The Push-Up Test

Measuring your fitness level regularly is one way to find out if you're making progress. Most fitness centers have trained staff who can evaluate your body composition, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, and cardiovascular endurance, but it can be pricey. If you don’t have access to all the toys and tools of your gym, don’t panic. You have everything you need to measure your fitness level in your own house!

The Push-Up Test measures muscular strength and endurance, a combination that better reflects your fitness level than strength tests like the one rep max. Besides being dangerous, single rep max tests also require a lot of equipment (bench press or squat rack, barbells, and other weights). A timed push-up test, on the other hand, can be done anywhere.

Equipment needed: A stop watch or timer that can measure one full minute; a friend to help keep count and time you (optional).

Goal: Do as many push ups as you can in one minute.

Execution: Men will assume a traditional push-up position and females can use the modified push-up position (on knees). When the push ups start, so does the clock! Press yourself up with arms fully extended and lower yourself back until your chest is three inches from the floor (but do not touch your body to the floor). Repeat as many times as you can in one minute. You may rest only in the “up” position if necessary.

What this measures: Strength and endurance in your chest, shoulders, and triceps.

Scoring: Here are the age-adjusted standards based on guidelines published by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM):

Ratings for Men (Full Push Ups), based on Age
   20-29  30-39  40-49  50-59  60+
 Excellent  > 54  > 44 > 39 > 34  > 29
 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  < 15  < 12  < 8  < 5

Ratings for Women (Modified Push Ups), based on Age
  20-29 30-39 40-49 50-59 60+
Excellent >48 >39 >34 >29 >19
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 < 4 < 3 < 2 < 1

Maybe you’ll find that you’re doing really well. But even if you weren't able to do enough reps to register on the chart, that's OK. Everyone starts somewhere! Just try to improve gradually over time from where you started. Remember, you are looking for improvement in yourself, regardless of what a chart says or how many repetitions someone else can do.

How to improve: To improve your scores in this test, focus on strength training the specific muscles of the chest, shoulders, and triceps. Good exercises that target these muscles include: How to know its working: When you're done testing, you can track your results on SparkPeople to keep track of your progress! Over time, you should be able to do more push ups in subsequent assessments. Try to retest yourself every 4-8 weeks.

This test is a great tool to see how you are doing. If you don’t score as well as you like, just remember to focus on improving your own scores periodically. As long as you are improving, your fitness plan is working. If you find you aren’t making the progress that you feel you should be seeing, it may be time to change your workout routine.
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Member Comments

Women should NOT be encouraged to do a modified push up! Please throw away the modified women's chart and give us the one for the full push up. Act like you care about our health! You want us to accept mediocrity? Women need to build up their strength too, or they'll be breaking their back by doing something as simple as lifting a bag of groceries. It is a myth that women should accept less for themselves. As a health site, SparkPeople should do better to promote full wellness for women. Not just men! That's ludicrous! Also, the modified push up was developed for ANYONE who needed it as a stepping stone towards getting to full push ups. Not just women should ever do that, and no one should be satisfied with staying there permanently. The sexism in this article is really offensive. Report
I agree with _DEE_ME. Where is the additional chart for a full push up, done by a woman? Yes, men have more muscle, but it doesn’t mean women can’t do pull ups or push ups. Report
Great info! Thanks! Report
A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him. ~ DAVID BRINKLEY~ 5/6/18 Report
Saying that men do a full push up, and only women can do the modified push up, is bull, a load of crap Report
ROSSYFLOSSY
Going to try this ! Report
I am 59 years old and I can do 52 in a minute. Report
I'm doing the push-up test with my class! Report
In boot camp 40 years ago, I still had trouble with doing just one. Report
adding to my list of things to do tomorrow Report
lucky to do 1. Report
Pushups are not my favorite, but I have gotten better at them. Report
TRIMNUP
I especially appreciate this point in this article: "Everyone starts somewhere! Just try to improve gradually over time from where you started. Remember, you are looking for improvement in yourself."

That is how change happens. Report
This is a great challenge, however, one that I cannot do. I have arthritis in my thumbs and the weight would kill me. I can however, do planks, which I enjoy and are very challenging for me!! Thanks so much!! Report
67 year old male. Can't do many pushups ... yet. I like this test enough to make it a challenge to measure every week as suggested. Report


 

About The Author

Jason Anderson
Jason Anderson
Jason loves to see people realize the benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle. He is a certified personal trainer and enjoys running races--from 5Ks to 50K ultramarathons. See all of Jason's articles.