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Strength testing enables you to customize your workouts and track your training results.
In fitness, as in life, you can't get where you want to go without first knowing where you are. Creating a smart exercise regimen requires you to think carefully about your objectives. If your goals include getting stronger, testing your strength at regular intervals can help to guide your training in the right direction.
Muscular strength is the raw ability to exert force. One repetition maximum, or "1 RM" testing, measures your capacity to exert strength in various muscle groups. This type of testing is extremely intense; the person conducting the test will be trying to find the most amount of weight you can lift just once. Expect to complete a brief screening survey such as the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire or PAR-Q to determine if you are healthy enough to engage in strenuous exercise.
General One-Rep-Max Protocol
Testing will be done when you are well rested and prior to any formal exercising you may have scheduled for the day. You'll take at least five minutes to warm up by walking briskly or performing variations of marching or jogging in place; this improves blood flow throughout your body and primes your nervous system for activity. You will also perform a test exercise-specific warm-up, such as eight to 10 repetitions of the bench press with an unloaded barbell and eight to 10 repetitions of the leg press using half of your body weight.
The Bench Press Test
You have less muscle mass in your upper body than in your lower body, so expect to perform the bench press test first to reduce your sense of fatigue throughout the complete testing session. Your instructor will help you choose an initial amount of weight to lift based on your perceived ability. If you can lift that once easily, she will add plates to the barbell, then have you try again with the heavier weight. The goal is to determine the maximum amount of weight you can lower down to your chest and press back up one time. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends four attempts with rest periods of three to five minutes between trials.
The Leg Press Test
After you've caught your breath, you'll continue on to the leg press test. This will challenge essentially all of the muscles in your lower body. After she has you perform a warm-up set with roughly half your body weight, your instructor will start loading up the machine with weight plates. Together you will determine a best estimate for how much you think you can press. Push hard against the foot plate, working to fully extend your legs and then return to the start position. Your instructor will add weight if needed and encourage you to try again, giving you up to five mintues of rest between each of four attempts. Once you've found your one repetition maximums for each exercise, document those numbers so that you can refer to them later to customize your training and track your progress.