By: Greg Roth
Here at the Center for Fitness and Wellness we perform three basic exercise tests in order to measure muscular endurance and muscular strength. Upper body muscular endurance is assessed via the the 60 second push up test, while abdominal strength and muscular endurance is assessed with the curl up test. A hand grip test is used to assess overall muscular strength.
Muscular endurance is defined as the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to repeatedly exert force against resistance.1 Muscular strength is defined as the maximum amount of force that a muscle can exert against some form of resistance in a single effort.2
There are two types of muscle fibers that allow for both muscular endurance and muscular strength. These are the fast and slow twitch fibers. Fast twitch fibers, also called Type 2 fibers, are the main source of muscular strength. Fast twitch fibers are able to produce more force but they fatigue much faster than slow twitch fibers. Slow twitch, or Type 1, fibers are mainly used for muscular endurance exercises because they contract more slowly and take a much longer time to fatigue.3
To perform the pushup test a pushup counter is used. This device counts your reps each time you touch your chest to it at the bottom of the pushup. It also starts a 60 second timer the first time you touch the counter. For both males and females the elbows must be bent at 90 degrees at the bottom of the movement and fully extended at the top in order for the repetition to count. Also, the client’s back must remain flat and they are only allowed to rest while at the top of the movement. Females must keep their knees on the ground while males must perform the pushup while on their toes. Only push ups that are full range of motion are counted toward your total.
In order to perform the curl up test knees must be bent with feet flat on the floor. There is no time limit for this test only a metronome which beeps giving you the required tempo for the movement. Your hands start on a black line marked on the mat with your shoulder blades against the floor. On the first beep you move your hands to the second black line marked on the mat. You then move back and forth touching either the first or second line after each subsequent beep. All complete reps without feet leaving the floor and tempo being kept are counted. There is a max score of 75 reps.
The push up and curl up test are both valid and reliable ways of testing muscular endurance and are easy to administer with very little equipment. If you wish to improve your muscular endurance a great way to train is with a medium load and a higher set of repetitions. More information on muscle training can be found in our program design article.
The hand grip test is administered with the use of a hand grip dynamometer. The dynamometer is first set to the appropriate size for the individual being tested. This test is done while standing, your arm must remain straight against your side with a 90 degree bend in the elbow. You are then asked to squeeze the dynamometer as hard as possible. The test is administered on the right and left hand twice, taking the highest of each number and adding them together. The results are measured in kilograms.
This test is beneficial because it is correlated to overall muscular strength. It is also very easy to administer and requires little space and only one piece of equipment.
If you are looking to improve your hand grip and overall muscular strength it is a good idea to train with heavy compound movements such as deadlifts, squats or bench press, using a higher load with a lower amount of reps. You can also specifically train your grip with farmers walks or shrugs where you are needed to hold heavy weights for a long period of time.
If you have any questions about program design or training to improve any aspect of your fitness, stop by the Center for Fitness and Wellness any time and we would be happy to help!