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October 28, 2010
By L. Carr, Contributing Columnist
Push-ups are one of the key indicators of upper body strength and the
amount of times you can hit the floor – and push yourself back up
again – can tell a lot about your fitness levels.
Push-ups test the entire body by working muscles in the upper body,
abdomen, hips and legs. The primary muscles used in a push-up are the
anterior and medial deltoids, pectorals and triceps. How many push-ups
can you do before you collapse? Can you complete more than the man
on the mat next to you at the gym? What about the average American
man – how do you compare?
What is the Proper Technique for a Push-up?
In order to know how you rate against the average man, you need to
make sure you’re completing an average push-up.
The standard --- military-style --- exercise starts with just the hands
and toes touching the floor.
Bend your elbows and lower your whole body in one line, like a plank.
Raise your body to the starting point with your arms fully extended.
Don’t use your chest as leverage if it touches the floor and only adjust
your hands so long as they are not moved too far backwards.
Why Are Push-ups So Important?
They may be difficult, but this is because push-ups take strength and
endurance. You’re lifting your own body weight, which can be
extremely difficult if you’re not trained or fit enough. In a 2001 study
from the East Carolina University, half of the boys aged 10 to 13 who
undertook a push-up test didn’t pass. Push-ups are important for
children to build strength but they are also important as we age. Many
studies have shown that push-ups provide muscle memory that allows
us to break our fall if we trip, without hitting our head or damaging our
wrists. Regularly working the muscles in the upper body with push-ups
slows down your muscle decline as you get older.
How Many Push-Ups Does A Soldier Need To Do?
If you’re measuring your push-up performance against the United
States’ finest, you need to look at the scores on the Army Physical
Soldiers take a physical test at least twice a year which includes a push-
up test, sit-ups and a timed two-mile run. For push-ups, the number
you manage in two minutes is equal to a points score.
You need at least 60 points for the push-up test to pass. If you’re aged
between 17 and 21, 42 reps will earn you 60 points.
Between 32 and 36 years of age? You need to do 36 full and complete
Men aged 57 to 61 will pass with 18 reps. According to accumulated
statistics on the Army Fitness Calculator, men who take the Army
Physical Fitness Test complete an average of 59.64 push-ups in two
How Many Push-Ups Can An Average Man Do?
Based on the national average, a 40-year-old man should be able to
complete 27 push-ups. At 60, you should be able to do 17. A good way
of measuring if you match up to the average man is to check your
performance against the table below. Complete as many standard push-
ups as you can until you can’t do any more, or your form is
compromised. For the truly ambitious, keep in mind the world record –
1,000 push-ups in 23 minutes. Can you beat it?
Chart of Average Push Ups For Men
This is a chart of the average number of push-ups for men of different
How to Improve Your Push-Up Performance
If you’re not hitting the levels you want, or the floor-based push-up is
too difficult, start by training yourself at a 45-degree angle to a
countertop, wall or table and press up and down.
You can also try bent-knee push-ups starting on your knees, not your
When doing push-ups, contract your abs and pull through your core.
Don’t arch or sag your back.
Inhale as you bend your elbows and keep the movement slow and
Exhale as you push back up, keeping your elbows slightly bent. When
you’re more experienced, vary your push-up routine by using an
exercise ball. For the most experienced, prop your feet on a bench for a
more difficult movement or clap your hands each time you raise
yourself off the floor.
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