Seven Tests Of True Strength | Men's Health Magazine Australia

Seven Tests Of True Strength

When was the last time you gauged your fitness level? Andrew Heffernan 1 / 7 JUMP AT LEAST 2.4 METRES THE SCORECARD Men’s Health Fit: 2.4m or moreAbove average: 1.8-2.4mOrdinary: Less than 1.8m Everyone from strength coaches to drill sergeants uses the standing broad jump to gauge raw power – for good reason: It calls […]
When was the last time you gauged your fitness level? Andrew Heffernan
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Men’s Health Fit: 2.4m or more
Above average: 1.8-2.4m
Ordinary: Less than 1.8m

Everyone from strength coaches to drill sergeants uses the standing broad jump to gauge raw power – for good reason: It calls on several muscle groups throughout the body to fire at once. “The stronger and more explosive you are, the more force you’ll generate and the further you’ll jump,” says strength coach Tony Gentilcore. “That means better performance in the weights room and more air on the basketball court.”

Stand with your toes on a line and your feet shoulder-width apart. Dip your knees, swing your arms and jump as far as you can. Have a buddy measure the distance from the starting line to the back of your heels.

“Power is a combination of strength and speed, so if you come up short, work on both,” says Gentilcore. Start by doing squats and hip thrusts each week in separate workouts. During week one, go heavy with the hip thrusts (3-5 sets of five reps using 85 per cent of your one-rep max) and light with the squats (six sets of two fast reps with 50 per cent of your one-rep max). The following week, flip the set-rep matrix, going heavy with squats and light with hip thrusts. Continue alternating for 4-6 weeks. “To build even more explosiveness, also do three sets of 10 kettlebell swings twice a week,” says Gentilcore.

Barbell hip thrust
Sit on the floor with your upper back against a bench, knees bent, feet flat on the floor and a padded barbell across your hips. Push through your heels (not your toes) and raise your hips until they’re in line with your knees and shoulders. Squeeze your glutes hard at the top, then slowly return to the starting position.

Barbell squat
Using an overhand grip, hold a barbell across your upper back and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keeping your lower back naturally arched, push your hips back, bend your knees and lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Pause, then slowly return to a standing position.

Kettlebell swing
Hold a kettlebell in both hands using an overhand grip and let it hang at arm’s length in front of you. Keep your lower back naturally arched, bend at your hips and swing the kettlebell between your legs. Squeeze your glutes, thrust your hips forward and swing the kettlebell up to chest level as you rise to standing. That’s one rep. Continue swinging the bell without pausing.



Men’s Health Fit: 20 reps in one minute
Above average: 18 reps
Ordinary: 16 reps

Anaerobic endurance refers to your ability to work at near-maximal intensity in bursts of 20-60 seconds. “Anyone can sprint or punch hard for 10 seconds,” says strength and conditioning coach Chad Waterbury. “But if you can sustain high levels of muscle force beyond that time, you’ll gain a huge advantage over your competitors.” Anaerobic endurance reflects the stamina of your fast-twitch (type II) muscle fibres, which generate energy in the absence of oxygen.

Use dumbbells that total roughly 30 per cent of your body weight (that’s a pair of 14kg weights if you weigh 90kg) and hold them by your sides with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keeping your back naturally arched, push your hips back and lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor. As you stand up, curl the dumbbells to shoulder height, then push them straight overhead using your legs in the effort. Return to the starting position and repeat for one minute.

Perform two sets of the drill twice a week, resting for 90 seconds between sets. If you can’t do at least 16 reps on your first set, lighten the load. “Each time, add an extra rep to your first set,” says Waterbury. “Once you reach 20 reps with the lighter weight, grab slightly heavier dumbbells and work your way up to 20 reps again.” Continue the slow increase until you can hit the Men’s Health goal.



Men’s Health Fit: Full squat in control
Above average: Halfway down
Ordinary: Less than halfway

Mobility is a quality great athletes hone but most regular guys ignore. That’s a mistake: “The more mobile you are, the better you can move your joints through their full range of motion and the less likely you are to be injured,” says kinesiologist and rehab expert Dean Somerset. This test, he says, “will expose limitations in your ankles, hips, neck and upper back – places where most men are bound up.” A lot of people fail this test because they have a rounded back or inflexible ankles.

Stand facing a wall with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes five centimetres from the baseboard and turned slightly out. Keeping your feet flat, chest up and back naturally arched, see how far you can lower your body without touching the wall or falling backward.

Loosen your back with self-massage. Lie on your back with a foam roller placed perpendicular to your spine just below your shoulderblades. Bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor. Support your head with your hands and move your head, neck and upper back forward and backward over the foam roller 4-6 times. To loosen tight ankles and calves, try the ankle mobility lunge. Stand in a split stance with your front foot about 15cm from a wall. Now bend your front knee to touch the wall without letting your front heel leave the floor. Do this 8-10 times. Switch legs and repeat.



Men’s Health Fit: Level 12
Above average: Level 11
Ordinary: Level 9

Cardiovascular endurance isn’t just a sign of your 10km potential; it’s an indicator of how long you’ll last in any athletic endeavour, from a 40-minute game of futsal to an arvo of kicking a footy around with mates. And people who play aerobic endurance sports have a higher life expectancy than those who do not, according to a study in the Journal of Ageing Research.

Download a beep test to your iPhone or Android device. Place two cones 20m apart on a track or field, hit the start button and run from one cone to the other. When you hear the beep, run back. Continue until you can’t reach the opposite cone before the next beep sounds. (The time between beeps will shorten as you progress through the test.) Then hit the “record score” button. “This is the best way to test aerobic endurance,” says strength coach Alwyn Cosgrove. Its escalating intensity is a good measure of your body’s ability to deliver oxygen to working muscles – your “peak aerobic capacity”.

Repeat the beep test once a week. Just repeating the drill can help boost your peak aerobic capacity, says Cosgrove. On two other days each week, do sprint intervals. Sprint at 85 per cent of your maximum effort for one minute, then rest for two minutes. Do that 5-8 times total. “Over and over, intervals have been shown to be the fastest way to improve your VO2 max, the maximum amount of oxygen your body can process at once, which is a powerful indicator of your aerobic fitness level,” says Cosgrove.



Men’s Health Fit: 1.75 x body weight
Above average: 1.5 x body weight
Ordinary: Body weight

The muscles of your posterior chain provide the power behind many of the most important skills in sports – consider them your “go” muscles. These include your lower back, glutes, hamstrings and calves – lots of muscles that may not be visible in the mirror but are vital to overall fitness. And no exercise hits them harder than the deadlift does. “It’s arguably the purest test of strength there is,” says Robertson. Your goal: lift just a little bit less than twice your body weight.

Load a barbell with the maximum amount of weight you can lift once and bring the bar close to your shins. Bend at your hips and knees and grab the bar using an overhand grip that’s just beyond shoulder width. Keeping your lower back naturally arched, pull your torso back and up, squeeze your glutes, thrust your hips forward and stand up with the barbell. Reverse the movement to lower the bar to the floor, keeping it as close to your body as possible.

Add the deadlift to your weekly routine using a weight that allows you to do three sets of five reps. That’s right, only five reps each set. “Keeping the rep count low allows you to do two things: concentrate on form and go heavy,” says Robertson. When you can complete two extra repetitions in your last set for two consecutive workouts, move up in weight. Retest your one-rep max every 2-3 months.



Men’s Health Fit: 10 clapping push-ups
Above average: 5 clapping push-ups
Ordinary: No clap

A powerful upper body doesn’t just look good shirtless; it helps transfer force to the world around you. “And that gives you an edge in most sports, whether you’re trying to stiff-arm an opponent in football or spring off the mat in jujitsu,” says world-record-holding all-around weightlifter, David Dellanave. The clapping push up – which requires explosiveness as well as strength – is an old-school move that many still consider the ultimate test of upper-body pushing power (thanks in no small part to Rocky).

Assume a push-up position, with your body straight from head to ankles. Lower yourself until your chest is 8cm from the floor. Push yourself back up explosively so your hands leave the floor. Maintain a straight body as you clap in midair and land back in the starting position.

Can’t clap? Add the exercise to your weekly routine, but perform it with your hands elevated on an aerobics step, which reduces the load. Shoot for three sets of five reps, lowering the step as the exercise becomes easier. For an even greater power boost, also do kneeling medicine ball throws: kneel facing a wall and hold a medicine ball against your chest, then throw it directly forward against the wall. Catch it on the rebound and repeat, doing three sets of 10 reps. “The goal is maximum power,” says Dellanave, “so start with a ball you can throw at least 12 feet (3.6m).”



Men’s Health Fit: More than three minutes
Above average: 2-3 minutes
Ordinary: One minute or less

A chiselled core makes you stronger in everything you do, from carrying groceries to mastering the deadlift. It enables you to “produce, stabilise and transmit force throughout the body,” says personal trainer Angelo Poli. But that armada of muscles is “on” whenever you’re upright, so stamina is key.

Assume a push-up position but with your weight on your forearms instead of your hands. This is plank position; your body should form a straight line from shoulders to ankles. Brace your core by contracting your abs as if you were about to be punched, and hold the position for as long as you can. When your hips sag or your knees touch the floor, it’s over.

Fall short? No problem. “You can more than double your score in a matter of weeks,” says Poli. Alternate among these three exercises during the course of a week. 1) Three-point tennis ball toss: hold the top position of a single-arm push-up (feet slightly beyond hip width, body straight from head to heels, weight supported on one hand) and bounce a tennis ball off a wall. Catch the ball and immediately bounce it back against the wall. Do two sets of 15 reps with each arm. 2) Plank push/pull: assume a plank position with a weight plate between your forearms. Lift your right arm, push the plate forward as far as possible, then pull it back. Do two sets of 10 reps with each arm. 3) Swiss ball “stir the pot”: assume a plank position with your forearms on a Swiss ball. Make small circles with your elbows, switching directions every 10 circles until you’ve done 40. That’s one set. Do two.

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