The aim of this lesson is to learn about fitness testing methods and reasons why we test (Equivalent to UK GCSE Physical Education)

It is important to test an athletes fitness to help you determine if their training program is working and to know what goals to set next! Test before the start of a program and at regular intervals to see their improvements. This will also help keep them motivated.

Reasons for fitness testing

There are numerous reasons to test an individuals fitness levels:

  • to show a starting level of fitness
  • to motivate or set goals
  • to vary an existing training programme
  • to monitor improvement
  • compare to national averages
  • identify strengths or weaknesses
  • to re-evaluate needs in training

Limitations to fitness testing

Despite all good intentions, fitness testing is quite hard to gain 100% realistic results. This could be due to:

  • tests are not sports specific
  • uncompetitive nature of some tests
  • reliability issues with tests
  • performer lacking in motivation
  • not carried out in correct conditions eg same facilities, same time of day etc.


Measuring components of fitness

Before any period of testing, it is important to remember the following:

  • What equipment is needed to set up a fair test?
  • What rules and procedures need to be followed?
  • How will you score the tests and which measurements will you use?
  • Which conclusions will you make from the results


Aerobic Fitness Testing

The most simple way of quickly assessing someones level of aerobic fitness is to:

  • Take the resting heart rate. Someone who is fit will have a low resting heart rate (70 is average)
  • To measure heart rate use the first 2 fingers and position them over the front of the wrist, at the base of the thumb (this is the radial pulse)
  • Alternatively you can place 2 fingers on the neck, immediately below the jaw bone (this is the carotid pulse)
  • Count the number of beats over 15 seconds and then multiply this number by 4 to get their heart rate in bpm (beats per minute

This is a very simple and quick way of getting a rough idea of someone's fitness levels. There are more advanced ways which will give you a clearer picture:

Harvard Step Test

  • On a 45 cm high step, perform step-ups for 5 minutes at a rate of 30 per minute
  • Rest for 1 minute and then take your heart rate
  • Use the following equation to work out your score - the higher your score the fitter you are

length of exercise (secs) x 100
5.5 x heart rate

12 Minute Run

  • Warm-up first
  • Run round a track as many times as you can in 12 minutes
  • Record the distance
  • The further you can run, the fitter you are
  • This can be used as a comparison for next time!

Multistage Fitness Test

  • Tests cardiovascular endurance
  • Also known as the bleep test
  • A recording of regular beeps is used, the beeps get faster over time
  • You must run between 2 lines, 20m apart, before the next beep
  • Your foot must be on or over the line when the beep comes
  • If you miss a beep you are allowed 2 more to catch up
  • If you miss 3 in a row you are out and must record the level and number of shuttles as told on the recording
  • This gives an estimation of your VO2 max, the higher this is the fitter you are

Other Fitness Tests

Other components of fitness can also be measured with some simple tests. Here are some examples:

Muscular endurance

You can test most muscle groups in the body by seeing how many exercises which work that muscle you can do, for example, push-ups, sit-ups, tricep dips etc


A device called a dynamometer can be used to assess your muscular strength, these can be hand held, or larger peices of lab equipment. You can also use 1 rep max to test strength.


Setting up a course using cones for you to dodge in and out of can test your agility. Time how long it takes you, making sure you don't touch any of the cones, to see if you improve. Use the Illinois Agility Test.


Any test which measures how quickly you move from A to B can be used to assess your speed. The simplest is a 30m sprint with a rolling start (meaning you run through the start line, this removes acceleration and measures speed only).


The stork test involves standing on one leg with the other foot touching the standing knee, the eyes closed and hands on the hips. Hold this position for as long as possible without moving the hands, feet or opening the eyes. Wobbling is ok!


The most common test for flexibility is the sit and reach test. Sit on the floor with both legs straight out in front of you. Place a box at your feet (touching the soles of your feet) with a ruler attached to the top of it. Reach as far as you can along the ruler, keeping your legs straight


Wall toss test. Use a tennis ball to throw against a wall either using the same hand or alternate hands. count the number of successful throws and catches in a set time (30 seconds)


test muscular power by testing how high pupils can jump in the Vertical Jump Test

Reaction time

Ruler drop test. Pupils have to catch a ruler between their finger and thumb and record the distasnce the ruler falls before it is caught. Pupils to have 3 or more goes and take an average of results.