If you're looking to get into better shape, the first thing that exercise experts recommend is for you to determine your fitness baseline, which is your current physical fitness level. What this does is give you a point of reference to help you measure your progress as you work towards your fitness goals. If you don't have an established baseline, it will be difficult to determine whether the exercises you're doing are helping you to reach your fitness goals or not.
The way to determine your fitness baseline is to take a series of measurements, some of which require you to perform certain exercises, while others are more in line with what a doctor would check for during a physical exam. While different assessments are often comprised of different elements, below is a list of metrics that are commonly used by personal trainers to determine your fitness baseline. Whether or not you're working with a trainer, use them to find your starting point on your healthy living journey!
1. Weight - While many baseline assessments do include weight measurements, this can be a misleading factor in terms of whether or not your actual physical fitness is improving. In other words, pounds lost does not always equal an increase in your strength, stamina or agility. Weight measurements are often more of a formality during baseline assessments.
2. Blood pressure - This is an important metric to observe as you develop your fitness plan. If you regularly have to battle high blood pressure, your prescribed fitness plan may include more cardio workouts.
3. Body fat percentage - This measures how much of your body weight is muscle versus fat. Your lean-to-fat ratio is an important metric in determining if you have a healthy body composition.
4. Resting heart rate - This is typically measured when you first get out of bed in the morning, as this is when your heart is at its most restive state and pumps the lowest amount of blood. At this point, your heart is in energy conservation mode because you're not exercising. A typical resting heart rate is anywhere between 60 to 100 beats per minute. Highly active people typically have lower resting heart rates, because their bodies are fit enough to where their hearts don't have to work as hard (when at rest) to maintain a steady heartbeat.
5. Body mass index - This is a measurement of your height-to-weight ratio, to determine if you're overweight or underweight relative to your body size.
6. Vertical jump - This is measured by standing near a wall (typically 10 feet high or taller), and from a two-footed jump, measuring how high you can reach up the wall by extending one arm. The final number will be measured by the highest point that your fingertips can reach.
7. Push-up test - This is an upper-body test to measure your upper-body muscular endurance. The goal is to find out the maximum number of consecutive push-ups you can perform without stopping. Your score will be the total number of push-ups you complete; you can do a quick Google search for "push-up test norms" to find out how you fare based on your age and gender.
8. Pull-up test - This is similar to the push-up test, and is designed to measure your shoulder, back and bicep strength. Since pull-ups are more difficult for most people to perform than push-ups, the number of consecutive pull-ups you will be expected to complete will obviously be smaller. You can also perform a quick Google search for "pull-up test norms" to gauge your proficiency based on your age and gender.
9. Sit-up test - The maximum number of sit-ups you can do is a good measurement of your abdominal strength. Since sit-ups recruit your midsection (a problem area for many people who are attempting to lose weight), this number can vary greatly from person to person, and is heavily dependent upon your body size and type.
10. Plank test - Planks are one of the most fundamental core exercises in existence, and they are often used in baseline assessments to measure core strength. Generally speaking, if you can hold the plank position for a minimum of 30 seconds, you are considered to be in good shape. If you can hold it for 60 seconds or more, you are considered to have a strong core.
Once you perform these various tests and gather all of your numbers together, you'll have a better picture of your current physical fitness level. You can then begin to pinpoint the areas in which you're struggling or need improvement, and tailor your fitness program to address those areas.Performing these assessments periodically will give you a good indication of how your fitness is improving as you work toward your goals.