How Can You Test Your Physical Fitness?

How can you test yourself? Whatever the purpose, it's important for us to understand the methods of testing fitness levels for different physical attributes. Here I will share some methods and include several jobs which require extreme physical fitness.

TOPIC: How Can You Test Yourself?

The Question:

We train like animals and grow like animals. But to make sure that we are making proper progress we need to test our fitness abilities.

What are some ways we can test our physical fitness?

How can we test our strength, stamina, flexibility, balance, etc?

What test scores are below average, average, and above average for each test?

How often should one test themselves?

Show off your knowledge to the world!

The Winners:


        1st place - 75 in store credit.

        2nd place - 50 in store credit.

      3rd place - 25 in store credit.

1st Place - bitterplacebo

Whether it be for competitive, institutional, or personal purposes, there are many people interested in testing the physical fitness of themselves as well as others. Many can probably remember taking, at some point, physical fitness tests administered by their school as a requirement.

Others may have been active in sports and performed tests designed to help compare them to others. Still yet, some men and women must have participated in and passed fitness tests upon joining a military or law enforcement unit.

Almost everyone has a little familiarity with the idea of physical fitness tests. They are used not only used to measure the competence in specific tasks, but also as a reference for one's accomplishments, progress and capabilities when compared to others.

These fitness tests can point out our strengths and weaknesses. From them, we can set goals for improvement and better predict our future capabilities. Whatever the purpose, it's important for us to understand the methods of testing fitness levels for different physical attributes.

Testing Physical Fitness:
What are some ways we can test our physical fitness?

The ways in which to test our physical fitness is limited only by our imagination. We could come up with all sorts of interesting and unique ways to test ourselves, but it's often best to stick with tests that have been in place and in practice for some amount of time.

Fitness exams which have withstood the test of time provide a good database of results to compare with, but best of all, the testing guidelines and procedures are already designed for easy following. There are two basic categories of fitness examinations - those that employ a physical activity and those that do not.

Inactive Tests:

There are ways with which to examine fitness without the use of any physical exertion. These tests provide a general feel for physical health and can be taken at any time.

Body Composition:

A measurement that gives the amount of body fat compared to lean tissues that an individual has. Higher levels of fat are regarded as less fit. This can be measured with the aid of skin fold calipers, hydrostatic weighing, electrolipography, body mass index, or bioelectrical impedance. The easiest method would be skin fold measurements, but the others would often be more accurate.


A screening can be administered by physicians that gives the total amount of cholesterol in the blood as well as the amount of HDL and LDL forms of cholesterol. While HDL is involved with removing cholesterol from the body and is desired, LDL is involved in the unwanted depositing of cholesterol in the body.

Proper HDL to LDL ratios are indicative of good exercise, weight management, and eating habits. Blood cholesterol levels are also directly related to the risk of coronary heart disease.

Can be measured most easily either by taking a pulse at the carotid artery on the neck or the radial artery on the wrist. Another way would be to use a heart rate monitor. Heart rates are most often taken at rest or during a physically intense activity, and they measure how hard the heart has to work to keep the body functioning under current conditions.

Unless someone is dead or dying, a lower heart rate at rest or even during activity typically indicates better fitness.

Testing Performance:
How can we test our strength, stamina, flexibility, balance, etc?

Active Tests:

Tests which measure the body's performance during an activity fall under this category. While general fitness is determined by the inactive tests, the more specific forms of fitness can be measured with examinations that monitor performance in specific physical tasks.

The details on how to execute many of the tests can be found at The site also contains many more specific or comprehensive tests as well as normative data.


      • Timed or Distance Runs - Evaluates cardiovascular ability.
      • Sit-Ups - Assesses abdominal endurance through doing as many sit-ups as possible.
      • Push-Ups - Evaluates upper body endurance through executing as many push-ups as possible.
      • Chin-Ups - Measures arm and back endurance.
      • Squats - Evaluates leg endurance.


      • Vertical Jump - Evaluates strength and power.
      • Long Jump - Measures leg strength performance during a standing jump.
      • Bench Press - Evaluates upper body strength by determining maximum weight able to be pressed.
      • Leg Press - Evaluates lower body strength through a one rep max.
      • Grip Test - Measures one's hand and forearm strength.


      • Shuttle Run - Evaluates stamina and agility by sprinting back and forth between two markers.
      • Illinois Agility Run - Evaluates agility over running a ten meter course with many directional changes.


      • Sit & Reach - Evaluates flexibility of trunk.
      • Shoulder Rotation - Assesses flexibility of shoulders.


      • Standing Stork Test - Evaluates overall static balance.


      • Ruler Drop - Measures reaction time by measuring how quickly someone can catch a falling object.


      • Sprints - Evaluates maximal effort, anaerobic abilities.

Lung Capacity:

      • Can be measured with a plethysmograph or more simply through water displacement or with a balloon. A person with greater lung capacity can take in more oxygen. This correlate to how much work they can potentially do and also their fitness levels.

What Is A Plethysmograph?
A plethysmograph is an instrument for measuring changes in volume within an organ or whole body (usually resulting from fluctuations in the amount of blood or air it contains). In a traditional plethysmograph, the test subject is placed inside a sealed chamber the size of a small telephone booth with a single mouthpiece. At the end of normal expiration, the mouthpiece is closed. The patient is then asked to make an inspiratory effort. As the patient tries to inhale (a maneuver which looks and feels like panting), the glottis (the opening between the vocal cords) is closed and the lungs expand, decreasing pressure within the lungs and increasing lung volume. This, in turn, increases the pressure within the box since it is a closed system and the volume of the body compartment has increased.

Service Tests:

For those who are further interested in more comprehensive feats of physical fitness, it may be particularly interesting to see how you measure up against the brave men and women serving the United States. The tests which an individual must pass in order to join either a branch of military, law enforcement, or fire fighting service are sometimes quite intense and thus indicative of one's physical competence.

Fire Fighters:

They put their lives on the line in order to save others. Good overall physical fitness is of concern for those seeking this job, and as such, they must undergo numerous tests in full gear before becoming a fire fighter.

      • "Pack Test" - Fire fighters are often required to be able to hike 3 miles with a 45 pound pack within 45 minutes. Completing this test shows significant stamina capabilities.

      • Aerobic Endurance - An incremental treadmill test where the speed or incline is increased every minute until exhaustion. This test measures maximum oxygen uptake and cardiovascular endurance.

      • Hose Advance - A full 1.5 inch hose must be dragged 125 feet in less than 31 seconds. This is a test of lower body strength.

      • Hose Pull - A 123 pound hose bundle is pulled with a rope from a stationary position for a distance of 50 feet. Completing the test in less than 103 seconds assesses adequate upper body strength and endurance.

      • Forced Entry Simulation - A 200 pound tire on its side is moved 12 inches by striking it with an 8 pound sledgehammer. Completion of the test in less than 45 seconds demonstrates good upper body strength.

      • Victim Drag - A 150 pound dummy must be pulled 100 feet in less than 49 seconds, measuring endurance and strength.

      • Ladder Climb - A 24 foot ladder climbed to the 10th rung for 5 times need to be completed in less than 109 seconds. This is an anaerobic activity and assesses strength and endurance.

      • Equipment Carry - 40 and 80 pound tools must be able to be lifted and carried a distance of 100 feet, a test of strength and endurance.

United States Marine Corps:

The marine recruit training is the most demanding in the world. An individual who is able to complete the whole 12-week boot camp session exhibits exceptional mental and physical capabilities. Such an accomplishment makes them worthy to be the first soldiers to enter combat for their country when fighting is called for.

They also use a physical fitness test that is administered every six months. It includes the following three events:

        • Dead-Hang Pullups (Male) or Flexed-Arm Hang (Female)
        • Abdominal Crunches in 2 Minutes
        • 3 Mile Run

The minimum passing scores for 17-26 year olds are 3 pullups for males or 15 seconds flexed hang for females, 50 crunches, and 28 minutes (males) or 31 minutes (females) to run 3 miles. While these are minimum, there are greater levels of achievement possible.

For those who are interested, the following sites offer insight into these higher scores:


The SEALS are one of the most elite units of the U.S. military. They must not only undergo a boot camp/school, but also go through a grueling half-year training course. The following screening test is completed before entering this last, six-month course.

        • 500 yard breast-stroke - swim in under 12.5 minutes
        • 42 push-ups in two minutes
        • 50 sit-ups in two minutes
        • 6 pull ups
        • 1.5 mile run in 11.5 minutes

The requirements of becoming a fire fighter, marine, or SEAL are some of the most demanding that can be found, but for those interested in other military branches and professions can find information at the following sites:

Test Scores:
What test scores are below average, average, and above average for each test?

Now that we are familiar with some methods of testing our physical fitness levels, we need to know how to interpret the results. It's this comparison of results to normative data that shows us where our individual strengths and weaknesses lie. From it, we can set our goals for improvement accordingly and plan activities to help us meet them.

For those who don't believe in modesty, it's also worth mentioning that comparison of performance to the norms tells you what bragging rights you have.

The following test results attempt to portray a populational average. Gender differences have been accounted for, but note that age has not been for many tests. The simplest way account for age is to expect a general trend of poorer results with older ages. Make sure to take that into account when making any comparisons.

Cardiovascular Stamina:

  • Timed Run Of 12 Minutes:

        Age-independent male average is 1.75 miles.

      Age-independent female average is 1.46 miles.

  • Distance Run Of 1.5 Miles:

      Age-independent male average is 10 minutes. Age-independent female average is 12 minutes 24 seconds.

  • Distance Run Of 2 Miles:

        Age-independent male average is 14 minutes 17 seconds.

      Age-independent female average is 17 minutes 47 seconds.

Muscular Stamina:

    • Sit-Ups In 60 Seconds:

          Age-independent male average is 40-50 sit-ups.

        Age-independent female average is 35-48 sit-ups.

Push-Ups Until Exhaustion:

        Males 13-35 years average ~40 push-ups.

        Females 13-35 years average ~24 push-ups.

  • Chin-Ups Until Exhaustion:

        Teenage males average 6-8 chins.

      Teenage females average 3-4 chins.

  • Squats Until Exhaustion:

        Males younger than 40 average 30-38 squats.

      Females younger than 40 average 22-32 squats.

Muscular Strength:

  • Vertical Jump Distance:

        Teenage males average 40-50 centimeters.

        Teenage females average 36-46 centimeters.

        Adult males average 55 centimeters.

      Adult females average 45 centimeters.

  • Long Jump Distance:

        Teenage males average 1.8 meters.

        Teenage females average 1.5 meters.

        Adult males average 2.5 meters.

      Adult females average 2.2 meters.

  • Max Bench Press Weight:

        Males average 100%-120% of personal body weight.

      Females average 60%-70% of personal body weight.

  • Max Leg Press Weight:

        Males average 183%-200% of personal body weight.

      Females average 135%-153% of personal body weight.

  • Max Grip Strength:

        Males average 105 pounds.

      Females average 60 pounds.


  • Shuttle Run Score:

        Males average 8 levels and 5 shuttles successfully completed.

      Females average about 7 levels of completion.

  • Illinois Agility Run Time:

        Teenage males average 17 seconds.

      Teenage females average 20 seconds.


  • Sit & Reach Distance Beyond Toes:

        Males average 0-5 centimeters.

      Females average 1-10 centimeters.

  • Shoulder Flex String Distance:

        Males average 13 inches.

      Females average 11.5 inches.


  • Stork Stance Holding:

        Males average 31-40 seconds.

      Females average 16-22 seconds.


  • Ruler Drop Distance:

      Average is 15.9 - 20.4 centimeters.


  • 35 Meter Sprint Time:

        Male average is 5.10-5.29 seconds.

      Female average is 5.60-5.89 seconds.

  • 40 Meter Sprint Time:

        Male (age 17+) average is 6.04 seconds.

      Female (age 17+) average is 7.12 seconds.

  • 50 Yard Sprint Time:

        Male (age 17+) average is 6.61 seconds.

      Female (age 17+) average is 7.83 seconds.

Lung Capacity:

To determine theoretical lung capacity, measured in liters, one can use the formula V = 0.041* h - 0.018 * a - 2.69. Where "V" is lung capacity, "h" is height in centimeters, and "a" is age in years. Comparing a value found through experiment to this theoretical value would let a person know how they stand against the average.

How Often Should One Test Themselves?

There is not a definite answer to this question. The frequency of testing is mostly a personal preference fueled by desire to know one's abilities and condition better or by desire to compete with others. Tests which provide valuable information for general health should be taken more often or as often as indicated by a physician.


Cholesterol screening is recommended to be done at least once every 5 years.

Heart Rate:

Resting heart rate is an easy measurement to take. Doctors often perform this test during any visit. It can be done whenever desired without aid. For healthy individuals it is often not necessary or even useful, but for those with health risks may find it important to more actively monitor their heart rate trends.

Body Fat:

Individuals who are interested in knowing their body fat percentage often have a weight loss goal in mind. During a weight loss regime, the testing of body composition is useful to monitor how well the plan is working. A person with goals like this might take measurements throughout their program, but for those without such ambitions the knowledge is mostly useless and even stressing.

Physical Fitness:

Physical fitness tests that provide personal performance and capability information should be undergone whenever desired. It is recommended, however, that a period of at least two or three weeks be taken between similar tests. People are not known for drastic changes in performance on a day to day basis.

It's important not to waste energy on tests that will not yield valuable information. The energy would be better utilized on training efforts, with tests being earned after periods of hard work.

An ideal training routine which spans a set number of weeks might involve testing fitness levels three times throughout its course. Initial capabilities should be determined, then progress can be measured in the middle weeks to make sure the plan is working efficiently. Finally, a testing at the end will show how far the training has taken you.

Hopefully, this discussion has led to a better understanding of how and why people test themselves. Physical tests can not only affirm our passion for fitness but also for life. They aid us on our quest for improvement.


Review Of Other Articles
Or "Why Wasn't Mine Picked?"



  • Generally good sentence structure and pleasant style.


    • Some deviation from outline. Jumbled paragraphs. Overkill using first person pronoun "I". (10 times in one paragraph)

Comments: Pretty good work here. Some fine tuning might include breaking paragraphs up when subject changes and finding other devices to replace first person pronoun "I".



  • Monster job of staying on topic.


    • Some technical errors in presentation. More content would not hurt.

Comments: Opening sentence is a run on. To wit:
"Physical fitness is an attribute that every individual desires, yet unfortunately, this attribute isn’t obtained overnight, it takes years of dedication toward exercises that test both our mind and body."

Good stuff there, but it needs to be it's own paragraph not a single sentence.

Generally speaking, reading good writing makes you a better writer. Check out some heavyweights like Dave Draper, Dr. Squat and Tome Venuto. All have articles on Pavel and Mike Mahler also.

Writing skill like lifting skill improves as experience is gained.



  • Generally articulate and coherent response.


    • Weak paragraph structure.

Comments: The paragraph on testing strength would have been better as a group of small paragraphs. Some others were "jumbled" as well.

We all know someone who speaks in long confusing breathy sentences. A paragraph that weaves through three of four ideas is the written equivalent.

Give every idea the spotlight it deserves. Introduce it, support it, re-enforce it and move on.