious where you go to look for the research articles you find interesting/ relevant to your training. There is a huge volume of research out there, anything that might help comb through it better would be appreciated.

    Thanks for all the great and insightful posts on such a consistent basis

  6. Jeremy Says:

    How many times have you walked into a commercial gym and seen a 400-pound bench press? I think I’ve seen it once – and the guy weighed about 330 pounds.

    Yep me too. One guy I seen in all my years in the gym. He was Samoan, 135kgs about 6’1 and he benched out 140kgs for 10 very fast reps – no sweat. Never seen it before and most likely won’t ever see it again.

  7. Brock Says:

    Eric, you’re a smart guy, why are you even wasting precious time/brain cells in forums anyway?!?!

  8. Eric Cressey Says:

    Sean, I’ll actually be devoting a full post to this soon.

  9. Eric Cressey Says:

    Brock, I’m not! Used to, though.

  10. Scott Umberger Says:

    I have a 6’6” 260 lb soon to be junior high school football player. He “squatted” 405 with his team when they tested. Well, he couldn’t complete 3×8 with 135 using correct form in his first workout with me.
    For an additional laugh, this high school football team uses “Alabama’s” workout. I love this. They workout 3 days a week. The balance of the workout isn’t that bad. They bench, squat, and clean during the week. Pretty normal right? Each day, they start at 75% then, 80%, then progress to 85%, 90%, 95%, and 100%. Choke yet? It gets better. They are suppose to do 3 reps at each percentage. Yeah, 3 reps for 3 sets at and over 90%. Week in and week out. I’m pretty sure no one has died yet but as expected, there have been a lot of injuries.

  11. The Mongooes Says:

    This is notorious for the squat. I can quarter squat over 100 pounds more than I can if I break parallel. I work at a high school and have watched them test our football players. They are looking for them to break parallel, but their definition of parallel must be different from the powerlifting world. Anyway, I just squatted 23,000 kilos and I’m pretty sure I had some in the tank.

  12. Reece Says:

    Is it me or if someone is deadlifting/squatting over 400lbs they are going to look like it?

  13. moonoo Says:

    ” used” to _______ :

    a. (“squat 900 lbs, bench 400 with one arm, deadlift 500 and bench 400 at the same time,” etc.)

    but do not anymore since _________

    yeah this is the talk. haha.
    For me i just hit my 420lb deep squat and DL 1RM from 290lb. im 198lb, 5.6″. it took 2 years of hard work. People say 400 lb squat and Dl is just too easy. unfortunately it wasn’t for me. planning to hit 600 something. another 2 year or longer for me? maybe a month for some super people. haha

  14. Danyiel Says:

    I’m 14 almost 15 and I have been lifting wights for 2 years sadly all my max lifts are not very high. My max Bench 170 squat 205 deadlift 225

  15. Kirk Says:

    T othe guys talkin smack about the I once did (blank) but because of (Blank) I can only do (Blank). 14y football, 6 y powerlifting, 19 surgeries.

    Peak lifting

    Bench 475 had to prove it to S&C coach so you had to do it twice to be able to prove it. As he would say Any fat man in a bar stool can do something great once in there life, a real man can do it everytime.
    Squat 650, although I did rap up the knees for that one.

    Deadlift 675. Blast suit.

    19 surgeries later and at age 35

    405 bench, 1 rep. guess I’m the fat guy but at this age I’ll live with it.

    500 squat. No belt, no raps, no suit, thus no higher for me.

    Dead lift. null and void for the current time being, but confident I could walk in to gym today and do 405 easily.

    I don’t post it on FB but I do let my work-out buddies know it on fb with private messages so WTF is wrong with that? If you live that culture of raps and the smell of plates then you probably hang around with people who do the same thing.

    BTW I was 285 on average in college at 22 when I was peak lifting these numbers and now I’m right around 315. I carry that on a 6’6″ frame so parallel is a easy mark to know when I’m there, and I had a spotter call me up every time.

    I agree there are some chumps out there who can’t do this stuff, and talk a game, but there are plenty of gorillas still out there in the gyms who can move the plates.

  16. ed miller Says:

    I see 800+ squats, 700+ deadlifts and 500+ benches all the time… but i work out at quads south… i squat 405 and bench 335 and im like the weakest guy here!

  17. Pj79 Says:

    my senior year of high i was 6’3″ 225 i squatted 405 , benched 325 and hang cleaned 225 10 times i didnt eat often so i can see some ppl benching 400 and squatting 600

  18. Eric Cressey Says:


    HUGE difference between a 405 and 600 pound squat, and a 325 and 400 bench. You’re talking about years of work even in the most elite lifters with outstanding approaches to nutrition and recovery.

  19. Brutally Frank Shannon Says:

    I lift competitively, so I’m around alot of guys who actually DO heavy lifting – and hardly talk about it. Therein lies the difference, perhaps. At the Y where I work, and do some of my training, there was one clown around my age (I’m 50) who probably weighed 170-something. He’d take up one of the squat racks, spend alot of time wrapping his knees and belting up, then get under 450, shoulder it, step out, and then squat down MAYBE four to six inches! He actually expended more time and energy wrapping his knobby knees! I told him maybe a couple of times, “Why don’t you strip that bar down to 135 and get your ASS on the floor? You’d do your legs a lot more good.” He complained that he had bad knees, which I’d bet was bovine excrement. Then one day he came in with a handful of some old ’70s looking polaroids. “Hey, wanna see photos of my old girlfriend?” It was photos of some girl, judging from the hairstyle back in the 1970s, TOPLESS. She’s probably a grandmother by now, and hopefully alot wiser than when she allowed this moron to photograph her tatas way back when. I told him I’m a churchgoing guy and to get that crap out of my face or I’d throw him a beating. Idiot, he was, on any number of levels.

  20. Brutally Frank Shannon Says:

    Read what Nick Horton had to say. Reminded me of a kid I encountered while working at the Y one evening. I’m near the front desk when I hear CRASH! I go storming back to the squat racks where this high school aged kid who MIGHT have weighed 150 or 160 is standing over a 315-lb. bar that’s laying on the floor where it landed OUTSIDE the squat rack. That’s right, he was squatting OUTSIDE the cage, instead of availing himself of the safety bars, AND he was doing “box squats,” which I perpetually discourage people from doing, since when you make contact with the box, even slight contact, you transfer all that force onto your spinal column. On top of that, this dumb kid was lifting WAY beyond his pay grade. I reamed him out and lectured him. How much good it did, who knows. He said his coach told him to do it that way. I replied, “What’s he coaching you in, how to get crippled?”

  21. Ethan V Says:

    The most I have ever seen in a gym was a 400 pound bench press, and 500 pound deadlift. My friend did the 400 pound bench press, yet he weighed a consistant 180Lb’s at 5’6″. Had the pecs of a gorilla. I myself deadlift 450 and I’m pushing for 500 now. I’m 270 at 6’2″. If you can pull big numbers, you will look the part.

  22. Eric Cressey Says:

    Well said, Ethan!

  23. TJ B Says:

    I have weigt lifted for years and have been powerlifting for two years consistently.

    I did not know what proper technique on the squat, deadlift or bench were before beginning training with lifters that actually knew what they were doing.

    I have seen some impressive bench presses in my gym, the most being a very large african guy that had to be close to the 300lb mark repping out 315 for sets of 10. That is a rarity. I have never seen anyone bench 4 plates without a bench shirt.

    In all my years in the gym, I have only ever once seen a guy put up a massive squat. He put up 675 wearing briefs and a power belt….oh and he was a former IPF world champion. ( I went and talked to him)

    The keyboard warriors are always stronger on here.

    My best lifts to date:

    435 deep squat with just a power belt.
    520 deadlift – with just a belt
    275 bench – with a pause on my chest.

    btw, I am 6’2″ 240lbs.

  24. Eric Cressey Says:

    Well said, TJ!

  25. TJ B Says:


    THe keyboard warriors frustrate me. Everyone is an expert behind their keyboard.

    It’s sad to see guys like Jim Wendler, Dave Tate and even Louie Simmons get trash talked by all these “experts” from behind their computer screens.

    The sad thing is, these experts have likely never had 500lbs on their backs let alone 800-900lbs ever, but they are the first to sling shit.

    There are even guys like that at my gym. Had a 150lb personal trainer tell me he used to be able to bench press 315….sure you did pal, and then you woke up right?

    I train at an athletes gym where there are some elite lacrosse, hockey, football players etc, and none of them put up the numbers that guys clain to on the internet.

  26. Robert Says:

    Commercial gym staff would put a stop to is as soon as they see their precious bars bending

  27. Big Rich Says:

    Listen guys there are a few genetic freaks out there who can put up big weight early into thier weighlifing ventures. But for the most part it takes years of training to get to the numbers that people on the internet claim. After 10 years of training, I am almost an elite level powerlifter. The first time I benched 400 pounds was in 2006. It has taken me almost another 8 years to get to 500. Legitimate Big numbers are attainable but it takes hard work and good genetics to get it done.

  28. Tyler Rice Says:

    I know this is an old post but I can’t help but comment. I agree completely with this. I’m 28 yrs old 265Lbs and have pushed and pushed to reach 365 on bench 3X’s (correctly) and squat 405 3X’s (correctly) and deadlift 455 3X’s (correctly) I’m a stickler on form and I don’t believe 1 rep of anything means you can do it. I’ve seen so many people put there body in danger of injury to try to impress the hot girl in yoga pants just to be the gym hard*ss. This is stupid! If you are in the gym to improve your self… DO IT! The only person impressed by incorrect form and half reps is the 15 yr old kid that doesn’t know any better. If your 15, 20, 25, 50 whatever do what you need to do to improve yourself! See the 250Lb guy squating 500+ HE DIDN’T DO IT IN ONE WEEK AND NO ONE ELSE WILL EITHER. I truly like seeing posts like the ones on here bc people understand what lifting is actually about. SELF IMPROVEMENT. The only person anyone needs to impress to know its worth the pain, the time, and the physical abuse is yourself.

  29. Tyler Rice Says:

    Sorry to double post guys and I know im preaching to the choir but I wanna throw this out there just as a reminder to people next time you lay under that heavy bench goal you’re shooting for please please use correct grip not prison grip just bc its more comfortable. I say this due to setting myself back a couple weeks on training bc I had a stupid moment n dropped 405 on my chest. If you go heavy go smart!!!

  30. Hunter Sato Says:

    There are about 4 guys at my gym pushing up 405 fairly easy. (5 reps) On the other hand I don’t see anyone at my gym squatting over 405lbs. I can squat 425lbs twice in a set. Here’s my maxes Chest Press 355lbs, Squat 425 x2 (haven’t really maxed) 500lbs on dead lift. I weigh 260 lbs so I figured I had better be in the 1000 lb club at least or I’m just not doing it right.

  31. John Doe Says:

    Hi, guys. I am 26yo, weight training for 3 years, weight around 210 lbs at 6feet 1′. I used to weight around 225, but 6 weeks ago I started with the Paleo Diet and dropped 15 lbs. I also recently started doing squats and deadlifts and I am kinda worried about my results. I am actually the opposite of all the guys on the internet. I bench only 165 lbs ( like 1 rep ), squat 90 lbs ( for reps ) which maybe I can do with 100+ but I haven’t really tried yet ; deadlift 165 for reps since I haven’t tried to max it out either. Any suggestions ?

  32. Dominique Says:

    You’re starting out. Don’t get discouraged at your current poundages; you have lots of newbie gains to harvest! I personally started out two years ago deadlifting three times a week doing 3 sets of 5 with 135 and adding 10, later 5 pounds regularly, mostly every week, until I was deadlifting 335 for 5 and my weight went from 220 to 240 in the process (I stand 6’1″). Believe it or not, I STILL deadlift three times a week most of the time; it’s because I generally stay in the 70-75% range (you’ll typically see me doing 8 or 10 triples with 340-ish while my current max is close to 500, but sometimes I’ll do many singles, starting at a modest weight and adding 20-lb incréments; last time I did 10 singles, went up from 285 all the way to a slow but solid single at 465). To me, a lift is a skill – you have to practice and hone it, hence my training frequent with loads that won’t burn me out. I’m rarely sore and feel fresh all the time; when I’m going heavier or in a meet, I always have reserve stores to pull from (pun intended). I ain’t gonna pretend that my way is the best; this is what worked best for me thus far. A Norwegian powerlifter would advise me to train even more often while an American will say “You’ll fry your CNS bro!”. For a beginner I would suggest to stick with a simple program done every other day: three main lifts plus three complimentary lifts (I’d suggest barbell row for upper back strength, overhead press for shoulder beef and some planks for core strength). As for sets, 3 x 5 reps with a weight you could do 8-10 reps with is a good place to start. It’s OK to keep the same loads for 2-3 weeks; add weight when it’s getting really easy to do your reps. No need to go to failure. I personally like to test myself once per month by maxing out, but for a newbie, I think a rep-out test would do just fine. The best advice I can give is to pick a good, simple basic program and STICK to it without listening to the army of people who’ll tell you to do this or that. If you’re after strength, several sets to practice the lifts and frequent training with moderate loads are very likely to get you somewhere.

  33. Dominique Says:

    I train at home, so I have no idea how my lifts would look in a commercial gym. After two years of lifting for strength, my heaviest deadlift to this day is 465 (there was still a slight margin; I never truly maxed out this lift yet, but I intend to do it soon by taking a shot at 485 to see if I’m ready for 500; 485 would be my first double bodyweight DL); my heaviest deadlift set is a triple with 450. My heaviest squat is 445 and I missed 465 by a hair. I don’t bench at all; my heaviest strict clean & press was 180 with some power to spare and I recently clean & push pressed 195 with definite power to spare. My typical sessions are full body = clean & push press (for Strongman meets) doing many triples around 150 lbs and cleaning the bar on every rep (what good is a strong press if you can’t clean the bar?), followed with one-arm DB presses, then on to deadlift work (10 sets of 3 at 350 is very typical) and then to some squatting (my quads have lately got stronger so fast from frequent, moderate-load training that I am compelled to do less squatting and more deadlifting so my hammies can catch up!). One thing I know for sure = I never saw anyone cleaning a 200-lb bar to lift it overhead (strict, push or even jerk) in a commercial gym. I am feeling that my actual lifter’s journey is just about to begin: no more newbie gains and I have to start to look at what I need to get stronger for a lift to go up.

  • Avoid the most common deadlifting mistakes
  • 9 - minute instructional video
  • 3 part follow up series