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How Do I Determine Specific Fitness?

By Kelly Ferguson
Updated May 17, 2024
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Different sports have a list of specific fitness tests that most accurately measure how well the athlete will perform in different activities related to that sport. For instance, a basketball player may take a variety of tests including short sprints and jump height, while a swimmer would be more likely to do tests that measure swim speed and endurance. To determine an individual's specific fitness for a single sport or even a single aspect of a sport, it is important to choose an appropriate fitness test and comply with the guidelines for administering that test to ensure accuracy and reliability over several retests.

Many sports and athletic resources, including websites, manuals, and some gyms, have lists of specific fitness tests for each major sport or activity. It is generally a simple matter to choose which of the tests will effectively measure the desired physical ability. When the tests have been selected, perform a baseline test before any specialized training is completed so that the effectiveness of future training can be judged from the improvement or lack of progress of future tests compared to the baseline measurement.

If an individual is simply trying to improve his vertical jump height, for example, it is not necessary to test in other areas of fitness that will not be trained. However, if an athlete is training for a sport, it helps to do most or all of the specific fitness tests associated with that sport to be able to determine that athlete's areas of strength and the areas that need to be improved. When weak areas have been addressed with training, it is important to retest those specific areas to see if the training has been effective. It is usually not worth the effort, resources, and money to do a fitness test more than once every two weeks, because any progress made at that point will likely not be large enough to be notable. In fact, it is often considered a better idea to measure specific fitness areas over a longer span of time, over a month or longer.

Often, specific fitness tests even have comparisons to judge an individual's score against. These comparisons might include scores from other similar testers so the individual can determine whether he or she is above or below average on the tested areas of specific fitness. Sometimes, scores from famous athletes in a particular sport are available to compare against so that individuals have a goal toward which they can train.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By bythewell — On Feb 15, 2015

@Ana1234 - My sister is a triathlete and she was always worst at the swimming part. She recently went to a swim instructor who specialized in races and it turned out that her technique was all wrong and there were a lot of places where she could improve it.

So it isn't just about improving fitness, but technique that can be important. Nutrition is also a big deal, especially once you get past a certain point in training.

By Ana1234 — On Feb 14, 2015

@Fa5t3r - I definitely agree that overall fitness is important, but sports specific testing is often quite intense and people might not be able to do everything they would like to do.

My recommendation if you're hoping to reach a particular fitness goal is to see a personal trainer who specializes in whatever it is that you hope to do and can guide you in the right direction. It can make a huge difference to talk to an expert, even just for one session.

By Fa5t3r — On Feb 13, 2015

Often gyms will have a measure of physical fitness that they use for people who are signing up so they can keep track of how they are doing. My dad used to work for a gym as a specialist trainer and he would do things like using calipers to determine fat ratios (although I think that's considered old fashioned now) and sprinting tests to see how their cardiovascular fitness was in general.

Then he would give them more specific tests depending on what they were aiming to do. But the general fitness was still considered to be important, even if they were just hoping to improve their golf game or whatever, because overall fitness helps to people to reach specific goals.

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