The 15-Second Test You Should Take Before Every Workout
A 15-second balance test can help determine if your body is prepared

November 26, 2015

Nick Bromberg 

Smashing your records in the gym might be easier than you think. A 15-second balance test can help determine if your body is prepared to go all out or if you need to back off a bit.

“It’s called biofeedback testing and you can incorporate it into your workout immediately,” says David Dellanave, owner of Movement Minneapolis, who uses this test with his clients. “It’ll give you a better idea of your body’s readiness to set a personal record rather than just going off how you’re feeling.”

Here’s how it works: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Lift one foot off the floor, bending that knee and letting your foot hang behind you. Hold this balance for 15 seconds, and then repeat on the other leg. Test every day for one week to get your baseline or your body’s normal balancing ability.

“People’s baselines differ. Some will be shaky while others will be rock steady standing on one foot,” says Dellanave. What matters, though, is finding your starting point for comparison. You might find that on one day you’re below your baseline when you’ve had too little sleep or you’ve trained too much in the past few days or you’re under a lot of stress. Other days, you’ll test above average, he explains.

“If your balance is above your normal baseline, you want to push it heavier on that day. If your balance is worse on that day, you would just scale back the movement,” says Dellanave. “It’s sort of idiot-proofing your program. It lets you know when to hold back and when to push your limits.”

The simple test works for all of your lifts too. If you’re above your baseline, go for a personal record on the first heavy set of your main lift. You don’t need to modify the set or rep scheme for your scheduled workout, he explains.

If you test poorly, don’t worry: Simply keep your aspirations in check for that day’s workout, says Dellanave. You’ll go for a PR soon enough. If you’re consistently performing under your baseline, however, you may want to take a look at factors like your sleep quantity and quality, your diet, and your stress levels. All of those can affect your physical state and how well you perform at the gym.