Can you measure fitness across the population?

Lots of conversations have been had over the last couple of weeks in regards to general fitness, fitness levels and what can be or could be considered fitness standards.

Now, before we look into some of the nitty gritty, we need to remember (or remind ourselves) that everyone has their own strengths and will naturally be more suited to a certain style of training.

Also, there is a great quote (purportedly) by Einstein which is:

“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

The same applies to fitness, we all need to learn, experience and find out what fitness is to us personally and not compare ourselves to what others are doing as they may have been training for years and we are just starting out!

Furthermore, some of the most rewarding fitness goals that I’ve had the pleasure of assisting people with have nothing to do with weight lifted or measurements but more lifestyle fitness goals. For example, being able to skip with the grandchildren.

We can have a look at some examples of fitness standards:

Barbell squat double your body weight

Running 5km in 25 (8 minute mile)

25 full press-ups in a minute (averaged from age brackets)

We could spend a long time debating the best type of training and come to no definitive answer, the reality is that Michael Phelps is unlikely to win worlds strongest man much like Eddie Hall is unlikely to win gold at the 100m freestyle (although he was a national level swimmer!).

Ironically, we typically don’t apply broad fitness standards to elite athletes in our own minds.

So let’s talk about fitness standards, these predominantly come from measurable groups or to set a baseline for entry (military fitness tests, police, fire brigade etc) to show a level of fitness for that specific job. Naturally, people will use these as a personal target to have achieved the baseline for x job.

Over time, these types of benchmarks have widened with other areas or new types of training emerging. Along with this comes new benchmarks based on the originators idea of what is considered a ‘good level’ of fitness for the given training type.

Whilst being able to achieve one of these benchmarks is good, if you are required to for a job, (yeah thanks, that wasn’t obvious), does it:

Increase your fitness?
Does it add longevity to your life?
Does it enhance your quality of life?

Perhaps it does, in which case brilliant, smash that goal!

However, if it doesn’t and we should be honest with ourselves here, then should we really be setting our own fitness standards?


Client A does 100 pull-ups, following session does 110 – 10% improvement, great job.

Client B does 2 pull-ups, following session does 4 – 100% improvement, awesome job.

If the standard was 20, client B looks to be under the standard yet improved by 100%!

Goals should be specific to yourself and enhance your quality of life, we are not saying set them really low so you can give yourself a nice pat on the back though!

Like running, choose a distance target, reach it then make it faster, based on your level of conditioning.

Like lifting weights, chose a lift and refine your technique rather than chasing the weight, use your improved technique to reach that lift.

When you start setting your own goals and concentrating on improving, based on yourself, you’ll find things happening much faster than following broad fitness targets.