Performance testing our athletes serves multiple purposes:
1. Informs us of current fitness/performance level (i.e., baseline)
2. Informs us of progress made from training which also enables evaluation of program effectiveness.
3. Provides bench marks for goal setting, progress and thresholds for player selection.
4. Allows coaches to create player profiles to drive program design and exercise prescription.
5. Provides coaches with a general indication of performance potential.
Predicting performance potential with performance testing is the focus of today’s blog. Myriad of tests and assessments exist that can be used to infer an individual’s performance capabilities. There are general tests like 1RM testing for maximal strength, vertical jump testing for lower body power, drop jump for reactive strength, YoYoIFT for aerobic intermittent running capacity, etc. Arguments have been made against these general tests for the simple reason that they are not specific to most team sports like football, soccer or basketball. As strength and conditioning coaches however, it is not our job to enhance technical sport proficiency, but rather to give the athlete the capacity to perform their sporting skill, repetitively, while minimizing fatigue. Leave the skill development to their positional coaches.
Recent work by Swinton et al. (2014) in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research set out to determine the best predictors of sprinting, jumping and change of direction performance. Thirty adult male rugby league players were performance tested in: 1RM squat and deadlift, vertical jump and 5-0-5 agility. In addition, force, velocity, power and rate of force development (RFD) was assessed in submaximal (10-70% of 1RM) in squat and deadlift exercises. Anthropometric data was collected the day following performance tests.
The authors reported;
“The strongest correlations with performance measures were obtained for maximum strength scores scaled relative to body mass. In general, absolute force, power, and RFD values exhibited small nonsignificant correlations with performance. However, once these variables were normalized relative to body mass and peak force, respectively, the strength of the correlations increased with the majority of relationships reaching statistical significance (p ≤ 0.05).”
The findings of this study may not seem surprising or novel to those familiar with the research in the area. However, it reinforces some basic concepts that often get lost on coaches when designing training programs. The best indicators of general athletic performance (speed, jumping and change of direction) are directly related to relative strength, power and rate of force development. Therefore, it would seem obvious that training should aim to develop these qualities. Of particular importance is the body weight to strength ratio of athletes. Increases in body mass should be monitored to ensure that they are accompanied with concomitant increases in strength and power. Positional demands may also require increases in body mass (e.g., lineman in football).
Though these measures aren’t necessarily the most specific to the actual sporting demands of most sports, these tests are reliable and serves as worthwhile metrics to aim to develop and thus monitor throughout training.
Swinton, P. A., Lloyd, R., Keogh, J. W., Agouris, I., & Stewart, A. D. (2014). Full Title: Regression models of sprint, vertical jump and change of direction performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 28(7): 1839-1848.