Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Supreme Court Justice Who Can Do More Push-Ups Than You

Ginsburg receiving Woman of the Year 2012 awardGinsburg receiving Woman of the Year 2012 award

While Michelle Obama and Paul Ryan are famous for their sculpted biceps, there is another member of Washington's power elite you might not want to challenge to an arm wrestling match. The sparrow-like Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg told the Washington Post she cranks out an impressive number of push-ups during her twice-weekly workout sessions with personal trainer, Bryant Johnson."Now I'm up to 20..." she said.

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Johnson, a six-foot-tall, 206-pound former Army reservist who spent three years in Kuwait with the Special Forces, doesn't hold back with the 100-pound octogenarian who barely clears the five-foot mark. No knees-on-the-ground "girlie" push-ups for her. Ginsburg dutifully performs two sets of ten plank-style traditional push-ups at the end of each hour-long workout.

"Exercise is the great equalizer. It doesn't matter what size, shape or color you are," Johnson told the Post. "A push-up is a push-up, no matter how you look at it." Johnson also trains Justice Elena Kagan who has reportedly shaped up and shed some weight since taking the bench.

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Push-ups are a classic measure of basic physical strength—and in our couch potato culture, many people can't achieve even one. In a study of middle-schoolers carried out by East Carolina University, three-quarters of the girls tested, and nearly half of the boys, couldn't perform a single push-up. They are also a good indicator of how you will fare if you tumble. "If you can't do a single push-up," James Ashton-Miller, director of the biomechanics research laboratory at the University of Michigan, pointed out in an interview with the New York Times, "it's going to be difficult to resist that kind of loading on your wrists in a fall."

Ginsburg herself only began exercising regularly after a serious health scare. In 1999, she was treated for colon cancer. Radiation and surgery took a toll on her body leaving her weak and frail, and her husband Martin (who passed away in 2010), encouraged her to hire a personal trainer. "When I started, I looked like a survivor of Auschwitz," she told the Post. The Justice credits her workouts for helping her through a second battle with cancer (pancreatic). "I never thought I'd be able to do any of this," she said. "I attribute my well-being to our meetings twice a week. It's essential."

Over the last year, other famous and infamous political animals have publicly shown off their push-up prowess. Paula Broadwell, whose extramarital affair with General David Petraeus led to his resignation as Director of the CIA, handily beat Jon Stewart on The Daily Show in a push-up contest to benefit wounded veterans. She cranked out 60 without breaking a sweat (to his huffing and puffing 38). And in February, Michelle Obama squared off against Ellen Degeneres in another televised push-up contest. The First Lady skunked Degeneres 25 to 20. Impressive. But factoring in Ginsburg's age (she just turned eighty on March 15), she wins the real gold medal.  

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