The Athletic Combine Part 1: The Tests and Why They Matter
To help our athletes get the most they possibly can out of their training, regular performance testing is key to help us calibrate and customise every individual's training.
Testing alone, however, is not enough, it's what you do after you collect the data that is vital; analysing, goal setting and intervention are the real heroes of an athletic combine because it's these crucial stages where athletes get better.
To learn how we can help you or your team with testing click here (opens a new tab)
This is part one of a three-part series looking at our first ever athletic combine, the tests we ran, why they matter, and a few tips and tricks to help you improve.
If you prefer to watch rather than read, check out the video instead
Test #1: Anthropometry
Anthropometry is the study of the human body and its dimensions. While there are no standards for this section (ideal dimensions and sizes will vary) understanding your body’s unique ratios will help you determine how to best utilise your strengths and make up for your weaknesses.
Height is a clear advantage in some sports such as basketball and volleyball but can be a disadvantage in others like gymnastics and weightlifting. Taller people, especially still growing teenagers tend to take longer to develop power, speed and agility.
For any sport involving catching, throwing or hitting, longer arms are an advantage. Having longer arms can help you defend a greater area of the court (basketball, netball, volleyball) or gain an advantage with improved leverage (cricket bowling, tennis, swimming, etc).
For most athletes, ideally, your wingspan is greater than your height.
As with wingspan, having bigger hands is an advantage for any sport that involves catching, throwing or defending. Handspan is particularly beneficial for soccer goalies, basketballers, netballers, rugby players, cricketers and AFL footballers.
Weight alone doesn’t tell you much about anything. The reason we take weight is to determine your power-to-weight ratio and relative strength in the gym.
Test #2: Vertical Jump (Lower Body Power)
More than just a basketball and volleyball test, the standing countermovement jump is reflective of your lower body strength, power and reactivity. Having a better vertical leap can create improvements in kicking distance, agility and sprinting, as well as block starts and turns for swimmers, pitching and hitting in baseball and bowling in cricket.
Standards for the standing vertical jump test
Test #3: Speed and Acceleration
In every sport, in nearly every situation the faster athlete has the advantage. Performance over different distances and metrics tells us so much about your athletic profile.
0-5 is about pure acceleration. In most team and ball sports, 0-5m can be the difference between winning and losing a contest. Lower body strength is vital when it comes to accelerating and powering off the line to create separation from an opponent or getting to the ball.
Using our timing system, running the 0-5m in under 1.25s for males and under 1.35s for females would be elite.
Consider this usable top speed, while still part of acceleration, this is the most common sprinting distance in the majority of sports. Athletes with good running technique and who are both fluid and explosive will perform best over 10 metres and beyond.
Running the 0-10m in under 2.0s for males and under 2.1s for females would be elite.
Peak Velocity (P.Vel)
Traditional timing systems don't allow for measuring and tracking Peak Velocity. Using our system we are able to measure the top speed an athlete is able to reach during a sprint. Peak Velocity highlights how well you are able to push through the entire sprint and shows your technical efficiency and elasticity.
It's only early days for this metric but male scores above 8.5m/s and female scores of 7.5m/s over a distance of ten metres and above are proving impressive.
Test #3: The Modified 5-10-5 Test (Agility)
Agility is defined as a rapid whole body change of direction in response to a stimulus. Agility is made up of many interrelated factors:
- Linear speed
- Movement skill
- Game sense
- Reaction time
- Peripheral vision
Agility can be challenging to test both reliably, and accurately. On the one hand, we want to replicate the unpredictable and reactive nature of sport, whilst at the same time, we need to keep tests consistent between athletes to track improvements and expose weaknesses. To keep things consistent and accurate, we test change of direction ability with the modified 5-10-5 test.
The Modified 5-10-5:
The modified 5-10-5 test. We removed the hand touches on the lines to un-handicap taller athletes.
We chose to modify the test, making it a non-reactive test (the athlete goes when they are ready) and removed the hand touches on the line to give tall athletes an even chance with shorter athletes.
This test reveals a lot about lower body power, acceleration and deceleration ability. Anything under 4.8 seconds is quick for the guys, while sub 5.0 seconds is good for the girls.
Tests #4 & #5: Max Push Ups and Relative Lower Body Strength
Upper: Max Push-Ups
Push-ups are a great general test of upper body and core strength. For a push-up to count the body has to stay in a straight line from ear to ankle and the upper arm must reach parallel to the ground in the bottom position. If you don’t get deep enough, or your core or neck alignment is lost the rep will not count.
Lower: Relative Strength Score
Getting stronger is the most valuable area of improvement for almost all athletes. Increased strength will improve speed, endurance, power and reduce injury risk at the same time. When it comes to lower body strength, weight lifted relative to bodyweight is key.
Not all lifts are created equal, because of this we have created a handicap system outlined below. Pick your strongest lower body exercise (squat, Corelift, Hip Thrust, etc) and using the most weight you have lifted in your most recent program, input the number to determine your current relative strength.
Back Squat and Corelift = Weight lifted ÷ Bodyweight
Hip Thrust = (Weight lifted ÷ Bodyweight) x 0.8
RDL/Goblet/Front Squat = (Weight lifted ÷ Bodyweight) x 1.2
SL RDL/SL Squat/Lunge = (Weight lifted + Bodyweight) ÷ Bodyweight
Tests #6: Fitness. 2km Bike Time Trial and Yo-Yo Test
Upper: Max Push-Ups
FITNESS: 2km Bike Time Trial
While the 2km bike time trial may not be 100% relevant for running based sports, it does give you a general overview of your high threshold anaerobic and aerobic capacity.
We don’t have any official standards for this test (different gyms and bikes will measure speed differently) but for our bikes breaking the 3-minute barrier is respectable and anything under 2:40 is super impressive.
If we had a little more space in our gym, the best test to run would be the Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test (Yo-Yo IR).
The Yo-Yo IR is the new beep test. More relevant and sport-specific than the continuous beep test the Yo-Yo comes in two levels; IR1 and IR2. Level two is used with fitter athletes and increases in intensity much more rapidly, both tests are converted to the same level system so both versions are comparable.
By measuring total metres on the Yo-Yo it is possible to estimate your VO2max. a score of maximum aerobic capacity.
Yo-Yo IR1 test:VO2max (ml/min/kg) = IR1 distance (m) × 0.0084 + 36.4
Yo-Yo IR2 test: VO2max (ml/min/kg) = IR2 distance (m) × 0.0136 + 45.3
The Yo-Yo test replaced the beep test in 2017 for the AFL men’s draft. The best score in the first year was level 22.4 by Andrew Brayshaw while the women’s AFLW record of level 17.3 was set by Bridie Kennedy.
Testing can quickly become a waste of time if you don’t do something with the data. Every testing workshop we run ends with us explaining what the data and results mean for each individual. But more on this in part 2...