Tests Based on Work Demands and Training Status

Kinetic Select June 2017


Fitness testing uses a battery of protocols recognized by the scientific community as both reliable and valid, and it measures important fitness constructs such as aerobic endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, power, agility, flexibility, and balance.

The following is an exclusive excerpt from the book NSCA's Essentials of Tactical Strength and Conditioning, published by Human Kinetics. All text and images provided by Human Kinetics.

Task-simulation tests can be useful tools to assess job suitability (e.g., CPAT). Task or job simulations tend to have strong face validity, meaning that participants performing the test understand the purpose and believe that the test measures their ability to do the job (29, 38). Predictor tests, such as push-ups, may not directly measure task performance but may predict potential to succeed at related tasks (14, 35). The task-simulation approach requires careful analysis of the method for determining cutoff scores (minimal standards), which are discussed later in this chapter. When the task simulations and their standards are valid predictors of the job, it becomes easy to assess readiness for the job or address any deficiencies by targeting areas that seem to be weaker in the task performances. Task-simulation tests can be resource intensive, requiring specific equipment and facilities. Additionally, they may require a certain level of skill or training, as previously discussed.

Exercise Prescription

Although probably not a primary consideration for establishing a physical fitness testing program for a group or an occupation, fitness tests can be used to establish baseline performance measures, set goals, and develop exercise prescriptions. Subsequent tests can then serve as a monitoring system for programming.

Applicants Versus Incumbents

The goal of applicant fitness testing is to select workers with the physical capacities required to complete specialized training or to safely complete the major job tasks without undue risk of injury to self or others. Military and paramilitary organizations often use standardized physical assessments to determine an applicant’s physical capacity in relation to the demands of the occupation. Outcomes from standardized fitness tests may result in a distinct classification of pass or fail, or they may be absolute scores that are then used to rank order. Regardless of the outcome, for legal and ethical reasons, physical assessments administered to applicants must be linked to job requirements. Applicant testing may be composed of fitness tests based on the important fitness requirements for job performance that utilize similar movement patterns and demands from job-simulation tests (JSTs), which replicate important tasks as determined by a thorough job analysis. If JSTs are used, it is critical that skills that may be learned during occupational training are not incorporated in applicant screening.

For example, it would be unfair to administer a test that requires a firefighting applicant to wear a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) because it is a skill that an applicant may or may not possess prior to job training. However, given that wearing SCBA is a job requirement for firefighting, the test could require carrying a SCBA to determine if the applicant is able to perform this aspect of the job. Evidence-based preselection or prescreening physical training programs can be developed to prepare the applicant for a fitness test or occupational training.

The goal of incumbent testing is to ensure that personnel maintain the physical fitness necessary to perform essential job tasks and that they can perform the tasks safely and effectively. Incumbent testing may be composed of general fitness or JSTs. JSTs are the preferred method for evaluating incumbents because they reduce the potential for errors that can occur when using results from a general test to predict job performance. If JSTs are used, it is important to ensure that incumbents have an opportunity to practice the test, become familiar with the task order, overcome any learning effect associated with the test, and determine the best approach for maximizing performance.

Job-Specific Simulations Versus Fitness Test Batteries

Table 8.2 highlights the main differences between JSTs made up of task simulations and fitness-component test batteries that are composed of validated, widely accepted, field-expedient fitness tests. In some cases, logistical considerations, legal obligations, or financial constraints might dictate the choice of test.

12 Test based on work demands

Validity and Reliability

The accuracy—that is, the validity and reliability—of testing protocols needs to be established. Validity may be determined through construct validation, content validation, or a combination thereof.

Construct validation involves statistical comparison of the physiological demands of critical job tasks to the physiological demands measured during the testing protocol (23). This comparison ensures that the testing protocol measures what it claims to be measuring and not other skills or abilities. Examples of physiological demands may include oxygen consumption and HR. The assistance of statisticians may be useful; they can run a variety of statistical tests to determine the strength of the relationship between the physiological requirements of a job task and the fitness test performance.

Content validity uses Likert scale ratings provided by experienced incumbents that compare the likeness of the test components with the job components (23). Tests with high content validity replicate the distances moved, weights of equipment lifted and carried, and heights of lifts and are performed in gear typically worn on the job.


Fitness testing uses a battery of protocols recognized by the scientific community as both reliable and valid, and it measures important fitness constructs such as aerobic endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, power, agility, flexibility, and balance. The test–retest reliability of JSTs needs to be determined before implementation. Because JSTs are a type of physical assessment, physical fitness should be the only factor influencing performance. Therefore, if individuals perform the JST on consecutive days, their score should not significantly change, because their fitness level should not significantly change unless there is some influence of fatigue and soreness that results from the testing itself. In order to ensure the test is valid and reliable, a statistical comparison of test–retest scores may be completed.

NSCA's Essentials of Tactical Strength and Conditioning is the ideal preparatory guide for those seeking the Tactical Strength and Conditioning Facilitator® (TSAC-F®) certification, and a reference for fitness trainers who work with tactical populations such as military, law enforcement, and fire and rescue personnel. The book is available in bookstores everywhere, as well as online at the NSCA Store.

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