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

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