The importance of fitness testing
As any good personal trainer will know, there’s no point in simply starting a client off on an exercise programme without testing them first – and that’s the subject of this blog.
Why should a personal trainer carry out fitness tests?
Fitness testing helps the fitness professional to measure and review a client’s progress and develop a programme to suit.
Measuring a client’s progress is an important part of personal training, whether it’s noting when a client has succeeded in lowering their blood pressure or measuring a decrease in body fat. Equally, it can help motivate a client when they see evidence of the goals they have reached. Conversely, if there hasn’t been any progress, the personal trainer can investigate further and discuss issues such as diet with the client.
Static fitness tests
Any time a personal trainer has a new client, they should first do a static health test, which covers such things as:
- blood pressure (see Guidelines for personal trainers taking blood pressure)
- resting heart rate (see The structure and function of the heart)
- hip to waist ratio (see Somatotypes: what are they?)
- body fat percentage (see Body fat analysis)
Dynamic fitness test
These include testing cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength and endurance.
Cardiovascular tests are carried out using CV equipment in the gym, such as a treadmill, static bike, rower or cross trainer.
They include the Cooper 12-minute run test, where the client reaches a speed and intensity that they feel comfortable with and the personal trainer measures the distance that the client covers in 12 minutes.
If a client is unfit and new to training, this could be replaced with a shorter test or a timed walking test. Alternatively, the fitness instructor could set the machine to a particular distance and measure how long it takes the client to reach that distance.
Muscular strength and endurance tests can include:
One-rep max – this is a common test to assess the maximum load that an individual can lift with one repetition.
Pull ups – measuring relative body strength to see how many times a client can carry out a pull up using their own body weight.
Body strength – a push up test to see how many a client can carry out to fatigue.
Preparing the client for testing
The protocol for cardiovascular fitness testing is to start with dynamic stretches to prepare them and to carry out a cool down to ensure that the client’s heart rate is lowered after completing the test.
Testing according to goals
A personal trainer should first ask a client what their goals are and then test accordingly, eg:
- The client is looking to lose weight – the personal trainer would carry out a BMI calculation.
- The client wants to improve their overall health – the fitness instructor would carry out a blood pressure test.
- The client wants to train for strength – the personal trainer would look at their one rep max.
How to ensure fitness testing is reliable
Consistency is key. If a personal trainer tests a client on a particular CV machine, they should return to the same machine for the repeat test six weeks’ later, so that there are no variables. Equally, they should use the same blood pressure machine and test the same arm each time.
It’s also important that the environment remains the same for each test to ensure that it’s valid and reliable. For example if the first test was conducted on a day when a client had been sedentary but the follow-up test was carried out on a day when they had been rushing around and under stress, this might affect the accuracy of the results.