Fitness Tests for Athletes: What to Test and How to Measure - Sport Science Insider (2023)

As coaches, we must properly and effectively select, administer, analyze and interpret tests to monitor athletes' progress and implement effective training programs that optimize their physical preparation and development.

In this article, we will highlight the physical tests that can be used to measure the physical qualities of athletes, also calledfitness components.


  • 1 How to assess muscle strength
  • 2 How to test agility
  • 3 How to assess muscular endurance?
  • 4 How to assess muscle power?
  • 5 How to measure aerobic capacity?
  • 6 How to test flexibility?
  • 7 How to test balance and stability?
  • 8 factors to consider when testing
  • 9 Summary
  • 10 additional readings
  • 11 Reference

How to assess muscle strength

Muscle strengthIt is the ability of a muscle to exert force against a load and overcome resistance. The most reliable and accurate way to measure muscle strength is in the laboratory, usingpower boardsand perform a movement such as an isometric mid-thigh pulldown. This allows us to obtain an exact measure of force in newtons. However, for most people this is not an option, so we have to use indirect measures.

An indirect way to measure the maximum force that a muscle or group of muscles can exert at maximum effort is by measuring the maximum amount of weight they can lift in one repetition, known as repetition maximum (1RM).

We can also measure the maximum force that a muscle or group of muscles can exert in multiple efforts usingmultiple repetition maximum tests, which is the maximum amount of weight that can be lifted in, say, three repetitions (3RM) or six repetitions (6RM). The results of this multiple repetition maximum test can be extrapolated to predict an athlete's 1RM using a range offormulas.

Whether you decide to use a 1RM test or multiple RMs, it is important that you maintain correct form throughout the lift. The lift you choose should be determined by which muscle(s) you want to test and which lift meets that criteria. For example, if I'm working with a group of rowers and I want to assess maximal bilateral lower-body force output, I might select the barbell squat as my lift because it allows me to measure that physical quality.

How to test agility

Agility is “a rapid movement of the whole body with a change in speed or direction in response to a stimulus”. Despite this definition and the test names mentioned below, most agility events do not require the athlete to respond to a stimulus. Instead, movements are pre-planned and athletes know exactly what to expect.

Tests like thet tests,505 agility testit's himpro-agility test, are in fact a measure of change in direction. Each test measures a different type of directional mutability and is based on slightly different physical requirements, highlighted in the table below.

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How to assess muscle endurance?

muscle hardeningIt is the ability to produce and maintain muscle strength for a given period of time. Therefore, a muscular endurance test should be performed over several seconds or minutes and be continuous with no rest periods.

One approach you can take to this is to run themaximum number of repetitionsof a given exercise using a fixed load (that is, the athlete's body weight or a percentage of the athlete's body weight).1RM). For example, the maximum number of pushups, inverted rows, or pushups.

Another approach you can take is to perform an exercise for themaximum amount of time.For example, to assess muscular endurance in each trunk compartment, an athlete can perform a prone, supine, left lateral, and right lateral sustain test for as long as they can maintain this position.

Muscular endurance tests must be completed until technical failure, large movement deviations or when the athlete decides to stop.

How to assess muscle power?

StrengthIt is the ability to exert a large amount of force quickly. This means that there are two components that reflect power: strength and speed.

Tests that can be used to measure muscle strength include a1RM of an explosive exercisehow to power clean or snatch or measurevertical jump height o Reactive Force Index (RSI)on onedrop jump. These tests must be completed with maximum intent and speed while maintaining correct technique.

It is important to remember that two athletes can have the same power, but the components that reflect power (strength and speed) can be very different. For example, one athlete may exert a large amount of force slowly, while another athlete may exert less force at a much higher rate, but still maintain the same power output. Therefore, it may be helpful to look at your athlete's strength profileforce-velocity curve (F-V).

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How to measure aerobic capacity?

Aerobic capacity, also known as cardiorespiratory fitness or maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 max), is the maximum amount of oxygen the body can use during maximal intensity exercise. This can be measured directly with aVO2 max testhowever, this requires sophisticated equipment, technical support, and is expensive.

We can also use indirect measurements in the field to estimate aerobic capacity, including a1.5 mile run,12 minutes run,yo-yo intermittent recovery testit's himmaximum aerobic speed test. These tests are much less sophisticated, require minimal equipment, and are cost-effective; however, they are predictive using equations based on test results, so they are subject to error.

How to test flexibility?

Flexibilityis the range of motion at a joint or series of joints. We can use specific equipment to help us measure flexibility in certain joints, for example...

AgoniometerIt is a plastic instrument that allows us to measure angles in most joints individually, including ankle, knee, hip, shoulder, elbow, etc.

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Hesit and pick up the boxallows us to dosit and reach test, which measures the flexibility of the hamstrings and lower back simultaneously.

We can perform tests that do not require equipment; We can seemotion detection testsmeasure the overall flexibility, mobility and general movement ability of athletes. This can be done separately through theFundamental Motion Detection Test (FMS)which is used to evaluate seven fundamental movement patterns or avisual projectionit can be routinely integrated into a training session.

For example, ALTIS, an elite training facility that has trained more than 100 Olympic athletes and world champions, performs a visual motion assessment (what Dan Pfaff of ALTIS calls a "system analysis") on each of their athletes during each warm-up. They watch how their athletes move, their body posture and their body language. They know exactly how their athletes typically move and behave, so if they notice anything out of the ordinary about athletes, they can address it in their session.

The ALTIS approach can be adapted and used in your own sessions, depending on your environment and situation. At S&C, we could include an overhead squat with a lockout in the warm-up that would allow us to assess an athlete's flexibility and mobility in their shoulders, chest, hips, knees, and ankles.

we can also takevideos or photosof ourselves in certain stretches and compare positions over time.

How to test balance and stability?

Balance and stability are different but related concepts.

Balance is the ability to control the body's center of gravity at its base of support. The body's center of gravity changes whenever we change positions, but when we're standing up, it's in front of our sacrum (this is at the base of our spine), so we must keep it upright. Another example of balance is being able to hold a handstand.

Stability is the measure of the ability to return to the desired position after loss of balance. For example, if a defender tries to push the ball away from you, it will depend on your ability to stay upright or in the optimal position.

Balance tests are used to measure increases in stability, these tests include standing balance tests such as theone leg balance testor thebalance test and. Other tests include theBalance Error Scoring System (BESS)it's himstellar excursion balance test (SEBT)).

Factors to consider when testing

To maximize reliability and validity when performing tests, there are several factors we must consider:

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There is a wide variety of tests that we can use to measure the physical qualities of athletes.

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The following table provides a summary of the different tests we can use to measure muscle strength, agility, muscle endurance, muscle power, aerobic capacity, flexibility, balance and stability.

If you want guidance on how to perform the tests mentioned in this article, check out our articles for each of them.

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Will Shaw PhD, MSc

Golf Insider United Kingdom| Site web|+ publications

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Will is a sports scientist and golf professional specializing in motor control and motor learning. Will lectures part-time on motor control and biomechanics, runs Golf Insider UK and consults with elite athletes interested in optimizing their training and performance.


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