What Is Your Take On Field Testing For Sprinters?
The Answers of Experts and World Class Sprinter Coaches
Here are the answers of couple of experts and world class sprinter coaches regarding the topic of field-testing for sprinters. The coaches and the starter of this discussion wanted to stay anonymous.
The original question
What is your take on field-testing for sprinters? By field-testing I mean general testing, like lifting, some standardized jumps testing, throws etc, not sprint tests. Our federation insists us to include these kinds of tests numbers in capacity analyses and grant evaluation processes of sprinters. When asked I have been resisting for years, arguing it’s more or less a waste of time on elite level but I think they are influenced by old eastern bloc performance tables. My belief is that most of the stuff we do off the track can only and should be considered general that only has transfer to sprint-performance up to a point.
Field-testing can have a place in the very beginning of a career and serve as a guide to ensure several general qualities don’t become imbalance but after that there is not much transfer to sprinting and further development can even be contra productive.
I think that daily measurements and periodic testing are crucial tools to better understand the adaptation process and stress level of the individual athlete that is not the issue. My main objection to our federation’s viewpoints on various lifts, jumps, and throws tests is that there are very few or NONE absolute numbers with correlation to sprint performance on elite level and even when it comes to talent ID the picture is extremely blurry…
On top of that in 30 years I’ve seen too many guys wasted by focusing too much on big numbers in the gym! Common for lots of men to put on unnecessary body weight as the year goes by (it sneaks on you). Great for some field tests but in some case not for Vmax.
You pretty much summed up my thoughts on those field tests. While I do like measuring throws jumps and lifts for developmental athletes (even so far as 18-22 years of age) I think there is a point of diminishing returns where further improvements simply don’t transfer and become a waste of time.
We all know the athletes who have amazing jumps, throws and lifting numbers, but still can’t run fast. If XXXXXXX had been measured in these things he would have been one of the worst on our squad, this sure didn’t stop him from running fast.
Measuring these things may be beneficial if you are dealing with a ground based power monster, but if you have an elastic greyhound these measures may not matter at all. I think it would be dangerous to generalize a standardization of these tests. I am sure it is only because bureaucrats want to “quantify” performance into measurables they can understand and track. If only it were so simple….
My main tests happen on the track. I don’t announce testing days, I just time throughout practice and this gives me a good indication as to where an athlete is at. Same in the weight room, we never have maxing days, we just try to lift a little heavier and/or faster each time we do certain exercises. This gives us a good measure as to where we are at.
I don’t know if I have added any new argument to what you already stated, but I hope this helps! How is training going for your group? I always enjoy watching the videos you post on Instagram … I wish I could get my athletes to do such crisp hurdle hops!
I agree with you completely. XXXX told me people would always ask him what XXXX’s vertical jump was. He would say, “I have no clue. Who cares?” He ran 9.7. Isn’t that enough?” “Why try to answer questions that don’t need to be asked?” was a good quote by XXXX. Perhaps field testing could be part of a development programs with youth athletes, but even then big? This sounds like XXXX shitty “XXXXX” program for funding where they force sport organizations to jump through hoops for money to justify their useless jobs! Perhaps you could write a short article on the subject and create more discussion. I’ll post on my site and then forward to all the morons leading the XXXXX system! Let’s start collecting data from coaches to prove that the numbers are meaningless!
Nonspecific testing, such as jump, lift, and throw evaluations are good foundational options for developing sprinters but are not a blueprint for success at top levels. I have used the conventional tests for years and found they are good reference points and easy to gage balance in the program but will never a formula to run world leading times. Some of the worlds greatest sprinters have marginal tests performances relative to national level sprinters, so it’s good to try to improve general qualities without pushing too far.
I definitely agree with you! The only test that matters is how fast an athlete covers 100m under IAAF conditions against 7 other athletes. Any other test that is used is just a “surrogate marker”, something that people think measures performance improvement, but actually doesn’t. For example, improvements in power clean 1RM measure improvements in power clean technique and maximum strength. Improvements in standing long jump measure improvements in jumping technique and also relative power. Some of those things are important to sprinters, but not in a linear relationship; so you don’t run 0.05s quicker for every 10kg you add to your power clean. Over my career, sometimes I performed well in tests, but badly in competition, or badly in tests, but very well in competition. There isn’t really a strong relationship either way, but governing bodies like numbers and charts, and testing data achieves that for them! Also, testing is stressful for the athlete, and if you’re going to do it properly you need to taper into it, which means a loss of training time, and begs the question “what’s more important – performance in tests or performance in races?”
NN5: In my experience the test data can direct training processes much more when athletes are new to a system, have a young training age, are returning from a major injury block with massive adaptive training needed, etc, so testing is one of many tools in the tool box for manipulating training schemes as I see it. It has my experience, testing has been misused in our sport. Agencies love to make sport a regression equation which it is not. They love metrics as they are easy to present and explain to uneducated parties like government officials. Many in agencies believe in LTAD which is bunk to me as it stands today. Many agencies reward progress on metrics when if fact, at the elite level, improvements often are small or stabilized, they do not grow in a linear fashion. At certain times of the year, I want to see regression on some qualities as the order of KPI utilization is fluid, not static. For example, with jumpers, if I have an emphasis on technical aspects and increased density of those menu items then absolute strength and speed development have to be reduces or the athlete will not be able to withstand the loads, so any test of declining menu item hierarchy will test lower in my experience.
NN0: Our federation association insists us to include these kinds of tests numbers in a capacity analysis and grant evaluation processes of sprinters. When asked I have been resisting for years, arguing it’s more or less a waste of time on elite level but I think they are influence by old eastern bloc performance tables.
NN5: Agree totally, see above rant.
NN0: My belief is that most of the stuff we do off the track can only and should be considered general that only has transfer to sprint-performance up to a point.
NN5: I think many of the menu items you list are supportive means, often building context for more specific work. Are they of value? Yes of course or we would not have them in the weekly training lists. Are they drivers for competition results? Maybe with youth and novice athletes.
NN0: Field-testing can have a place in the very beginning of a career and serve as a guide to ensure several general qualities don’t become imbalance but after that there is not much transfer to sprinting and further development can even be contra productive.
NN5: Totally agree here, key is second part of your sentence, maintaining balance
NN0: Seen to many guys wasted by focusing too much on big numbers in the gym! Common for lots of men to put on unnecessary body weight as the year goes by ( it sneaks on you).. Great for some field tests but in some case not for Vmax..
NN5: Agreed, it’s easy to create numbers and kids today love numbers, ie. Video-games. Agencies love numbers. In this arms race to add technology to sport, we have lost the plot. I see teams with reams of data and no idea on what it means, how to apply solutions, failure to identify the key problems at hand, using data in two dimensional solution schemes, etc….crazy to me.
I tell you this coincidence for no other reason than there must be a connection someone. Certainly more of a connection between noble “fieries” and field testing for sprinting. As you point out, the tests are fun and they tell you a bit when you want to test a population – such as an entire school. But the skill developed in the process of throwing a medicine ball is mostly transferable to… throwing a medicine ball. Not often to sprinting. And when it does seem to transfer to say the acceleration phase it can only tell you what you presumable wound know after observing general play: kid A is explosive, kid B is not.
“Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts.” – and if it had actually been coined by Einstein you would probably have less trouble winning your argument. As XXX says, much depends on “the gate-keeper” as in who will record and interpret the statistics. Are the vectors specific to sprinting? If you train the athletes long enough perhaps but would you not do better to actually work on black starts? Or scope out additional methods of generating power -such as dragging sleds for at least 20, pushing a stack of four metal hurdles for 20m, double and single-leg hops up a spring wooden grandstand, and yes, standing long jump, vertical jump etc.
Waste of time. 10.0 is probably fitter than 10.5, 10.5 fitter than 11.0 so they would beat them in any power tests. It works well the throws, ok in jumps, not in the sprints. It works well with women, ok with men in throws. Rio 2016 200m podium is useless in field tests if that can convince them. The year XXXX ran sub 10 the first time in 2006 (2006) he was doing 185 lbs (~85k) in both full squats and bench press…That is about what XXXXX was doing (except he wasn’t doing bench). All this is still enigmatic, just like the transfer from sprint training to spring result in competition. or sprinters a bad result in VO2max is probably a prediction as much as efficient as a good result in CMJ or OHB throw. Of course for a large population test results statistically show something. But even in the most controlled environments you’ve got outliners such as XXXX who wasn’t supposed to run 400m or XXXX who wasn’t supposed to become a sprinter. XXXX started as a discus thrower, XXXX as a high jumper but against all odds they reached all -time top 10 at high jump and shot put, respectively. In URS, records for jump/throw/lift tests in male/female throwing and jumping events are held by elite athletes, not in male sprinting (as opposed to female sprinting which is interesting). Globally tests work more with female than make athletes. Should be investigated.
I completely agree with you. I look at those tests as “seeking limiters”, although the more one gets advanced, the specific/smaller the limiter and one needs to evaluate it in the most specific way. I would always stick with CMJ, Broad Jump, maybe some reactive testing (incremental depth jumps and get the RSI), maybe mid-thigh pull or iso squat, potentially incremental hex bar jumps. But again, not sure how much this would translate into meaningful insights on the track (after certain performance level).
Ironically we are doing this tomorrow after the first mesocycle of GPP. We also do Fly 30 with Opto-Jump and block 30. We’ve been working on Vmax Technique and Acceleration but not yet blocks. XXX as I began doing this at XXX in the mid 80’s. Much better value with athletes in their late teens than elite. I guess I’m doing this out of habit but am looking forward to seeing the results.
NN0: I have a feeling that a lot of men put on unnecessary body weight as the year goes by.. great for some field tests but in some case not for Vmax.
I agree with your last statement. However I think when comparing different types of field test and tracking them over time u can start to paint a clearer picture of what makes an athlete good and what qualities are trainable. This to me is important when writing a program to assist speed development. We are doing typical field tests, throws, jumps etc. No gym tests for max rm. We also have the force decks system for more direct comparison of eccentric vs concentric contribution to elastic strength. It’s vertical jumping so perhaps less transfer to the sport than jumps with horizontal bias but it’s just the characteristic of how they jump and how their system recycles energy that we are interested in.
I agree with you. General testing has place with juniors. Later on they have value only from coaching view point meaning that you can monitor how the training is working. For that i use Bosco jump tests to assess how power and reactive force production is affected by my strength and power programs. We do CMJ 0kg, SJ 0kg, CMJ 5kg, CMJ 1/2bw and reactive straight leg jumps upwards measuring power average of 3 jumps. I do follow how weights are progressing in some general exercises but do not consider them as tests. I also measure shot throws during comp prep season but just to raise the level of effort. Sprint test I do 4-5 times per year and they are ones that give real information how athletes are developing. I get biomechanical date from them to assess technique also. There is no relation in general test to sprinting as you said. Some of our sprinters have fallen also to that misunderstanding that more is better also for adult athletes with is not true. Actually it makes you worse often times.
During the early training years general field-testing has a good role. Guiding the training to chosen direction and, like you wrote, “to ensure several general qualities don’t become imbalance”. But at the peak years sum of field-testing results is not equal to sprinting performance. Maybe general testing’s role then is to check athlete’s adequate fitness & strength to previous level, not to improve them. During those years follow up should shift to more, – and individualized, specify.
NN13: Only test I place any credence in is 30m fly and 12 step long or triple. I can predict form those. Otherwise there is little to no transfer except to acknowledge potential performance increases. They are moving to an MBO type system from business. Management by objectives, but they better know which objectives actually transfer. Even the 30 m fly can be tough as I had a female sprinter that went under 3.05 7 times this year, but in Rio ran 11.48 and should have run under 11.10. be careful.
NN0: I think that daily measurements and periodic testing can be tools to better understand the adaptation process and stress level of the individual athlete that is not the issue. My main objection to our federation’s viewpoints on various lifts jumps, throws tests is that there are very few or NONE absolute numbers with correlation to sprit performance on elite level and even when it comes to talent ID the picture is extremely blurry.
NN13: You are correct in my opinion with maybe exception of stride length, stride frequency, foot contact times. Variables that can be manipulated in one direction or another.
NN0: Seen to many guys wasted by focusing too much on big numbers in the gym! Common for lots of men to put on unnecessary body weight as the year goes by (it sneaks on you).. great for some field tests but in some case not for Vmax..
NN13: Touché, My goal is to raise power in watts/kg. For example my best XXXX has gone form 39watts/kg to 71watts/kg but his performance is limited by technical issues mostly in flight and landing now. Over 3 years I could give a hoot about how much he lifts in terms of max strength. Shot put, would be same feeling although we know MxS plays a larger role