Test Your Upper Body Fitness With The Push Up Test

Do more push ups
Justin Lambert/Taxi/Getty Images

Pushups are not only a great way to build upper body strength and endurance, but they are a good way to test your upper body muscular 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 Measure Upper Body Strength and Endurance?

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 shoulder 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 During the Pushup

These are the key muscles that allow you to perform a pushup:

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

How to Perform the Pushup Test

While performing pushups, you lift nearly 75 percent of your total body weight.

Using a modified pushup position reduces this amount to about 60 percent of your total body weight.

Standard Pushup Test

This version is used for men:

  • Perform a short warmup before performing any fitness testing.
  • Begin in a pushup position on hands and toes with hands shoulder-width apart and elbows fully extended.
  • While keeping a straight line from the toes to hips, and 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.
  • Continue with this form and complete as many repetitions as possible without breaking form.
  • Record the total number of full push-ups completed.

Modified Pushup Test

A modified version of the 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 a modified, "on the knee" pushup position.

  • Perform a short warmup before performing any fitness testing.
  • Begin in a modified pushup 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, and 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.
  • Continue with this form and complete as many repetitions as possible without breaking form.
  • Record the total number of full modified pushups completed.
     

How to Score Your Results

After your complete, the test, compare your results to the norms and recommendations for your age and gender.

To assess your training progress, you can do the pushup 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 come from 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

MenAge: 20-29Age: 30-39Age: 40-49Age: 50-59Age: 60+
Excellent54 or more44 or more39 or more34 or more29 or more
Good45-5435-4430-3925-3420-29
Average35-4424-3420-2915-2410-19
Poor20-3415-2412-198-145-9
Very Poor20 or fewer15 or fewer12 or fewer8 or fewer5 or fewer
WomenAge: 20-29Age: 30-39Age: 40-49Age: 50-59Age: 60+
Excellent48 or more39 or more34 or more29 or more19 or more
Good34-4825-3920-3415-295-19
Average17-3312-248-196-143-4
Poor6-164-113-72-51-2
Very Poor6 or fewer4 or fewer3 or fewer2 or fewer1 or fewer
Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
  • 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.

  • McArdle WD, Katch FI, Katch VL. Essentials of Exercise Physiology. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015.