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Testing and Re-Testing: How Often Should You Be Checking Your Mobility and Strength?

If you have been following along with last weeks blog, we spoke about a hierarchy of development for athletes that will allow you to develop around a training plan. If you have not seen this yet please go back and read that post first before continuing on with this one. The first part of the hierarchy and the bottom of the pyramid involves Evaluation and Testing. You should not start with a training program unless you know where you are starting from, right? The same goes for when you are entering pre-season, competitive season, and post season. You need to know where you stand. How many of you actually test yourselves? I am not talking about running or riding in a time trial because I know plenty of you do that. I am getting really fundamental here and talking more about your basic strength and mobility. Do you have at least the minimum amount of strength and flexibility to perform in your sport? Where do your weaknesses lie? Do you have the requirements to take your training and your competition to the next level? This is what I hope to help you answer. As I mentioned above, there are many people who will go through time trial testing in both running and cycling to judge their training effort's success. However, if you go through it and realize you are no better than you were a couple of months ago...Where do you go from there? Do you train harder? Do you buy a better bike or better running shoes that the top athletes are using? Some will do that. Others may hire professionals to help them (coaches). Some who are very in depth with their training and planning will assess what I am going to talk about but I hope more of you will do so after reading this. When you are serious about what you are doing, whether you are an endurance athlete or an active adult, you need to check yourself. This means periodic checks throughout training too. Not just checking once at the beginning the season. This means testing at least monthly but sometimes weekly on what you are doing in training is working for your benefit. This involves doing simulated maximum strength tests, mobility and flexibility tests, and endurance tests. These will all be discussed below When performing a maximum strength test, this can be difficult for someone who does not have the appropriate equipment, support (weight lifting buddy), or awareness of the appropriate form or technique of the movements. Now you may be asking yourself, "why the hell is he talking about this? I am not a power lifter! I am not a body builder! Why do I need to do a strength test?!?!" Whether you are new to my content or have been following me for some time you should know that...STRENGTH...PREVENTS...INJURY. It does this much better than flexibility and mobility training and therefore is a very important component of endurance athletes and just as important for the active adult. It is missed all too often by people and I hope to fix that. If you have a goal for yourself, you want to make sure you set yourself up for success. Don't miss this. The one caveat I will say about strength training and strength testing is the safety parameter. Before partaking in it, you want to (and I want to) make sure you are safe. Make sure you know how the movements are supposed to feel, your form is dialed in under load (weight), and you have a safety bar (at a minimum) or a lifting partner who knows how to appropriately spot you. Safety is #1 above all else, which is also why this is a simulated maximum lift test. The exercises and tests that you will perform during this strength testing include the standard back squat, deadlift, lat pull down, and bench press test for those who have equipment. For those who do not have equipment but know the movements can do push up, pull up, squat, and sandbag deadlift endurance tests just to name a few. How many reps can you do without rest at a given weight is where you are looking to improve for these endurance tests. When using the weighted equipment you are looking to improve your 10 repetition max during the test. An important component of these tests are that you should NOT be able to perform one more repetition when you stop. These are the types of tests you want to do at a maximum monthly but can do them every three months throughout the year for good measure. The change from a single repetition to a 10 repetition makes it safer to perform without risk of failure by the equipment or your body (injury). As I said above, safety always comes first. The other piece of advice I would give you about these types of tests is that you may want to video tape yourself for form, smoothness of the movement, and any compensations you make. Therefore, you and/or your coach can make adjustments and fine tuning to the strengthening regimen. Flexibility and mobility testing becomes the next measure that you want to keep in check. This you can almost do weekly as these are simple to perform. As you complete your mobility training weekly, you should also notice you are able to go further in your movement as well which could be a good test. This testing is more relaxed in the sense you can take a picture of yourself in a pose or stretch and then take it again weeks later to see how much further you are in the motion. If not, you can do more formal mobility tests as well for each joint (I won't go into those here as they deserve their own post). Assessing this periodically, will allow for your joints to move freely during sport, preventing excessive stress to joint surfaces and compensations that would place excessive strain on other tissues. Endurance tests are another way for you to assess how you are doing. This can be done in the form of completing a movement such as a squat until failure (unable to perform another repetition) but this goes more along the line of your core strength. Planks, side planks, sit up holds, spinal extensor holds, wall sits, etc. These can me performed at most monthly as well to assess where you are and see what holes need to be filled in with your training Testing and retesting is a good way to check how your training is really going. Being able to determine your strengths and weaknesses but also where you have come from over the course of the training year and from year to year. Give this a try if you do not already do so. See where it will take you! If you are struggling with where to start or how to interpret your data, please feel free to reach out. I hope you enjoyed this post and hope you are looking forward to more.

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