Push-ups are useful as a test of upper body strength because they are easy to learn and don't require any equipment. You might be wondering, "How many push-ups should I be able to do?" Using Army, Navy and police academy push-up test requirements can give you a benchmark.
Understand Push-Up Anatomy
You work the chest, shoulder and arm muscles when doing a push-up. The pectoralis major, also known as the chest muscle, helps press your body up. It spans from your sternum to your shoulder and allows you to bring your arms in toward each other. It's the same muscle that helps a bird flap its wings.
The anterior deltoid is the front of the shoulder muscle. It does a similar job to the chest muscle by bringing your arm forward. Also involved in the push-up is the tricep, which is one of your arm muscles. It runs down the back of your arm and helps straighten your elbow.
These muscles help you push objects forward, whether it's a shopping cart or the ground in front of you during a push-up. A similar exercise to the push-up is the bench press. To do a bench press, you lie down on a bench and press a barbell up.
Push-ups are easy to incorporate into your workout routine because they don't require equipment. You can do them at home or while you're traveling or at the gym. Before you get too concerned over how many push-ups you should do, take time to perfect your technique.
Learn Proper Push-Up Technique
According to Army physical fitness test standards from California State University, Fullerton, you should set up with your feet together or up to 12 inches apart. Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to the ankles. In other words, your butt shouldn't be sticking up in the air or sagging toward the floor.
When the push-up starts, you lower your body down by bending your elbows. Go down until your upper arms are at least parallel to the ground. Then, you have to press yourself back up until your elbows are fully extended. If you don't come all the way back up, the repetition doesn't count.
As you move, your body should remain in a straight line. As you press yourself back up from the bottom of the movement, make sure your hips don't sag down. Throughout the movement, avoid moving your head as well. It should be aligned with the rest of your body, which means that you're neither looking up or down but straight ahead at the ground.
In the Army physical fitness test, if you can't perform the first 10 reps correctly, you're asked to perform push-ups from your knees. These are easier than regular push-ups.
How many push-ups should a beginner do? Ten push-ups with strict form is a good goal for beginners. Once you can get 10 push-ups with strict form, you can set new goals.
Read more: Proper Push-Up Technique
Push-Up Test Standards
Once you're sure you use correct form when doing push-ups, you can begin comparing yourself to standards. Most military and police organizations have a physical fitness test that's required for entry. The requirements are usually broken down by gender and age, and every repetition is judged during the test.
To join the Coast Guard, men have to do 29 push-ups in one minute. It's one of the only tests that isn't broken down by age. On the other hand, the Army physical fitness test is broken into four-year age groups.
To pass the test, you have to score at least a 50. The score is based on the number of repetitions you can do, and you can score all the way up to 100 points. As a recruit, you're not allowed to pass basic training until you can pass the fitness test.
Within two minutes, you have to do enough push-ups to score 50 points. According to Military.com, the requirements by age include:
- 35 for men ages 17 to 21
- 31 for men ages 22 to 26
- 30 for men age 27 to 31
- 26 for men age 32 to 36
- 24 for men age 37 to 41
For the Navy, the requirements are very similar, although the Navy's scoring system is different. You have to score a "satisfactory" rating on your test in order to pass. To get a satisfactory score, you need to be able to do:
- 42 reps for men ages 20 to 24
- 37 reps for men ages 25 to 29
- 34 reps for men ages 30 to 34
- 31 reps for men ages 35 to 39
These repetition counts are higher than the Army's test, so don't feel discouraged if you're not quite there. The military has strict standards in general for their push-up test since they're trying to prepare cadets for combat. Police academies keep high standards as well, but they're not as rigorous as the military.
According to an article from Kent State University, the push-up requirements for the Ohio state police are:
- 22 reps for men under age 29
- 17 reps for men ages 30 to 39
- 11 reps for men ages 40 to 49
Compete Against Yourself
You must complete those requirements as well as other fitness tests to graduate from a police academy. The average numbers for the police academy are lower than those of the military, which may be more realistic as an average number of push-ups.
Keep in mind that every organization requires testing for push-ups, which includes a judge who can monitor technique. If you've been practicing push-ups at the gym but you aren't going down all the way or locking your elbows out at the top, your numbers might fall when you start to use strict form.
Use these averages as a benchmark, but remember to focus on what you can do. If you've just started doing push-ups, you shouldn't expect to be able to hit those numbers. They're meant to be an average number, between complete beginners and advanced trainees.
To get better at push-ups, you have to practice the movement. If you can't do one rep with proper form, start with your knees on the floor. Practice several days per week, leaving at least one day to rest between push-up workouts. Over time, your numbers should rise.
- Kent State University: "Police Academy Physical Fitness Standards"
- Navy: "Navy Physical Readiness Program"
- Military.com: "Army PFT Push-Up Score Chart"
- Coast Guard: "What Are the Minimum Physical Fitness Requirements?"
- Fullerton: "APFT Administration Instructions"
- University of Washington: "Deltoid"
- University of Washington: "Pectoralis Major"
- ACE Fitness: "Arm Exercises: Push-Up"