Fitness testing is extremely popular and important amongst professional and even serious amateur athletes. They will undergo regular fitness testing to see where and how they’re improving and to identify any areas that might be lacking. The coach can use this data to adapt their training program to ensure their athlete is going to continue improving in the right areas.
As a Personal Trainer, testing your clients is a great way to set a benchmark and ensure they’re improving. It will also show the client you’re invested in their improvement and can also help encourage them along their way. If they see that their plank is much longer, or they can lift much more than a month ago, that’ll act as a huge mental boost to continue training with you.
The first set of fitness tests will provide you with a fitness profile of your client. Make sure you record these details as they will be useful for testing future tests. It’s also great for helping you set specific weights for their exercises.
It’s important to be aware that your clients’ results will vary depending on age, gender, current fitness levels and other external factors. Therefore, although results can be compared to national averages, the main purpose of recording these results is to compare them to previous results and use as a guide to progress.
Which tests should you be using and how do you implement them
There are three main areas in which basic fitness testing should focus. These include measuring basic strength and muscular endurance, aerobic capacity and flexibility.
Strength and Muscular Endurance Tests
Maximum Push Up Test
This test is great for testing the strength and muscular endurance of the chest, arms and shoulders to some degree. The premise is very simple; you get your client to perform as many push ups us possible until failure, that means until they can no longer carry out another push up. It’s important to make sure that their technique doesn’t suffer, and if it does, get them to maintain correct technique else the repetition doesn’t count.
The client can do this either on their toes, or their knees if carrying out on their toes is too difficult:
Tip: You can do this test with any bodyweight exercise, as it’ll give you a guide as to progress for those muscles against your clients’ current body weight. These could include bodyweight squats, being good to measure your lower body strength and muscular endurance, and also pull-ups for back and arms to complete the set.
Curl Up Test
The Curl Test is a great way to test the muscular endurance of the core. Have your client carry out as many crunches as possible in 60 seconds, whilst maintaining good technique. If 60 seconds is too long, try starting with 30 seconds.
The client lies on their back on a mat. You can hold their feet or not, just make sure you make a note of it, as you’ll need to make sure you do the same next time. Client then does as many crunches as possible within the time limit.
The plank test is another way to test muscular endurance for the core. It is a very simple yet gruelling test. Have your client assume the plank position, with shoulders in line with, or slightly behind, their biceps. Make sure they have a neutral spine (flat back), and straight alignment through knees, hips and shoulders. They have to hold this plank until failure, so holding it for as long as physically possible. If their technique slips, or their hips dip lower, give them a warning. If it continues to suffer, end the test and record the time.
The aerobic capacity of a person is essentially the capacity to which their heart and lungs can deliver oxygenated blood to muscles whilst performing repeated work for an extended period of time.
There are two methods to measure the aerobic capacity; a direct method, which requires expensive medical equipment and delivers a real result, and an indirect method, which involves aerobic fitness tests that can give an estimate of aerobic capacity.
Direct: VO2 Max Test
The VO2 Max Test uses a machine to measure the maximal oxygen intake (VO2 Max) through gas analysis. The client will generally run on a treadmill wearing a special mask hooked up to a machine that can measure the levels of gasses inhaled and exhaled. The client is then taken to their maximal workload capacity, all whilst their inhalation and exhalation are being measured. This will give the most accurate measure of cardiovascular fitness.
However, there are obvious drawbacks on this method. Having a VO2 Max Test can be expensive, as you’ll need to visit a facility that offers it, as well as pay for an expert to conduct it. It can also be unsafe and too strenuous for some clients.
Indirect: Step Test
The step test is a great way to give you an estimate of a client’s aerobic capacity. All you need is a 30cm high step. You could use anything from a sturdy box to a concrete step.
Have your client step up and down the step in the pattern left leg up, right leg up, left leg down, right leg down, and so on. Do this at a steady pace, using a metronome to maintain the pace throughout. After 3 minutes, have the client stop and then calculate their heart rate for 1 minute. The lower the number of beats in that minute, the better.
Indirect: 20m Shuttle Run Test (Beep Test)
If you want a test that will give you an estimated VO2 Max, the beep test is your test. It is widely popular and is used by many sports teams and fitness fanatics alike. There’s a good chance you’ve done one of these at some point in your life.
To carry out this test, you’ll need cones, a tape measure and a CD player/Smart Phone. Find an area with 20m of space, the place the cones 20m apart. Download a beep test app, or purchase a beep test CD and have your client run from cone to cone in time to the beeps. Not too fast, but also not too slow.
As time goes on, the time between beeps decreases, meaning the client needs to up their speed. Eventually they will get to the point where they are running at their aerobic capacity and shortly after they will no longer be able to make it to the end before the beep. The last beep they completed successfully will be their score. The score is recorded as the level and number of shuttles they complete at that level. For example: level 11, 10 shuttles.
Most good beep test apps will tell you the level and shuttle number after every beep, so you’ll know what they achieved.
You can then use a formula to estimate their VO2 Max:
3.46 * (L + SN / (L * 0.4325 + 7.0048)) + 12.2
Where: L = Level, SN = Number of Shuttle at that level
Sit and Reach Test
The sit and reach is the standard flexibility test, which measures the flexibility along your posterior chain, particularly the lower back and hamstrings.
The only equipment required is a sit and reach box or a ruler.
Have your client sit on the floor with their bare feet vertically placed against the box and legs fully extended. If you don’t have the box, you can mark a line on the floor and use a ruler, but make sure their feet are still as vertical as possible.
One hand is placed over the top of the other, palms face down, fingers outstretched and elbows straight. The client is then to lean as far forward as possible moving their hands along the box, or ruler. Ensuring that the knees remain on the floor, take note of the distance the client can reach and hold for 2 seconds. The best of three attempts is recorded.