By Brandon Richey
Before diving into a new strength program, it’s always a good idea to test yourself to see how you measure up with certain physical tasks. After all, if you don’t have a rough idea of where your starting point is then how would you know how much you might improve after completing a training cycle?
Today I’m including some practical physical tests for you to complete prior to starting a training cycle to give you a baseline start of where your physical fitness stands at the beginning. These are practical and effective and you can perform these on your own.
TOUCHING YOUR TOES
This is a very quick and easy assessment that you can perform on yourself to get an idea of where you stand in this area of function. Can you stand with your legs straight and bend over to touch your toes—or, even better, place your hands on the ground?
If you can’t do this then you could be more susceptible to a back injury.
If some muscles are restricted during a movement you can cause other muscles to have to compensate for the movement unless you fix the muscles that are restricted. The standing toe touch is a good example of diagnosing that very issue.
SADDLE SIT STRETCH
This is another practical and effective way you can measure the range of motion (ROM) of your hips with your groin (adductors). To perform this test you simply want to sit on the ground and widen your legs apart in a “V.”
Ideally, you should be able to do this by keeping your spine neutral and perpendicular to the ground (not rounding forward) and holding yourself in place without having to lean up against a wall, or placing your hands on the ground to hold your body upright.
Evaluating whether you can do this without the assistance I just described is one way to measure where you are with this movement. Assuming you can do this unassisted then a second way to measure your progress with this movement is to measure how far apart your feet are with your legs widened in the “V.”
You can measure this by simply placing some tape on the ground in a straight line and marking the inches and feet on the tape. As you get into position line one foot up on one end of the tape and the other foot moving away from the opposite end to get yourself a measurable distance.
Also make sure that when you get into the saddle sit position that you keep your knees straight with the back of your legs forced into the ground. Your feet should also be flexed during the movement.
THE GOBLET SQUAT
The goblet squat is a strength movement that you shouldn’t underestimate. In fact, this movement is one that I’ve seen humble many men that thought they were strong in the squat.
The goblet squat is a both a good measure of your ability to squat, as well as being great for correcting a faulty squat pattern.
The goblet squat test involves you being able to perform the squat for 25 straight repetitions with a kettlebell, or dumbbell that is half your bodyweight.
If you’re unable to do this with the kettlebell, or dumbbell then you aren’t ready for the barbell back squat.
Because the weight is front-loaded with the weight resting against your chest and abdomen, it will both serve as a counter weight to stabilize you in the base of the squat, as well as forcing you to activate your core center for additional squat stability.
The pull-up is one of the most challenging strength movements you can perform. With that being said the pull-up exercise is also another great strength movement that is frequently butchered in many gyms across the globe.
This purpose of this test involving your functional fitness involves you being able to demonstrate strict execution of the movement much like you did wit the goblet squat test.
In order to perform the pull up test, you want to grip the bar with your hands at about shoulder width distance. From here you want to start out with your arms fully extended and your shoulder girdle almost completely relaxed as you hang from the bar.
Next, you want to pull yourself all the way up until your neck is level with the bar and from there return back to a full dead hanging position with your arms completely straight. The key to this movement lies within the strict technique.
The strict technique is where you gain all the benefit of strength from the movement. The idea is to be able to perform at least 6 strict pull ups with solid ability. Of course if you can perform more then great, but regardless of your number this test will give you a baseline starting point for you to retest yourself later on after running through a training cycle.
The strict push-up test involves you being able to get into an upright push-up position and performing at least 12 strict form push-ups to the beat of a metronome set at 60 beats per minute.
When performing the strict push-up you should demonstrate rigidity and the ability to maintain strict alignment of your body from your shoulders down to your ankles.
Make sure you can demonstrate proper body alignment when performing the push-up along with executing full range push-ups to the beat of the metronome and record your number. The test ends when you either can’t maintain your push-up reps with the metronome, or your push-up technique is compromised.
If you’re doing this test solo then I would recommend you try filming it so that you can watch yourself performing the test to give yourself a more accurate score.
Testing is a great way for you to measure your progress with a given training program.
By testing, you also can document your results and have a direct measure of where your physical function is at various times of the year.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
SEALgrinderPT coach Brandon Richey is a certified strength and conditioning coach, author, and founder of Brandon Richey Fitness.
He has worked with thousands of athletes over his 17 years of experience, developing fitness training programs for beginners to professional and D-1 level collegiate athletes at the University of Georgia.
He also trains MMA and Muay Thai athletes, both professional and amateur.
QUESTION: I’m struggling with my pull-ups. Do you have some ways I can get better at them?
ANSWER: Check out this article: Top 10 Tips to Improve Your Pull-Ups.
QUESTION: Do you have some workouts I could do to work on my push-ups?
ANSWER: Yes—this article has some awesome ones: The Herschel Walker Push-Up Workout.
5 Ways You’re Butchering Your Push-Ups
5 Killer Push-Up Variations to Upgrade Your Functional Fitness