Testing time

Testing is primarily used for help in designing the most appropriate athletic training program for short-term, mid-term and long-term benefits.

Batters require speed, agility, footwork, balance and tactical ability.   -  Getty Images

Fitness tests may include body composition, cardiovascular, flexibility, strength and endurance testing. Power, speed and agility evaluations may be provided for certain athletes. Fitness tests are designed to monitor progress and to assist in the development of your fitness.

Testing is primarily used for help in designing the most appropriate athletic training program for short-term, mid-term and long-term benefits.

Validity and reliability in fitness testing is vital. Fitness professionals should know and understand the dual concepts of validity and reliability. A reliable measure is measuring something consistently, while a valid measure is measuring what it is supposed to measure. Most of it is lost in translation and the essence of doing the testing is lost if both of these are not adhered to consistently.

Benefits of fitness testing

Identify strengths and weaknesses: One of the most important benefits of testing is to establish the strengths and weaknesses of the athlete on varied components of fitness specific to specific sports. This is done by comparing fitness test results to other athletes in the same sport or skill set.

By comparing normative testing data to see the areas that need improvement, the training programme can be modified accordingly. This way, specific training time can be used more prudently. However, beware that some athletes excel in their performance in their sport despite their non-advantageous physiological attributes.

Monitor progress and set targets: The initial testing session can give athletes an idea of where their fitness levels are at the start of a programme. Comparative analysis on testing results is valuable for future targets or goals. A baseline is especially important if you are about to embark on a new training phase. Fitness tests should be planned at regular intervals before the new phase of training. This is where a periodical regime comes into play for specific protocols.

By repeating tests at regular intervals, you can get an idea of the effectiveness of the training programme designed. The timeframe between tests can depend on the availability of time/tournament/season/etc. Depending on these factors, the period between tests may range from two weeks to six months. It usually takes a minimum of three-six weeks to see a palpable change in many aspects of fitness.

Provide targets: The targets often help on focus and are a pathway to improve on certain test scores, as the athletes know that they will be tested again at a later date on parameters specific to their needs.

Talent identification: Although testing has been used in this way for talent identification at times, it has generally not been very reliable in predicting the future success of juniors (mainly due to varying growth patterns) and in sports that rely heavily on other factors such as technique, tactics, diet, psychological and other factors.

Most important factors for success in order of importance in cricket as a sport:

1. Speed/quickness, balance and coordination

2. Motivation and self-confidence, skill and technique

3. Strength and power, reaction time

4. Coping with pressure situations

5. Analytic and tactical ability

6. Flexibility, agility

7. Body size and composition, aerobic endurance

These parameters need to be tested according to the skill set and there would be available results according to the specialised skill. An example: the explosive power of a fast bowler in his lower body would or can be more than the spinners, or hand and eye coordination reading of a batter or a keeper would or can be better than a pace bowler.

Based on this specific skill, running a battery of tests will provide exact empirical details one is looking for to design a programme and to see that the desired targets are reached.

Generic testing will take the players up to a point and plateau off there. So being mindful in designing a specific test for a specific skill is of paramount importance. Also, one need to look into the metabolic energy system in play for a specific skill set. An example: aerobic fitness/threshold zone fitness/power and stability is important for the pacers.

Meanwhile, batters require speed, agility, footwork, balance and tactical ability.

In choosing the testing protocols, the trainer should be competent enough to choose the required parameters in percentage for correct desired data.

Testing is primarily used for help in designing the most appropriate athletic training program for short-term, mid-term and long-term benefits.

A DEXA scan for body composition test should be done on a monthly basis to check the lean muscle mass to fat ratio and the desired fat percentage requirement for each sport.

The choice of testing specific parameters of fitness depends on various factors such as time, tour schedules, travel schedules, weather conditions, surface, facilities available and the form of cricket (Tests/One-Dayers/Twenty20).

Limitations of fitness testing:

1. The tests are often not sport-specific or are too general many times.

2. They do not replicate the movements of activity or skill.

3. They do not replicate the competitive conditions required in sports such as weather, surface, time zone, etc.

4. Many do not use direct measuring or give sub-maximal readings. Hence, some can be inaccurate and some have questionable reliability or the method in executing the tests.

Recommended battery of tests for cricketers:

BattersPacersKeepersSpinners
20m40m20m20m
5-0-5Vertical jumps5-0-55-0-5
Run a 3Seated med ball throwRun a 3T run
2km run2.4km run2k run6-point touch
30m shuttle6x40m shuttle run for 3 minutes6-point touchPush-ups
Vertical jumps Vertical jumpsShoulder flexibility test
Push-upsPull-upsPush-upsAbs stage
Abs stageAbs stageAbs stage2.4km run
Star excursionFMSStar excursionStar excursion
FMSStar excursionFMSFMS
Strength – lower bodyStrength – lower bodyStrength – lower bodyStrength and endurance – upper body
Strength – upper bodyStrength – upper bodyBalanceStrength and endurance – lower body
S-N-RSpeed and strength – lower bodyS-N-RS-N-R
Hand and eye coordinationSpeed and strength – upper bodyHand and eye coordinationHand and eye coordination
Reflex testStrength and endurance – upper bodyReflex testReflex test
Reaction test Reaction testReaction test
Sprint repeatSprint repeatSprint repeatSprint repeat