Elite athletes are a unique population. In many cases, performance-related research conducted with sub-elite athletes may not be applicable to coaches who work with higher level athletes. Some of the factors that separate sub-elite from elite athletes are that the latter can withstand greater training loads and often require them to stimulate adaptation. Additionally, the recovery time following a training session is shorter because of their superior fitness and work capacity. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to conduct research with elite groups of athletes. This is because their time is limited and coaches often don’t want their athletes bothered. Therefore, it is unclear, for example, what physical tests can be used as key performance indicators for professional team-sport athletes.
A new study published ahead of print in the Public Library of Science ONE investigated the relationships between peak mean propulsive power derived from loaded jump-squats, loaded half-squats and performance tests including vertical jumping, 40 m sprinting speed, and change of direction speed. A team of 22 Olympic level rugby players were put through each of the aforementioned performance tests and tested for peak propulsive power in the jump and half-squat exercises. The athletes were then split into higher and lower peak power groups based on median split from the half and jump squat exercises. It was then assessed whether performance tests were associated with higher or lower peak power for each predictor exercise.
The results showed that elite rugby players with higher peak power in the jump-squat also performed better in the vertical jump and ran faster in the 40 m dash and change of direction test. Interestingly, these findings did not apply for the half-squat test. Thus, it appears that peak power derived from jump-squatting may be a useful performance indicator for elite team-sport athletes. The authors suggest that training to enhance peak velocity in the jump squat may also help improve other speed and power related performance tasks.
Reference: Loturco, I. et al. (2017) Jump-Squat and Half-Squat Exercises: Selective Influences on Speed-Power Performance of Elite Rugby Sevens Players. PLoS ONE. Ahead of print.