The TRUTH TELLER
An important part of getting and staying in top physical condition is that you need to have a way to accurately measure your level of fitness. Not only to measure your present condition, but a way to gauge your progress as you work towards getting better. For this I have developed my own (and much cursed) fitness test. Now when I was on active duty I took the standard Marine Corps Physical Fitness Test (The PFT) probably a hundred times or more during my career. This is a test consisting of pull-ups, abdominal crunches and a 3-mile run. It provides an easy way to conduct a measurement of your overall physical fitness. Not a perfect test in my opinion, but pretty good and logistically easy to do for large groups of people. The Marine Corps also now has a “Combat Fitness Test” (CFT) which measures more specific combat related physical tasks and is a better test of a Marines ability to do “war zone” physical requirements than the PFT. It’s a little harder to do with large groups of people, but I think an improvement over the PFT.
Now I relate all this only to show that I have plenty of experience with fitness tests, to include many different ones that are sports oriented. From that I developed, tested and use my own test to gauge the conditioning levels of myself, friends and my international students. I named this test the “Truth Teller” because measures your strength, muscular endurance and aerobic conditioning in a very simple and non-nonsense manner and it gives you a very honest assessment of your physical fitness. Plus it doesn’t really require any special equipment (a place to run and something to do pull-ups on), and you can do it by yourself.
Here’s how it’s done:
First perform a through warm-up to get yourself loose and ready to go. Then on a standard ¼ mile track, run as fast as you can for 1 mile, timing your effort with a stopwatch. Now you can also do this along the road, a running trail, or on an indoor thread mill if you have too. However I think a regular track oval is best. These are pretty common and can be found at most high schools, military bases or colleges. They are flat, smooth and accurately measured. Plus you need to start and stop in the about the same place to do the test correctly, which a track gives you.
After your run, note the time and then quickly move to where you can do pull-ups. Many running tracks will have a set of pull-up bars (play ground monkey bars, or even a good tree limb will work too) right along side of the track. As I said earlier you need to start and stop your run near a suitable place to do pull-ups. If you do your run on a trail or a road just run ½ mile out and come back to the bar, but in any case you have to be close to a pull-up bar to make this work.
So after you complete your mile run and note the time. Start a 5 minute countdown. You must start a set of pull-ups within 5 minutes of finishing your run. This time limit is essential to test an important aspect of your physical fitness; your ability to quickly recover from a maximum effort, like running a mile. How fast your body can recover from a hard effort is a prime indicator of fitness, not everything but important. As I say in Corps Strength most physical challenges don’t come when your 100% fresh and rested, but when you’re already a little tired and stressed.
I’ve seen lots of people who can jog mile after mile, or can sprint like the wind for a couple hundred yards but are really not in that great of overall condition. Not when you witness them perform actual physical work, military duties, or participate in other types of physical training. A balanced level of conditioning is what we’re looking for here and it starts with a mile run.
Now why a mile? Why not 1½, 2 or 3 miles like most of the military fitness tests out there now? Or why not run even further? Stands to reason that if you can run 10 miles you must be in great shape right? Well, the only thing it says for sure is that you can run 10 miles. It doesn’t mean you have “balanced” levels of muscular strength, endurance and the very different aerobic capacity needed for a short intense effort. After many years of trail and error I settled on a mile, because I feel the mile distance provides this balanced test of speed, endurance and aerobic capability. It’s my feeling that going any longer, (or shorter) provides an unbalanced test, as that will test more of your natural speed, or more toward pure endurance depending on which direction way you go. I realize that some people my not agree with me here, and could make a strong case for a different length run, but this is based on my own personal experience and direct observation training 100’s of others.
Another aspect is that the intensity that an all out mile not only tests your running ability and aerobic capacity, but it also tests your physical and mental toughness. It does this because to get a decent time (relatively speaking) in the mile you have to push yourself into a pretty uncomfortable zone, and maintain it. I feel that conditioning your mental capacity for exercise is very important, as in the end that will determine if you will be able to get and stay in top condition, much more so than just the physical side of it. The bottom line is the ability to run a fast mile is hard to do and not something you can fake, all in all making it a great beginning of this test.
Next, by doing a max set of pull-ups within 5 minutes of finishing your run will test your body’s ability to recover quickly. Pull-ups are used because they re probably the single best test of upper body strength, and muscular endurance, IMO much better than pushups. Not just your pulling power but also your grip. There is no bullshit about pull-ups. I don’t care how much you can bench press, or how far you can hit a baseball. If you can’t pull your own body weight upward, repeatedly in fact, you are not physically fit.
Of course you have to do them correctly, all the way up (chin over the bar) and all the way down (arms fully extended). No excessive swinging or “kipping” (using your weight to boost yourself upward like a gymnast). You can do these with your palms forward or facing inboard, thats up to you. After you perform a max number of correct pull-ups, again note your watch. You now have another 5 minutes to catch your breath before the last part of the test.
The last part of the Truth-Teller is “Eight Count Body Builders”. You can see how to do these either in my book, and there are lots of videos on YouTube to watch. These are one of the toughest “full body” exercises (maybe the toughest), especially if you are already a little fatigued. Which is exactly why they are included in the test and performed last. Eight Count’s test the muscular endurance, coordination and aerobic conditioning of your entire body. Again like pull-ups there are no faking Eight Count’s. After only 5 minutes of rest perform as many correct Eight Counts you can for 2 minutes. Trust me, this test will be tough no matter what your fitness level, but it will honestly measure your overall level of conditioning, that you can be sure of. Use the numbers below to gauge where you stand, and then give you something to work toward. I used different types of vehicles to mark the different fitness levels to give you a more motivating way of looking at your fitness level rather just #’s. Well, it motivates me.
1 Mile Run
|10-11 Min||9-10 Min||8-9 Min||7-8 Min||6-7 Min||Less Than 6|
5 Min Rest
|1 to 2||3 to 4||5 to 9||10 to 14||15 to 19||20 +|
5 Min Rest
0 to 4
|5 to 9||10 to 14||15 to 19||20 to 24||25 to 29||30+|
(for 2 min)
Now to achieve a certain overall level, for example; “Corvette” you must meet the minimum level for each of the three separate events. This is different than other tests that reward extra strength in one event to boost up a weaker event for a better overall score. Not here pal because the intent is to measure your OVERALL fitness, and to do that you have to be measured equally in all areas. In other words if you run a 5-minute mile, do 33 Eight counts, but can only do 1 good pull-up. Your fitness level is rated “Yugo”. Sorry my friend, real fitness must be balanced. You don’t get to brag about your great run and (falsely) feel you’re in great shape if you can’t do more than 1 Pull-up. Why? Because being able to only do 1 or 2 pull-ups is the physical fitness equivalent of driving a Yugo. LOL.
*If you don’t remember those piece of crap cars from back in the day, look it up on line.
This test also provides you some real goals to work toward. If you’re a “Taurus” level runner, but a “Corvette” at pull-ups, and/or Eight counts, It tells you that you need to work on your running. As far as what your end goal is? You have to decide what level your satisfied with. I think that a healthy fit man (of any age) should be able to reach and maintain the “HUMVEE” level, but to be honest most men with some long-term effort can even do much better than that, especially younger guys should shoot for the highest levels.
I know this is a tough test to score high on, and frankly that’s on purpose. It’s just not honest to create a PT test with some type of curve, so you could get some false sense of accomplishment by maxing a weaker test. You should try for as best as you can, but it doesn’t mean by a long shot that you aren’t in shape if you don’t score at the “Shelby Cobra” level. Only about 3% of the entire Marine Corps can max out its PFT. In other words it’s very hard to reach the very top levels of that test and this one, no shit, it’s supposed to be. Or frankly it wouldn’t be worth much. I myself have never reached the “Shelby Cobra” level of this test. I can do the Pull-ups and Eight Counts at that level, but just can’t run that fast anymore (I normally run just over 7 minutes nowadays). That’s life, and it’s not from a lack of honest effort, trust me. However I feel like I’m in better physical condition at age 52 than at least 90% of the rest of the male world (of any age group) with my solid “Road-King” rating and that I can live with. With age comes some wisdom, even in my case. LOL
I would love to hear what you think of the test and your score if you try it. Especially if you are in an occupation (like the military, firefighter, cop) where you have another PT test you have to take.
I would like to hear how you compare on my test (the level) to your test. Please contact me about the test, or anything else for that matter at my email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Good luck, be safe and thanks for your support