A couple of weeks ago I challenged blog and Twitter followers and Facebook friends to a pushup challenge. After having read Stephen R. Covey’s declaration that “very few [people] can [do twenty pushups]” I was having a hard time believing that one, so I decided to collaborate with you, my reader audience, in a scientific experiment to see how well that statement applies to us.
Nineteen of you participated in the Facebook survey or told me your results directly. That wasn’t the kind of participation I was hoping for, but we’ll go with that anyway.
Here’s what we found out:
- The lowest number of pushups done by any participant was 10.
- The highest number of pushups done by any participant was 45.
- The median number of pushups done was 25.
- The average number of pushups done was 27.
It seems like a pretty even distribution. Look at the chart below and you can see further evidence of this. There’s not a lot of clumping at any given point, rather a fairly steady upward slope from 10 to 45.
If Covey’s assertion were true I would have expected one or both of the following:
- If not a clumping of people reporting results at around 5 pushups, at least a couple of respondents at that level
- A non-linear progression from the bottom toward the top
As it stands, the data appears to be a fairly representative sample, but one that doesn’t match Covey’s assertion at all. Perhaps a number of people took the challenge and had results in the 3-8 range, but were not willing to post their results in the survey. Or perhaps my circle of friends is abnormally fit (sorry, I don’t find that likely). Or perhaps the people who frequent Covey seminars tend to be atypically unfit.
One final piece of interesting information. We conducted this experiment at work. Most of the guys on the team were good sports and dropped down to do their pushups in front of everybody. On our team I know we have some people who are fairly fit and active, and some who are not (me). We also have some young, energetic guys and some who are in the latter half of their life (me again). Being young and being someone who exercises regularly seemed to help drive the number of pushups higher, which is really no big surprise. However, the upper end of the scale was not populated exclusively by fit, young, exercising-types. Furthermore, I know of some people who work out pretty regularly who slotted into the bottom half of the scale.
So it seems that exercising alone isn’t the only thing involved here. Some might suggest genetics, which perhaps has something to do with it. But I know of one case in these results where one guy outperformed a younger sibling, and in this case the younger sibling is the one who regularly exercises while the older one does not. What about weight? Weight is certainly a factor, but some of the people who put up high numbers are not exactly petite.
Truthfully, I would have to say some of the hardest results to explain were my own. I managed 40 pushups, which frankly was no surprise to me — I’ve been able to do 40 pushups, give or take, for years now, and I pretty much figured that was par for the course. I guess it is a bit better than average. But I don’t work out regularly even though I know I need to, I’m not exactly svelte (let’s just say I’m more than just a smidgin over 200), and 40 years old. Go figure.
Anyway, thanks for participating. Look for another one coming up.