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How to do a Home Fitness Test, without a Personal Trainer

How to do a Home Fitness Test

Further below is a guide for how to do a home fitness test to determine your current cardiovascular, strength and flexibility levels. Doing the tests give you a record of what your fitness levels currently are and what things you need to work on to improve. As years go by you can repeat the test and then compare how well you did years earlier and how well you did now.

Having a certified personal trainer to help guide you through the following process is helpful, but not completely necessary. It is possible to do it without a personal trainer handy, but it is still helpful to have a friend or loved one to help you through the process and record things for you. The friend/loved one will also make certain you don't cheat on the test and are being honest with yourself. As a bonus, they might decide to take the test too because they want to see how well they do.

For example, when I first did these tests I was about 15 years old and in my high school gym class. It was the gym teacher who administered the test and recorded down the results for the whole class. It was how I first learned that I had the heart of a professional athlete because I scored so well on the cardiovascular test.

The test itself is composed of 3 parts and 6 smaller tests, which together give you a record of your current physical fitness.

The 3 parts are:
  1. Cardiovascular
  2. Strength
  3. Flexibility
And the tests themselves are as follows:

#1. The Cardiovascular Step Test

You will need: A large 12 inch high step/chair and a stopwatch / smartphone with a stopwatch app. A clock with a second hand can also suffice.

What to do:
  1. Step right foot up on to the step, then repeat with the left foot so you have both feet on the step. Then step right foot down first, and repeat left foot down. Repeat this process quickly over a period of 3 minutes, during which you want to maintain a pace of 24 repetitions per minute.
  2. After 3 minutes, sit down on the step/chair and find your pulse. Do not record it yet.
  3. After resting for 1 minute, start the stop watch and count your pulse for 15 seconds and then stop the stopwatch. Record your result.
  4. Multiple your result by 4 to get your beats per minute.
  5. Compare your beats per minute to the charge below.

So for example when I was 15 I scored a 76. That wasn't just excellent, it was the heart rate you might expect of a professional athlete who competes in a cardiovascular sport. I doubt I will score a similar result today since I will be 40 in only 2 months.

#2. The Push Up Test

Doing this test men should perform the standard pushup (hands and toes only) while for women it is recommended doing the knee pushup variant. See Girl Push Ups and More.

Your goal is to do as many push ups as you can while maintaining a steady pace and proper form. There is no time limit in this test, but you must maintain a steady pace doing the push ups / proper form. The moment you lose form or your pace slows, the test is over. (Some personal trainers allow the person to rest - you can only rest in the up position - but I consider this to be cheating as it is very easy for the individual to abuse this option. So if you are doing this at home, you should determine whether you are going to allow yourself a rest period after every 10 push ups or so. I think you get a more honest result if you don't allow yourself a rest.)

Mentally, if you just set a goal of "I am going to do 30 push ups!" even if you only maintain the steady pace part way, you should do fairly well. 30 isn't a big number, but the real challenge is to maintain the steady pace - so it is arguably better to go slowly at the beginning so you don't tire yourself out too quickly, and simply pace yourself.

For some young people doing 30 push ups will feel pretty easy. When I was a teenager I once used my hands to climb up a staircase backwards and upside-down. So basically decline push ups on stairs, but with the added challenge of climbing the stairs. I did it with an audience who thought it could not be done, but I wanted to prove them wrong as I had done it previously and so I knew I could do it.

#3. The Bent Leg Curl Up Test

You will need: It is more comfortable to do this test on a yoga mat, a rug, a carpet or some kind of padding.

  1. Lay down on the floor, feet together and flat on the ground, with your hands at your sides. Your legs should be slightly bent.
  2. Tighten your abdomen to lift your shoulders off the ground, while moving your hands forward about 3 inches.
  3. Return to starting position.
  4. Repeat as many as you can while maintaining a steady pace.
Note - This is not a sit up! Observe the video below so you understand what this looks like.

So again, maintaining your pace is the important part.

#4. The Wall Sit Test

You will need: A stopwatch and a wall.
  1. Stand about two feet away from the wall, facing away from it with your feet about shoulder or hip distance apart.
  2. Bend your knees and press your back into the wall as if sitting on a chair.
  3. Aim to get a perfect 90° angle with your legs.
  4. Keep your upper body relaxed and shoulders raised so you are not using your shoulder muscles to cheat.
  5. Use the stopwatch to time yourself and hold the position as long as you can. Record your result.
Aim to make it to 2 minutes if you can. 2 and a half minutes would be even better.

#5. The Reach Past Your Toes Test

Easy. Lay down on your back on the floor with your legs fully extended, then sit up and then try to reach past your toes.

Lower Body / Torso Flexibility Results
  • Excellent - Fingers reach 1 inch or more past the toes
  • Average - Fingers reach or almost reach toes
  • Poor - Fingers are more than five inches from toes

Note - This test isn't solely a measurement of your lower body's flexibility, it is also a measurement of your torso's flexibility. An overweight person with a large belly for example would be guaranteed to do poorly in this test, even if their lower body was otherwise flexible, simply because their belly is in the way and hinders their movement.

#6. The Shoulder Flexion Test

Standing up, reach one hand towards the ceiling and then bend your elbow to reach down behind your back as if you want to scratch your back. With your other hand, bend the elbow behind your back and try to reach upwards to have both hands meet in the middle. Try to get the fingers to touch or even grip each other.

Repeat the test with the other shoulder.

Shoulder Flexion Results
  • Excellent - Fingers grip and interlock
  • Average - Fingers touch
  • Poor - Fingers are more than three inches apart
Remember to repeat this test for both your left and your right shoulders, taking note of the results of both.

For example, when I did this test today I scored an Excellent with my left shoulder, but only a Poor with my right shoulder. My right shoulder is the one I use for drawing the bow when doing archery, so it is stronger in comparison - and unfortunately also less flexible because the extra muscle tissue interferes with my flexibility. Sometimes a loss of flexibility is a trade-off when it comes to having more muscle.

What to do Afterwards

If you are looking to improve specific areas you could do exercises that focus on building muscle, building endurance, or building flexibility.

So for example if you wanted to score better on the push ups test, a simple exercise to do would be doing 30 push ups every day. And for extra challenge as you get better, increase the number, do decline push ups, incline push ups, headstand pushups, etc.

Then as you progress you can repeat the tests once every 3 to 6 months and record the progress results in a journal or notepad or chart. Whichever you prefer.

The whole point of doing this series of tests is to get an idea of where you are right now and what things you should possibly improve. If you do the tests and then are happy with the results, just keep doing what you are doing. Or for extra challenge, try to improve yourself. Why not?

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