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*** *** FITNESS TESTING IRRATIONALITY The purpose of fitness testing is to determine function and health of an individual and an appropriate measure of exercise demands at which an individual can begin. Although this test usually is implemented prior to beginning an exercise program, it can be used as an intermittent measurement tool, to determine progress. Fitness testing comprises following:
HEALTH QUESTIONNAIRE This phase addresses an individual’s health status/history. The questionnaire is an important aspect of test since health problems must be addressed and brought to forefront. Moreover, it is important to have waiver signed to protect an instructor legally in event of an unforeseen and imperceptible mishap.
The remainder of test, described below, holds little validity as to a person’s overall function and health and results should be taken with some reservation. Before I explain each aspect, consider that if a room in a house were to be measured, to put in a new carpet or hardwood flooring, entire area would be measured with a tool designed for task, such as a measuring tape. One part of floor would not be measured and remaining dimensions guessed. Nor would a person measure with his or her foot length then tell a flooring retailer that living room is twenty paces by thirty paces. This would be pointless since any individual’s foot length is not accepted universally or an accurate method of measurement – unlike yard, meter, or actual foot (twelve inches). With that in mind, we then can consider following steps in conducting a fitness test.
BODY COMPOSITION The percentage of body fat is measured, usually with fat calipers, since they are inexpensive compared to other body composition tools. The more deconditioned (fat) a person, or better conditioned (muscle and leanness) a person, less accurate body fat percentage readings become if calipers are used as tool of measurement. Other methods also lose their accuracy with very muscular and obese individuals: extent being relative to device in question.
Calipers are acceptable for determining millimeter (mm) fat thickness, in order to establish data for comparison purposes, but readings, together with mathematical formulae provided to suggest "x" percentage of fat and muscle, should be avoided in regard to body composition constitution. (About eight years ago, I had a very experienced caliper tester, who taught and certified instructors in fitness testing, tell me that my body fat was close to 20% [overweight] although my abdominals were quite visible and remainder of my body fairly lean and muscular.)
Moreover, mm thickness can vary significantly, and this depends on skill of person who performs test and how and where tissue to be measured is pinched. Even experienced caliper users must be quick in application and take a single reading since continual prodding and pulling of skin alters architecture and pliability of tissues, thereby encouraging different results.
Nor will caliper body fat measurement account for areas not measured. Some individuals, for example, have large buttocks and carry an excessive amount of fat in that area. I tend to carry it in lower back and buttocks more than in other areas, a distribution that is not a typical male characteristic. Many men have leaner buttocks and carry more fat in front of abdominals. Yet, buttocks are not measured with a caliper reading. Hence, how can a mathematical equation be created so that allowances are made for fat buttocks that may or may not exist and in any measure?
MUSCULAR STRENGTH & ENDURANCE With this test, trainees do not prove their ability on leg press or bench press, although doing so would not disclose much information. Rather, strength is determined with a hand-held dynamometer. In other words, strength of a person’s grip supposedly indicates how strong a person is overall. Therefore, if a person has a relatively weak grip, compared to average population, and regardless of strength in remaining muscle groups, that person will score below average. The extent of an individual’s grip is irrelevant to what can be achieved or what has been achieved as governed by function(s) of remainder of body and its health status.
Although I regularly perform grip exercises, my grip is barely above average for my sex and age group, even after more than two decades of regular exercise and grasping heavy barbells. At time of my fitness test (mid 1990s), I was one standard deviation below normal in grip strength, although I could leg press several hundred pounds and easily chin my body weight for at least fifteen repetitions. My father, who was a practicing plumber at time, used his grip daily and scored almost three standard deviations above normal, yet I could out-lift him in gym and was more fit overall. This example demonstrates that grip strength is not an indication of strength or function in general.
The muscular endurance test I experienced was measured through a maximum count (uncontrolled, crank-them-out-as-fast-as-you-can) push-ups and sit-ups or stomach crunches. After twenty push-ups, my upper body was heavily blood engorged and I could not continue. After eighteen stomach crunches, my abdominals also were fatigued significantly. Again, I scored below normal since I was used to a short tension time while under intense strain when I exercised, including abdominal exercises. I did not practice high repetition push-ups or stomach crunches, and this reflected SAID Principle in my results. Although I had good pectoral and abdominal development, and I could lift heavy weights relative to most other people, apparently I was not in very good condition as far as muscular endurance was concerned.