4 Assessments You Need Before Starting Physical Fitness Training

Before you start working out, you need to identify and assess your physical fitness abilities. 

The physical fitness assessment is the number one rule, especially if you are a newbie to fitness training.

Fitness training is a mental and physical process. The mental process is about identifying the goals and motivations for your fitness training.

Once you got set mentally for what you want to achieve through your training, you need to identify your physical abilities.

Identifying your physical fitness abilities requires fitness assessment. The physical fitness assessment is a process that includes the criteria for muscular strength, endurance, flexibility, and cardiovascular endurance.

These criteria form the baseline, which helps in developing the process to evaluate progress and identify areas that need improvement.

The assessment process defines the limits and aspirations of your physical fitness training, so you do not fall into the myth of “no pain, no gain”.

“No pain no gain” may fit others or you, yet you need to recognize. Therefore, you need the assessment of your physical fitness abilities to see if it fits you.

It is in your best interest to keep in mind that exercise does not have to “hurt” to improve your fitness level.

For example, using the Target Heart Rate (THR) or the Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) methods will make workouts more effective and more enjoyable. This can be true whether you are new to the “joys” of exercise or an experienced fitness enthusiast.

Assessment is the first step in developing an exercise program but be aware that not all assessment tools are suitable for all.

However, before starting the assessment, it is recommended to consult your doctor for any medical or chronic conditions you have or could affect your health.

This is also the time to take blood and urine tests if it is needed. It helps in checking the function of the lymph and levels of your minerals like calcium and vitamins that your body needs. Heart rate and blood pressure tests will be a bonus, especially if your age and medical conditions raise some concerns.

Types of assessments for physical fitness abilities:

1-Assessment for Cardiovascular Endurance:

physical fitness assessment

Testing cardiovascular endurance includes a variety of methods and equipment, reflecting the broad differences in capabilities.

It also includes the general protocols that define the sub-maximal tests in swimming, leg cycle ergometry, and walking/running.

As for older people, there are several simple methods used to assess cardiovascular endurance. The two most common tests are the 12-minute run-walk/swim and the step tests.

  • 12-Minute Run-Walk Test

The goal of this test is to cover as much distance as possible in 12 minutes. It is best to perform the test on a track for ease of calculations. It is useful to place cones every 100 yards to facilitate the measurement of distance.

The following chart can give you the criteria that you can base your assessment upon.

physical fitness assessment

Select your age group and observe your performance against the distance you achieve. You can classify your distance as per the classification column.

The test can give you a comparison for pre-training and post-training levels of aerobic fitness.

As age goes up, performance may receive a low classification. Therefore, do not let numbers drag you down. Instead, focus on the progress you achieve through training rather than the classification. Remember to focus on the positive side.

This short video can give you a sufficient illustration of the 12-Minute Run/Walk Test.

  • 12-Minute Swimming Test

This test can be an adequate alternative to cardiovascular endurance for those who are not able to run or walk comfortably enough to complete the run/walk test.

It is also an excellent assessment for asthmatics who seem to experience fewer incidents while performing water exercise. Be sure to identify the length of the lap lanes of the pool that you use for the testing site. Although most pool lanes measure 25 yards or meters, you need to be sure of the distance to obtain accurate results.

The assessment process for this test is the same as for the run/walk test. However, you should use the following chart instead assess your performance.

12 swim minutes assessment

  • Step Test

Another practical test that requires little equipment is the Step Test. This test, along with the bicycle ergometer, is excellent for assessing visually impaired students.

It is also appropriate for all ages and both sexes. Because the test lasts only three minutes, only unfit individuals would find this test challenging.

The following chart can give you an indication of your performance according to the heartbeat per minute (bpm).

physical fitness assessment

You can know more about this test by watching this short video that (Equipment & Procedure) explains the process in detail.

Experts recommend the test to be performed if a physician has given the participant medical clearance.

2- Assessment for Muscular Strength

muscle strength assessment

The muscular strength is the maximum you can do while pushing your muscle for a certain move or activity with full force for short time.

Consequently, this test considers the posture, range of motion, and starting position for selected activities.

When the body moves or starts an activity, it does not use a sole muscle. Body movement usually employs main and support muscles. The ability to move and perform an activity is dependent on muscular strength.

Therefore, to have a sufficient assessment, it is important to take into consideration any complementary or support muscles and joints the body uses during its movement.

Yet, it is equally important before engaging in any physical assessments, be sure to have a body warm-up. Stretching or challenging the muscle without a proper warm-up is a surefire way to injury.

The following tests are among the best muscle strength assessment procedures:

  • Upper Body Test

The Bench press is one form of upper body tests. To perform the test, you should lie on a flat bench with the barbell racked. When you are ready, place your hands on the bar slightly wider than shoulder-width. After lifting the bar off the rack, lower the bar to chest level, and then push it back up to the starting position.

Be sure to breathe properly and maintain the lower back flat on the bench’s pad.

After you figure out the right position and technique, it is time to assess your capability.

One-repetition maximum (1RM) is the process to help you assess your capability.

To understand the process well and to identify the adequate weight for the assessment, look for your age group in the following table.

upper body assessment

Then multiply your body weight by the minimum value listed in the “fair” or “average” rating cell under your age group.

It gives you a good idea of the amount of weight to start with when testing for 1RM.

An example: 170 (weight in lbs.) x 0.65 (fair rating, 50-59 age group) = 110.5 lbs. (est. 1RM).

The upper body test may not be appropriate for all people. Some may have limitations that prevent them from being able to perform the test safely and accurately.

If you cannot undertake the test safely, use your best judgment when determining the appropriate weight.

Always be cautious and communicate with the fitness instructor to make it right.

The following video can give you an illustration of this test. It may seem a bit long but it is useful to watch.

  • Lower Body Test

The lower body test uses the same process as the upper body test.

So, figure out the right equipment that fits you well and position yourself properly. The leg press machine can be an adequate tool to assess your leg strength.

To identify the right weight for the test, follow the same procedures as the previous 1RM test. However, apply the values in the following table instead.

physical fitness leg press

Now, you have assessed both your upper and lower body.

3- Assessments for Flexibility

flexibility fitness assessment

Another physical fitness assessment is the flexibility test. The flexibility assessment should include both active and passive range of motion (ROM) tests to determine the limitations in flexibility.

Active ROM tests are performed under the supervision of fitness specialists as it requires the actively contracting muscles to take the joint through the full range of motion without interference.

On the other hand, the passive ROM test involves assistance to take the joint through its range of motion. It is usually conducted when the person has difficulty completing the movement due to a lack of strength, flexibility, and/or coordination.

In general, if you can move a particular joint through the normal range of motion actively, then a passive ROM test is not required.

  • Simple Flexibility Assessment Tests

The following tests can identify the starting point. The starting point is the benchmark you measure against any progress you develop through training and healthy behavior.

Unfavorable conditions may happen and affect your progress. However, always identify your progress to reap the fruits of your hard work.

It helps you maintain and foster motivation to keep up the good work.

Below are some simple flexibility tests:

Zipper Stretch: measures shoulder flexibility. Nothing can give you the right directions for how to apply as videos.

Sit and Reach: measures flexibility of the lower back and hamstrings. Likewise, this short video can give the right directions for how to do it.

If you have any knee or hip problems that would prevent you from doing this assessment test, consult with your physician to determine how the instructor would like you to proceed with your leg strengthening program.

4- Muscular Endurance Assessment

physical fitness assessment

We come to our last physical assessment that evaluates our muscular endurance. Muscular strength and muscular endurance are related but have some differences.

While muscle strength is measured by how much you can perform with full force in a specific or short time, muscle endurance is measured by how much you can perform a movement as long as you can and as much as you can.

There are a couple of tests that can give a decent indication of muscle endurance, push-up, and curl-up (sit-up) tests.

Push-ups — measures upper-body strength and endurance. Rather than overwhelm you with more words, this short video can give you the right position and directions for the test.

The following table is your chart to assess your performance.

push up assessment

Select your age group and pin the cell that matches the number of push-ups you did. The percentage (%) column indicates your performance ratio.

Curl or Sit-Ups — measures overall muscular strength and endurance. Same as the push-test, this short video is a well-rounded illustration of how to conduct this test.

Same as the push-up test, select your age group from the following chart and pin the cell that matches the number of curl-ups you did. The percentage (%) column indicates your performance ratio.

physical assessment test

Sum up

In a nutshell, these are the assessments you need to consider before rushing up to the gym and start a heavy load.

Aa a rule of thumb, know your body. As a starter, these assessments are a safe bet to avoid injuries. As you progress, you become more aware of your body and gain experience of what fits you.

Testing your physical condition by following these assessments and see where you stand and where you need focus is a good starting point to success.

P.S. Stretching or challenging the muscle without a proper warm-up is a surefire way to injure yourself. That is what we need to avoid in any physical exercise.

This article is written by Taimour Abeqwa: Certified Personal Trainer by the International Sports Science Association ISSA. 

Taimour is a professional trainer, specialized in weight lifting, strength conditioning, and weight management. 

3 Replies to “4 Assessments You Need Before Starting Physical Fitness Training”

  1. Thank you Taimor for all this valuable information! I personally learned so much and I’m really looking forward to trying all these assessments 🙏🏼

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