You have a fitness goal and have created a program to help you achieve it. You know your weight and may have even taken measurements. Now it is time to find out just how strong you are. Before starting your program take the time to test your muscular strength and create a beginning base line for your program. This will give you a beginning point so you can track your progress.
In the fitness world you may often hear the term muscular strength. Muscular strength refers to your muscle’s ability to produce a maximum contractile force against some form of resistance. An example would be bench pressing, you're using your muscular strength to lift the bar off the rack, down to your chest and back up. Two types of muscle contractions can be tested, static and dynamic. Static testing refers to an isometric contraction or one where there is no joint movement. Dynamic is the opposite and requires joint movement.
You need to find your 1RM, or repetition maximum, when you test dynamic strength. A 1RM is the heaviest weight you can successfully lift for one repetition. Start with an estimate of half of your 1RM. For example if you're able to curl 30 pounds, start with 15, and use that as your warm up set. Once rested increase your weight by 60 to 80 percent of your estimated 1RM. Using the example, you'll lift between 18 to 24 pounds for three to five repetitions. Slowly increase your weight for one repetition. Write down the last weight you were able to successfully lift.
Upper Body Strength
Most trainers use static and dynamic tests for upper body strength. Static tests such as grip strength may be done on various machines like a handgrip dynamometer. Dynamic testing may involve one or several tests. If you're only using one, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends the bench press. It's a multiple joint movement that uses dynamic strength, and is a good indicator of upper body strength. If you want to use other tests you should include the lat pull down and the arm curl.
Lower Body Strength
Testing your static lower body strength may also be done with a dynamometer specifically made for the leg. Dynamic testing depends on your preference. The ACSM recommends you use the leg press for single tests. The leg extension, a multiple joint exercise, uses dynamic strength and force to make it a good indicator of leg strength. If you have more time or want to use a few more tests, add the leg extension and leg curl. These additional tests focus on the strength of the quadriceps and hamstrings.
Warm It Up
Before testing, warm up for at least five minutes. This will increase your blood flow and prepare your muscles to lift weights. Write down your results and the date. Testing before you begin a new exercise program will produce your base line. If you're not seeing results, change part of your program.