I believe in building truly fit, capable people. That’s why I ask people who train at the gym to aim to reach my famous fitness standards.
They reveal just how capable you should be. There are 20 standards on the full list, and if you can accomplish them all, you’re fitter than 99.9 percent of the population. Here are the seven most critical.
If your back squat is solid, every other lower-body strength exercise works well behind it. For example, guys with a heavy squat usually have a heavy deadlift. The opposite isn’t always true. The move works your body’s most powerful muscles: your glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Hitting double bodyweight shows me your legs are strong enough to handle nearly any feat life throws your way.
The ability to do 10 bench press reps with your bodyweight, in my experience, transfers to real life better than a big one-rep max lift. That’s because most upper-body workouts or tests—for example, the pushup tests my Special Forces soldiers take in the military—require some endurance. If you can fire off 10 reps of your bodyweight, you’re going to have a strong one-rep max bench, and you’re also going to pass most military and law enforcement pushup tests.
Most people can crank out a few reps using their arms or back muscles alone. But to nail 15 clean pullups, you have to engage all your muscles—lower body, core, and upper body—at once. Fifteen reps indicates you know how to use your muscles in synergy, are strong for your size, and aren’t carrying too much excess weight.
Getting up off the ground while holding a weight overhead isn’t easy. But the exercise “sorts out” your core, meaning it’ll correct imbalances and help you build a virtually bulletproof vest of muscle around your entire torso. It also builds and maintains full-body mobility. Performing it with half your bodyweight overhead shows me your midsection is strong as hell, and that you can move like an athlete. Here's a tutorial.
Most sports are comprised of 20-90 second insanely intense efforts followed by lulls in action. Passing this test tells me you have the lungs and power to drop the hammer and pull ahead of the guy next to you, but also sustain the effort for a good amount of time, which is the key to topping the competition. That’s key for guys like Special Forces soldiers breaching a compound, or UFC fighters in an exchange of punches.
Yes, you need a killer set of lungs to pull off this feat. But I consider it a test of your mental toughness more than your physical fitness. The rower’s computer is totally objective—you can’t cheat reps or pull off any other hijinks to log a faster time. You can only row faster. At the halfway point, you’ll want to quit (if you don’t, you’re not going hard enough). Silencing your mental demons and pushing past the suffering to log a killer time shows me you won’t say die no matter how bad things get.
Lots of trainers bash long runs. My take: If you can’t cover a good distance of ground quickly, you’re not that fit. Running is the most fundamental form of human exercise. The ability to burn through more than 6 miles in 50 minutes or less—an 8 minute mile pace—tells me your lungs are in order. It also shows that you likely have the ability to recovery quickly during rest periods or timeouts. What's more, the 10 kilometer run seems to be an ideal training distance to prep my Special Forces guys in the event they ever have to flee a hot zone.
This article originally appeared on Men's Health