What exactly is a battery of physical fitness tests and how do you design one?
It is simply a group of fitness tests that closely represents the various physiological demands of your sport or event.
Step one is to break down the sport (or it could be an assessment for the Armed Forces or Fire Service) into its different fitness components. For an event such as the 100m sprint or the marathon this is fairly straight forward. Games such as basketball, rugby and volleyball for example are a little more complex.
One of the more complex examples is soccer. It's an intricate blend of aerobic and anaerobic endurance, strength, power, speed and agility. The test battery should include physical fitness tests that measure each of these components. But its not enough to simply test for strength or endurance per se...
Each test must replicate the energy demands and the movement patterns within the sport. Keeping with the soccer example for a moment:
Walking 1 mile as quickly as possible (Rockport test) is less sport-specific than running in 20m bursts backwards and forwards (Multistage shuttle run).
Once the precise energy and movement demands of the sport are understood, the most appropriate physical fitness tests can be chosen. In fact the athlete or coach can even make their own test up so long as it meets the following criteria...
Whether standard physical fitness tests or self-made fitness tests are employed they should always conform to several quality standards:
This refers to the degree that a test measures what it's supposed to. This is usually straightforward - a distance run for example would not be a valid measure of explosive power. sometimes the distinction maybe a little less clear - does a particular sprint test measure ultra short-term power for example?
This refers to the consistency or repeatability of a fitness test. If an individual does not change his or her athletic ability then a reliable test, repeated twice will show no difference. The only variable the test should measure is the one it is designed to.
Case in point: body fat scales use bioelectrical impedance analysis to determine a person's body fat percentage. They rely on the fact that different tissues within the body consist of differing amounts of water. If the test is not properly controlled the scales may show a change in body fat levels when in fact they have only measured a change in hydration levels. This can easily happen if a woman is tested at different times of the month for example, and if this is not controlled then the test is said to be unreliable.
Reliability is less straightforward to control compared to validity. an unreliable test may occur because:
Here are some reliable physical fitness tests that measure strength, speed, power, endurance and flexibility. They require little or no equipment - or certainly equipment that is readily available to most people.
There are only a few reliable tests to measure flexibility. The best instrument is a goniometer (a very simple and cheap type of protractor). It can be used to measure the flexibility of most joints and the range of motion for dozens of movements.
According to the NSCA (1) a battery of physical fitness test should occur in the following order:
Here's an idea for a test battery for our soccer example...
|Example Test Battery For Soccer|
|Test number||Test||Fitness component||Time (mins)|
|1||Skinfold measurements||Body composition||20|
|2||Standing jump test||Explosive power||10|
|3||30 meter sprint test||Short term power||10|
|4||Sprint fatigue test||Power maintenance||10|
|5||1-RM test||Maximal strength||15|
|6||Press up test||Muscular endurance||5|
|7||Sit up test||Muscular endurance||5|
|8||Multistage shuttle run||Aerobic endurance||20|
|9||Sit and reach test||Flexibility||5|
|10||Groin flexibility test||Groin flexibility||5|
Now that you have developed your battery of physical fitness tests, use it at the beginning of your training program (usually the start of pre-season training. Use precisely the same set of tests to measure yourself about 6 weeks later and note your progress. It's a good idea to test yourself just prior to the start of the competitive season and then a couple of times during the competitive season.