While push-ups are a limited measurement of your fitness, they do provide a good understanding of your upper body muscular endurance. Some organizations use a one-minute push-up test while others test the maximum number of push-ups you can do with no time limit.
Push-Up Muscular Endurance Test
One way to perform the push-up muscular endurance test is to see how many push-ups you can do before you are straining too much or are unable to do the push-ups with correct technique, advises Canada College. While you can do this test on your own, it can be helpful to have a partner to count for you and monitor your form.
To perform a proper push-up, begin in a prone position. Place your hands flat on the ground, slightly wider than your shoulders, advises ExRx. net. Keeping your body straight and spine in a neutral position, straighten your arms to raise your body into a plank position. At the bottom of the push-up, your elbows must be bent to a 90-degree angle.
Women have the option to do modified push-ups during the test. For the modified push-up, simply lower your knees to the ground and perform the push-up as described above.
Average Number of Push-Ups: Adults
The average number of push-ups adults can do varies by age range and gender. The norms provided by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology breaks up the results into the following categories: needs improvement, fair, good, very good and excellent. Looking at the "good" category, the average number of push-ups for each age group is:
15 to 19 years old: 23 to 28 push-ups for men, 18 to 24 push-ups for women
20 to 29 years old: 22 to 28 push-ups for men, 15 to 20 push-ups for women
30 to 39 years old: 17 to 21 push-ups for men, 13 to 19 push-ups for women
40 to 49 years old: 13 to 16 push-ups for men, 11 to 14 push-ups for women
50 to 59 years old: 10 to 12 push-ups for men, seven to 10 push-ups for women
60 years and older: eight to 10 push-ups for men, five to 11 push-ups for women
Of course, the average varies greatly across the general population due to diverse lifestyles, careers and health conditions. Barring a medical condition or injury that prevents you from exercising, consider improving your muscular endurance if you fall into the "needs improvement" category in the norms. The number of push-ups for each age group is:
15 to 19 years old: 17 or fewer push-ups for men,
11 or fewer
push-ups for women
20 to 29 years old:
16 or fewer push-ups for men, nine or fewer push-ups for women
30 to 39 years old:
11 or fewer push-ups for men, seven or fewer push-ups for women
40 to 49 years old: nine or fewer push-ups for men, four or fewer push-ups for women
50 to 59 years old: six or fewer push-ups for men, one or fewer push-ups for women
60 years and older: four or fewer push-ups for men, one or fewer push-ups for women
Average Number of Push-Ups: Children
The push-up test is one of the options schools have for testing upper body muscular endurance for the Presidential Youth Fitness Program, advises the Cooper Institute. This program focuses on developing a lifelong physical fitness habit in youth. Each assessment test is designed to help students understand and gauge different aspects of physical fitness. The other two tests that institutions can opt to use instead include the flexed arm hang and the modified pull-up.
Between the ages of 7 and 9, the average number of push-ups for boys and girls is the same, advises ExRx.net. At the 50th percentile, 7-year-olds perform eight push-ups on average and by 9 years old, perform 12 push-ups on average. Starting at age 10, the average for boys becomes greater than for girls. For example, the average for a 12-year-old boy is 18, while the average for girls is only 11.
One-Minute Push-Up Test
Some police departments and military branches use a one-minute push-up test. In this test, candidates perform as many push-ups as they can in the one-minute time limit. The specific requirements vary for each organization.
The Vermont State Police, for example, requires candidates to perform a minimum number of push-ups to qualify to enter the police academy. Modified push-ups are not allowed. The minimum requirements as of 2018 are:
- 20 to 29 years old: 33 push-ups for men, 18 push-ups for women
- 30 to 39 years old: 27 push-ups for men, 14 push-ups for women
- 40 to 49 years old: 21 push-ups for men, 11 push-ups for women
- 50 to 55 years old: 15 push-ups for men, zero push-ups for women
The U.S. Air Force also requires new recruits to pass a physical fitness test that includes a one-minute push-up test. Men under the age of 30 must perform at least 33 push-ups and women need to do at least 18. Men between the ages of 30 and 39 only need to do 27 push-ups, while women must meet the requirement of at least 14 push-ups.
Improve Your Scores
Whether you were unable to meet the minimum or the average number of push-ups for your age group and gender or you just want to improve your score, you can improve your fitness with some simple exercises and push-up variations. The push-up mainly targets your pectoralis muscle in your chest, but also uses your deltoids, biceps and triceps, quadriceps in your legs and activates several muscles groups in your core.
Strengthen your core and improve your stability with exercises like plank reaches, advises the American Council on Exercise. To perform this exercise, start in a plank position with a straight body and a neutral spine. Lift one hand and lift it until it is straight and in-line with your body. Lower your hand and repeat on the other side.
A single arm chest press will also help strengthen your pecs and core. Lying on a bench, move your feet and legs out to a 45-degree angle until only one shoulder and your head are on the bench. Reach over your head to grab the bench with one hand. With the other hand do a chest press with a dumbbell. Repeat on the other side.
- Canada College: "Step 2: Assess Your Fitness Level"
- ExRx.net: "Push-Up"
- ExRx.net: "Youth Fitness Test Norms"
- Cooper Institute: "FITNESSGRAM® /ACTIVITYGRAM® Reference Guide (4th Edition)"
- Vermont State Police: "Minimum Fitness Standards for Recruits"
- U.S. Air Force: "Are You Ready for Basic Training?"
- American Council on Exercise: "4 Moves to Help You Master the Push-Up"