TEST YOUR STRENGTH
I tend to look for ways to make exercise as accessible to people as possible with minimal complications. The reality is however that investing in a check-up and thorough assessment protocol is a time and financial commitment that you will not regret making. It can not only save your life, but it can also seriously fast track your results.
We typically like to weigh ourselves or have our body composition and measurements taken. Checking vital signs and doing the necessary blood work with your doctor are all very important assessments, but how many of us have ever had our strength tested?
Most people start an exercise programme and either lift too much weight (lifting more weight than they are capable of doing safely and effectively with good form), thereby risking injury and compromising results, or they lift too little weight (stopping after 10 repetitions of an exercise using a weight with which they could easily do 20 repetitions.) Either way, without knowing your strength you will struggle to safely and effectively achieve the results you’re looking for.
Most exercise programmes will express intensity, or the loads you should be lifting as a percentage of your 1RM. (One Repetition Max, or the most amount of weight you can lift with proper technique for only one repetition.) eg a programme may look something like this for any given exercise:-
- Squats: 3 sets of 10 Reps at 70% (1RM). By the time you reach the specified number of reps , you are approaching the most reps you can do for the given load.
The lower the percentage of your 1RM, the more reps you should do. Typically endurance programmes will require you to do more Reps with lighter loads and strength based programmes will require fewer Reps with heavier loads. It is important therefore to know how much you are capable of lifting in order to be working at the right intensity to achieve the goals your programme has been designed to help you achieve. If for example you are required to work at 70 % of your 1 RM for 10 Reps, for muscle gains, but you are only working at 50 %, thinking you’re working harder than you are, your progress will be stifled.
The safest way to test your strength is with a qualified and experienced fitness professional.
It is important that you are medically fit to test your strength , that your movement patterns have been assessed prior to the strength test and that you have no injuries that may be aggravated or hold you back. They will then make a judgement call on which exercises to use to assess your strength (for example, you may not be proficient in the squat, in which case, the leg press may be a better choice to assess your leg strength). In this example if your programme requires you to squat you should work to improve your squats over time using no weights or lighter weights, and work on strength and mobility until your movement pattern is good enough to add more load to your squat. On your leg press however you will have a good understanding of how much to lift when it appears on your programme.
Strength testing will likely be a sub maximal test, in which your 1 RM is determined mathematically using a 6RM or 10 RM test. Only experienced athletes should undergo a true 1RM test under strict supervision.
Whatever your level, provided you are in good health, a strength test using appropriate exercises will give you a head start in your training. While certain movements can only be tested once you can do them proficiently with good form, strength in other areas can be tested with relatively basic exercises. This will give you a better understanding of your own capabilities and limitations, how to read your programme and just how hard you should be working to achieve results safely and efficiently.