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Muscular Strength and Endurance Test

Muscular Strength and Endurance Test

Tue, 3 Nov 2009

Muscular strength and endurance is critical to both your health and ability to carry out daily activities, such as performing household tasks (yard work, carrying groceries) or job-related tasks (lifting or moving heavy objects). There are many ways to measure your muscular strength and endurance, often with a focus on a specific group of muscles.

The Half Sit-Up Test

One of the most frequently measured muscle groups is the abdominal (stomach) muscles. Several tests (for example, sit-up and curl-up tests) have been developed to measure mainly abdominal muscular strength and endurance. We are going to use an abdominal muscular strength and endurance test called the “YMCA Half Sit-Up” test, which is a curl-up test since you lift your trunk only partially off the floor.

Equipment/Test Setting:

  • Mat or rug,
  • Stopwatch or watch with a second hand,
  • Four strips of tape to place 3.5 inches apart on mat or rug to provide start and end position for the curl-up.

Prepare the mat or rug with the tape strips as shown in the picture. You need to be able to feel the tape as your fingers move across the mat or rug from the starting and ending positions. We recommend that you do the test with a partner.


  1. Lie face-up on mat or rug with knees at a right angle (that is, 90º) and feet flat on the ground. The feet are not held down.
  2. Place hands palms facing down on the mat or rug with the fingers touching the first piece of tape.
  3. Flatten your lower back to the mat or rug, and half sit-up so that your fingers move from the first piece of tape to the second. Then return your shoulders to the mat or rug and repeat the movement as described. Your head does not have to touch the surface. Keep your lower back flat on the mat or rug during the movements – if you arch your back, it can cause injury.
  4. Your partner will count the number of half sit-ups performed in one minute. Pace yourself so you can do half sit-ups for one minute.
  5. Record your results.
* The half sit-up test is re-printed from the YMCA Fitness Testing and Assessment Manual, 4th edition, 2000, with permission of YMCA of the USA, 101 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL 60606.

Standard and Modified Push-Up

Alert! If you have shoulder, elbow, or wrist pain, doing this test may aggravate your condition.

The muscles of the upper body and shoulders are another frequently measured muscle group. Several tests (for example, pull-up and push-up) are used to measure the strength and endurance of these muscle groups. Less muscular strength and endurance of the upper body and shoulder group may increase the chances that a person may have shoulder pain in middle or older adulthood.

In the standard push-up test, you push your body up and down using muscles in your arms, shoulders and chest, while keeping your body straight with your feet serving as the pivot point. Your body weight is your workload. Females can reduce the load by having their knees touching the floor and acting as the pivot point. In this test, only the upper body is the load. We are going to use standard push-ups and modified push-ups as our tests for upper body and shoulder muscular strength and endurance.

  1. Males start in the standard push-up position (elevated). Hands should be shoulder width apart, arms extended straight out under the shoulders, back and legs in a straight line, and toes curled under. Females do a modified push-up with knees bent and touching the floor. Starting in the up position, hands should be slightly ahead of the shoulders so hands are in the proper position for the downward motion.
  2. Lower until the chest is about 2 inches from the floor and rise up again.
  3. Perform the test until you cannot complete any more push-ups while keeping your back straight and, if you are a male, keeping the legs straight as well. The key to completing the test properly is to maintain a rigid position and keep the back flat. If necessary, you can take a brief rest in the up position (not lying on the floor).
  4. Record your results.
* Normative data for the push-up and modified push-up are based on a population that is 20 years of age and older. These data and the test protocol are used with permission of The Cooper Institute, 12330 Preston Road, Dallas, TX 75230.

What the results mean

Half Sit-Up. The half sit-up test is mainly an indicator of your abdominal muscular strength and endurance. However, you also use other muscle groups while performing the test. Scoring in the “below average” to “very poor” category shows that your muscular strength and endurance may be low and needs to improve. Low abdominal muscular strength and endurance may lead to muscle fatigue and may lead to back injury.

Push-Up. The push-up test score is an indicator of your upper-body and shoulder muscular strength and endurance. Scoring in the “below average” or “poor” category shows that your muscular strength and endurance may be low and needs to improve. Poor upper-body and shoulder muscular strength and endurance may lead to shoulder pain. Remember, better strength and endurance make everyday activities easier to do.

How to improve muscular strength and endurance

You can improve your strength and endurance by repeating the same exercise more often, or by working against a heavier load and keeping the number of repetitions the same.

You can repeat the half sit-up movement and vary the load by having your arms in front of you (easiest) or placing them folded across the chest or behind your head (more difficult).

You can repeat the push-up movement and make them easier by doing them against a wall or harder by doing the standard push-up (most difficult).

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