Assess your strength, speed, flexibility, agility, and balance.
Is Your Workout Really Working?
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Ever wondered if your workout is, well, working for you? Whether you're a longtime gym rat or just starting to exercise, it can be extremely rewarding to measure your progress. While most people focus on weight loss, the number on the scale doesn't measure athleticism and is a questionable measure of good health.
Strength, speed, flexibility, agility, and balance are all important for a healthy body. Our basic fitness assessment measures your progress in all five of these areas. Try all 17 tests (they're quick!) or just pick a few benchmarks that will be a good representative for you and then record your scores in a notebook. Retake the test every month as you work toward your goals.
Timed Chinup Hang
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To test your upper-body strength (and relive memories of Middle School gym class, sorry about that), jump up—or step up using a chair—and grip a chinup bar with your hands facing you. Using only your arms, hang with your chin above the bar as long as possible.
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Considered one of the most fundamental lifts, the chest press is an excellent way to measure your progress—just add the numbers on the plates! (Although not while you are doing the chest press. I've learned the hard way that math + lifting weights = disaster.)
Lie on your back on a weight bench and either grip a barbell or two dumbbells. With a spotter nearby, press the weight straight up and then bring the bar back down until your elbows are at 90 degrees. Use the heaviest weight you can safely handle for 5 reps.
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Shoulder strength is important for everything from good posture to putting away groceries. Test yours with a shoulder press: Hold a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height. Press them both directly above your head and then lower until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle. Use the heaviest weight you can safely handle for 5 reps.
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According to weight lifting guru Mark Rippetoe, the deadlift is one of the core lifts integral to strength. It's also an ideal benchmark for assessing lower-body strength.
Start with your feet hip-width apart and a loaded barbell in front of you. Keeping your chest up, lats tight (shoulder blades together), and core engaged, lift the bar until you are standing upright. Use the heaviest weight you can safely handle for 5 reps.
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One of the most basic lifts, squatting with a bar across your shoulders tests your lower-body strength and your balance, as your core works to stabilize the weight.
Stand under a loaded bar with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Lower the bar onto your shoulders and squat down, pushing your hips back as if you are sitting in a chair. Go until the tops of your thighs are parallel to the ground. Return to standing. Use the heaviest weight you can safely handle for 5 reps.
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Handstands primarily test your balance and coordination but your shoulders and core will also get a powerful workout. Former gymnasts can just kick up to a handstand (and do a pirouette or two), but us mere mortals will probably want to kick up against a wall.
Keep your abs and lats tight so your back doesn't arch or bow. Hold the handstand as long as you can.
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Another torture device reminiscent of your high-school days, the wall sit isolates your quad muscles like nothing else.
With your back to a wall, slide down to a seated position until the tops of your thighs are parallel to the ground. Keep your hands off your legs and time how long you can hold it. Enjoy the burn (it means you're building strength)!
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The current Guinness Book of World Records time for plank is longer than 30 minutes, but all you need to do is beat your personal best to see how your core strength is improving.
Start in the top of a pushup position (or bend your elbows and rest your weight on your forearms instead of your hands). Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to our ankles. Brace your core and hold this position for as long as you can.
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They may be one of the simplest exercises—get in plank pose per the last slide and then slowly lower down and push back up—but that doesn't mean they're not one of the most effective. There's a reason why every military test uses them to assess shoulder, arm, and core strength.
The test: Set a timer for one minute and see how many you can do using proper form! If your hips start to sag, drop down to your knees. Just be sure to note how many of each kind you do.
Graduated Tree Pose
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Standing in tree pose may look relaxing, but it's a great way to test your balance. Begin in standard Tree Pose with one foot placed on the inside of the opposite leg. You can place your foot anywhere that's comfortable except directly on the knee joint. Hold your hands at heart center.
Once you can hold Tree for 30 seconds, graduate to extending your arms above your head. Still too easy? Slowly tilt your head back and move your gaze upwards between your hands. Feeling on fire? Close your eyes. Time how long you can hold this.
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Flexibility is an under-appreciated aspect of fitness, but it's important for injury prevention and healthy muscles. Plus, a good stretch feels awesome.
Keeping your knees straight and your back as flat as possible, bend forward and reach for your toes. Assign yourself a point value based on how far you go. For instance, reaching your knees is one point, your calves are two points, ankles are three points. You get the idea.
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Agility is crucial for soccer and basketball players, but it's also a key component of fitness for every woman. The ability to move quickly in any direction will not only help maintain joint integrity and enhance your mind-body connection, but it also comes in handy if someone tries to snatch your purse at a crowded airport. Trust me on that last one.
To do this test, set up two ropes (draw two lines, use two towels, etc.) in an X. Count how many times you can jump in each quadrant consecutively in 10 seconds. Just like when you were a kid, if you touch the ropes you fall into hot lava.
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Experts say that people under 40 should be able to stand on one foot with their eyes closed for a minimum of 30 seconds without falling. Sadly it's a lot harder than it looks. Seriously, just try it. Yes, now.
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This plyometric drill will test your explosive power, the ability to gather maximum strength in a very short period of time.
All you need to do is jump vertically next to a wall, touching it at your highest point. Either have a friend mark the point for you or use a landmark on the wall, like a brick line, to measure your distance.
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A short, fast sprint is handy for testing your ability to run past your aerobic threshold. Mark off a short distance—if 100 yards isn't practical, just count one lap around the track or 5 lampposts on your street—and run as hard as you can. You should be running fast enough that you cannot sustain the effort longer than about 30 seconds (if you were using time as a measurement). Time how long it takes you.
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Out of all the assessments on this list, most people dread the mile run the most. The test is easy—run a mile as fast as you can—but it hurts. The good news is that running this fast and short will make your human growth hormone skyrocket and you'll be torching fat for a good 24 hours afterwards. So it's pain with a purpose.
Timed Jump Rope
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As an alternative to the fast mile you can assess your cardio endurance by counting how many times you can jump rope in a specific amount of time. Set a timer and jump as quickly as you can!