Find Your Place: Assess Your Upper-Body Strength

By the Editors of SilverSneakers |

How strong are your biceps? This 30-second test can tell you.

How many arm curls can you do with your dominant hand in 30 seconds? In this video, SilverSneakers fitness expert David Jack explains how this quick test can give you clues about your upper-body strength.

You’ll need:

  • A sturdy, preferably armless, chair
  • A five-pound dumbbell for women or an eight-pound dumbbell for men
  • A watch or clock

Try the test now, then see what your results mean below. If you’re not able to do arm curls safely, skip the test, but check out the tips below.

If You Did 14 or More Reps

That’s a sign your upper-body strength is above average. It’s not hard to see why that’s valuable: Upper-body strength helps you lift, carry, push, and pull objects.

Was the test too easy for you? Try it again but with a weight you would normally use for biceps curls. Making sure you maintain good form, see how many reps you can do in 30 seconds. In the next month, try a progression: Do the same number of reps but with a weight that’s a couple pounds heavier.

Another great way to challenge yourself: this 30-minute standing upper-body workout that targets your shoulders, back, and arms.

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If You Did 10 to 13 Reps

That’s a sign your upper-body strength is average. In general, someone in their 60s or 70s will likely have a higher score than someone in their 80s or 90s. You’ll want to stay as strong as you are now—and get stronger if you can.

In addition to being a test, curls are a great exercise. Check out three more exercises to keep your arms looking and feeling strong. Want the guidance of a fitness instructor? SilverSneakers classes can help you improve your upper-body strength as well as overall fitness.

If You Did 9 Reps or Fewer

That’s a sign your upper-body strength is below average. To help yourself stay active and independent, you’ll want to improve your strength.

Good news: You can strengthen your upper body without even standing up. Check out these four ways to sculpt your arms and shoulders while sitting in a chair. What else can help: making simple lifestyle swaps, such as carrying your groceries in a basket rather than pushing a cart.

If You Weren’t Able to Take the Test or Have a Chronic Condition

The first thing to remember is physical activity is safe—and beneficial—for almost everyone, according to the latest fitness guidelines. The key is working with your doctor to find the right plan for you.

Start by talking to your doctor about your current health and any medications you take. Ask these three questions:

  • What types of exercise are appropriate for me?
  • How often and how much should I do them?
  • Are there precautions or steps I should take? For example, people recovering from an injury may need additional treatment or physical therapy. People with osteoporosis may need to avoid forward bends and twists.

Check Your SilverSneakers Eligibility Instantly

SilverSneakers gives you free, unlimited access to more than 15,000 gyms and fitness centers across the nation, plus classes and tools designed to keep older adults strong and independent. Check your eligibility instantly here. Already a member? Get your SilverSneakers member ID and exclusive content by logging in to or creating your online account here.

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