How Many Pushups Should I Be Able To Do?

What Scientists, Military Experts, And Fitness Coaches Think About How Many Push ups You Should Be Able To Do: Including Official And Unofficial Standards For Athletes, Soldiers, And Ordinary People, Average Push up Test Results, The Latest World Records, And More!

how many pushups should i be able to do? - (woman doing pushups)
(note: balancing on dumbbells in a cloud of smoke is optional)

Note: this post is sponsored by the Perfect Pushup Elite.

Whenever someone has asked me “how many push ups should I be able to do?”, I’ve always asked them if they need to perform a certain amount for their job or otherwise (e.g. for military service or something similar). And if they don’t have a specific criteria that they have to meet by a certain date, I ask them, “well, then how many pushups do you want to be able to do?”

You see, there isn’t a black and white answer on how many push ups is right for XYZ person. It just depends on your goals and your conditioning level, among other things. That said, there are some general push up standards that we can use to gauge our performance and also to set ambitious, yet realistic goals. And this article will cover the main ones.

How Many Push ups Should You be Able to do (According to the Experts)?

Now, there are all kinds of push up standards and charts available online – tons of them! And they’re all different depending on where they’re coming from. Even our military standards vary drastically from branch to branch – including differences between specific groups within each branch (e.g. special ops vs infantry). So, how do we get an objective number?

Well, Dr. Lawrence A. Golding who is a professor of kinesiology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, suggests that 20-40 year old males should be able to perform between 13-30 push ups, on average (yes, I noticed that that’s a pretty wide range).

He even put together a report with some “push up test norms” for men and women, broken down by age and the number of reps performed. He also assigned what I consider a very subjective rating of their performance. Here it is:

Push Up Test Norms For Men

Age 17-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-59 60-65
Excellent > 56 > 47 > 41 > 34 > 31 > 30
Good 47-56 39-47 34-41 28-34 25-31 24-30
Above average 35-46 30-39 25-33 21-28 18-24 17-23
Average 19-34 17-29 13-24 11-20 9-17 6-16
Below average 11-18 10-16 8-12 6-10 5-8 3-5
Poor 4-10 4-9 2-7 1-5 1-4 1-2
Very Poor < 4 < 4 < 2 0 0 0

 

Push Up Test Norms for Women

Age 17-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-59 60-65
Excellent > 35 > 36 > 37 > 31 > 25 > 23
Good 27-35 30-36 30-37 25-31 21-25 19-23
Above Average 21-27 23-29 22-30 18-24 15-20 13-18
Average 11-20 12-22 10-21 8-17 7-14 5-12
Below average 6-10 7-11 5-9 4-7 3-6 2-4
Poor 2-5 2-6 1-4 1-3 1-2 1
Very Poor 0-1 0-1 0 0 0 0

 

Source: Y’s Way to Physical Fitness: The Complete Guide to Fitness Testing and Instruction (3rd Edition) by Lawrence Golding and Clayton Myers.

So, if you fall into the average or above-average range on these charts, congratulations! You can probably do more push ups than the average American…and that’s not saying much! It pains me to say it, but we Americans don’t exactly have the highest levels of fitness in the history of mankind, if you know what I mean.

So, let’s keep in mind that these are likely averages taken from survey results on all demographics and various populations of people, including both completely untrained persons, well-trained persons, and everyone in-between. Obviously, the results would be very different if they only represented trained individuals.

So, these charts probably aren’t the end-all, be-all when it comes to push up standards. And so, I feel it’s necessary to provide some higher standards to strive for. Because seriously, 56 push ups might be considered “excellent for 17-19 year old males,” who are supposedly in or near their prime – at least, according to a bunch of researchers in lab coats. But here in the real world, 56 push ups is “good,” but not “excellent” – and definitely nowhere near “peak” or “elite” levels of performance. Said another way, there are a lot of people – including plenty of “average Joes” – who can blow these numbers out of the water – regardless of their age or gender.

For instance, I was part of a push up challenge at the Burn The Fat Inner Circle, and almost all of the men who competed were in the 40-70 reps range. A handful of gents even broke 100 reps. I averaged out the results, and the mean was 69 reps – not too shabby, especially considering that most of the men were middle-aged or older! The women did well, too, with an average of 39 reps amongst them all. Both of these averages are considerably higher than the “Excellent Range” above. And so, I don’t want you to set your sights too low.

So, allow me to present…

John Sifferman’s Totally Unofficial Push up Test Standards

  • Newbie: 1-10 push ups
  • Beginner: 11-20 push ups
  • Intermediate: 21-40 push ups
  • Advanced: 41-60 push ups
  • Expert: 61-90 push ups
  • Master: 91-120 push ups
  • Wicked Sick: 121-140 push ups
  • Superhuman: 141-160 push ups
  • Olympian: 161-180 push ups
  • Pushup Immortal: 181-200+ push ups

Note: The women’s standards would be roughly 2/3 of the repetitions listed here (in each category, respectively).

You may also find it interesting that the world record for the most consecutive push ups (i.e. nonstop) by a man was 10,507 reps by Minoru Yoshida in Japan back in 1980. (Source)

And the women’s record for the most consecutive push ups (i.e. nonstop) is 302 reps, and was accomplished by Maria Tobar in Sacramento USA on August 23, 2014. (Source)

Just thought you should know.

Note: there are a TON of Guinness World Records for push ups: most push ups in a minute, in an hour, in a day, knuckle push ups, one arm push ups, two finger pushups, clapping push ups, and many more.


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Military Push up Standards

how many pushups should i be able to do - (soldiers doing pushups)

Note: military push up standards vary greatly by age, gender, and application. So, the list below barely even scratches the surface. Also, these figures represent the bare minimums required for graduating from basic training or passing a PFT, among other things. So, I’d assume that the actual averages are higher, as are the expectations.

Air Force – to graduate from basic training, males must perform a minimum of 45 push ups and females must perform a minimum of 27 push ups.

Army – to graduate from basic training, males aged 17-26 must perform at least 31-35+ reps and females must perform at least 11-13+ reps. These are the minimum standards.

Coast Guard – the minimum standards are 29 push ups for males and 15 push ups for females, which must be completed in less than 60 seconds.

Marine Corps – the Marines are apparently too tough for push ups since their test doesn’t involve them! Ooh Rah, Marines!

Navy – The Navy has a point system, but it looks like 46 reps is considered “satisfactory” (i.e. the bare minimum), and all reps must be completed in two minutes. Had to one-up the Air Force, didn’t they? Go Navy!

Navy SEAL BUD/S prep: If you want to get into BUD/S school and roll with the best of them, you must perform at least 42 push ups in 2 minutes (note: it may actually be 50 reps now). However, most SEAL candidates can perform 80-100+ reps in the 2 minute time frame, which is highly recommended for those wanting a chance at BUD/S. And I’m sure that there are usually some guys who can squeeze out 100-120+ reps like it’s nothing.

The Bottom Line

Even though the experts point out that roughly 10-30 reps is average for most people, and that 30-50 reps is in the “excellent” range – let’s get something straight. The amount of push ups that you can do has very little to do with your age or gender. It actually has a lot more to do with your attitude, beliefs, work ethic, and commitment to your goals.

So, I don’t care if you’re an old granny. You could probably greatly exceed what the “experts” say you can. And so, just between you and me, I think you could reach the advanced or expert status listed in my Unofficial Standards above without too much trouble. I’m just sayin’.

Now, that’s not to say that everyone needs to perform a ton of push ups. And for you and your goals, you might be better off maintaining your conditioning at a lower level so that you can focus on other goals.

But when it comes down to it, I think that maintaining a level in the Excellent Range (in those charts above) year round is a good goal to work towards for most people. I also think that during specific training phases, you should set your sights much higher, to the levels of advanced, expert, or even mastery status.

Much beyond that and you’re getting into the realm of world records and making a sport of calisthenics. And if you’re interested in that, then all the power to you. But for me, I don’t see much inherent or practical value in being able to do tons of push ups. Yeah, it’s impressive, and it will result in some great strength-endurance. But if you’re spending all that time working on your push ups, what are you not spending enough time on?

Important Point: the more push ups that you want to be able to do, the harder you’re going to have to work and the greater the cost (and the less time that you’ll have for other things). Said another way, if you want to get really good at push ups, you might have to sacrifice some of your other training time and energy to do so.

John’s Recommendations

You want numbers? I’ll give you numbers. I think that 50 reps for males and 30 reps for females are ambitious, yet very doable goals for most people that will give you excellent conditioning results. And if you’ve never been in this territory before, it will feel like a big accomplishment once you hit those levels. Plus, they’re both nice round numbers!

Wrap-Up

You don’t have to be a Navy SEAL to get really good at push ups. But you do have to work hard consistently over a period of several weeks and months, at minimum. So, what I want to know is, will you settle for what the “experts” say that you should be able to do? Or, will you hold yourself to a higher standard and strive for the advanced, expert, or even mastery levels?

Only you can make that choice. And by the way, whatever your end-goal is, whether it’s just your first 10 push ups or 100 reps straight, I think you can do it. And if you knew me personally, you’d know that I really mean that.

And in case you’re wondering, I’ve usually maintained the ability to do at least 50 push ups. At times, I’ve been over the 100 reps mark, and my all-time best was 110 push ups in 2 minutes back when I was in the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps. I was a good 20 pounds lighter back then, though!

Obviously, that’s nothing Earth-shattering. But I know that if I were to ever focus on push ups for a few training cycles, I could blow those numbers out of the water – easy. And I’m willing to bet that you could, too.

So, get out there and push ’em out!

Final Words

Being able to do a lot of push ups is really cool, but it’s even better if you can do push ups with excellent technique.

You can learn how to do that here:

Click Here to Learn How to do Pushups with Optimal Technique For Better Results and Less Injuries

how many pushups should i be able to do (female doing pushups)

Related Posts

Knuckle Pushups VS Regular Pushups: Which is better?

The Alligator Crawl Bodyweight Exercise

How Fast To Perform Pushups For Maximum Results

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Photo credit: 1, 2, 3.

References

http://www.exrx.net/Testing/YouthNorms.html
http://www.military.com/military-fitness/air-force-fitness-requirements/air-force-basic-military-training-fitness-test
http://www.military.com/military-fitness/army-fitness-requirements/army-physical-fitness-test-score-chart
http://www.military.com/military-fitness/coast-guard-fitness-requirements/coast-guard-basic-pft
http://www.military.com/military-fitness/navy-fitness-requirements/navy-basic-training-pft
http://www.military.com/military-fitness/navy-special-operations/navy-seal-fitness-test
http://www.sealswcc.com

31 Responses

  1. I agree. About norms, age, gender. Those “norms” are BS. Humans exist in plural but not as average. But beside that: I would like to know if those victims of statistical torture did real push ups with good form or crappy push ups with elbows flared out etc. Doing 50 crappy push ups? Why train your nervous system into bad movement patterns?

    • It’s true that we don’t know what kind of technique was used during the pushup tests, but I think it’s safe to say that it varied tremendously from person to person (as did the repetition amounts). And I agree, quality over quantity is better in almost all cases.

  2. David Denis

    Man, it’s scary how you write what I think. So, of course, I think you are brilliant because you agree with me.

    I tested myself this summer with a pretty tough challenge centering around stair running. Back in May, I added pushups to each circuit of stairs (four flights — 77 steps). At the top, I would pound out 20 pushups and a single pullup and then head down for another round. I found that when I added pushups to the regimen, my overall adaptive response tempo dramatically increased. I started losing some weight (actually, I rarely weigh myself — but my pants started fitting better), which hadn’t happened in a while even though I had been training, though unevenly, all winter. Adding pushups seemed to spark something that just running (even stair running) wasn’t doing alone. All this to say that there is something to doing pushups that seems pretty basic.

    I am experimenting with varying pushup positions (wide, narrow, hands high, hands back, feet elevated, etc), the volume equation (high reps + low set, high set + low rep, etc). I’ve just started also adding load by wearing a backpack with homemade gravel weights. I feel stronger. I walk straighter. And mostly, I’m just having fun seeing what I can do. At the peak of my most recent challenge I did 520 pushups in one workout. That was pretty cool.

    What I haven’t done is a single set test to see how many I can do in one consecutive set. Maybe this week I’ll test myself to see where I am.

    I think the more important question than “How many should I do?” would be “Are you doing pushups at all?” If you are, then the next question on the flowchart might be, “Are you doing things to keep it fun?”

  3. Gerardo Follie

    The pushup is the best 00004B3B measure of fitness, according to New York Times writer Tara Parker-Pope. The average number you should be able to perform depends on your age, but adding pushups into your fitness repertoire at any age is important because it measures your fitness level and provides the muscle memory to help you prevent injuries in a fall.

  4. I’ll be 70 in January. I do pushups every night unless something gets in the way (like on an airline flight). And when at home, I do them with 15 pounds hanging on my neck. I usually do between 150 and 200 per set and 2 to 5 sets per night with 10 minutes between sets.

    I got started when a bicycle endo in 2001 during a commute gave me a right shoulder 4th degree A/C separation, and I used pushups after rehab to build strength.

  5. Are these press ups per minute???

  6. I’m overweight, I Weigh like 205 and I’m 5 8 I can do like 35 to 40 push ups all the way down, good to know that I’m still slightly above average. However I used to be jacked and in shape and able to do 75 to 100 max. I’ll get back up there again someday.

  7. I am 71 and had both shoulders go out with rotator cuff operations. I cannot do any push-ups at this time. I would like to but need some guidance on how to accomplish this goal?

  8. I am fourteen-year-old female, and do twenty-five pushups per try. Is that good or bad? I want to do more, but don’t know how much more. If I were to set a goal to do more than that, what would you suggest? I would really appreciate your help.

    • As a female, and your age, I would recommend shooting for 40 “per try.” I know that may sound like a lot but it’s not something that you accomplish overnight. 40 would be your ultimate goal. You will have to work up to it every day. Believe me, you may not think you are seeing results right away. But do more and more push ups every night (or morning, or whatever) and you will be able to reach 40 within no less than a month.

  9. Darryl N. Portra

    John,,loved your article on push ups! I’m 57 and have been doing them most of my life. 1000 assorted push ups and as many body weight squats from Ellsinore,MO to just into NJ a few weeks ago..(9 stops and numerous sets) but I’ll take it.Thanx for your advice! Darryl

  10. 15 YO Male 5’3 124 lbs and I did 68 push-ups in one minute? Good or bad?

  11. This is depressing… I’ve been training for about a year and a half and can only do 11 max, I started with i think 5 max. I wish I knew what I am doing wrong.

  12. 19 year old male 5’8 202lbs did 69 push ups in 1 minute good or bad?

  13. Since I was a teenager I could always do more than 100 push-ups. I am 5 7 and weigh 200 I turned 60 in January.I weighed 125 in 1971 and benched 255 lbs on univerval . At least for me I could always lift more with free weights. I could also run the 40 in 4.6 seconds in full pads with football cleats on grass. I,ve never lifted for more than a few months but starting when I was 27 I started doing pushups to failure the same time I started training in Asian Martial arts I thought the pushups would improve my punching and striking. And it did but when you get really into it ,it builds up your quads and abs and of course your pecs and arms. From 27 to my mid 40s I did one set max pushups 4 to 5 days a week along with crunches also max. In my early 40s someone who I thought was my friend was into bodybuilding and didn’t think much of my workout so one day we both wanted to see how much I could bench at the time I was doing 450 plus in one set . All he had was 260lbs so I got under the bar and did 25 reps with it. His answer was quite The only reason I could lift it was my arms were so short I was at fighting weight then 185 lbs. I also had a training technue using a piece of card board cut about one foot square with one hand you hold the target letting go at the same time you punch a hole in the cardboard,to ad to my focus I would draw a human face on the target.I progressed to the point where I could punch a clean hole in an eye on the target over 97% of the time this is using cardboard rated at 350 lbs per square inch.The strikes were finger of index and middle finger.Pushups work

  14. Sorry I ran out of space doing so many pushups I believe has damaged my shoulders so if you follow the training limit reps to around 200 .I am writing this not brag but to motivate also if you do the card board training do not use your finger tips it has very limited application. and the compression from full power strikes will do permanent. damage. Use the second knuckle of index and middle finger any way you look at it is severe training .That first time you penetrate a target with 350 lbs test burst rate is quite a feeling .The way all of us have been made never stops to amaze me we can be so strong and at the same time fragile as a baby.I take no credit for things I have been able to do The Lord God blessed me with strong genetics and a desire to train hard.My Father was faster than I in the late 1940s he ran the 100 yard dash in 9.5 seconds Jesse Owens ran a 9.4 seconds.My Father also broke the records for the 100,220 and javelin all records lasted as least 25 years here in South Carolina.When My Father got back from the track meet My Grandfather just done working in the field challenged my father to a race,he kicked his boots and they got down to run My Grandfather blew him out up to about 40 yards when he pulled muscles badly in his legs.he was in his 40s then.He had quit school very young theirs no telling how many people have been so fast or strong with no record of it.My Father told me that I could be faster than he I think he said it to make me feel good.But I didn’t have the passion for track like him,but if I had ran the way I did push ups something would have happened I didn’t train at all to run.I hope what I have written will help someone.God The Father has made all of us individuals no two the same I am very concerned about how openly the socialists are socialism has a long history of becoming communism.History always repeats itself Stalin and Lenin sounded really good but it did not take long and they were responsible for murdering more people than the Nazis North Korea,Vietnam,Cambodia,Africa,Central America,The Philippines and more if you do not know what socialism/communism really is please find out. Good luck with your training ,Remember The Lord Made You Like No Other.Lane Moseley

  15. WaterBug

    I am a normal man who has done push-ups since my early teens. Reached 100 straight by age 21, did that until age 50…then dropped to 50 at a time, twice each day. Then to 40 a day, twice, when I hit 60. Now at age 70 – doing twice a day sets of 30. My own Unofficial standard for men is what I call “The rule of 100”. Men should subtract their current age from 100, and that is how many push-ups they should do daily at one time. It also helps with breathing and core strength. Daily consistency is the Key. Good Luck !!!

  16. I achieved 100 consecutive push ups in military form (albeit in the last 30 resting at the top) at age 55. Unfortunately I now have to take a prescription to slow my heart rate. So I can easily do 30 now at the age of 57. I do this slowly so that it takes about a minute to do thirty. I do from seven to ten sets of 30 push ups spread throughout the day three days a week. I spknow it is as effective as doing 80 to 100 consecutive because the last four sets I can feel the chest muscles with the muscle-building pain. My heart is okay enough to do cardio at a moderate pace and I even ride my bike on weekends.

  17. You had me, but then you lost me at “Just sayin’.” That phrase is so amateur! I’m sure there are a small handful of grannies that can do a ton of push ups, but where is the video of YOU doing push ups? If you can do 50+, then you are awesome and I eat my words. If not, please don’t “Just say” anything…Grandma has a bad ticker, Sir. Other than that, I enjoyed this article. Peace upon you!

    • Thanks, Scott! I usually hover in the 40-60 reps range when pushup training isn’t prominent in my training cycles. When it is, I usually get up to the 60-90 reps range. And I’ve broken the hundred mark a handful of times. My lifetime PR is 110 reps in 2 minutes while in the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps. That was 14 years ago when I was at least 20 pounds lighter, and I have yet to best it. I don’t think I have a video of any max effort pushup tests on my Youtube channel, but I may be able to dig one up on my hard drive somewhere. I remember filming a set for a pushup charity event awhile back. So, if you insist, I’ll go to the trouble of looking for it. But if you follow my work for awhile, you’ll eventually learn that I practice what I preach and lead from the front. That said, I’ve always been hesitant to upload “show-off” type videos to my Youtube channel, for fear of letting it go to my head. But I also understand that the people I’m teaching do expect, and sometimes demand proof that I am who I say I am, and not some out-of-shape fitness hypocrite :-) So, there are some videos on there that showcase a few of my performances. Perhaps this video of me doing a pushup ladder workout (with a grueling set of 40 reps at the very end) would satisfy your curiosity? What’s more important to me is that YOU cultivate the necessary faith in yourself to achieve your goals, regardless of what I or anyone else can accomplish. Anyway, I’m not posting this so that you’ll eat your words. There’s no need for that! Just trying to address your concerns, and I hope it was to your satisfaction.

  18. Next month I will turn 81 and I cannot do any pushups no matter how I try. The last time I tried with success was about four years ago and approximately one year following rotator cuff surgery on my right shoulder. Most any other type exercise gives me little trouble. Please advise what routine I might start to address my problem. By the way, I’m 5-4 and weigh 135 – 140.

    • Hi John, I would start by focusing on the plank exercise for at least 1-3 months. That should help you develop the necessary core strength and shoulder stability to be able to work up to pushups. After that, I would try some eccentric pushups (aka “negative rep” pushups), which involve lowering yourself from the top position to the bottom position – even resting your chest on the floor, if necessary.

      I have a lot of info on plank training in my site’s archives. Here’s a good place to get started: http://physicalliving.com/how-to-do-a-plank-proper-plank-form/

      I also have a free plank training program with some beginner level exercises here: http://physicalliving.com/30-days-to-a-5-minute-plank-and-rock-hard-abs/

      Let me know if you have any further questions – happy to help.

      -John

  19. Swapnil Damor

    I am 16 years old so which exercise I should do daily and how much? How many pushups,situps etc. till maximum limit? I really want to get stronger and surpass all the limits.Please guide me.

    • I use An app called madbarz. Pretty nice app and you dont Have to use weights. Im 15 and it works for me.

  20. Great Article John glad I found it, because most other sites are mentioning the low averages you stated at the beginning. I’m in the mid 30’s and had a long time not practised pushups. Started bevor 5 weeks doing 8 pushups and now I’m in the range of 75. These are not consecutive made but in 5 sets, three times a week.
    Just a question are your averages for consecutive pushups or divided in sets. Thanks, keep up the form:)

  21. Grumio Smythe

    40 male, 82kg, 176cm (London, UK)

    31 continuous push-ups after a 10×10 push-up session.

    Work hard folks.

  22. I’m 15, 181cm,70kg and i do 60 reps in less than 45 seconds and I axely just train 1 time a mouth. How can people dont do more push ups, thats insane.

  23. 12 year old boy, i can do 50 push ups in 1 min. Is that good.

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