What Percent of Your Weight Are You Lifting in a Pushup?

By John Shea

Pushups are an effective upper-body strength training exercise that works muscles in the chest, arms, shoulders and core. A hardcore pushup program promotes strength development and builds muscle mass, but it’s difficult to determine exactly how much weight you’re actually lifting. However, the forceful motion of a pushup will always target a percentage of your body weight. Variations in pushup activity can also increase the total percentage of body weight lifted.

Strength Endurance

Pushups are a foundational component of strength endurance assessment. A man in peak physical condition should be able to perform 50 pushups in one minute, according to Sports Fitness Advisor. Strength tests measure maximal power output during exercises that involve complex movements. Pushups are a multi-joint upper body exercise that require repetitive, forceful motion. A high-repetition pushup program tests your body’s resistance capacity and the frequency at which you’re able to lift a majority of your body weight.

Kinetic Analysis of Pushups

In 2010, the International Conference of Biomechanics conducted a kinetic analysis of several variations of pushups to determine a precise measurement for how much body weight is actually lifted when performing the exercise. Variations in pushups were charted based on intensity level, which ultimately determined the amount of body weight being lifted. Twenty-three young men performed four variations of pushups in repetition: standard, bent-knee, elevated feet and elevated hands. The study concluded that the difference in elevations produced results that ranged from 41 to 74 percent of body weight being lifted. In contrast, standard pushups produced results between 49 and 64 percent of body weight.

Elevated Balance Points

The percentage of body weight lifted while performing pushups increases when your balance point is elevated. Executing pushups with proper form maximizes the amount of body weight you're forced to lift. Your body's balance point is lowest in the bent-knee position, which is why bent-knee pushups are considered the easiest type of pushup to perform. The percentage of body weight lifted during a standard pushup is maximized when your feet are shoulder-width apart. This shifts your balance point and forces you to lift a greater percentage of body weight.

Weight Shifting Pushups

Weight shifting pushups are the most difficult type of pushups to perform, according to Men’s Health. Shifting a large percentage of body weight to one side of your body in alternation during the standard pushup will increase the total amount of body weight lifted during the exercise. Completing 10 repetitions with perfect form on each side of your body will maximize strength development and enable the growth of lean muscle mass.


About the Author

John Shea is a fitness enthusiast and team sports fanatic. He's currently a featured columnist for Bleacher Report and Pro Football Spot journalist. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications.

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