Fitness testing

Fitness testing is a way of gaining information about the health related and skill related components of an athletes fitness. Testing can take place in a number of environments, with laboratory testing being the most accurate, however there is still a large range of tests that can be carried out, away from a lab, which provide a lot of useful information.

Reasons for Fitness Testing

  • To highlight the strengths and weakness of an athlete enabling a training program to be devised which addresses the findings
  • To evaluate a training program, to see if it is helping the athlete in achieving set goals
  • To measure fitness levels following injury, illness or following the off season
  • To assist in setting goals
  • To determine health status (in the non-sporting population)
  • Talent identification
  • To aid motivation

Principles of Fitness Testing

In order for fitness testing to be accurate and worthwhile, a number of principles must be followed:

  • Specificity: Fitness tests must assess an individuals fitness for the activity or sport in question. For example, there is little point in using a running endurance test to assess an athletes improvement in cycling endurance.
  • Validity: Fitness tests must measure the component of fitness that they are supposed to. For example, is your sit and reach test measuring solely the flexibility of the hamstrings or are there other factors involved?
  • Objectivity: Sometimes also known as intertester reliability. A test that is objective will produce the same results for the same individual, regardless of the tester, or technician administering the test
  • Reliability: A reliable test produces the same results if repeated. For example, an assessor trained in skin-fold measurements will produce the same result, when the same area is re-tested shortly after.

Factors Which May Affect Fitness Tests

Fitness tests are subject to a large number of internal and external variables which may affect the outcome of the test. When performing a repeat test, it is important to try to limit as many variables as possible by ensuring the conditions/circumstances are exactly the same as during the previous test.

  • Time of the day
  • Weather conditions
  • Environment (surface/noise/presence of other people)
  • A different assessor
  • Accuracy of measurements
  • Test protocol not followed exactly as before
  • Time since the athletes last meal
  • Athletes emotions
  • Athletes state of hydration
  • Athletes health (recent colds/illness)
  • Medication the athlete may be taking
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