Using frequent assessments, whether it’s a push-up test or a mile run for time, is the best way to gauge progress and the effectiveness of your current program. A good assessment can guide your training and indicate where you should dedicate more time and what areas may be overworked. The key is choosing the right assessments and interpreting the results. Use these moves to gauge your current strength and flexibility and target areas of improvement.
The Test: Overhead Squat
HOW TO DO IT: Take squatting stance with your feet about hip width apart and your toes pointed forward. Hold a dowel rod or broomstick above your head with your elbows locked out and your hands slightly wider than shoulder width. Keeping your arms extended and your back flat, squat down as low as comfortable.
The problem: Your arms fall forward.
The fix: The inability to keep your arms back over your head is caused from poor shoulder flexibility. Spend more time working on row variations and less time doing chest work like the bench press that can make the problem worse. Chest stretches and foam rolling for the shoulder should be part of your daily routine.
The problem: You can’t keep your back flat.
The fix: The culprit is most likely tightness in the hips. Spend some additional time stretching your hip flexors, which can lead to excessive arch in the back. Dedicate a few minutes before your work
out to go through a comprehensive warm-up that includes multiple dynamic stretches for the hip flexors and hamstrings.
The problem: Your heels come off the ground.
The fix: The inability to keep your heels on the ground is often the result of tight calves. Slide a small plate under your heels and try again. If that makes the move easier, spend some time stretching and foam rolling your calves. Still having trouble? It could be form. Try sitting back further on your heels and relying on your glutes rather than your quads. The majority of your weight should be centered on your heels, not your toes during the movement.
The Test: Inline Lunge
HOW TO DO IT: With your feet together and hands at your hips, take a lunge step forward with your right leg. The goal is to have your right knee get to 90 degrees with your shin perpendicular to the ground. Push off of your front foot and return to the starting position. Repeat on your left side.
The problem: Your back is overarched.
The fix: Stiff hips can lead to low back problems and inability to maintain a neutral spine. Focus on strengthening the core through plank variations and stretching the hip flexors, which pull down on the front of the hips and lead to a forward pelvic tilt.
The problem: Your hips don’t stay even.
The fix: Weight shifting side to side during the move is an indicator that the hips are weak. Chances are, you favor one side over the other when doing other exercises like squats as well. Identify your dominant leg and spend more time focusing on single leg variations to bring the weaker side up to speed.
The problem: Your knee collapses inward.
The fix: Knee instability can be caused from flat feet, weak hips, or a combination of both. Strengthen your glutes with bridges, side lunges, and single leg variations. Also, target your IT bands with some foam rolling.