Here we look at strength testing, why and when to do it, and what it can tell us.
Firstly why strength test?
There are a number of reasons strength testing is important, the main reason is it gives us a place to start. An initial evaluation of an athletes strength. From here the coach and athlete can see areas that need to be worked on. Secondly it is a great way to evaluate an athletes progress and see where they are in a programme. Thirdly it is a good motivational tool, athletes love to see the numbers going up and feel they are making progress.
When to test?
This all comes down to the athlete in question. Test to often and you often lose yourself in too much data, also the tests just become another training session and lose their power to motivate and excite. Once a month or at the beginning/middle/end of a training block is acceptable.
Types of test.
Isometric testing is performed by getting an athlete to push/pull against an immovable object, for instance a fixed bar. Sensors detect the force being applied and a figure can be gained from the result. This test is good as it cuts out any need for skill, for instance someone who is well versed in squats could outperform a novice squatter, but the novice could theoretically be stronger. It is also easy to administer and easy to reproduce.
The problem is you are only testing strength in a certain joint angle, some research has shown that isometric strength is not a good predictor of dynamic performance. Also the equipment can be expensive and time consuming to set up, but as with everything new technology is getting better and cheaper.
1 Repetition Maximum (RM) testing.
1 RM testing is the gold standard in strength testing and the most common. Like the name suggest it tests how much weight an athlete can lift/push/pull for one repetition with GOOD TECHNIQUE.
The test should be with an exercise the athlete has been training with for best results, and to prevent injury risk.
Below is a procedure for testing. 1RM should already be roughly known, if not add 1/4 of the weight you can move for ten reps, so 60kg 10RM becomes 80kg 1RM. 40kg 10RM becomes 50kg 1RM and so on. Careful not to do too many warm up sets as you will tire before you can find your new 1RM. DO NOT DO THIS TEST ALONE, but have spotters present who can take the weight from you.
Strength endurance testing.
Some coaches warn against strength endurance testing, or don't see the point. From a pure strength standpoint 1RM is really what we are interested in. Having said that some of the tests can be useful in pinpointing potential weak areas in localised spots, for instance calf raises, single leg hamstring bridge.
Another problem with a lot of these tests is that it is easy to cheat, think of a press up test and you can probably imagine the problems. Not all press ups are created equal.
As with anything, strength endurance tests can serve a purpose and can be a fun way to create an intense training session.
Jump tests can be a good way to measure lower limb power.
One of the easiest and cheapest ways to do this is the countermovement jump. Stand next to a wall you don't mind getting chalk on. Have chalk on your finger tips, reach up above your head and touch the wall. Now jump as high as you can by first dipping your knees and then jumping as high as you can and place your fingers on the wall at the highest point. You can do this many times. Measure the distance between the chalk marks.
I purposefully have not given you scores to aim for or 'norms', these can easily be found online, but testing is specific to you, as long as you are improving on your last set of scores you are moving in the right direction. I would not worry what is deemed a 'good' score, just improve YOUR score.