Working with a personal trainer offers so many benefits, from receiving customized workouts tailored to your health and fitness goals to having a consistent source of motivation and accountability. Before you jump into your first workout, a good trainer will assess your current fitness level, and the best way to do that doesn’t involve any fancy machines or rigorous tests—all you need to do is squat.
“The bodyweight squat is often touted as the champion of all lower-body exercises, and for functionality it is hard to beat since it essentially mimics the movement we perform each time we sit down and stand up,” says Sabrena Merrill, an exercise physiologist and master trainer in Kansas City, MO.
Assessing your body during this exercise helps your trainer know if you need to refine the basics or if you’re ready to dive in with more advanced versions and intensities, adds Chris McGrath, master trainer and founder of Movement First in New York City.
“If a client cannot perform a squat with at least a 90-degree bend in the knees, neutral spine, knees in line with the toes, and their feet flat on the floor, this indicates a need to work on mobility and stability,” Merrill explains. Rounding of the back can indicate a lack of flexibility in the hips and a weak core; knees caving inward could be a sign of weak glutes; and lifted heels could hint at a lack of flexibility in the ankle or an imbalance in the hip stabilizer muscles.
If your form is good, your trainer may use the bodyweight squat to determine your lower-body endurance by having you do as many reps as possible until you can no longer complete a full repetition with proper form.
You can try this version of the test at home. Jonathan Ross, an award-winning personal trainer and author of Abs Revealed, recommends standing in front of a chair or bench in which the seat or surface is at a comfortable but still challenging height. For each rep to count, you must squat down until your butt just touches the chair or bench.
Use this table from Brian Mackenzie’s 101 Performance Evaluation Tests to see how your fitness stacks up.
|Age||18 to 25||26 to 35||36 to 45||46 to 55|
|Good||37 to 43||33 to 39||27 to 33||22 to 27|
|Above average||33 to 36||29 to 32||23 to 26||18 to 21|
|Average||29 to 32||25 to 28||19 to 22||14 to 17|
|Below average||25 to 28||21 to 24||15 to 28||10 to 13|
|Poor||18 to 24||13 to 20||7 to 14||5 to 9|