Assessing Your Fitness (Part One: Strength)

October 11, 2010 // Al Kavadlo

There are generally three categories used to assess physical fitness: strength, endurance and flexibility. Within each of those groups, however, there are many variables to consider.

The strength required to throw a baseball 90 miles-an-hour is very different from the strength used to deadlift 700 pounds or that which is needed to perform a back lever. (I challenge you to find one person who can do all three of those things!)

The same is true of endurance; climbing stairs requires a unique type of stamina when compared to swimming or running.

Even flexibility gets tricky to gauge; throwing a roundhouse kick at eye level requires flexibility, but it’s different than the flexibility needed to perform a back bridge.

While specific skills like the ones mentioned above can be used to assess strength, endurance or flexibility, I believe an individual should meet several requirements to be deemed fit.

Notwithstanding my belief that goals are far less important than the actual practice of regular exercise, I’ve decided to put forth the following guidelines to use for self-assessment. Let’s start with strength.

Assessing Your Strengths (And Weaknesses)

There are basically two ways to measure or improve your strength: move your own bodyweight (my favorite) or, as Mark Sisson likes to say, “lift heavy things” (which is also very effective).

To meet my standards for basic strength, an individual should be able to perform the following:


40 Push-ups
10 Pull-ups
50 Squats

10 Push-ups
15 Australian Pull-ups
50 Squats

You might be thinking, “Al, doing 40 push-ups is a test of muscular endurance – not strength!” And you wouldn’t be wrong to think that. I told you these types of assessments can get tricky!

If you are looking to test your strength for one rep, then use weights. Keep in mind that even with weight training, it is best to judge your strength relative to your body weight. A 250 lb. man should be expected to lift a lot more than a man who weighs 165 lbs. With that in mind, anyone who I consider strong will likely meet the following minimum criteria:


Clean and Press 50% of your bodyweight
Squat 90% of your bodyweight
Deadlift 100% of your bodyweight

Clean and Press 35% of your bodyweight
Squat 60% of your bodyweight
Deadlift 70% of your bodyweight

Remember that these are not hard and fast rules with which to judge yourself. Simply use this as a way to assess what aspects of your game might be worth giving extra attention – then get to work!

It should be noted that technique is a factor in performing these lifts as well. Make sure you understand the mechanics of any given exercise prior to testing your limits.

In parts two and three I discuss my thoughts on assessing endurance and flexibility. Use the comment section below to share your thoughts on assessing strength.