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What is Fitness Testing? Overview & Reasons for Testing (2020)

  • Last Updated: 21st April 2020
  • Health

fitness testing header image

Looking to find the answer to ‘what is fitness testing?’ 

Whether you’re a fitness enthusiast looking to push yourself further, or you’re preparing for a fitness test as part of a job application, we’ve got everything that you need to know in one place. 

You may even be a fitness professional looking to add fitness assessment tests to the list of services that you provide to your clients, which is also covered here (along with a sample informed consent form for fitness testing).

Whatever your reason, let’s jump straight in!

What is Fitness Testing? 

You’ve probably heard this term thrown around at some point, either back in your school P.E. lessons or on the gym floor. 

If you’re a qualified fitness professional, then you will have covered each of the components of fitness during your training, and should be familiar with fitness testing for sport and exercise as a method of health evaluation. If this is this case, you can always skip ahead to our section on performing fitness tests with clients!

If not, or you're looking to become a Level 3 Personal Trainer, you’re probably wondering; ‘what is fitness testing and why is it needed?’

In short, it is the term used to describe the process of testing your current state of fitness. There are multiple ways of doing so due to there being so many different components (11 in total) that make up your overall fitness. 

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach here, otherwise there would only be one way of testing your fitness rather than multiple possibilities. 

For professional athletes, testing fitness is incredibly important, and can make the difference between success and failure in any upcoming competitions or events. 

fitness testing definition graphic

It’s also good to know that tests such as this are used to test candidates for job roles that require a certain level of fitness. This could be why you’re here in the first place, especially if you’re looking to perform a few practice runs before you show up on the big day.  

Incase you didn’t already know, roles that usually require fitness testing in the UK prior to employment include:

  • The Police 
  • The British Army 
  • The RAF
  • The Royal Navy 

For these careers, fitness tests are put in place to ensure the safety of the candidate and any colleagues or members of the public should they make it to the next stage of their application. 

Not only this, but they’re often used to determine whether those that are already employed can properly fulfill their duties. 

Now that we’ve given you a full fitness testing definition, it's time to move onto… 

Reasons for Fitness Testing 

While we’ve briefly discussed the main reasons for testing above, we haven’t gone into enough detail to cover the entire subject. 

For example, if you’re a professional athlete then your reasons for completing a fitness test (or multiple fitness tests) could be completely different to those of someone who is trying to land a role with the British Armed Forces. 

Similarly, if you’re a newly qualified fitness professional or someone who is considering learning how to become a personal trainer, then you will have the safety of your clients in mind over any personal reasons. 

The main reasons for completing a fitness test include:

#1 -  Determining health & fitness levels

This is probably one of the most obvious reasons, but it’s still important to mention if you’re not already familiar with fitness assessing. If you're asking 'why is fitness testing important?', you should know that the health of the individual is the priority.  

The great thing about the term is that it’s pretty holistic, which means that fitness tests can be completed to determine fitness levels within each of the 11 components of fitness, whether they’re health or skill-related!

For fitness professionals training one-to-one with clients, a fitness assessment should always be one of the first things that is completed before structuring an exercise plan.

It gives the trainer a solid idea of the client’s current fitness levels, which is a vital piece of information that is required before creating an exercise programme that targets and boosts any areas of fitness that the client is lacking in. 

Not only this, but when it comes to assessing the effectiveness of said programme, the trainer now has something to revert back to and use for an accurate comparison. 

 

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It becomes much easier to track the client’s progress within the different areas of fitness, and to then make any required adjustments and tailor the programme further. 

Everyone is different when it comes to progressing through both health and skill-related components of fitness, so it’s vital to ensure that each individual client has a fully customised plan that stays that way throughout the entirety of their journey.   

#2 - Identifying any strengths & weaknesses 

why is fitness testing important

Whether the person undergoing the fitness test is an experienced athlete or someone who has just started out at the gym, it’s definitely helpful to identify any current strengths or weaknesses across the different areas of fitness.

For newbies, strengths and weaknesses are determined by comparing results with those from others in the same training group or demographic. It means that they are able to focus on any areas that they are lacking in to improve their health and body composition much faster than they would be able to do so without a fitness test. 

It can allow their trainers to incorporate exercises that they will be better at into their plan, so that they will build up muscle mass and drop excess fat quicker than they would if they only focused on exercises that would ridiculously challenge them. 

It also adds a layer of motivation, as they want to feel as though they’re able to get through their workouts, and that they’re completing exercises that they enjoy (because they’re good at them). If you’re looking for ways to motivate your personal training clients, this is good to know! 

For athletes, strengths and weaknesses are usually found by comparing results to those who practice the same sport, so that accurate training decisions can be made to target their competition. 

It is one of the most essential reasons for fitness testing for them, as without learning their weaknesses (especially when they’re linked to their chosen sport or activity), they will hinder their progression as well as their overall performance when it comes to competition time. 

Both groups can benefit from learning their strengths as well as weaknesses as it gives them an insight into what they can push even further to improve their performance! 

#3 - Assisting in setting fitness goals 

Leading straight on from identifying current fitness levels (and where they can be improved), one of the main benefits of fitness testing is that it allows trainers and clients to set actionable goals to complete before the next test is conducted. 

The motive behind these goals is to improve the results of the next test, mainly in the areas that you set out to improve on the last one. 

If you walk blindly into an exercise plan without an awareness of the areas that you most need to work on, then your results won’t reflect their full potential. 

That’s not to say that you won’t see results this way, but that they could certainly be better with the help of fitness assessing. 

The conclusions from an initial test will help the client or athlete to achieve optimal results through a fully tailored set of fitness goals. 

The alternative would be trying to reach a set of cloudy and unfocused goals that will more often than not lead anyone trying to improve their fitness to losing their motivation, and sometimes giving up completely! 

#4 - Evaluating fitness programmes 

fitness testing protocols graphic

Another of the main reasons and benefits of fitness testing is to monitor the progress of the individual. 

While it’s used to gain an initial idea of their fitness, it is also used to track this as the exercise programme unfolds. That way, the overall progress can be tracked and monitored, and any adjustments can be made should the new results show that something isn’t working as predicted. If you're wondering 'why is fitness testing important?', one of the main reasons (especially for athletes) is that it enables them to track their progress and improve week on week. 

Depending on how often you train, the time range for noticing a change in any component of fitness is around 2-6 weeks. Some areas will take longer to create notable changes in, and therefore can be tested at longer intervals.

For example, you may test your cardiovascular endurance every 3 weeks, but decide to check on a skill-related component such as agility or flexibility every 3-6 months if it isn’t a priority in your training. 

Athletes and those training them will find the fitness testing for sport and exercise process especially helpful, not only for boosting motivation (which is important to anyone improving their fitness), but for amplifying progress pre-competition. 

It’s one of the most important aspects of their training, especially since they will be competing against others that are focusing tremendously on their chosen components of fitness. The more they undergo fitness assessments the more they tweak their programme and become a better athlete!

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#5 - Assessing fitness levels post-injury or illness

No matter how much you hate to admit it, it’s true that at least some of your fitness will be lost if you suffer from an injury or illness that takes you away from your training, or means that you can’t train certain areas of fitness for a significant period of time. 

In most cases, the fitness levels that are lost are pretty big, which makes it so important that relevant fitness tests are carried out so that the client or athlete can get back on track as soon as possible! 

If you’re a fitness professional, you can do things alongside testing fitness to get your clients back on your feet, such as completing a course in Sports Massage Therapy, or educating yourself in electrotherapy and other pain relief treatments that you suggest. 

#6 - Boosting motivation 

The first fitness assessment that is performed with a client, whether they’re an athlete or completely new to fitness, is bound to leave them feeling a little disillusioned. 

reasons for fitness testing

No one likes hearing that they have a certain weakness or something to improve upon; it’s just human nature. However, once it comes to the third or fourth test, then this is where the motivation really starts to soar. 

The individual will be able to see how far they have come since their first test, which brings a great sense of accomplishment as well as the motivation to push themselves further. 

Poor results can also help to boost motivation, which is surprising but true for many of those looking to improve their fitness. 

It provides an incentive to do better if a score for a certain test is lower than another. The individual can make the necessary changes to their programme and up their effort, by perhaps adding in a few extra sessions per month, and transform their fitness further!

This shows how the benefits of fitness testing include a greater motivation to continue on an exercise programme, which therefore makes exercise more sustainable for those who undergo it. 

#7 - Assessing potential employees

As we mentioned earlier, one of the most well-known reasons for testing fitness outside of those that benefit the individual is to assess the fitness of potential employees.

Organisations that are known for this include the British Armed Forces and the Police, and other roles that require a fitness assessment to ensure the candidate’s employability include those of firefighters, lifeguards, and sometimes construction workers. 

They will test their candidates to determine whether they have the required level of fitness to fulfil their roles safely, and then continue to test them throughout their term of employment. 

This ensures the safety of those that they work with as well as their own safety, as they usually work within high-risk situations. 

In their study on the effectiveness of certain tests when it comes to the safe recruitment of Law Enforcement Officers, Jennifer Wooland (Bond University) et al concluded:

This review found that push-up testing and the 1.5 mile run times had a strong positive correlation to police academy graduation. This may be due to the fact that push-ups and the 1.5 mile run are common methods of training for police officers and offer the convenience of equipment-free training options.

It's clear here that aspiring officers or those looking to get into the British Armed Forces, etc. have a much better chance of success when they train for their desired role through regular fitness assessments. If they enlist the help of a fitness professional during this time, it seems as though they will have better chances of succeeding in their career assessment. 

Types of Fitness Testing 

If we were to list every fitness test that had been invented to date, you’d be here for hours. 

The truth is that there are endless possibilities when it comes to finding a test to measure a certain area of fitness. These areas of fitness actually translate to the ‘types of fitness testing’, as they are the components measures during different tests. 

That being said, there are tests that are widely used across the health and fitness industry and supported by mounds of scientific research, so we would definitely suggest sticking to these as opposed to random tests that you may stumble upon online.  

We’re not saying that these are inaccurate, but it’s a good idea to stick to tests that have been given the thumbs up from fitness professionals and scientists across the globe. 

This testifies their accuracy, as well as providing you with plenty of data to compare your own results to. The more popular a certain fitness assessment method, the more recorded test results you will come across! 

So, what are the different types of fitness testing out there?

To make your life easier, check out the graphic below for a list of the different components that can be tested: 

image types of fitness testing

Instead of listing the different testing possibilities for each of the 11 components, we’ll talk briefly about why it is important to test them, and give a couple of examples of the fitness tests that we would use ourselves as experienced fitness professionals. 

#1 - Cardiovascular Endurance Testing 

Cardiovascular endurance testing calculates how effectively your heart and lungs work together during long-duration exercise to supply your body with the energy and oxygen that it needs to continue. 

It relates directly to the health of your cardiorespiratory system, and is probably one of the most important reasons for testing fitness when it comes to identifying any weaknesses in your overall fitness levels. 

If your cardiovascular endurance isn’t in good condition, then it’s definitely something that you should work on as a priority during your training, along with other aspects! 

Why you should train & test it:

  • To gain an insight into your overall fitness - it’s one of the best indicators! 
  • If you’re looking to train for and compete in any sports/events that require good cardiovascular endurance and health, such as running, cycling, swimming, etc. 
  • If you want to increase the amount of time that you can exercise for (in comparison to building your speed or power) 
  • To uncover any signs of you developing heart disease (or any other chronic diseases) - results can sometimes reflect this 

Recommended tests: 

The three-minute step test is one of the most widely used methods for testing cardiovascular endurance, especially since it’s pretty easy to execute as it requires minimal equipment.

However, other tests include:

  • The Multi-Stage Bleep Test (used by the UK Police and the Armed Forces, etc.) 
  • 2.4km Run 
  • 12-minute Run Test (performed on a treadmill) 

#2 - Muscular Endurance Testing

Testing muscular endurance is a great way of assessing how effective your current fitness programme is. 

While it doesn’t concern overall strength (which we’ll get to shortly), it focuses on how long the muscles can tolerate a high amount of repetitions or a more long-duration activity as opposed to how much weight they can lift during the average 8-12 reps used in weight training.

Check out our list of the Top Push-Up Bars if you're planning on training endurance; they're incredbily helpful if you find that your wrists fatigue quickly during regular push-ups!

Why you should train & test it:

  • To get an idea of the effectiveness of your current fitness programme 
  • If you’re looking to improve the time it takes for your muscles to reach fatigue (important for those who are getting into weight training or powerlifting!)  
  • If you want to train for a long-duration activity that requires heavy muscle use, such as running and cycling 

Recommended tests:

  • Push-up test (for the upper-body, testing the biceps, triceps, pecs, deltoids, and abs)
  • Plank hold (for the core and abs specifically, testing the transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, obliques, hip flexors, and erector spinae)
  • Squat test (for the lower-body, testing the hamstrings, quadriceps, hips, and lower back)

#3 - Muscular Strength Testing

When looking into this form of testing fitness, it’s important to know that it is different to that of muscular endurance testing. 

why is fitness testing important

While endurance is a literal measure of how long your muscles can endure physical exercise before they fatigue, strength is more about the impact that your muscles can exert on a one-time basis. 

Muscular strength testing provides the individual with an insight into how effective their current training programme is for fine-tuning the strength of individual muscle groups, and therefore helps them to identify any areas that may need more intervention than others. 

The one drawback to muscular strength testing (as with testing muscular endurance) is that it’s difficult to take a holistic approach. You will need to perform a few different tests on separate muscle groups to get the most accurate results. 

The most ‘holistic’ approach to this would be to perform a ‘one rep max test’ on each of the areas that you wish to test. 

This involves exactly what you would imagine; a test of the maximum amount of weight that you can lift with a certain muscle group for only one rep. Working this out is pretty simple, and looks something like this: 

muscular strength fitness test image

To give an example, if you benched 20kg for 8 reps before your muscles fatigued, then your personalised 1RM equation for this muscle group would be: 

(0.033 x 8 x 20) + 20 = 25.28

If we round 25.28 down to 25kg, then we would get the maximum weight that you could bench (or lift with this specific muscle group).

Each time you come to complete your fitness assessment for the month, it’s a good idea to monitor your progress for each exercise that you complete on a regular basis to get a good idea of your muscular strength! 

Take a look at the 9 best adjustable dumbbells available on the market if you want to train your muscular strength at home. 

Why you should train & test it:

  • To track and monitor your progress in weight training/powerlifting 
  • To create actionable goals when it comes to increasing your 1RM/strength 
  • If you wish to compete in powerlifting competitions, or sports that involve a good amount of muscular strength and power as well as endurance 

Recommended tests:

  • One rep max test (the most holistic approach) 

#4 - Flexibility Testing 

You may picture someone in a leotard performing backflips and somersaults when you think about flexibility, but it isn’t limited to gymnasts and trapeze artists.

It’s actually a really important area of fitness to work on, as it’s counted as a health-related fitness component as opposed to a skill-related one, which supports our point. 

Regular flexibility testing will not only give you an insight into how close you are to being able to do the splits (if this isn’t on your list of fitness goals, it’s not a requirement!), but it will indicate how close you are to reaching an optimal ROM (range of motion) for your chosen sport or exercise activity. 

Increasing your ROM and overall flexibility is incredibly beneficial, as it will mean that your body can withstand greater physical strain, and be less likely to sustain injuries. 

It will also help you to improve your posture, and rid your body of any muscle imbalances (which also makes it less likely for you to get injured).  

Why you should train & test it:

  • To get an idea of your current ROM (range of motion) 
  • If you wish to compete in sports or events that require good flexibility
  • To improve your overall athletics performance 
  • If you wish to lessen your chances of injury when exercising or playing sport 

Recommended tests: 

  • Sit & reach test
  • V-Sit test
  • Side-bending test 

#5 - Body Composition Testing 

body composition fitness test image

Our last health-related area of fitness to discuss in our guide to the different types of fitness testing is body composition. 

Not only is it incredibly important to target this in every exercise programme due to the poor health implications of carrying large amounts of excess body fat, but it happens to one of the central fitness goals for most people embarking upon a new fitness journey. 

Body composition refers to the body fat mass to fat-free mass ratio that you’re currently storing. Fat-free mass includes bones, muscles, and organs. 

It’s clear that the aim here is to achieve a low fat mass to fat-free mass ratio, and the best way to do that is to build on your muscle mass to burn excess fat (and achieve a lean figure)! 

If you complete body composition testing on a regular basis, not only will you see positive changes in your health due to the loss in body fat percentage, but you’ll also see an improved physique and benefit from a boost in motivation. 

While body composition testing can be done at home with a pair of skinfold callipers, it is a test that is accurately completed with the help of a fitness professional, and is more likely to be correct if carried out this way.

Why you should train & test it:

  • If your goal is to achieve a lean and toned physique
  • If you want to reduce your body fat percentage an increase your muscle mass
  • If you want to see improved overall health and fitness 
  • If you want to boost your athletic performance 
  • To boost your motivation when it comes to working towards your fitness goals 

Recommended tests:

  • Skin fold callipers (cheapest and easiest way) 
  • Body circumference measurements 

#6 - Power Fitness Testing

You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘explosive power’ thrown around the gym, or in online exercise demonstrations - if so, you’ve witnessed this skill-related area of fitness in action!

Power relates to the ability to utilise maximum force at the fastest possible speed. It does link to speed and strength, but can definitely be viewed alone. Exercises that use ‘explosive power’ are often completed within high-intensity workouts, and are known for rapidly burning calories. 

Those looking to improve their performance in sports such as football, rugby, basketball, etc. will definitely benefit from training and testing their explosive power. 

When large muscle groups are contracted in unison at a rapid pace, it’s only natural that the strength of those muscles will increase as well as their power ability, so this is a great skill to work on when it comes to sports. 

Even if an individual has no interest in sports, they can see a number of health benefits from training power, such as improved cardiovascular health, endurance, strength, and overall body composition from the fat-burning properties of the exercise. 

Why you should train & test it:

  • Improved sports performance 
  • Health-related benefits as well as improved skills 
  • If you want to improve your ‘explosive power’ during workouts and everyday activities 

Recommended tests:

  • Vertical jump test  
  • Medicine ball throw 
  • 30m sprint test 

#7 - Speed Fitness Testing 

speed fitness testing

When it comes to speed fitness testing, it’s important to know that the method that you’ll use will depend on which area of speed you need to test. 

For example, if you’re an avid cyclist or you’re looking to get into competitive cycling, there would be little point in testing your sprint speed. It would be more productive to complete a 40m cycling sprint and track and monitor your progress this way! 

As it’s a skill-related area of fitness, it makes sense that most people completing speed fitness tests will be athletes or those looking to improve their sports performance. 

However, that’s not to say that recreational gym goers won’t benefit from training and testing their speed in the activities that they enjoy. Just like power, training speed can boost metabolic rate (meaning that more calories are burned during the sessions), and improve cardiovascular health amongst other things. 

Why you should train & test it:

  • To improve your ROM and flexibility (and prevent injury) 
  • To boost your metabolic rate 
  • To improve your cardiovascular health and endurance 
  • If you wish to compete in sports or activities that require a high-level of speed 

Recommended tests: 

  • 40 yard dash 
  • 30m sprint
  • Cycling 40m sprint 
  • 10x5m shuttle 

#8 - Agility Testing 

Another of the skill-related areas of fitness, agility is an essential training and testing area for those who wish to play competitive sports.

Not only will it enhance their sports performance in terms of dodging players on the opposite team and constantly changing direction, but it will also help to prevent serious injuries that can occur from these kinds of movements, such as ACL damage or tears. 

The great news is that agility testing and training can be beneficial for those who wish to improve how they move in their day-to-day lives, or during their workouts.

It can give the individual a sense of greater control over their body, and improve their overall cognitive function and focus, even outside of exercise. 

Why you should train & test it: 

  • If you plan on participating in competitive sports 
  • If you want to boost injury prevention in sports and everyday activities 
  • To speed up recovery time post-workout 
  • To improve overall cognitive function 

Recommended tests:

  • Shuttle run test 
  • T-Test
  • Zig-zag test 

#9 - Coordination Testing 

coordination fitness test

Coordination testing is vital for athletes, especially those competing in sports that require throwing, catching, or hitting a ball or a target. Since this covers most sports, it’s easy to see why coordination is so important to train for those competing! 

Alongside the relevant skill and health-related areas of fitness that individuals must monitor when competing in sports, coordination is something that improves gradually over time through regular training. 

It’s linked to cognitive function as well as physical fitness, so requires a different kind of training that focuses on hand-eye coordination rather than a vigorous physical effort. Training methods including juggling (we’re not joking!), dribbling, and skipping/jump rope. 

The wall-toss test is probably the most effective way of measuring your coordination, and it’s definitely done best with the help of a fitness professional who can mark your successful hits within a 30-second time period. 

Why you should train & test it:

  • For enhanced performance in competitive sports
  • To gain a greater control over your body’s movements 
  • To improve overall cognitive function (like with agility)  

Recommended tests:

  • Wall-toss test  
  • Jump rope test

#10 - Balance Testing

Working on your balance is never counterproductive when it comes to improving your fitness. 

It’s certainly something that we make use of in everyday situations, as well as during physical activity whether it’s competing in sports or some low-impact training. 

If anything, improved balance can actually give you a sense of accomplishment in having more control over your physical actions and your body in general, especially if you’ve gone through periods of inactivity before getting into a proper workout routine. 

It can actually work wonders to improve motivation when you’ve never considered yourself as someone who had good balance, and tracking and monitoring this adds to the excitement. 

For those competing in sports or partaking in vigorous physical activity, improving balance in the body will enhance overall performance and literally keep you on your feet! 

It will help to keep any nasty injuries at bay, both during sports and in everyday life - you never know when you might need to make use of your balancing skills… 

Why you should train & test it:

  • If you plan on partaking in sports and athletic activities
  • To boost overall cognitive function 
  • For a greater awareness of your body’s movements 
  • For improved injury prevention during physical activity and everyday activities 

Recommended tests:

  • Standing stork test 
  • Beam walk 

#11 - Reaction Time Testing 

For some of the other types of fitness testing mentioned above, we’ve discussed how testing and training them can be useful in everyday situations as well as in the world of fitness. 

There’s no doubt that reaction time takes the lead for this in terms of importance, as it can be applied to an incredible amount of high-risk situations, both in fitness and the real world. 

However, for the sake of sticking to our main topic, let’s quickly talk about how tracking and improving your reaction time can benefit your training! 

In many sports, a well-trained reaction time can mean the difference between success and failure. 

reaction time fitness test

If you’re a sprinter and you react to the whistle too late, for example, you can throw off the entire race. Or, if you’re a footballer and you miss a vital pass from one of your teammates, you could miss a fantastic opportunity for a goal. 

Boxing is another activity that requires optimal reaction time testing and training, and without a good reaction time you could find yourself in a nasty situation! 

One of the easiest ways to check your reaction time if you don’t have a trainer is to head to humanbenchmark.com and complete the reaction time test. 

However, if you’re completing regular fitness tests and want to be as accurate as possible, it’s a good idea to enlist the help of your trainer and perform a more physical test. This could be done using a piece of gym equipment, or through some boxing drills. 

If you wish to train your reaction time, a great way of doing so is trail running, as your reaction time will gradually improve as you learn to dodge obstacles whilst running at a high speed. It’s a bit of a lengthy process, but it’s a great method of putting your reactions in a real-life scenario! 

Why you should train & test it:

  • To enhance performance in competitive sports (and reduce missed opportunities)
  • To improve reaction time to impulses during physical activity ot sports 
  • If you’re looking to improve reaction time in everyday life 

Recommended tests: 

  • Human benchmark online test 

Fitness Testing Protocols 

One of the first things that you should know before performing a fitness assessment is that there are protocols for fitness testing that can be followed to gain a holistic idea of an individual’s fitness. 

This is a great thing to make yourself aware of, whether you’re performing a self-assessment or you’re a fitness professional looking to test your clients. 

While we have listed the 11 different types of fitness testing and the areas of fitness that they relate to, it's important to know that there is no singular way of testing fitness. 

While it would be much simpler to have one method to follow, this just isn’t the case! 

So, what are the protocols for fitness testing that can be followed to achieve an accurate assessment? While there are endless possibilities, here’s one example of an assessment structure:

protocols for fitness testing graphic

By following a simple fitness assessment such as this, you will be able to gain a pretty well-rounded idea of your client’s fitness levels, and then pair this information with the fitness goals that they have pre-determined with you to create a customised fitness programme. 

The areas of fitness that you test here will also depend heavily on the fitness goals of the client, but for the sake of making an example we put together the most holistic yet simple test that we could think of. 

Advanced protocols for fitness testing 

To give you an idea of what a fitness assessment could look like if it was geared towards a client that based their fitness goals on a particular sport or activity (rather than just aiming to build muscle mass and lose excess body fat), we’ve put together another example. 

This assessment should reflect a more in-depth look at a client’s fitness, especially with the introduction of some skill-related areas of fitness. 

fitness testing protocols graphic

Power, agility, and balance could be something that an athlete would want to measure, or they could equally tie into the fitness goals of a client who was looking to enhance their skills in these areas. 

Whoever the test has been shaped for, the point that we’re trying to make is that you can really tweak and change the tests that you perform with clients, and even make them more in-depth and customised once they’ve made significant progress in these areas. 

There really is no end to the possibilities when it comes to the different types of fitness testing, as there are way more methods to test these than there are areas of fitness. 

In fact, there are over 300 fitness tests in existence, so you have plenty of options to choose from! Just be sure to choose wisely, and to go with methods that are backed by significant scientific research or approval. 

Protocols for fitness testing: Self-assessment 

If you’re an athlete or a fitness enthusiast looking to perform a full-body fitness assessment on yourself, then there are protocols that you can follow in the comfort of your own home to gain a good idea of your current fitness levels. 

However, it’s important to note that it will be difficult to get an accurate reading during any assessment when you’re performing it alone, unless you have been adequately trained in the area. 

To give you an example of a holistic (and budget) fitness assessment that you can perform at home, check out the graphic below:

protocols for fitness testing image

As you can see, this test requires little to no equipment to complete. You will likely need nothing more than a tape measure, a pair of skinfold callipers (that can be picked up from Amazon for less than £10), a stopwatch (you can use your smartphone), and possibly some cones or markers. 

This is just one example, but hopefully you can see how easy it is to get a general idea of your current fitness before you embark upon a new fitness routine! 

Informed consent form for fitness testing

If you’re a fully qualified fitness professional, or want to become one through a REPs accredited personal trainer qualification, then it’s important to familiarise yourself with the correct methods of fitness testing, especially since you’ll be working closely with clients to track and monitor their progress throughout the course of their fitness journey. 

That’s why we’re going to go give you some quick-fire information on what you need to know about fitness testing with clients! 

If you want to know more on this topic or to find out how you can expand your overall knowledge and expertise in the area, check out our updated prospectus here for more information on our fitness testing CPD. 

So, the main thing to know before completing a fitness test with your clients is that you should get them to fill in an informed consent form for fitness testing. 

This isn’t always an individual form, as it is usually mentioned within the standard consent form that a client fills in prior to training with you. This is because fitness testing is a standard procedure at the beginning of any exercise programme conducted by a fitness professional. 

However, if you want to know what this section is likely to look like, check out our sample informed consent form for fitness testing below:

sample informed consent form for fitness testing

While the form may be part of a holistic consent form for clients beginning an exercise programme with their trainer, it’s good to see a sample for fitness tests individually in case you wish to structure your form this way! 

Limitations of Fitness Testing  

Now that you know the different fitness testing methods and have a basic understanding of how they can be put together to form a well-rounded assessment of fitness, it’s time to take a look at some of the limitations. 

As with anything, it’s important to understand the limitations of fitness testing so that when you do come to perform an assessment, whether it’s for a client or yourself, you’re able to do it with a good level of accuracy. 

#1 - Many fitness tests don’t represent competitive conditions accurately

We hate to admit it, but it’s true that there are many fitness tests out there that don’t accurately represent the conditions present in competitive sports or activities. 

Even some of the tests that are widely recognised as being ‘accurate’ within the fitness industry fall under this category, as while they are a relatively precise method of testing in comparison to their less popular counterparts, they still hold their own limitations.

For example, although the multi-stage bleep test is a great way of testing cardiovascular fitness, it doesn’t recreate the exact environment that an individual will be faced with during a competitive activity. 

This also applies to military or policing environments, that will throw a lot more at an individual than a bleep test completed in a sports hall. 

Things like terrain, psychological stress and anxiety will arise in high-stress situations, and certainly play a part in how well the individual performs, and how effective their current level of fitness will be in aiding them. 

#2 - Genetics can play a part 

While we’ve stated that there is no one-size-fits-all fitness testing methods in general, this also applies to the regularly forgotten fact that genetics can affect how an individual’s fitness is recorded on paper as opposed to how it looks in practice. 

For example, if we tested a group of individuals on their flexibility using the sit and reach test, it would be inevitable that some would do better than others depending on their arm to leg length ratio. 

It would be careless to think that we all have the same genetics when it comes to how long our arms are in comparison to our legs. Therefore, one of the main limitations of fitness testing in this context would be that genetics can have a pretty big impact on results! 

#3 - Accuracy can mean expense 

The cold hard truth is that some of the most accurate fitness assessments come with a large price tag.

The best example of this would be the price of a VO2 Max Test for athletes. 

This fitness testing method requires a sports performance lab to host it, as it cannot be performed in a home or gym setting due to the sheer amount of equipment that it requires to gain an accurate reading. 

We doubt that many regular gym goers could afford this equipment, as well as the treadmill or fitness bike that goes along with it, and they assumably lack the training that it would take to be able to analyse the results. 

There are other fitness assessment methods that require expensive equipment to complete, so do keep this in mind! Unless you’re a professional athlete, you probably won’t be able to gain access to these kinds of tests. 

#4 - Some tests are weather permitting

Even if you’re planning on completing a test that is seemingly simple, such as the 30m sprint, you might want to think carefully about how you carry it out. 

If you plan to do so outside (which is expected since not everyone has access to an indoor area that would facilitate this), the weather is something that you will have to take into account. 

Depending on the weather and any harsh conditions that it creates, you can suffer with reduced traction whilst running or reduced speed from a heavy tailwind amongst other things, which could heavily skew your results (especially if you’re completing this test on a regular basis).

#5 - They’re most accurate with the help of a fitness professional 

It’s extremely difficult to conduct an accurate fitness assessment on yourself, especially since many of them require a stopwatch. Every second counts, even the couple that it takes you to run over and hit ‘pause’!

This means that one of the biggest limitations of fitness testing is that assessments are only accurate when conducted by a fitness professional. 

In their essay on 'Enhancing the Evaluation and Interpretation of Fitness Testing data within Youth Athletes', Senior Lecturer in Sports Coaching Dr. Kevil Till (PhD) et al write:

With the increase in popularity of fitness testing in youth athletes along with the increased understanding about maturational variability, it is more important than ever that practitioners appropriately analyze and accurately evaluate and interpret data related to youth or developmental athletes.

If you invest in a personal trainer or strength and conditioning coach, not only will you get a fully customised exercise programme and the motivation to go along with it, but you will also get the most accurate fitness tests possible on a regular basis to effectively monitor your progress.

Conclusion

We hope that our guide to the different types of fitness testing and how they can be used to monitor your progress has been helpful, and that you feel a new surge of motivation when it comes to your training!

Interested in turning your passion for fitness into a career? If so, go check out OriGym's Diploma in Personal Training, or download our latest prospectus here for more info on what you could be learning.

References:

  1. Zulfiqar, M.M., Wooland, J., Orr, R., Schram, B., Dawes, J. and Lockie, R., 2017. Fitness Testing in Law Enforcement Officers: A Critical Review. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 29(1).
  2. Till, K., Morris, R., Emmonds, S., Jones, B. and Cobley, S., 2018. Enhancing the evaluation and interpretation of fitness testing data within youth athletes. Strength & Conditioning Journal40(5), pp.24-33.

 

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Written by Chloe Twist

Fitness Content Manager, OriGym

Join Chloe on Facebook at the OriGym Facebook Group

Chloe graduated with a BA (Hons) English and Creative Writing from Liverpool John Moores University and prior to OriGym worked at J&R Digital Marketing Agency on the Liverpool 'Female Founders' series. Since joining the company, she has become a qualified Personal Trainer and advanced Sports Nutrition Specialist. Chloe’s professional interests intersect content-development and the world of online fitness, especially across social media and YouTube, and Chloe has herself contributed pieces on fitness and weight loss to sites including the Daily Star and The Express. Outside her day-to-day role, Chloe enjoys playing the guitar, gaming and kettlebell training. 

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