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Fitness tests (often called assessments), are a great way for measuring tangible results and providing us with the evidence we need that our hours of pains taking work in the gym are TRULY paying off! They allow us to track our fitness levels as well as improvements over time. As a Professional Fitness Trainer, my first appointment with any and all potential clients consists of various protocols necessary to assess the 5 components of physical fitness:

  1. Cardiovascular Fitness
  2. Muscular strength
  3. Muscular endurance
  4. Flexibility and last but not least
  5. Body Composition

This is not what I'm suggesting here for a personal fitness assessment. As you see, full assessments are complicated and best left for the professionals to handle. But you can get a pretty good idea of your overall level of Muscular Strength and Muscular Endurance (and your overall core conditioning)... wait for it... with the HUMBLE PUSH UP! SO, in staying in line with keeping it simple - THE PUSH UP TEST IT IS! A little interesting factoid about push ups is that they are often mistaken as exercises that are FOR THE CHEST... PERIOD! Not so, while of course the push up recruits the chest big time, did you know that it also attacks your shoulders, triceps, back and core? Thus, the push up gets a big "A" PLUS in my book all the way around, much less for adding to your weekly fitness regime to cut it up just a little more!

How to Do the Pushup Test

Take the test to establish a baseline for muscular endurance and upper body strength. Once you've gotten your score, take the test again every 4-6 weeks to track your progress. By adding pushups to your regular workout routine and working on your upper body strength, you can increase the number of pushups you can do over time.† If you're not able to do the pushups described below, try a modified version (like standing wall push ups) and keep track of how many you can do with good form, working to improve on that number and working your way up to the more advanced versions.

Begin with 5-10 minutes of cardio to warm up the muscles

  1. For men: Get into a pushup position stretched out, on the hands and toes. The hands should be about shoulder-width apart, back straight and your head in neutral alignment with the rest of your spine.
  2. For women: Get into a modified pushup position on the hands and knees. (Though this is the typical protocol for this assessment, I must admit that for most of my female clients Ė I do prefer they shoot for a full lay out position - as described above - just like the men. Except of course in special situations such as injury etc. But test yourself both ways and keep striving for the full Monty). Your hands should be about shoulder-width apart and your back should be straight with your head in neutral alignment with the rest of your spine.
  3. Lower into a pushup, bending the elbows until your chest gently brushes the mat or comes dangerously close to it!! Your back should be straight and tight throughout the movement and your belly should not touch the mat. Return to a straight arm position and repeat.
  4. Continue doing as many pushups as you can with good form at a constant pace.
  5. Stop the test when you're straining or if your form is slipping.
  6. Use the table below to find your score, which is based on the number of pushups you can do consecutively without rest.
Women Age 20-29 Age 30-39 Age 40-49 Age 50-59 Age 60-69
Excellent 30 27 24 21 17
Very Good 21-29 20-26 15-23 11-20 12-16
Good 15-20 13-19 11-14 7-10 5-11
Fair 10-14 8-12 5-10 2-6 2-4
Needs Improvement 9 7 4 1 1
Men Age 20-29 Age 30-39 Age 40-49 Age 50-59 Age 60-69
Excellent 36 30 25 21 18
Very Good 29-35 22-29 17-24 13-20 11-17
Good 22-28 17-21 13-16 10-12 8-10
Fair 17-21 12-16 10-12 7-9 5-7
Needs Improvement 16 11 9 6 4

Source: American College of Sports Medicine. (2006). ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

So take the push up test and if you fall short, try this training schedule and retest in 4-6 weeks. Choose three days per week that you will do your push ups. This training schedule will cost you minimal time and energy while rendering HUGE rewards.

So, if it's Monday, Wednesday and Friday - Wake up, Really WAKE UP and before heading out to work, or after an hour of being awake, hit the deck. Shoot for a specific number that you know from your previous test is edging on your maximum ability thus far AND add 3 to 5 more to that number. So if you tested at 12, shoot for five more, 15- 17. Yes, you may fall short but you need a goal to get stronger. Soon as your form suffers, thatís when you are done!

Do this three times during your designated "push up days" with ample time between sets, So: first thing in the morning, after lunch, before dinner or before bed. Good news, you can do them anywhere. It's not uncommon for my husband to come home from work and find me on the kitchen floor, doing a set while cooking dinner!!! The work is worth the prize as push ups really add to a sleek physique as well as overall strength.

When it comes to mastering the push up, itís been my experience that most arenít willing to put in the work it takes to go there. Why not choose the path less traveled. Trust me, it will show!!

Until next time,

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