Some of you may be able to do burpees all day long – or in my case – watch enviously while others do them, but does this mean you can pass a standard fitness test? Burpees are indeed a great total body exercise but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re in great shape. There’s a lot more to look at when it comes to your overall fitness level. Our team at Bellin Fitness, believes it’s important to test your hip mobility, lateral hip strength, as well as your flexibility. Being strong in each area will help keep you injury-free. To see just how fit you are, perform the five moves listed below and take note of where there may be room for improvement.
- SIT TO STAND TEST
The act of moving from a seated to standing position sounds like an easy one, but it may not be easy for everyone. This functional test is an essential part of the Bellin Fitness Continuum of Care Assessment. Start by sitting in a chair without armrests and stand all the way up and then sit down without using your arms. Be sure to sit in the middle of the chair with your back straight and your feet at a comfortable width. This movement assesses your lower extremity strength and power. It tests your hips when you stand for the actual movement, your core muscle keeps your spine stable, and your abdominals engage when you don’t use your hands. If you need help standing when doing this test, then this is an exercise that you should be including as a regular part of your warm-up or cool-down until you can perform the move multiple times without using your hands. You could also add one of our Gentle Chair Yoga classes to your weekly routine, as the flexibility and strength developed in these classes often focus on the same muscle groups as this test and can help you see continued improvement.
- OVERHEAD SQUAT
Another fitness test is being able to do an overhead squat, or a squat with your arms raised over your head. This movement is part of our Movement Risk Screen and tests the stability and mobility relationships in your body. According to Jim Beversdorf, Corrective Exercise Specialist, “Your ankles and hips are designed to be mobile while your lumbar spine is supposed to be stable, and your shoulders should have both stability and mobility.” So, while watching your form in a mirror, lower into a squat while keeping your spine straight and arms lifted overhead. If you’re able to get your thighs parallel to the ground, as if you were sitting back in a chair, Jim says you’ve got the perfect squat. But if your knees hurt, you can’t keep your arms overhead, or it’s difficult to sink your hips down for 3 to 5 reps, then your overall mobility and flexibility need improvement. This is the perfect reason to work with one of our certified Personal Trainers…to help you improve those areas.
- SIDE PLANKS
Front planks are typically the “go to” exercise, but being able to balance on your elbow in a side plank tests your lateral strength and hip stability, which is important for protecting your knees. Start by lying on your side with your bottom elbow underneath your shoulder, place top hand on hip, and keep your knees slightly bent. Draw in abdominals and squeeze glutes then lift your hips upward while straightening knees fully. Keeping head in line with body, time how long you can comfortably hold it. (see image for proper form). If you can’t comfortably hold the position for 30 to 45 seconds and find yourself shaking long before time is up, then it’s an area that you need to improve upon.Be sure to test your left side plank as well—you should be able to hold the position for about the same amount of time as your right side. Otherwise, it’s a sign of an imbalance, which puts you at a greater risk of injury.
- TRUNK STABILITY PUSH UPS
Push-ups are a staple in most fitness routines for a reason—performing one with proper form is a good indicator of overall total-body strength. The proper way to do a push-up is so your hips and shoulders rise at the same time and everything is moving up and down in a straight line. If your butt sticks up in the air or your hips stay on the ground while your shoulders rise, that can indicate weakness in your core and spine. For your assessment, try to perform three to four full-body push-ups (no dropping to your knees for the test), with your hands positioned at 4 or 8 on a clock. If your hands are positioned too far out, you will be putting a lot of strain on the rotator cuff and if they’re too close together, you will be working your triceps and not really using your chest and shoulder muscles. Keeping them at 4 and 8 puts the shoulder joint in a more neutral position so all of the stabilizing muscles are able to work more effectively.If you are unable to keep proper form during this assessment, start adding push-ups to your workout routine—modified ones or standing chest presses are a good place to start as you work on improving.
- STABILIZED LUNGE
This test evaluates your range of motion. Start by positioning your feet in a lunge stance and set front knee directly over the outside of ankle. Keeping your hips level to ground throughout the movement, descend hips downward until your knees are 90 degrees with knee vertical over ankle. Drop back knee to floor with hips staying vertical over shoulders (see picture for proper form). “If you can do 3 to 5 reps and maintain a tall spine, switch and see if you can do the same on the other leg,” says Beversdorf. Most of us have one side that’s stronger than the other, and the weaker side tends to make you lose your balance as you lower down. That’s because your hip isn’t going toward the desired mobility. To work on it, you can add split squats to your routine a few times a week. It’s a good exercise because you use your hamstrings and adductors together to extend and sink lower into the front hip, rather than just the glute to control movement. You can ask one of our Personal Trainers to show you how to do a split squat so you can see how much easier it is to do.
While these are standard fitness tests, everyone is at different fitness levels. Just because you may not have “tested” good, doesn’t mean you haven’t already shown improvement from where you started. If you are looking to improve or continue improvement, working with our team of personal trainers is the way to go! I personally have worked with a personal trainer for over four years and I still see improvement each week. What are you waiting for? Invest in yourself and live a healthier, more fit life!