The Disadvantages of Pushup Tests

Close-up of a bald man doing push ups

Many athletic teams, along with the military, police and fire service, use the pushup test as a means of analyzing upper body muscular endurance. There will be slight variations in how the test is conducted, but it remains largely the same in most organizations. Start in a pushup position and perform as many perfect repetitions as you can. The test stops when you reach failure or come to the end of the designated time. While the pushup test may be seen as beneficial to developing strength, endurance and performance, there are also several disadvantages to it.

Muscular Imbalances

Pushups work your chest, shoulders and triceps muscles, along with your core. By basing your training around scoring higher in the pushup test, you'll perform a high number of pushups on a regular basis and potentially include other exercises for these muscle groups in your routine, too. This can cause muscular imbalances. Corrective exercise specialist Mike Robertson writes in his book "Magnificent Mobility" that overworking your chest muscles can lead to tight pecs and a rounded upper back, which has the potential to cause discomfort and injury.


To get a good score on the pushup test and either beat your previous score or score higher than the people you're training with, you'll have to push yourself. While exerting yourself and training hard is the key to getting fitter and stronger, it can be tempting to use poor form, which can lead to injuries.


Many people get caught up in improving their pushup test performance and can verge on becoming obsessive about it. Putting all your efforts into training for the test can detract from your other forms of exercise. While it's good to have a high level of muscular endurance, you need to include other methods of training in your routine. Dr. Jerry Mayo of the University of New Mexico recommends regularly performing other muscular strength tests, such as the single repetition maximum test, which can be done with squats, deadlifts and bench presses. Perform regular cardiovascular training to maintain your level of aerobic fitness.


Wanting to score highly can push you on when training and give you extra motivation to succeed. However, if pushups aren't an exercise you're entirely comfortable with, knowing that you have to perform the test can have the opposite effect and make you want to skip training. Likewise a good score will spur you on to train harder, while a bad one can demotivate.