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Selecting Fitness Tests to Use with Clients

This is an excerpt from Fitness Professional's Handbook 8th Edition With HKPropel Access by Barbara A. Bushman.

By Barbara A. Bushman

The first step in fitness testing is choosing fitness tests wisely. Consider the following factors when making a selection:

  • Reliability: Does the test produce consistent results? Tests should give repeatable results.
  • Objectivity: Do different test administrators get the same results from this test? Tests should give the same result regardless of the person administering the assessment.
  • Validity: Does the test measure the characteristic of interest? Test results should reflect what is intended by the assessment.

Although a test can be reliable and objective and still not be valid, tests that are unreliable or lack objectivity cannot be valid. Once the consistency of the test is ensured, there are ways to determine whether the test measures what it is supposed to measure. For example, do experts agree that the test is valid? Does the test compare favorably with an established test (a standard) in the same area? This book includes fitness tests that reflect these characteristics.

Fitness professionals can do several things to maximize accuracy (i.e., minimize error) in testing:

  • Properly prepare the person being tested so they are coming into the fitness test with needed rest and appropriate clothing and footwear.
  • Organize the testing session so that all equipment is calibrated and in working order, the testing environment is controlled (e.g., room temperature is appropriate), and all participant files and forms are available and organized. Data scoring sheets should be available to record both resting measures and fitness testing data or scores as they are obtained (5).
  • Ensure the client understands the purpose of the test and their responsibilities. For example, when conducting a submaximal bike test, maintenance of a particular pedal frequency is key to setting the work rate stipulated by the test protocol. Simply telling the client to “pedal at 50 rpm” is less effective than explaining the importance of the pedal frequency on work rate for accurately predicting their aerobic fitness. With the explanation, clients will understand their role in the test situation.
  • Verify that correct form and techniques are used. Take time to clearly explain the test prior to beginning, demonstrating body position or techniques if appropriate. Pay attention to the little details, and ensure the client understands what is being asked of them. Fitness professionals must provide sufficient supervision during all assessments to maximize the client’s safety (5).
  • Attend to details of the assessment, ensuring standardized procedures and protocols are carefully followed. If care is not taken to consistently administer the test, differences in results cannot be attributed to the training program. Thus, all tests must follow consistent and established implementation to be meaningful.

Fitness testing has many uses in a fitness setting, from prescribing exercise to refining programs (1). Fitness professionals must know how to interpret test scores and provide feedback to all program participants. The fitness professional can help participants evaluate their fitness test scores by doing the following:

  • Explain the fitness test results in terminology that can be understood by the participant. See Explaining Test Results for more on this important aspect.
  • Emphasize tracking status from their current level of fitness rather than only comparing with normative values.
  • Provide recommendations based on the test data and on the participant’s characteristics and goals.
More Excerpts From Fitness Professional's Handbook 8th Edition With HKPropel Access