Give Yourself a New Strength Goal: Join the 1,000-Pound Club

EVERY SPORT HAS its performance benchmarks. From breaking the 5-minute mile barrier as a runner to speeding through 40 kilometers in less than an hour as a cyclist to completing more than 700 meters in 12 minutes as a swimmer, using these numbers for your goals can take your everyday training to the next level. If you lift weights, there’s no better way to earn bragging rights than to qualify for the 1,000-Pound Club.

Joining this elite club’s ranks is simple, but far from easy: You must achieve combined one rep max of 1,000 pounds in the squat, bench press, and deadlift.

That requires an impressive amount of weight for each lift, which is why hefting it all is such an honored strength standard. But if you think it’s beyond your capabilities, you’re probably wrong. With the right training plan and enough dedication, just about any man can achieve it. Indeed, Hugh Jackman became a member of the 1,000-Pound Club at 46 by performing a 355-pound squat, a 235-pound bench press, and a 410-pound deadlift.

How to Join the 1,000-Pound Club

The first step in gaining entry to the 1,000-Pound Club is to assess your current 1RM in the squat, bench press, and deadlift (a.k.a. powerlifting’s “big three” exercises). If you’re not able to hit your one rep max safely with a reliable spotter on hand, you can calculate your 1RM using your 3 to 5 rep max—but keep in mind that you’ll ultimately have to perform true 1RM lifts to join the club (unless you're strong enough that your totals go above 1,000 pounds for reps, that is).

Once you know how far you have to go to achieve your goal, all you need is a training plan that can help get you there. Start incorporating the three exercises as main lifts in your workouts. Do them first in the workout while your muscles are still fresh so you can get the most out of them. Start factoring in progressive overload—regularly challenging your muscles. You do that in several ways, the most obvious being increasing the amount of weight you’re lifting. You can also slow down your lifts to increase time under tension, increase your training frequency, or incorporate more intense variations.


How to Do It:

  • Step up to the loaded barbell, starting with your feet about shoulder-width apart (this might vary by your anatomy and personal preference with experience), with your feet under the bar. Your shins should be close to or actually touching the bar.

  • Push your butt back and hinge at the waist to bend down to grab the bar on either side of your legs. Grasp it in both hands using an overhand grip.

  • Make sure your hips are lower than your shoulders. Squeeze your shoulder blades together to set your lats, then engage your core. Keep your neck in a neutral position; don't look up.

  • Push your feet through the floor and pull the weight up, keeping the bar close to your body. You might find that you scrape your shins with the bar, that's okay. Invest in long socks or wear pants. Squeeze your glutes at the top of the list, but don't lean back.

Sets and Reps: Aim for 3 to 4 sets of 6 to 8 reps to start. As you build up load, start incorporating lower rep schemes to build up strength.

Barbell Back Squat

How to Do It:

  • Dip underneath the bar. Think about creating tension across the shoulder blades as you pull yourself in front of it.

  • Place the bar on the meaty portion of your traps—not your neck. Your neck should be able to comfortably stay neutral the whole time. If you feel like you’re craning forward, the bar may be too high.

  • Pull the elbows down so that they are almost in line with your torso.

  • Push up to get the bar off the hook before stepping back.

  • Move the feet so they’re a little wider than shoulder width, with the toes pointed slightly outward.

  • Start by pushing the butt back and tilting the torso forward just slightly before you start bending the knees. Take a deep inhale right before you lower. Take your time lowering down—about 2 seconds.

  • Open the knees as you lower down. Lower only to the level where you’re able to keep your lower back straight.

  • As you push up, raise the torso and hips at the same time. Keep the knees pushed out.

Sets and Reps: Aim for 3 to 4 sets of anywhere from 3 to 10 reps, depending on intensity. As you increase load, decrease your reps.

Bench Press

How to Do It:

  • Lie down on the bench with your feet flat on the ground. Keep your glutes engaged, and tighten up your core by thinking about squeezing your belly button back towards your spine.

  • Start with the barbell or dumbbells directly over your shoulders. Inhale as you lower, think about creating a 45 degree bend in your armpits. Keep your forearms perpendicular to the ground.

  • Exhale and squeeze the chest together to push the weight back up.

Sets and Reps: 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps, lowering the reps as you increase the load.

This is Your Quick Training Tip, a chance to learn how to work smarter in just a few moments so you can get right to your workout.

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