3 Fitness Tests to Fix Your Weak Spots

Stop looking in the mirror—it's the muscles you can't see that you need to focus on. Muscles in the back of your body are crucial for stabilizing you during workouts. Neglecting them, as many men do, leaves you open to injury, says Dan John, a strength coach based in Burlingame, California. Test yourself with these three challenges, and then fix your weak spots.

Assess your overall fitness with these 10 simple fit tests.

TEST 1

20 Swiss-ball leg curls
Lie faceup on the floor and place your calves and heels on a Swiss ball. Your arms should be stretched out at 45-degree angles from your torso, palms facing up. Lift your hips and pull your heels toward you, rolling the ball as close to your butt as possible. Pause for 1 second, and then roll the ball back and lower your hips. That's 1 rep.

If you can't do it, your hamstrings are weak. They're the three muscles that make up the back of your thigh and allow you to flex and rotate your leg and extend your thigh. Weak hamstrings throw your body off balance, which can lead to knee, hip, and lower-back injuries. (Spare your body: six ways to injury-proof your workout.)

The fix: Add Romanian deadlifts—which also target the hamstrings—to one of your weekly workouts, for 3 sets of 8 reps, says Craig Ballantyne, C.S.C.S. Then add 3 sets of as many reps as you can of the Swiss-ball leg curls.

TEST 2

5 seconds of holding a bat wing
Grab a pair of heavy dumbbells (each one should weigh about 25 percent of your body weight) and lie facedown on a bench. Pull the weights up toward your rib cage so that your thumbs are near your armpits. Squeeze your shoulder blades together for 5 seconds at the top of the lift, and then lower the weights back down.

If you can't do it, your rhomboids are weak. These are the muscles that attach to your shoulder blades and spine and are necessary for keeping good form in arm and chest lifts. (Zero in on your biceps with these 25 moves for bigger guns.)

The fix: Start with a much lighter weight, and hold it up for only 1 second at a time, John says. Do a weekly round of 3 sets of 8 reps until you're strong enough for more weight.

TEST 3

5 pullups
Hang from a chinup bar using an overhand grip. Keep your arms slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, knees bent, and ankles crossed. Then pull your chest up to the bar.

If you can't do it, you need to strengthen your lats, the pair of triangular muscles that run along your spine and hips and out to your upper arms. They're important for good posture. (Better posture equals bigger muscles. Follow these seven steps to perfect posture.)

The fix: Count how many pullups you can do without stopping. Then subtract 1 from that number and do 3 sets, says Ballantyne. If you can't do any, do 2 or 3 sets of 3 to 5 reps of negatives. (Ask for a boost to the top of the bar—or use the pullup machine—and then take 3 to 5 seconds to lower yourself.) Add 3 sets of dumbbell rows, for 8 reps each.

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