Kevin Neeld — Hockey Training, Sports Performance, & Sports Science

Testing Power in Team Sport Athletes

Testing is an important part of the training process. Not only does it help coaches profile the athlete, and therefore make decisions about which areas require more attention from a training perspective, but it also provides a mechanism to track progress over time.

In a previous post, which followed all of the controversy surrounding one of the upcoming NHL Draft’s top prospects not being able to perform a single pull-up at the most recent NHL Combine, I presented averages on how our youth and junior hockey players performed on a chin-up rep max test, one indicator of upper body strength. If you missed that, you can check it out here: Ultimate Pull-Up Transformation

While there are many ways to test power in athletes, we started using a Lateral Bound Test in addition to some of the more traditional tests (e.g. Vertical Jump, Broad Jump, Hang Clean, etc.). Compared to other tests, this test provides:

  1. An indication of power in a lateral/horizontal pattern, which is extremely specific to ice hockey, but also relevant to almost all team sports
  2. An opportunity to identify side-to-side differences

As you can imagine, the lateral distance one can travel jumping off of one leg and landing on the other will be influenced by a few other confounding factors that need to be accounted for, namely:

  1. Limb length
  2. Hip structure
  3. Lateral “flexibility”

Instead of attempting to measure all of these things individually, we simply calculate a “split” distance (as far as the athlete can spread his/her feet without putting hands on the ground) and normalize all jump distances to this. In this way, we account for how all of those factors affect the lateral movement.

The equation I used to calculate normalized lateral bounds was:

LB Norm = LB Avg/Split where LB Avg = (Lateral Bound Left + Lateral Bound Right)/2

The results from our pre-Summer testing are presented below:

Hockey Power Testing-Lateral Bound

The general story is that athletes become more explosive as they get older (not surprising). It is interesting to the note ranges at each age group, as there are plenty of examples of junior- and college-aged players jumping on a “U-15 level” and vice versa.

Of even greater note is that the correlation between vertical jump height and the normalized lateral bound distance in our junior and college players (we did a broad jump with the younger kids for logistical reasons) was only 0.28. For those of you that shutter at the thought of analyzing statistics, that is essentially “not a very strong relationship”. In other words, the link between vertical jump and lateral bound performance is quite weak, suggesting that power is dependent upon which pattern it’s being expressed in.

I took the results from our Junior and College players and ranked everyone from best to worst according to their vertical jump height. The player with the best VJ was renamed “Player 1”, and each player was renamed accordingly until the player with the last VJ, who was named “Player 35”. I then re-ranked everyone according to their normalized lateral bound distance.

Hockey Power Testing-Lateral Bound vs. Vertical Jump

Lateral Bound vs. Vertical Jump Performance

As you can imagine, this list isn’t entirely random. The player with the best VJ (Player 1) had the 4th best normalized lateral bound. Similarly, the two players with the worst VJ were also dead last in normalized LB distance. That said, there are some notable outliers. The players with the 6th, 7th, and 8th best vertical jumps are all toward the bottom of the list for normalized LB. Likewise, the 3 of the top 5 best normalized LB performances were handed in by the 26th, 22nd, and 25th best vertical jump performers.

There are a few important take homes here:

  1. Power is pattern specific, so it’s important to select testing methods that provide the most appropriate information for your sport and/or training situation
  2. Ranking players according to a single testing variable is likely to give very cloudy results.
  3. There are high and low performers at every age group, but this doesn’t necessarily indicate that one player is better off than the other, as it’s extremely difficult to factor in genetic capacity. Testing results, especially at these age levels, need to be used to track individual progress and NOT to compare players against one another.

As always, if you have any questions, please post them in the comments section below!

If you’re interested in following a structured hockey training system to improve your speed, power, strength and conditioning, be sure to check out my new Ultimate Hockey Transformation system today!

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To your success,

Kevin Neeld
HockeyTransformation.com
OptimizingMovement.com
UltimateHockeyTraining.com

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  • Andrew

    All is true, all is best, all is much more than just test…

  • Would you emphasize lateral power development ahead of vertical power for a hockey player because of the lateral movement in hockey and because power is pattern specific?

    • Scott-Yes, to an extent. We use a variety of methods based on what we’re trying to accomplish in terms of movement and energy system specificity, but it’s also important to consider the players’ skating volume. If they’re skating frequently in the off-season, it may not be desirable to overemphasize the same pattern.

  • Hey coach, Coach could you give examples of what you’re describing here is lateral power development? Maybe a video of you taking the athlete through the test itself. It was nice talking with you at the clinic in Colorado Springs this month.

    Thanks

    Rich Bell

  • Great article Kevin!!! I love the fact that you’re promoting the importance frontal plane power!! I dealt with this exact concept for my thesis where I looked at the correlation of throwing velocity in baseball players to a variety of lower body power tests and found that a lateral jump was the best predictor. I really liked how you normalized the jump distance with the “split stance” which is something that I wish I would have done. Any thoughts on how you would take body weight into consideration to get some type power output? I was thinking of asking Matt Shaw this question after seeing his presentation in Colorado Springs where we was looking at the power output of his players with a force plate but I figured I’d get your input too

  • Rich-Great to meet you in CO. The test just involves standing on one leg and jumping as far laterally (straight to the side) as possible, landing on the opposite leg (See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E35eIl06ZL4). We’ll have the player walk their feet out as far as possible without putting their hands on the ground to get a maximum “split” distance, which we then use to normalize all jumping distances.

  • Graeme-I’ve thought about trying to create a power measure. I think it would be tough to do outside of a lab setting. Hopefully someone with the necessary technology can look into creating the regression equation.

  • Jamie

    If a skater and a goalie have similar LB Avg and the goalie has a significantly better Split, is it fair to score the goalie lower? Would we expect the goalie to be that much better based on the demands of playing in net? Thanks!

    • That’s how I’d interpret it. When I was in Chicago last year running the testing for the STX combine, there was a goalie that dropped smoothly down into a full split (there was actually a thud when his pelvis hit the ground). I don’t remember the exact distance, but I do remember that his lateral bound distance was LESS than his split distance. In other words, he could fall further than he could jump. At his age, he has plenty of time to right the ship, but that’s not a good scenario.

  • Jamie

    Just completed LB test for a University Women’s team. The athletes with the highest LB Norm have the poorest flexibility scores. Is there a norm for percentage of height relative to side split? Thanks!

    • Thanks Jamie. I haven’t found that actually, but in general stiffer athletes are more powerful, so if you feel that your flexibility scores are limited by stiffness, that’s consistent. I always look at absolute and relative numbers. Normalizing to height or leg length doesn’t appreciate the differences in hip structure or flexibility that will absolutely influence lateral movement.

  • Jamie

    Thanks for the response Kevin. I’m hoping to go thru screen tests you discuss in Optimizing Movement CD and determine who needs “correctives” and how that correlates to their bounding scores.

Kevin Neeld

Kevin Neeld Knows Hockey

Kevin has rapidly established himself as a leader in the field of physical preparation and sports science for ice hockey. He spent the last 7 years as the Director of Performance at Endeavor Sports Performance in Pitman, NJ, the last 3 of which he was also the Strength and Conditioning Coach and Manual Therapist for the Philadelphia Flyers Junior Team. Kevin is in his 5th year as a Strength and Conditioning Coach with USA Hockey’s Women’s National Team, and has been an invited speaker at conferences hosted by the NHL, NSCA, and USA Hockey .