Sports Science Our General Fitness Assessment Jan. 18, 2021

If you’re reading this blog, then hopefully you’ve either recently completed our “General Fitness Assessment” and want to find out more about it, or you’re planning to complete our “General Fitness Assessment” and want to know what it is and why you should do it. Either way, you’re in the right place!

What is “General Fitness”?

As coaches, the number one thing that we hear clients and potential clients say is: “I want to improve my general fitness”. Now to that person, that may be a very clear objective, but to us coaches, it is anybody’s guess what that really means. If you were to ask ten different people what “Improve general fitness” meant to them, you are likely to get ten completely different answers, and it is because of this huge disparity of definitions that we have decided to create a general fitness assessment. We want to make the term “General Fitness” a more objective concept, so that we can standardise what general fitness actually is, to help provide clarity for coaches and clients alike.

To help us determine how general fitness could be measured, we first had to define what we thought it was. There are many different definitions for the word “Fitness”, but the one that has always stuck with us is the one we learned back in high school; "Fitness is the ability to meet the demands of the environment". Same with the word “General”, there are multiple definitions, but the one we like the most is that provided by the Oxford English dictionary; "Considering or including only the main features or elements of something". So, if we are to define “General Fitness”, it is: “The ability to meet the demands of the main features or elements of the environment”.

Identifying our “General Fitness Assessment" Benchmarks

As humans, one thing that we all share is that we are all aerobic organisms; we all breathe oxygen in order to produce energy. If we could not breathe oxygen, we would not thrive in our respective environments. As such, based on how we have chosen to define general fitness, aerobic capacity becomes an essential measure of this. Aerobic capacity is the ability of the body’s cardiovascular and respiratory systems to gather, process, and deliver oxygen, and therefore is the biggest predictor of mortality. In essence, the stronger and more effective that our lungs, heart, and associated transport mechanisms are, the longer we are expected to live. Using this knowledge, it guided us to select our first two benchmarks for the “General Fitness Assessment”: The CO2 Tolerance Test as this specifically challenges our respiratory system; and the Cooper Test to help examine the capability of the cardiovascular system. An advantage of testing the two constituent parts of an individual’s aerobic capacity separately is that we can identify imbalances between the two systems and therefore which system (cardiovascular or respiratory) requires more focus to move that person closer to vitality, thus improving general fitness.

Another thing that we all share as humans is the ability to generate locomotion; the ability to move the body, or body part, from one point to another. As stated previously we are all aerobic organisms, so our bodies favour generating regular low level muscular contractions to create movement, so as not to produce harmful waste products. Examples of movements that we perform daily within our environment include walking, sitting down, standing up and typing on a phone or computer, amongst other things. The longer an individual can sustain these low level muscular contractions without producing harmful waste products, the more likely that individual is to thrive in their environment. Subsequently, based on how we have chosen to define general fitness, strength endurance becomes another essential measure as this is the ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to continuously and/or repeatedly express sub-maximal force. The three strength endurance benchmarks we selected to incorporate into our “General Fitness Assessment” were the 2 Minute Air Squat, the 2 Minute Press-Up, and the Front Plank tests because they examine the lower extremities, the upper extremities, and the torso respectively. By examining these three constituent sections of the anatomy, we can clearly identify differences between the local muscular units, and thus which ones require more or less focus in order to move that person closer to vitality, and improve general fitness.

Additional Benefits of our "General Fitness Assessment"

Further to the above, we have chosen the five outlined benchmarks to form our “General Fitness Assessment” because they are all non-invasive so they do not require expensive instruments to perform. Whilst invasive testing procedures can provide incredibly accurate results because of the use of precise specialist equipment, the unfortunate side effect is that these tests are often time consuming as they must be performed under strict lab conditions. Consequently our test selection saves you time and money, because these tests can all be performed with very little equipment, in any location, in a short space of time. Moreover, these five benchmarks all utilise valid and reliable testing protocols, so the data collected is still highly accurate compared to lab based tests.

Summary

By defining what “General Fitness'' is (in our opinion), it has provided us with a clear rationale for how to measure it. Our “General Fitness Assessment '' uses five benchmarks to acutely examine the components of fitness that we believe people must use every day in their respective environments to fulfil their lifestyle needs. The selection of these five assessments is further supported by the fact that they are all quick to perform, require minimal equipment, and utilise valid and reliable testing protocols.

If you haven’t completed it already, we highly recommend that you now give our “General Fitness Assessment” a try so that you can evaluate your “General Fitness” and compare it with your friends and family, team mates and competitors. We look forward to seeing how you get on!