If you’re not assessing, then you’re just guessing. That’s why every fitness journey should start with benchmarking your current fitness.
Performing a fitness test is important because it indicates your current fitness level and strength to accurately plan your training. it also enables you to track and measure your progress over time by retesting yourself periodically.
Thankfully you don’t need to perform complex, expensive or extravagant fitness tests under the supervision of a personal trainer to benchmark your fitness, you can do it yourself.
These basic tests – which you can do at home or in the gym – will provide valuable insights into your current fitness levels to take your training to the next level.
You don’t need to be hooked up to fancy machines while on a treadmill to determine your fitness levels. A simple fitness test could be a 1km time trial on a track or treadmill for instance – the fitter you get the faster you’ll be able to run it. The same applies to swimming or cycling.
There are also other, more formalised tests that can measure other fitness variables like your VO2max. These include:
Beep (or bleep) test
Sprint repeatability test
How to measure it:
What it measures: General fitness or VO2max when measurements are applied to the appropriate table (a simple online search will reveal suitable options).
How to do it: Place two cones 20m apart. You will need to get a bleep test CD or download the appropriate app for your smartphone. Start running between cones when instructed to do so. The time between beeps will get shorter as you progress, so your speed between cones will need to increase to keep pace. You will ascend a level every minute. The test ends when you miss two consecutive beeps.
Ideal result: Level 8-10 is considered average. Above level 12 is considered excellent.
What it measures: General fitness
How to do it: Place a 30.5cm high box or step in front of you. Step on and off the box for three minutes. Step up with one foot and then the other. Step down with one foot followed by the other foot. Try to maintain a steady four beat cycle. After three minutes stand still and measure your heart rate.
Ideal result: 107-118 bpm for women 95-106 bpm for men aged between 26-35 is average. Less than 91 and 83 bpm, respectively is considered excellent.
Tight, inflexible muscles can increase your injury risk and compromise movement efficiency in the gym. A flexibility test will highlight any potential tight areas that may require additional focus, possibly before you start a training program and as you progress.
Sit and reach test
What it measures: General static flexibility of your hamstrings, hips and lower back.
How to do it: Place a yardstick on the floor. Secure it by placing a piece of tape across the yardstick at the 38cm mark. Place the soles of your feet over the mark on the yardstick. Anchor your knees to the ground as you reach forward as far as you can. Hold the position for two seconds. Note the distance you reached. Repeat the test two more times and take the average of the measurements as your result.
Ideal result: +1-10cm is average, while 30cm+ is considered excellent.
One legged balance test
- What it measures: Static balance.
- How to do it: Stand on one leg and balance for as long as possible. Make sure you test both legs,
- Ideal results: 40-60 seconds is considered average. 2 min+ is considered excellent.
Dynamic balance test – multidirectional reaches
What it measures: Dynamic balance
How to do it: Start by standing on one foot for 1-2 seconds. Extend your non-weight-bearing leg forward and hold that position for 1-2 seconds, then extend your leg sideways and hold it again for another 1-2 seconds. Extend your leg backwards as you bend over and hold again for 1-2 seconds. To end off, flex your knee at 90 degrees and hold that pose for 1-2 seconds. Repeat on the other leg and record your times.
One minute strength tests are a great way to benchmark your current strength levels and track progress periodically, ideally every 4-6 weeks.
A one minute test can be applied to just about any exercise and measures the strength endurance of that specific muscle group. The most common tests are:
- The one-minute push-up test
- The one-minute squat test
- The one-minute sit-up test
How to measure it:
One-minute push-up test
- What it measures: Upper body strength endurance
- How to do it: Get into the fully extended push up position and perform as many push ups as you can in 60 seconds.
- Ideal result: 20-29 push ups in 60 seconds is considered average. More than 40 is excellent.
One-minute squat test
- What it measures: Leg strength endurance.
- How to do it: Get into a squat position and perform as many bodyweight squats as possible in one minute.
- Ideal result: 20-29 squats in 60 seconds is considered average. More than 40 is excellent.
One minute sit up test
What it measures: Abdominal strength endurance
How to do it: Lay on a mat with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Extend your arms upward to avoid using them to pull your head forward. Sit up and extend your hands over your knees, then return back to the floor and continue to perform as many sit-ups as possible in 60 seconds.
Note: Do not pull through your hip flexors. Make sure you use your abdominals to flex your trunk.
Ideal result: 25-28 is average (for women aged 26-35). 39+ is excellent.
Vertical jump test
What it measures: Explosive leg power.
How to do it: Stand side-on to a wall and reach up as high as you can with the hand closest to the wall. Mark the highest point you can reach as your standing reach height measurement. Move away from the wall slightly, then jump up as high as possible using both arms and legs to drive your body upwards. Touch the wall at the highest point of the jump and mark that point as your maximum jump height. Measure the distance between the standing reach height and the maximum jump height to get your result.
Ideal result: 31-40cm is average. 60cm+ is excellent.
Two hop test
What it measures: Horizontal and vertical leg power, along with balance and coordination.
How to do it: Stand behind a line with your feet shoulder-width apart. Perform two consecutive double-leg hops, jumping as far forward as possible. Use an arm swing to gain as much distance as possible. Measure the total distance covered from the start line to the back of your heels.