The Strength Matters Assessment System: Are You A Rookie, Explorer or A Pro?

 In The Blog

Are You a Rookie, Explorer or Pro?

Meeting people at their current ability level is key to long-term success. It was necessary to create a self-assessment system to make it possible to prescribe suitable workouts and Programs for the Strength Matters community.

One of the criteria for this system was that it had to be simple enough for someone with no anatomical knowledge and little body awareness to be able to reproduce with reasonable accuracy at home.

First, we considered all the components that make up complete athleticism. In our opinion, those are power, strength, endurance, cardiovascular capacity, balance & coordination, mobility, agility, stability, speed and mental resilience. For more lengthy definitions on these components, please refer to a previous blog What is Your Weakness?

We then scrutinized over these deciding which are more important than others and we came up with the following hierarchy:

Balance & coordination, stability, and mobility trump all other components.

Unless a base level of these Layer One elements is present, injury and failure are around the next corner. You shouldn’t train for power, speed or agility without having a base level of strength. Without a base level of cardiovascular capacity, training for any Layer Three components will be hampered, if not completely fruitless. Building strength, cardiovascular capacity, agility, endurance, and power is very straightforward if the body can move well first.

You may have noticed that speed and mental resilience don’t exist on our pyramid. We think that speed is a result of power and cardiovascular capacity. Mental resilience is a master quality that governs all the others, but we’ll talk a lot more about that in a future blog.

Before Self-Assessing

Before self-assessing you must answer these questions:

  1. Can you balance on one leg with eyes open for 15 seconds? If yes, please continue. If no, this is not for you. We recommend a health check.
  2. From standing, touch your belly to the floor, stand back up. Touch your back to the floor, stand back up. Did you experience pain anywhere in your body? If no, please continue. If yes, this is not for you.
  1. Do you suffer from, or have you suffered from, any chest pain? If no, please continue. If yes, this is not for you.
  1. Do you suffer from any joint pain? If no, please continue. If yes, this is not for you.
  1. Are you pregnant? If no, please continue. If yes, this is not for you.
  1. Have you ever been diagnosed with any kind of heart condition? If no, please continue. If yes, this is not for you.
  1. Do you ever lose balance during normal daily activities, suffer from dizziness or ever lose consciousness? If no, please continue. If yes, this is not for you.
  1. Are you currently taking any prescriptions for blood pressure or a heart condition? If no, please continue. If yes, this is not for you.
  1. Do think there is any chance that participating in physical activity could cause pain or further injury? If no, please continue. If yes, this is not for you.

The Layer One Assessments

If you land a Rookie score in any of the following assessments, your category is Rookie Layer One. In this case, continue with Layer One assessments, but please do not test any further as it may not be safe to do so.

1. Single Leg Balance, Eyes Closed

2. Ankle-Dorsiflexion Test

3. Sit & Reach Test

4. Face The Wall Squat Arms Down

5. Face The Wall Squat Arms Up

6. The Zenith Twist Test

7. The Standing Twist Test

8. The Deep Squat Sit Test

If you achieved Explorer and Pro scores throughout, please continue testing.

Layer Two Assessments

If you land a Rookie score on any of the following assessments, please continue with Layer Two assessments but do not continue to Layer Three as it may not be safe for you to do so. At this point, online Everyday Athlete coaching clients would receive a suitable, individually written Program to work on their weak areas within the Layer Two components.

1. The Flexed-Arm Hang Test

2. The Strength Matters Pull-Up Test

3. The Step-Down Test

4. The Advanced Step Down Test

5. The 2k Row Test

6. The Forearm Plank

7. The Strength Matters Proper Push-Up Test

8. The Timed Infinity Crawl Test

9. The One Mile Run Test

If you achieved Explorer and Pro scores throughout, please continue testing.

Layer Three Assessments

The fact that you’re testing Layer Three means you scored higher than Rookie-level on all Layer Two assessments. The first two of the following tests require you to use your body explosively with maximum effort. Prior to testing, please ensure you spend at least 10 minutes on global joint mobility followed by another 10-15 minutes of appropriate activation exercises.

1. The Standing Long Jump Test

2. The T-Agility Test

3. The Run 10km or Row 10km Test

Done Self-Assessing? The Results…

If your results were in the Rookie category on any Layer One assessment, you’re a Rookie.

If your results were in the Pro category on all Layer One and Layer Two assessments, you’re a Pro.

For anything in between, you’re an Explorer.

So What?

We often publish workouts and programs for Rookies, Explorers or Pros and now you know which are suitable for you. If you learned nothing else, we hope that carrying out these assessments has helped you highlight some weak links within your overall athleticism. To make the whole organism stronger and more athletic one must work on one’s weaknesses.

Coaches Corner

Anyone with any depth of functional anatomical knowledge can pick holes in this assessment system all day long. We appreciate that the push-ups, pull-ups, and step down tests aren’t a true reflection of strength. We appreciate that a sit and reach test doesn’t really tell us much. But to test in any more depth would have made it less reproducible for masses.

On the other hand, experienced coaches can look at the results collectively and build a reasonably good picture of an Everyday Athlete’s abilities. Here are some common examples:

  • Pro push-up and pull-up scores + Rookie/Explorer plank or infinity crawl score = probably performing questionable reps. Probably winging scapulae or overextending lumbar spine during reps. Needs low threshold activation work and lots of core stability work. Common among males.
  • Pro 2000m row score + Rookie one mile run score = good CV system. Probably bad running mechanics. Needs work on locomotion movement family
  • Explorer Layer One results + Pro Layer Two results = not enough time spent on the basics. Amber flag for injury. Needs to stick with Layer One components for a few months for long-term success
  • Pro row and run scores + Rookie strength + Explorer/Rookie Layer One scores = spent too much time defaulting to cardio. Needs to move better and learn about strength
  • Rookie row and run scores + Pro strength + Explorer/Pro Layer One scores = needs to stop lifting weights for a bit, walk more and build respect for a healthy heart


Developing these assessments was the result of years of experience assessing normal everyday people and attending numerous courses and seminars. Becoming a sport and remedial massage therapist was mostly to thank. However, several of the above assessments were stolen straight from the work of our good friend, Dan John. He invented many things in the fitness industry and has been a huge positive influence over the years.

Thanks, Dan!

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