How to Assess Fitness Level
Knowing your current level of fitness means you can set goals. And followup assessments can reveal the effectiveness of your current workout program. Branches of the military, first responders, sports teams and leagues measure the fitness levels of their members and referees, and often set minimum levels.
You may want to track cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility or other aspects of fitness.
Before You Get Assessed
While some fitness assessments, such as the three-minute Harvard step test, are relatively gentle and use calculations to predict your fitness level, many tests require an all-out effort.
Such high-intensity effort can result in injury. Warm up thoroughly before performing any kind of maximal fitness test. For example, assessing strength using maximal weights is generally not recommended for novice or elderly exercisers.
Cardiovascular Fitness Assessments
Cardiovascular fitness assessments measure your ability to take in, transport and utilize oxygen during exercise and there are several ways to do this.
In the multi-stage running test, participants are required to shuttle between two cones placed 20 meters apart. Beeps on a CD or tape indicate the start of each shuttle. The beeps get faster as the test progresses, and when you can no longer keep up with the beep, the level you reach corresponds to a VO2 max score.
The Cooper 1.5-mile run test and the Cooper 1-mile walk test require participants to cover the allotted distance as fast as possible. The Cooper 12-minute run test requires you to cover as much distance as possible. All results are then compared to the relevant charts to reveal the results.
Other cardiovascular fitness tests include the Astrand cycle ergometer test, the 2,000 meters/2,200 yard rowing ergometer test, the Chester step test and the Balke treadmill test.
Muscular Fitness Assessments
Muscular fitness can be measured in terms of strength, endurance and power. Strength is the ability of a muscle or muscle group to exert maximal force, and is assessed by using a dynamometer, a device that measures force. Strength can also be assessed by lifting maximal weights for a single repetition of, for example, the bench press or the squat.
Endurance is the ability of a muscle or muscle group to exert a sub-maximal force for an extended period of time. Common tests of endurance include performing as many pushups or abdominal curl-ups as possible in 60 seconds.
Power is the ability of a muscle or muscle group to exert force quickly. The two-footed long jump, the standing high jump and standing triple jump all provide effective ways to test power.
The ability of a joint or joints to move through a range of movement, flexibility is affected by joint health and the elasticity of the muscles crossing that joint. Flexibility assessments involve measuring the range of movement available at a particular joint. This can be done using a device called a goniometer, or by performing functional movement assessments and comparing the results against accepted norms.
To assess hamstring flexibility, you can perform a sit-and-reach test, which measures how far forward you can bend using a measuring board or ruler. Alternatively, lie on your back and lift your straight leg up toward the ceiling. Ideally, you should be able to raise your leg to around 80 to 90 degrees.
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