While it could potentially be an overused statement in the sport science world, it is for the most part true. If you aren’t testing, how do you know your training program is working? How do you know if you are progressing in the areas you want to? How do you know what weights you should be using?
That being said, testing doesn’t always have to be rigid. If you are tracking your training and using auto-regulation markers such as RPE, there is less need to assess progress with specific testing days, as long as you are keeping track of the sets, reps and load. You should still be able to see if you are progressing, but there is valuable information that you wont know unless you take some time to test on a regular basis. The best time to test is at the beginning and end of a training block. This way you know the weights you should be starting on, and at the end of the block you will be able to see whether you were successful in making the improvements you were working on.
According to Verdijk et al. (2009) a 1RM test is a reliable form of measuring max strength. 1RM is the most used form of max strength testing for experienced lifters. For those who lack the experience and confidence in the gym, 1RM can be estimated by instead finding, 3RM, 5RM etc. and using a 1RM Calculator. Once a 1RM has been found, it can be used to find weight ranges in a carefully thought out training program.
There are more areas that can be tested to asses fitness and training efficiency other than just maximal strength. Muscular endurance is also an important factor for athletes and healthy people in general. We can see improvements in muscular endurance when higher reps becomes easier, or with specific tests.
Cardio fitness can be measured in a number of ways. The gold standard for maximum aerobic capacity is a VO2 max test. However, for these tests to be accurate, they usually need to be done in a lab, with specific equipment. A more feasible way to measure cardio fitness levels could be MAS (maximal aerobic speed). This can be done by time trials, or more commonly – the beep test.
Many athletes will need to have the ability to generate power. Exercises such as the vertical jump, broad jump or medicine ball toss, are all easily measurable tests that can determine improvements in power output.
Lastly, for athletes returning to sport from an injury or as part of an injury prevention program, it is important to test for asymmetries. A good rehab specialist should ensure that athletes are being tested in single leg/arm positions before returning to sport.
While testing continues to go under appreciated a lot of the time, it can be very useful in ensuring progression in training. It can also be a good boost for morale when you hit a new PB!
If you are not sure where to start with testing, download our FREE Testing Sheet!
BRUCE, S. L., RUSH, J. R., TORRES, M. M. & LIPSCOMB, K. J. 2017. Test-Retest and Interrater Reliability of Core Muscular Endurance Tests Used for Injury Risk Screening. International Journal of Athletic Therapy & Training, 22, 14-20.
MARTINEZ, D. B. & KENNEDY, C. 2016. VELOCITY-BASED TRAINING AND AUTOREGULATION APPLIED TO “SQUATTING EVERY DAY”: A CASE STUDY. Journal of Australian Strength & Conditioning, 24, 48-55.
VERDIJK, L., VAN LOON, L., MEIJER, K. & SAVELBERG, H. C. M. 2009. One-repetition maximum strength test represents a valid means to assess leg strength in vivo in humans. Journal of Sports Sciences, 27, 59-68.