If you were to assess a team of young athletes in a 5 and 20 meter sprint, countermovement vertical jump, and squat jump, you will likely determine that the strongest athletes performed best. This is precisely what Comfort et al. (2013) found when they tested a team of 17 year old soccer players in these same parameters.
After determining each athlete’s predicted 1 rep max in the squat, each athlete went through each testing procedure. The researchers determined the correlation between absolute strength and relative strength on each of the performance variables. Absolute strength can be defined as the maximum force that one can produce with a single voluntary contraction. Relative strength refers to the amount of force once can produce per pound of body weight. To illustrate this further, let’s say a 300lb football lineman can bench press 400lbs while a 190lb defensive back can bench press 315lbs. The lineman possesses greater absolute strength as 400lbs is greater than 315lbs. However, when the bodyweight of each athlete is factored in, the defensive back possesses great relative strength as 315 lbs is approximately 1.66 times his bodyweight while 400lbs is approximately 1.33 times the lineman’s bodyweight. The lineman is absolutely stronger than the defensive back, but the defensive back is relatively (to bodyweight) stronger than the lineman.
The researchers found that absolute strength showed the strongest correlation with 5m sprint, squat jump height, and counter-movement jump height. Relative strength demonstrated the strongest correlation with 20m sprint time. When all else is equal between two athletes, it appears that strength is a strong predictor of who will likely sprint faster and jump higher; two very common and important components of nearly all field and court team sports. Developing lower body strength is time well spent for young athletes.
Comfort, P., Stewart, A., Bloom, L. & Clarkson, B. (2013) Relationships between strength, sprint and jump performance in well trained youth soccer players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. E-Pub Ahead of Print.