Testing, monitoring, profiling – What is the point?

Read our lead S&C Coach, Ruth Waghorn views on testing Speed Works athletes:

Ultimately the sole goal is to run fast– no other outcome can show us how successful the athlete is to the task better than the times they achieve on the track. So why bother?

As far as we are concerned, profiling helps to create a more detailed picture. If we know the underlying physical capabilities of our athletes, we have a much better understanding of where their strength and weaknesses are and how we can direct the training intervention.

Fundamentally training is complex blend of multiple training stimuli –  including but not limited to, weight room, plyometric and track training. There’s a reason that you have included that stimulus in the training program. It is important to monitor whether it is working.

At Speed Works we do believe it is important to test and profile our athletes on a regular basis. In order to undertake our profiling, we apply a stimulus to the athletes training and see how they adapt to this. We monitor if that stimulus is doing what we need it to do, and if it’s appropriate to that individual.

The tests we use are based around key performance indicators within track and field.  We pick a few key areas that we need to ensure the athlete is improving in. For example, maximum force and power output, left to right differences and trunk capability. The tests we use are not considered just tests for the sake of tests, but are part of training. The test that we chose to implement are chosen to analyse a variety of underpinning qualities that reflect the key performance indicators of the sport. We strategically implement our chosen tests like standing long jump, med ball throws, capacity testing, trunk and hamstring tests into training when we deem it appropriate. This occurs during a transition week. The transition week is a week to reflect upon the training stimulus of the last block and to make plans for the next.

To profile accurately, we have several key tests that remain consistent throughout the year. Other tests may not be appropriate for certain times of the year due to placing too much stress on the system which isn’t yet developed within that training phase. For example, drop jump capability (the ability to react off the floor from a large drop) would not be appropriate if the athlete hasn’t built up the qualities needed to perform this movement without risk of injury. This test would be better placed at a later stage of training when the athlete is running fast, lifting heavier in the gym and is generally fitter. We will also tailor certain tests to an individual. If an athlete is showing left to right asymmetries we want to look at strength power profiles for left to right differences.

Some tests help potentiate others tests. Power tests that don’t have huge strains on the system could take place before running tests. For example, we may get the athlete to do some med ball and standing long jump tests as an activation to prepare the nervous system for running. It’s a fine line between activation and fatigue so it’s important to get this balance right to produce the most accurate results. Our general run up of tests would be a counter-movement jump on force plates, standing long jump, running, followed by any other med ball throws or power activities.

Our aim from profiling is to try to look at how we can use our testing to change our interventions for the individual. Look at the run itself and find out how they produce force and power- what is it that makes them fast?

However, profiling is not the be all and end all. Improvement in a physical quality doesn’t always mean that there is transference. We profile all our athletes to paint an overall picture of each athlete, showing their general athleticism over a broad spectrum of disciplines so we can work out their individual needs to become faster.