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Three Fitness Assessments You May Not Be Using

While variety may be something you crave in regards to fitness, it’s important to consistently revisit certain moves or activities in order to judge progress. Types of assessments are limitless – from seeing how many pushups you can do in a minute to checking your heart rate after treadmill run. Here are three assessments that you may not be using but can reveal a lot about your current fitness level.

Forearm Plank

With so much attention to building core strength, it’s advisable to assess that fitness component. The forearm plank not only reveals how strong your core is but how much shoulder stability you have. If there is trouble holding plank, there may be a deficiency in the ability to brace the core musculature, control the pelvis, and protect the lower back.

Beginners should aim for holding forearm plank without the hips sagging or way up in the air for 60 seconds without pain in the shoulders or lower back. If such discomfort exists, make core work a priority in your training. For those who can hold plank 60 seconds or more, you can use how long you can hold plank with good form as an assessment of how your core strength is developing.

Overhead Squat

The overhead squat is a versatile tool to assess for coordination, core stability, mobility, and overall strength. Start with no weight and just raising the arms overhead, and do not add a bar until you achieve proper form without additional load.

Stand with your toes about a foot away from the wall. Raise your arms overhead and squat to parallel, pushing the hips back, maintaining contact with the floor through your heels, and keeping the chest lifted. If you fall backwards or touch the wall with any body part, you need to work on your squat form before loading this move (or similar ones) with additional weight.

Forward Fold

Forward folds aren’t just for yoga; they are a great way to quickly assess hamstring flexibility and lower back mobility. For loaded moves like deadlifts, the information a forward fold can reveal could mean the difference in deadlifting safely and inviting injury.

Stand facing away from a wall with your heel about a foot away. Hinging at the hips, fold forward while maintaining a neutral spine. When you feel the curve in your back begin to change, stop. If you can touch your toes from here, then your hamstrings are pretty flexible (if not, some yoga wouldn’t hurt). Then, allow the curve in your back to change. If there is a significant change in how far down you can reach, your lower back may be hypermobile, putting you at risk of a lower back injury while lifting and needing some extra core work to protect the lumbar region.
Practicing these moves regularly won’t just help you judge your fitness progress, but smooth forward bends and powerful planks can also prevent lower back pain. Developing your overhead squat also corrects and prevents upper back and knee pain.

Photo by phil hirst

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