While almost all exercise is good for you, understanding your strengths and weaknesses is key if you're looking to create change and make progress (and avoid injury!), says Refine Method founder Brynn Putnam, a Harvard-educated former pro ballerina who applies the latest exercise science to the smart training offered at her three New York City workout studios.
"While an athlete can measure progress through wins, the average exerciser isn't training with a clear finish line and they're also generally using poor tools, like the scale, to gauge success," she explains. "You have to first clarify what your goal is in a specific and measurable way and then create a plan to get from point A to point B."
Ready to start? Putnam created this set of nine exercises that addresses all of the important components of fitness (and demo-ed them for us at her West Village studio). "These exercises are things that we feel like the average person should be able to do in order to be a healthy, functional human being," she says.
Take this fitness test at home to see where you're starting from, and then combine them into a workout to keep improving your skills, strength, and fitness rockstar status.
If performing as an assessment, complete exercises 1-9 in order, following the designated reps/time below. If performing as a workout, do exercise 1 and exercise 2 as part of your warm-up and then do exercises 3-8 for 2-3 rounds as a circuit, omitting exercise 9.
Sitting and Rising Test (SRT): Assess Lower-Body Mobility and Balance
How To: Complete the test once. The goal of the Sitting Rising Test is to get down and up from a seated cross-legged position with minimal support. To get a perfect score on the SRT (10 points total!); cross your feet and lower down to a seated position, then stand back up without losing your balance or touching the ground for support. Each time you touch the ground with your hand, arm, knee, or side of the leg you lose one point. You also lose one point each time you put your hand on your thigh for support. If you lose your balance, either on the way down or on the way up, subtract a half-point. Complete the SRT and total your score.
Goal: Final score of 8 or more points.
Vertical Jump: Assess Lower-Body Power
How To: Complete 10 reps then take a brief rest. Repeat 3 times. Start with your feet slightly wider than your hips. Send your hips back, and bend your knees. Jump straight up, then land in the same position that you started in. (Make sure your knees do not collapse inside of your sneakers when you land.)
Goal: Average woman: Jump around 15 inches off of the ground. Average man: Jump around 20 inches off of the ground.
Goblet Squat: Assess Lower-Body Strength
How to: Complete 10 reps. Start with your feet slightly wider than your hips, holding one kettlebell at your chest. Your toes should point either straight forward, or slightly out. Send your hips back, bend your knees and lower down. (Make sure your knees do not collapse inside of your sneakers and your back stays in a neutral position; it does not round or arch.)
Goal: Average woman: Complete 10 reps holding 20kgs. Average man: Complete 10 reps holding 32kgs.
Push-Up: Assess Upper-Body Strength
How to: Start in a plank position with your hands slightly wider than your shoulders. Make sure your middle fingers are parallel to each other and the insides of your elbows are facing each other. There should be a straight line from your shoulders to your hips. Bend your elbows and lower down until your shoulders are in line with your elbows. Push up to your plank position. Your hips should not sag below your shoulders, and make sure you only lower to where your shoulders are in line with your elbows, no further. Your elbows should maintain a 45-degree angle away from your body.
Goal: Average woman: Complete 5 reps. Average man: Complete 10 reps.
Single Leg Squat: Assess Lower-Body Strength
How To: Stand on a chair or step and balance on one leg. As you bend your knee, send your hips back and let your chest fall forward so that your belly button is pointing towards your thigh. Lower down until your knee and thigh make a 90-degree angle. Be sure to keep your opposite leg relaxed. (Make sure your knee does not collapse inside your sneaker. Your back stays in a neutral position; it does not round or arch.)
Goal: Complete 8 reps on each leg.
Chin Ups: Assess Upper-Body Strength
How To: You may need to loop a resistance band around a chin-up bar to complete this exercise. Start with a thicker band (3 inches or higher), and gradually work your way up to using a smaller band, or no band. Place one foot in the resistance band, and grab the bar with your palms facing towards you. Push your foot into the band to help your pull yourself up. You should finish with your chin above the bar. Slowly lower to the starting position. Your shoulders should stay down, away from your ears, and make sure your chin reaches above the bar on each repetition.
Goal: Average woman: Complete 5 reps with a 2-inch resistance band. Average man: Complete 10 reps without a band.
Farmers Carry: Assess Overall Work Capacity
How to: Hold two kettlebells, one in each hand. Keep your shoulders back, and let the kettlebells hang down toward the floor. Walk forward for 100 yards (which is equivalent to the length of a football field), maintaining perfect posture—your shoulders stay back, your back stays straight.
Goal: Walk for 100 yards holding your body weight in kettlebells.
Side Plank: Assess Core Stability
How to: Hold for as long as you are able (but not for longer than 2 minutes). Level 1: Start lying on your side, elbow directly in line with your shoulder. Push down into your elbow and lift your hips. You should be able to hold the side plank with good form for 2 minutes on each side before progressing to Level 2. Level 2: Add a leg lift. Lift your top foot 6 inches off of the other foot. At either level, make sure your hips don't sag or rotate.
Goal: Hold this position for 2 minutes on each side.
Yo-Yo Run Test: Assess Aerobic Capacity
How To: Download this Beep Fitness Test app and choose the YOYO IRTL1 option. This test consists of 20-meter sprints followed by a brief rest. It assesses an individual’s aerobic system, as well as the ability to recover from repeated exercise. Before you begin, set a marker at 0 meters, 5 meters, and 25 meters. Then follow the cues on the app to complete your test.
Goal: Average woman: Reach Level 14 or higher. Average man: Reach Level 16 or higher.
3-Minute Step Test: Beginner Alternative to Assess Aerobic Capacity
How To: Download this 3-minute Step Test app to test your cardiovascular fitness. Your goal is to maintain the desired pace (indicated by a metronome on the app) while you move up and down off of a 12-inch step (up-up-down-down). At the end of the test, the app will guide you on how to check your pulse and determine your rating.
Goal: Receive a rating of "Average" or above.
Feeling some tight muscles after all of that work? Find out the real reason you get sore after exercising.
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