Month: September 2017

Strength, Speed, & Conditioning Tests

With fall sports reporting for training camp, I wanted to go over a few of my testing staples.

10 Yard Dash

With as much emphasis that is put on speed, acceleration is far more important/relevant to sport performance. It is rare for an athlete to have a long, open, straight path needed to reach their top speed, instead most sports are built around accelerating and rapid change of pace & direction. The 10 yard dash is an excellent way of testing an athlete’s initial acceleration. Depending on the sport, level of athlete, and athlete’s build/position, the times can have a wide range, anywhere from 1.5-2.5 seconds. Generally with my athletes, I’m looking for large athletes (such as football linemen) to be under 2.0 seconds, medium build athletes (running backs, hockey players, big/power baseball players) to be under 1.85, and small, fast athletes (defensive backs, basketball guards, small/speed baseball players) to be under 1.7 seconds. Again, there are a lot of factors to take into account for this test, and since it is such a short amount of time, even one-tenth of a second makes a huge difference, so the times can vary team by team, athlete by athlete.

Pro Agility

There is a reason this is the standard for measuring change – it’s simple and reliable. Also known as the 5-10-5 or short shuttle, the pro agility involves three separate acceleration phases and two changes of direction, usually under 5 seconds. Below are the time ranges I look for with my athletes:

Large athletes: under 5 seconds
Medium athletes:  4.5-4.7 seconds
Small athletes: under 4.4 seconds

300 Yd Shuttle

Another staple that almost always elicits a groan and sense of dread from athletes, the 300 yard (50 yards, down & back 3 times or 25 yards, down & back 6 times) shuttle can be a very useful tool in assessing an athlete’s conditioning/recovery level. I split my teams into 3 or 4 groups (depending on sport, but usually 3) and use multiple rounds of 300s. Splitting into groups gives a 2-3:1 rest to work ratio while maintaining constant activity and keeping teammates active & supportive. With football, I only do 2 repetitions at 50 yard intervals, mainly to see how they could recover from a fast paced, taxing series and perform on the next. Ideally, they are coming in under the following times for both rounds:

Linemen:  under 70 seconds
RB/TE/LB: under 65 seconds
WR/QB/DB/K: under 60 seconds

For hockey, I prefer 3 groups completing 5 rounds (at 25 yards) because this comes closer to mimicking line changes during games. For me, time isn’t as important as drop-off between rounds. Time should still be under 70 seconds each round, preferably closer to 65, but the drop-off from their fastest time to their slowest should be under 5 seconds. This shows they are able to recover between their shifts and play at a consistent, high level.

Broad Jump

I use broad jump in place of vertical for testing lower body power with my athletes. While they can both be used for testing, one of the reasons I use broad is efficiency. I can test several athletes in broad jump in the time it takes to test one using a vertec. This makes it easier to conduct multiple testing sessions throughout the year to track progress. Another reason I prefer broad jump is how we track the progress. As Dan John has said – there are a lot more inches in broad jump than vertical, so tracking progress is much more noticeable. You’re looking at roughly 3x the distance in broad jump than vertical, so improvements are more noticeable and easy to track. However, when listing standards for broad jump, there are a lot of factors to take into account. Height, weight, gender, sport, and leg length can all factor into an athlete’s jump distance, so it is harder to give recommendations than for vertical. All I can do is look back on the all of the testing data I have to provide loose guidelines for numbers.

Female athletes: at a minimum, they should be jumping their height, but I look for height plus a foot (6’6” for a 5’6” athlete), higher level athletes should strive to be above seven feet.
Large male athletes: again, height should be the minimum, height plus a foot for higher level athletes.
Medium male athletes: Eight feet and beyond, more explosive athletes should be beyond 9 feet.
Small male athletes: Height is the biggest factor for athletes in this bracket, as a 5’8” athlete with excellent power may have trouble breaking nine feet, while a similarly powerful athlete that’s 6’2” can easily clear ten feet. Nine feet is a good benchmark (ten and beyond is great, regardless of height), but if you want to factor in height to make a more level field, 1.5x height is a good baseline.

Bench Press

The simplest and most common test for upper body strength. We use a 1-3RM test and calculate a predicted 1RM. I used to have athletes go 1-5RM, but had too many athletes going for 5 reps to get a higher number than they were actually capable of, as the equation gets less accurate the more reps there are. Male athletes have a baseline of 315 or 1.5x bodyweight, whichever is less. For female athletes, we’re looking at 75% of their bodyweight as a baseline, but this can vary greatly depending on their sport and training level.

Overhead sports (baseball, softball, swimming) test dumbbell bench in place of barbell to protect and allow free movement of the shoulder. Male athletes should be pressing their bodyweight (half in each hand), while female athletes aim for 60% bodyweight (30% per hand).

Squat

“The king of exercise”…Squat is the exercise with the most caveats of anything I’ve listed. First, new athletes to the program (freshmen & transfers) do not test squat upon arrival, we wait until after spending the first few months working on their technique. Second, different sports test different squat variations. Overhead sports do front squat to protect their shoulders, while most other sports test back squat, however I am drifting more towards single leg variations with a 3-5RM per leg. For back squat, male athletes have a baseline goal of 350 (405 for large/strength athletes) or 2x bodyweight, whichever is less, and female athletes are aiming for 185 or 1.5x bodyweight. Male athletes testing front squat are 250 or 1.5x bodyweight, while female athletes are held to a minimum of 150 or 75% of bodyweight. As I mentioned, I am working towards replacing bilateral squats with more single leg testing, as research, numerous coaches, and my own observations are proving it’s a more effective (and safer) way to train.

Power Clean

This is the exercise I test with the fewest teams, for a few reasons. First, it’s an incredibly technical lift that has usually been incorrectly learned by athletes in high school, and athletes can be incredibly resistant to acknowledging their “cleans” are closer to cheating reverse curls than an Olympic lift. Second, there are a handful of teams where the risk outweighs any reward that may come from the lift, specifically baseball and softball, as injuries to the hand, wrist, elbow, or shoulder are possible during the catch phase. Finally, it can be challenging to perform Olympic lifts without the right resources, such as a platform/mat, bumper plates, and bars with a good spin. Standards vary greatly depending on the athlete’s training experience and technique, but I like to see my small athletes over 225, medium athletes over 275, and large athletes over 315.

Plank Test

There are two variations I use for this test. The first is 3 – 1 minute front planks, with a minute break between, and the other is the same timing, but with front, left, and right planks (one of each). This is a simple pass/fail test to see where we are at from a stability standpoint.

As with any performance related numbers, it’s important to keep perspective. Higher level athletes, or those with more training experience, will be held to higher standards while lower level & younger athletes won’t have as high of expectations during their first few years training. It’s important to not be focused solely on improving test numbers, but developing a healthy, high-functioning athlete for their sport. These tests are just a few ways to track and make sure we’re on the right path.

 

Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, FMS
Drew@henleysp.com
Twitter: @DrewBHenley

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