Whether you realize it or not, you are always in a constant state of assessment as a lifter or an athlete. You’re always trying to lift more weight, push more reps, run farther, or sprint faster. You acknowledge when your weight increases and make a mental note of your new starting weight for the next session. Across all levels of athletics, testing batteries are administered to athletes and teams to periodically measure and mark improvements… determine strengths and weaknesses. These numbers help your strength coaches determine a plan of attack for the coming cycle. However, most people never go through a formal testing battery.
Periodic testing provides your strength coaches 2 main benefits:
- Feedback on the success or failure of the most recent training cycle.
- Quantification of the strengths and weaknesses of each athlete.
That important information is used when designing the next cycle of programming.
Elite athletes receive the information testing gives them in a slightly different context:
- The athlete improves, confidence grows, and the self-imposed weight room intensity increases proportionately with enthusiasm.
- The athlete doesn’t improve and must look inward to determine why gains have stalled.
Outside of movement efficiency/ mobility testing, many young athletes these days never go through the rigors and brutal trials that a testing battery brings to the table. It almost seems as if people view this as an archaic and barbaric ritual that serves no purpose in a modern civilized society. Wrong. In order to win, athletes must tap into an animalistic mentality that evolution thankfully hasn’t yet snuffed out. Competitive nature, by definition, is a natural thing… but it needs to be cultivated. It in itself needs to be tested. Athletes need to be placed in situations that force them to look in the proverbial mirror and ask if they’re actually giving every bit of themselves to the process. You can’t be accountable to teammates if you’re not honest with yourself.
Many adults have never specifically been through this. Marking your weekly weights in a notebook isn’t the same thing as setting aside a session to push your limits and find out where you really stand. You don’t have to be an athlete to learn about yourself and what you’re capable of. If you never push yourself to your limits, you’ll have no idea what they are. Just because you only have yourself to answer to doesn’t mean you should let yourself off the hook.
The reason most people don’t do this on their own is that they don’t actually want to be honest with themselves. If they don’t have proof that their lack of results is their own fault, then they can pass the buck onto something else. They spare themselves the shame of failure because it’s not their fault. If they put themselves through the gauntlet, they might be forced to face some uncomfortable truths.
On the flip side, you can receive some very positive feedback from testing. That is the ideal, after all. When you put in an honest effort during your training cycle, it feels good to know that your effort didn’t go to waste… that you did everything right and were rewarded for your time and sweat. Use that as motivation to keep improving. You learned what it takes to get this far. now, you have an idea of what limits you can capably push your body to in order to keep the trend line moving upward.
The numbers are important, but there are qualitative lessons you can learn about yourself that can only be taught when shown quantitative results. Sometimes, you can only come to terms with the truth when you’re forced to see it.