Benchmarking your fitness and monitoring your progress can be one of the best ways to stay on track with your training. When you assess different aspects of your fitness, it helps you find where to focus your energy, chase new achievements, and keep your motivation at an all-time high.
After speaking to Dr. Jinger Gottschall – a research scientist and science advisor for the American Council on Exercise – and Rob Lee – a physiotherapist and technical adviser and research manager for Les Mills – we’ve put together a series of simple tests that make it easy to assess your fitness, strength and track your successes.
Follow these directions and in just a few minutes you can assess your cardio fitness, upper and lower body strength, core strength and endurance.
TEST #1 CARDIOVASCULAR AEROBIC FITNESS
There are many ways to assess cardiovascular fitness, but one of the most straightforward has to be the 1-mile (1.6km) walking test. All you need to do is find a 1-mile (1.6km) flat walking track or neighborhood route and record the time it takes for you to walk the distance. You can slow down and speed up as you wish, but the goal is to complete the mile as quickly as possible. Complete this quick test every four weeks and keep track of your fitness gains.
Workouts like BODYATTACK™, BODYCOMBAT™, RPM™ and BODYSTEP™ are key to building aerobic fitness and the high-intensity interval training of LES MILLS GRIT™ can spark fast fitness gains.
TEST #2 UPPER BODY STRENGTH
Research shows the simple push-up is one of the most effective functional training options for the pecs, deltoids, and triceps while also strengthening the muscles of the core. To perform the push-up test, complete as many push-ups as you can within 60 seconds. You can choose either on your knees or your toes but do not alternate between options. For each full-range repetition, bring your elbows to a 90-degree angle. Complete this quick test every four weeks and keep track of your upper body strength gains.
TIP: If you want to lift your push-up game, read all you need to know about push-ups, including the common mistakes to avoid.
Keen to focus on building upper body strength? BODYPUMP™, LES MILLS STRENGTH DEVELOPMENT™ and LES MILLS FUNCTIONAL STRENGTH™ provide great resistance training for your chest, upper back, and shoulders. Or try BODYCOMBAT, which builds phenomenal upper body strength without any weights or equipment.
TEST #3 LOWER BODY STRENGTH
The wall sit test is a great way to assess lower body strength, specifically in the glutes and quads. And the single leg version takes into account any difference between your legs. Simply start with your feet shoulder-width apart and your back against a smooth vertical wall. Slowly slide your back down the wall until both your knees and hips are at a 90-degree angle. Lift one leg off the ground and start the timer. When you can no longer keep that leg off the ground, stop the timer. After a period of rest, test your other leg. Complete this quick test every four weeks and keep track of your lower body strength gains.
Workouts like BODYPUMP, LES MILLS STRENGTH DEVELOPMENT, LES MILLS FUNCTIONAL STRENGTH, BODYSTEP, and RPM are great ways to work on lower body strength. BODYATTACK also provides an amazing lower body workout – and you don’t need any equipment.
TEST #4 CORE STRENGTH AND ENDURANCE
Research shows that your front, back and side core muscles are all active in a hover or plank position, compared to isolated core exercises, such as crunches or oblique twists. For this reason, the hover (forearm plank) test is a great way to assess your core strength and endurance. You simply need to stack your shoulders over your elbows and hold your body in a perfectly straight line for as long as possible. Record how long you can hold this position and repeat the test every four weeks. (If you can hold this basic hover with an unwavering form for over a minute, you can consider adding dynamic leg and arm movements to challenge core stability and take core activation to new heights).
Interested to know why we use the hover test, not a plank, test? Find out the difference between the hover and the plank and why the hover is superior.
While all LES MILLS workouts will challenge your core, a workout like LES MILLS CORE™ will take your core strength to the next level.
TEST #5 JUMP POWER
Testing your vertical and horizontal jumping is a great way to assess your power, athleticism and speed. To do the vertical jump test stand beside a wall with a marker, chalk, or piece of tape. Start by reaching up with your arm as straight as possible and marking the wall. This is your standing reach height. Then, perform a 'counter-movement jump' by squatting slightly and using an arm swing to help you jump up as high as you can to mark the wall. Repeat this three times and record the greatest distance from standing reach height to jump height. To do the horizontal jump test distance, use a landmark on the floor. With two feet together jump forward as far as you can and mark where you land behind your heels. Repeat this three times and record the greatest distance. Complete these tests every four weeks to keep track of your athletic power gains.
TEST #6 FLEXIBILITY AND MOBILITY
Flexibility and mobility are important parts of helping you move better so you improve athletic performance, reduce injury risk, and feel more balanced and aligned. There are two great tests for this. To complete the self-sit and reach test, sit on the floor with your legs together and ankles flexed, put your palms on top of each other and reach forward a couple of times before reaching forward and holding for three seconds. Record how far your hands go (to your knees, mid-shin, ankle, or past your toes).
The overhead squat test measures the dynamic flexibility and mobility of your entire body and how the flexibility of your body’s moving segments affects each other within a movement pattern. Rob Lee explains that this is one of his favorite tests as it is dynamic and can quickly show where any mobility and control deficits lie. To do this test, stand in mid-stance squat position, raise your hands overhead holding a band or towel, keep your elbows straight and squat deep. Make sure your knees stay aligned. As you squat, observe the following: Are you able to squat to a depth where your hip crease is lower than your knees? At this depth can you keep your leg alignment straight (this means having your knees tracking over the middle of the foot while maintaining a raised foot arch)? If you can keep your chest upright and your head position and eye gaze forward it indicates thoracic spine mobility. And if you can maintain your arms overhead and straight it indicates shoulder mobility.
“This is a global test of flexibility and mobility alongside how you control and organize your movement, and it’s highly transferable to many functional and athletic movements,” says Rob Lee.
TOP TIP: Perform this test facing a wall. Stand as close as possible to the wall and squat down without hitting the wall with your hands and falling over. Over time you should be able to get closer to the wall.
The Athletic Series Mini Challenges have been expertly shaped to drive athletic and mobility gains in just four weeks. Choose to improve jump power, improve flexibility, or improve strength endurance.