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Self-Assessment of Skills

This is an excerpt from Women’s Muscle & Strength by Betina Gozo Shimonek.

I mentioned that I am a big advocate for looking beyond the scale, and that is where assessing your skill comes in. This could be as simple as performing your first push-up on your toes or doing your first pull-up, or you can get as detailed as using a specific weight for your deadlift or bench press. As a strength coach, watching improvement happen is what I live for, and I’ve found that a lot of people’s general goals of weight loss and toned muscle naturally follow when they focus on achieving a skill or a certain personal record.

There are many ways you can assess your skill level, but what follows is a basic skills test that you can use to help you. You may need to preview the exercises in the following chapters in order to execute them if you are unsure of them (page numbers for where they appear in this book follow each exercise). Keep in mind that this skills test is a workout in itself, so be sure to warm up adequately! It will be challenging, but the beauty of it is in seeing how you progress with these movements over the span of your training. I recommend keeping track of your progress by recording the date, your measurements, and other training details, and revisiting the skills test every 4 weeks.

Grip Strength

In all three of these movements, you should hold for as long as you can without losing form. I have indicated what weight to use. If you are unable to use that weight, pick a weight that’s neither too easy nor too difficult and record that weight. Mark the time when you have to let go of the bar or lower the weight. If you are able to hold for the maximum (max) time, mark that down and give yourself the option of picking a heavier weight for the exercises that indicate that as a choice.

Dead hang: total hold time (max 90 sec); page 48

Farmer carry (35 lb [15.87 kg] each hand): total hold time (max 90 sec); page 43

Front rack (20 lb [9.07 kg] each hand): total hold time (max 90 sec); page 45

Core Strength

In these five exercises, you will focus not only on your abs but also on your hips and glutes. These exercises are all body-weight holds, so there is no option to add any weight. If you are able to complete all exercises with the max hold, record how the exercises feel to you on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most difficult.

Hollow hold: total hold time (max 90 sec); page 60

High plank: total hold time (max 90 sec); page 58

Side plank: total hold time (max 90 sec each side); page 56

Single-leg bridge: total hold time (max 90 sec each side); variation of bridge found on page 82

Copenhagen 90/90: total hold time (max 45 sec each side); page 61

General Strength

In these exercises, you test your maximum number of reps with the weight I suggest. If you can’t move the weight or you are completing the max number of reps easily, change the weight and make sure to record what you are using to keep track of your benchmark. If you are unable to complete some of the body-weight movements, that’s OK! Mark it as “none yet,” and be motivated to get stronger!

Chin-up (assisted or unassisted) (underhand/supinated grip): total number of reps (max 15); page 128 or 127

Dumbbell bridge (35 lb [15.87 kg]): total number of reps (max 15); page 81

Push-up on bench: total number of reps (max 20). Place your hands on a bench or box and make a note of the height of the bench or box to keep track. The higher the box or bench, the less challenging it will be; page 99

Goblet squat (20 lb [9.07 kg]): total number of reps (max 20); page 66

Dumbbell overhead press (10 lb [4.53 kg]): total number of reps (max 15); page 108

Dumbbell Romanian deadlift (15 lb [6.80 kg] in each hand): total number of reps (max 15); page 85

Inverted row (overhand/pronated grip; indicate if knees are bent or legs straight): total number of reps (max 15); page 117

Goblet stationary lunge or split squat (variation of dumbbell stationary lunge or split squat; 10 lb [4.53 kg]): total number of reps each side (max 15 each side); page 75

Body-weight single-leg Romanian deadlift: total number of reps on each side without falling over or losing balance (max 10 each side); dumbbell single-leg Romanian deadlift found on page 87

Getting through this basic skills test will not only start you off with a good assessment of your baseline strength—it can also help you figure out what weights to use when it’s time to start the programs. In chapter 10, Create Your Optimal Program, I go into detail of how to determine load (weight) for your workouts.

More Excerpts From Women’s Muscle & Strength