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October 28, 2010, last updated February 22, 2016
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?

Push-ups may be difficult, but this is because they take both strength
and endurance. You’re lifting your entire 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
Fitness Test.

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 minutes.  

[Update: This is similar to the minimum standard fro Navy Seals, who
must be able to do 60 push ups but the optimal is between 80 and 100
push ups without resting.]

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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