We preach a lot about abandoning superficial numerical goals however, the idea of training for a specific number or benchmark is not entirely bad. In fact, on it’s own, it can be highly motivating. It’s when the training becomes so blatantly skewed in a way that the main emphasis becomes the benchmark, rather than performance, that we see fault. Many people liken this to standardized testing seen in public schools or even testing at the NFL combine. The exception to this, of course, being if the actual benchmark movement IS your performance sport.
We are competitive by nature and we have a need to measure athletes against each other for assessment purposes. When someone lifts more, jumps higher, or throws farther, it is quantifiable. You can compare one athlete to another within these set movements to see who can perform them the best. The problem is that this doesn’t give very much room for the idea of application. In this industry, we continue to struggle conveying and quantifying athleticism.
You wouldn’t want to shape an entire program around seemingly arbitrary benchmarks. The reason being that they will only represent one aspect of performance, a mere indication of what an individual is capable of. Pick certain benchmarks for a reason and know without a shadow of a doubt why you’re using them. If some are meant to encourage competition, that’s fine, but the real emphasis should be on the individual athlete. Benchmarks can impart a sense of achievement and progress that can be directly attributed to the individual, rather than team.
An argument for numbers: Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, we like the idea of moving more weight than last time, or than the person next to us. Creating and achieving benchmarks can be fun and have practical application when implemented intelligently. Getting results has always been our goal as a coaches and finding tools that get the job done optimally is part of that goal.
Here are a few Power Athlete benchmarks that you can confidently place on your leaderboard. By no means is this a fully comprehensive list of testing exercises, but it sure as shit is a great start.
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Broad Jump – Power, Horizontal displacement
The broad jump is a great testing tool because is requires very little instruction. Nearly anyone can perform it with some practice and is a good reflection of power output.
Vertical Jump – Power, Vertical displacement
Although the vertical jump is more technical and can even be considered a skill, it is still a really valuable tool to determine if an athlete can create maximal force on the ground. Additionally, you can see a lot happening with the lower extremities that could be hindering an athlete’s ability to jump high and land safely.
Timed 10yd Sled Push @2x BW – Explosiveness/Speed
Putting some resistance into the mix, we can observe one’s ability to to be powerful against an external object. As strength and mechanics improve in other exercises, you will see this one progress similarly.
Agility, General Athleticism:
Triple Broad Jump – Horizontal displacement
This one is going to require a bit more instruction and practice. The act of picking up the triple jump quickly will prove a level of athleticism. Beyond that, you can observe the ability to use maximal force in a unilateral fashion. Stability and body awareness will be big takeaways here.
5-10-5 Sprint – Speed, Agility, Change of Direction
The 5-10-5 yard drill is a little controversial. It can be mastered and almost gamed but it also is an excellent test of speed, agility, and COD. This test does not take long to teach but from a coaching perspective, you will see athletes master this with great success as their trunk and hip stability, for instance, improves with the other aspects of training.
Power Clean 1 RM – Power, Strength
The ability to pull a heavy 1 RM Power Clean comes down to a number of factors not limited to training age, CNS efficiency, technique, and testosterone production. Keeping in mind these factors, it also comes down to brute power. Can you perform hard and fast for one rep? This test will determine that.
Back Squat in meters/sec @80% of 1 RM – Power, Strength
If you have a tendo unit, this is where you’ll want to utilize it. My advice is to test the ability to replicate power via this closed chain exercise. Use 80% of your training 1 RM and test the speed of the bar over the course of a set of 5 repetitions. Record this data and track the progress. You will want to shoot for .8 meters/sec, but any progress is progress.
Weighted Pull Up 2 RM – Strength
I can’t think of a better way to test upper body strength than the weighted pull up. I know what you’re thinking…what about bench press? Benching is almost too easy and leaves too much room for interpretation (“just the pinkies”) in a testing scenario. Besides, someone who will 2 RM over 100 lbs is going to be more of a beast in so many other athletic feats than the guy who can Bench 225 for 15+ reps.
LATT :30 seconds on 2:00 off – Muscle endurance, Lactic Acid Threshold
We prefer the Airdyne for this one. Basically, it’s a complete suckfest that should take a Power Athlete outside their comfort zone and typical lactic acid training threshold. The goal is to get as many calories as possible over the course of 5 rounds. You can vary the times to better suit the sport of the athlete (longer for hockey, soccer, rugby) if you want. If you follow the testing as is, a good goal is over 100 calories.
Max Strict Pull Ups – Muscle endurance
People who are strong pound-for-pound are generally faster runners as well. This is merely a correlation, but a meaningful one at that. Not only do strict pull ups test posterior chain muscle endurance, a huge limiting factor in performing most other lifts, they demonstrate grip strength.
Timed Sprint (Distances will vary) – Speed
This is intentionally vague as you may want to choose several distances here depending on the training goals of your athletes. There is no getting around the fact that speed kills. Performance is about moving with purpose at 100 million miles per hour.
This brings me to some closing thoughts on testing, training, and creating benchmarks. Having goals, tapping into intrinsic competitiveness, and providing purpose can all be positive outcomes of selecting intelligent benchmarks. Just remember what the real goal of the training is.
How do you know if your training is making you faster, stronger, or more explosive? You test. How do you know if your training is making you a better athlete? You win.
A strength and conditioning coach since 2009, Cali has worked with numerous athletes spanning from rugby players to cross country skiers. Almost immediately after finding CrossFit in 2010, she was introduced to a program that better suited her athletic goals. With her existing background in powerlifting and football, she became a natural devotee to CFFB/PowerAthlete and testament to it's effectiveness. In 2012, she left D.C. and headed for the state named after her to be a part of the CrossFit Football Seminar Staff and a Jedi of Power Athlete HQ. Cali currently resides in Seattle where she works full time in law enforcement.
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