Push-ups are the easiest way to test upper body endurance because you can do them almost anywhere. Men sometimes challenge each other to push-up contests because it's such an easy way to show who has better upper body fitness.
How to Determine the Average
If you're wondering where you stack up against other men in the push-up, you can turn to various fitness and military organizations for an answer. Organizations like the Army, National Strength and Conditioning Association, and American College of Sports Medicine have tried to set a standard for the amount of push-ups the average man should be able to do. However, these numbers vary based on age and population, so you have to take all of the numbers with a grain of salt.
The problem with finding an average number of push-ups is consistency. The only way to find a true average is to use the same test with every man on earth, but that would be an impossible task. An organization like the Army has a large population of men that they can test but this might not give you an accurate average because Army recruits spend time training and are conscious of their fitness.
The Different Tests
The other tests, one from the American College of Sports Medicine and one from the National Strength and Conditioning Association don't use Army recruits but they use different testing protocols, so the results will vary compared to the Army test.
Army Physical Fitness Test
- 35 push-ups for 17-21 year olds
- 31 push-ups for 22-26 year olds
- 30 push-ups for 27-31 year olds
- 26 push-ups for 32-36 year olds
- 24 push-ups for 47-51 year olds
These numbers are based on many years of training men for the Army, but they still don't represent the average man. Army recruits are generally expected to be more fit than the average man needs to be.
ACSM Push-Up Test
The American College of Sports Medicine's push-up test doesn't have a time limit. You perform push-ups until you reach the point of failure. You're allowed to rest at the top of the movement but if you lie down on the floor the test is over.
For the ACSM test a number of push-ups that ranks as "good" on a scale of "needs improvement" to "excellent"per age group are:
- 24-29 push-ups for ages 20-29
- 19-23 push-ups for ages 30-39
- 13-18 push-ups for ages 40-49
- 10-13 push-ups for ages 50-59
- 9-10 push-ups for ages 60-69
NSCA Push-Up Test
The third organization, the National Strength and Conditioning Association, has the following averages:
- 24 push-ups for age 20-29
- 19 push-ups for ages 30-39
- 13 push-ups for ages 40-49
- 10 push-ups for ages 50-59
- 9 push-ups for ages 60-69
These averages are significantly lower than either the Army or ACSM test. While neither the ACSM or NSCA release how they determine the average number of push-ups, you can assume that it is based off of people in the general population because that is to whom they cater.
The average number of push-ups that men can do differs by age and population. What is average for someone in their 50's who works at an office is much different from a 20 year-old soldier. You can use the guidelines from any organization above as a rough guideline, but your main goal in push-up workouts should be to increase the amount of push-ups that you can do, whether you are average or not.
If you are below average, use the numbers above as a goal to reach towards. If you are already average, or even above average, you can keep progressing by setting higher goals. There is no drawback to being above average.