The Longevity Combine: Speed, Power and Strength (Part 2 of 4)
Practical Tests to Assess and Improve Your Health and Fitness
Last week we covered a simple, zero-cost exercise form assessment to identify and correct potential issues with your movement patterns.
Today we will run through assessments for 3 out of the 8 other exercise adaptations: speed, power, and strength.
(Next week will cover testing for muscle size and muscular endurance and the week after that will address tests for anaerobic peak and aerobic capacity.)
These tests are NOT just for athletes or people who are super into fitness.
They are designed for anyone who wants to be healthy and seeks longevity, functional fitness, and aesthetic improvements.
Every test, with the exception of the hypertrophy assessment next week, is free and simple.
Perform each test once per year over a “testing week” with an emphasis on training to improve your weak spots.
Standardize tests by performing them the same way each time you do them and track your progress to measure improvements.
Let’s get started.
Tests to Assess and Improve Your Speed, Power and Strength
I’m mentioning speed here for the sake of completeness but most people should actually not test speed.
The risk of injury is just too high, especially for those who don’t sprint all out on a regular basis.
If you’re an athlete you can run a 40-yard dash and compare your time to metrics online.
Power = Speed x Force
Another reason you don’t need to test speed (above) is that you can infer a lot about speed from a power test.
And since power is easier than speed to test and train for, it’s the better alternative.
Option #1: Broad Jump
From standing, jump as far out in front of you as possible.
You can swing your arms to get momentum and squat down from the starting position before jumping but your feet must be firmly planted.
Measure the distance between the tip of your toe where you start and the back of your heel where you land.
Men should be able to broad jump their height.
So, if you’re a 6-foot tall man you should be able to broad jump 6 feet. This number should be ratcheted down by 15% for females.
If you’re unable to jump close to this distance, you might want to focus your training on improving power.
Option #2: Vertical Jump
Colour in one of your middle fingertips with a highlighter.
Then overlap your hands so that both of your middle fingers are touching, put them directly over your head, reach up as high as you can, and mark that spot on the wall by leaving a fingerprint.
With your hands still overlapped, jump up as high as you can leaving a fingerprint on the wall at your highest point.
Measure the distance between the two marks on the wall.
Men under 50 should be able to jump 24 inches or higher. Men over 50 should be able to reach a vertical of around 20 inches.
For females, these numbers should be reduced by about 15%. So, 20 inches for women under 50 and 17 inches for women over 50.
Strength must be assessed across multiple areas.
Option #1: Hand grip dynamometer
Okay, this one is technically not free (Option #2 below is) but only costs around $30.
After picking up a hand grip dynamometer on Amazon or wherever you do your shopping, test your grip in both your right and left hands.
Men should have a minimum score of 40kg. For women, it’s 35kg.
If you’re under those cutoffs you have some serious grip work to do.
Ideally, men should be in the range of 55-60kg and women should be around 50kg.
You also want to look for asymmetries between your left and right hands. If there is more than a 10% variation between hands, train to balance them out.
Option #2: Dead hang
Find a bar that is thin enough to wrap your entire hand around.
Any conventional pull-up bar should work.
Men and women should be able to hang for a minimum of 30-50 seconds. This is the “good but you should probably get better” range.
If you can hang for over 60 seconds, you’re solid. Continue to develop your grip strength so you can stay above that cut-off into old age.
Upper Body Strength Test
You could do a max bench press here if you like.
However, your grip strength (above) will probably be indicative of your upper body strength and an upper body strength test is not as important as this next one.
Leg Extension Test
A barbell back squat test is the gold standard but it is not recommended.
Squat technique is very demanding and you will need multiple spotters to do a max squat safely.
For the average person, leg extensions provide a standardized test which don’t require technique and can be performed safely.
People under 40 should be able to perform at least one rep on the leg extension machine with the pin set to their body weight.
For example, I weigh 195 lbs which means I should be able to perform one rep on the leg extension machine with 195 lbs.
Every decade beyond age 40 can allow a 10% decrease in weight. So, if you’re 50 years old and weigh 170 lbs then you should be able to put up 153 lbs for one rep.
But if you really want to maintain optimal health, hold yourself to one rep using your body weight.
Front squat or Goblet squat Hold
Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell in front of your chest, squat down to the very bottom position, and hold.
Return to the starting position once the hold is complete.
Start with ⅓ of your body weight for 30 seconds with the goal of ½ of your body weight for 45 seconds.
This test is a good indicator of your position/form since it will be difficult to maintain a bad position for that period of time under that load.
It also serves as a functional test for your core strength, low back stability, and upper body and leg strength.
3 Caveats on Strength Tests
Caveat #1: None of these strength tests have to be done to a true one rep max (1RM).
A true 1RM is the maximum amount of weight you can lift for one rep.
As you can imagine, performing a true 1RM can be unsafe if performed under the wrong circumstances.
Instead, most people are better off using a repetition conversion equation.
This is when you use a weight that you think is close to your true 1RM and perform as many reps as possible.
As long as the weight is heavy enough so that your total rep count is 5 or under, you can plug your weight and reps into an online calculator which will predict your true 1RM.
Once you start to exceed 5 reps, the accuracy of these calculators goes down.
Caveat #2: You must be proficient in the movement to perform these tests.
Do not perform a test for a movement that you can not execute with proper form.
It is not worth risking injury.
If you aren’t sure what proper form is, find an instructional book or video to teach you and then perform this zero-cost form assessment.
Caveat #3: Your warm-up protocol will have a massive impact on your test results.
Rule number one of testing is standardization.
To produce comparable results, you must follow the same protocols for each test you perform every time you perform it.
Use the same warm-up every time you perform a certain test.
Here are a few options:
Bodyweight Dynamic Warm-Up – National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
Again, these tests are NOT just for athletes or fitness geeks.
They are for anyone who wants to improve their overall fitness, become well-rounded, and ensure that they will not fall victim to any major deficiencies.
“What gets measured, gets managed.” – Peter Drucker
We can’t improve what we don’t track.
Find a friend, do these tests, and have some fun with it.