daily wisdom

Daily Wisdom: Testing Strength

The best ways to evaluate your progress at the gym

Every athlete knows that education is a crucial part of performance. Sport and exercise research, insight from top trainers, science, and technology help you to better understand your body so you can craft a healthier lifestyle, workouts, and recovery plan.

In the latest installment of our daily news series, Alex Zimmerman, director of Equinox’s Tier X program, addresses how to best evaluate your strength and power gains.

The Science: A recent study by researchers in Israel looked at using the ballistic (plyometric) push-up to predict upper-body strength and power. They concluded that the mean force generated from the ballistic push-up can be used to predict an athlete's one rep max in the bench press; the peak velocity and flight time can predict their power.

EQX Expert Insight: “Testing yourself is a critical aspect of any strength and conditioning program, whether it be in power, strength, muscular endurance, or other aspects,” says Zimmerman. “It allows you to determine whether your approach is working or if you need to adjust some variables to ensure continued progress.” But, although this article suggests using the ballistic push-up for determining your one rep max in the bench press, it’s not very accessible for the average gym-goer (the researchers used advanced laboratory equipment). To test upper body strength, Zimmerman instead recommends a 10-rep max test. “If you bench press 100 pounds 10 times and you divide that by .75 this will give you your approximate 1RM,” he says. To test power, use the medicine ball toss, where you're in a seated position on a bench at 45 degrees. (Women should use a 6kg ball and men should use a 9kg one.) Launch the ball at a 45-degree angle as far as you can and measure and record the distance (farther equals more powerful), says Zimmerman. 

The Bottom Line: Using strength and power testing is essential for any program. “I recommend that you determine progress (by retesting yourself) every four to six weeks, which allows for the body and mind to make true adaptations,” says Zimmerman.