Get Up, Stand Up: On uncovering physical weaknesses and limitations

So, as part of my quest for self-improvement on all fronts, I’ve made it a goal to shore up weaknesses, especially as it applies to fitness.

Now, I already know that six years spent at a desk has gifted me with weakened glutes, tight hip-flexors and stiff upper-back muscles, so, yeah, my workouts and stretching routine has focused on those areas.

But, on reading up on the topic of fitness assessment in general, I came across simple tests for gauging ultra-general fitness and even longevity.

What I’m talking about here are tests anyone can do at any age, and the better you do on these tests, especially after a certain age, the greater chance you have of maintaining mobility and living longer.

Now, the classic test is for grip strength, but that requires specific equipment and isn’t especially accessible, so let’s just say that, especially as you get older, it’s important to do things to maintain grip strength, which has a strong correlation with overall fitness and longevity. On programs like the tone body fit online program, you tend to focus on  core exercises that would definitely target hand strength. For anyone interested in an entry level program, there’s one up on their site.

The test I have incorporated into my routine, however, is the epitome of simplicity and gauges overall flexibility, mobility and strength. The test, quite simply, is to get up.

Lie on the floor on your back, and then move into a standing position. Thassit.

Okay, there’s a bit more to it than that. First you give yourself ten points. Now, as you go from lying down to standing up, you take a point away every time you touch a hand, elbow or knee to the floor. Your score is however many points you have left upon reaching a standing position.

Obviously, at this point, I can do this fairly easily with a score of ten on ten, but as I get older, I may have to use a hand here or an elbow there. The trick is to try to keep your score at or above eight throughout your lifetime. If and when your score starts to dip, you should try to assess where you’ve developed a weakness that has led to this reduction in strength or mobility.

For example, though I have no difficulty going from lying down to a seated position, and from a squatting position to standing, the transition from seated to squatting requires more effort. I can tell that this is mainly due to a lack of flexibility in my hips and thighs, so that’s an area that requires more work.

If you have trouble rising to a seated position without using elbows or hands, than your core likely needs work. As we age, even going from squatting to standing may be difficult, requiring more work on leg and back strength.

Anyway, I try to do this test once or twice a week, sometimes even holding a light weight in my hands (one weight held with both hands), thereby making it a good warmup exercise but also ensuring that I can’t use my hands to push myself up.

Give it a shot, especially if you’re over thirty-five. You may be surprised at the weaknesses this test uncovers.