There is not one test of muscular fitness that is best. Rather, different tests can be used to safely and effectively assess muscular strength or muscular endurance in various age groups. This section describes several assessments that can be used.
Assessing Muscular Strength
A common assessment of muscular strength is called the one-repetition maximum (1RM), in which the goal is to lift as much weight as possible on a strength exercise with proper technique for one repetition only. This test is time-consuming and should be performed under the supervision of a qualified fitness professional. Also, familiarization and practice sessions are critical to ensure that the test is safe and accurate.
Another option is to estimate your 1RM by lifting a sub-maximal weight multiple times. While different exercises can be used for this assessment, the use of multi-joint exercises such as the leg press and chest press is common. With a few calculations you can estimate your 1RM and compare your performance to that of others of your age and sex.
First, multiply the number of repetitions you can perform on a given exercise by 2.5. Try to select a weight you can lift about 10 to 15 times with proper form (note that if you can lift the weight more than 20 times, the results will be more accurate if you rest and then repeat the test with a heavier weight). Subtract that number from 100 to determine the percentage of your theoretical 1RM. Then, divide that number by 100 to produce a decimal value. Finally, divide the weight you lifted by that decimal value to estimate your 1RM on that exercise.
For example, if a 35-year-old female can lift 60 pounds (27 kg) on the chest press exercise 10 times, then she can use the following steps to estimate her 1RM:
10 repetitions x 2.5 = 25
100 − 25 = 75
75 / 100 = 0.75
60 pounds x 0.75 = 80 pounds = estimated 1RM
To compare her performance with others of her same age and sex, the 1RM is divided by body weight. In the previous example, if the individual’s body weight is 145 pounds (66 kg), then she can complete the calculation (80 / 145 = 0.55) and use the result (0.55) to assess her performance with figures 1 (and to assess lower body strength with figure 2).
Note that the ratio of weight lifted to body weight is the same whether you use pounds or kilograms. For a 35-year-old female, her upper body strength is in the “fair” category. With regular resistance training she will see her strength improve as she tracks her progress. A weight she could lift only 10 times will be lifted more often before fatiguing, or she will be able to lift a heavier weight for those same 10 repetitions.
Assessing Muscular Endurance
As with muscular strength, various assessments can provide insight into one’s muscular endurance status. This section describes the push-up test as well as some age-specific assessments for children and older adults. Also Read: Reasons To Drink Water Regularly.
Push-Up Test for Adults
The push-up test is commonly used to measure muscular endurance, which is the ability of a muscle or muscle group to exert force repeatedly over time. Many activities of daily life such as carrying groceries and household chores require repeated or sustained muscular actions. Like muscular strength, muscular endurance can be different in upper body and lower body muscles. The goal of the push-up test is to perform as many push-ups as possible with proper form. Note that there are two different ways to perform this test for adults, one for males and one for females. For males the toes are the rear pivot point (see figure 3.1), but for females the knees are in contact with the ground (see figure 3.2). For both males and females, proper form includes keeping the back straight while pushing up to a straight-arm position and then lowering the body until the chin touches the floor. It is important to perform the push-up test as shown so you can accurately assess your performance using figure 4.
Curl-Up and Push-Up Tests for Youth
For the curl-up test, the two pieces of tape used to help guide the extent of the curl-up are placed 3 inches (7.6 cm) apart for 5- to 9-year-olds and 4.5 inches (11.4 cm) apart for 10- to 19-year-old. Heels must stay in contact with the mat, and no pauses or rest periods are allowed (see figure 5.1 for an example of a youth performing a curl-up). Movement should be controlled (about one curl every 3 seconds or a total of 20 per minute). If the heels come up, if the fingers do not touch the far tape, or if the child is unable to maintain a continuous cadence, the test is over and the final count should be recorded (a total of 75 curl-ups is considered maximal). Healthy ranges are shown in figure 6.
For the push-up test, the hands are placed slightly wider than the shoulders and the legs are out straight (see figure 5.2). The back should remain in a straight line from head to toes throughout the test. The body is lowered until the elbows are at a 90-degree angle and the upper arms are parallel with the floor. Then, arms should be straightened fully to return to the starting position. The test is continued as long as these form requirements are met and the movement is continuous (no rest stops are allowed). Record the maximal number completed. Boys and girls follow the same protocol. Healthy ranges are found in figure 6.
Chair Stand Test for Older Adults
The chair stand test is used to assess lower body strength in older adults, which is important in daily activities such as climbing stairs; walking; and getting out of a chair, bathtub, or car. For the chair stand test, fold your arms across your chest and count the number of times that you can stand from a seated position in 30 seconds (see figure 7). Normal ranges are shown in figure 9 below; if your score is over the range listed, consider yourself above average and if your score falls short of the range listed, consider yourself below average.
Arm Curl Test for Older Adults
An arm curl test is used to assess upper body strength in older adults, which is important for daily activities such as carrying groceries or small children. The arm curl assessment, as shown in figure 8, is used to determine upper body muscular fitness. This test involves counting the number of dumbbell curls you can complete in 30 seconds. Men should use an 8-pound (3.6 kg) dumbbell, and women should use a 5-pound (2.3 kg) dumbbell. Normal ranges are shown in table 9; if your score is over the range listed, consider yourself above average and if your score falls short of the range listed, consider yourself below average. Also Read: How To Stay Motivated To Workout
Muscular fitness assessments that are consistent with each individual’s training experience and fitness goals can provide useful information. In addition to comparing performance to that of others of the same age and sex, periodic assessments can help to gauge the effectiveness of your resistance training program. For safety purposes, individuals with health concerns should seek consultation from a health care provider
before performing any fitness test.