Every coach needs to assess the fitness level of his players, you can ofcourse look at their play, does it fall apart in the last 15 minutes, or put players to a test program. Here is an overview of fitness tests and how they relate to each other.

When subjecting your athletes to any test, take care of the following:

  • Reproducibility: do not simply pace the distance on a speed test, you can not compare an indoor result with an outdoor result. Think about calibration and standardization. For example: using calipers for skin fold measurements: let the same person do all the tests.
  • Tell your players why they are tested, what the consequences of the outcome might be. Otherwise the results of the tests will be poor.
  • Organize yourself (record keeping and so), publish the outcome of the test as quickly as possible. This motivates your players.
  • Take care in comparing results between athletes.
  • See if an experienced exercise physiologist can help you to interpret the results.

The table below gives you the pros and cons of most used tests





Body Composition or Anthropometrics

Height/weight Simple Takes no account of muscle mass
Body mass index Simple Lacks accuracy
Body fat - weight scale Quick and accurate Needs special scale - now more reliable
Body fat - calipers Quick and accurate Technique needs practice.
Interpretation of results needs care.
Endurance or Aerobic Capacity Cooper test Easy to administer Needs a track.
Pacing of run can be difficult.
YoYo test Large groups can be tested.
Pacing and warm-up no problem.
Simulates a match situation
Accuracy of measurement, and calibration of tape/tape recorder a problem.

Better use the beeptest software you can download from this site!

Shuttle run or bleep test Large groups can be tested.
Pacing and warm-up no problem.
VO2max Accurate Need equipment
Step test Submaximal Small inaccuracies in measurement of recovery heart rate give large variations in results.
Wingate test Accurate Needs study and equipment
A.R.U. fitness test Large groups can be tested
Related to rugby skills = more fun

Difficult to reproduce results
Execution of skill can become sloppy

Strength / Power

Sargent jump Basic vertical jump test Standardizing technique, needs equipment
Curl-ups / Sit-up Basic test Needs standardizing using a mat
Medicine ball throw Measures arm and upper body strength Scores influenced by technique
Multi gym measurements Measurements can be made on a variety of muscle groups. Need equipment.
Anaerobic threshold Maximum heart rate monitors Basic test empirical, not accurate. Needs equipment
220 - ages rule Quick, easy empirical
Conconi test better than above Needs track and equipment
Lab tests accurate complicated, needs lab
De-hydration urine color test Easy to do Gives only indication
Speed Hand-timed sprints Easy to administer.
Distances should be 10, 20 & 40 meters
Not accurate enough to reflect any changes in performance.
Speed and Agility Slalom Sprint & Dribble Test Easy to set-up Deviced for hockey and soccer
Flexibility Sit and reach Simple measure hamstring and lower back mobility. Need to standardize technique.
  Other   Measurements quite gross and influenced by other factors.

Original table compiled by John Brewer, later additions by Don de Winter and Martin Slagt

Rugby Test sets

You can combine these tests to a representative set and of course the Ozzies have sorted this out. The University of Queensland Rugby Academy's Skill and Physiological Testing programs focus on enhancing physical and core rugby skills required to perform at a higher level. A variety of tests are offered, appropriate to player age and relevance to specific rugby programs. The UQ School of Human Movement Studies can facilitate the following physiological tests for your program:

  • Speed (10, 20, & 40m)
  • Vertical Jump (Power)
  • Phosphate Decrement
  • Anthropometrics
  • Aerobic Capacity (Beep Test)

Players are given a comprehensive assessment across a number of identified core skills:

  • Catch and pass
  • Defense
  • Impact:
    Ball carrier
    Support player and support player decision making

For more advanced teams, the assessment extends to simple running lines:

  • Quality of lines run
  • Ball carrier decision making

As you can see, also rugby specific tests. Would be interesting to see all the test results they have and the opportunity to put your results against that database. Download an overview of the test on the Free Download Page.

Dutch Under21 program

While working with the Dutch National Under 21 team we used fitness testing to create awareness amongst our player of their responsibility for their physical fitness. Also we focused selected players: if they did not improve, they would have to leave the selection. This page describes the Under 21 program.

VO2max values

The VO2max tells you something about the amount of oxygen your body is using. Originally performed on a bicycle, the test has also been performed on a treadmill. Look here to compute VO2max values from Cooper test results. More info on the Cooper Test here. The Beeptest software also gives you an indication of VO2max, the value of this is still debated.

The Wingate or the bicycle/treadmill test are still the best.