Have you made a New Year’s resolution to improve your fitness levels? Before you begin, find out how fit you are already. Only then will you know how far you have to go!
Fitness tests are an encompassing ways of checking which body areas to work on. You may be above average in some areas and below average in others. Testing yourself shows the progress you are making with your gym visits, and give your workouts a focus.
Cardiovascular fitness tests measure the functional capacity of the heart and lungs. A strong cardio system is good because it means your heart isn’t working so hard to get nutrients and oxygen around your body. One of the best ways to test cardio fitness is to find a gym which tests V02 max, but you can do some simple checks yourself:
Resting pulse rate. This is the quickest way to measure your cardio fitness. Generally, a lower heart rate indicates a more efficient cardiovascular system. Very fit people often have resting pulses in the 50s, and professional athletes have had even lower. Normal range is between 65 and 80. On the hand, those with resting pulse rates of 80 beats per minute or above are quite unfit. However, if you participate in regular exercise your pulse rate will drop, and this is a great way to measure your progress.
Recovery heart rate. A basic test of cardio fitness is how long your heart takes to return to its normal rate after exercise. The 3-minute step test is a good example and can be performed at home. Step on and off a 12-18 inch step for 3 minutes non-stop. Rest for one minute, then take your pulse for 30 seconds. Use this equation to get your score: 18,000 divided by (beats x 5.6). A result below 38 is poor. 39 – 59 is average. Over 60 is good, and over 70 is excellent fitness.
Another easy way to test your cardiovascular capacity is on the treadmill, or any flat surface route. Run or walk for 12 minutes as fast as you can, measuring the distance covered. Below 1.25 miles is poor; 1.32 - 1.25 miles is fair; 1.33 – 1.45 miles is good; above 1.46 miles is excellent.
Royal Marines fitness test. For those who fancy a real challenge, see if you could complete the Marines’ basic test:
Your core fitness – back, abdominals and glutes – are crucial to maintaining overall fitness. Check if you need to work on your core strength with the plank test.
Plank. In plank position you are supporting the length of your body on your elbows. Time how long you can keep perfect form, without dropping or raising your hips. Less than 90 seconds is acceptable. Over 90 seconds is doing great. Anything over two minutes is excellent strength.
Pull ups. Many people consider pull ups the ultimate fitness challenge. Pull ups are a great indication of muscular power and endurance, and are very tough. More than half of US female marines recently failed to complete the 3 pull ups required to pass the basic fitness test.
To test yourself, use the Royal Marines entrance test. See how many pull ups you can perform before letting go. The minimum target is 6. For those real tough nuts, see if you can complete the whole Royal Marines’ gym exercise. This entails performing the pull-ups after 2 minutes of press ups, and 2 minutes of sit ups.
Push ups. Lifting roughly two-thirds of your bodyweight is a good way to check the strength and endurance of your upper body. While targets differ for men and women, anything below 14 is considered poor. Between 15 and 25 is good for women, not bad for men. Over 25 is excellent for women, while men should perform over 30 to reap maximum praise!
Lower body strength.
Those who want speed and power need strong legs. Strength tests are therefore a good way to assess your progress.
Wall Squat Test. Although primarily measuring your quadriceps strength, this test will also give you a good idea of how strong your hamstrings and glutes are. Standing with your back to the wall, move down until your knees are properly over your toes. Hold for as long as possible. Anything under 20 seconds is poor; 20 - 40 is average; 30 – 45 is good; over 45 is excellent.
Keeping your muscles flexible is a crucial part of overall fitness. Pliable muscles recover quickly, reduce injury risk, enjoy greater range of motion and improve the nourishment of ligaments and tendons. Flexibility differs around the body so you will need to check different areas, including your hips, upper body and adductor muscles.
Sit and Reach. This common test measures the flexibility of your hamstrings and lower back. It requires a measuring tape lying along the side of your body from the base of your back down to your feet. You then sit on the floor with legs stretched out ahead. Reach forward as far as you can and measure how far your hands can reach.
The fact that you only have to do 6 pull ups to pass the royal marines test testifies to how hard pull ups really are. I can do at least 10, but then I've not normally done press ups and sit ups before!