Fit woman and man doing push ups

Regardless of your age, sex or fitness level, doing push-ups is beneficial for everyone. Push Ups are also a great indicator of relative strength in your upper body so the ability to produce maximal force in relation to your bodyweight. So far so good, but how many push-ups should you be able to do to consider yourself physically fit?

What you will learn in this article:

People’s Average Fitness Level

Graph showing average push ups reps people can do

According to this study, more than half of Americans are incapable of performing 10 consecutive push ups, and more than a third cannot even do 5 pushups in a row. So if you can do more than 10 push ups in a row you are already above average.

Variables affecting the number of push ups someone can do

Image showing 4 variables that influence the number of push ups people can do

The variables that influence how many push ups people can perform can be wrapped up into 4 main groups: Sex & age, bodyweight, body composition and execution. On this occasion we will not consider medical conditions that may affect exercise performance, but only general factors that impact all individuals. So, let´s analyze in detail how these affect the number repetitions.

Sex & Age

  • Fit woman and man showing how sex and age influence the number of push ups people can do
  • Tab showing how sex and age influence the number of push ups people can do

The first variables we are going to start with are sex and age. On average women perform fewer standard push ups than men and younger people are able to do more push ups than older folks. 

  • Men aged 20 to 29: 22-28 repetitions
  • Women aged 20 to 29: 15-20 repetitions
  • Men aged 30 to 39: 17 to 21 repetitions
  • Women aged 30 to 39: 13 to 19 repetitions
  • Men aged 40 to 49: 13 to 16 repetitions
  • Women aged 40 to 49: 11 to 14 repetitions

Remember these are the average results. Of course there are also very strong women who can outperform a lot of men and there are also very fit older guys who outclass some of the younger ones. It still helps to put things into perspective and get a more realistic view on your performance instead of comparing yourself directly to others that have some advantages! 

Bodyweight & Body Composition

  • Image showing how bodyweight and body composition influence the number of push ups people can do
  • Image showing differences on how bodyweight and body composition influence the number of reps

Is it easier for skinnier guys to do push ups? On average lighter guys have an advantage over the heavier ones because they have to lift less of their body weight. However it makes a huge difference if this body weight consists of more muscle mass or body fat. So a heavy guy with a lot of fat has the most disadvantages, but we can still not assume that pure muscle mass is always beneficial for your push up performance. 

There are 3 reasons for that:

  • First: a lighter and less muscular guy still has the least weight to move.
  • Second: Not all muscle mass is functional muscle mass for push ups. Huge Lats, Traps, Glutes, Quads and hamstrings could even make push ups harder because they are not the main workers in this exercise. 
  • Third: It’s not only about the size of the muscles, but also how your brain connects with them. So a skinnier guy could be very strong for his own body weight in a neurological way, without having huge muscles.

Correct Execution

Man doing a wrong push up

The last very important point to make your push up count comparable is the right execution and rep speed. So if someone brags he can do 50 Pushups in a row but does them wrong, you know that the actual number would be way lower if he had to do them with proper form. A push up should be performed with full range of motion, a straight body and consistent core tension. All other things are nothing more than cheating to boost your ego. 

Rep Speed

2 men doing training with different reps speed

The rep speed is also a very important indicator for your performance. So if you crank out your push ups very quickly you will always be able to do more reps than when you choose a slower rep speed.

How Does The Army Measure Push Up Performance?

Image showing how the army measures  performance

Another interesting measurement of push up performance is the United States Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT). It consists of six events and one of them is the Hand Release Push Up. In contrast to regular push ups you have to release the tension at the bottom and extend your arms sideways. This is hard to compare to the regular push up. On one side it’s definitely easier to get a short rest at the bottom instead of keeping the muscles under tension the whole time. On the other hand it’s still not that easy to build up the tension at the lowest point to push yourself up again.

What’s also interesting about this test is the difference in male and female performance required when it comes to age. While both male and female pass the test at 10 reps no matter the age, it’s quite different for the maximum score. The older the soldier, the higher the difference between the maximum amount of push ups for males and females.

The shown studies and the  Army Combat Fitness Test give you a first quick view on how to rank your performance, but you need to apply some other benchmarks to get the full picture. So don’t only consider sex and age but also your body weight, your body composition and most importantly the execution of the push ups. This being said, we still think it’s not good to constantly compare yourself to others. Sure, comparison can be a good tool for motivation but only if you keep it at a healthy level. So it’s all good as long as you improve yourself, no matter if you surpass others or not. 

Watch the video to understand how many push up you should be able to do

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