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Workouts and Your Body

Muscular Strength and Endurance
Push-ups – that simplest of exercises used by drill sergeants and gym teachers – are a good way to test your upper-body strength quickly and easily. Women should use a modified push-up, with their knees bent and on the floor, and men should keep their toes on the floor with legs out straight.

Start at the top position with your arms straight and lower yourself until your chest is about a clenched fist's distance from the floor. Keep your back straight throughout. See how many you can do without breaking form or resting at the top or bottom. Test yourself every few months to measure the progress of your strength routine. Below are norms so that you can check yourself against other in your age category.

Push-Up Norms for Men

Age 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-59 60+
Excellent 55+ 44+ 40+ 35+ 30+
Good 45-54 35-44 30-39 25-34 20-29
Average 35-44 25-34 20-29 15-24 10-19
Fair 20-34 15-24 12-19 8-14 5-9
Low 0-19 0-14 0-11 0-7 0-4

Push-Up Norms for Women

Age 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-59 60+
Excellent 49+ 40+ 35+ 30+ 20+
Good 34-48 25-39 20-34 15-29 5-19
Average 17-33 12-24 8-19 6-14 3-4
Fair 6-16 4-11 3-7 2-5 1-2
Low 0-5 0-3 0-2 0-1 0

Cardiovascular Tests
Again, there is no replacement for the testing available in a lab, but there are a few you can do on your own to estimate your cardiovascular fitness.

A simple yet arduous test, widely used in the military and law-enforcement agencies, is the 1.5-mile walk/run. The procedure is simple:

  1. Find a treadmill, quarter-mile track, or another accurately measured, flat 1.5-mile course.
  2. After a thorough warm-up, run and/or walk 1.5 miles as fast as possible.
Here are the norms for men and women, broken down by 10-year age groups.

Women's Norms per Age Group

Rank 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-59 60+
Superior 10:47 11:49 12:51 14:20 15:06
Excellent 12:51 13:43 14:31 15:57 16:20
Good 14:24 15:08 15:57 16:58 17:46
Fair 15:26 15:57 16:58 17:55 18:44
Poor 16:33 17:14 18:00 18:49 19:21
Very Poor 18:14 18:31 19:05 19:57 20:23

Men's Norms per Age Group

Rank 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-59 60+
Superior 8:13 8:44 9:30 10:40 11:20
Excellent 10:16 10:47 11:44 12:51 13:53
Good 11:41 12:20 13:14 14:24 15:29
Fair 12:51 13:36 14:29 15:26 16:43
Poor 14:13 14:52 15:41 16:43 18:00
Very Poor 16:12 16:27 17:23 18:31 20:04

We're constantly amazed how many strong and "fit" men we see in the gym who are unable to touch their toes. This begs the question: Can you be truly fit if you're as flexible as an elephant's tusk?

The most common test used by physiologists to measure flexibility is known as the "sit-and-reach" test. This is basically a seated toe touch using a specially designed box to measure how far forward you bend. The test is valuable because poor performance usually indicates the likelihood of lower-back injury.

Odds are you don't have a sit-and-reach box at home, but you can still get a basic idea of your lower back, hip, and hamstring flexibility. Try this. In your bare feet, sit on the floor with your feet six inches apart and flat against the wall. Bend forward slowly, without bouncing. If you can easily touch the wall, your flexibility is fine. If you can barely reach the wall, it's fair. If you can't reach the wall (don't cheat and bend your knees), jog to your nearest yoga teacher. Actually, walk; you might pull a hamstring otherwise.


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Short Workouts © 2001 by Deidre Johnson-Cane, Jonathan Cane, and Joe Glickman. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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