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The Disadvantages of Pushup Tests

author image Van Thompson
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.
The Disadvantages of Pushup Tests
The pushup test should be only one component of a complete physical fitness evaluation. Photo Credit Antonio_Diaz/iStock/Getty Images

Fitness tests can help you gauge your physical fitness, particularly relative to other people. No single test will give you a full reading on your health and fitness, but pushup tests -- usually called press-up tests in physical fitness testing jargon -- gauge upper-body strength and can help you determine the extent of your muscular endurance.

Incomplete Testing

The pushup test won't measure aerobic fitness, body fat or lower-body strength, each of which plays an important role in physical fitness. Consequently, a high score on the pushup test can be misleading if you're not taking other fitness tests. Athletes who focus solely on the pushup test may neglect other important measures of strength and fitness, resulting in muscular imbalances and weaknesses in aerobic fitness.

Issues With Gender

Most organizations set different standards for women and men taking the pushup test. Fitness expert Colette Dowling argues in her book "The Frailty Myth" that women are not necessarily weaker than men, but tend to have better lower-body strength. The lower standards for women in the pushup test may create the illusion that they are weak. Some men have also argued against the standards. In 2012, an FBI analyst sued, saying that the lower standards for women were biased against men. Behavioral scientist Craig Jackson has argued that pushup tests are often biased against women because of the environment in which they are administered. He also emphasizes that overweight men may score better on fitness tests than healthy women.

Safety Concerns

Pushup tests often come with high stakes. You might have to complete the test to get a job, to pass a class or to get medical go-ahead for some activities. This can encourage you to push yourself past the point of safety, resulting in muscle injuries and exhaustion. Weak shoulder and chest muscles may tear or strain, and this can cause pain to radiate throughout the body, in addition to making other physical tasks more challenging.

Maintaining Motivation

Passing a pushup test can be exhilarating, but if you fail, you may actually lose motivation. Because no single test can completely measure physical fitness, a low score on the pushup test could mislead you about your physical capabilities, resulting in discouragement and even causing you to quit trying to increase the number of pushups you can do.

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