You run and weight train. You’ve done yoga and can almost touch your toes. So that means you’re fit, right? Well, maybe. Trouble is, there’s no definitive method for determining fitness across the board. As a result, an IRONMAN, CrossFit athlete and bodybuilder can all be fit by their own standards, but a flop outside of their specific domain.
According to strongman legend Earle Liederman, fitness means being able to save your own life in an emergency.
So what’s the best test of fitness? In grade school, the President’s Fitness Challenge might have set the standard. But as grown-ups, gauging our strengths — and weaknesses — might require a more well-rounded approach. After all, the journey from fitness seeker to physically fit begins by finding your baseline. And in order to get where we want to go, we have to know where we stand.
Whether you’re a total beginner or totally advanced, these seven fitness assessments lay the groundwork for what it means to be fit in different categories — from strength to cardio to total-body conditioning. That means there’s no more faking fitness! Tackle these tests to figure out, once and for all, how fit you really are.
Strength in Numbers
Presses, push-ups and protein are all part of most strength training programs. But there’s one thing that’s continually left out of the exercise equation: gauging performance. If arm wrestling contests aren’t your thing, consider one of these more traditional strength tests.
1. The Push-Up Test
Focus: Muscular Endurance
How It Works: For this assessment, the goal is to perform as many push-ups as possible in 60 seconds flat. To begin, set up in push-up position with hands shoulder-width apart and legs together. Lower yourself down until your chest makes contact with the ground and repeat. Performance standards vary based on age and sex, but men should fall between 20 and 40 reps, while women should aim for eight to 20 push-ups to earn passing marks. To get those numbers up, try adding the wide and close grip push-up as well as incline and decline variations to your regular exercise routine.
2. One-Rep Max
Focus: Maximal Strength
How It Works: After moving from bodyweight exercises into the world of free weights, the one-rep max is the go-to gauge for strength. That said, the one-rep max is not applicable for every exercise, so you can skip the all-out triceps extension or concentration curl. Instead, focus on maxing out compound exercises like barbell front or back squat, bench press, military press and deadlift. Once you’re finished testing, see how you stack up to the standard of strength used by Rob Shaul of Military Athlete, who compares strength to bodyweight to measure relative strength. After establishing a one-rep max, use these numbers to determine how much weight should be used during strength training workouts (see Overload Principle).
You’ve pumped iron, but can you get the heart pumping too? Improving the body’s ability to transport and use oxygen helps it perform more efficiently, upping endurance and overall levels of fitness. Is your heart in the right place?
3. 200-Meter Sprint
Focus: Top-End Speed
How It Works: According to strongman legend Earle Liederman, fitness means being able to save your own life in an emergency. For Liederman, that included the ability to run all-out for at least 200 meters. To test your speed, head to the track or mark out 200 meters. After a dynamic warm-up, perform a series of sprints increasing intensity and length each round. Start with two 50 meters sprints before moving up to two 100 meter and two 150 meter efforts. Last up, set a stopwatch and sprint all 200 meters striving for top-end speed. While Usain Bolt runs 200 meters in under 20 seconds, finishing in sub-30 seconds means you’re on the right track. Step up your sprint game by practicing the start, adding squats to your strength workout, and performing sprint intervals to get those fast-twitch muscle firing.
4. Two-Mile Run
Focus: Cardio Conditioning
How It Works: The Army uses the two-mile run to test cardiovascular threshold. Ready to roll? Time how long it takes you to complete eight laps on a 400-meter track (or track your stats on a GPS watch). Finishing in 12 to 14 minutes is above average, while 15 to 17 minutes is fair, and more than 17 minutes is considered below average. Hate running? Read these 25 tips to get you excited to lace up.
Fit from Head to Toe
Think cardio and weights are two separate beasts? This last batch of fitness assessments roll strength, cardio and athleticism into one. Do you have what it takes?
5. CrossFit Baseline WOD
Focus: Total-Body Fitness
How It Works: A chipper is a series of exercises to that are completed in order, chipping away at each movement, until the entire workout is finished. In this baseline workout, the goal is to complete a 500-meter row followed by 40 air squats, 30 sit-ups, 20 push-ups and 10 pull-ups for time. By CrossFit standards an intermediate score is 7:15 for men, and 8:30 for women. For more advanced WODs, try these 7 butt-kicking CrossFit workouts.
6. Marine Corps Fitness Test
Focus: Total-Body Fitness
How It Works: This fitness test includes three exercises: pull-ups, sit-ups and a three-mile run. But don’t let that fool you. Designed to assess the strength and stamina of Marines, this test can be a humbling exercise experience. Perform as many pull-ups as possible, without dropping off of the bar, followed by two minutes of maximum sit-ups. Last up is a three-mile run for time. For a Marine, passing this test means performing at least three pull-ups, 45 crunches and logging three miles in under 30 minutes. For those setting the bar high, a perfect score includes 100 crunches in two minutes, 20 dead-hang pull-ups and three miles in less than 18 minutes. Looking for training tips? Look no further than Marine Maj. Dean Keck, who has scored a perfect 300 on 43 consecutive tests over the course of 20 years!
7. Operator Ugly
Focus: Maximal Strength and Cardio Conditioning
How It Works: As the name suggests, this fitness test can be brutal. The creation of Rob Schaul from Military Athlete, “Operator Ugly” was designed for soldiers, contractors and operators (soldiers trained in guerilla fighting techniques). Combining max effort weight training (deadlift, bench press and front squat) with a series of sprints, this workout pushes the limits of human performance. Translation: Do not try this at home.
Ready to find out how fit you really are? If your answer is yes (and we hope it is!) remember you don’t have to take on all of these tests at once. In fact, several might not be advised based on your current fitness level (we’re looking at you, Operator Ugly!). Check in with a doctor or certified trainer if you have any injuries or medical conditions, and consider setting up a testing schedule so you can go all-out with adequate recovery time between assessments. And be sure to record your performance. After all, that’s the true path to fitness: test, train, repeat.
Originally posted December 24, 2013.