Power Testing in Team Sport and Athletics

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I wanted to review some practical advice I learned over the years, thanks to a few German and Australian coaches. One is that power is something that is difficult to measure because development is often slow and subject to a lot of interpretation. For example one athlete I worked with this winter made big improvements in his vertical, 40, and 5-10-5 and stated he wished he worked with the performance facility earlier in his career as he would have been a freak with just a few weeks of training. I explained that his college coach gave him an excellent foundation, it’s just that he was doing an SAT prep class and wasn’t actually smarter, but just taking the test smarter. He comprehended the fact that his 40 was better from practicing an artificial test but his vertical was something that was not changed technically because it’s a simple test and his numbers skyrocketed. I explained that dropping conditioning to a minimum for skill work was a major influence and changing from dorm food to catered meals and not dealing with a snoring roommate was a stronger influence than the program. Confused, he felt I was underestimating the coaching, but with such a limiting time and the constraints of testing so similar, it was just that we were addressing things versus making an impact in performance.

The lesson learned is that power or any factor in performance requires interpretation. I worked with an athlete after the sprinter converted from another sport (and another program) and he made a dramatic improvement. The realization was that he needed time to gel, and his meet schedule was very poor due to the climate. When he received a nominal sponsorship, he used priceline and hotwire to travel to key meets and found that his improvements were from outside factors as his practice times were not much different than earlier. Contextual interpretation is the highest form of coaching, as coaches start digging deeper down the rabbit hole.

Power is a component of speed, and far easier and manageable to test than speed. One argument is that heavy training will decrease scores, and measuring peak output is not worth it because lack of transfer or indicator to athlete performance. Power testing is not a guarantee, but it is a way to see gross changes in development, especially in the intermediate levels. Several tests are available, such as horizontal bounds and hops, bosco jumps, and depth jumps. With track and field, one is likely to use more skilled actions as training is most of the equation, but I would stick with CMJ and SJ with low loads for team sports. I also suggest using centimeters because it resets the scale. With most team sports having practices and conditioning, and not cheating a vertec with scapular games, a true comparison is not fair to the team strength coach. Inflated numbers will cause a unfair comparison and it’s best to use numbers that are valid and contextually realistic.

I have seen some teams test weekly to see if athletes are responding to microcycles. At first I thought this was a little too high frequency wise as most athletes are not improving weekly, even if they are young and developing. I think testing monthly is a good minimum, but timing it based on 4 week interval is a must because most athletes have life in the way and don’t deload based on periodization, just deload based on holidays and life. Forget the Russian Regeneration Ultra Penta Phase, it’s really Thanksgiving break. Athletes should see improvement year to year and the percentage may be small but so are the differences between good and great. Testing 6 times a year is enough to get statistical support, and it’s great to see long term records of athletes see what elements in training is improving what variables in performance.

CMJ, SJ, and SLDT * (single leg drift test) are good markers of both global power and specific elastic power. The Counter Movement Jump and Squat Jump are common tests, but the SLDT is a viable option for colleges and teams that have Optojump and HALO. I have used wireless EMG on different muscle groups and found it to be great for complex injuries, but a iPhone camera can see the obvious, such as issues with valgus collapse, seen when simple tests are done with more data sets. We don’t have time to do more testing, so we need to get more from the testing we are doing. I am old school and don’t like anything added unless it replaces something something that may not be worth it’s weight. Kinect technology is opensource now, and one can reproduce techniques better than Eliteform by simply using some creative workarounds and cloud options. Gymaware is evolving, and expect more use in the US over the next few months.

Coaches should think about simple blood panels with a few hormones while testing. Since blood analysis is 3-6 times a year with many elites, you can add testing to see if anything abnormal is jumping on the screen or if HRV lines are running parallel with performance. Each year compare different phases and other data sets to see a pattern. We are often managing and monitoring with elite, and building with less developed athletes. Some athletes like neophytes just need to learn how to train, but after a few years testing is a good idea.

*The single leg Drift test is a way to see how much deviation from drop dead center there is with a single leg repeat hop. I like it because it adds some elastic information with orthopedic evaluation. A lot bang for your buck. For more information go to optojump.com

Carl Valle

Carl Valle

Track & Field Coach
Carl is an expert coach who has produced champions in swimming, track and numerous other sports. He is one of the foremost experts in the fields of nutrition and restoration.
Carl Valle

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