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Science Backs Testing by Raoul Hirani

Earlier this year, a breaking news story did the rounds of the print media about the unfortunate event of multiple deaths taking place during a police recruitment drive. These deaths were reported to be caused due to the harsh conditions in which physical tests were carried out on applicants’ alien to these conditions.
Could these deaths have been avoided? Certainly, a medical screening prior to testing could have helped. Was the test being carried out Valid and Reliable? Certainly not! The test was not standardized and the conditions were not suitable for untrained applicants to be subjected to.
The test tried to measure aerobic endurance by having the recruits run multiple miles in the scorching 40 degree heat which causes heat strokes and lead to multiple deaths.
Mcardle, Katch and Katch, 1996 developed a table that shows the relative humidity and temperatures that that may result in a high
heat injury risk.
High Heat Injury Risk*
Relative humidity Temperature limit
0% 35 degrees c 1 – 20% 32 degrees c
21-50% 29 degrees c
51-90% 27 degrees c
91-100% 24 degrees c

* Mcardle, Katch and Katch, 1996
Validity of a test refers to the degree to which a test or test item measures what it is supposed to measure, and is the most important characteristic of testing.
Reliability is a measure of the degree of consistence or repeatability of a test.
To determine the efficacy of any intervention, one requires to measure pre and post intervention levels. This is the basis of all scientific research or any teaching program, and in fact, almost everything that can be quantified.
Evaluation and testing need to be conducted regularly in all sporting and tactical organisations. Only when athletes are tested regularly, can the support system identify their strengths and weaknesses and then build a program around them. To train without specific goals is like buying a bunch of lottery tickets and hoping for the best. To train without testing is like never checking to see if you have picked the winning numbers on your lottery tickets. And repeating this process season after season is like pretending the lottery tickets have made you wealthy without ever checking your bank balance.

Every athlete either part of an organization or individual needs guidelines with regards to physical assessment procedures and parameters. For example a pro Golfer would require:-

A weekly report
Number of balls hit at the range per week
Flexibility levels
7 day resting heart rate

A quarterly
Strength test: 1 RM deadlift, Bench press, Squat
Aerobic capacity: Vo2max
Power test: Vertical jump test, Med ball throw test
Anthropometric body composition
Muscular endurance test: press ups, pull ups, partial curl ups

A Bi annual report
FMS report

A Football team would require:-

A weekly profile
Flexibility level
7 day resting heart rate
Number of hours spent on field per week

A monthly
Power test: vertical jump, med ball throw
Endurance test: Press up, pull up, treadmill test

A quarterly
Speed and Agility test: 10, 20, 40m dash, T test, pro agility test, fast feet, contact time, etc
Strength: 1 Rm deadlift, bench press, squat
Anaerobic capacity: yo-yo Intermittent recovery test, beep test
Anthropometric body composition

A bi annual report
FMS report

When conducting a battery of tests, selection of tests should be from the least fatiguing to the most. Agility speed and power tests should be done prior to strength and endurance tests to make sure the athlete performs at his optimal capacity.

Aerobic testing in the heat should be done with utmost care to minimize heat related injuries.

Acclimatization, fluid intake, pre test hydration are very important parameters which need to be considered in such conditions. The testing team should be aware of signs of heat stroke and heat exhaustion, cramps and nausea, lack of sweat, goose bumps, faintness and garbled speech.

The tester also need to be attentive to symptoms of water intoxication, a potentially fatal condition in which excess water intake reduces blood sodium to dangerously low levels.

Prior to testing, athletes should engage in enough training to establish a baseline of fitness in the test being conducted. Safety should be considered before 1RM testing. If the athlete is a novice lifter, then a predictive 1RM should be used.

Speed and agility tests done with a stopwatch have a very low degree of reliability since the results would be dependent on the tester’s reaction time. Ideally timing gates should be used for accurate results.

However, while testing, one needs to keep in mind the human errors. Different testers may grade the athlete differently and that would make the tests invalid. One must try and use as much standardised equipment when possible. A power mat to judge jump height rather than a wall and chalk. Timing gates for speed testing in stead of a stopwatch which has a huge itra tester variability. At Sporting Ethos, we use all the equipment recommended during our tests to give them a high degree of validity and reliability.

The only way to know if a training program works for you is to test and retest. One must be skeptical of trainers who are not on board with their athletes being scientifically tested.

At Sporting Ethos, we follow the protocol of periodic assessments for athletes so that the implementation of programmes is not only customized for a particular athlete, but also helps us make necessary changes to the Strength & Conditioning programme as the athlete makes gains and develops further. The use of highly accurate scientific equipment and carefully designed testing methodologies also helps us achieve high levels of test validity and reliability.

We encourage athletes from across sports to start get themselves assessed, not only for physical fitness but also the other aspects of their development, such as nutrition, psychology, injury and health concerns.

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