Sitting here in the new house, I’ve decided to talk a little more about lower body power assessments. Soooooooo, here it goes!

Last Monday I blogged about some of my random thoughts, one of which was about what apparatus I CURRENTLY prefer for assessing lower body power (in the post I remarked about the VERTEC and the Just Jump Pad).

What I’ve learned to do (since it is part of our assessment protocol for athletes at SST), is assess lower body power both in a vertical sense (vertical jump test) and a horizontal sense (broad jump). After our broad jump test, we continue to a penta jump test which is simply 5 broad jumps in a row with minimal ground contact time. We do the penta jump both double leg and single leg if the athlete is advanced enough.

The penta jump gives us data about the distance convered over the 5 jumps, which is good; we get information about how proficient the athlete is when repeated explosive lower body efforts are required.

However the only information we are given from the test is total distance covered. What I’ve started thinking about this is that it doesn’t tell us whether power output decreased over the course of the 5 jumps or whether it remained stable! In other words, was the distance of jump 1 different from the distance in jumps 2,3,4,5??

I don’t know how we can get the distance for each jump, but I just think it would be very useful to know how quickly does power output decrease during the series of jumps. 

That way as a trainer I can see whether I just need to train power, or do I need to spend time focusing on sustaining the ability to display power (power-endurance I guess, but that sounds like an oxymoron).

The Jump Jump, with their 4-jump test, gives an average of height of the 4 jumps which is something, but that isn’t the same as giving data on each of the 4 jumps. 

At the same time, am I thinking too much into assessing lower body power?



As I’ve mentioned before, working in a gym training people is more than using exercise to get them stronger. With younger athletes, its especially important to train movement patterns. Efficient movement occurs by the body parts moving in a certain order which also happens to promote safety.

One thing I’ve found to be particularly difficult to teach is a proper hip dominant movement pattern.

What’s that?

A hip dominant movement pattern is used in exercises such as deadlifts and their variations, goodmornings, where we want to stress the glutes and hamstrings primarily. When done correctly the movement initiates with the hips moving backwards. What many people do naturally is bend over at their backs. This results in rounded back lifting and a far greater potential for lower back pain/injury.

What I’ve found particularly difficult in teaching the proper way to perform these movements is that many people don’t know how to differentiate movement at the lower back (bending over) and movement at the hips (pushing the hips back).

Now, some people do manage to get the hang of moving at their hips quickly, but for far more I’ve found this movement pattern a difficult one to re-program.

A few random things in my head right now:

1) Is the central nervous system (CNS) overlooked when designing programs?? Should we really be focusing on it when designing programs to boost athletic performance?

2) Measuring vertical jump with a Vertec or the Just Jump pad…I’m starting to lean towards the Just Jump system especially since it gives us more information.

3) Interval training rest periods based on heart rate recovery makes a lot of sense with respect to individual differences.

4) Interval training on a stationary bike is arguably the safest mode for interval training in beginners. But what if the beginner is someone working a job that requires they sit at a desk all day?? Is it still a good idea??

5) Regarding pre-adolescents doing isolation exercises like triceps pushdowns (as I witnessed on Saturday), are bigger triceps really what they need??

6) If an athlete comes in to train and they’re looking rather comatose, how much do we adjust their program?? In other words, how do we know how much they can still handle that day??

7) Trying new foods, especially vegetables, often requires a bit of effort usually from someone else, but afterwards it’s never as bad as I thought and sometimes even tastes good!

Taking Action

June 20, 2008

Sometimes the hardest part of achieving anything isn’t realizing what you want to achieve but starting the process of achieving it. I know this is definitely a problem I have every now and again, especially when those first few steps seem like they are not going to do much for the desired result.

What I’ve realized is these first few steps, no matter how small, are often the most important as they get me moving towards my goal and often lead to building up momentum which makes subsequent steps that much easier to take.

The nerd in me has always enjoyed reading things that will help me improve my weaknesses, but what I’ve realized is reading these books does nothing by itself, I have to apply what I’ve read. (I don’t really know why it took my so long to realize this…) Once I started taking action, that was when I started to notice results and improvement!

And the more I force myself to take action, the easier it becomes to make those first steps! Who would’ve thought?!

Needless to say, I believe improving in this area will be important for anything I attempt to do as it will improve my likelihood of success, and as a perfectionist I like good odds! :)

Here’s to keep taking action!


Commonly the term agility recalls definitions that say something along the lines of the ability to change directions quickly. Also the term agility seems to commonly get lumped together with the term quickness.

This is all well and good as essentially this is what it is, but as I have learned, this also overlooks one very important aspect.

I myself didn’t realize this aspect until last fall after I had COMPLETED my internship at SST.

This aspect is DECELERATION.

With speed and agility, acceleration gets a lot of the attention and deceleration sort of gets forgotten, but what must be understand is that without efficient deceleration the athlete is unable to be as agile and quick as they could be, even after making improvements in acceleration.

A truly agile athlete is both efficient slowing down and re-accelerating in the required direction.

This is one of the big things I look for during the Pro-Agility Test (which I wrote more about here). I really want to watch how athletes make their change of direction during the test; Is it efficient or not? Are they in control or not?

Often with many young athletes the answer is a re-sounding no.

Of course this is no fault of their own, just that like speed, agility and deceleration is a skill that can be improved with attention to quality of execution. In essence, improving the efficiency of the deceleration is what leads to improved agility; what we tend to notice as quickness.

So as odd as it may sound, becoming better at slowing down can make the client faster.


Recently added to the equipment list at SST has been a set of gymnastics rings. And in the short time that we’ve had them, they seem to be more and more versatile every single day!

For one piece of equipment, many exercises can be performed! On top on that, they allow for slight variations of exercises typically performed with barbells, which can be great for shoulder health and in the case of clients with shoulder issues, a safe alternative to these exercises.

Here’s a small list of what we’ve come up with so far:

Inverted rows, triceps extensions, rear delt flyes, pushups, pushup/fly combo, pec flyes, chin-ups — all with several variations because of the rotational ability of the rings to allow different grip variations and combos! (This grip versatility is actually why exercises performed on the rings can be a lot safer from a shoulder health perspective).

Yesterday, a few of the trainers thought of doing upside-down chin-ups, so I gave them a try in my own workout. To sum up, this variation had its good and bad points…however I’ve realized that getting creative is always a positive and you can never know if an idea is good or in need of improvement unless you try it out!


Strength and conditioning coaches, trainers, whatever you want to call them, use numerous tests to evaluate athletes and clients. From Rep-Max tests for the bench press, squat, and hang clean, to the 40 (football) or 60 yd (baseball) sprint, to the vertical jump test. So what I wonder sometimes is is the test simply assessing a biomotor quality (ie. speed) or does it also tell us something about how they play their sport?

One of my favourite assessment tests has become the 5-10-5 agility test. Simply because it is a better indicator of how the athlete can perform in their sport. This is because it involves change of direction, instead of a straight ahead sprint. My argument is that many sports like soccer and basketball require many changes in direction that are determined by the play of the opposition. Now, the 5-10-5 agility test isn’t perfect, but it does allow us to see non-linear movement much like the athlete encounters in sport.

For those that don’t know this test, the athlete starts straddling a middle line, then runs to the left or right to a line set 5 yards from the middle line, changes direction and runs to a line 10 yards away (5 yds past the middle line), changes direction again and runs through the middle line.

2 things I like noticing with this test is:

a) how does this compare to a straight ahead sprint test? (is a good time achieved on one and not the other?)

b) is their a difference when moving to the left and moving to the right?

Regarding this last point, the agility test must be run at least twice, once in each direction.

This is important because strength and conditioning coaches, and physical therapists have realized that a side to side asymmetry often indicates a higher risk of injury because it shows an unbalanced body. Now, I’m not looking for exact times, but fairly close (what I’m coming to look for a 5-hundreths second difference which is approximately a 10% difference).

As a coach, I want my athletes to equally well in all directions! One of the things I’ve realized within the past 6 months is that training is more than just training strength or power, its also important to teach athletes how to move properly and efficiently…something that becomes increasingly advantageous as an athlete plays at higher levels.