DIY: Testing Battery

There’s always plenty of articles written about improving yourself and your ability to lift more, run faster and lose body fat. This all sounds great, but how can you actually measure all of these outcomes?

The best way is to create a "Testing Battery".

This is a group of tests that are prescribed to detect:

a) The areas of greatest importance (sports specific or otherwise)

b) Current physical capabilities

The main purpose for testing is to ascertain what your strengths and weaknesses are so that your programming can be altered accordingly, and to also determine whether the current prescriptions have been effective! So what areas should be of focus when creating a Test Battery? Well that obviously depends on your goals, however, there’s a good way to break down the elements of training to then become more specific with test selection.


Basically, we can sum this up into:

-Body weight (kg, Pounds)

-Skinfold percentage (%)

-Height (cm)

-Wait to Hip ratio

Body weight can be measured a number of ways, depending on your budget and location. With weight, there are usually 3 alternatives:

-Digital Scales

-Spring Scales

-Slider Scales

The accuracy will vary between most of these items, but to be honest, as long as you use the same piece of equipment consistently, you’ll be on the right track. The main thing to remember with body weight is that the commonly referred to “Body Mass Index” (BMI) is not the greatest way to assess health. Whilst BMI is the amount of fat an individual has in relation to their height and weight, it does not take into account the weight of muscle mass, so if weight training is a big part of your life, it’s not really relevant.

For example, according to the BMI scale I am considered 'Overweight', yet have a body fat percentage in the ’Lean’ category. In saying that, if you aren’t very active then BMI can give you a basic idea of where you might be at in regards to your starting health, so try this BMI calculator to see where you sit:

BMI Calculator

There are also some calculations you can make for the athletic populations regarding BMI to create a more relevant accuracy. Use the calculator above to first work out your BMI and then input that data where it says BMI (below).  

*NB: “BMI_s” is for sports of varying nature, “BMI_md” is based on middle distance sports, so enter your BMI into the calculation which suits your current category. (Nevill, et al, 2010)

BMI_s= 8.82 + 0.45 x BMI

BMI_md= 14.32 + 0.16 x BMI

Skinfold Percentages

Body fat is certainly a more effective way to determine your health rather than just the scales, but like many testing procedures there is certainly a ‘gold standard’. ‘Dexa’ (Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry) is considered the go-to tool, as it’s based on a three-compartment model that measures: total body mineral, fat-free mass, fat tissue mass and bone density. BUT…..It’ll also help you lose weight by taking money from your back pocket! It's a costly process.

Utilizing a qualified practitioner to measure skinfolds via calipers is also another great way to measure body fat levels, however for consistency, it is recommended that you try to utilize the same person each test. There are a number of different techniques, depending on who teaches the protocol. The main things to look for are consistency of testing, how many skinfolds are taken (and from where) and if there’s any normative data to judge your percentage from. Examples include; the sum of 4, 5 and 7 skinfold sites, varying algorithms for calculating percentages and age group/sex categories. To say that you should be at 14% regardless of whether you are a male or female, is simply an uneducated guess…there’s far more to it. Ask your local gym to see if they perform a free assessment as part of your membership.

Bioelectrical Impedance machines are another, less accurate way, of measuring body fat percentage. This tool creates the end result by sending an electrical signal through parts of the body that are composed mainly of water. The resistance of body tissues to this signal will help determine the percentage of body fat, as the signal flows easier through water than bone or fat (eg: Less disruption to flow will equal a lower number). This obviously means that hydration level can potentially skew the end result of this test, lowering the reliability.

Finally, Hip to Waist Ratio is a very simple test with an even simpler equation to get an end result! Simply measure the circumference around the waist (I usually go for the belly button, simply for consistency) and the hips (largest area). Then perform the following equation:   Waist /Hip= ______(ratio)

This is what the normative data tells us:


< 0.90= Normal

0.90-0.99= Overweight

>1.0= Obese


<0.80= Normal


>0.85= Obese

Following your Anthropometry assessment, we can then look at performance.

The best way to break this down is to look at the physical qualities associated with a high level of training. Without complex and expensive equipment such as; Force plates for power testing and Oxygen/Carbon dioxide analyzers for VO2 Max, we can usually place tests into the following segments:

-Movement Assessment

-Maximal Strength


-Energy Systems (Aerobic/Anaerobic)

-Strength Endurance


This is crucial for many reasons. The main idea is that without correct movement capacity, you will most likely injure yourself. If you are training and haven’t completed a movement assessment of some description then you’re running the risk of not only hurting yourself, but you most likely aren’t getting the most out of your training. Understanding your weaknesses will develop your overall strength and efficiency of movement a great deal, therefore optimizing your training and the end result. There are a number of different ways to screen, however, many of these require another person’s eye to assess you.

Some of you may have heard of tests such as the FMS and it can be a great assessment tool. Unfortunately, it is expensive and it does usually require a practitioner to test you. However, here is a cool way for you to try out the FMS in your own home with minimal equipment: 

Self Movement Screen: FMS 

Another way to look at movement assessment is through Flexibility testing, with a simple ‘Sit and reach’ or ‘Slump test’.

Sit and Reach

Slump Test 

Flexibility is important as it gives you the means to bend and stretch without ‘breaking’. Unless you are hyper mobile, pretty much everyone in today’s world could do with some kind of flexibility training such as yoga, as your muscles were meant to move with ease and not like the tin man! However, there are some cases where lengthening the muscle too much will actually negatively affect your sport, such as in sprinting and jumping sports. Consult a professional S&C coach to get the low down on this if you are a competing athlete, otherwise, there’s not really any harm to flexibility training for the general population.

Mobility is also a huge factor when it comes to movement capability. Mobility refers to movement within the joint, rather than muscle length, so when you think about how you can’t quite get deep enough in your squat, more often than not it will be a mobility issue in and around the joints. Part of how you can determine whether a joint should be mobile or not is to look at the Stability-Mobility Continuum. This refers to the role of each major joint in the body in regards to being responsible for mobility or stability. This is how it looks:

Foot= Stability

Ankle= Mobility

Knee= Stability

Hip= Mobility

Pelvis/Lumbar Spine= Stability

Thoracic Spine= Mobility

Scapula-Thoracic= Stability

Shoulder= Mobility

Ankles are especially important; as their role is to be mobile, meaning poor mobility can prevent proper mechanics and force other joints above them into unnecessary stress, particularly the knees. The “Knee to wall” for ankle mobility is a simple test that only requires a tape measure &, you guessed it, a wall! Check out the procedure here: 

Knee to Wall Test

There’s no real Normative data out there, however, through multiple clients and athlete testing I have done over the years with this test, it would be safe to say that the scoring range should look something like this:

0-6cm: Poor

7-10cm: Below Average

11-14cm: Average

15-20cm: Good

>20cm: Excellent

Shoulder mobility is an area of major complaints for most of the general population, whether it be from the wear and tear of the old, glorious sporting years or a previous injury from a fall or accident. To test your shoulder mobility with a straight arm, lie flat on your back, butt pushed up against the wall with legs straight up and lumbar spine pushing into the ground. From here, make a fist with both hands and squeezing them tightly, straighten your arms up above your chest, then see how far you can take them over head towards the floor. If your hands and elbows can touch the ground, you’re mobility is sound. If you can’t get them to touch, then there will be some kind of issue regarding soft tissue or muscle length that needs to be paid some attention, so including some solid mobility work within your programming is essential. Check out this quick vid here for the visual: 

Shoulder Mobility Test

Finally, Hip Mobility is probably the most talked about issue as part of today’s current lifestyle. We sit so much these days that our hip flexor muscle group gets jammed up tightly and as a result, our poor posture creates a plethora of other issues which we need to deal with…often meaning the root cause (poor hip mobility) gets forgotten about. Does poor hip mobility sound like you? Then test it out by checking out this great little video, which will give you a run down on a range of tests about the hip joint, allowing you to further deconstruct where an issue might be for you as an individual. 

Hip Mobility Tests


Also known as a 1RM (Repetition Maximum), it is the heaviest load you can lift for 1 rep through a specified range of movement. However, while actually testing a 1RM is the most accurate, it can be a little intimidating for some. Plus, it’s not always the safest way to achieve a good starting point for the beginner athlete when basing programs off percentages. This is where particular formula’s can come in to play and be of benefit to get started with an estimated 1RM. Utilizing a formula to estimate a 1RM requires you to select a load that you think you could do for between 3-10 reps.

Then you try to lift as many reps as you can maintaining correct technique. You can then use a calculation, like this one created by Boyd Epley, to work out your estimated maximum: “Epley Formula”:

(Load x reps x 0.033) + Load= Estimated 1RM

Just keep in mind that anything over 10 reps decreases the accuracy of the estimation. This test can be used for pretty much any exercise, but will generally be utilized for the major lifts, such as: Bench Press, Deadlift, Squat, Chin Up. You can then base your training off percentages of this 1RM, such as:

-5 sets @85% 1RM

-3 x 6-8 @70-75%1RM

4) 'POWER'

Power can be assessed for both upper and lower body, but as I mentioned previously, you can be limited by the equipment you possess. Olympic based lifting, such as a Power Clean, can be a good measure, simply by a 1RM, but is limited in the data you get back. After all, Power is the measure of units per time, i.e.: Newtons and Watts, and not necessarily weight on its own.

One of the better ways to test lower body anaerobic power on a budget is to perform a jump test.

A Vertec will measure your lower body power via a Vertical jump test. The end measure is based off the difference between your standing reach and your jump height. There is plenty of normative data for this test, the only problem is that a Vertec is generally priced upwards of $500.


In light of this, you can always use blackboard paint on a wall and use chalk on your fingers to measure your jump height.

The simplest and most cost effective option is to test a standing Broad Jump. This is where you stand stationary, toes on the line, and then use a countermovement (CMJ) to jump as far as you can horizontally.

For additional information you can use for programming, try doing this test and then add a static jump (no countermovement) to see whether you have a ‘strength deficit’. This means that if your static jump is significantly less than your CMJ, then your maximal strength could do with some work in your next program. If your static jump is greater than, or equal to, your CMJ (within 4%) then you need to prescribe some plyometric-based movements to improve your body’s ability to utilise the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC).


This area can be extremely varied and prescription will be determined by your sport or general training goals. The two main areas you can test are Aerobic and Anaerobic. Without going into too much detail (as there is WAY too much information to discuss in this article!), the Anaerobic system requires no oxygen and is the major contributing system for work efforts around 60sec and below.

In contrast, the Aerobic system is the dominant energy system for work above 60sec and is usually associated with endurance sports. However, it is also extremely important for repeat effort sports and to aid in minimizing fatigue.

A simple test for the Anaerobic system is to use the Rower ergo at your gym to row 500m in the fastest time possible. Ensure that the ‘Drag factor’ is set at:

-90 for Females

-100 for Males

Record the time taken to complete the 500m in minutes and seconds, as well as the Average Stroke Rate.

If you’re more into running, then simply set yourself a task of sprinting 400m in the quickest time possible.If your training goal is to get faster, then this is a simple and easy way to see if your programming is working!

Last but not least, is a fairly simple but very brutal test on the treadmill called the Cunningham-Faulkner test. After warming up correctly, set the treadmill to a gradient (incline) of 20% and the speed at 12.5km/hr. The test is simply to see how long you can sprint at this level before needing to grab the hand rails! Record the time to the nearest .5 seconds. Ouch.

Aerobically, there are a great deal of tests to utilize, some require very little equipment, whilst some require a specific audio recording to complete. With simplicity in mind, a time trial for distances that require greater than 5 minutes are usually the most relatable tests to use, such as a 2km run time trial or a 1.5km row for time. If you do have access to audio recordings then the world opens up. 30-15 IFT (Intermittent Fitness Test), Yo-Yo, Beep Test, MAS (Maximal Aerobic Test) can all be utilized to test AND program aerobic based sessions.

On a less intense note, if running isn’t your thing, then try the “Balke Treadmill test”, which only requires walking. It isn’t easy, but the impact is obviously less significant. Plus, you can also use the data to establish an estimated VO2 Max.

Testing with a stationary Bike can bring about similar results ie: PWC 170, Astrand Rhyming, but many of them require specific bikes to alter resistances and heart rate monitors to measure the intensity. If you have these around, then check out this link for the run down:

PWC 170 


However, a simple Time Trial for distance will once again bring about valuable results if kept consistent.


This section refers to your ability to repeat a series of muscular-based movements, without fatiguing. The difference between these tests and an aerobic test is that we are looking at muscular fatigue, rather than a cardiovascular based focus. For a cool upper body strength-endurance test, hit up Push Up Bleep Test. Here, you will need to keep in time with a beep whilst completing a full push up (Females, according to the test, are allowed to test with knees on the floor). The number you get to is your final score, so click on this link to check how you went...

Push Up Bleep Test Normative Data

For an upper body Pulling movement/isometric test, you can try an old favourite the Marines like to use in the Flexed Arm Hang Test. For this test, you will basically hold yourself at the top of a chin up (chin above the bar, chest as close as possible) for as long as possible. The time at the end is your score. If you want to test like a marine, then they have the following protocol for results:

1 point: every second up to 40sec

2 points: every seconds >40sec

You can use either a palms towards you grip (chin up) or palms away from you grip (pull up), but again, be consistent with these between tests, as one WILL be harder than the other for you!

For lower body strength endurance, then look no further than the classic bodyweight Squat Test! For this, it will be movement dependant, so if your mobility is poor and you can't swat to a depth lower than your hips while keeping your spine straight, then you will require a box or chair that is no taller than 45cm.

If you have good mobility, then challenge yourself by going 'ass to grass' (maintaining good spinal posture), otherwise stick to the bench/box for technique and progress over the coming re-tests. There are two trains of though for this test:

1) Perform as many squats as you can until you need to pause for longer than 3 seconds. The test is then over and you have a number as an end result to gauge your training programming. 

2) Perform as many squat as you can in 1 minute.

"But what about the most important part of the rig?" I hear you ask. Well by this I'm assuming you mean the mighty six pack (abdominals) and yes, there is a strength endurance test for this too. In a similar fashion to the other tests mentioned, you will be required to perform as many sit ups as possible in a 1 minute timeframe. The safest technique to use with this is to keep your palms on your thighs and slide them up your legs until they touch the bottom of your kneecap. Alternatively, if you have enough time under your belt with regards to training, then try using a Butterfly Sit Up

To view the normative data for this test, then hit the link here: Sit Up Test. Just remember, that these results are based off the first technique and not the butterfly sit up.

If strength endurance is your goal in training then by re-testing at the end of your training cycle, these numbers should have increased.

So in summing up, the best way to challenge yourself constantly and to judge whether your program is working or not is to TEST YOURSELF!! This article has given you some ideas on what and how to test, so no wit is up to you to decide what your focus is and get after it! If you would dlil more specific advice on your own training, then please feel free to email me at:

Remember, there is no such thing as maintenance. You’re either moving forward or going backwards, so keep creating challenges in all avenues of your health and fitness so that you can become a better version of yourself than you were yesterday!

Reward for Effort.

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