Training: How Do You Know if It’s Working?

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Regardless of what we are training for, we need to know whether or not our training is working. How do we do that? We test, then re-test. The test needs to be simple, reliable, easily replicated, and relatable to the sport (1). Examples of tests would be a 40-yard dash in football, a vertical jump for volleyball or basketball, 1-rep max efforts in contested power and Olympic Lifts, or a “Helen” time for CrossFit.


Generally, tests are conducted at the beginning of, sometime during, and at the end of a training cycle.
Generally, tests are conducted at the beginning of, sometime during, and at the end of a training cycle. The logic for testing before and after is pretty simple to follow: if the after is better than before, it worked. But we don’t want to waste a whole 4-12 weeks of training on something that may or may not work, if we can avoid it. This is why it’s important to have some testing throughout the cycle to see if adjustments need to be made. Sometimes we get things wrong, and if we just blindly throw ourselves at something for a few months, we could end up wasting our time and effort for little to no progress. For some folks, this may happen as a result of ignorance. For others, it may be a result of ego: the refusal to accept that what you are doing is not working and unwillingness or inability to make needed adjustments.

As a simple example of testing within a cycle, one of our general physical preparedness (GPP) tests was a one-mile run. The first part of our cycle has included 200-400 meter run repeats to push anaerobic threshold; compound lower body lifts with high volume and short rest to increase muscular size and endurance; and unilateral lower body lifts to promote joint stability. In a couple weeks, we will end up performing two half-mile runs back to back to see people’s progress. If we notice folks moving faster at first, but gassing out in their second run, we may adjust some of the programming to favor more aerobic pathways. If our athletes are consistent across the runs but are struggling to moving faster, we may adjust the program to favor exercises that increase ground force production.

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