The most famous bout of athlete testing occurs every February at the NFL combine.
This has become a huge money-maker for the NFL and people genuinely get jacked up for the event.
What these people are watching is a yearly display of freak athleticism. The only other event that trumps this is the Olympics as a whole.
Nowhere else is power, speed, and muscular endurance being displayed at its greatest capacity.
There is a severe downside to the NFL combine, however. What happens at the combine does not transfer to on the field success.
For some it does, and all the power to them. Every combine there is a workout warrior that kills it, gets paid, but never amounts to it on the field.
Meanwhile there is a 7th round pick that didn’t even get drafted winning Super Bowl MVP- Malcolm Smith.
The football combine is the most popular one but the NHL has its own as well. In that, they perform a lot more tests with a lot more fancy machinery.
There is tens of thousands of dollars in equipment utilized by the NHL to try and determine who is the most ready for the NHL.
The real question that arises when it comes to combines and other testing is: Is what we are measuring going to transfer to the ice?
Usually the answer is yes, most of the time. Performance testing does not really allow for puck handling, decision making, and other intangibles.
It can show a lot of good information such as whoever runs the slowest 20 yard sprint, is probably going to be a slow skater. This measure has transfer to the sport.
Now I want to bring up a question that I am debating with one of my teams that will be testing in a month and a half.
Should they perform the vertical jump?
I like the vertical jump for measuring lower body power. I think it is an easy tool and is mostly accurate in determining who can produce force.
There is also a bit of tradition here since the vert is often a part of training protocols.
Familiarity is high with this technique because most athletes can [hopefully] jump straight in the air.
But does it transfer to the ice?
I am not sure that it does.
Hockey players must produce power to be effective in skating and shooting.
It is not vertically into the air, though. Football players need to get up to catch and deflect passes, basketball players need to jump up to shoot, and soccer players have to leap up to head the ball.
Hockey is different. Players stay low to the ice and are trying to propel themselves horizontally.
Enter the broad jump.
So now we can test how a hockey player can develop force in the same plane [saggital] as the game that they play in. Both the test and game are played horizontally for the most part.
Almost never are hockey players jumping into the air.
Broad jump and vertical jump are used to measure the same aspect, just with in a different plane of motion.
Most players are going to be more familiar with the vertical jump but everyone has broad jumped in their life.
I believe that the broad jump has more transfer to the sport of hockey than the vertical jump.
So the broad jump is in right? Not so fast.
The lateral bound test.
Let’s see what happens when we get hockey players off of one leg. A skating stride incorporates driving off of one leg. We can test this unilateral ability.
Jumping as far as possible on one leg, laterally, and landing on the opposite leg gives us a value for single leg power production.
We can also measure side to side differences. I cannot remember the article to reference but it was in an NSCA Strength and Conditioning Journal.
The article said that anything more than a 15% difference side to side would result in performance and potentially injury implications.
This is important information to have. If we know that an athlete is super imbalanced then we can train to get back to neutral.
Now hockey is dominated by one side over the other so the value may never be equal, but we can get them within 10%.
Having this information is going to be advantageous for an athlete or team because they will be training to get better and healthier.
Is a team going to be successful if they stay healthy all season? They have a much better shot than if they’re all injured.
I have talked a lot about transfer of testing to sport so far.
I want to also bring up the ability to re-test and see change over time.
I will be testing a college hockey team in late March/early April. They will then be given a program for April through August.
If I want to test who put in a lot of effort and who slacked over the off season. I need a reliable measuring tool.
Despite bashing the vertical jump earlier I believe I am going to use it for testing so that I can track change over time.
To use a transferable test, I will probably go with the lateral bound.
Using both will give me two measures of power output; one just to track general progress, and the other to screen for potential injury/performance concerns to drive how I program the offseason.
There is no right way to test an athlete. There is a wrong way though.
The wrong way is to just blindly pick a bunch of tests, not re-test after a period of time, and picking multiple tools to measure the exact same thing.