If You’re Not Testing You’re Guessing

Today I wanted to touch on a topic that I have been aiming to 1; do a better job of in my own practice and 2; stress its’ importance to clients.  It is the topic of testing and monitoring.  Where this all stems from really can start as far back as a year or so ago when I started at Peak Power.  I was placed in charge of development of a screening process for clients to determine what could be potential issues in movement, or areas of the body that may be tight and weak.  Therefore we could address these areas of concern before they become a problem or we aggravate the issue by improper program design.   I am by no means a biomechanist or an athletic therapist, and nor do I plan to be.  But this was to be designed so that we could be aware of potential issues, fix what we can and refer to other professionals when we know that this is beyond our scope of practice.

Skip ahead to August 2010.  The screen that we developed is almost ready for the fall launch.   The Peak Power crew are off to the Dartfish User Conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  Now for those of you who do not know, Dartfish is the analytical software that was used extensively at the Olympics.  You can use it to analyze movement and use it as a teaching tool.  That is the Coles notes version, and don’t feel bad if you do not know what it is.  The border crossing officials must not have known either, as once the term, “analytical software for assessing movement and …” came out the proceeded to lock us in a room and strip apart the vehicle.  It was actually pretty funny.  Now on this trip we discussed how to implement this process into the business model that we currently have.  The test is at a cost of $150.00 and we use the information as a tool for proper program development.  So how do we explain an extra cost to the client or athlete?  And it was very simple.  “If you are not testing you are guessing.”

It is simple to develop a program for an athlete.  I can analyze any event; break it down to the needs assessment of the sport (power, speed, endurance etc.) and the various energy systems that are utilized.  But how do I know that the exercises I program for that athlete are the ones that they need to be doing?  How do I know that the program I am developing is not causing some underlying issue to become worse only to rear its’ ugly head as an injury later on?  I don’t if I do not test before hand.   At Peak Power, for any athlete who is competing in an endurance style event (running, biking etc.) we need to assess maximal oxygen uptake via  testing to understand what speeds or heart rates to program for them.  So why do trainers just randomly prescribe a “canned” program to an athlete because we know what they need to do.

Testing is the base from which we design our programs.  Without it we do not know what we need to do.  Now there is a fine line between testing for the sake of program development and testing for the sake of testing.  Testing for the sake of testing is one thing I see time and time again, and will admit I have been guilty of in the past.  A coach or trainer tests the athlete only to file the information away never to look at it again.   That is why testing gets a bum wrap… due to poor practices by some individuals.  I will say that I have become much more aware of testing and referring to the tests for the aid of program development.   We also have to remember that there is a fine line between testing and monitoring.  Monitoring is done as a “check” periodically through the training to assure that the program is doing what it was designed to do.  As well, monitoring is shorter, sometimes less invasive and the collection of monitoring data may show a trend or event that warrants a testing session.

So where am I getting at?  Testing is an integral part of program design, and must be done before a program is written.  If the trainer or coach is not testing, be cautious.  Question the program.  We have implemented that each athlete must, if in a power or strength sport, have a Movement Pattern Analysis (MPA which is our developed screen) prior to program design.  It is the only way we know what to do properly.  This is what I feel makes my program much different from 90% of the others out there.  Through this I can honestly say that my programs had a direction before, but now they feel that they have a purpose.  Once again my aim is to educate the readers to become informed.  Know that you are paying someone, so make sure that they are doing all that they can and should be doing to get you the results you deserve.

Until next time,

Yours in health and performance.

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