Standard and Modified Push-Up

Alert! If you have shoulder, elbow, or wrist pain, doing this test may aggravate your condition.

The muscles of the upper body and shoulders are another frequently measured muscle group. Several tests (for example, pull-up and push-up) are used to measure the strength and endurance of these muscle groups. Less muscular strength and endurance of the upper body and shoulder group may increase the chances that a person may have shoulder pain in middle or older adulthood.

Standard and Modified Push-Up

In the standard push-up test, you push your body up and down using muscles in your arms, shoulders and chest, while keeping your body straight with your feet serving as the pivot point. Your body weight is your workload. Females can reduce the load by having their knees touching the floor and acting as the pivot point. In this test, only the upper body is the load. We are going to use standard push-ups and modified push-ups as our tests for upper body and shoulder muscular strength and endurance.


  1. Males start in the standard push-up position (elevated). Hands should be shoulder width apart, arms extended straight out under the shoulders, back and legs in a straight line, and toes curled under. Females do a modified push-up with knees bent and touching the floor. Starting in the up position, hands should be slightly ahead of the shoulders so hands are in the proper position for the downward motion.
  2. Lower until the chest is about 2 inches from the floor and rise up again.
  3. Perform the test until you cannot complete any more push-ups while keeping your back straight and, if you are a male, keeping the legs straight as well. The key to completing the test properly is to maintain a rigid position and keep the back flat. If necessary, you can take a brief rest in the up position (not lying on the floor).
  4. Record your results.

* Normative data for the push-up and modified push-up are based on a population that is 20 years of age and older. These data and the test protocol are used with permission of The Cooper Institute, 12330 Preston Road, Dallas, TX 75230.