Guide to Conducting Fitness Tests
(this is an extract from the Fitness Testing Guide)
To ensure that each subject is primed physically to perform up to their potential, they should follow set nutritional and physical guidelines. If all participants follow the same procedures and are in the same physical state, then comparisons are more valid, and if the same procedures are followed for each testing session, then the results will be more reliable. (see specific test preparation guidelines)
The order in which the fitness tests are performed can affect performance in subsequent tests. Here are some guidelines when deciding on what order to conduct the test. These are guidelines that can be used to determine the best order in your situation. There are other factors to consider such as logistics of getting from one test location to another, group sizes, number of assessor, and time constraints. Whatever order is used should be recorded and made consistent for future testing sessions.
- Health Checks: Blood pressure and resting heart rate should always be tested first while the person is fully rested.
- Anthropometry: There should be no physical activity prior to the measurements of body composition. This test should always take place first, and directly after any health checks.
- Flexibility: Depending on whether the test protocol requires a warm up or not, the flexibility tests should be scheduled early in the session prior to any activity, or after a thorough warm up or after the speed tests.
- Speed / Power tests: Power tests are usually performed first, followed by speed, agility, strength, muscle endurance and, finally, cardiorespiratory or repeat sprint tests. A thorough warm-up should precede any speed and power test. The vertical jump test may be performed prior to the sprint test.
- Muscle Strength: Muscle strength (1-10RM) tests should always be completed prior to muscle endurance tests, but after the speed and power tests.
- Muscular Endurance: A minimum break of five minutes is recommended between muscle strength and muscle endurance tests. If there are several muscular strength and endurance tests in one session, you must allow plenty of time for recovery between tests.
- Aerobic Fitness: Many of the submaximal aerobic tests are based on a heart rate response may be affected by previous tests and by the mental state of the athlete, and should be scheduled accordingly. Fatiguing maximal exercise tests, such as a VO2max or beep test and repeat sprint tests, should always be scheduled at the end of a session. If the protocol includes both a repeat sprint test and a maximal aerobic test, it is usually wise to have these in separate sessions.
Testing should be done performed at particular times that correspond to the aims of the tests. For example, you may wish to test at the beginning of certain phases of training, and then at regular intervals to monitor progress. For school groups it may be appropriate to schedule testing at the beginning and ends of school semesters.
Safety checks should be done prior to any testing session, such as checking for the proper working of equipment, and adequate supply of safety equipment such as mats, water bottles and first aid kits. During the sessions, give adequate warm-up when necessary (see more about warming up for fitness testing). For maximal endurance testing on elderly and special populations (after medical clearance has been given), medical assistance should be close at hand, and adequate resuscitation equipment should be available nearby.
Any person older than 35 years of age, particularly anyone overweight or with a history of high blood pressure and heart disease, should consult a physician before undertaking any vigorous testing. Fitness testing should not be avoided, as for this population it can be useful as a screening device and to help devise a program to suit special needs. For all participants that are not accustomed to exercise, it would be wise to conduct a PARQ - Physical Readiness Questionnaire.
Well-designed scoring sheets make recording scores more efficient and avoids errors. They should include space for all relevant information. In addition to the test results, the following should also be recorded with every testing session:
- Date and time of testing.
- Personal details (name, age, contact details).
- Current state of the athlete (fitness level, any injuries, health status, fatigue level, sleep).
- Activity details (sport involved in, event).
- Basic physiological data (weight, resting heart rate).
- Current training phase (e.g. speed, speed endurance, strength, technique).
- Current training load (the number of miles run, the number of sets and repetitions, the number of attempts).
- Current training intensity (kilograms, percentage of maximum, percentage of VO2).
- Environmental and surface conditions (wet, slippery, wind, temperature, humidity, indoors?). See more info about measuring environmental conditions.
- Name of assessors
All test assistants should be adequately trained prior to testing, to ensure correct administration of the tests, and reduce error between testers.
Good organization will ensure the testing session runs smoothly. If testing a large group, you may want to set up testing stations with a different tester at each station, or with one tester following the same group around the stations.
Download your free copy of the Topend Sports' Fitness Testing Guide — a guide for you to plan, conduct, analyze and interpret fitness testing of athletes.
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