Test Your Upper Body Fitness With the Push-Up Test

Do more push ups

Justin Lambert / Taxi / Getty Images

Push-ups are not only a great way to build upper body strength and endurance. They are also a good way to test that strength and endurance.

The push-up test is a basic fitness test used by coaches, trainers, and athletes to assess upper body fitness and to monitor progress during strength and fitness training. This simple test helps you compare your own upper body muscular endurance to others of your age and gender and track your fitness program over time.

Why Do the Push-Up Test?

Strength and endurance in the muscles of the upper body—specifically the chest, shoulders, triceps, and core—is a good indication of overall fitness. This simple exercise engages muscles throughout the entire body, from head to toe, in order to maintain a rigid position.

Upper body strength and endurance is essential for athletes such as swimmers, climbers, or golfers who demand strength and power from their arms and shoulders to perform well and avoid injury.

But a strong upper body is also important for everyone who wants to perform everyday movements, such as carrying luggage or picking up children, with ease and without risking injury.

Primary Muscles Used in a Push-Up

These key muscles allow you to perform a push-up:

  • Shoulders (anterior and medial deltoids)
  • Chest (pectorals)
  • Back of the upper arm (triceps)

While performing push-ups, you lift nearly 75% of your total body weight. Using a modified push-up position reduces this amount to about 60% of your total body weight.

How to Perform the Push-Up Test

There are two versions of the push-up test. You can do the test on your own or with a trainer or friend assisting you to check your form and help you count reps.

Standard Push-Up Test

This version is used for men:

  • Perform a short warm-up before performing any fitness testing.
  • Begin in a push-up position on your hands and toes with your hands shoulder-width apart and elbows fully extended.
  • While keeping a straight line from the toes to hips, and hips to shoulders, lower your upper body so your elbows bend to 90 degrees.
  • Push back up to the start position. That is one rep.
  • Complete as many repetitions as possible without breaking form.
  • Record the total number of full push-ups completed.

Modified Push-Up Test

A modified version of the push-up test is used for women, who tend to have less relative upper body strength than men. The test is conducted in the same way as above, but uses an "on the knee" push-up position.

  • Perform a short warm-up.
  • Begin in a modified push-up position, on the hands and knees, with hands shoulder-width apart and elbows fully extended.
  • Drop the hips and move the hands forward until you create a straight line from the knees to the hips to the shoulders.
  • While keeping a straight position from the knees to the shoulders, lower your upper body so your elbows bend to 90 degrees.
  • Push back up to the start position. That is one rep.
  • Complete as many repetitions as possible without breaking form.
  • Record the total number of full modified push-ups completed.

How to Score Your Results

After your complete the test, compare your results to the norms and recommendations for your age and sex. To assess your training progress, you can do the push-up test every eight to 12 weeks.

You will see a variety of charts and scoring, depending on the source the tester uses. This chart is from "Essentials of Exercise Physiology."

Other standards include the YMCA's "The Y's Way to Physical Fitness," the National Strength and Conditioning Association's "NSCA's Essentials of Personal Training," and the American College of Sports Medicine's "ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription."

Push-Up Fitness Test Results
Men Age 20-29 Age 30-39 Age 40-49 Age 50-59 Age 60+
Excellent 54 or more 44 or more 39 or more 34 or more 29 or more
Good 45-54 35-44 30-39 25-34 20-29
Average 35-44 24-34 20-29 15-24 10-19
Poor 20-34 15-24 12-19 8-14 5-9
Very poor 20 or fewer 15 or fewer 12 or fewer 8 or fewer 5 or fewer
Women Age 20-29 Age 30-39 Age 40-49 Age 50-59 Age 60+
Excellent 48 or more 39 or more 34 or more 29 or more 19 or more
Good 34-48 25-39 20-34 15-29 5-19
Average 17-33 12-24 8-19 6-14 3-4
Poor 6-16 4-11 3-7 2-5 1-2
Very poor 6 or fewer 4 or fewer 3 or fewer 2 or fewer 1 or fewer
Was this page helpful?
6 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Tips for lifting and carrying luggage. Reviewed November 2018.

  2. Chulvi-Medrano I, Martínez-Ballester E, Masiá-Tortosa L. Comparison of the effects of an eight-week push-up program using stable versus unstable surfaces. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2012;7(6):586-94.

  3. Cooper Institute. How much weight is really lifted during a push-up?. Published Mar 7, 2011.

  4. Push-up. American Council on Exercise.

  5. McColl P. Perfecting the push-up for all levels. American Council on Exercise. April 2019.

  6. McArdle WD, Katch FI, Katch VL. Essentials of Exercise Physiology, 5th North American Edition. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. 2015.

Additional Reading
  • American College of Sports Medicine. ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. 2017.

  • Coburn JW, Malek MH, (U.S.) NS. NSCA's Essentials of Personal Training 2nd Edition. Human Kinetics; 2012.