This article is designed to help you to learn the 4 power tests we use and other professional sports teams are using to assess for power. You can train hard but it may not be translating towards power. If you have to train one region of your body, which includes the upper body, spinal core, or lower body, would you know which one is holding you back? This article will help you identify this question without you guessing.
As a provider that specializes in producing rotational power, we thought it would be nice to have one of our interns write a special article for you. Marvin Perkins Jr is not new to the idea for power. He is a college student that is aspiring to become a Sports Physical Therapist or Athletic Trainer with an emphasis on performance training. He is a college football player and track-and-field athlete himself. We taught him principles of developing power and here is his summary write up on the assessment of power.
HOPE YOU ENJOY! Here it is below.
People have many ideas of what power is. Some will tell you it is the abilities that superheroes have. Others will say power is another way to discuss electricity. Athletes or the avid weight lifter will likely tell you power is one’s strength. Of course, these various connotations of power are valid, but what if I were to say you have the power within you at this moment? Would you believe me if I said it is possible to test for this as well? No, the test will not uncover a superpower you never knew you had. However, the results will show whether one has low or high power. Before I further discuss the screening process for power, it is essential to understand what power is.
To comprehend the functionality of power, we must make a quick shift to physics. I know many dread the “p-word,” so I will express my apologies in advance; however, I would not mention it. Power can be defined as the amount of work done over some time. Work can be represented by force multiplied by displacement (W= F x D). As a result, we can re-write the formula for power as P = F x D/T. The formula for velocity is displacement over time (V= D/T). Therefore, we can simplify the formula for power as P= F x V. What this tells us is that a high amount of power equates to a large force and a large velocity. Now that we have a fundamental understanding of power we can transition to testing for power.
Safety is the utmost priority for the athletes during these procedures. We do not want to cause injury nor let the athlete participate with deficiencies. Before an athlete participates in power testing they must first pass tests of their stability and mobility. If there are deficiencies in these areas, they must be managed accordingly, before proceeding with power screening. Moving forward, it will be assumed that these tests have been done, and the athlete has completed them.
Along with that, we must put the athlete through clearance tests to ensure that they can participate in power screening. The athlete must be able to complete an upper body clearance test and a lower-body clearance test. For the upper body, there are two methods we can use. One option is that the athlete must be able to do 15 pushups efficiently. Option number two is to have the athlete complete 2 pull-ups, if pull-ups are a struggle, an alternative is to do a 90 degree hang from the pullup bar. Once the athlete shows they can perform one of these exercises, they will have completed the upper body clearance test. Now they must complete the lower body clearance test.
There are three exercises that we can use for testing here. For the first exercise, the athlete will use a barbell or dumbbell that is 60% of their body weight. Then while holding the weight, he or she must do five squats in five seconds. Exercise number 2 would be to do a single leg quarter squat hold for 30 seconds each. The final option is to perform a broad jump off of one leg while landing on both feet. In this exercise, we look for symmetry, so the legs should be within 85% of each other. Completion of one of these exercises will fulfill the lower body clearance test. Now that the athlete appropriate to “earn” power safely, we can move on toward screening for power.
Let’s recall the formula for power, P= F x V. When doing this testing, we want to measure overall power; therefore, we would need to know velocity and force (strength). If we find the power number is low, it must be an issue regarding the athlete’s strength or speed. You might ask yourself, how can we measure speed? It isn’t easy to find this value, so we rely on strength for our measurements. For example, if an athlete has good strength, then it means he or she lacks speed.
On the other hand, if the athlete’s strength is low, they likely have a good rate. However, when it comes to training, we always train strength first then speed. There are 4 tests to administer to screen for power. We have the vertical jump, sit-up throw, seated chest pass, and the baseline toss test. Each test will yield a power number for that area.
Ideally, we are looking for the power numbers to be the same or similar for each test. The golf swing power ratio is 1:1:1. The baseball swing power ratio is almost similar with more towards their legs.
Lower body power
The vertical jump test can be done in 3 different methods using a jump mat, the vertical bar (you see often used in combines), and tape. I have the most experience with the jump mat, so I will use it to explain. This test will indicate an athlete’s leg thrust and power. Assuming the device is turned on and working, the athlete will then step on the mat if they want them to take a couple of small jumps to warm up or feel ready. Once the athlete is ready, they should jump as high as they can. A number will appear on the device, and that will be the athlete’s lower body number. Now, if the person feels that they have more in them, they can take more jumps. The test concludes when the individuals concede to being finished, or I stop them because the number is no longer increasing. For adult females >20″ is excellent, 16″-19″ good, 13″-15″ average, and below <13″ requires work. In adult males >22″ is excellent, 18″-22″ good, 15″-18″ average, and < 15″ needs work.
Spinal Core Test
The next examination is the sit-up throw, which will indicate an athlete’s core and latissimus dorsi power. We will perform a global test and a local test. In the worldwide test, all participants use the same medicine ball. Think of it as a competition of who can throw furthest. The males will use a 4kg ball while females will use 2kg.
The athlete will lie down feet flat, back flat, and knees bent. Now the individual will sit up and throw the ball. This can be done on the rise or beforehand. Wherever the ball hits first is where a mark should be made. This test continues until the participant cannot throw further. To measure the distance correctly, have the individual in a long sitting position while putting their hand on the chest. The instructor should then take a tape measure from the medicine ball’s middle to the athlete’s chest. The measurement taken will yield the athlete’s core number regarding the global test.
To complete the local test, the athlete will need to use the medicine ball that best corresponds to their weight. Unlike the global test, this is for the personalization of the individual. We figure that out by first understanding what the athlete’s weight is, then using a 1 lb. per 20 lb. formula. For example, say he or she weighs 180 lbs., the formula would be 180/20. This would mean the athlete needs to use a 9 lb. medicine ball.
Now the athlete will perform the same test as he or she did before. Except for this time, when the measurement is taken, it will be the person’s local core number instead of global. The local number is far more valuable when personalizing training rather than the global number. In men, anything less than 18 feet will signify weakness. In women, a throw under 16 feet will alert for power weakness.
Upper Body Test.
Next is the seated chest pass test. The chest pass will test for upper body power. The athlete should use the same two medicine balls as he or she did for the last test. Along with that, the local and global test principles still apply as well. For this test, the individual should be seated in a chair. His or her back does not have to be touching the end of the chair. Starting from his or her chest, the athlete will pass the ball as far as one can. The only caveat is that the athlete must remain in the chair at all times. The measurement process for this test is the same as well. The resulting measurement will be one’s upper body power number.
Total body power.
Finally, we have the baseline toss test that measures whole body power and asymmetries on one’s left or right sides. Again, this is tested globally and locally. The same medicine balls used for the last two examinations should be used as well. The athlete should have their feet shoulder-width apart while holding the medicine ball as if it were a shotput. Whichever side the athlete chooses to throw, they will load the hips and then turn to release the ball as far as possible. Measurement will be taken from where the ball first bounces to the center of the individual. This process must be repeated on the other side as well. The discrepancy between one’s dominant and non-dominant sides should be within 10% of one another. If this is not the case, then it is an indication that there is asymmetry with one side of the individual.
Those are the 4 tests for power. As a reminder, we covered the vertical jump test, which measures leg power. Next, we tested for core power with the sit-up throw test. After that, we tried for upper body power with the seated chest press. Finally, we tested full-body power with the baseline toss. As I stated earlier, it is ideal that these numbers from each test will be the same. For instance, say a male participated in the first 3 power tests and had results of 21 in, 19.5 ft, and 21.4 ft. We see that male has a power problem regarding his core power.
I would be remised if I did not mention the 4 strength tests we look at when analyzing power numbers. There is the split squat test, the single-arm press test, the single-arm pull test, and the grip strength test. In this case, we see the athlete’s sit-up throw test yielded a low power number so we use the corresponding strength test to see if it is a speed or strength problem. Since this motion is a pull, we would use the single-arm pull test. The results will tell us what area needs to be focused on within training. I won’t go into further detail as this article’s primary focus is about testing for power, but it is still a critical component to mention.
I hope was able to provide some insight into power. Moreover, there are methods to measure it, as well. It may not be as exciting as finding out you have super speed or can fly, but you will never be misleading someone when you tell them, “I’ve got the power!”
By Marvin Perkins Jr.