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Does it matter if a person has poor endurance in push-up and sit-up, since rate of fatigue may have some issues with contention? What if goal is to increase lean muscle and strength, in that environment needs to be anaerobic, and such an environment does not require performance of dozens of consecutive repetitions with a focus on endurance?
FLEXIBILITY I have very good flexibility in some muscle groups, particularly around my shoulder joints and ankles, and to a lesser degree my hips. Yet, and because of laziness on my part, I never sustained good flexibility in my hamstrings, although it was attained once. I easily can perform very deep squats, but stiff-legged toe-touches are uncomfortable. Unfortunately, for me, flexibility of hamstring muscles was tested. The stretch was tested with me sitting on floor and reaching forward with locked knees. I was about 2-3 inches from reaching my toes and scored below normal in flexibility.
I never understood need or desire to touch one’s toes while keeping knees locked since I do not recall having to perform such a feat in my activities of daily living. Moreover, with locked knees, excessive forward bending increases compression and strain on lumbar discs, an unhealthy practice for some people if performed regularly.
Further, what bearing would tight hamstrings have on exercises other than stiff-legged deadlift and, to a lesser degree, a few other lower body movements such as deep squats? There is little purpose behind this testing except that authorities who created test felt that flexibility had to be tested in some manner. Therefore, rather than test range-of-motion of all joints, it is easier to focus on a limited area of body that typically is tight and inflexible.
CARDIO-RESPIRATORY FITNESS The person being tested moves three steps up, then two steps back on a tiered platform to a beat played on a cassette music machine. If this is accomplished for a specific period, without having heart rate rise above maximum rate allowed for person’s age group, next level of step-up intensity, at a faster beat, is attempted. This process continues until person’s heart rate exceeds maximum established for that age group.
What I noticed is that heart rate had much to do with person's being used to an activity. I was not used to stepping up and down on steps to a predetermined beat, and so a considerable percentage of effort was utilized in that skill. Had I practiced only a few times prior to being tested, I could have increased my proficiency.
Nonetheless, I did score two standard deviations above normal for cardiorespiratory fitness. Ironically, I never performed any cardio-type exercise at time, only weight training, yet my wife regularly used Stairmaster for cardio exercise and scored lower. It must be considered that her leg length was much shorter and she had to exert greater effort to climb same stair height. Consequently, this test did not take into account size of person relative to steps, and this is similar to mechanical and leverage differences between a short person and a tall person who lift same weight off floor.
As with any other physiological factors, ability to improve cardiovascular fitness is limited – more so than muscular strength or muscle mass. That is not to suggest that cardio efficiency cannot be improved upon, but only to a marginal degree, although this would depend on how ‘deconditioned’ a person is. The fact remains, that either a person was born with ability to run a marathon or not. Furthermore, goal of individual may not be to enhance cardio fitness to an optimal extent, and this test would not hold much relevance as a result.
SUMMARY It has been argued that a fitness test, at least, provides a benchmark for future comparisons, to see if an individual has made improvement. However, that is purpose of exercise progression and accurate record keeping of workouts.
Moreover, after my twenty years experience in this field, this particular standardized industry test has never helped me make a decision in exercise prescription. I could never reason how it could. If someone is obese, it is obvious that he or she requires additional cardio work and greater volume and frequency to help reduce fat stores; and more attention needs to be directed toward safety during exercise in regard to effects on heart and joints. It is unnecessary to have an obese person fail at one or two pushups and sit-ups to help decide exercise prescription. Other functional idiosyncrasies will present themselves during initial workouts, such as joint ROM and flexibility throughout entire body, ability to sustain constant activity (muscular endurance and cardio endurance), and a trainee’s strength level throughout all muscles. These are far more accurate and usable data than those provided by a very restricted and limited fitness test that examines specific abilities that may not reflect other abilities. In accordance with SAID Principle, results of any test reflect only ability that is tested.
Brian D. Johnston is the Director of Education and President of the I.A.R.T. fitness certification and education institute. He has written over 12 books and is a contributing author to the Merck Medical Manual. An international lecturer, Mr. Johnston wears many hats in the fitness and health industries, and can be reached at info@ExerciseCertification.com. Visit his site at www.ExerciseCertification.com for more free articles.