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The Push Up Test Measures Upper Body Strength and Endurance

The push up fitness assessment is an easy way to track your workout progress

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Updated November 05, 2013

Push Up Start

Push Up Start

Photo © E. Quinn
Push ups are not only a great way to build upper body strength and endurance, but they are a good way to test your upper body muscular strength and endurance.

The push-up test is a basic fitness test used by coaches, trainers and athletes to assess upper body fitness and to monitor progress during strength and fitness training. This simple test helps you compare your own upper body muscular endurance to others of your age and gender, and track your fitness program over time.

Why Worry About Upper Body Strength and Endurance?

Strength and endurance in the muscles of the upper body, specifically the chest, shoulders, triceps and core is a good indication of overall fitness. This simple exercise engages muscles throughout the entire body -- from head to toe -- in order to maintain a rigid position. Upper body strength and endurance is essential for athletes such as swimmers, climbers, or golfers who demand strength and power from their arms and shoulder to perform well and avoid injury. But a strong upper body is also important for everyone who wants to perform everyday movements, such as carrying luggage or picking up children, with ease and without risking injury.

Primary Muscles Used During the Push Up

  • Shoulders (Anterior and Medial Deltoids))
  • Chest (Pectorals)
  • Back of the Upper Arm (Triceps)

How to Perform the Push-Up Test

While performing push ups, you lift nearly 75% of your total body weight. Using a modified push-up position reduces this amount to about 60% of your total body weight.

Standard Push Up Test

  • Perform a short warm up before performing any fitness testing.
  • Begin in a push up position on hands and toes with hands shoulder-width apart and elbows fully extended.
  • While keeping a straight line from the toes, to hips, and to the shoulders, lower your upper body so your elbows bend to 90 degrees.
  • Push back up to the start position.
  • That is one rep.
  • Continue with this form and complete as many repetitions as possible without breaking form.
  • Record the total number of full push ups completed.

Modified Push Up-Test
A modified version of the test is used for women, who tend to have less relative upper body strength than men. The test is conducted in the same way as above, but uses a modified, "on the knee" push-up position.

  • Perform a short warm up before performing any fitness testing.
  • Begin in a modified push up position, on the hands and knees with hands shoulder-width apart and elbows fully extended.
  • Drop the hips, and move the hands forward until you create a straight line from the knees, to the hips, and to the shoulders.
  • While keeping a straight position from the knees to the shoulders, lower your upper body so your elbows bend to 90 degrees.
  • Push back up to the start position.
  • That is one rep.
  • Continue with this form and complete as many repetitions as possible without breaking form.
  • Record the total number of full modified push ups completed.

How to Score Your Push Up Fitness Test Results

After your complete the test, compare your results to the norms and recommendations for your age and gender with the following table. To assess your training progress, you can do the push-up test every 8 to 12 weeks.

Source:

McArdle W.D. et al, Essentials of Exercise Physiology, 2000, 2006. Published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Push Up Fitness Test Results

Men Age: 20-29 Age: 30-39 Age: 40-49 Age: 50-59 Age: 60+
Excellent 54 or more 44 or more 39 or more 34 or more 29 or more
Good 45-54 35-44 30-39 25-34 20-29
Average 35-44 24-34 20-29 15-24 10-19
Poor 20-34 15-24 12-19 8-14 5-9
Very Poor 20 or fewer 15 or fewer 12 or fewer 8 or fewer 5 or fewer
Women Age: 20-29 Age: 30-39 Age: 40-49 Age: 50-59 Age: 60+
Excellent 48 or more 39 or more 34 or more 29 or more 19 or more
Good 34-48 25-39 20-34 15-29 5-19
Average 17-33 12-24 8-19 6-14 3-4
Poor 6-16 4-11 3-7 2-5 1-2
Very Poor 6 or fewer 4 or fewer 3 or fewer 2 or fewer 1 or fewer
Related Video
Building Upper Body Strength in Children
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