How fit are you? Are you the fittest athlete in the world? Most likely no, but I am going to give you some exercises in which you can measure your progress with. In grade school, we had the Presidential Physical Fitness Test to measure how physically fit we were. There isn’t anything like those tests for adults, but it is good to have some performance-based goals so you can use those to determine your progress with your fitness regimen and see just how effective it is in making you fit. You can always see the results--good or bad--because your result and answer will be purely objective. That is the great thing about having benchmarks!
These exercises will always be those in which you will have a definite time completed or a certain number of reps. Everything will be measured so you can track how well you are progressing. I have picked out five different exercises that cover a variety of different modes of exercise and measures of fitness. Some are related to your strength, some are related purely to your cardiovascular shape, and some are a combination of both!
Programs like CrossFit strive to make us all-around fit and work toward “general physical preparedness.” You may not be training toward a marathon or specific goal, but I can assume that you are exercising for better health. A key reason to use these exercises to track your progress is so you can tell how effective your training program is in making your body healthier. If you don’t perform well on these exercises, maybe it is an ineffective program and you don’t want to waste too much time just spinning your wheels. These exercises cover all of your basic fitness needs and will point out any glaring weakness you may need to work on. I will explain each exercise and why I have picked that particular exercise for testing.
The easiest way to get started is to take a full week before you start your fitness routine and perform all of these exercises to the best of your abilities. Write all of your results down, and once a month, see if you have improved! This will give you 12 opportunities a year to improve on your fitness “numbers.” If you can improve little by little each time, you will be able to see just how much fitter you are from doing your program. If the numbers are going in the wrong direction, you can make adjustments as necessary.
Once you set your original numbers, you can now set your next set of goals. Without doing all of the exercises, you won’t know what will be a SMART goal (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timetable). You can set month-by-month goals as well as your lifetime goals based on your first set of goals.
1) Two-Mile Run
The main reasons I picked this exercise is because long distance running is a pretty standard measure of cardiovascular fitness and you can run pretty much any time throughout the year. You can run inside on a treadmill or outside if the weather cooperates. Most people who exercise regularly do some form of running, so it seems like a no-brainer to include this in the list of exercises. Many military benchmarks use the 1.5-mile run, so running these sorts of lengths is very common for testing your fitness level.
2) Bench Press with 50 Percent of Your Bodyweight
You can use push-ups instead, but most girls don’t like to do push-ups and I prefer using a bar. For this exercise, you are going to see how many reps you can perform with 50 percent of your bodyweight. This can give you a good idea of your relative strength relative to your bodyweight. Rather than giving a set weight, it is a much better idea to just base it off of your own bodyweight. If your goal is to lose weight, this exercise can really improve as time goes on. Another key benefit of having this as a main staple of your routine is that many females are looking to tone up their triceps (or back of their arms). Keeping this as a benchmark can ensure that you continually stay focused on your upper body strength and endurance, which in turn will help lean you up!
3) Squats (10 Rep Max)
This might be one of the most controversial exercises in fitness, but this is also to ensure you are performing a well-rounded exercise regimen! You will perform a maximal set of 10. Keep going up in weight until you reach the highest weight allowing you to do 10 reps. Being a very fit individual does not just mean you can run forever. It also includes being relatively strong and being able to build on your strength levels…and what better measure of lower body strength is there than the squat?
4) Max Number of Sit-ups in Two Minutes
How many of you are 100 percent satisfied with the way your stomach looks? I know I’m not. Everyone is always looking to trim some fat off of their stomach. That seems to be everyone’s main goal at any given point in time. If your abs are strong and there isn’t much in the way, you should be able to do more sit-ups! You are allowed to keep your feet on the ground by any means necessary - have someone stand on them or place a light weight on them if you need. You will perform full sit-ups, not crunches. Most people won’t be able to go for two minutes straight to start off, so be sure to pace yourself as you begin. Obviously you still want to get as many reps as you can, so push yourself as much as you can. You could also see how long you can hold a plank, but I think sit-ups are a better measure.
5) Five-Mile Bike Ride
This is the final exercise you can use to test your fitness. Biking requires a great combination of power and endurance, and it is a nice change from measuring what you can do with your body alone. Again, you can do this exercise inside or outside depending on the time of the year. I always recommend to do perform this exercise (as well as the run) outside if possible to continually change up the scenery. One thing you might want to watch out for is the type of bike you use if you ride indoors. I have completed this exercise in as little as 20 minutes outside, compared to upwards of 35 minutes inside. Why? The bike I was riding inside was a much different resistance than the one I was riding outside! It was a stationary Schwinn bike, so it was designed to provide extra resistance. That, and the person before me had it on a very high resistance for their spin class. So whatever you decide to use, be sure to use the same thing whether you are indoors or outdoors.
This type of testing is similar to what CrossFitters do on a regular basis. They perform the same workouts maybe once every couple months to see how far they have come. It is your sort of at-home CrossFit to also be able to measure your progress. It is also designed so that if you don’t have a ton of equipment or time, you can still be able to benefit from doing these. This is not as comprehensive as what a full CrossFit would do, but it should give you the same general idea and take much less time. If you aren’t familiar with what CrossFit is, then check out this article here. You could include a lot more exercises, but I decided to keep it simple so you stay focused. We are looking for quality not quantity.
Now go get your first test out of the way and see just what type of shape you’re really in!
Jessica Gereau – Jessica has a BS in Kinesiology from San Francisco St. University. Before becoming a certified personal trainer she achieved a personal weight loss of 60+ lbs, and this has motivated her to help others obtain similar goals. She founded Gym Class Fitness Studio in the Bay Area as a place where people can learn what she learned along the way - that cookies are a part of life, and the hard way is the only way. Jessica currently carries certifications for ACSM and NASM.