Take each of these tests to gauge your performance level. If you fall short in any area, follow our tips to boost your abilities, then retake the test in three to four weeks to track your progress.
Many women focus only on their biceps and triceps (we get it, who doesn't want arms like Michelle Obama's?). Problem is, they're ignoring key muscles in the chest, shoulders, and upper back that build strength, streamline posture, and prevent injuries, says Rachel Cosgrove, Women's Health fitness advisor and half of the husband-and-wife duo that owns Results Fitness in Newhall, California. Rowing movements—like the ones in this test—are an excellent measure of upper-body strength because they target all the muscles and use your body weight as resistance.
The Test: Three-Rep Inverted Row
Think of this exercise as an upside-down pushup: Lie faceup on the floor with your shoulders directly underneath a secure barbell. The bar should be high enough that when you grab it your back is not resting on the ground. Hold the bar with an overhand grip, hands wider than shoulder width.
Rep one: Bend your knees 90 degrees, feet flat on the floor, lift your hips to form a straight line from shoulders to knees, then pull your body to the bar. If you can touch your chest to the bar, move on to rep two.
Rep two: Extend your legs so your body is in a straight line. Repeat the movement from the first rep by pulling your body to the bar. If you can touch the bar with your chest, move on to rep three.
Rep three: Place your feet on an exercise bench so your legs are in line with your shoulders. Perform the same movement as the first two reps, pulling your body to the bar while maintaining a straight line.
Excellent If you can complete all three reps with proper form
Good If you can complete one or two reps with proper form
Below Average If you cannot complete one rep with proper form
Add this upper-body combo from Cosgrove to your routine two or three times a week: Do as many reps of the modified inverted row (rep one) as you can, then do as many pushups as you can. Rest for 60 to 90 seconds, then repeat for a total of two or three sets. Aim for more reps each workout.
Endurance"Being able to run miles a day is a good measure of cardio endurance, but it's not the best measure of muscle endurance," says fitness expert Robert Dos Remedios, author of Cardio Strength Training. That's because running for distance primarily challenges your heart and lungs, not your legs. (Yes, your legs may feel tired, but your muscles aren't actually exhausted.) When you focus on muscular endurance—your ability to sustain resistance over time—you gain the strength to power through longer, more intense workouts, says Dos Remedios. The following test challenges both aspects, showing you how long your lungs and muscles can last before calling it quits.