Type the word “pushup” into YouTube and you’ll be greeted by hundreds of videos of fitness influencers cranking out reps, like CrossFitter Craig Richey, who recently churned out 1,000 pushups in a matter of hours, or Evan Zhang, who performed 300 pushups every day for a month. Then there’s Kevin Callum, who set himself the goal of completing 1 million pushups.
But when it comes to the average person, those numbers get a lot smaller.
A new study published on September 1 indicates that more than half of Americans are incapable of performing 10 consecutive pushups, and that more than a third cannot even do 5 pushups in a row. This is based on a survey of 1,403 people in August 2021, which asked respondents to state how many consecutive pushup reps they can manage.
36.4 percent of individuals said they could do less than 5 pushups in a row, while 17.4 percent said they could do between 6 and 10 reps. “In other words, 53.8 percent of Americans self-report being unable to perform 10 straight pushups, whereas a minority (46.2 percent) report being able to,” the study reads. “Of those unable to perform more than 10 push-ups, approximately 31 percent identified as men.”
The survey was published by Gymless.org, a free service aimed at helping people pursue their fitness goals through bodyweight exercises and calisthenics.
Struggling to do more than a handful of reps at a time? That’s OK. It’s important to focus on your technique at first so that you can achieve a high quality of rep. Once you’ve got that foundation, you can work on building quantity. Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel C.S.C.S. recommends working up to a pushup with an incline:
“Start by placing your hands on a chair or box. Doing so will lighten the amount of bodyweight you have to press upward,” he says. “You’ll still get to tighten your abs and glutes, forming a straight line from shoulders through feet, just as you would during a traditional pushup. As you improve, use shorter boxes and chairs until eventually you’re doing pushups with your hands on the floor.”
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