The Value of Testing

Testing is one of those topics that generally has some confusion around it, from who should be doing it, to how, or even if you should test at all. Now I’ll go through my personal thoughts and try to explain why I believe it to be important, not just for athletes but for anyone with health and fitness related goals.

When it comes to testing and measurements, one of the most important steps is to decide what exactly should be measured. Now for most people with general health or fitness goals this most likely looks like body measurements and progress pictures. For my general population clients I always suggest this tape measure because it’s easy for a single person to use without needing anyone else there, but for athletes or those with more performance related goals then determining what is most important to measure may not be the easiest thing to determine.

Based on your sport or individual goals, what these tests are will differ. This will range from sprint times, to max strength or upper body power tests, but the important thing is that the test is relevant to you and your goals. In addition, no one test should be taken alone, but instead should be used in conjunction with others to get a better view of the whole picture. This will ensure that you can understand what is actually happening when that number on the scale doesn’t move.

So why the hell would you measure? The most common responses things I hear in opposition of testing is that “they can see the athlete adding more weight, they must be stronger” or “they don’t run in a straight line during a game, why should we test it?”. And while these arguments may come from a good place and may have some logic to them, quite frankly it’s flawed thinking and isn’t in the best interest of the athletes we serve. Now yes, they may be using more weight, but this isn’t the best indicator that they’ve actually gotten stronger. We have to consider the athletes effort and motivation in each workout if this is this measurement tool. If at the very beginning of a training program it’s unlikely that an athlete will be going all out or working at near maximal efforts, so just by increasing their motivation and effort, they’ve added more weight to the bar without actually getting any stronger. The purpose of the test isn’t necessarily just to measure how strong or powerful someone is, but to assess where they’re at, and determine what the best course of action will be to get them to their goals. It’s commonly said that what gets measured gets managed, this is something I wholeheartedly believe in and I have seen the differences in programs where stats are measured and progress is usually better compared to those that don’t routinely measure stats.

Now I mentioned above that test results should be used to determine what the athlete needs to reach their goals. As a results-driven coach, I use testing results to determine how to structure the next training block. For example, say someone takes body measurement and found that they only lost two inches instead of more, this would lead me to look at the current program and see what could have done better to increase this persons fat loss, or understand that maybe they added muscle in this time frame while also losing fat which led to the lower results.

So now you’re convinced that testing is important, but when should you do it? Well, it depends. Based on what exactly you’re testing and you’re current level of fitness, the tests can be weekly in the case of weight measurements, or only come every other month if you’re looking to evaluate certain physical attributes. The most important part here is that each test is carried out in the exact same way. You should weigh yourself at the same time, or have the same warmup protocol for a strength or power test. This will ensure that the results can be correctly compared to one another and that there isn’t a large difference because one day you weighed yourself after a big meal, but the next time was first thing in the morning. This will obviously lead to “bad” data and the results really can’t be compared to each other.

If you’re interested in more info regarding testing or what specific tests I use then let me know in the comments below.