What is fitness testing?
Fitness testing is an essential part of any training program, providing valuable information for assessing and monitoring the physiological and performance measures related to health, fitness and sports performance.
So, why do we need fitness tests? Fitness tests allow us to assess the key components related to health, fitness and sports performance.
From a health perspective they can tell us what areas we need to work on to improve health outcomes. In this way they allow health professionals to make lifestyle and training recommendations that have a positive effect on health.
From a sports perspective they can highlight an athletes strengths and weaknessess. Why is this important? Whilst an athletes performance in competition – their competitive fitness – is the ultimate sports performance test, this is only part of the picture. Competitive fitness is affected by many different physiological factors – aerobic fitness, anaerobic condition, strength, power, muscular endurance, flexibility, body weight and composition – as well as psychological factors.
Fitness tests can be used to explain and understand why one athlete is quicker, fitter or stronger than another.
Why use fitness tests?
From a health perspective, fitness tests allow you to look at a range of components related to health and fitness.
From a sporting perspective they allow us to look beyond competitive performance, giving insights into why we are able to compete at a certain level. Importantly, they provide information that allows us to make the best use of our training time.
Whilst there are a number of reasons to use fitness tests, there are two primary reasons why athletes use them: Firstly, they can be used to highlight key areas to focus on during a training plan by highlighting strength and weaknesses. Secondly, they can be used to identify the optimum training intensities to use in training. As an example, a lactate threshold test can identify the specific heart rate, power and speed at the lactate threshold. This allows the athlete to optimise training by ensuring training intensity is high enough during more intense training and not too high on easier training days.
Summary of the Benefits of Fitness Testing
- To establish base levels of fitness
- To assess the key components of fitness and performance
- To identify an athletes strengths and weaknesses, and highlight the most “trainable” and beneficial areas to focus on during the training program
- To establish the optimum training zones (heart rate, power, speed etc) and intensities (low, moderate, high intensity etc) to use within the training program
- To assess the effectiveness of a training program and help to plan the next stage of the training plan
- To improve the athletes understanding of their own fitness level
- To help with goal setting, training focus and motivation level
Types of fitness tests
A variety of different fitness tests are available for assessing the various components of health, fitness and sports performance.
Some of the fitness tests are laboratory based requiring specialist equipment. However, many can be assessed away from the lab, either in field or gym based settings.
Aerobic fitness tests
Aerobic fitness tests measure components related to aerobic fitness and endurance such as maximal aerobic capacity and the lactate threshold. Here, laboratory based tests provide the most accurate and useful measures of aerobic fitness. However, these can be expensive and are not widely available. As such a number of field based tests have been devised to provide an estimate of aerobic fitness.
Laboratory based tests of aerobic fitness
- VO2max test
- Velocity at VO2max test
- Lactate threshold tests
- Sustainable percent VO2max
- Exercise efficiency / exercise economy test
Field Based tests
- Cooper 12-minute Run Test
- Cooper 2.4km Run Test
- 15 minute Balke Test
- Functional Threshold (FTP) cycling Test
- Velocity at VO2max Field based test
- Running efficiency field based test
- Multi stage fitness tests
- Heart rate reserve
Anaerobic endurance and capacity tests
The following tests can be used for the assessment of anaerobic endurance and anaerobic capacity.
Laboratory Based Anaerobic Tests
- MART (Maximal-Anaerobic Running Test)
- Wingate Test
- Cunningham and Faulkner Test
Field Based Anaerobic Tests
- RAST (Running-Based Anaerobic Sprint Test)
Since power is a measure of strength and speed, these tests assess our ability to apply force very quickly.
- 1 rep max test
- Vertical jump test
- Standing Broad Jump Test
- 30m Sprint test
- Medicine ball throw.
Tests of muscular endurance
Whereas power relates to our ability to apply force quickly, muscular endurance refers to our ability to perform repeated muscular contractions over a prolonged time period. As such, muscular endurance tests our used to assess our ability to perform repeated work. From this we are able to calculate how long a muscle group can continue to work before fatigue sets in.
- Isokinetic dynanometer
- Press up test
- Sit up test
- Squat test
- Leg extension/leg curl
General Strength Tests
- Grip Strength (Dynamnometer)
- Leg Press
- Leg Curl
- Leg Extension
- Bench Press
- Overhead Press
- Chin Up
The following tests assess muscle flexibility and the range of motion of specific joints.
- Sit-and-reach test – used to measure the flexibility of your lower back and hamstring muscle groups.
- Static flexibility tests: neck, shoulders, trunk, hips, wrists, ankle
The following tests are used to assess balance and proprioception.
- Wobble board
- Standing Stork test
- Standing Stork test (eyes closed)
- Ground Contact Time Balance – gives a measure of symmetry when running
Body Composition Tests
Body fat and body composition tests are useful for health assessments as well as for athletes looking to monitor levels of lean body mass and body fat.
- Waist circumference measurement
- Waist to hip ratio
- Body Mass Index (BMI)
- Skin fold calliper measurements
- Bioelectrical Impedence Measurement
- Hydrostatic Weighing
- 3-D Bodyscanners
- Bioimpedence Spectroscopy