You're Fit if You Can Ace This At-Home TestSep 21, 2020
If you’re a professional athlete, you know if your workouts are effective by virtue of the fact that you’re employed. But what if you’re a mere mortal without a dedicated staff or competition schedule? How do you know if your workouts are actually making you fitter for the sport of everyday life?
The following fitness test requires minimal equipment and is simple enough to perform at home on your own. In less than 30 minutes, you can collect a handful of metrics that indicate your level of strength, cardiorespiratory fitness, core stability, mobility, and balance. Each exercise includes a universal “goal,” but your individual experience is just as important; be sure to schedule a re-test in six weeks to assess your progress.
To perform the test, you’ll need a small amount of floor space, piece of chalk, tape measure, and stopwatch. (A pull-up bar is optional.) Complete each exercise in the following order.
It doesn’t get any more old school than the classic push-up. But there’s a reason this move is a fitness staple.
“The push-up is important because it’s a test of upper-body pushing strength, stability, and muscular endurance,” says Tim Liu, C.S.C.S., online fitness and nutrition coach. “If you can do them efficiently and properly, it means that you have a good foundation in your chest, core, triceps, and front delts.”
- Get on all fours with your feet together, your body straight from head to heels, and your hands in line with (but slightly wider than) your shoulders. Clench your glutes and brace your core to lock your body into position.
- Keeping your back flat, your core engaged, and your elbows tucked in close to your body, lower your chest to within a few inches of the floor.
- Pause, and then push yourself back up to the starting position as quickly as possible.
The test: Without stopping, do as many push-ups as you can until your form breaks down (technical failure).
Goal for women: 15
Goal for men: 25
A strong vertical jump isn’t just important for NBA players. “The jump is a test of lower-body power and the ability to explode,” Liu explains.
“As we age, we lose both of those if we don’t keep it up. By being able to perform well on the vertical jump, it shows that you have good muscular power and coordination in your lower body.”
- Grab a piece of chalk and stand sideways beside a wall.
- Reach up overhead with the hand closest to the wall and, using your other hand, make a small mark on the wall where the top of your middle finger makes contact.
- Switch the chalk to the opposite hand, and jump as high as you can, reaching your arms overhead. At the top of your jump, use the chalk to make a second mark on the wall.
The test: Measure the distance between the two chalk marks.
Goal for women: 12 inches
Goal for men: 16 inches
Nothing will expose cardiorespiratory weakness faster than a set of burpees. But this complex movement is more than just a HIIT workout go-to.
“The burpee is a good indicator of coordination, proprioception (awareness of where the body is in space), and speed… to transition through the different phases of the movement,” Gasnick says.
- Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides.
- Bend your knees, hinge at your hips, and squat down, placing both palms on the floor.
- Jump your feet back to a plank position (hands and balls of your feet on the floor and your body straight from head to heels).
- Do a push-up: Lower your torso until your chest is a few inches from the floor, and then quickly push back up.
- Jump your feet forward, landing behind your hands, and then explode upward, jumping into the air.
- Land softly and immediately begin your next rep.
The test: Maintaining proper form, complete as many burpees as you can in one minute.
That shaking and quaking you experience while holding the plank position? That’s you pushing your core strength and overall muscular endurance to their thresholds.
The forearm plank also exposes any compensation patterns, Liu says. “For example, if you cannot perform a plank properly, you start using other muscles, such as your lower back, to stay in that position.”
- Starting on all fours, place your forearms parallel on the ground, with your hands pointing forward and palms facing down. Your shoulders should be aligned over your elbows.
- Extend your legs behind you, balancing on the balls of your feet. Engage your core and squeeze your glutes.
- Push through your heels to further activate your leg muscles, and isometrically pull your elbows toward your toes.
The test: Hold this position for as long as you can without allowing your hips to drop or pike.
Goal: 60 seconds
The wall sit looks easy, but it takes less than a minute for your leg muscles to catch fire. “The wall sit tests the stability and endurance of your quad muscles,” Liu says. “By being able to hold the wall sit for a good amount of time, it shows that you can maintain stability in that isometric setting.”
- Stand with your back pressed against a wall, your feet hip-width apart, and your hands at your sides.
- Slide down the wall until your hips and knees are 90 degrees, with your butt and shoulders touching the wall.
- Optional: Extend your arms straight out in front of your shoulders.
The test: Hold the wall sit until you can no longer keep your thighs parallel to the ground.
Goal: 60 seconds
Standing Balance Test
Balance becomes increasingly important as we age and become more susceptible to falling injuries. The standing balance gives you a good sense of “proprioception and motor control for key muscle groups including the glutes, quads, and peroneals (lower-leg muscles) to contract isometrically to stabilize the lower limbs and maintain balance,” Gasnick says.
- Stand with your hands on your hips.
- Shift your weight onto your left leg. Lift your right foot and place the sole of your right foot on the inside of your left calf.
- Hold for time.
- Switch legs and repeat.
The test: Balance on each leg for as long as possible.
Goal: 60 seconds per leg
This exercise is technically optional, as not everyone has access to a pull-up bar. But it’s worth your time to find a jungle gym, swing set, or stretch of empty scaffolding , as your score will tell you a lot about your general health.
“The pull-up is an overall indicator of key upper-body strength and healthy weight, as it’s difficult to… fully execute a pull-up with excess body weight,” says Dr. Kristen Gasnick, P.T., D.P.T., a New Jersey-based, board-certified physical therapist practicing in outpatient orthopedics.
- Grab a pull-up bar with an overhand grip that’s slightly wider than shoulder-width. Hang at arm’s length with your elbows straight (a position known as a dead hang) and your ankles crossed behind you.
- Without swinging or kipping (using momentum to propel you upward), tighten your core and squeeze your shoulder blades together as you pull your chest to the bar (or at least your chin above it).
- Pause, and then lower yourself in a controlled manner back to a dead hang.
The test: Without stopping, complete as many pull-ups as you can.
Goal for women: 1
Goal for men: 4