Make peace with the push-up

It's a given that strength training is part of your fitness routine. But do you know how strong your often-neglected upper body truly is? Performing a one-repetition max test -- the amount of weight you can bench-press -- has long been considered the best way to assess arm, chest, and back strength. "But if you haven't trained properly, and you don't use a spotter who knows what he or she is doing, it can be dangerous," said Peter Melanson, M.S., C.S.C.S., the manager of the education department at the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

Safer alternatives: push-ups. The number of push-ups you can do will give you a good idea of your upper body strength. One reason to assess and boost overall strength: it will improve your performance. "The difference between elite and national level athletes almost always comes down to strength," said Melanson. Just ask Serena.

The test: push-ups*

Lie chest-down on the floor, palms flat, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Keep your legs straight, toes tucked under your feet and, with abs tight, straighten your arms and push your body up off the floor. Do not bend or arch your back. Lower to the starting position and repeat.

* From the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology

Click here to test your explosive strength.

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