performance — By bj ward
A Rhone man needs to be ready for whatever life throws at him. We’ll show you a better way to test your physical (and mental) capacity.
How do you know how good of shape you’re in? For most guys, the standard is the bench press. If you’ve got a big one-rep max you’re feeling pretty good about things, right?
Here’s the truth: how much you bench press says little about the kind of shape you’re in. Life doesn’t happen laying on your back. To borrow from the business world, how much you bench is a vanity metric for most guys. It might feel good but it actually gives you little actionable data.
Strength is important, and you should test it, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle. If you want to be ready for whatever life throws at you we also need to test your capacity to complete work under fatigue.
Can you drop the hammer when you need to, but also sustain your effort long enough to finish?
A Better Test.
We’re often encouraged to ignore weaknesses and double down on strengths. It’s a solid idea and a worthwhile debate to have if we’re discussing how to maximize your productivity at work.
However, ignoring your fitness weaknesses leaves you exposed. We need a test that will push you and expose your weaknesses so that you can understand your greatest needs.
Your New Pursuit: The Rhone Fitness Challenge.
Ready to test just how good of shape you’re actually in? The following fitness challenge consists of 2 separate tests completed back-to-back. The only equipment needed is a heart rate monitor —and a willingness to push yourself.
One important note before we jump in: this test is not about meeting a standard. It’s about setting your standard so you can gauge how you’re improving this year.
Test 1: How Far Can You Go In 12 Minutes?
To gauge your endurance and ability to recover from hard exercise, we’re going to do a 12-minute conditioning test. The goal is simple: Go as far as you can in 12 minutes. Besides testing your endurance we’re also testing your ability to push yourself.
You can use any modality here: running, jogging, rowing, cycling, or the versaclimber. Whatever piece of equipment you chose, it needs to be able to record your total distance covered.
Be sure to thoroughly warm-up before you begin the test.
After you complete 12 minutes, write down your total distance covered.
Immediately after the test, sit down and record your 60-second heart rate recovery. This shows how far your heart rate drops in 60 seconds. We’re testing your parasympathetic nervous system’s ability to shut down stress and recover. It’s a key indicator of overall fitness.
Joel Jamieson, one of the world’s foremost authorities on energy systems, has found the following heart rate recovery norms across the athletes he’s worked with. The numbers indicate how far your heart rate dropped in 60 seconds:
Test 2: Drop And Give Me AMRAP.
Now it’s time to test your muscular endurance under fatigue. This gives us the chance to evaluate your movement qualities under stress.
You’ll want to rest after the conditioning test but it’s time to dig deep here. As soon as you record your 60-second heart rate recovery score move into the following three tests:
Max push-ups: Do as many reps as pretty.
Move immediately into max hold a front plank. Use a mirror. When you start to sag the test is over.
Then immediately into max pull-ups (or inverted rows).
Now it’s time to rest. Record your scores and cool down.
The Next Step.
You now have a good idea of your level of all-around conditioning. How’d you do? If you gassed out quickly on the run and managed only a few push-ups and pull-ups it’s time to build a better foundation.
This means adding more low-intensity cardio work back into your workout. Think of the road work you see in every boxing movie and you’ve got the right idea.
My guess is you’ve been doing plenty of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) work, right? HIIT training is calorie for calorie (and fatigue for fatigue) more efficient for fat loss training but we’re training for performance here, and that requires more time spent in specific heart rate zones.
Add 1-2 cardiac output workouts to your week. Keep your heart rate in the 120-140bpm range the entire time. Start at 20 minutes and build up from there. Any low-intensity exercise will work here: jogging, biking, swimming, jumping rope, etc.
How To Measure Your Progress.
How can you tell if your conditioning is improving? Track your resting heart rate each week. Over time, if your resting heart rate is trending down it’s a powerful indication that conditioning is improving.
To find your resting heart, strap on your heart rate monitor, lie down on your back, and relax. Lie still and breath naturally for 3-5 minutes. Don’t look at the monitor. After 3-5 minutes record the number on the monitor.
Again, we turn to Coach Jamieson here for norms:
Low (level of aerobic fitness): 70+
Avg (level of aerobic fitness) 55-70
High (level of aerobic fitness) <55
This challenge is just one of many ways you can test your fitness standards. And as I noted earlier, this test is not designed to test your absolute strength.
But strength is important. I want you to be fit and capable. And that means you need to develop high levels of fitness in multiple categories. So, if you’d like, I’d recommend testing your big lifts like bench presses, squats, and deadlifts on another day that you’re fresh.
BJ Ward is Head Coach at Born Fitness and current strength coach of Rhone CEO and co-founder Nate Checketts. A former US Army soldier and athlete, his passion is helping men become the strongest versions of themselves, in and out of the gym. Connect with BJ on Instagram @_bjward.