A brief review of strength and ballistic assessment methodologies in sport

Daniel Travis McMaster, Nicholas Gill, John Cronin, Michael McGuigan
Sports Medicine 2014, 44 (5): 603-23
An athletic profile should encompass the physiological, biomechanical, anthropometric and performance measures pertinent to the athlete's sport and discipline. The measurement systems and procedures used to create these profiles are constantly evolving and becoming more precise and practical. This is a review of strength and ballistic assessment methodologies used in sport, a critique of current maximum strength [one-repetition maximum (1RM) and isometric strength] and ballistic performance (bench throw and jump capabilities) assessments for the purpose of informing practitioners and evolving current assessment methodologies. The reliability of the various maximum strength and ballistic assessment methodologies were reported in the form of intra-class correlation coefficients (ICC) and coefficient of variation (%CV). Mean percent differences (Mdiff = [/Xmethod1 - Xmethod2/ / (Xmethod1 + Xmethod2)] x 100) and effect size (ES = [Xmethod2 - Xmethod1] ÷ SDmethod1) calculations were used to assess the magnitude and spread of methodological differences for a given performance measure of the included studies. Studies were grouped and compared according to their respective performance measure and movement pattern. The various measurement systems (e.g., force plates, position transducers, accelerometers, jump mats, optical motion sensors and jump-and-reach apparatuses) and assessment procedures (i.e., warm-up strategies, loading schemes and rest periods) currently used to assess maximum isometric squat and mid-thigh pull strength (ICC > 0.95; CV < 2.0%), 1RM bench press, back squat and clean strength (ICC > 0.91; CV < 4.3%), and ballistic (vertical jump and bench throw) capabilities (ICC > 0.82; CV < 6.5%) were deemed highly reliable. The measurement systems and assessment procedures employed to assess maximum isometric strength [M(Diff) = 2-71%; effect size (ES) = 0.13-4.37], 1RM strength (M(Diff) = 1-58%; ES = 0.01-5.43), vertical jump capabilities (M(Diff) = 2-57%; ES = 0.02-4.67) and bench throw capabilities (M(Diff) = 7-27%; ES = 0.49-2.77) varied greatly, producing trivial to very large effects on these respective measures. Recreational to highly trained athletes produced maximum isometric squat and mid-thigh pull forces of 1,000-4,000 N; and 1RM bench press, back squat and power clean values of 80-180 kg, 100-260 kg and 70-140 kg, respectively. Mean and peak power production across the various loads (body mass to 60% 1RM) were between 300 and 1,500 W during the bench throw and between 1,500 and 9,000 W during the vertical jump. The large variations in maximum strength and power can be attributed to the wide range in physical characteristics between different sports and athletic disciplines, training and chronological age as well as the different measurement systems of the included studies. The reliability and validity outcomes suggest that a number of measurement systems and testing procedures can be implemented to accurately assess maximum strength and ballistic performance in recreational and elite athletes, alike. However, the reader needs to be cognisant of the inherent differences between measurement systems, as selection will inevitably affect the outcome measure. The strength and conditioning practitioner should also carefully consider the benefits and limitations of the different measurement systems, testing apparatuses, attachment sites, movement patterns (e.g., direction of movement, contraction type, depth), loading parameters (e.g., no load, single load, absolute load, relative load, incremental loading), warm-up strategies, inter-trial rest periods, dependent variables of interest (i.e., mean, peak and rate dependent variables) and data collection and processing techniques (i.e., sampling frequency, filtering and smoothing options).

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