Key Components of Assessing Fitness

Assessing Fitness 

Huberman and Galpin discuss the different ways to assess fitness and the different levels of assessment that should be considered. They mention that when it comes to exercise, people generally have two major goals in mind: appearance and functionality. The first goal is achieving some sort of appearance, such as wanting to be big, lean, or having a certain physique. The second goal is functionality, which can include being better at strength, mobility, or having energy throughout the day.

Galpin goes on to explain that to achieve and maintain these goals, there are several major components of physical fitness that are required. These components are the key to understanding where one needs to focus on the most and how to achieve their goals more effectively. The methods for achieving these goals may be many, but the concepts are few.

9 Exercise-Induced Adaptations 

Exercise-induced adaptations are the physiological changes that occur in the body as a result of regular physical activity. These adaptations are the foundation of fitness and are responsible for the various benefits that come with exercising, such as improved health and performance. In this discussion, Huberman and Galpin break down the nine major types of adaptations that can be created in the body using exercise.

The first adaptation is skill or technique. This refers to the ability to move better, more efficiently, with a specific position and timing and sequence. This could be running more effectively, practicing a skill like shooting a ball or an implement, or swinging a golf club. The second adaptation is speed, which is the ability to move at a higher velocity or with a better rate of acceleration. The third adaptation is power, which is speed multiplied by force. The fourth adaptation is force or strength, which is the ability to move something effectively.

The fifth adaptation is muscle hypertrophy, which is an increase in muscle size. The sixth adaptation is muscular endurance, which is the ability to do a high number of repetitions of a movement such as push-ups or sit-ups. The seventh adaptation is anaerobic capacity, which is the maximum amount of work that can be done in a short period of time, such as 30 to 45 seconds. The eighth adaptation is maximal aerobic capacity, which is the ability to do a high amount of work in a longer period of time, such as 8 to 15 minutes.

Overall, these adaptations are the foundation of fitness and are responsible for the various benefits that come with exercising. 

Movement/Skill Test

Huberman and Galpin delved into the topic of lopsided fitness and the importance of assessing one’s level of adaptation in different areas. Galpin discussed the nine adaptations, starting with movement skill. He explained that it is important to stay injury-free and be able to continue to train for as long as possible.

Galpin suggested that the best way to assess movement skill is to visit a highly qualified physical therapist or movement specialist. They can identify all of your movement patterns, such as overhead pressing, squatting, and running. However, for those who want to do it themselves, Galpin provided a simple four-step solution. He suggests going joint by joint, starting with the shoulder, elbow, low back, hip, knee, and ankle. He recommends doing a representative movement for each joint, such as a push-up, pull-up, bent row, squat, and deadlift.

Galpin advises recording the movement, both from a frontal view and a side view, and doing three to ten repetitions per angle. The movements should be slow and controlled, and the focus should be on four key things at every joint: symmetry, stability, awareness, and control. By assessing movement skill in this way, individuals can identify areas where they may need to work on and improve their overall fitness level.

Speed Test, Power Test

When it comes to speed testing, Galpin believes that it is not necessary for most people to test. He suggests that for high-performance athletes, a 40-yard dash or velocity transducer on a barbell can be used. For weightlifters and others, pure speed is not necessary to test. Instead, power testing is a better option as it is easier to do and train for.

One simple way to test power is through a broad jump. The test is done by standing in a normal position and jumping as far in front as possible. The distance between the starting point and the back of the heel where it lands is measured. A basic number to look for is the person’s height. For example, a person who is five foot five should be able to jump five foot five. However, this number may be 15% lower for females due to their lower power levels.

Huberman asks if there are any specific requirements for the broad jump, such as squatting down or swinging arms. Galpin explains that there is no running approach and the test is done standing still. The person can swing their arms and bounce as much as they want. The distance from the tip of the toe to the furthest point back where the person lands is measured.

For a more accurate measurement, Galpin suggests a vertical jump test. This can be done by measuring two hands, putting them together and reaching up as high as possible. The person then jumps and marks the height. Galpin also mentions that this test can be done with more technology for a better number.

Huberman plans to try the test the next morning. Galpin reminds him to measure the distance covered and not the best possible score. He also advised to use the furthest point back of the heel.

Strength Test

Strength is an important aspect of physical fitness, and Galpin suggests measuring it in multiple areas starting with grip strength. One way to test grip strength is through a hand grip dynamometer, which can be purchased for as low as $25. The test is done on both the right and left hand, and the results are measured in kilograms. A minimum score for men is 40 kilograms and for women is 35 kilograms. A difference of no more than 10% between the left and right hand is considered normal. Another way to test grip strength is through a dead hang, where the person hangs on a bar for a certain amount of time. A minimum of 30 seconds is expected, with a range of 30-50 seconds being considered good and 60 seconds or more being ideal.

Galpin also suggests an upper body strength test, such as a 100 max bench press, but is more interested in a leg extension test. The leg extension test is easier to perform, has standardized technique and does not require spotters or comfort like a back squat. The standards for a leg extension test are to look for a minimum of 40-50 pounds for men and 30-40 pounds for women. Overall, testing strength in multiple areas can give a comprehensive understanding of overall physical fitness.

Hypertrophy Test

Hypertrophy, or muscle growth, is an important aspect of physical fitness. While the aesthetic portion of it is subjective, there is a sufficient amount needed for overall health. A body composition test, such as a DEXA scan or bioelectrical impedance, can be used to measure muscle mass. The test measures a number called FFMI (fat-free mass index) which can be calculated using any number of online calculators. A man should have an FFMI of 20 or higher and a woman should have an FFMI of 18 or higher. These numbers assume that the person is lean, with a body fat percentage of 30% or less for men and 35% or less for women.

A lower FFMI score of 17 or less for men and 15 or less for women is indicative of insufficient muscle mass and can have a negative impact on health. It is important to note that FFMI is not the same as body fat percentage. It is a way to measure the muscle mass in relation to body weight and height.

Muscular Endurance Test, Push-Up

Muscular endurance is an important aspect of overall fitness and can be tested through various exercises. One such exercise is the push-up. According to Galpin, the push-up is a good test of muscular endurance and is a simple test to perform. He suggests that for a general male, the goal should be to perform 25 or more consecutive push-ups. The form of the push-up should be a full, complete lockout of the elbows at the top and a full chest touch or close to it at the bottom. A full joint range of motion should be used unless there is a specific reason to limit it. He also mentions that if a person can’t do a single push-up, that’s not a muscular endurance issue, that’s actually now a strength issue.

In addition, Galpin also mentions that if a male can only perform less than 10 push-ups, that’s a very severe red flag problem and that for a female, the answer could be as little as zero. The goal for females should be to perform 15 or more consecutive push-ups. He also mentions that if a person needs to take a break during the test, it’s considered a failed test and that it is important to standardize the test from pre-test to post-test to mark progress.

Anaerobic Capacity Test, Heart Rate

Measuring anaerobic capacity can be challenging, but there are a few ways to test it. One option is to go to a laboratory and do a Wingate test, which is a 30-second maximal test to see how much work can be done in that time frame. Another option is to perform a maximal effort exercise, such as sprinting or using an air bike, for 30 to 60 seconds. However, the key metric to focus on is not the distance covered, but rather the individual’s heart rate. The goal is to reach close to the predicted maximum heart rate, which is 220 minus the individual’s age.

A more accurate metric to measure anaerobic capacity is heart rate recovery. After reaching maximum fatigue and testing the heart rate, an individual should aim for a heart rate recovery of 30 beats per minute within 60 seconds, 60 beats per minute within the next minute, and so on. These are rough numbers to go by, but they provide a good indication of anaerobic capacity. It’s important to note that the number of beats per minute recovery may vary from person to person.

Maximal Heart Rate Test, VO2 Max

Maximal Heart Rate Test and VO2 Max are two important indicators of an individual’s fitness level. These tests are used to measure an individual’s cardiovascular and anaerobic capacity, and are often used to determine if there are any problems that need to be addressed.

One of the most accurate ways to measure VO2 max is through a laboratory test, where a mask is worn to collect gases and measure the individual’s maximum oxygen uptake. However, not everyone has access to this type of test, and there are other alternatives that can be used.

One alternative test is the 12-minute Cooper test. During this test, an individual runs as far as they can in 12 minutes and records the distance covered. This distance can then be entered into online calculators to estimate the individual’s VO2 max.

Another alternative test is the Rockport one-mile sub-maximal test. During this test, an individual walks one mile while recording their time and heart rate at the end of the walk. These measurements can then be entered into online calculators to estimate the individual’s VO2 max.

Long Duration Steady State Exercise Test

Huberman and Galpin discussed the concept of long duration, steady state exercise. Also known as endurance, this type of exercise requires the individual to maintain consistent work output for over 20 minutes.

Galpin suggests that individuals should choose an exercise that is already a part of their lifestyle, such as a loop around their house or a protocol they are already familiar with. The goal is to test the individual’s ability to maintain work without stopping.

Galpin also adds a twist to this exercise by suggesting nasal breathing only, as it is a good indicator of overall fitness level. He advises that walking doesn’t count unless the individual is very unfit, and recommends a non-walking pace, with no breaks, intervals, or downtime. The goal is to maintain a minimum of 20 minutes of work, ideally with nasal breathing only.

Fitness Testing Frequency & Testing Order

Huberman and Galpin discuss the concept of fitness testing frequency and testing order.

Huberman expresses his concerns about how to arrange the performance of different tests and how often they should be done. Galpin advises that individuals should focus on the test they perform the worst in and test that more frequently. For example, if someone excels in upper body strength but struggles with VO2 max, they should test VO2 max more frequently.

He also suggests that individuals should do a full battery of tests once a year, within a week, possibly splitting the tests into a three-day split. He also recommends doing non-fatiguing tests when the individual is the most fresh, and skill or maximum strength or power tests at the beginning of the day.

Lastly, any fatiguing tests should be done at the end, this way the individual can perform their best on the test. This is a good way to identify where you need to change and prioritize your training for the next quarter, half a year or wherever you want to go.

VO2 Max Measurements

Galpin and Huberman discuss VO2 Max measurements, which is a measure of the maximum amount of oxygen that an individual can consume per minute, per kilogram of body weight. Galpin states that for men, a minimum number should be 35 milliliters per kilogram per minute, and for women, that should be about 30. However, he wants to see men above 50, and women above 50 as the target. He explains that the calculation of VO2 max is done by multiplying cardiac output by the AVO2 difference, which is the difference in oxygen levels between the arteries and the veins.

Huberman interjects and clarifies what the measurements mean and Galpin continues to explain how the calculation is done. He also mentions a legendary figure in exercise physiology, Dave Kostel, who said that there is no human excuse to be below 60. He also brings up a 92-year-old person with a VO2 max of 38 and predicts that the person will probably break that record when they reach their 80s. Huberman concludes the discussion by stating that exercise pays off and is one of the few things in life where there’s a direct relationship between work and outcome.

Assessing Fitness Levels per Category; Fat Loss & Health

Assessing fitness levels per category is an important aspect of understanding one’s current level of fitness and identifying areas where improvement is needed. There are many different tests that can be taken or done to determine a person’s level of ability in each of the nine different categories of fitness adaptations. Galpin explains that he will walk through his favorite tests for each category and provide both scientific gold standards and cost-free equipment-free options that anyone can do across the world. He also explains how to identify if you are poor or great in a certain category, and what protocols to follow to achieve optimal results.

Huberman brings up the fact that Galpin’s list of the nine different adaptations to exercise did not mention fat loss or health-promoting benefits, which are two reasons that many people exercise. Galpin explains that these two things are not specific training styles, they are by-products of the nine categories. He goes on to say that when we understand what it actually means to be healthy from a physiological perspective, the rationale for what to train for will be determined by it. Therefore, training for one’s health is determined by the individual’s current status or limitations in physical fitness among these nine areas. Galpin then goes on to talk about a brief history of exercise science, explaining why people are not getting the goals in their exercise programs that they want and providing specific direction on what to do instead.

Wrapping Up

Assessing one’s level of adaptation in different areas, specifically movement skill, speed, power, and strength, is crucial for staying injury-free and continuing to train. 

Movement skill can be assessed by visiting a physical therapist or movement specialist, or by using a four-step solution of going joint by joint and recording the movement. 

Speed testing is not necessary for most people, but power testing can be done through a broad jump or vertical jump test. 

Strength can be measured through grip strength tests, such as a hand grip dynamometer or dead hang, as well as upper body strength tests and leg extension tests. 

By identifying areas that need improvement, individuals can improve their overall fitness level.

Subscribe now

Related Posts

Huberman’s Sponsors

AG1 (Athletic Greens):



Eight Sleep:

Supplements from Momentous

Articles Mentioned

Muscle health and performance in monozygotic twins with 30 years of discordant exercise habits:

New records in aerobic power among octogenarian lifelong endurance athletes:

Huberman’s Links

Website –

Huberman Lab Premium –

Instagram –

Twitter –

Facebook –

Newsletter –




The content above is a summary from the Huberman Lab podcast. I’m not affiliated with him.

If you’d like to support Dr. Huberman, you can do so by checking out the sponsors. All affiliate links go to Huberman.

Leave a Comment