Fitness and Performance Testing in Sport - Benefits, Requirements and Results

Original Editor - Wanda van Niekerk based on the course by James Laskin

Top Contributors - Wanda van Niekerk and Jess Bell  

Why Use Fitness and Performance Testing in Sport?[edit | edit source]

Fitness and performance testing in athletes is used to[1]:

  • assess athletic talent[2]
  • identify physical abilities[3]
    • strengths and weaknesses
  • identify areas in need of improvement
  • set goals
  • progress the evaluation[3] or to determine the need for possible changes in the training programme[4]
  • indicate the effectiveness of decisions related to athletes[4]
  • provide quality data that can inform decision-making processes[4]
  • identify skill sets that will determine player positions or specialities
  • may predict performance
  • help in injury prevention and prehabilitation
  • predict performance
  • compare results against normative data
    • this can help athletes see where they currently stand or how much they have progressed

Requirements of Testing[edit | edit source]

The concepts of validity and reliability are key to effective assessments. Consider the following principles in performance testing.


  • designed to assess an athlete's fitness for the activity in question
  • consider the general demands of the sport or activity
    • type of exercises/movements required during sport (e.g., running, jumping, kicking, throwing)
    • can movement or exercise be completed in a single movement (discrete), is there a series of connected movements (serial) or is there a repeated pattern of movements (cyclical)?
    • discrete and serial movements are usually easily identifiable but may need to be broken up into phases to focus on specific demands
    • cyclical movements focus on repetitive physical actions and this needs to be considered when selecting an appropriate test
  • consider athlete constraints
    • individual constraints such as:
      • athlete's physical and psychological state
      • training experience of the athlete
      • current injury or previous injuries
      • availability of normative data for a specific athlete
    • task constraints
      • work-to-rest ratio (e.g., football (soccer) player with a work-to-rest ratio of 1:4 - during the game, the player's work consists of short-duration sprints and sudden changes in direction, and the rest periods represent the time the player is walking or standing during the game)
      • athlete playing position (think about American football, where linemen need to have the strength to defend opposing linemen versus the wide receiver who needs to catch the ball in the air)
      • competition level may also influence test selection
    • environmental constraints
      • policies of sporting organisations
      • physical test environment (indoor vs outdoor, privacy, etc)


  • the degree to which the test measures what it claims to measure[5]
  • this is the most important characteristic of testing
  • types of validity[1]:
    • construct validity
      • the ability of a test to represent the underlying construct (the theory developed to organise and explain some aspects of existing knowledge and observations)
    • face or logical validity
      • the appearance to the athlete and other observers that the test measures what it is intended to measure
    • content validity
      • the assessment by experts that the testing covers all relevant subtopics or component abilities in appropriate proportions
    • criterion-referenced validity
      • the extent to which test scores are associated with some other measure of the same ability
    • discriminant validity
      • the results of a test can differentiate between individuals who have different physical fitness attributes (e.g., athletes vs non-athletes, endurance vs strength athletes)


  • a measure of the degree of consistency or repeatability of a test[5]
  • capable of consistent repetition
  • measurement error in reliability can arise from the following[1]:
    • intra-subject (within subjects) variability
      • the lack of consistent performance by the person tested
    • intra-rater (within raters) variability
      • the consistency of scores by a given tester
    • inter-rater (between raters) reliability
      • the consistency of scores across a group of raters


  • tests produce a consistent result irrespective of the tester

Other considerations

  • tests should not require any technical competence on the part of the athlete (unless it is being used to assess technique)
  • care should be taken to make sure that the athlete understands precisely what is required of them, what is being measured and why
  • test procedures should be strictly standardised in terms of administration, organisation and environmental conditions
    • repeatability


Test Selection[edit | edit source]

Relevant factors to consider with appropriate test selection include[4]:

  • needs of the team/coach
    • rehabilitation professionals can use their knowledge and experience to inform the goals or performance outcomes
    • selected assessments help with decision-making processes
  • needs of the athlete
    • age
    • career level
    • injury or training status
  • relevance of the test
    • how will this help a rehabilitation professional address the athlete's needs?
    • determine which physical fitness attributes are relevant
  • ease of implementation
    • consider available resources and barriers to implementation
  • redundant assessments
    • select a sufficient amount of tests to address the athlete's needs without too much overlap between tests
  • intentional efficiency
  • testing specificity
  • availability of normative data
    • when using normative data, always make sure that it is appropriate for the specific population that you are working with
SWOT Analysis Framework[edit | edit source]

"This framework may help determine the feasibility of implementing assessments."[4]

  • S = Strengths (internal factor)
  • W = Weaknesses (internal factor)
  • O = Opportunities (external factor)
  • T = Threats (external factor)

Other Considerations with Test Selection[edit | edit source]

Some more considerations with test selection include[1]:

  • metabolic energy system specificity:
    • consider the energy demands of the sport and which system (phosphagen, glycolytic and/or oxidative) are being used[7]
    • read more about Energy Systems
    • when selecting an appropriate test for a specific ability, clinicians should be familiar with the demands of the sport
    • position of the player and position-dependent aspects[8]
    • work-rest ratio[9]
  • biomechanical movement pattern specificity
    • the test needs to have similarities with important movements of the sport or activity and consider position-dependent aspects[10]
    • for example, a vertical jump test will be more appropriate for a volleyball player than a hockey player
  • experience and training status
    • athlete's ability to perform a technique[11]
      • experienced athletes may be familiar with a sport-specific technique-intensive test, but in a novice, poor or improper technique may influence test performance
    • athlete's level of strength and endurance
      • it might not be ideal to ask a weightlifter to complete a 10 km endurance test
    • age and sex
      • these may affect the athlete's experience, interest and ability
    • environmental factors
      • high temperature and high humidity can impair performance, have health risks and lower the validity of aerobic endurance tests
      • fluctuations in temperature can affect the ability to compare test results over time
      • altitude will influence endurance tests, but not strength and power tests
      • standardised environmental conditions are needed wherever possible

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 McGuigan M. Chapter 12 Principles of Test Selection and Administration. In Haff GG, Triplett NT, editors. Essentials of strength training and conditioning 4th edition. Human kinetics; 2015 Sep 23.
  2. Koopmann T, Faber I, Baker J, Schorer J. Assessing technical skills in talented youth athletes: a systematic review. Sports Medicine. 2020 Sep;50(9):1593-611.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Mancha-Triguero D, Garcia-Rubio J, Calleja-González J, Ibáñez SJ. Physical fitness in basketball players: A systematic review. J. Sports Med. Phys. Fit. 2019 Sep 1;59:1513-25.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Fukuda DH. Assessments for sport and athletic performance. Human Kinetics; 2018 Dec 5.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Haff GG, Dumke C. Laboratory manual for exercise physiology. Human Kinetics; 2022 Dec 2.
  6. The PE Tutor. Validity || Reliability || Practicality - What's the difference !? Available from: [last accessed 14/12/2022]
  7. Maciejczyk M, Michailov ML, Wiecek M, Szymura J, Rokowski R, Szygula Z, Beneke R. Climbing-specific exercise tests: energy system contributions and relationships with sport performance. Frontiers in Physiology. 2022:2521.
  8. Ivanović J, Kukić F, Greco G, Koropanovski N, Jakovljević S, Dopsaj M. Specific Physical Ability Prediction in Youth Basketball Players According to Playing Position. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2022 Jan 16;19(2):977.
  9. Alba-Jiménez C, Moreno-Doutres D, Peña J. Trends Assessing Neuromuscular Fatigue in Team Sports: A Narrative Review. Sports. 2022 Feb 28;10(3):33.
  10. Fílter A, Olivares Jabalera J, Molina-Molina A, Suárez-Arrones L, Robles-Rodríguez J, Dos’ Santos T, Loturco I, Requena B, Santalla A. Effect of ball inclusion on jump performance in soccer players: A biomechanical approach. Science and Medicine in Football. 2022 Apr 3;6(2):241-7.
  11. Fort-Vanmeerhaeghe A, Milà-Villarroel R, Pujol-Marzo M, Arboix-Alió J, Bishop C. Higher vertical jumping asymmetries and lower physical performance are indicators of increased injury incidence in youth team-sport athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2022 Aug 1;36(8):2204-11.
  12. Dr. Jacob Goodin. Performance Testing | Safety Factors | CSCS Chapter 12. Available from:[last accessed 14/12/2022]
  13. DR J Kang DPT. CSCS Study Guide: Chapter 12 SUMMARY [Principles of Test Selection & Administration]. Available from: [last accessed 14/12/2022]