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Submaximal Estimation of Strength in High School Football Athletes

Eric Guyotte, MS1, Michael Horvat, Ed.D.1, Christine Franklin, MS2, Christopher Ray, Ph.D3, and R. Christopher Mason, MA1 1 University of Georgia, Movement Studies Laboratory, University of Georgia, Department of Statistics, University of Texas-Arlington, Department of Kinesiology
ABSTRACT The purpose of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of upper body strength assessments as predictors of one repetition maximum (1RM) strength among high school football athletes. Sixty-two male high school football athletes (13-18 yrs.) participated in this research and completed a 1 repetition maximum bench press (1RMBP), repetitions to fatigue bench press (RTFBP), and a kneeling medicine ball throw (KMBT). A Pearson product correlation was used to determine the relationships between the repetitions to fatigue bench press, kneeling medicine ball throw and the one repetition maximum test on upper body strength. Based on the data analysis, a strong linear correlation was apparent between 1RMBP and both RTFBP (r = 0.907) and KMBT (r = 0.795) indicating that these tests were viable alternatives to maximal testing and could be used as a predicator of maximal strength in high school athletes. Key Words: One repetition maximum bench press, repetitions to fatigue, medicine ball throw INTRODUCTION Strength training is a common practice for developing and improving the overall performance capabilities of high school football players. In order to implement a viable training program that is specific to developing the adolescent athlete and increasing performance, coaches and teachers should approximate the capabilities of their performers prior to the initiation of a training program. Submaximal estimates can be used to minimize injury to athletes in the weight room by eliminating frequent periodic assessments and to track program effectiveness. This will allow for the refinement of currently implemented strength training programs. As periodized programs require close monitoring of both volume and intensity, it is imperative that safe and statistically sound alternatives to maximal testing are explored to avoid injuries. Strength-training programs are common in high school athletics, however, a scarcity of information is available with regard to evidence-based solutions to monitor the athletic capabilities and accommodate physiological differences or maturation in high school boys. Most coaches use one repetition maximum (1RM) testing especially in football as the standard for measuring strength and power without considering the concerns of requiring adolescent athletes to lift heavy loads during a period of biological immaturity. The major concerns regarding adolescent strength training are injuries to growth plates, stress on the joints and the musculoskeletal system especially during onset of maturation and peak height velocity [1,2,7,9]. This is particularly alarming because the background and training of high school coaches is minimal concerning proper lifting techniques, safety, and knowledge of biological development. An alternative to maximal testing may include the utilization of a sub-maximal load or repetitions to fatigue test which has been used as a predictor of maximal strength in athletes and non-athletes of various demographics and training levels [5,8,11,14]. The basic principle of repetitions to fatigue testing utilizes a percentage of an athletes 1RM that is within a range of 8-15 repetitions [5]. In addition, the utilization of an explosive maneuver using a medicine ball throw as a performance variable to estimate upper body strength has not been documented. A variety of medicine ball throws have previously been used to assess upper body strength with mixed results. However, the kneeling medicine ball throw (KMBT), which was used in our study, has not been studied with adolescent male athletes despite its use in Nike Speed, Power, Agility, Reaction & Quickness (SPARQ) testing in football combines for high school athletes [6,15,17]. Due to our interest in the physiological development of adolescent male football players and the utilization of strength assessments that were safe and informative on the subject population, this study was undertaken. Therefore, the purpose of this investigation was to determine the effectiveness of submaximal estimates of strength in comparison to 1RM methods in

Clinical Kinesiology 67(1); Spring, 2013


evaluating upper body strength in male high school football athletes. METHODS Participants Sixty-two male high school football athletes ages 13-18 participated in this study with signed permission and appropriate consent from their parents and coaches. All participants had been exposed to weight training in either a physical education setting or through basic training for a specific sport. All lifts were supervised by the schools coaching staff. Initial testing occurred prior to the off-season weight-training program, when the athletes were not actively participating in a sport. The study was approved by the Institutional Review Board at the University of Georgia and Oconee County Board of Education. All results were discussed with the participants and parents or guardians after the analysis was completed. Testing Procedures The principal investigator supervised all of the lifting and performance tests in conjunction with the school coaches and staff. Participants were instructed on proper warm-up and lifting techniques prior to testing and spotters were trained to assist participants with lifting the bar off the rack and on failed attempts. Strength assessments were randomized over 4 days to allow for muscle recovery and to avoid potential problems due to test order. 1-Repetition Maximum Bench Press Prior to the 1-repetition maximum bench press, a warm-up set of 5-10 repetitions was performed with a standard barbell (20.45 kg). After a one-minute rest period, 3-5 repetitions were completed with 4-9.0 kg added to the bar. After a 2-minute rest period, an estimated near maximal load was added, allowing the participants to complete 2-3 repetitions with the resistance. The athletes were then given a 2-4 minute rest period between each lift and the load increased 49.0 kg depending on the difficulty of the prior 1RM attempt. Increase in the load and the length of the rest period was determined by the athletes, and their perceived readiness within the guidelines provided. A complete repetition was defined as lowering the bar to touch the chest followed by full extension of the arms with no pause. If a subject failed to complete a repetition, the load was decreased by 24.0 kg and another attempt was made after 2-4 minutes of rest [3]. Repetitions to Fatigue Test For the repetitions to fatigue bench press, participants performed as many repetitions as possible using a load of 61.2 kg. The average individual is able to complete 12-15 repetitions at 6070% of their maximal load (3,5). Thus, the load of 61.2 kg equals approximately 64% of the mean 1RMBP; while using 75% of the mean 1RMBP would have eliminated 12-15 subjects from the sample. The test required participants to touch the barbell to their chest and then raise it to full extension of the arms for a repetition to be counted. The test continued until participants failed to complete a repetition, used improper form, or hesitated for greater than 2 seconds. The last properly executed repetitions were recorded for the data analysis. Kneeling Medicine Ball Throw The SPARQ training protocol [16] was followed for the kneeling medicine ball throw. Participants were instructed to kneel with back erect, both hands directly overhead, and grasping a 2.7 kg medicine ball on its sides. The participants feet were plantar flexed with the top of the foot flat on the ground. The throw was performed by lowering the medicine ball to the chest while sitting back with the hips towards the heels, and then using a chest pass to extend the arms at an angle 30-40 degrees above the ground to throw the ball for maximal distance. The participants were allowed to fall forward after release, but their knees were required to stay on the ground on top of the start line. Participants were required to make the throw with both hands while using one hand in a shot put like throw resulted in a disqualification. Participants were given a warm-up throw and 2 minutes rest between attempts. The better of two attempts was recorded to the nearest 1.0 in for the data analysis. Statistical Analyses Pearson product correlation coefficients, coefficients of determination, regression analysis, and scatter-plots were used in this study to determine the relationship between 1RMBP and each of the upper body strength assessments. Results were considered statistically significant using the criteria of the r-sq. having a p- value 0.05. Correlation coefficients, r and coefficients of determination, r-sq. were used to determine the strength of the relationship between the variables. Linear regression analysis using the least squares regression line was also used to formulate prediction equations using the RTFBP and KMBT as predictors for the variable 1 RMBP. Scatter-plots were used to visualize the relationship of the predictor variables with 1RMBP. RESULTS The data analysis showed a strong linear relationship between 1RMBP and both the repetitions to fatigue bench press (RTFBP; r = 0.907, predicted 1RMBP = 53.42 + (2.664) RTFBP, r2 = 82.3%, se of predicted 1RMBP = 1.52 kg) and the kneeling

Clinical Kinesiology 67(1); Spring, 2013


Figure 1. Fitted line scatter plot of one repetition maximum bench press (1RMBP) vs. repetitions to fatigue bench press (RTFBP). Figure 4. Box plot of repetitions to fatigue bench press (RTFBP) by Age Group.

Figure 2. Fitted line scatterplot of one repetition maximum bench press (1RMBP) vs. kneeling medicine ball throw (KMBT). Figure 5. Boxplot of repetitions to medicine ball throw (KMBT) by age group.


Figure 3. Box plot of one repetition maximum bench press (1RMBP) by Age Group.

Figure 6. Scatter-plot of one repetition maximum bench press (1RMBP) vs. repetitions to fatigue bench press (RTFBP) coded by age, 13-15 (r = 0.954) and 16-18 (r = 0.795).

medicine ball throw (KMBT; r = 0.796, predicted 1RMBP = -14.36 + (0.1213) KMBT, r2 = 63.3%, SE of predicted 1RMBP = 2.25 kg). The prediction equation provides the predicted mean score for all high school football athletes with similar scores on the RTFBP and KMBT. The linear relationships between the measures are evident in Figure 1

(1RMBP vs. RTFBP) and Figure 2 (1RMBP vs. KMBT). Because of our interest in developmental changes in strength, a comparison between the younger participants (13-15 years) and the older participants (16-18 years) was conducted to examine differences in performance assessments. As shown

Clinical Kinesiology 67(1); Spring, 2013


(in the box plot Figures 3 5) the older male athletes out performed the younger male athletes on all of the assessments. For 1RMBP, 50% of the 13-15 year old athletes had lower 1RMBP scores than all of the 1618 year olds. The median score for 13-15 year old athletes was 77 kg. The median score for the 16-18 year old group was 102 kg, 15 kg higher than the median for 13-15 year old athletes. The top 25% of the 16-18 years old group scores were higher than the maximal score of 125 kg for 13-15 year old athletes. Although it is not surprising that 16-18 year old athletes would be stronger and more physically developed, it accentuates the differences between the age groups, a point that high school coaches should clearly understand. For the RTFBP, the 16-18 year olds still similarly out performed the 13-15 year olds but to a slightly lesser degree for the upper 25% of the 16-18 year olds there is more overlap of the upper 25% of scores for the 13-15 year olds with the 16-18 upper 25%. Although the 16-18 year olds are out performing the 13-15 years with respect to 1RMBP and RTFBP (Figure 6), the 13-15 age groups 1RMBP demonstrates a stronger correlation with RTFBP (r = 0.954) than the 16-18 age groups 1RMBP (r = 0.795). It appears that the RTFBP (r = 0.954) is a stronger predictor of 1RMBP with the younger and less developed male athletes. DISCUSSION Because strength training has become such an integral component of high school athletics it is important to effectively determine the baseline measures of strength that are required to facilitate a safe and efficient strength and conditioning program. If strength and conditioning coaches are concerned with the frequency of maximal testing or lack of appropriate expertise for such testing, they can still accurately estimate upper body strength with the RTFBP (r = 0.907) and the KMBT (r = 0.796). This provides the teacher/coach with viable alternative methods of assessment that may be more specific to their program goals and the maturity of the athletes under their supervision, especially those with limited weight training experience. From an absolute strength point of view, it is evident that the higher performance boys were in the (16-18) age group. Performance in this context was attributed to increased physical maturity and increased experience with the strength-training program. From our viewpoint, it was evident that the stronger correlation present between 1RMBP and RTFBP for the 13-15 age group (r = 0.954) compared to that of the 16-18 age group (r = 0.795) was a noteworthy finding. This correlation indicates an exceptionally strong relationship between the tests that suggests an alternative way to predict 1RMBP at a time when the body is maturing for younger athletes. In this context, the RTFBP may be more appropriate for assessing strength in a group who has less physical maturity and weight training experience as compared to the 16-18 age groups. The current literature clearly describes the effectiveness of using RTFBP to predict 1RM strength in a variety of populations [5,8,11,14]. Our findings expand the knowledge base by showing that the accuracy of prediction of 1RMBP from RTFBP varies by age group. Furthermore, we have illuminated an additional and previously untested predictor of 1RMBP, the KMBT. The KMBT is a performance measure that emphasizes the explosive component needed for football and is a component that may prove useful for coaches. In addition, the KMBT used in our investigation was the SPARQ training protocol that is commonly used for testing in high school combines. Although this procedure has not been fully investigated in comparison to other procedures to evaluate maximal strength [4,6,15,17] it appears useful for coaches as an alternative measure of upper body strength. Because it is also used extensively in high school combines, it is appropriate for coaches to include this procedure on their program. In addition, it has some adaptability for other sports and it is recommended that the procedure be studied further and expanded for all sports as a performance consideration. The primary aim in this study was to investigate alternative methods for determining the upper body strength of high school football players, especially for athletes at various biological stages. The results of this study provide evidence for a safer and more efficient means of assessing upper body strength in a high school setting. The investigation of RTFBP and KMBT provided strong correlations of upper body strength. Additionally, the KMBT does not require expensive equipment and there is no need for other athletes to be used as spotters. Furthermore, the technique used in the KMBT is a multiple joint movement, which is more specific to the explosive power movements used in football, in comparison to the traditional bench press. In order to eliminate the risk of injury it may be helpful to limit the use of 1RM testing and use alternative methods supported by our study to evaluate the progress of athletes and determine program effectiveness. Assessment and training should complement each other as athletes begin participation at an early age and continue to develop physically. REFERENCES 1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Intensive training and sports specialization in young athletes. Pediatrics 106:154-157, 2000

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2. American Academy of Pediatrics. Strength training by children and adolescents. Pediatrics 107:1470-1472, 2001 3. Bachle, T.R. & Earle, R.W., (Eds.) Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning (3rd Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2008. 4. Borrie, A., Mullan, N., & Palmer, C. The development of a medicine ball throw test for assessment of upper body performance. Journal of Sports Sciences 16:31-38, 1998. 5. Bryzcki, M. Strength testing-Predicting a onerep max from reps-to-fatigue. Journal of Physical Education Recreational and Dance 64:88-90, 1993 6. Cronin, J.B. & Owen, G.J. Upper-body strength and power assessment in women using a chest pass. Journal of Strength Conditioning Research 18:401-404, 2004 7. Faigehaum, A.D. Age and sex-related differences and their implications for resistance exercise. In: Essentials of Strength and Conditioning (3rd Ed.) Bachle, T.R. and Earle R.W. (Eds.) Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2004, pp. 250-292. 8. Kim, P.S., Mayhew, J.L., & Peterson, D.F. A modified YMCA bench press test as a predictor of 1 repetition maximum bench press strength. Journal of Strength Conditioning Research 16:440-445, 2002. 9. Malina, Bouchard & Bar-Or. Growth, maturation, and physical activity. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2004 10. Mayhew, J., Mayhew, D., Ware, J., Ball, T., Lauber, D., & Kemmler, W. Selecting the best weight to predict 1-rm strength: the 3-5-RM vs. 7-10-RM in trained and untrained men. Medicine & Science Sports & Exercise 36(5):S351, 2004. 11. Mayhew, J.L., Kerksick, C.D., Lentz, D., Ware, J.S., & Mayhew, D.L. Using repetitions to fatigue to predict one-repetition maximum bench press in male high school athletes. Pediatric Exercise Science 16:265-276, 2004. 12. Metcalf, J.A. & Roberts, S.O. Strength training and the immature athlete: an overview. Pediatric Nursing 19(4):325-332, 1993. 13. Moreno, A. The practicalities of adolescent resistance training. Athletic Therapy Today 8(3):26-27, 2003 14. Reynolds, J.M., Gordon, T.J., & Robergs, R.A. Prediction of one repetition maximum strength from multiple repetition maximum testing and anthropometry Journal of Strength Conditioning Research 20(3):584-592, 2006 15. Salonia, M.A., Chu, D.A., Cheifetz, P.M., & Freidhoff, G.C. Upper-body power as measured by medicine-ball throw distance and its relationship to class level among 10- and 11year-old female participants in club gymnastics. Journal of Strength Conditioning Research 18(4):695-702, 2004 16. SPARQ TRAINING. Kneeling power ball tosstesting protocol. Retrieved July 1, 2008, from: http://www.sparqtraining.com/docs/protocols/SP ARQ08_fball_protocols_ PDF.pdf 17. Stockbrugger, B.A. & Haennel, R.G. Validity and reliability of a medicine ball explosive power test. Journal of Strength Conditioning Research 15(4):431-438, 2001 AUTHOR CORRESPONDENCE: Michael Horvat Telephone: (706) 542-4455 E-Mail: mhorvat@uga.edu

Clinical Kinesiology 67(1); Spring, 2013