Is a general fitness battery useful for competitive athletes?
My answer: Definitely! A general fitness battery usually consists of five physical assessments. Each test assess, one of the five components of fitness, which are: body composition, flexibility, cardiovascular endurance, muscle strength and muscle endurance. One may also see assessments of balance and/or posture as well.
Examples of tests that assess the five major components of fitness are:
Cardiovascular endurance – King’s College step test, Rockport walk test, YMCA Submaximal bike test
Muscle strength – Grip strength test, 1RM leg press, 1RM chest press (each of these are generally estimated from a 3-5RM)
Muscle endurance – Push-up test, Canadian Trunk test, curl-up test, YMCA bench press test
Flexibility – Sit and reach, specific joint passive ROM assessment
Body composition – Skinfold measurement, Bioimpedence analysis (BIA)
These assessments are low-risk and appropriate for all healthy individuals. I also like them because they have a lot of support in the scientific literature, meaning they have been tested on various populations and are valid (they test what they say they are testing) and reliable (repeated tests will provide similar scores). I recommend assessing these components once a year, ideally following a training phase of active rest, prior to beginning a new preparation or pre-season training phase. A general fitness assessment can provide useful insight into what the initial training phase should focus on.
Should an athlete do this instead of a more sport specific athletic testing battery? The answer to that, it depends. This is especially important if you are an athlete returning to competitive play after a long layoff. Tests for power, agility, and speed, as well as exercises and drills to improve these attributes are often done at high velocity, and thus can be risky for the unprepared athlete. Hence, athletes should be fit before taking on more advanced training. For athletes who have been consistently training, many of the above mentioned tests are easily integrated into a sport-specific athletic testing battery (which, as mentioned in an earlier post, should be happening 3-4 times per year). So once per year, the athlete could do an integrated test battery, and the other times stick with the sport specific athletic testing.
Depending on the training phase the athlete is entering, he/she should select tests that reflect the goals of that training phase. In the early training phase, weeks prior to the competition, the athlete should be focusing on general fitness components, which could be strength, cardiovascular endurance, or body composition. In later training phases, still well prior to competition, transition into a more sport specific focus. Thus it makes sense to do the general fitness testing initially, then use a more sport specific athletic testing battery to assess progress the later training phases. Remember, the athlete should be relatively fit before undertaking a sport-specific training phase, which typically entails more complex and advanced routines.
In summary, a general fitness assessment can:
- Assessing overall fitness can illuminate “holes” in the athlete’s training foundation.
- Provide focus for early training phases
- Allow for appropriate goal setting, especially in the early phases of the training program
- Provide motivation
- Serve as a stepping stone to more advanced testing and training
Thanks for reading
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Published by mattktraining
I am currently the Owner of my soloprenuerial company Matt K Training. Through my fitness and nutrition programs I help adults develop skills and practices that help them eat, move, and recover well. Over the past 20 years, in various roles such as a Personal trainer, Exercise Physiologist, Clinical Researcher, and Health Coach I have helped hundreds of adults reach their health and physical performance goals. When not working, I enjoy active pursuits such as playing right field for the Charlton Giants (in a 38+ competitive baseball league), playing tennis, hiking, backpacking, and rock climbing. I also enjoy indoor activities such as playing strategy board games, reading and discussing science fiction literature, dabbling with my guitar, finding creative ways to eat oatmeal, and being a good dad.