Test Your Upper Body Strength With a Pushup Test

Getty Images/Mike Harrington

If you're starting an exercise program, it's a good idea to establish a few baseline measurements so you can track your progress and make sure you're getting results. Taking your measurements, charting your resting heart rate and/or getting your body fat tested are good places to start, but what about your fitness?

Fitness tests are a great way to measure where you are and the pushup test is a favorite of personal trainers because it's a simple way to measure your endurance and upper body strength.

Pushups involve almost all the muscles of your upper body, including the chest, shoulders, and triceps with the abs and back working as stabilizers. If you do them on your toes, you activate almost every muscle in the body, making pushups one of the most efficient and functional exercises you can do.

Not only that but doing a pushup test every so often gives you tangible results that you can track. With weight loss, your results will fluctuate and you often have to wait weeks or months to lose significant weight. By using this pushup test, you can see how much stronger you are and that may just be one more thing that motivates you to keep going.

How to Do the Pushup Test

The pushup test is designed to establish a baseline for muscular endurance and upper body strength. Once you've gotten your score, take the test again every 4-6 weeks to track your progress.

By adding pushups to your regular workout routine and working on your upper body strength, you can increase the number of pushups you can do over time.

  If you're not able to do the pushups described below, try a modified version with the knees on the floor and keep track of how many you can do with good form, working to improve on that number and working your way up to the more advanced versions.

  1. Begin with 5-10 minutes of cardio to warm up the muscles
  1. For men: Get into a pushup position on the hands and toes. The hands should be about shoulder-width apart, back straight and the head up.
  2. For women: Get into a pushup position on the hands and knees. Your hands should be about shoulder-width apart and your back should be straight with your head lifted.
  3. Lower into a pushup, bending the elbows and lowering down until the chin touches the mat. Your back should be straight and stiff throughout the movement and your belly should not touch the mat.
  4. Push up to a straight arm position.
  5. Continue doing as many pushups as you can with good form at a consistent pace.
  6. Stop the test when you're straining or if your form is slipping.
  7. Use the table below to find your score, which is based on the number of pushups you can do consecutively without rest.

Table: Pushup Fitness Test Results

WomenAge 20-29Age 30-39Age 40-49Age 50-59Age 60-69
Very Good21-2920-2615-2311-2012-16
Needs Improvement97411
Very Good29-3522-2917-2413-2011-17
Needs Improvement1611964


Getting to Toe Pushups

While pushups on the knees are fine for many of us, it's a great idea to work towards doing full pushups and there are things you can work on to make that happen.

Just some options:

  • Try negative pushups - With this exercise, you actually start by lying on your stomach on the floor, hands on either side of the shoulders and toes on the floor. Now, pushup yourself up into a full pushup, then put the knees down to lower to the floor. This helps you build core and upper body strength without having to do a full pushup on the toes if that's too challenging for you.
  • Try one full more pushup with each workout - Each time you do an upper body workout with pushups, try one on your toes. Each workout, try to add one more toe pushup to the mix before going back down to your knees and finishing the set.

    The real key is consistency more than anything else, so make sure you're doing pushups at least 2 times a week to build more strength and endurance.

    Was this page helpful?
    View Article Sources
    • American College of Sports Medicine. (2006). ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.