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Fitness Testing

What information do you need to develop your training program and how do you assess whether it has been effective.




When you compete in any sport, no matter the event or distance, you should consider 3 issues;

1. the contribution of aerobic metabolism

2. the contribution of anaerobic metabolism

3. how strong you are 

All the above are important to your success and you will probably be able to rank them to your own personal sport and needs. 


VO2 Max test 

The “Gold Standard” test is the VO2 max test. This tells you the maximum rate of oxygen consumption measured during exercise of increasing intensity. Olympic/Elite level athletes score V?O2 max values exceeding 80 mL/(kg·min). The average untrained healthy male or female will score between 35–40 mL/(kg·min) or 25–30 mL/(kg·min) respectively. 

In general, the higher your VO2 max, the fitter you are. However, the VO2 max result by itself is often not enough to give you the complete picture. Like all stand alone tests, it just gives you a reading of where you are at the time of the test. It doesn’t tell you if your training program has been effective. 

To accurately assess your training you will need follow-on tests which will tell you if your program has guided you to improvements. Bear in mind that if you are at the top end of the scale (say 60 mL/(kg·min) then your rate of change will be much slower.


Anaerobic Threshold (AT)

You will also want to know what your Anaerobic Threshold (AT) and is synonymous with lactate threshold. The AT is that level of intensity where carbohydrates take over as the primary supplier of energy. It is also the level where an increasing percentage of fast-twitch fibres are recruited. These factors lead to an increase in lactic acid production that will ultimately impair muscle contraction. 

In simple terms, you’ll only spend a certain amount of time above the AT before you fatigue. Imagine the 400m runner who has gone too fast in the early part of the race and then ceasing up in the home stretch. Therefore, the higher your AT the higher intensities you can maintain before fatigue kicks in. 





Laboratory AT testing is not a precise science and is usually determined from a number of factors, including blood lactate and ventilation. Lactate test usually involves 4-8 blood draws over the same number of exercise stages. 

Following blood analysis, your heart rate will be plotted against your work rate, thereby giving you the approximate heart rate level at which AT occurs. Knowing your AT can then be used to determine your exercise sessions.



Anaerobic ability is indicative of an athlete’s strength and power. Increasing power output at a given work rate should be a goal for all athletes. For this reason, athletes should consider an anaerobic power test giving a reading for absolute power, relative power and a measure of power loss (also known as fatigue index).

You can get strength measurements from your weights room but results may be limited to the amount you can lift through your weakest joint angle and technical competence. A sports lab can control the speed of contraction and resistance of machines is matched to the individual. Information is gathered throughout the whole range of your movement.



These 3 tests will enable you to develop your own training program and they will be able to assess its effectiveness. 

At a good lab, the technicians will spend time with you explaining the results and pointing to areas that you need to develop. This should be all part of the package. 

Tests can be expensive and follow-up tests will be invaluable for self-analysis. Some labs will offer these follow-up tests at a discounted rate. 

Interested in finding a coach? Take a look at our "Find-a-Coach" drop down on the front page and choose your sport or for a full list, see here.



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