GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR ASSESSMENTS WITH BASELINE DATA
By Justin Ochoa
February 13, 2019
One of my favorite aspects of working with athletes is step one of the entire process; the assessment. Implementing a solid assessment is one of the most valuable tools for a coach to have and something that I think is truly underrated in today’s field. Not only can we use the assessment process to look at movement quality, performance baseline markers, kinetic dysfunction and/or muscular imbalances, but we can also use this period of time as a huge rapport builder between the coach and athlete. The information collected during this initial evaluation also makes for a great blueprint to programming decisions and serves as a starting point in measuring progress over time.
Assessments are vital here at PACE Fitness Academy and PUSH technology has been a great tool for us to add to the process over the last few years. Below are some ways that using PUSH can add true value to your assessments, both for the athlete and the coach.
ASSESSMENTS: THE BASICS
Before we dive deep into the specifics, you may already be wondering… Why are assessments such a big deal?
Similar to taking a road trip with no map or navigation system, participating in a training program without an assessment will require a lot of unsure guesses, wrong turns, backtracking and flat out getting lost. The assessment reveals info on an athlete that can be used as a map along their training road trip.
Some assessments are more in-depth than others. There is no right or wrong way, just use what works best for your athletes and the goals you are trying to achieve, with the time and resources available to you. At the bare minimum, try to get a look at foundational movement patterns such as squat, lunge, hip hinge, rowing, pressing, jumping and running.
The key to a really impactful assessment is to only gather data that:
You can put into action
Compiling data for the sake of having info doesn’t help you nor the athlete. Make sure you are getting relevant info that you can put into action. Some examples of potentially beneficial info to retrieve include:
Perceived stress levels
Of course, these are just some of the major topics, you’ll need to make sure all of these items are situational and individualized when deciding what to implement for each athlete based on their needs.
Another important concept in an assessment is making sure that you aren’t leaving athletes with a sour taste in their mouth regarding their starting point. Athletes should leave an assessment feeling excited to train with you, informed on what the process will look like and definitely not discouraged due to where they currently stand. Keep your problem to solution ratio at 1:1.
PUSH IN ASSESSMENTS
So, how you can get more out of your assessment process using PUSH technology? There are three pillars we use to strategize the use of the data received from PUSH testing. They are:
Set baseline standards
Influence goal setting
Establish shareable progress
This is only scratching the surface of what PUSH can offer a facility, but it’s where we put our main focus in terms of using the data collection process during an assessment.
First, set baseline standards. The technology can be very individualized, meaning certain tests used take age, weight, height, gender and experience into account. This allows athletes to compare apples to apples (against themselves), rather than apples to oranges (against others).
It’s usually better to compare apples to apples, especially with youth and non-professional athletes. In this phase of their career, making personal progress and becoming the best athlete possible is more important than how they stack up against others. In the professional population, comparing athletes to other athletes is more common due to draft stock and free agency, but even at this level individual progress is massively important for the athlete. Using PUSH testing sets clear athlete standards which come into play for testing, readiness assessment or re-testing after a period of time or season of play.
Next, we love to use this approach to influence SMART goal setting for each athlete. Many athletes, especially younger ones, do not have a full understanding of how specific one should be when creating a goal.
“I want to jump higher” is a weak goal. It offers no real substance, doesn’t truly show the “WHY” behind the athlete’s goal and has no measurables to keep them accountable. “I want to add 1.5 inches to my vertical before the season starts because I think it can help me improve my shooting mechanics” is a much better example of quality goal setting. Having the stored data within the PUSH app and online portal is a really helpful tool for creating and tracking these goals over time with crystal clear clarity.
Lastly, when it comes to tracking those goals, we’re able to create shareable reporting for each athlete. Whether it’s a report for a parent, coach, scout or for the athlete themselves, this is one of the best ways to drive progress over time.
Going back to the road trip reference, the assessment gets you started on the route but traffic, road closings, accidents or other interruptions may occur throughout your trip. That’s the reality of training. You adjust the training like you’d adjust your route if there was a road closed. Then, you re-test and adjust the plan just like you would in finding a new route to your destination.
MY FOUR FAVORITE ASSESSMENT TESTS
Okay, I’ve rambled long enough about how much I love assessments. This is really what you came to read. These are our CORE 4 assessment tests that we use on all athletes. These come after our consultation conversation, dynamic warm-up and movement screening.
Max Vertical Jump
I like to start things off with something simple and well-known. All athletes understand what a max vertical jump test is. However, we break the rules on this one. Instead of a standing two foot jump (like the demo video on the PUSH app), we allow our athletes to use up to 3 approach steps to put this into a little bit more of a sport-specific context. In most cases, we test both ways, but I like the value of the approach jump much more because athletes are more comfortable and experienced jumping this way.
This is a nice way to assess lower body power, explosiveness, jumping technique, landing technique and overall body control. Aside from the metrics like wattage output, flight time and overall jump height, we’re also looking at the jump itself to tell us a story.
Some of the things we may look for, or record in slow-motion (video) to look for, are:
Knee valgus on jump or landing
Foot placement pre-jump
Arm action during jump or landing
Extension (or lack thereof) of the ankle/knee/hips
We don’t just want our athletes to test well, but to do it correctly and safely too.
RSI Stiffness Test
The next test we love to incorporate is the RSI (reactive strength index) stiffness test which is preloaded into the PUSH software. In this test, the athlete will place their hands on their hips and perform 10 pogo jumps to reveal their RSI score. In this case, the higher the number, the better - barring any red flags on their mechanics.
This is a really crucial test for assessment the stretch-shortening cycle and essentially how explosive they are on repeating plyometric movements. The key to this test is achieving maximal jump height and maximal force production in the minimal amount of time. Keep your jumps high and your ground contact time low.
This test translates more to speed in its repetitive nature. Improving score and technique in the RSI stiffness test can have a positive impact on sprinting and repeated explosiveness movements in sport. During the test, keep a close eye on what the ankles, knees and hips are doing -- similar to the vertical jump -- and also pay attention to the athlete’s ability to control themselves in space. Our athletes don’t know this, but we begin the test on a dedicated spot and compare where they end to where they started. Many times, athletes with more core function and coordination will be the further away from the starting point, while athletes with the higher jump heights and better body control will start and end in the same spot.
RSI Drop Jump
The next test is also a pre-loaded option in the PUSH software under the RSI umbrella. Instead of 10 repetitive jumps, this test looks at a box drop jump. The box height is up to the coach but should remain consistent as long as you’re retesting the athlete to compare to day 1.
We like to use a 12-inch box. To perform this test, athletes will stand on the box with their hands on their hips. The athlete will drop from the box, land and quickly re-accelerate into a jump as fast and high as they can. Again, the test requires an athlete to keep their ground contact time low and their jump height as high as possible.
Similar to the RSI Stiffness test, this is a great opportunity to assess some raw movements. Yes, the score is important, but not more important than cleaning up faulty movement mechanics or anything that would risk the safety of the athlete.
Broad Jump Free Movement
Lastly, the broad jump testing on the Free Movement feature within the PUSH app has become a recent favorite of mine. I like the vertical jump because of its relevance in popular strength & conditioning programs and/or testing combines, but I love the broad jump because I feel like it has a little bit more carryover into sport for most athletes.
For this test, the athlete is also wearing the device on their waist and will be on screen within the app, controlled by the coach. The jump will be measured for its peak velocity which now gives us a look at horizontal force production to add to what we measured in the vertical test. Jump length can also be measured using a tape if you want to look at trends between broad jump length and velocity of the jump.
The use of the Free Movement platform will unlock many creative ways for you to start your own experimental testing, which is how we use it in this case. We’re simply trying to build a database, track metrics and study this info to discover correlation between test results and athletic performance.
I think Free Movement could be a really big tool in the future because it allows coaches to push boundaries of movement testing, which could reveal new ways to help our athletes over time.
PROVIDING VALUE WITH DATA
Sadly, not everyone loves technology in the weight room as much as I do. If PUSH, or any other form of fitness tech, becomes a distraction or a nuisance to your program that’s definitely an issue.
The current generation, The iGen, are our current youth and collegiate athletes and they are extremely driven by technology - even more than their millennial parents.
If you think that a tool such as PUSH can help you better connect with athletes, coaches and/or parents, I’d highly advise you to consider implementing that tool. Not knowing about ways to provide more value is one thing, but knowing about it and choosing not to implement it is simply falling short of your role as a coach, mentor and professional.
In my experience, PUSH has done nothing but provide value for our athletes, coaches, parents and staff. At the end of the day, that’s a huge piece of what we do -- PROVIDE VALUE. The more we can pour into our athletes, the more impact we can make.
BIOGRAPHY - Justin Ochoa
Justin Ochoa is a Personal Trainer, Strength Coach and the Co-Owner of PACE Fitness Academy in Indianapolis, IN. He enjoys working with a wide variety of clients ranging from high-level athletes to rehabilitation patients. No matter the goal or experience level, Justin’s coaching philosophy is that everyone is an athlete. His focus is helping his athletes bring out the absolute best of their mental and physical potential, and then continuing to raise the bar for continued success and results.
Keep up with Justin on his Website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.