The push-up is the all-American exercise. Too bad most Americans would have a hard time cranking out a single repetition, let alone the number they should be able to do for their age.

It’s time to start re-gaining your upper-body strength. And in a challenge I put together for Men’s Health Magazine last summer, I set the bar very high. Here, for example, are the numbers I gave for men under the age of 45 to determine their level of fitness:

  • Able to do less than 20 push-ups = out of shape
  • Able to do 20-34 push-ups = average
  • Able to do 35-49 push-ups = fit
  • Able to do more than 50 push-ups = “Men’s Health” fit

(For a woman, cut the number of repetitions by 60 percent. So, to get an “average” fitness score, a woman under the age of 45 would need to be able to do at least 12 push-ups.)

If you are a beginner, start with kneeling push-ups to build strength. Do one set of 5-10 reps today, and add one set every other day until you are able to do three sets of 10 kneeling push-ups.

Once you are able to do that, you’ll be ready for the next level: lowering yourself to the ground for a 3-count, then relaxing onto your knees and getting back up to the start position. Work your way up to 8 repetitions… and then you’ll be ready to do full push-ups.

If you’re already doing full push-ups, here’s how to improve your fitness score: Start by doing half the number of repetitions you can do, rest 30 seconds, repeat that same number of push-ups, rest 30 seconds again, and then repeat the push-ups. Do this two or three times per week, decreasing the rest period by 10 seconds each week. Retest your max after three weeks.

[Ed. Note: Fitness expert Craig Ballantyne is the creator of the Turbulence Training for Fat Loss system. For a free online source of information, motivation, and social support to help you improve your health, lose weight, and get fit, sign up for ETR’s free natural health e-letter.]

Craig Ballantyne

Craig Ballantyne is the author of The Perfect Day Formula: How to Own the Day and Control Your Life. Craig has been a contributor to Men's Health magazine for over 17 years. Today he teaches his gift to high-performing entrepreneurs how to squeeze more out of their days, increase their income, and make more quality time for their families in his Perfect Life Workshop and Work-Life Mastery programs. Craig used his own advice to overcome crippling anxiety attacks in 2006, and he'll teach you his 5 Pillars of Success so you can increase your income, decrease your work time, and live the life of your dreams. Learn more about Craig at

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