This particular page is divided into two parts:

  • Part One: Concepts and Principles (this page); and
  • Part Two: Exercise and Fitness Tests and Assessments (see downloads section).

Part one provides background information on testing and assessment whilst part two provides 41 tests and assessments, hence the downloadable document.


Physical fitness testing and assessment is an integral component of any formal, structured training programme. Testing and assessment is considered essential by fitness professionals as it provides trainers, coaches, fitness instructors and the individual with a method of measuring the training programme’s:

  • Efficacy: does it work (yes or no); and
  • Effectiveness: how well does it work (0%-100%).

It is also important to ensure that the test or assessment utilised for measurement is appropriate to the training being conducted. For example, if your training objective is to increase your speed for the 400m then conducting the press-up test (Test 29) to measure this would be inappropriate. A more appropriate test would be the 400 Metre Control Test (Test 26).

In part one of the paper, I will outline some basic background information to aid the reader in determining which test or assessment is appropriate. Part one will also include concepts and purpose, assessment of status, evaluation of progress, and motivation.

Part two provides the reader with a number of easy-to-use outdoor exercise and fitness tests and assessments which fit with the concept of fitness boot camps and military fitness sessions. As such these tests and assessments:

  • Require minimal equipment;
  • Are easy to organise;
  • Are quick to administer; and
  • Are economical in terms of money, time and testing expertise.

I hope you have ‘fun’ trying out the tests and assessments.

Concepts in Physical Fitness Testing

Reduced to its simplest terms, the function of measurement is to determine status. Ideally, status should be determined before individualised exercise counselling is conducted. The information from the physical fitness testing can be used along with medical test information to better meet an individual’s needs. When conducting T&A several important test criteria should be considered:

  1. Validity: Refers to the degree to which the test measures what it was designed to measure; a valid test is one that measures accurately what it is used to measure.
  2. Reliability: Deals with how consistently a certain element is measured by the particular test; concerned with the repeatability of the test. If a person is measured two separate times by the same tester or by two different people, the results should be close to the same.
  3. Norms: Represent the achievement level of a particular group to which the measured scores can be compared; norms provide a useful basis for interpretation and evaluation of test results.
  4. Economy: Refers to ease of administration, the use of inexpensive equipment, the limitation of time needed to administer the test, and the simplicity of the test so that the person taking it can easily understand the purpose and results.

So in other words, a good physical fitness test:

  • Accurately measures what it is supposed to measure;
  • Can be consistently used by different people;
  • Produces results that can be compared to a data set; and
  • Is relatively inexpensive, simple and easy to administer.

In a complete physical fitness programme, testing of participants before, during, and after participation is important for several reasons:

  1. To assess current fitness levels (both strengths and weaknesses);
  2. To identify special needs for individualised counselling;
  3. To evaluate progress; and
  4. To motivate and educate.

Test results are best viewed as a means to an end, not as an end in themselves. The underlying principle is that the testing process should be used to help individuals know more about themselves so that appropriate health and fitness goals can be established.

Expensive, elaborate, and lengthy testing is seldom needed (except in research) and can be distractive. Scores on the various items of the simple and inexpensive tests and assessment noted in part two are adequate to identify the strengths and weaknesses of participants, so that special attention can be given to individualised goals and objectives.

If anything, it is better to under-test than over-test (for example, once per month rather than once per week) so that more time and attention can be given to counselling and guiding each individual through the training programme.

Testing and Measurement

Simplistically, testing and measurement are the means of collecting information upon which subsequent performance evaluations and decisions are made.

However, in testing and measurement, one needs to bear in mind factors that may influence the results. For example, hereditary factors such as limb length, muscle attachments, and the proportion of fast- and slow-twitch fibres will place a limit on an individual’s maximum potential (i.e. physical capacity).

Nevertheless, an individual can improve their strength, endurance (stamina), speed, skill, suppleness (agility and quickness) with appropriate training.

It is also important that the test or assessment is linked to the training performed.

Analysis of the Results

For the majority of the following tests and assessments analysis of the results is by comparing them with the results of previous tests. Generally it is expected that, with appropriate training between each test or assessment, the analysis would indicate an improvement.

However, some of the tests and assessments have population norms data which enable the individual to gauge their results with that of the wider population, typically based on age and gender.

Stress Tests: Safety Points to Consider

Anyone who has undergone a stress (maximal) test will know that it is not easy. A stress test although relatively short does require you to push your body and your heart to the very limit. Before undertaking a stress test, you should be certain of the following:

  • That you have not suffered from any cold, flu, stomach bug or other illness in the last six to eight weeks. The body in this period could still be fighting the last of the infection and the effort of a stress test could leave you prone to a more serious infection. If in any doubt check with your medical professional.
  • That you have not raced in the fourteen days prior to a stress test and at least four to six weeks following a marathon or more if you have not yet fully recovered from your efforts. A tired heart and body will not achieve maximum.
  • In the final week before a stress test it is important to complete a recovery run – that is 70% maximum of your current age adjusted heart rate.
  • The stress test will require you to wear a heart rate monitor (HRM) and preferable one that is capable of recording your heart rate (HR). It is best to record your HR as often as possible, preferably every second or at worst every 5 seconds. If the HRM does not have a record facility, it will be necessary to keep glancing at the monitor to find your highest heart rate.
  • It is important to warm up thoroughly before conducting a stress test, or any other type of assessment or test.
  • Do not undertake a stress test:
    • With any hint of an injury. Ensure all old injuries are fully repaired before deciding to undertake a stress test.
    • If you have less than one years running experience and are sport active for less than three hours a week, it is possible you will not be fit enough to take the strain of a stress test, let alone achieve a reliable result.
  • Anyone who is overweight or over the age of 35 is advised to see their medical professional before undergoing a stress test.

I hope that you get the idea that a stress test is not easy. It is the very limit of your heart and body’s capability and should not be treated lightly.

Exercise Intensity and Energy Source

Energy, in simple terms, is primarily supplied from two sources:

  • Carbohydrates: in the form of glycogen stored in the muscles; and
  • Fat (adipose tissue): stored around the body.

During exercise, the human body utilises a combination of these two energy sources. During high intensity exercise the main source of energy is carbohydrates and during low intensity exercise, fat is the predominate source.

As there is a limit to the amount of carbohydrates that can be stored in the muscles, high intensity work can only be sustained for short periods. In contrast, low intensity work can be maintained for longer periods due to the larger stores off fat that the human body can accommodate.

The relationship between exercise intensity (% of your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR)) and the energy source (carbohydrate and fat) is as follows:

Table 1: Exercise intensity and exercise source (percentage)

Intensity (% MHR)
























Respiratory Exchange Ratio (RER)

Carbohydrates, fat and protein all play a part in energy metabolism and for a certain volume of oxygen the energy released will depend upon the energy source. It is possible to estimate which particular fuel (carbohydrate, fat or protein) is being oxidised by calculating the Respiratory Exchange Ratio (RER). RER is the ratio of carbon dioxide (C02) produced to oxygen (02) consumed and is known as the Respiratory Quotient (RQ).

  • Carbohydrate: If carbohydrate is completely oxidised to C02 and water (H2O) then the relationships is as follows:
    • 602 + C6H1206 » 6C02 + 6H20 + 38ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate)
    • RER= 6C02 +602= 1
  • Fat: If fat (e.g. palmitic acid) is completely oxidised to C02 and H20 then the relationships is as follows:
    • C16h32 + 2302 » 16C02 + 16H20 + 129ATP
    • RER = 16C02 + 2302 = 0.7
  • Protein: The RER for protein is approx. 0.8 but as it plays a very small part in energy metabolism, it is not important here.

A value between 0.7 and 1.0 indicates a mixture off fat and carbohydrate as the energy source. A value greater than 1.0 indicates anaerobic respiration due to more C02 being produced than 02 consumed.

The Importance of Psychology

As noted earlier there are a number of factors that will limit an individual’s physical capacity. However, when attempting to discern an individual’s maximum potential one must also consider the psychological aspect of exercise and fitness.

There have been a number of scientific attempts to quantify (i.e. put a % value on) the psychological aspect of exercise and fitness, to varying success. However, there is a general consensus on the benefits of having a positive mental attitude during exercise, especially maximal exercise, such as during the olympics and other competitive events.

In terms of the average exercise participant, mental preparation for the following tests and assessments cannot be understated. For example, a positive mental attitude could enable the individual to get another press-up despite fatigue and the ‘burn’ sensation from lactate acid build-up in the muscles. In contrast, a negative mental attitude can easily stop an individual way before they reach their maximum potential which can skew and bias the results.


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