Guide to Selecting Fitness Tests

(this is an extract from the Fitness Testing Guide)

There is often a standard set of tests that are performed for the fitness testing of any sport. If you do not have access to such as list, or you wish to modify a protocol to suit individual needs, you can use the following information to design your own testing regime. Remember that the fitness test that best determines your capability in any component of fitness is not always the most appropriate tests to perform; there are many other factors to consider.

Identifying Components of Performance

The first step in designing a fitness testing regimen is to identify the components of fitness that you wish to investigate. These may depend on the phase of training or the phase of the season in which the testing is being done. Each sport requires certain attributes and relies on certain factors more than others for successful performance. For example, you would not necessarily want to test a marathon runner on sprinting speed. Your fitness testing time could be better spent on doing more relevant tests.

One method of categorizing the different components of fitness are as presented on the list of tests, though this categorization is somewhat arbitrary. You testing battery may include a few similar tests from one fitness component and none from others, depending on what your aims of the testing are.

Standardized Protocols

The test protocols need to be standardized so that comparisons can be made between your test scores performed at different times and comparisons between athletes tested at different places. Athletes and coaches should be aware of the need to control for factors which can affect the results obtained. Such things that need to be controlled are: the warm up, order of tests, recovery periods, environmental conditions, and fluid and nutritional status. If comparing test results to normative tables, the test must be conducted exactly the same as it was when the original test group was tested, for the comparison to be valid.

Relevance

You need to select sport specific tests. If you believe that the tests are relevant to the sport you play, you will be more inclined to put a maximal effort into the testing. If not, you can be wasting valuable time on tests that are not relevant to your particular sport, and the results will be meaningless.

Reliability

A test is considered reliable if the results are consistent and reproducible over time. You should be able to obtain the same or similar result on two separate trials. This is important as you are often looking for small changes in scores, and you want the difference in results to reflect the changes in fitness of the person and not an error in measurement.

Some of the errors in recording of tests results can come about from poor following of the test protocols, equipment error, and variability in environmental conditions and/or surfaces. Reliability can be improved by greater control of these variables, and by using competent and well trained testers, though there is still some variability expected. All the equipment used should be standard and regularly calibrated to the manufacturer's standards. If more than one test is being conducted at a time, the ordering of tests can affect results for each test, as can he training and fatigue of the athlete between test sessions. If the test requires pacing or practice, the more experienced athletes will do better at maximizing their performance, and their score will be more reliable.

Validity

Validity is whether the tests actually measure what they set out to. It is quite possible that a test can be very reliable but not valid. The validity of a test is usually better if the test is specific to the sport being tested: i.e., the tests should resemble the sport being tested, so that similar actions and therefore the specific muscle groups and muscle fiber types actually used in the sport are being used. There are different forms of validity - internal, external and ecological validity. For an experiment to possess ecological validity, the methods, materials and setting of the experiment must approximate the real-life situation that is under study. A fitness test having external and ecological validity enables you to make 'generalizations' about their sports performance from specific tests.

Interpretable Results

If you don't know what the numbers in the results mean, the tests are fairly useless. The results must have meaning so that they can be applied to modify a training program. If you want to compare the results to that of other groups you must have access to normative data ('norms'). These norms should be based on a large homogeneous population, be up to date, and preferably be of local origin.

Facilities and Other Testing Demands

The time, costs, equipment and personnel required can be the most important considerations when selecting a test, and often determines what tests are actually conducted. This is especially important if you intend to test large groups of athletes.

 


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