Last week I talked all about how to plan your sessions to handle multiple fitness levels. The most accurate way to identify a campers fitness level is to run frequent fitness tests.
Also if you have been reading Bootcamp Ideas for a while then you will also know I’m not a big fan of measuring BMI, body fat or weight.
Just because you can measure something, doesn’t mean that it’s valuable.
That is an easy trap to get into and a dangerous one.
On the other hand fitness testing is very practical, not only for your planning but also for showing clients improvement even if the scale or mirror is trying to tell them otherwise.
There are many different ways to test your clients’ fitness and I’m sure you have your favourite methods (which I would love for you to share below). Here are some one’s that are super easy to implement.
1. Mile Testing
This is a test I hear frequently in the US.
A mile is around 1.6km. By coincidence, back in Australia I used a 1.5km loop to regularly test my clients fitness levels.
Set up: Plot out a route that you can easily explain to your clients. Out to a landmark and back or a loop around your park both work well. MapMyRun is a good tool for measuring how far a course is.
Execution: A simple stop watch is all you need for this. Call out clients times and have them remember the time as they cross the finish line. Then once everyone has completed their run, mark off the run times on a spreadsheet.
Alternative: Instead of always running the same route, plot out a few different routes for variety. For example I had 3 courses. We would rotate through them every 4 months. I used a 1.2km steep hill out and back run, the 1500m run I mentioned about and a 1km loop that featured a nice gradual climb and a steep descent. Clients would run the loop twice for a total of 2km.
2. Beep Test
I remember participating in the beep test at school. I hated it and now your clients can learn to hate it too.
For those who aren’t aware, the beep test is a 20m shuttle run that gradually increases in speed. You have to keep up with the periodic beep or you are out. Read more.
It is a good way to estimate your clients’ VO2max level.
Set up: You need an accurate way to measure and mark out a 20m distance. Netball courts are great for this – two thirds is approximately 20m. Buy a beep test app for your phone or source a CD. You will then need a way to play it loud enough for everyone to hear.
Execution: Play the test. Clients must not fail meeting a beep two rounds in a row. The can miss one beep but must make it up on the next beep.
If they do fail to make it then they are out and their score is the last completed level.
3. One Minute Strength Testing
I like to do this with push ups. Not just regular push ups but hand release push ups.
This way it becomes a repeatable test. The depth of the push up is always to the ground and the height of the push up is until arms are extended. The core must be tight, no dancing worms.
Set up: Get everyone lined up in alphabetical order. This will make it quick for you to mark down the reps at the end.
Execution: Set a timer for one minute and go. Have people count their own reps or run the test in two groups with one half of the group doing push ups while the other half counts. Then swap and test the other half.
4. Cadence Testing
This is a military style test where you actually count out each rep to a cadence.
Example: For push ups it goes 1 – down, 2 – pause at bottom, 3 – up and 4 pause at top before returning back to 1. The 1st and 3rd counts are on the second mark while the 2nd and 4th counts are on the half second. So it takes 2 full seconds to complete the round.
As you can imagine it gets boring (and makes your voice hoarse) pretty quickly counting from 1 to 4 dozens of times in a row so I developed my own version.
I like to do this test with squat jumps.
Set up: Set an interval timer for an unlimited number of 2 second rounds. Make sure you have some way of counting the rounds.
Execution: Clients begin in a squat position. Hips must be at knees or lower (but not resting at the bottom). Every 2 seconds on the beep clients will perform one squat jump before returning to the squat position.
A clients score is the number of rounds she lasts. A client is out when either they can no longer get their feet off the ground during the jump or if they can’t get their hips low enough between reps.
Have them raise a hand when they are out and call out the current round. Collect the score from them afterwards. Watch for people just sticking their ass out and not squatting.
5. The Squat 3/4 Mile
From Andi Garcia. Thanks to Andi for inspiring this post.
This is an outdoor drill that doesn’t take too much time to complete 5-10 min depending upon fitness level and can be incorporated into any class. Be sure to do a short warm up prior to doing this drill.
I’m lucky enough to have access to a track, oval in shape and distance around is 1/4 of a mile (therefore 4 laps = 1 mile).
Basically everyone starts with 100 squats and runs 3/4 the way around the track and does more squats deceasing the number of squats by 25 each time. In the end you’ll end up where you started and have ran around the track 3 times or 3/4 of a mile.
Have everyone start together all at once.
Everyone starts off doing 100 squats, the runs/jogs 3/4 of the way around the track.
At the 3/4 mark, do 75 squats, then run/jog 3/4 the way around again.
This time do 50 squats, then run/jog 3/4 the way around again.
This time do 25 squats, then run 3/4 rhe way around the track.
You will end up right where you started. For those folks who finish early have them alternate between doing 5 push ups and 10 jumping jacks until everyone has finished.
For fitness testing: Your score will be the time after you have completed your last 3/4 lap.
About Andi: My name is Andi Garcia. I’ve been a group fitness instructor for about 4 years now. I teach many different group fitness class, bootcamp being one of them, teaching for my local recreation center.
6. Other Special Tests
Another way to run your tests is to draw some inspiration from above and create a challenge that clients must complete for time. Chipper workouts are great for this.
Or, go the opposite direction. Create an AMRAP and challenge your clients to complete as many rounds as possible inside the time period. The next time they do the test they try to beat the number of rounds.
CrossFit uses the AMRAP test to run it’s yearly Games so when done properly it can be used as a great benchmark.
Now you: How do you test?
What methods do you use for testing your clients’ fitness? Do you do individual tests or set up a drill that must be completed.
I’d love to hear about them, please share in the comments below.
Originally posted July 30, 2014. Updated October 6, 2016.