How to Assess All Aspects of Your Fitness!

Research taken from Dr Andy Galpin PHD Kinesiology via Andrew Huberman Podcast)

When it comes to exercise people generally have either one of two goals in mind which are:

  1. Appearance – aesthetic component, lean, muscular to look a certain way or not look a certain way.
  2. Functionality– be able to perform a certain way eg. Strength, mobility, energy throughout the day.

Within both of these categories we want to understand, where do I need to go with my exercise training so that I can be fit and healthy? As well as how do I achieve these goals right now?  As well as be in a position whereby I can maintain them for a long period of time.  So this blends both immediate goals for example being able to squat a certain weight or run 5km.  It blends this with the desire to have a long wellness span, to be fit throughout life and achieve all of these things for as long as possible.

So the question a lot of people are curious about is well ‘how do I know which area to focus on the most and why am I not achieving these goals, or how can I get there more effectively?’.

If we look at the big picture we have to realise there are several major components to physical fitness that are going to be required in all of these categories.  In addition to achieve this there are a handful of components that have to happen to be able to hit those goals.

Major Adaptations that People can Create Using Exercise:

Physiological Adaptations can be categorised into 9 areas:

1.Skill or Technique – learning to move better more efficiently, within a specific position, timing, sequence eg running more effectively, swinging a golf club.

2. Speed – simply moving at a higher velocity or with a better rate of acceleration.

3. Power – speed x Force = Power

4. Force – (strength) how effectively can you move something. Strength is often confused with muscular endurance, strength truly is a marker of what is the maximum thing you can move or what is the max. amount of force you can produce one time.

5. Muscular Hypertrophy – more specifically an appearance rather than a functional outcome.  Relates specifically to how big is your muscle? Muscle size.

6. Muscular Endurance –  how many repetitions you can do of a particular exercise tends to be 5-50 reps of something. How many pushup or situps can you do in a row?  Muscular endurance tends to be localised to a particular muscle like your triceps or your deltoids (or a few others) it is not an overall cardio endurance marker.

7. Anaerobic Capacity – More synonomous with max. heart rate. For example the max. amount of work you can do in 30-40 seconds, maybe up to 120 seconds of all out work.  Think interval training where you are going to enter tremendous amounts of global fatigue.

8. Maximal Aerobic Capacity – 8-15 minute range where you are going to reach a maximal HR and well as a true VO2 max.  You cannot reach this state in a matter of seconds it takes multiple minutes to get into a position where your VO2 max. is sufficiently challenged.

9. Long Duration – your ability to sustain sub maximal work for a long period of time with no breaks or reduction.  Often called steady state training.  Your ability to move without any breaks or change or drop.  Time ranges – anything past 20 minutes. Typical 20-60 minutes.

Is there a Global Test or Assessment that people can take that allows them to benchmark themselves in all of these 9 different categories?

9 different Adaptations and How to Assess them:

  1. Movement/Skill – human movements so that you stay injury free and you can continue to train for as long as possible. What are the minimum requirements?  Everyone has access to a highly qualified Physical Therapist or Movement Specialist this is the best route.  Make an appointment with them and get them to identify all of your movement patterns from overhead pressing, squatting, running etc this would be your gold standard for improving how you move.  If you wanted to do this yourself according to Dr Andy Galpin there is a simple 4 step solution:
  2. He suggests addressing the major joints of the body, shoulder, elbow, lower back, hip, knee and ankle.  Do a representative movement that you like to do for example if you like to bench a lot do a bench press if you like to do Pull Ups use Pull Ups. Dr Galpin recommends doing an upper body press exercise, and upper body pull exercise, a lower body press and a lower body pull.  Examples of these would include a push-up, a pull up or a bent row, a squat and finally a deadlift.
  3. Dr Galpin suggests performing all of these movements and record them using a frontal view and a side view (3-10 reps per angle) just using your own body weight.  Look for 4 key things at every joint;
  4. 1. Symmetry (front to back, left to right) if you look at the squat for example and we start with the ankle joint are both legs moving the same.  Questions to ask are is one further forward or turned in.
  5. 2. Stability – Are the knees shaking which is a sign of instability.  Can you do the movement slow, can you pause at the bottom.  You should have complete control of this movement at all of these joints.  Are the hips moving around is one elbow closer to the body then the other.
  6. 3. Awareness – there are a lot of movement technique issues that a lot of people simply don’t know.  Once they do know they can easily self- correct or they simply didn’t realise they were doing it a certain way. It’s not a movement flaw.
  7. 4. Full Range of Motion – we want all of our joints to be going thru a full range of motion.
  • Speed – This is actually a test that Dr Galpin does not recommend we need to test unless we are an high performance athlete.  For most people pure speed is maximum velocity or acceleration are the 2 ways we break it down.  It’s  just not that necessary to test for the average person.
  • Power (speed x force) – you can infer a lot of speed from a power test and a power test is easier to do and easier to train for.  The cost free version is a simple Broad Jump (stand with your feet shoulder width apart and jump out in front of you as far as you can and measure the distance from your back heel.  A basic number to look for is your height, you should be able to broad jump how tall you are (reduce 15% for females).
  • Strength Test –  should be measured in multiple areas.  Grip Strength you can purchase a handgrip dynamometers cheaply from places such as Amazon for around $25.  These dynamometers measure the max. isometric strength of the hand and forearm muscles.  Typically over 60kg for men, no less than 10% variation between each hand.  Female 35kg is the cut off with a good score over 55kg.

Dead Hang is the other good grip strength test minimum should be 30 seconds. Above 60 seconds is a good score.

Upper Body Strength Test – Max. bench press

Leg Extension Test – Can you do a leg extension lifting your body weight?  Every decade past 40 you can reduce this by 10%.

Goblet Squat Hold – hold in the bottom position of your squat ensuring you are lifting half your body weight for 45 seconds.

(Ensure you have a proficient warm up protocol before attempting any of these tests)

  • Hypertrophy Test – the aesthetic proponent of hypertrophy is completely up to you.  You can determine what looks good and what doesn’t.  There is a sufficient amount of muscle mass you need to have, and anything below is detrimental to your health.  You can measure this in a couple of ways, any body composition test for example a Dexa Scan or a biometrical impedence test.  The number you need to pay attention to from these tests is the FFMI (fat free mass index).   For a male you FFMI should be 20 or higher for a female 18 this is made with the assumption you are reasonable lean.  Sub 30% body fat for a man and for a woman sub 35%.  If you are a man and you are sub 17 (FFMI) or a female and you are sub 15 we are in pretty severe muscular detriment.
  • Muscular Endurance –  You can do any number of tests here, a standard plank for 60 seconds, a side plank for 45 seconds.  For a general male you should be able to do 25 consecutive push-ups (full joint range of motion chest to floor, no pausing), 10 push -ups is in the minimal categories. For females 15 is the marker, 5-15 there is work to do around your muscular strength.
  • Anaerobic Capacity – you can do this with any protocol you want for example sprinting, air bike or a rower.  Anywhere you can exert maximal effort and you don’t have to worry about technical problems.  You need to be able to go as hard as you can knowing you are going to go to a place of tremendous fatigue.  Pick a time such as anywhere from 30-60 seconds and mark down how far you go.  Things to observe are, can you complete it? How awful do you feel after it?  Can you get close to your predicted maximum heart rate? (220- your age) get up to this maximum heart rate and then measure your recovery half a beat recovery per second is ideal.  Within a minute you should have a heart rate recovery of 30 beats per minute.  If your heart rate recovery does not match this we have a problem with your anaerobic capacity.
  • Maximal Heart Rate – VO2 max. gold standard is to get this tested in a lab.  If you don’t have access to this you can do a 12 minute Coopers test.  Simply run for 12 minutes as far as you can, record the distance you cover.  Enter this into any number of online calculators and this should give you an approximation of your Vo2 max.  More gentler version is the 1 mile walk test, record the time and your heart rate and enter it into an online calculator.  Men you should be looking at min. 35 ml (oxygen) per kg (body weight) per minute and for females that number is 30.  Dr Galpin likes to see men over 55 and women above 50.
  • Long Duration Steady State Exercise Test – you should maintain consistent work output for over 20 minutes. Pick something that suits your lifestyle, a loop around your house you can do, you are simply going to test can you maintain work without stopping.  Throw a twist in there and do it with nasal breathing only for 30 minutes.  Move at a non-walking pace.

Putting it all Together:

Pick the one that is the worst and do it frequently for example if your Vo2 max is not great test it at least 1 x per month.  The full battery of tests should be completed at least 1 x per year and try to get all the tests done in a week, a 3- day split is ideal.

What Order to do them in?

The non-fatiguing tests you can do whenever eg FMMI do this first so exercise does not influence this test no hard exercise 48 hours before. Movement test you need to be rested.

Any skill or maximum strength or power needs to go at the start of the day and any fatiguing  thing can happen at the end for example broad jump and on the same day as leg strength test followed by the muscular endurance test (all in one day).

Next day anaerobic test or do it after you long duration test.

VO2 max on a separate day.

Ability to mix and match, the more separation you have ie. More days you break it up the better the data you are going to get.

Specificity of training means it is impossible to get fantastic scores in all of these area’s.  You don’t need to be optimal in all of these areas to have optimal health.  You just need to ensure there are no areas where you have severe constraints as these can limit our overall health and impede our lifestyle moving forward.