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Physiological Assessments: Sports-skills Assessments

Physiological Assessments: Sports-skills Assessments | Jessie Newell | Exam Preparation Blog | 5/9/2014


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Assessment performed at the start of a client’s program are a great way to track progress and increase motivation. These assessments are divided into four categories: anthropometric measurements (body size or body composition), cardiovascular assessments, muscular fitness assessments and sport-skills assessments. I refer primarily to the assessments outlined in Chapter 8 of the ACE Personal Training Manual, although the same guidelines apply to the physiological assessments described in the ACE Health Coach Manual.

For each assessment, your goal is to identify the objective of the assessment (why do we perform this assessment or what information can we gather?), who it is appropriate for (special populations or contraindications), and any advantages or disadvantages of these assessments. This blog focuses on the two types of cardiovascular assessments: VO2 assessments (treadmill assessments, cycle ergometer assessments, field tests, etc.) and ventilatory threshold assessments. VO2 assessments measure predicted or actual VO2max to give us an idea of a client’s cardiovascular health and fitness. Ventilatory threshold assessments determine an individual’s heart rate at his or her first and second ventilatory threshold; this information is used create an individualized training program. Each assessment has its advantages and disadvantages, so it is important to identify the most appropriate assessment for your client.

This last blog of this series focuses on sports-skills assessments. Unlike the other physiological assessments, which have their place in any person’s exercise program, sports-skills assessments are reserved for those who are concerned with performance in a sport [Phase 4 of the ACE Integrated Fitness Training (ACE IFT) Model]. Therefore, the normative data (data that we compare achieved scores against) that exists is gathered largely from high-performance collegiate athletes, and little to no data occurs for “your average Joe.”

These assessments can be divided into two categories: power testing and speed, agility and quickness tests. They focus on things that are necessary in sports like balance, power (anaerobic power and capacity), speed, agility, reactivity and coordination. When deciding which of these assessments you should perform, first analyze the needs of your client’s sport and see which assessments will best mimic the actions he or she typically performs. These assessments can help identify where athletes are doing well, and where they want to improve to perform at their highest capacity during a game or competition.

Power testing looks at anaerobic power and anaerobic capacity. Anaerobic capacity is basically assessing how well you can perform for a relatively long period of time at an anaerobic intensity (anaerobic endurance). Therefore, assessments like the 300-yard Shuttle Run or Margaria-Kalamen Stair Climb Test take somewhat longer to conduct. Anaerobic power, on the other hand, looks at how much force an individual can produce with a single effort. I like to think of these as the “One and done” assessments—one throw, one jump, etc., and may include the standing long jump, vertical jump and kneeling overhead toss. With speed, quickness, and agility tests, we can gather useful statistics for sports where acceleration, reactivity and the ability to change direction are keys to success (football, soccer, etc.). These assessments include the pro agility test, T-test and the 40-yard dash. Coaches can often use all these sports-skills assessments to determine potential success in game situations.

Key Topics to Remember:

For each of these assessments, be familiar with the objective of the assessment, who it is appropriate for (contraindications) and any advantages or disadvantages.

I hope that this discussion was helpful in understanding how to use sports-skills assessments. As always, if you have any questions or concerns regarding this topic or any other topic, please contact our Resource Center at or by calling 800-825-3636, Ext. 195, where our Study Coaches attend the line 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. PST, Monday-Friday. Please allow 24 hours for response time.