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Fitness Tests

It's not just pros who can use fitness tests - it's the best way to monitor the effectiveness of your workouts throughout the year.

There are hundreds of fitness tests to choose from. Some are very sport specific - for example, for strength athletes, regularly assessing their performance on certain key lifts - but for all around athletes, the following four fitness tests will give a good picture of your overall conditioning.

Each of these is designed to be easy to perform and requires minimal (if any) equipment).

The Six Minute Run: This measures endurance, and can just as easily be performed by cyclists, swimmers and rowers. Quite simply, you measure how far you can cover in six minutes. This distance will measure you at a speed that is very close to your VO2 max (maximal aerobic capacity) which is one of the best predictors of endurance.

Hopping: Most athletes will be surprised to find that one leg is stronger than the other - typically you suffer more injuries in the weaker leg. Once you know which is weaker, you can strengthen it and thus improve performance.

The hopping test involves using a hill of at least 40 metres with a gradient of about 4-6%. Hop up the hill on one foot, and record the distance covered. Repeat on the other leg and compare. If, like more than 90% of athletes, you find a significant difference, work to improve the weaker limb by performing extra hops on the weaker leg a couple of times a week.

Core strength: This is easily assessed by performing variations of the plank. Start in the 'Chinese-push-up' position, with the body supported by forearms and toes only. Hold the body absolutely straight, and keep the pelvis tucked.

Hold this basic position for 60 seconds, then lift your right arm off the ground for 15 seconds. Next, return your right arm to the ground and raise your left arm for 15 seconds, again keeping your body straight. Return your left arm to the ground and raise your right leg for 15 seconds, then return it to the ground and repeat on the other leg. Sound tough? You're not finished yet. For the finale, raise your right arm and left leg simultaneously for 15 seconds, then your left arm and right leg simultaneously for 15 seconds more. Finally, return to the basic position for the last 30 seconds.

If you complete the test, your core is in excellent shape. However, if you fail to complete the test, simply practice this sequence four or five times a week until you are able to do the whole routine with good form.

50 meter sprint: Speed is the final element to assess. You can assess this by starting running for 20m, then accelerating to cover 50m as fast as possible. Having someone else time this makes it a lot easier.

Before performing any assessment, be sure to warm up properly, and try to always perform the assessments under similar conditions - for example, time of day, temperature, previous rest etc should all be as consistent as possible.



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