Fitness and Performance Testing in Sport - Individual Tests

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

Top Contributors - Wanda van Niekerk and Jess Bell  

Test Considerations[edit | edit source]

Factors that should be considered in test selection and administration are[1]:

  • age appropriateness
  • sport- or activity-specific tests
  • skill level of the athlete
  • physiological parameter being assessed (for example, strength, flexibility, agility, etc)
  • is normative data required and valuable?

Agility Tests[edit | edit source]

Shark Skill Agility Test[edit | edit source]

This test can be used to assess lower extremity agility and neuromuscular control.[2]

  • Test set-up:
    • a one metre square is divided into a 3 x 3 grid on the floor to create 9 boxes/squares marked out with tape or chalk[1] (please note the size of the squares varies - some studies have used 6 x 6 inches[2] or 30 cm squares[3], and the National Academy of Sports Medicine suggests that the squares should be 12 inches[4])
  • Participant stands on one leg in the centre of the box grid with their hands on their hips
  • The participant hops to each box in a designated pattern, always returning to the centre box (clockwise or counterclockwise)
  • The test is performed with each leg
  • Participants should be allowed to have a practice run before test results are recorded
  • The test can be performed twice with each foot, and the best score is recorded[2]
  • Participants are penalised by adding 0.1 seconds to their score every time that they touch a line, remove their hands from their hips, touch the ground with the non-hopping foot or do not return to the centre square[3]

Illinois Agility Test[edit | edit source]

Illinois Agility Test Diagram[7]

This test evaluates running agility using different movements and turns.[8]

  • Test set -up[8]:
    • course length is 1o metres, and course width is 5 metres
    • use cones/markers to mark the start, finish and the two turning points
    • place another four cones down the centre - these are positioned 3.3 metres apart
  • Participants lie face down (head facing to the start line) with hands by their shoulders
  • On the "go" command, the tester starts the stopwatch and the participant gets up quickly and runs 10 metres forward, around the cone and then back; the participant then runs up and back through the slalom course of 4 cones. Lastly, the participant runs another 10 metres forward and back to the last cone. The stopwatch is stopped once the participant reaches the last cone.
  • Participants can complete several trials and the best score should be recorded
  • Read more: Illinois Agility Test


Hexagon Agility Test[edit | edit source]

This test evaluates multidirectional speed and planned change of direction during jumping.[10]

  • Test set-up[11]:
    • using tape or chalk, mark out a hexagon (six-sided shape) on the floor
    • each side should be 60.5 cm (24 inches) and each angle should be 12o degrees
  • Participants start with both feet together in the middle of the hexagon, facing the front line
  • On the "go" command, participants jump/hop forward across the line and then backwards over the same line to the middle[12]
  • Participants continue to jump over each side of the hexagon in a clockwise direction for three complete rotations
  • The participant's time to complete the three rounds is measured
  • Participants are penalised with 0.1 seconds added each time they touch a line
  • The best score from two trials is usually recorded[12]
  • The test can also be performed in an anti-clockwise direction


Y-Shaped Reactive Agility Test[edit | edit source]

This test measures an athlete's multidirectional speed and unplanned change of direction abilities.

  • Test set-up[10]:
    • create a starting line with tape, chalk, cones or markers
    • place a second set of cones 5 metres from the starting line
    • another two sets of cones should be placed 5 metres to the left and right, each at a 45-degree angle from the second set of cones to form a "Y" shape
  • An evaluator will be positioned approximately 8.5 metres from the start line. The evaluator indicates to the participant if they should go right or left. The participant will then run to the side indicated by the evaluator (if timing gates are used, light indicators will signal which direction the participant should go[14])
  • A second evaluator will be positioned approximately 13 metres from the start line and signal for the participant to go. This evaluator uses a timing device to record the participant's time to complete the test
  • Participants can have six attempts (three to the left and three to the right), separated by three to five minutes of recovery time
  • The fastest times of the three attempts in each direction will be the final result

Static Balance Tests[edit | edit source]

Stork Balance Test[edit | edit source]

This test measures static balance performance.[17]

  • Participants stand on both feet with their hands on their hips. They are instructed to lift one leg and place their toes against the knee of their other leg
  • Participants then raise the heel of the leg they are standing on
  • The stopwatch is started as the participant raises their heel from the floor
  • Timing stops when the participant's hands come off their hips, their supporting foot swivels or moves, the non-supporting foot loses contact with the knee or the heel of the supporting foot touches the ground
  • This test can be done with eyes open or closed (to make the test more difficult)


Coordination and Reaction Time Tests[edit | edit source]

Alternate Hand Wall Toss Test[edit | edit source]

This test measures coordination[19] and reaction time.[1]

  • Test set-up[19]:
    • participant stands 2 metres from a wall, and faces the wall
    • the participant throws a ball against a wall using an underarm action with the right hand and catches the ball with the left hand, and then throws the ball with the left hand and catches the ball with the right hand. This counts as a single action.
    • this cycle of throwing and catching is continued for 30 seconds and the number of successful catches in this period is recorded.
  • Test adaptations[1]:
    • participant can stand on one leg
    • change the distance from the wall
    • change the size of the ball


Ruler Drop Test[edit | edit source]

This test measures an athlete's reaction time.

  • Test set-up[1]:
    • the tester holds a ruler at 0 cm and places it between the outstretched index finger and thumb of the participant's dominant hand
    • the athlete places their fingers at the 50 cm mark
  • The participant is instructed to catch the ruler as soon as possible after the tester releases it
  • The tester releases the ruler and the participant catches it between their index finger and thumb as quickly as possible
  • Record the distance between the bottom of the ruler and the top of the participant's thumb where the ruler has been caught
  • Note there are different methods of doing this test with the ruler suspended vertically between the participants' outstretched index finger and thumb at the o cm mark, the ruler being dropped and the distance recorded.[21]


Flexibility Tests[edit | edit source]

Sit and Reach[edit | edit source]

This test measures a combination of hamstring and low back flexibility.

  • There are variations of this test
  • The protocols to perform this test with and without a sit and reach box are described below:
  • Set-up without sit and reach box[10]:
    • secure a yardstick or measuring tape to the floor and place a strip of tape at the 23 cm mark (9.1 inches)
    • participant sits on the floor with their legs stretched out and a yardstick between their legs - the bottom of their heels are along the tape at the 23 cm mark
    • knees should be straight and feet 30 cm (10 to 12 inches) apart
    • participant overlaps their hands and with palms facing down, reaches forward as far as possible along the yardstick or measuring tape and holds this position for two seconds
    • usually 3 attempts are allowed and the greatest length achieved is recorded
  • Set-up with sit and reach box:
    • participant sits on the floor with their legs stretched out
    • they place the soles of their feet flat against the box
    • the participant's knees should be locked and pressed flat against the floor
    • the participant reaches forward with their palms facing down along the measuring line as far as possible
    • this position is held for one to two seconds
    • record the distance[23]
    • no jerky movements are allowed
  • Read more: Sit and Reach Test


Shoulder Mobility Test[edit | edit source]

This test is also known as the Back-Scratch Test and it measures shoulder flexibility.

  • Set-up[10]:
    • participant is standing
    • participant places one hand/arm on the lower back, and moves it up the spine towards the head (shoulder extension, internal rotation and scapular adduction)
    • the participant then places the opposite hand/arm behind the neck, and moves it down the spine (shoulder flexion, external rotation and scapular abduction)
    • the aim is to place the middle finger of each hand as close to each other as possible or to overlap the hands as much as possible
    • measure the gap between the fingertips of the middle finger of each hand
      • positive value if fingers overlap
      • negative value if fingers do not meet
    • repeat the test the other way around


Muscular Strength and Endurance[edit | edit source]

Abdominal Muscular Endurance Test[edit | edit source]

This test measures the ability of the abdominal muscles to perform repetitive movements for an extended period of time.[10]

  • There are various methods to perform this test
  • Some general guidelines[10]:
    • participant lies on a flat surface with their knees flexed (usually 90 degrees), feet on the ground
    • the position of the arms can influence the difficulty of the test (for example, hands placed by the side of the head is more difficult than arms crossed over the chest which is more difficult than the arms reaching out in front)
    • participant performs a crunch or curl-up raising the trunk in a smooth movement
    • their trunk is lowered so that the shoulder blades or upper back touches the floor
    • record the maximum number of sit-ups in a specific time period (30 seconds, 60 seconds, or 2 minutes)

Push-up Test[edit | edit source]

This test measures the ability of the upper extremity to perform repetitive movements for an extended period of time.[10]

  • Set-up[10]:
    • participant lies in the prone position with their chest on floor, feet next to each other
    • they place the palms of their hands on the ground just wider than the shoulders
    • participant pushes their body up until just hands and toes (or knees if necessary to modify test) are touching the ground - this is the starting position
    • the participant bends their elbows until their upper arms are parallel to the ground and then returns to starting position
    • legs, trunk and neck should be kept in a straight line
    • record how many repetitions the participant can perform while maintaining the correct form


Seated Medicine Ball Throw[edit | edit source]

This test assesses bilateral upper limb strength and function.[27]

  • Set-up[28]:
    • participant sits on the ground with their shoulders, back and head against the wall with legs extended (this isolates the upper extremities)[27] or they can sit on a bench with a 45-degree incline, with their torso and head in contact with the bench[10]
    • participant holds the medicine ball at their chest with their elbows flexed and shoulders at 90 degrees of abduction
    • participant is instructed to throw the ball straight ahead as far as possible
    • their back, head or shoulders should not lose contact with the wall
    • participants can have a few practice trials before three to four supervised tests are conducted
    • the distance the ball is thrown is measured with a tape measure
    • each attempt should be separated by two to three minutes of rest and recovery


1 Repetition Maximum[edit | edit source]

The 1 Repetition Maximum (1RM) strength test assesses the maximal strength of the muscle groups engaged during a single specified movement such as bench press, back squat, leg press, or bench pull.[10]

  • This test records the maximum amount of weight lifted for a single repetition[10]
  • Protocol for 1RM testing[10]:
    • calculate body mass of participant
    • ask the participant to start with a warm-up set using a self-selected weight that will allow them to complete 5 to 10 repetitions, with a proper technique (for either bench press, back squat, leg press or bench pull)
    • after the first warm-up set, the participant rests for one minute
    • after one minute of rest, add additional weights
      • 5 to 9 kg (10 to 20 pounds) for bench press or bench pull
      • 14 to 18 kg (30 to 40 pounds) for back squats and leg press
    • participant then completes another warm-up set of 2 to 3 repetitions with proper technique
    • after 2 to 4 minutes of rest:
      • if the previous bench press or bench pull was successful, add an additional 5 to 9 kg (10 to 20 pounds)
      • if the previous back squat or leg press was successful, add an additional 14 to 18 kg (30 to 40 pounds)
      • if the previous bench press or bench pull was unsuccessful, remove 2 to 5 kg (5 to 10 pounds)
      • if the previous back squat or leg press was unsuccessful, remove 7 to 9 kg (15 to 20 pounds)
    • continue attempts until 1RM can be identified, preferably within 3 to 5 sets
  • The 1-RM is a high-risk, potentially low-reward test as the risk of injury is high
  • Predictions to calculate 1RM:
    • participants can perform an 8 Repetition Maximum or a 4 Repetition Maximum test that can predict the 1RM in a safer manner
    • the training load chart from the National Strength and Conditioning Association can be used to calculate estimated 1RM from multiple repetitions completed
    • the Holten diagram is another method to calculate 1-RM

YMCA Protocol for Bench Press[edit | edit source]

This test assesses upper body muscular endurance.[30]

  • Test set-up[30]:
    • men use an 80-pound bar and women use a 35-pound bar
    • a metronome is set at 60 clicks/beats per minute
    • participants lie supine on a bench with their head, shoulders and hips firmly on the bench, feet resting on the floor shoulder width apart
    • this position should be maintained throughout
    • participants should not arch their back, lift their heads off the bench or bounce the bar off their chest
    • a pronated grip, slightly wider than shoulder width is needed
    • the test starts with the bar resting on the participant's chest, with their elbows flexed
    • they lift the bar through the full range of motion from the chest
    • the bar is lifted and lowered to the rhythm of the metronome
    • the up and down movements should be completed in time with the 60 beats per minute cadence (this is a rate of 30 lifts per minute)
    • terminate the test when:
      • proper lifting technique cannot be maintained
      • full range of motion cannot be maintained
      • cadence cannot be maintained
  • Compare the number of successful repetitions with age cohort-related norms


Hand Grip Dynamometry[edit | edit source]

This test measures the strength of the forearm muscles.[10]

  • Hand function and strength are important elements in activities of daily living and sports participation[32]
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the measurement of grip strength for the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF).[33]
  • Various testing methods are available:
    • participant holds their arm above their head and moves it down to their side while squeezing the dynamometer[1]
    • participant is seated with their elbow at a 90-degree angle and squeezes the dynamometer with maximal effort for 5 seconds[34]
    • participant stands with their arms by their side, with full elbow extension and the wrist in neutral. Measurements are performed alternately 3 times with no rest and the participant squeezes the dynamometer for 3 seconds.[32]
  • Read more: Sporting Hand and Wrist - Why Power and Pinch Grips Matter

Vertical Jump[edit | edit source]

This test measures explosiveness/power of the lower body.[10]

  • Set-up[10]:
    • participant stands with their dominant arm and torso next to the wall
    • participants can have chalk on their fingers or use tape and apply it to the wall
    • determine the participant's standing reach height - participant keeps both feet on the ground, reaches up as high as possible above their head and makes a mark (chalk or tape) on the wall with their fingers
    • the participant is then asked to perform a countermovement: they squat down, arms swinging back behind their hips, and then they immediately reverse this movement and jump up as high as possible. They reach up with their hand as high as possible, and touch the wall (chalk mark or tape) at the highest point
    • record the distance between the two marks
    • participants can have 3 attempts and the best result is recorded


Standing Long Jump[edit | edit source]

This test is also known as the broad jump test and it measures lower-body horizontal explosiveness/power.

  • Set-up[38]:
    • participant stands behind a line marked on the ground, feet shoulder-width apart, hands in a neutral position
    • they then perform a countermovement with their legs and arms and attempt to jump as far forward as possible
    • the distance between the starting line and the heel of the participant's rear foot is recorded using a tape measure
    • the best result out of three attempts is recorded


Aerobic Capacity[edit | edit source]

Cooper 12-Minute Run[edit | edit source]

This test is performed to estimate cardiorespiratory capacity and maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max).[40]

  • Set-up[40]:
    • test is performed on an official athletic track (400 metres)
      • participants run and/or walk without interruption for 12 minutes
      • the total distance covered in 12 minutes is recorded
    • maximum oxygen uptake capacity can be predicted with the results of the Cooper test using the following equation[41]:
      • VO2max ( = (22.351 x distance covered in kilometres) - 11.288
  • Normative data for the Cooper test can be seen here

1.5 Mile Run (2.4 Kilometre Run)[edit | edit source]

This is a distance-based walk and run test[10] that measures cardiorespiratory fitness.

  • Set-up[10]:
    • participants can run on a track or measured course
    • participants need to run 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometres) as fast as possible
    • the time required to cover this distance is recorded
  • Norms for the 1.5-mile run can be seen here
  • Maximum oxygen uptake can be predicted using these equations[10]:
    • males (18 to 29 years)
      • VO2max = 91.736 - (0.1656 x weight in kg) - (2.767 x time in minutes)
    • females (18 to 29 years)
      • VO2max = 88.020 - (0.1656 x weight in kg) - (2.767 x time in minutes)
    • another method to predict VO2max is:
      • VO2max = (483/time) + 3.5

Multi-Stage 20m Shuttle Run Test (Beep Test)[edit | edit source]

This is a maximal running aerobic fitness test.[10]

  • Set up:
    • this test involves continuous running between two lines/cones 20 metres apart, in time with recorded beeps
    • participants stand behind the line, and face the other line - they begin to run when the recording instructs them to start
    • the initial pace is quite slow, but increases as the test progresses
    • participants continue running between the two lines, in pace with the recorded beeps
    • after about 1 minute, a sound will indicate that the speed is increasing and the beeps will be closer together
    • this continues each minute (level)
    • should the participant reach the line before the beep, they must wait until the beep sounds to continue
    • if the participant fails to reach the line before the beep, a first warning is given and the participant must continue to complete the shuttle and catch up with the pace within 2 more beeps
    • the participant is eliminated after the second warning

Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test[edit | edit source]

This test is a variation of the beep test. It is a maximal aerobic endurance fitness test[10] and there are different versions of this test.

  • Set up:
    • participant runs between two lines/cones/markers 2o meters apart, with audio cues that indicate the required running speed
    • after each 40-metre run, participants have an active break of 10 seconds before running 40 meters again
    • the speed increases at regular levels
    • the test continues until participants can no longer keep up with the pace and are not being able to reach the line before the audio cue

Anaerobic Capacity[edit | edit source]

Running Based Anaerobic Sprint Test (RAST)[edit | edit source]

This test measures anaerobic capacity.[42]

  • Set-up:
    • participants perform six sprints of 35 metres
    • 10 second recovery between each sprint
  • Record the fastest time or average time of all sprints or the difference between the fastest and slowest times


Wingate Test[edit | edit source]

This test measures anaerobic power outputs and capacity.[28]

  • Set-up[28]:
    • participants cycle on a cycle ergometer at maximal effort for 30 seconds, against a resistance load
    • the resistance load is added a few seconds after the start of the test
    • load is determined at equivalent to 7.5% of a participant's body weight (W = 0.7 x body weight in kg)

Body Composition[edit | edit source]

Body composition is a way to determine the ratio of the body's fat mass and fat-free mass.[46] An estimate of body composition can be obtained through skinfold assessments, using skinfold callipers.

  • Different formulas can be used to calculate body composition
    • three site equation[46]:
      • triceps
      • supra iliac
      • thigh
    • seven site equation[46]:
      • triceps
      • subscapular
      • chest
      • axilla
      • abdominal
      • supra iliac
      • thigh
  • Read more:
  • The video below shows skinfold measurement using the ACSM guidelines:


References[edit | edit source]

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