Testing a Training Program’s Effectiveness

August 26, 2008

All trainers perform an initial assessment with an athletic client (or should be) so that they can see where they need to begin the training program regarding exercises, programming methods to be used, and of course if there are any imbalances or weaknesses present. Specifically, a number of performance tests will be included after any body composition analysis. These often include a vertical jump test, a straight ahead sprint (10 or 40 yds usually), the pro-agility test or shuttle run, etc.

Now the athlete has been training for several months — since its that time of year, let’s say they’ve been training with us for the summer and now are returning to school for training camp/tryouts.

In the 4 months or so they’ve been training with us, they’ve improved in strength, body composition, power output, and added some muscle mass.

Now, do we accept this as evidence of the program’s effectiveness, or do we take it a step further and put the athlete through some post-testing?? All the same tests that were initially performed that first day are performed again with the expectation that some improvement has occurred in some number or all of the tests (dependent on the athlete’s previous training experience).

Depending on the results are we now going to decide that the program was successful or ineffective??

I would argue no, not until we know how the athlete played during the season: Did they stay injury-free, did they move better, faster, more agile, better able to handle going up against bigger, stronger players than the previous season??

In fact, my experiences up until now lead me to not be a fan of any post-testing unless it is a test the athlete will encounter in training camp. (In this case it becomes less about post-testing and more about test preparation). The others, they don’t really matter if they improved or not because sometimes the results are misleading. 

For example at the initial assessment, an athlete vertical jumps 28 inches at a body wieght of 155. Come the post-test, the same athlete vertical jumps 28 inches this time weighing 170. Just interpreting his vertical jump scores, you might think that he hasn’t made any improvement since he started the training program. Take into account that he gained 15 pounds and you can see that his power actually increased! He was able to move his initial bodyweight PLUS 15 pounds the same vertical distance that he was able to move just his initial bodyweight.

My feeling is that the ultimate sign that a training program has been effective for an athlete is if the athlete’s performance improved compared to last season, not if they scored higher on a given test.



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