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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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January 21, 2015

11 Ways to Assess Your True Fitness Level

By Mark Sisson
121 Comments

Time to evaluateI once dated a girl who only went to the gym once a month. She’d do the same workout — a tough, high-intensity circuit using weights, the stationary bike, the stepper, and a few other machines — every single time, and that was it.

When you asked her about it, her reasoning was that if she could do the workout, she was still fit and that was enough for her. Why go to the gym every day if she was already in shape?

While I wouldn’t recommend that methodology myself, one thing she did have right was regularly assessing her fitness level. This is something that most people – even many of the fitness buffs amongst us – don’t do, and I think that’s a real mistake.

With the Challenge underway, I thought we’d explore this topic. Do you have a measuring post to gauge how fit you are? Is there a standard you aspire to reach? To surpass? To maintain?

Let’s look at several ways you can assess your true fitness level.

1. Do the Primal Blueprint Fitness assessment.

This is a simple way to check your capacity for bodyweight fitness. Do the max number of consecutive reps for each Primal Essential Movement. The number of reps you complete in each movement will determine where to begin on that movement’s progression.

If you haven’t already, sign up for the newsletter and get free access to the Primal Blueprint Fitness e-book.

2. Do the CrossFit baseline WOD.

For time, do:

  • 500 meter row
  • 40 bodyweight squats — full depth, hip crease below knee
  • 30 situps — start with shoulders touching the ground
  • 20 pushups — chest to floor
  • 10 pullups — chin above bar, full extension at the bottom

That’s a very reasonable standard. It tests strength, strength-endurance, and the ability to endure a demanding workout. Here’s how CrossFit interprets times (Male/Female):

3:45, 4:40 — Elite
4:30, 5:35 — Pro
5:15, 6:30 — Expert
6:15, 7:30 — Collegiate
7:15, 8:30 — Intermediate
8:15, 9:30 — Novice
9:15, 10:30 — Beginner
10:00, 11:00 — Cut-Off

3. Run a mile.

I talked about this extensively several months ago. The mile run really is a nice barometer for overall, “real-world” endurance fitness. A mile’s about as long as you’ll have to run in an “emergency” nowadays, whether it’s back to your apartment because you forgot your phone or through city streets because it just started pouring all of a sudden. Even if you’ve just defeated the Persian army and need to warn your countrymen that the remaining fighters are heading their way with revenge on their minds, you send a text. You don’t run the 26.2 miles back to tell them in person. If anything, you might run around for a mile’s worth, searching for a signal.

In a recent study, men over 50 who could run the mile in 8 minutes or less had “optimal cardiovascular fitness” and a greatly reduced risk of heart disease. For women, it was 9 minutes.

Any fit person, man or woman, should aim for at least 8 minutes or less. The younger you are, the less time it should take. But the best mark of fitness is that your time improves.

4. Do the maximum aerobic function test.

For regular folks, general trainees and athletes, the mile run is a great barometer of the kind of aerobic fitness they’d need. For more serious endurance athletes, the maximum aerobic function (MAF) test is worthwhile.

Phil Maffetone came up with the MAF, and it’s pretty simple and intuitive. Best for endurance athletes, but anyone interested in their aerobic capacity (which should be everyone, probably) can benefit from taking the test.

  1. Find a fixed course (like a track) and strap on a heart rate monitor.
  2. Start slowly running until you reach 75% of your max heart rate.
  3. Do 8 laps while maintaining that heart rate. Monitor your HR and adjust your speed accordingly to keep it at 75%.
  4. Time yourself.

The MAF also works with cycling, rowing, or any other aerobic pursuit. It’s not strenuous by any means (only 75% of HR), but it is informative. Improving your time on a MAF test means you have become more efficient at low intensity and correlates strongly with an ability to race faster at higher intensities.

5. Consult Mark Rippetoe’s basic strength standards.

The standards take up several full pages, so I won’t list them here. Just take a look at the PDF and see where you fall.

Rippetoe breaks up the strength standards for each lift (overhead press, bench press, squat, deadlift, power clean) into five categories:

  • Untrained — never picked up a weight.
  • Novice — just starting out with strength training.
  • Intermediate — knows his or her way around a weight room.
  • Advanced — very strong, well-versed in the lifts.
  • Elite — really dang strong; probably competes (or should).

For my money, being “intermediate” across the board is probably enough for most people. You’ll be stronger than most people you encounter and you’ll have an above average amount of lean muscle mass. Reaching the intermediate level isn’t too hard, and it doesn’t put in any real danger of injuring yourself. If you go for higher levels, the risk goes up (not to say it isn’t safe).

6. Count how many calories you can burn in a minute on a stationary bike.

Sprinting is important for health and fitness, but not everyone is suited for flat sprints on a track. I wouldn’t exactly ask Grandpa to test his 100 meter dash time, you know?

Cycle sprints are an excellent compromise (that aren’t really even a compromise). They’re hard to do and hard to mess up. As long as you get the angles right, the risk of injury is very low.

Schwinn Airdynes are excellent for this, if you can get a hold of one. A minute of all-out sprinting on one of those beasts is a humbling experience. So go do it, in other words. Can you beat 87 calories?

If you’re on an Airdyne (which works your arms and legs), aim for 40-50 calories in a minute. If you’re on a standard stationary bike, aim for 25-35.

7. See how long you can tread water.

Go find a body of water, either natural or manmade, and get in the deep end. Tread water. Aim for 15 minutes.

  • Don’t float. Floating’s cheating (unless you’re in a life or death situation).
  • Stay in constant motion. Always be treading (say that in Alec Baldwin’s voice from Glengarry Glen Ross when you start to falter for a quick pick me up).
  • Don’t swim.
  • Keep your head above water at all times. Chin dipped a bit? You just swallowed a lethal amoeba that’s worming its way to your cerebellum.

15 minutes of active, unceasing treading is fairly tiring, but it should be doable for most people with enough practice.

8. Get a movement screening.

A popular one is the Functional Movement Screening, or FMS, created by Gray Cook. In an FMS, a screener puts the screened through a series of bodyweight movements designed to identify mobility deficiencies. Poor ankle dorsiflexion? The FMS will find it. Bad thoracic mobility? The FMS will root it out. Unweighted mobility is the foundation of all physical performance, and you’re not at your full fitness potential if there are serious movement deficiencies. You can certainly overcome poor mobility with sheer force for a short while, but it always comes back to bite you.

9. Play a pickup game.

It could be any sport. Basketball, soccer, Ultimate frisbee, football. Just go out to the park and play a game on short notice. Play for 20, 30 minutes, and make sure you’re moving for most of it. Then, observe:

How do you feel after playing? How’d you perform? Were you sucking wind by the end, or could you go for another one? How’d you feel the next day? Sore, stiff, or raring to go? Did you enjoy yourself, or were you just trying to survive?

10. Walk for two hours without feeling it.

Walking is our birthright. It’s how we get around. These hominids were made for walking.

You should be able to walk for two hours straight and hold a conversation.

You should be able to walk and take in the scenery.

You should be able to walk for two hours and then workout (if you wanted to).

My point is simple: a two hour walk shouldn’t feel like exercise. Walking should be pleasurable and leisurely. It’s also transportation, a totally utilitarian pursuit. You shouldn’t get winded getting from here to there.

If I’m walking, I can usually do about three and a half or four miles per hour comfortably. That’s walking pretty briskly, but brisk is easy for me because I hike a lot.

11. Sit on the ground and stand up using just your feet.

Several years ago, a Brazilian doctor found that testing how many limbs his patients used to sit down on the ground and stand back up could predict their risk of early death. The highest possible score —attained if a person sat and stood using only their feet — was 10. For every limb, elbow, knee, hand, or side of the leg a person used to help them get down to the sitting position or stand up from it, a point was subtracted. Half a point was subtracted if a person lost balance. Each point increase was associated with a 21% lower risk of all-cause mortality in the cohort of 51-80 year-olds.

(Note: this doesn’t apply to those jerk toddlers who can easily stand up without using their hands or anything else from seemingly every position.)

How did you do? Try to get to the 9 or 10 range.

There are plenty more ways to assess your fitness, but these are eleven of the best, most comprehensive — and simplest — methods. If you perform well on all eleven, it’s safe to say you’re very fit and are certain to live forever.

Well, maybe not that last part.

So, folks, how did you do? Try at least one of the assessments that you can do immediately and report back your findings.

Thanks for reading, everyone!

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121 Comments on "11 Ways to Assess Your True Fitness Level"

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Jen
Jen
1 year 10 months ago

Love this! It’s going on my weekend to-do list right now. 🙂

Donna J
Donna J
1 year 10 months ago

Well, I’m hopelessly hopeless.

I just don’t know how anyone working 10 hrs a day, yes mostly sitting, then goes home and prepares a fresh, real meal for family, then does household chores (washing clothes, dishes, etc.), then finally has “me” time, maybe a 20 min. tub soak with Epson Salt & Baking Soda, then finally can get to bed to start the whole process over again tomorrow can possibly have the time to exercise everyday.

Someone or something is being overlooked, forgotten about or pushed aside.

Me?

Marcia
1 year 10 months ago
Yes! I have two kids (8 and 2) and a full time job, and am in the PTA (oh why did I say yes??) I am out of the house from 7:15 to 5:30 every day, and my kids are a lot of work, especially the 2 year old, who doesn’t like to go to bed at a normal hour. So in my “ideal” world: I go to bed at 9 to 9:30 pm Tues/ Thurs I wake up at 4:50 am, go to the gym, swim 45 minutes. Shower, home, eat breakfast (smoothie), leave for work between 7:15 and… Read more »
Tom
Tom
1 year 10 months ago

I preach and live by a rule of “anything except nothing”. Even if it is some stretching and push ups before showering, some pull ups on the doorframe pull up bar, a brisk walk with the dog…….make time for something.

“Something” turns into a habit and soon you feel pretty darn good.

Phil
Phil
1 year 10 months ago
The Primal blueprint is the most approachable easy to do lifestyle program. Everything you use as an excuse can easily be turned into a positive. I have kids.. Play tag at the playground.. Play on the monkey bars, have a nerf gun battle in the house, play just dance on the Wii. Park in the furthest spot and carry your kids (lift heavy things). I’m outta the house.. Use that time to fast or hey try bulletproof coffee or some primal egg coffee the morning. Grab an avocado on lunch break (one of the healthiest thing at a conventional grocer).… Read more »
GrannyGrok
GrannyGrok
1 year 10 months ago

Oh how I remember those days. Enjoy them because they don’t last forever.

Erik
Erik
1 year 10 months ago
Personally, I would say stop. Stop trying to overwork yourself. Sleep should be a greater priority than trying to force workout sessions. Unless you are specifically trying to train for something, you don’t need to force specific workouts into every day. You should try to incorporate more movement into your daily routine rather than trying to isolate it from your daily activities which it sounds like you are kind of already trying to do. I would say instead of trying to just do specific workouts, try to find ways to make daily activities more physically demanding and use that as… Read more »
SumoFit
1 year 10 months ago

“Sleep should be a greater priority than trying to force workout sessions.”

“…incorporate more movement into your daily routine rather than trying to isolate it from your daily activities…”

Sound advice!

Marge
Marge
1 year 10 months ago
Marcia, It took the death of my best friend in her late 30s to make me start insisting on getting exercise in spite of my family… Your family loves you and needs you, and therefore SHOULD give you that space – but they won’t. You have to demand it. And not give in! I began doing a 15-minute routine of stretches and strength exercises on a mat every morning, just before getting dressed for work. I had to shut my door. I had to yell at both my kids and my spouse when they tried to interrupt me. I had… Read more »
Gayle
Gayle
1 year 10 months ago

Exercise can be your “me time”. Get up earlier, do a workout on your lunch break, look for time you “waste” in a day back tracking, ask for help with the chores. The first step to “fit it in” is to WANT TO. Then “push aside” sitcoms, “forget about” Reality TV,

Marcia
1 year 10 months ago

Oh and we eat a lot of leftovers. So I may make a fresh “real” meal on the weekend, like chicken.

And mid-week, it’s reheated chicken and a steamed or roasted vegetable. So it’s little hands-on.

Karen
Karen
1 year 10 months ago
You’re so right! With young kids and a full-time(+) job, trying to find regular time to “exercise” is next to impossible. So forget about “exercise” for now and just try to focus on getting more movement. — Stand and fidget while reading that report at work instead of sitting at the desk. Park in the back of the parking lot and increase the walk into the office. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Set a timer on the computer and take regular movement breaks throughout the day. Sit on the floor instead of the couch at home (you’ll use… Read more »
Ana
Ana
1 year 10 months ago
I do recall that most of the physio I did after I broke my arm as through house chores! I tried to always carry as many grocery bags as I could in the broken arm, lift all the heavy stuff with it, run upstairs 2 steps at a time on jump movement, do a couple of lifts on the staircase steps when I passed it, cheating city walkways with some parcour shortcuts, jogging and sprinting with the dogs, lifting kids up to lap using a controlled squat movement (to prevent knee and back injury). etc. overall just trying not to… Read more »
Karen
Karen
1 year 10 months ago

Katy Bowman just posted this link to a short TV segment she was on last night talking exactly about this idea of moving more.
http://abc7.com/health/expert-claims-moving-more-exercising-less-is-the-key-to-good-health/484800/

AJWalton
1 year 10 months ago

It’s less than ideal of course, but why not do high-intensity, very short bodyweight workouts before your tub soak? Even 10min of intense exercise will do you better than nothing.

Might not be reasonable, but can you throw in squats sometime during the work day? Only needs to take a minute.

Jen
Jen
1 year 10 months ago
I work in physical therapy, and I’ve heard a lot of reasons from my patients about why they can’t work out or keep up on their home exercise program. I always try to offer suggestions to help. Here are some I use: Have kids? Give them a chore list so they can help you around the house and ease your burden on housework. Ask friends or family to assist with childcare a few times per week so you can exercise. Make your kids a part of your exercise routine by playing at the park or walking/riding bikes after dinner. Put… Read more »
Julie
Julie
1 year 10 months ago

Husbands need to be doing housework, kids need to be doing housework. This is not solely your job. And the idea that a husband should be rewarded handsomely for something he should be doing anyway is baloney. It just reinforces the idea that it’s her job in the first place.

Jen
Jen
1 year 10 months ago

I never said husband, I said spouse. You might want to read more carefully instead of jumping all over someone who is trying to help. My suggestions apply to people of both genders.

Julie
Julie
1 year 10 months ago

Yes Jen you are correct that you used the word spouse. But the reality is that even though women are now in the workforce, they are still doing the majority of the housework and child care. This doesn’t leave time for much else. I think the attitude needs to be that she put herself first, and make expectations clear that she will no longer be doing everything. I’m sorry to make you feel that I was jumping all over you. I am really just addressing the societal expectation that women are responsible for doing it all.

Dave
Dave
1 year 10 months ago

Julie, Sounds like you need to have a conversation with your spouse. It’s 2015 and in our house we have a pretty good division of labor, whether it’s laundry, dishes, outdoor work, trash, etc… It’s not a gender thing. It’s hard to generalize about that these days. Some people may still be living in the 50’s, but it’s time to get over that and move on…

Julie
Julie
1 year 10 months ago
Dave, I don’t need to have a conversation with my spouse, I’m no longer married. One of the reasons is we lived a very “primitivist” lifestyle in which I would be up late doing all the cooking, all the dishes, all the watering of the graden, all the picking of the vegetables. He managed to do a lot of stuff that wasn’t beneficial to the family, like reading, playing guitar etc. When I would sit down at the computer to look at blogs or whatever, all I got was flack. Several conversations were had, promises made, but basically all hot… Read more »
Kirk
Kirk
1 year 10 months ago

Damn! Do you want to talk about it?!

Ana
Ana
1 year 10 months ago
indeed! I have that same thought all the time. A great many of today’s jobs are death sentences! Either you are one of those lucky people who only needs 5-6h sleep a day or you simply don’t have any time to act like a normal human creature. Come to think of it it’s a very smart move. Make you have the crappiest health habbits ever, make u sick, make u dependant on meds, orthoics and all the cheatcodes they can come up with to sell to you…very good for the economy! current economy anyway… most people are consumers by nature,… Read more »
Nicole
Nicole
1 year 10 months ago

Skip the 20 min tub soak and make exercise your “me time.”

2Rae
2Rae
1 year 10 months ago
Donna, I get how hard it is. I get up at 4:30 to shower, get myself ready, then the boy ready, then we leave to school/work, get home about 530 to make dinner, do laundry, dishes, homework or whatever, then it’s bed time. I try to do what I can during the day, walking here and there, up and down the steps (thankfully I work on the 2nd floor) and I “sit like a frog” while I drink 2 cups of warm water in the morning. (I did #11 today and yay, no help from other body parts) It is… Read more »
Erik
Erik
1 year 10 months ago
It’s actually based on your goal. If your goal is just health, then force extra movement and exercise into those daily activities. If you’re mostly sitting, find ways to not be JUST sitting. I move around a lot in my chair, re-position using only arm strength, shifting sitting positions regularly to bend more, not because I can’t sit still but because I make a conscious effort not to sit still. Also just getting up periodically and walking around is not a bad idea either. I can still sometimes fall into the trap of being too focused on work and forget… Read more »
Dave
Dave
1 year 10 months ago
I’m with ya, Donna. Our schedules are hectic. I’ve got 3 kids. I coach. I’m a Den Leader. And I’m a business owner. The answer for me… I get up early. My alarm goes off at 4:55 AM every day. I’m back at the house after a run at 6:30 latest. I do situps/pushups at some point through the day and I have weights in my office. I’ll actually use them while on a conference call. It’s really just priorities and balance. It’s not for everyone. It’s up to you if you want to do it and if it makes… Read more »
Michael kelly
Michael kelly
1 year 10 months ago
Don’t get down Donna. My work schedule and family obligations often leave me only time to eat right and sleep right. And that’s a GOOD start! Workout whenever you can. As time goes on you will be able to squeeze in exercise and walks and whatnot. And if not, you still can say that you are doing the absolute best you can at this time. Right!? My example of a “squeeze in” is sometimes eating 2 hard boiled eggs on the way to work with a coffee and when I get my 15-20 minute mirning break I walk the steps.… Read more »
Bec
1 year 8 months ago
I know EXACTLY what you mean – it’s sooo hard! The only thing I’ve found to work is putting together a morning routine. I’ve never ever been a morning person, but since I put together a routine (literally written it down in my planner) full of stuff I actually want to do – I find I can get up. Finally I feel like my needs are getting met, first thing in the day rather than last (if at all). On the days I work out (3 days of the week), I make sure I’m up about 20 minutes beforehand to… Read more »
Chrissy
Chrissy
1 year 7 months ago
Donna, you’re all good, we all have the same 24 hours in a day, it’s how we prioritize. I know that work and commute is the majority of your waking hours, but to really maximize all this, try doing some “mental floss” on the drive, meditate, listen to a podcast on a subject you are interested in, not for work, or for the news, but something that you really like…it’s “you” time… I also find that a good plan not followed to the “T” is better than no plan followed perfectly…so I will menu plan, and always allow for a… Read more »
Joy
Joy
6 months 9 days ago

If you’re working ten hours a day AND doing all the cooking and chores, your spouse is an asshole.

Paras
Paras
1 year 10 months ago

Awesome, will give this a try!

Tim
Tim
1 year 10 months ago
I can get up without hands if I can swivel my legs so their sides touch the ground. So that would lower my score to an 8.0, I guess, since 2 legs touch their sides to the ground. I can see something else to try – just swivel one leg and leave the other one with foot on floor and knee raised. I’ll try that. But doing it without turning even one leg to the side – that seems more a problem with imagination rather than strength. Mechanically, how could that be done? I would like to try it if… Read more »
N
N
1 year 10 months ago

It took some thinking, but I just did it by crossing my legs with only the sides of my feet touching the ground and then rolling up onto the bottom of my feet while pushing up.

Pro tip: take the heeled boots off FIRST.

I’m glad I was able to do that because I don’t consider 10 pull ups to be a reasonable standard at all. Even in the best shape of my life (and a climber!) I’ve only ever gotten to 3.

Meg
Meg
1 year 10 months ago

I’m happy to hear I’m not alone on the pull ups! I worked so hard to be able to do 1 and then I would get terrible elbow pain that would stop me from doing pull-ups for weeks. Then I would start again with the same results. Are there other things we could do instead? I also have fibromyalgia and wonder if that is causing some of my discomfort?

SumoFit
1 year 10 months ago

Your body is telling you something: Don’t do pull-ups!

MC
MC
1 year 10 months ago
Crossing your feet is a bit of a cheat – it’s MUCH harder to do with your feet together, soles on the ground, but it can only be done if you’ve done enough squatting to open your hips. You can practice by lying on the ground, rolling into a ball, and using your momentum (and abs) to roll yourself up, arms outstretched in front of you. The real challenge for me is sitting down in that foot position without falling backwards. And I’m another one in the “best shape of my life but can’t do more than 3-4 pullups on… Read more »
SumoFit
1 year 10 months ago

There are several different ways to sit down and get up without using your hands OR crossing your feet, but my question is, WHY would anyone sit down and stand up like this except to show someone in a lab they can?

Thelma
Thelma
1 year 10 months ago

Maybe inverted pull up rows would be a fair alternative for women?

Melle
Melle
1 year 10 months ago

Dr. Mercola has a video on this technique you should check out: http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2013/01/25/sitting-rising-test.aspx

Kate
Kate
1 year 10 months ago

I squat down with feet apart with arms outstretched so that I don’t put my arms on my knees for support and lower my bum to floor to sit. Stand up same way. I think that’s a 10….?

Zach
Zach
1 year 10 months ago

Uluru on your back with legs bent in toward chest. Simultaneously kick them out and throw your arms forward and use the momentum to put you in squat position and stand up.

Zach
Zach
1 year 10 months ago

Lie on your back with legs bent in toward chest. Simultaneously kick them out and throw your arms forward and use the momentum to put you in squat position and stand up.

Matt
Matt
1 year 10 months ago

I scored 10 on number 11, I’m sure I have a lot of work to do on the rest.

Jim
1 year 10 months ago

How about if I can do 1200 lbs neg rep on an ARX machine leg press, 320 lbs on the lat pulldown? Love the HIT weight training!

Doc Jim (who just turned 60.)

Melle
Melle
1 year 10 months ago
Reporting on numbers 10 & 11: I walked for a couple of hours every day we were in the Lake District over the holidays and although I lagged behind the men in the group in speed (I’m a 52 y/o female who keeps fairly active) I did get a bit out of breath, however I was left pretty invigorated by the exercise. That said, I don’t think I would have been up for working out after the walks. Mostly because it was cold and wet, the only post-walk workout I managed was a bit of arm-bending with a glass of… Read more »
Jodi
Jodi
1 year 10 months ago

#2 Beginner, #5 a Novice. #1 Beginning level assistance on all PEM’s but planks, straight arm so I am intermediate for assistance but time is only 2 reps for 1 min.
I’m working on it and moving forward. No excuses. Just doing it. Off to do my PEM’s now!

Jodi
Jodi
1 year 10 months ago

Okay I moved up a level on my PEM’s today! Standard plank, only a minute per rep but I’ll get there. Unassisted squats, woo hoo! Still doing wall pushups but my knee is getting stronger every day or I’ll just have to work up to a standard pushup. Just checked the school gym out, no pull up bar. My guess is when I get home, I’m still a novice. Bright side… I’m doing it!

Clay
Clay
1 year 10 months ago

This should be called 11 tests to make you feel bad, frustrated and turn you off to exercise forever. So much of this is completely dependent on what you are currently in training for and what your inherent and acquired limitations can accommodate.

Might as well add something I would kill in: “surf overhead waves for two hours and catch a minimum of ten waves”. If you fail to even make it to the lineup it’s obvious you’re not fit at all 😉

dmunro
dmunro
1 year 10 months ago

Good point. Some of these tests sound very boring.
I know I’m fit because i slipped on the ice and caught myself without any damage resulting.

Clay
Clay
1 year 10 months ago

Killer. You scored 100% on the Inuit Tundra Kinetic Balance Scale (TM)! You are truly super fit!

SumoFit
1 year 10 months ago
“This should be called 11 tests to make you feel bad, frustrated and turn you off to exercise forever.” Spot on, Clay! High schools still administer these “fitness tests” that are random and meaningless in the greater context of movement and life. Who decided you have to be able to run a mile in x-number of minutes, or do x-number of situps/pull-ups in order to be considered fit? How about doing 50 Sumo Stomps, 50 Double Egyptians, 50 Fellahin Twists? How about 10 minutes of non-stop hoofing, swing dancing, or Bhangra? I particularly disagree with the thinking behind the Brazilian… Read more »
Craig
1 year 10 months ago

You seem to have missed the whole point of this post, man. I’m sure there are ways to test fitness doing double egyptiains (what ever they are), but they are not a common movement, where as sit-up and pull-ups are. Therefore, they are easily recognised by more people. If someone said test your fitness by doing 50 double egyptains in 2mins (for example) I would move on, thinking wtf are they going on about.

Also, sure, seiza may be elegant and energy efficient, but this post isn’t about efficiency or elegance. Its about a measure of fitness.

SumoFit
1 year 10 months ago
The point of this post is that, eventually, the freshness and unconventionality of primal/paleo/natural movement becomes itself stale and conventional through its obsession with quantifying and measuring everything. What do all these tests actually tell us? Only that we can do X, Y, or Z. Winning a spelling bee doesn’t make you a good writer; winning a geography bee doesn’t make you a good traveller. Equating the ability to do a randomly chosen number of press-ups, sit-ups, or double Egyptians with real-world fitness is a stretch. It reminds me of a Hollywood insider’s observation about the film industry: Remember that… Read more »
AJWalton
1 year 10 months ago

It might be useful to “test” fitness – especially for newly active folks to gauge progress, but I agree that it’s not a great system for leading an active lifestyle.

Allison
Allison
1 year 10 months ago

This entire list bums me out, and I usually find a lot of inspiration in Mark’s posts. It pretty much seems like a list of activities for extremely fit people who have an innate love of exercise.

dmunro
dmunro
1 year 10 months ago

you gotta squat wide barefoot to get up and down no hands

Clay
Clay
1 year 10 months ago

That’s only if you use your body. If you were mentally fit you’ll just levitate. Gotta work on your telekinesis skills. I recommend lightly bending ten spoons three times per week and add one telekinetic sprint session where you make as many vases fly across the room as possible for 30 seconds.

His Dudeness
His Dudeness
1 year 10 months ago

And remember: There is no spoon.

I figure I’m good to go based on the pick-up sport test. I played wide-out/safety on a flag football team this year, and did a lot of shortish sprints (except my one awesome play where I picked the ball off in one endzone and took it to the other one – I had to lay down a while) during the games. Afterwards, I felt like I could play in another game no problem.
If only I had been as fit during my high-school rugby days.

Jacqueline
Jacqueline
1 year 10 months ago

Clay, your sarcasm is so refreshing!

ani
ani
1 year 10 months ago
So body pump makes feel strong but looking at this stuff, I’m a novice? I get all this but seriously, I exercise often and mix it up but this tests can mislead some people as though what they’re doing is not enough or their maximum they are now is pffft, nothing in terms of fitness level. I don’t think that’s what you intended Mark given what an advocate you are but still. an 8 minute mile? 10 pull-ups? like others, I am an ace at 10 and 11. But the other activities some of them I partake in but nowhere… Read more »
Linda
Linda
1 year 10 months ago

The thing that really gets me annoyed is the getting up from the ground unaided. I could do it when I was 47, no problem. I have since had four knee surgeries and two back surgeries, including a spinal fusion. I’m almost 62. Is my length of life compromised because of a skiing accident when I was young and a bad fall when I was older (a freak accident)? I chose not to believe that.

JJ
JJ
1 year 10 months ago

I think it’s clear this wouldn’t be an appropriate test for you on those grounds. If someone lost an arm in a car accident, I don’t think their ability to do 10 pull-ups would be particularly useful either (as you have to be extremely strong to do one armed pull-ups!). I’m just saying I don’t think Mark would need to list every caveat to account for every injury 🙂 I hope you’re still able to move to some degree and be as fit as your body allows!

Jodi
Jodi
1 year 10 months ago

I’ve got a compromised knee myself. It can be frustrating. I do have less chronic pain, which I believe has more to do with what I eat than physical movement. I set my goals to match my skill and accomodate my limitations. Many of the 11 are unrealistic for me. But I like the premise, where are you now, where do you want to be. I know I can improve my fitness level. I start where I start and move forward.

Shawn
Shawn
1 year 10 months ago

what if you can stand up with 1 foot via the pistol..do you get 11 points? less than 0% chance of early death?

Fifer
Fifer
1 year 10 months ago

More than 11 – take 20 points!

AJWalton
1 year 10 months ago

Pistols: the new key to immortality. you could do an ebook

Hat
Hat
1 year 10 months ago

I would also suggest to completing pavel’s Simple & Sinsiter program on time a good measure to evaluate fitness.

Andy Petranek
1 year 10 months ago

Hey Mark,

Just wanted to make sure you get your facts are straight… The “Crossfit.com” Baseline is really the Andy Petranek, CrossFit LA Baseline. It’s something we developed back in 2006 and then used with the consulting company I formed to teach other affiliates how to run an affiliate (called The Biz). So many people in the community use it and have used it over the years, I can see how/why you (or others) think it is a crossfit.com thing… Just giving you “the REST of the story.”

Andy

Hugh Mannity
Hugh Mannity
1 year 10 months ago
Nope. Not all that fit at all. But I’m much fitter than I was a year ago. I’ve got widespread osteoarthritis, have had both my knees replaced, am looking at a shoulder replacement sometime soon, and if they did joint replacement for fingers and toes, I’d be in line for them as well. So I do what I can — I can walk a fair bit. I’m good for a mile or 2 right now, I can climb 4 or 5 flights of stairs. I’m not supposed to run (it’s bad for the replacement cartilage). I can’t do pull ups… Read more »
Pastor Dave
1 year 10 months ago

Stand up just using your feet! I’ll be dead before i finish this comme

Nocona
Nocona
1 year 10 months ago

Love it Dave!

Pastor Dave
1 year 10 months ago

Just funning you– actually I read the column and need to get lifting heavy things. I walk a few miles everyday (5-6) and run hills 2-3 days a week (sprints) and I can play hoops and touch football all day. I stand up at work all day and my wife rearranges the furniture once a week (it seems) and guess who the moving company is! ME!

Good article– reminds me I need to do more bodyweight and lifting exercises.

Rick
Rick
1 year 10 months ago

I think the ex-girlfriend was on to something, though. Her level of fitness was satisfactory, for her, and her minimum effective dose to achieve it was a once a month workout.

Hannah
Hannah
1 year 10 months ago
These seem excessively elaborate, and a little on the intense side for many of them. I mean, really, is it realistic to expect someone to be able to do 10 pullups? The only time I could do that was when I was a gymnast, and that was only on a flexible bar. On a stiff metal bar I could only do 5 consecutively. And I was extremely strong and fit at the time. Your argument that any fit person,male or female, should be able to run a mile in less than 8 minutes seems rather arbitrary. If the science says… Read more »
Craig
1 year 10 months ago

I think it is all perspective to some extent. I am quite happy to run an 8min mile, and can easily to 10 pull-ups, but don’t consider myself particularly fit.

Nocona
Nocona
1 year 10 months ago

At 58, I have the 4 essential Primal Movements maxed out. I still need my left knee for standing up from a sitting position. Walking miles at a time…piece of cake.
Guess I’ll try running a mile soon. I sprint once a week, but the long run may be quite the challenge.

Amy Baggett
Amy Baggett
1 year 10 months ago
Love you, Mark, but a lot of the fitness measurements you listed are skewed for men, who naturally can build substantial upper body strength, relative to their hips/legs. And what about flexibility – the ability to touch toes with straight legs? Palm the floor next to your feet? Balance on one foot with your eyes closed? Balance body weight on hands? Drape a leg over your shoulder? Okay, you probably figured out I’m into yoga…I’m willing to bet an elite athlete by the measures you posted couldn’t begin to get through the Primary Series with any level of competency. Add… Read more »
Inchokate
Inchokate
1 year 10 months ago

Great points, Amy. I agree.

Z.E.S.T.
Z.E.S.T.
1 year 10 months ago
I agree with Amy–I’m an elite level athlete, and quite a few of these I couldn’t do. I can however hold a 3-3:30 minute handstand, do 20 leg lifts on a stall bar, sit in a split with my front leg raised ten inches, and do weighted tricep dip with 30-40 pounds (which just under a third of my own body weight). I think the point is: the kind of fitness you need depends on what you do, and not everyone is going to do cross-fit, or run a mile…find a baseline for your own athletic pursuits and do that.… Read more »
Amy Baggett
Amy Baggett
1 year 10 months ago

Consider me impressed, ZEST.

Hannah
Hannah
1 year 10 months ago

I completely agree. As a woman I just do not have the capacity for that kind of upper body strength without some seriously intense training (which I’m sure is not necessary for good health and fitness). But I am quite flexible (used to be a gymnast and dancer) and have overall good balance and body control and awareness. I think that counts for something, even if I’m not as fit (strength- or endurance-wise) as I once was.

Tom B-D
Tom B-D
1 year 10 months ago

Wonder how long 500m row is–did the Petranek Crossfit Baseline but without row machine did 10 burpees instead, under 5 minutes, not bad for 50 I think 🙂

Inchokate
Inchokate
1 year 10 months ago

Hoo boy. This level of physical performance is not a priority for me, and I do not feel guilty about that at all.

Nick
Nick
1 year 10 months ago
After reading the article I would like to put my 10 cents in. As a personal trainer and youth sports coach I understand the benefits of an appropriate ‘fitness’ test. Before the design and implementation, you first have to understand what you are testing for and WHY. Many of the ‘fitness’ tests detailed in this article would not be suitable for some due to a variety of factors including availability of resources and intensity levels. Whilst I agree to some extent that this could have a negative psychological effect on the testee (pause for a snigger) due to failure or… Read more »
Jim
1 year 10 months ago

Since I have access to a medical library I pulled the paper. Here is a youtube link that explains the sit/rise test in a lot more detail so that your results can be evaluated similarly to the Brazilian paper.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCQ2WA2T2oA

Doc Jim

Arryn Grogan
Arryn Grogan
1 year 10 months ago

Would I get an 11 if I could stand up from a sit on the ground with just one leg?!?

Hannah
Hannah
1 year 10 months ago

Good question! I just tried doing that. I managed to get into a one-legged squat, but then I couldn’t stand up from there because my leg wasn’t strong enough (although I think I had enough balance to manage it). I think when I was more fit I could have done it (I think I used to do one-legged squats as a gymnast). But I can definitely stand just using both feet and nothing else.

Jay Cresswell
Jay Cresswell
1 year 10 months ago

The mile-in-X-minutes is good to know about. I started doing something called the “stressless mile” of alternate walking and running over a mile course without ever going out of breath; right now it’s around 9.30 and if I can get that under 8 minutes it’s a good goal to shoot for.

Brad
Brad
1 year 10 months ago

I’m not buying the keep your face out of the water element of number 7, Mark. That’s the sign of an inexperienced swimmer and leads to early onset of fatigue. It also indicates the swimmer isn’t really comfortable in the water and is more susceptible to panic. Keep your yap shut and breathe out with your nose when submerged. The big jelly sack in your noggin floats good.

b2curious
b2curious
1 year 10 months ago

Swallowing the Naegleria fowleri (brain eating amoeba) isn’t a problem – getting it up your nose is.

SumoFit
1 year 10 months ago

Can I scrounge some points for being able to fall asleep in a full side-split with torso on the floor? After looking at Mark’s list of tests I’m feeling kinda desperate for reassurance that I’m not just a fitness-less blob.

Robby
1 year 10 months ago

Thanks for this article. I think the best part of the primal lifestyle is the focus on functional fitness. All of the measurements above just seem to make sense for being able to survive in a “primitive” environment. Definitely sharing this article with my tribe.

Stacie
1 year 10 months ago
Regarding #11, if I can set myself the volleyball in the standing position, get down and sit on the floor, then get back up all while keeping control of the ball….that’s basically the same right? 😉 In all seriousness, a lot of these are interesting and I might pick out a few to try. I was focusing on getting my mile run improved, but running is such a mental thing for me and with the icy roads/trails I’ve been relegated to the treadmill, which is boring and mentally challenging on an entirely new level. I am, however, rarely sore from… Read more »
Nannsi
Nannsi
1 year 10 months ago

All eleven? It would take a ton of cross-training for that to be even possible. Better to stick with what you know for the assessment. Primal Fitness would be good overall assessment, if that’s easy for you follow with one of the others, and see how you feel. If you can get off the floor after that, you’re doing just fine.

Tamara
Tamara
1 year 10 months ago
I find the comments about pull-ups and upper body strength for women interesting – and I probably would have said the same things 3+ years ago when I hadn’t done a single pull-up… ever. I can now string together 15 – 20 (kipping… crossfit style pull ups that allow you to use momentum to get up) on a good day. And I’m female, and over 40. Reading this list a few years ago I would have looked at each one as a goal that once reached would mean I didn’t have to work as hard anymore, i.e.: only need to… Read more »
Rich
Rich
1 year 10 months ago

I thought the article was a good one. I can see where some people could get discouraged, but I see it another way. If you are taking the time and effort to train with weights and exercise, some of the above tests would be a decent way to gage you are making progress, and not wasting time.

Kristie
Kristie
1 year 10 months ago

+1

SumoFit
1 year 10 months ago

But what, exactly, are you measuring? If can you do 10 pull-ups in 10 seconds, all it means is that you can do 10 pull-ups in 10 seconds. I’m sitting here trying to relate this to some theoretical real-life situation, and I can’t. Suggestions, anyone?

JJ
JJ
1 year 10 months ago

I bet it would suggest you could easily climb a tall fence or a tree to escape from a crowd of angry wheat farmers with pitchforks…

SumoFit
1 year 10 months ago

I can climb fences and tall trees, but I can’t do 10 pull-ups in 10 seconds. Hmmmmm…..

Rob
Rob
1 year 10 months ago
CrossFit baseline WOD… NO 500 meter row… 3:20 to complete all other exercises properly. Not too shabby for a 54 year old guy. Next time I go to the “gym” (which has not been for about 8 months) I’ll do the full workout and see what kind of time I can manage. To clarify the gym thing, I do a strength training session once per week based on the “body by science” protocol. Did a two hour walk yesterday with no ill effects. Usually walk 5 miles a day if time permits, that takes about 1 hr 15 min. I… Read more »
Sharon
Sharon
1 year 10 months ago

According to my ability to do these tests, I think I am close to death. However, I feel good so who knows?

SumoFit
1 year 10 months ago

You must be doing something right! 🙂

Ray
Ray
1 year 10 months ago

I hadn’t run a mile for time in many moons, but after reading the post I gave it a shot tonight and finished one in 8 minutes. Felt great, and it confirms for me that the PBF program works. Thanks Mark.

DavidB
DavidB
1 year 10 months ago

These were all do-able until the heartbreak of not getting close to10 pull-ups. So I searched out a Crossfit Baseline WOD. Maybe the guy was cheating, but he did “Chin-Ups” not “Pull-Ups”. Much much easier. This way it’s totally do-able, but I might still have trouble brushing my teeth tonight.

Ray
Ray
1 year 10 months ago
Modified a test for us bigger boned Groks using rest pause techniques. Lifted 300 plus pound rock (Grok had these in his weight room for sure) onto a 55 gallon drum 10 times and took a short stroll with it during deloadings. Good news was I didn’t feel like a truck ran me over the next day, wrists were sore but that can happen with natural stones. Imagine you could do something like this with a near max barbell exercise or max rep sets of body weight exercises. Felt great afterwards, like I could accomplish anything (short of an 8… Read more »
Sharon
Sharon
1 year 10 months ago

Ray, love what you are doing, you make me smile.

Ray
Ray
1 year 10 months ago

Thank you for the kind words Sharon, that really made my day. Glad someone besides my neighbors can get a little entertainment out of what I do. The best part undoubtably is having been able to model an active lifestyle to my kids using activities we can engage in together. Thanks again and take care.

Storm
1 year 10 months ago

I find the cross fit standards kind of dicy, for example:

– do ten chin-ups where you go to the top, chin above the bar, whilst looking straight ahead (no arching neck to get “over” the bar), and hold for one second, then come down slowly, hold for a second at the bottom with elbows just shy of “locked”, and hold for another second before coming back up slowly and controlled.

– now try 10 fast chin-ups, using momentum and “spring” – lot easier isn’t it ?

gwen
gwen
1 year 10 months ago

Some people asked about how long to do a 500 meter row. When I rowing in university. Making womens junior varsity rowing team cut off was about 1min.59 seconds, varsity got down below 1:30. Its hard at first and is almost an all out sprint. maintain strokes per minute 20-22 and drag about 120.

Chandler Stevens
1 year 10 months ago

Man, I love the FMS and get up/get down tests…use them all the time with my students.

If training isn’t practical and usable in day-to-day life, why bother!

Janet H
1 year 10 months ago

Thanks for these Mark! I am heading to the gym tomorrow to get started on my set of tests right away. And look forward to sharing this post with my personal training clients.

Terry
Terry
1 year 10 months ago

The thing with assessments is that the person taking them wasn’t part of the research that put them together. For the ultra fitters knowing their capacity is important but for the weekend warrior just finding time to get a little exercise in is an achievement. As some of the posts here say, to feel good is paramount. Running a mile or trying to lift 200lb to a chin bar and failing can be demoralising. Improving your personal best is a great feeling but why compete against others to prove your fitness?

Charli
Charli
1 year 10 months ago

I can tread water for 15 mins with no issues, walk for 2 hours (I walk for one hour 20 every day to get to work!), and, it turns out I can get up off the floor without using my hands.. though my coworkers looked at me oddly and haven’t attempted the challenge.
Takes me 10 mins to run a mile though, admittedly that’s when running 3- I could probably go faster if I knew I wouldn’t have a few more miles before I got home, will try it if the snow ever melts.

Thelma
Thelma
1 year 10 months ago

I would add another.

What is your one minute heart rate recovery after maximum exertion?
Hopefully, at leats a drop of 30 beats.

Katerina
Katerina
1 year 10 months ago

So, I get a perfect 10 for being able to sit on the ground and get up again using only my feet but I couldn’t run a mile even if my life depended on it. What does that say about my fitness and chances of longevity??? (kidding, I know it isn’t as simple as that).

Gopal Rao
Gopal Rao
1 year 10 months ago
Somewhere Mark said “…we wouldn’t want to ask grandpa to do a sprint…”. While I’m not yet a Grandpa, i hv just crossed 75, feel I am reasonably fit but cld be better, and need some benchmarks to guide me. Can anyone, Mark included, help? I do my trmill wlaks and open-air walks with the intention of taking HR upto my theoretical max of 125 (220-75=145×0.85=125 approx), and a bit beyond if feel up to it that day. On good days manage 130-135. Now these are theoretical figs, and since one size never fits all, how do I figure out… Read more »
Gabe
Gabe
1 year 10 months ago

Hey,

For anyone with a time-crunch factor:http://www.maxwellsc.com/five-pillar-system.cfm.
Not cheap, but pretty awesome.
You can find a lot of free stuff on Steve‘ s blog.
Pure wisdom.

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