Performance testing can be a great tool to use in order to measure your progress or highlight areas of your fitness that may be preventing you from reaching your fitness goals. In addition, these tests can also be used to help prevent injury by identifying movement faults or other imbalances that can easily pass by without being noticed if not looked at in isolation.

As physical therapists, we find that these tests can sometimes be the missing link between helping our clients reach their highest fitness goals versus dealing with injuries due to poor recovery or holes in their fitness that limits their performance.

We like to use an annual performance testing protocol to identify areas of fitness that may be lagging behind and then use this information to guide our programming/rehab with our patients and discuss how improvements in these areas can be helpful to reach personal goals, whether in sport, in the gym, or in everyday life. 

 

Who may benefit from performance testing?

  • Someone returning from injury/surgery to sports, crossfit, running, or other activity during the advanced stages of rehab to direct further rehab to improve performance and preparedness 
  • An avid runner who struggles to stay injury-free
  • A CrossFit athlete who has plateaued in their lifts
  • A recreational gym-goer who wants to feel good and keep up when playing with their kids

Performance testing can really be for anybody and is a great way to improve your overall health regardless if you are a competitive athlete, weekend warrior, or someone who just wants to maintain the fitness and athleticism as they age. 

When taking someone through a performance test, we break it down into several categories. From movement quality to aerobic capacity, the goal is to create a well rounded test that looks at as many aspects of your overall fitness as possible. We use what tests based on what would be most appropriate for each individual. Below, we will go over different tests that we administer, what exactly the test is looking to accomplish, and examples of how it may be helpful to improve.

 

1) Skill/technique

The first category we test is movement quality and technique. Learning how someone moves in a controlled environment can provide a lot of information on areas they may need to focus their training prior to increasing intensity or resistance. 

How do we test this?

  • Individual performs: 3-10 reps of push-up, bent over row, overhead press, squat, deadlift, single leg squat or step down
    • We assess movement quality from different angles.
    • Taking videos or pictures can be helpful for this as well.

2) Speed

The easiest way to test this one is to have somebody sprint for a certain distance. This can be a helpful area of focus for a football player looking to improve their 40-yard dash time, however, this can also be a great marker for somebody looking to improve longevity. Sprinting is something that we do so little outside of sports, but I think we can all agree that we would like to be the parent who can sprint on demand while playing with our kids. 

How do we test it?

  • 20-40 yard sprint
  • If limited in space, can perform agility tests:
    • T-test
    • L-test

 

3) Power

Maximum power output is translated to the most amount of work you can do in the least amount of time. This can lead to jumping higher, running faster, lifting heavier. Regardless of your sport, training power output can be helpful to boost your performance.

How do we test it?

  • Broad jump
  • Vertical jump 

 

4) Force/Strength 

Strength training is another component of fitness that should not be overlooked and can undoubtedly improve performance. Limitations in this area can lead to increased risk of injury (yes, long distance runners need to strength train) and is another great marker for improving longevity and quality of life. 

How do we test it?

  • Grip dynamometer
  • Max dead hang from pull-up bar
  • 1RM trap bar deadlift (can they do BW)

 

5) Body composition 

Looking at body composition can be a good marker for cardiovascular health. Getting an accurate measurement of body fat percentage and overall muscle mass can be tedious and challenging without the right tools, however, even measurements as simple as waist circumference can provide a lot of information for your health. 

How do we test it?

  • FFMI can be used to measure for body comp if limited in equipment 
  • Waist circumference to height
  • A healthy waist-to-height ratio ranges between 0.4 to 0.49
  • A ratio of 0.5 to 0.59 puts people at increased risk of health problems
  • Waist-to-height ratio of 0.6 or more places people at the highest risk of disease

 

6) Muscular endurance

Muscle endurance involves your body’s ability to maintain a sustained effort for a given period of time. Since many sports are very repetitive for the activities they demand, training this aspect of fitness can be very helpful for maintaining high levels of performance while avoiding isolated muscle fatigue. 

How do we test it?

  • Max carry at BW 
  • Front plank 
  • Max push-ups
  • Max single leg squat to platform (parallel)

 

7) Anaerobic capacity

Anaerobic capacity is your body’s ability to perform exercise in short bursts at high intensity or for prolonged periods. Sports that require high levels of anaerobic capacity would be wrestling, volleyball, basketball, and other sports that require repeated bouts of high intensity exercise with minimal time to rest between them.

How do we test it?

  • :30-1:00 min max calories on machine
  • Measure recovery HR (1 beat per 2 seconds or 30 per min) how long to get back to normal and did you achieve 

 

8) Maximal aerobic capacity

VO2max is the gold standard way to determine aerobic capacity. The best way to measure this would be to go into a lab and get your VO2max tested. However, this is very challenging to do for many people, so instead, we can predict VO2max based on tests in the clinic and an online generator.

How do we test it?

  • Max distance in 12 minutes (prefer run but can be bike/row)
  • Can also do a one mile walk test
  • Use clock and HR monitor

9) Long-duration training

The main goal for this is to examine your ability to maintain lower intensity exercise for long periods of time. This form of training can be a great way to build your aerobic base and ability to recover between events or matches. 

How do we test it?

  • 20 minute sustained effort with only nasal breathing. Maintain particular HR
  • What is the fastest pace that you can maintain without falling off or stopping

 

 

We recommend performing this sequence of testing annually to allow your body time to adapt and provide an overview of what training may need to look like each year to help you reach your health and fitness goals.

Lastly, all the testing does not need to be performed in one day. If you would like to break it up, we recommend performing the aerobic capacity and long-duration testing on separate days

 

Are you looking to fill those gaps in you fitness but not sure exactly what they are? Performance testing can be a great way for you to discovery what you need to focus on to improve your performance, overall health and reduce injury risk. Tap the button below to book a time to chat and get started.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog is for educational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Always consult with a qualified healthcare professional before starting any exercise program, especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition or injury.