The majority of us don't like tests; they show up our weaknesses and uncover how unfit we really are, but testing is an important part of any training programme. We need to track our goals and rate of development, and the only real way of doing this is by coming up with applicable tests that relate to what we want to achieve.
There are plenty of tests that are both simple and effective. The deadlift or back squat are both big movements that tell us a lot about our overall strength but there is no point doing these types of tests if you are new to these movements. These would be most applicable if you are competing in sport, but otherwise it is important to use tests that have a crossover to function or strength in the real world. A good idea is to hire a trainer who can get you moving well and developing your muscle movements and, when you are ready to be loaded, it will be time to test.
A test for general strength which can be easy to measure is a push-up test. This will firstly be testing to see if you can maintain good form and a full range of motion. Then it will look at how many repetitions you can complete.
Standard tests for cardiovascular (CV) function include the bleep test or a lung function test. However, the bleep test is only really applicable for those with a very high level of cardiovascular fitness. A far more valuable test would be a 2k row test. It's easy to judge by time, easy to see improvement (again by reducing time taken to complete the test with increased fitness) and clearly crosses over to improved CV function.
Flexibility or range of motion
Firstly, let's clear up what we're testing here. Flexibility of a specific muscle has almost no crossover to functional movement compared to that of a range of motion test. So the traditional sit and reach test is far less valuable compared with an overhead squat or overhead lunge. These movements will tell us so much more about our overall function, joint mobility and myofascial (connective tissue surrounding muscles and organs) tightness.
By assessing an overhead squat, you can gain valuable information about what might happen when performing another functional movement. Again, it is worth speaking to a trainer at your gym to carry out this test with you.
The tests above offer much more than just analysis of one specific area and combine a host of different aspects of fitness and health. Designing specific tests will mean that you can collect usable information about your current level of fitness which you can then use as part of your goal setting.
Quantitative and qualitative testing (Craig O’Toole)
Testing can be split into two basic types: quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative tests provide numerate and comparative results and are a good test of validity and reliability. The main limitation of these types of tests is often how well they carry over into everyday situations. Qualitative tests then involve making a judgement based on opinion. Most posture tests and movement screens are subjective but can provide excellent information. If you decide to use these types of tests, then you must have an extremely clear idea of what comprises good technique and why.
• Cardio-respiratory – Blood pressure, resting heart rate, Cooper test (‘VO2max’ test)
• Strength – press-ups, bench press, back squat
• Body composition – weight, Body Mass Index, calipers
• Range of motion – active and passive single joint
• Static posture – front, side, back, sitting
• Movement screens – functional movement screen, single leg squat, star excursion
To see Tommy Matthews in action, why not attend the industry’s leading fitness event FitPro Convention on Friday 13-14 April? For more information or to book a place, visit www.fitpro.com/convention
Tommy Matthews is MD of the Optimal Life Fitness Group, specialising in kettlebell training and education. He has over five years’ experience in educating trainers across Europe using the Extreme Kettlebell educational system.
This feature was first printed in the February March 2012 issue of Fitpro Network magazine.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Fitness Professionals Ltd or Virtual Magazine. Consult a qualified health or fitness professional before making changes to your diet or exercise.