Just as I would recommend everyone take a “before” photograph at the start of his or her fitness journey, I make all my clients do a “before” workout. In this workout I make them doing a number of exercises that will help me gauge their current fitness level. After training together for a month or two, I will have them do the workout again to see how they have progressed. This is a process I continue with my clients, as well as myself, for as long we continue working together.
This has proven to be the best way, other than measurements and checking body fat, to see a person’s progress.
It can be really cool when you can see and feel how much stronger you are after following an exercise program.
The best part about checking your progress this way is you don’t need to compare yourself to anyone but you. The goal here is to constantly improve each exercise, and there is no good or bad.
The following are the three best exercises to help test your progress and current state of fitness. You will perform each for a certain amount of time, reps or until failure to see how fit you really are. I recommend taking note of how each exercise went so that when you test again in a couple months you can see if there have been any changes.
The overhead squat is a fantastic way to test your mobility, stability and strength.
To perform this exercise you will straighten your arms over your head with your biceps covering your ears. Now perform a squat while keeping your arms in place. Watch your form on the squat being sure to sit your hips back and push through your heels to stand up.
If you are a beginner I recommend doing this exercise with a chair.
Use a camera to record yourself and watch over to see how your form looks. You can see how straight your posture is. Look for things like your arms falling down and no longer covering your ears as well as your head protruding forward or tilting up and down. These things are signs of slouchy posture and you will want to start a program to fix it.
If you wish to test your strength more you can do the overhead squat with weights. This is an extremely challenging movement for you lower body and core. You can test your strength by find your one rep max, or seeing how much weight you can hold while performing one rep. I recommend advanced exercises only do this test.
If you are not using weights, perform as many reps are you can for one minute. Note how many reps you could do, how winded you felt and how your form looked.
The push-up is going to test your upper body and core strength.
For this test I want you to do as many reps as you can in one minute. You will be paying attention to your form and making sure you lower all the way to the ground on each rep. You can see how strong your core is by noticing if you arch your back on the push-up… which you don’t want to do! You should be keeping your back flat the whole time.
Beginners will need to modify this exercise either by performing the push-up with their hands on a wall or bench or by having their knees on the ground (in that order).
I love push-ups because when you train them properly you can see yourself get stronger. I have had clients test push-ups with their hands on the wall in their first workout and months later be doing normal push-ups on the ground. This is just one way these tests can be exciting… you can really see the changes you are making!
The plank is going to test your core and shoulder strength. It is my personal favorite exercise to come back to and test my strength.
This exercise is both the most simple and most complicated of them all because all you have to do is find the plank position and stay there, completely still, for as long as you can. It sounds simple, but it’s not. While holding this position, you need to constantly be engaging your core and tightening all of your muscles.
To test yourself, find plank position on your forearms and see how long you can stay there without breaking form. You are going until failure, meaning until you can’t hold any longer. Note the time and work on increasing that time through your training.
Beginners can do this test from your knees. Once you can do the plank for more than 5 seconds on your toes, you should switch to that variation.