Lillian Wilson

Push-Up Test As Your Muscle Strength Indicator. What Is It And How Is It Measured?

All the basics you need to know about push-ups test. An easy way to assess and boost your health, endurance and muscle strength.


Are you looking for the secret to a strong pain-free upper body? The good news is: you do not need to pay for a gym membership or for any equipment, you don’t even need to leave your house. All you need are simple old-fashioned push-ups and they’re good for more than just getting a great upper body, push-ups are a wonderful way to enhance the functionality and health of the cardiovascular system.

What is the push-up test? What does it show?

The push-up test is a physical fitness assessment that measures your upper body strength and endurance.

By challenging yourself and performing as many push-ups as possible just in one minute you can get a better understanding of the strength of your muscles. Plus, you may use this test as a tracker to gauge the progress of your upper body strength and endurance over time. By periodically returning to the test, you can determine whether your fitness routines are yielding the desired results, particularly with regard to the muscles used during a push-up.

Push-ups performance as your heart health indicator

A push-up test is scientifically proven to be a very good indicator of your cardiovascular health and disease risk predictor. This is due to the fact that its performance makes your heart work harder as your muscles demand oxygen to make energy and the only way to get it is from the heart pumping blood around faster.

One study showed that the push-up capacity of participants was strongly associated with the incidence of cardiovascular disease. It found that men who could do 21 to 30 push-ups in one go lowered the threat of cardiovascular disease by about 75% and being able to do more than 40 push-ups slashes the risk of heart disease and strokes by 96% compared to those who could do fewer than 10 push-ups.

How to measure your muscle strength through the push-up capacity?

To perform this test men are to do standard (from the toes) push-ups and women are to perform modified (from knees) push-ups. This is done for a more accurate assessment as biologically males tend to be stronger and the moderate technique will decrease the need for upper-body strength in a test of muscular endurance.

Before you begin the tryout, you should place a towel, cushion, yoga block or soft item measuring 3 inches (7.5 cm) on the floor.

Step 1. Start in a high plank position. Make sure your back and arms are straight, and your fingers are pointing forward when performing push-ups and modified push-ups.

Step 2. With your back straight, bend your knees and then lower your chest until it touches the object on the floor and return to your starting position.

Step 3. Perform as many push-ups as you can without stopping for one minute. Note that you should not count the push-ups that are not meeting requirements, for instance, the body position is incorrect or the chest is not touching the 3-inch object.

What should your push-up performance be?

As with all the evaluations that are aiming to show how fit and healthy you are, there is not such a thing as an ideal number of push-ups that everyone just must perform to be considered to have good endurance and muscle strength. The capacity to do a certain number of push-ups depends on factors such as fitness level, overall health, age and gender.

Whereas in general, if men can perform 40 push-ups and more that is considered a good indication of upper-body endurance and cardiovascular health. For ladies, a pretty good average result is 30 push-ups and more. Everything below the number of 10 reps is associated with poor fitness and health for both sexes.

Push-ups and Age for Men, stats

The more push-ups you can perform, the better your muscle strength and upper-body endurance.

Why increase your muscle strength via push-ups: benefits of having a high push-up capacity

1A good exercise that targets different muscle groups

When it comes to working out all of your muscles at once there is almost nothing better than your everyday pushup. Many people think that push-ups are only good for the arms or pecs but that is simply not true. It takes virtually every major muscle group in your body to properly execute just one single push-up. Your arms are doing the brunt of the lifting, your chest supports your arms, your core and your back are engaged so you remain stable and upright, and your legs are also being engaged to keep you straight, stable and upright. Because you’re making everything work, you are pushing your body towards total physical exertion.

2Levels up your heart health

While push-ups make the body hurt and you feel like throwing up a little, they also force your heart to work harder. This exercise is great for improving your cardiovascular health. As push-ups utilise large muscle groups to lift and lower a large portion of the body’s weight, which results in an increase in heart rate. As the heart rate rises during exercise, more oxygenated blood is pumped to the lungs and throughout the body, strengthening the heart muscle.

By raising the heart rate with push-ups you are improving your cardiovascular health by lowering blood pressure, keeping blood sugar and insulin in check, dropping heart disease and cancer risks as well as lowering or stain in a healthy weight range.

A study conducted by the Cooper Institute evaluated a group of 1104 firemen (40 y.o. – average age), the subject group underwent physical examinations between 2000 and 2010. Based on the push-up capacity, firefighters were divided into 5 groups: those who performed 0-10 push-ups; 11-20 push-ups; 21-30 push-ups; 31-40; 40 and more push-ups.

The results showed such coronary risk factors as blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels were more favourable in the groups that were able to perform more push-ups. After a follow-up period of 10 years, it was concluded that a group able to do 40 and more push-ups were 86% less likely to have any cardiovascular events compared to half lower odds in firefighters able to do 11-20 reps.


3Boosts metabolism

When doing push-ups you boost your metabolic rate meaning you burn more calories.

Push-ups consume a significant amount of energy in a brief time frame due to the movements that engage big muscle groups. With each push-up, you burn more calories.

Overall, you burn 7 calories with every minute of doing reps.

4Increases growth hormone production

Daily push-ups increase the production of human growth hormone (HGH). Our bodies produce HGH in larger quantities when we are young but create far less of it as we age and that is definitely not a good thing.

Human growth hormone is necessary in order to support a healthy body and cell growth. This is also very important for the healthy increase of muscle mass. Therefore, push-ups build muscles directly by virtue of using the muscles and they also build muscles indirectly by helping to produce a hormone that significantly contributes to the growth and size of those same muscles.

5Keeps testosterone levels in check

With age, the hormone concentration in both men and women starts changing and men circulating testosterone levels drop considerably. Research suggests that exercises like standard push-ups can be quite helpful in keeping hormonal levels in check. As explained in Volume III of the Encyclopedia of Sports Medicine, the best exercise for boosting testosterone is one that uses a great deal of muscle mass. And push-ups are a good example of such an activity.

6Makes your bones stronger

Our bone mass naturally declines with age which can leave our bones prone to fractures. It is crucial to perform weight-bearing exercises to keep your bones strong. Push-ups are a great tool for boosting bone mineral density meaning by performing reps you make your bones stronger. Since push-ups strengthen major muscle groups as well as the wrists and elbows your risk of injury will be reduced because you’re keeping these body parts strong.

Three tips how to improve your push-up capacity?

If you are not 100% satisfied with your first-time push-up test but are willing to get all the benefits you should try improving it. You may enhance your upper-body endurance with the following tips:

1Train your push-ups gradually but persistently

In order to improve your push-up capacity you should make them a regular part of your workout routine. Gradually increase the number of reps you do and the pace at which you can do them. To increase strength and endurance, you can alternate between high-intensity efforts and rest periods.

You may also progressively raise the difficulty of your push-ups by adding weight, doing fewer reps, or using more challenging types of push-ups.

2Make sure you perform push-ups correctly

Make sure you are using the proper form and technique to maximize your effort and reduce the risk of injury.

When you’re doing a push-up, make sure your hands and feet are shoulder-width and hip-width apart. Then lower your body so that your chest almost reaches the ground, then drive back up with arms fully extended to the starting position.

Using proper form will help you get the most out of each repetition and improve your results on the test. If you are not sure about the accuracy of your performance ask your trainer to check how well you do it. You may also record yourself in a video or do the pushes in front of a mirror so you see the way you do it and can correct the mistakes.

3Practice other exercises that improve upper-body muscles

You can improve your push-up capacity by doing other exercises that are in charge of upper-body muscles. By doing exercises such as chest presses, shoulder presses, and triceps extensions you can increase your upper-body muscles’ endurance. Thus, you will be able to perform more reps.

Let’s sum up

By conducting a push-up test you can see the areas of your improvement and what still requires to be worked on. Adding push-ups to your daily workout routine can bring about various benefits discussed in this article. So, the next time you’re dreading, dropping down and cranking out a few push-ups, remember that you’re not just working towards your body, you’re also investing in your long-term health.

Not enough? Here is more

In this video, Hampton from @HybridCalisthenics shares useful pieces of advice on how to start doing push-ups even if you have never been able to. Hampton is a popular health enthusiast with 3 million subscribers. On his channel, Hampton promotes the idea of helping people to cultivate long-term fitness and health.

Healthypedia FAQ

The push-up capacity is scientifically proven to be a good indicator of cardiovascular health and disease risk. Thus, it can be taken as an indicator of how healthy and well-functioning your body is.

The ability to do push-ups measures both upper-body muscle strength and endurance, with greater capacity indicating greater strength.

For this evaluation, men do standard and women do modified push-ups. Place a 3-inch soft item on the floor. With touching the item, do as many push-ups as possible in 1 minute from a high plank position.

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