girl stretching

&copy Gary Burchell

Here’s what’s great about doing self-tests to measure fitness: You never get a wrong answer.

The result is a snapshot in time, not a life sentence nor a mark on your permanent record. Whatever your result, you can build on it (or build in another direction). It’s a better measure of your health than stepping on the scales – no doubt your weight will fluctuate during party season as your body retains more water (a diet of buffet snacks high in salt can do that). 

These tests reveal strengths and weaknesses, not final analyses. What you come up with today will be different from what you come up with a few weeks from now. Therein lies the usefulness: It’s all about you, where you are, and where you can go.

The following tests are simple, fast ways to get an idea of certain fitness benchmarks. They give you a set of numbers you can use for comparison against later tests.

Each measures a certain aspect of fitness. You do the tests back-to-back, however, I suggest giving yourself three to four minutes to rest between exercises. This test set will measure, in no particular order, upper body strength and mobility, core strength, lower body strength and flexibility, balance and stability, and cardiovascular fitness.

After four weeks, have at it again and see how you do.

The test: Overhead squat

Fully extend your arms above your head, slightly more than shoulder-width apart. With your feet shoulder-width apart, lower your body as far as you can by pushing your hips back and bending your knees. Your torso should stay as upright as possible. Pause, then push yourself back up to the starting position.

Perform 10 reps.

Fitness test - overheat squat - womens health uk


Watching yourself in a mirror helps answer the following questions.

–       Can you lower your body until your thighs are below parallel to the floor?

–       Can you keep your heels on the floor?

–       Can you keep your toes pointing straight ahead?

–       Are your hands drifting forward as you squat?

–       Are your back and chest leaning forward?

–       Do your knees cave inward?

Any of these problems could mean a variety of weaknesses, ranging from poor mobility in your upper and lower body to poor stabilisation and control.

The test: Wall slide

Stand with your head, upper back, and butt against a wall. Place both of your hands and arms against the wall in the “high-five” position, elbows bent 90 degrees and upper arms at shoulder height. Keeping your elbows, wrists, and hands against the wall, slide your elbows down toward your sides as far as you can. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you go. Then slide your arms back up the wall as high as you can while keeping your hands in contact with the wall.

Lower to the start and do 10 reps.

Fitness test - wall slide - womens health uk


–       Do your elbows or hands come off the wall?

–       How high can you slide your hands up the wall? Can you get them overhead?

–       Do you feel any pain in your shoulders or upper back?

–       Can you keep your shoulder blades squeezed together?

If you struggle with this exercise, it most likely means you need to improve your shoulder strength and flexibility.

Want to improve your fitness? Try the WH 5 minute squat fitness challenge.

This is adapted from Dr. Jordan Metzl’s Workout Prescription: 10, 20 & 30-Minute High-Intensity Interval Training Workouts For Every Fitness Level, and was originally written by Jordan Metzel, for Runner’s World.



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