How to Assess Cardiovascular Fitness - 2 Tests

How to Assess Cardiovascular Fitness - 2 Tests

When you refer to someone’s level of fitness what characteristics come to mind? A strong bench press, great endurance, or a defined six-pack?

Typically some sort of cardiovascular endurance comes to mind and rightly so.

The state of your cardiovascular fitness is a great indicator of how well your blood, lungs, and muscles are working. 

So to help you either understand your current level of fitness or assess your client’s, here is how to assess cardiovascular fitness.

What’s the Cardiovascular System?

Cardiovascular is a physiological term that refers to the heart and blood vessels. The word system refers to how the two work together and use oxygen as energy. 

But in the world of fitness, mentions of the cardiovascular system usually refer to the aerobic energy system. The aerobic energy system is how the heart, blood vessels, and muscles use oxygen to perform a task. Learn more about energy system training here.

Now that we understand the basics of how this system works, let’s look at its function and why it needs to be assessed.

Why Should We Assess this System?

The cardiovascular system is the base support for all human functions. It’s what allows us to move our bodies around our environment. How well this system functions will determine the kind of physical experiences we can have. 

Assessing it is a great way to test your current abilities and see whether your life could be improved by greater cardiovascular function.

For a fitness coach, it’s a great way to see your client’s abilities. It will give you a starting point for a training program and a point of reference to track progress.

(Are you a fitness coach or interest in becoming one? Learn how to assess your client’s abilities here.)

How to Assess Cardiovascular Fitness

A simple way to test your cardiovascular fitness is to perform a task. If you can rest and recover fully in the same amount of time it took you to complete the task and then repeat it, it is within your capabilities. If you cannot repeat the task then it is outside of your abilities. 

But what if you want to get more precise? We’re glad you asked!

Two of our favorite fitness tests we use to assess the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems are the 10-minute max calories on the airbike test and the 30/30 x 4 on the rower.

Want to build your aerobic system? Learn how to do just that here.

10-Minute Max Calories on the AirBike

We like the 10-minute max calories on the airbike test because it’s simple, concentric-based, and anyone can do it.

To conduct the fitness test, set up an airbike and perform an initial warm-up to get comfortable. The goal of the test is to get as many calories as possible in 10 minutes. Set a 10-minute countdown timer and go. Once finished, record the total calories and average RPMs.

The best way to use this test is to aim for individual progress over time, it's a great way to monitor fitness levels. This test also gives you an insight into the balance of the aerobic and anaerobic systems. Learn more about these energy systems in this free course.

30/30 x 4 On the Rower


To do a row 30/30 x 4 test one must first possess a base level of strength and good rowing mechanics. 

Start by controlling all of the variables you can to get the most accurate results. Make sure the client is rested and prepared. 

To conduct the fitness test go into the interval setting on the Concept2 erg and set up four 30 second intervals with 30 seconds of rest. Then it’s time to start rowing. Go as hard as you can for each 30-second rowing interval and then rest with your feet in the rower for the 30-second rest interval. Learn more about how to use the rowing machine here.

Once the test has been completed look at the meters rowed for each interval. The first score will be 100%, then compare the following four scores (of meters rowed) as a percentage to the first. A perfect score will be along the lines of 100% – 95% – 92% – 90%. If your score stays the same you likely need to work on developing more power. If the scores drop off drastically after the first score you likely need to work on building aerobic capacity.

Are You a Fitness Coach or Do You Want to Become One?

Are you a fitness coach or interested in becoming one?

Helping people reach their goals through exercise and nutrition is a fulfilling experience.

It is also a skill that can be learned.

In just six months you can become an independent fitness coach, running your own small business and dramatically impacting the lives of those around you.

Sound intriguing?

Download our free curriculum guide today and learn exactly how you can become a fitness coach with our Coaching Certificate Program (CCP).

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Fitness Assessments for New Clients