Assessing Fitness Tests

Fair Way To Judge Fitness Test

What is a Fair Way to Judge a Fitness Test?

Often I receive emails from military and law enforcement personnel concerning how fair a fitness test is and does it accurately measure someone's fitness level. 

Here is an email from a police officer seeking candidates for his department's SWAT Team:

"I am about to open up tryouts for a few SWAT Team positions and am trying to develop a fitness test that will help the Team select the best candidates to attend our training program. Any suggestions?"

There two things most military and law enforcement groups try to measure: Basic Fitness / Health and Physical Potential to Succeed in Advanced Training.

Basic Fitness / Health

The reasoning for the basic fitness test is to ensure a certain level of health and well-being which will have an impact on job performance, decreased sick days, and a better mental attitude in a stressful environment. Training for a cardio test of a 2 mile run or a 12 minute swim test would require people to exercise regularly and help with cutting extra fat off their bodies. The strength, muscle endurance, and flexibility will help with injury prevention from doing odd jobs that may require lifting. Remember, the goal is to create healthy people in the public service work force. 

Standard fitness tests used today usually are good indicators of one's health, not necessarily an indication of satisfactory job performance. Basically, the run, pushups, sit-ups test most groups perform will give a selection board only a minimal amount of information, but it is still a valid test to assess with current fitness standards scores.

Physical Potential to Succeed

However, Physical Potential to Succeed in Advanced Training testing can offer more insight if graded the following method:

First, these tests should be more directed toward strength, endurance, speed, and agility in a job related method if possible. For instance, if you are a SWAT Team with many water sources in your jurisdiction or a military Special Ops selection team, here is an example test and grading method.

Example SWAT Test

Swim Test

300 - 500m swim with fins

Agility Test

There are many examples to choose from but the Illinois Agility Test, stair climb with gear, a 120yd shuttle run, or 300m run with hurdles / obstacles would suffice

- Max Pushups in 1-2 minutes or body weight bench press - max reps - Max Situps in 1- 2 minutes - Max Pullups and / or rope or caving ladder climbs - 1 mile run with gear

This type of test will help assess some level of tactical athleticism and can be altered with a variety of different tests, but the interesting way to grade this type of test will help with the selection process of your Spec Ops group.

See Example Below:

One way to create a good fair scoring system is to create a test that has some form of cardio / upperbody / speed / agility / lowerbody set up so you would score it like this:

Cardio Speed & agility run - add both up in seconds (sample test)

Events Time Points
1.5 mile run 10 minutes = 600 seconds 600 points
300m sprint with hurdles 60 seconds 60 points - total = 660 pts

Example 1.5 mile run in 10 minutes = 600 seconds / points a 300m sprint with obstacles to weave / jump thru done in 60 seconds = 60 points) - there base score is 660 points...

Strength Events Score Points
# 1 - Pushups with armor 50 reps 50 points
# 2 - Long jump 80 inches 80 points
#3 - Pullups with armor (x6) 5 reps (add bodyweight) 30 reps 200lbs = 235 points
#4 - Bodyweight Bench Press 10 reps (add bodyweight) 10 reps 200lbs = 210 points
Total Strength Scores   575 points

The Upperbody Exercise # 1

Pick One (pullups, pushups, bench press, kettlebell swings etc) max reps in 2:00 - say you get 50 reps = 50 points


Sample (long jump, vertical jump, or squat test max reps in 2 minutes etc) - add distance in inches = points - say you get long jump of 80 inches = 80 points...

Upperbody Exercise #2

Max Reps of Pullups (x 6) with body armor: 5 reps = 30 points bodyweight of a 200 lbs candidates = 235 points

The added in bodyweight will give extra points to a 200lb person who can get 20 pullups compared to a 150 lb person who can get 20 pullups. It makes the playing field even on effort / exertion. These tests tend to favor the smaller candidate who can typically run faster and do more bodyweight calisthenics, but it does not penalize you for weighing less. The goal at selection is to have a fair playing field for each candidate.

Scoring Method for the Above Example

600 60 points for cardio = 660 (now subtract Strength event scores)

660 - (50 80 235 210 = ) = 660-575 = 85 points (lowest score is the best score)

Then setting up scoring criteria is easy, but completely subjective by the graders to what you create for your test. The thing this test will do is rank them numerically for the assessment team.

For instance:

- Less than 100 - Outstanding - 101-150 - Above Average - 151-200 - Average - passing - 201-300 - Below average - minimum standard - Greater than 301 - failing

This test is just an example to demonstrate an idea for scoring criteria. Obstacle courses, shooting skills, and other job related events could and should be tested and graded on a different scale.

Adding in bodyweight and subtracting from cardio scores insures that testing can be scored fairly when competing for a slot in a Spec Ops unit. Say a 200 lbs guy get 10 pullups and a 150 lb guy gets 10 pullups - the 200 lbs guy gets 260 points - the 150 guy gets 210. Remember, I like to multiply pull-ups by SIX (x6) for the fitness test to give it as much weight as 1-2 minutes of pushups and situps. This gives the pullup test an actual exertion assessment pound for pound.   We used to do this type of scoring trying to figure out who went to SEAL Training from the Naval Academy and found it helpful when selecting only 15 candidates for training out of 50 excellent candidates. Of course, the interview, resume, grades, and other factors were considered, but having a numerical value next to their physical tests gave us a ranking system to use to assess physical potential to make it through the training.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at

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