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Measuring Power

Jared W. Coburn, PhD, CSCS*D, FNSCA


Exercise Physiology Laboratory and Center for Sport Performance, Department of Kinesiology, California State
University, Fullerton, California
Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the printed text and are provided
in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journals Web site (http://journals.lww.com/nsca-scj).
S U M M A R Y
POWER IS ARGUABLY THE MOST
IMPORTANT PERFORMANCE ATTRI-
BUTE IN SPORT. BECAUSE OF THIS,
IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT STRENGTH
AND CONDITIONING COACHES BE
FAMILIAR WITH VARIOUS TESTS TO
MEASURE POWER OUTPUT IN
THEIRATHLETES. THIS WILL ALLOW
THEM TO ASSESS INDIVIDUAL
ATHLETE AND TEAM STRENGTHS
AND WEAKNESSES AND TO MORE
EFFECTIVELY PRESCRIBE CONDI-
TIONING PROGRAMS. THE PUR-
POSE OF THIS ARTICLE WAS TO
PRESENT AN OVERVIEW OF
POWER AND TO DESCRIBE TESTS
THAT CAN BE USED BY THE
STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING
PROFESSIONAL TO ASSESS THIS
IMPORTANT COMPONENT OF PER-
FORMANCE IN THEIR ATHLETES.
INTRODUCTION
F
rom a practical standpoint,
power is characterized by the
ability to perform high-intensity
to maximal intensity exercise for short
periods of time, typically ranging from
,1 second to several minutes. The
shorter the duration, the greater the
contribution of the ATP-PCr energy
system. Once the duration of the exer-
cise extends beyond approximately 10
seconds, anaerobic (fast) glycolysis
begins to provide the majority of ATP
to fuel the muscle actions. Because of
its importance to athletic performance,
it is crucial that strength and condition-
ing coaches periodically assess the
anaerobic power of their athletes.
Several formulas may be used to calcu-
late power:
Power 5 work/time
Power 5 force 3 (distance/time)
Power 5 force 3 velocity.
Any test that allows for the measure-
ment of the components of power
(force, velocity, etc.) will allow for the
calculation of power output. Although
this is true for many commonly used
tests of anaerobic power, including
several presented in this article, other
tests of power are based more on
their presumed relationship to power,
rather than the calculation of power
itself. This consideration will be dis-
cussed as appropriate when the various
tests of anaerobic power are presented.
It is beyond the scope of this article to
present detailed instructions for each
test. A reference list is at the end, how-
ever, which will provide the necessary
information for conducting each of the
tests presented. Norms for many tests
may be found in textbooks devoted to
measurement and evaluation (10).
VALIDITY, RELIABILITY, AND
OBJECTIVITY
Its important that strength and condi-
tioning coaches understand the basic
characteristics of a good test. These
include validity, reliability, and objec-
tivity. Validity refers to the degree to
which a test measures what it claims
to measure (12). This is the most
important characteristic of a test. Reli-
ability is reective of the consistency or
repeatability of a test. If a test is admin-
istered to an athlete more than once
under the same conditions and the
scores are unchanged, the test is said
to be reliable. Validity is partially
dependent upon the reliability of a test.
A test cannot be valid if it yields incon-
sistent results. Validity is also depen-
dent upon the relevance of a test.
The relevance of a test is the extent
to which it relates to the characteristic
reportedly being measured (12). For
example, the tests that will be pre-
sented in this article have demon-
strated acceptable levels of validity,
reliability, and objectivity for measur-
ing power. However, they may not be
equally valid as measures of power for
a particular sport. Logic would suggest
that a test for measuring power in a shot
putter should be ground based and
involve a single maximal effort, rather
than repeated efforts on a cycle ergom-
eter. This concept relates to the spec-
icity of a test. Objectivity is a special
case of reliability and is also referred to
as interrater reliability. Within the con-
text of testing power, objectivity would
be the extent to which 2 people would
administer the same test and get the
same results. Objectivity is an impor-
tant concept for strength and condi-
tioning coaches. An athletes test
results should not depend on who
administers the test. Frequently, the
entire strength and conditioning staff
is involved in testing. To maximize
the objectivity of testing, it is important
that everyone is provided with detailed
instructions for testing and that they
are well trained on the test procedures.
ORDER OF TESTING
Oftentimes, the strength and condi-
tioning coach will administer a battery
of tests in a single day. That is, tests for
KEY WORDS:
power; anaerobic; testing
Copyright National Strength and Conditioning Association Strength and Conditioning Journal | www.nsca-scj.com
25
height, weight, body composition, agil-
ity, strength, power, and others will all
be performed in a single testing ses-
sion. In such a situation, there is the
potential for the performance of one
test to negatively affect performance
on a subsequent test(s). Because of this,
it is important that strength and con-
ditioning coaches carefully consider
the order in which tests are adminis-
tered. Most commonly, tests of anaer-
obic power are placed near the
beginning of a testing session (2). A
general recommendation for the
sequence of testing is as follows (2):
Nonfatiguing tests (height, weight,
exibility, etc, including the vertical
jump; although the vertical jump
measures maximal power, its dura-
tion is ,1 second, and thus it may
be classied as a nonfatiguing test)
Agility tests
Maximal power and strength tests
Sprint tests
Local muscular endurance tests
Fatiguing anaerobic capacity tests
Aerobic capacity tests.
TESTS OF ANAEROBIC POWER
Tests for anaerobic power may be clas-
sied as either laboratory or eld tests.
Compared with eld tests, laboratory
tests are time-consuming to administer
and expensive in terms of equipment.
Field tests, although less sophisticated
than the corresponding laboratory tests,
are more practical for the strength and
conditioning coach to administer. The
purpose of this article is to provide
strength and conditioning coaches with
information on tests that can be ef-
ciently administered in practical set-
tings with a minimum of equipment
and expense. In addition, tests that have
an abundance of normative data avail-
able will be presented (10).
VERTICAL JUMP
The vertical jump is one of the most
popular measures of anaerobic power
and is certainly one of the easiest
to administer (Figure 1; see Video,
Supplemental Digital Content 1,
http://links.lww.com/SCJ/A65, which
demonstrates the vertical jump test).
It has obvious application to sports
involving extensive jumping, such as
basketball, volleyball, and high jumping.
However, it is also a popular test of ath-
letes in sports that involve extensive
whole body extension done explosively,
such as football (6) and weightlifting
(7). The precise procedures for per-
forming the vertical jump can be found
elsewhere (2,4,8).
The vertical jump test itself only meas-
ures jump height, typically in inches or
centimeters. By itself, a vertical jump
does not measure power because it
does not consider the weight or mass
of the athlete performing the jump. In
fact, it is possible for a heavier athlete to
be more powerful with a lower vertical
jump because of their greater body
mass. The Lewis formula addresses this
shortcoming by considering both verti-
cal jump height and body weight or
mass to allow for the calculation of
power via the following formula:
power in kg 3m3s
1
5

4:9
p
3weight (kg)
3

jump height m:
q
Although the Lewis formula has been
widely used for years, more recently its
validity has been questioned compared
with directly measured power outputs
determined via force plate data (9).
Harman et al. (9) provide the following
formulas for the calculation of peak
and average power:
Peak power W
5 61:9$jump height cm
36:0$body mass kg 1; 822
Average power W
5 21:2$jump height cm
23:0$body mass kg 21; 393:
Extensive normative data for both ver-
tical jump height and power are avail-
able (10).
STANDING LONG JUMP
The standing long jump is a measure
of horizontal leg power. Its strengths
are ease of administration, low equip-
ment requirements, and extensive
availability of normative data, ranging
from adolescent athletes to college
football players participating in
the National Football League combine
(10). The test requires that the athlete
perform a countermovement, fol-
lowed immediately by a jump for max-
imum horizontal distance (Figure 2; see
Video, Supplemental Digital Content 2,
http://links.lww.com/SCJ/A67, which
demonstrates the standing long jump
test). Procedures for performing the
standing long jump can be found else-
where (10).
WINGATE ANAEROBIC CYCLING
TEST
Whereas technically a laboratory
test, the Wingate anaerobic cycling
test (WAnT) requires relatively inex-
pensive equipment and is widely
used by coaches and sport scientists
alike (3). The WAnT consists of 30
seconds of maximal effort cycling
against a resistance that represents
a predetermined percentage of the
athletes body weight (Figure 3;
see Video, Supplemental Digital Con-
tent 3, http://links.lww.com/SCJ/A68,
Figure 1. Vertical jump test.
Measuring Power
VOLUME 34 | NUMBER 6 | DECEMBER 2012
26
which demonstrates the Wingate anaer-
obic cycling test). Peak anaerobic power,
mean anaerobic power, and fatigue index
may then be calculated from this single
30-second test. The maximal power out-
put achieved during any 5 second time
period (typically the rst 5 seconds) rep-
resents peak anaerobic power and is pre-
sumably reective of the maximal power
output of the ATP-PCr energy system.
Mean anaerobic power is the average
power output calculated from the entire
30-second test. Although dependent
upon both the ATP-PCr and anaerobic
glycolytic energy systems, mean anaero-
bic power is thought to be primarily
reective of the latter. Fatigue index com-
pares the highest 5-second power output
(peak anaerobic power) to the lowest
5-second power output, usually the last
5 seconds of the 30-second test. The
fatigue index is not a measure of power
per se. However, higher fatigue index
scores are associated with higher percen-
tages of fast twitch muscle bers, and this
information may be of interest
to coaches and their athletes.
MARGARIA-KALAMEN STAIR
CLIMB TEST
The Margaria-Kalamen stair climb test
is a popular anaerobic step test. It
requires a 6 m horizontal run, followed
immediately by climbing 9 steps verti-
cally, 3 steps at a time (the athlete
steps on stairs 3, 6, and 9) (Figure 4;
see Video, Supplemental Digital Con-
tent 4, http://links.lww.com/SCJ/A69,
which demonstrates the Margaria-
Kalamen stair climb test). Power may
then be calculated using the athletes
weight (body mass in kg), the horizon-
tal distance climbed (from steps 3 to 9),
and the time it takes to climb this dis-
tance. The accuracy of the test can be
improved by using an automated tim-
ing system, such as switch mats placed
on the third and ninth steps, rather
than a handheld stopwatch. Because
the test is very short in duration, it
primarily relies on the ATP-PCr energy
system for performance. For details on
how to perform the Margaria-Kalamen
test, see appropriate reference (10).
BOSCO POWER TEST
The Bosco power test consists of
jumping as high and rapidly as possi-
ble for a duration between 15 and
60 seconds (5) (Figure 5; see Video,
Supplemental Digital Content 5,
http://links.lww.com/SCJ/A70, which
demonstrates the Bosco power test).
Average power is then determined for
the specied time period. Because of the
relatively lengthy duration of the test, it
is often said to represent power endur-
ance or the ability to perform high
power movements repetitively. One
possible drawback of the Bosco power
test is that vertical jump height is deter-
mined from ight time. This requires
that the athlete perform the test either
on a force plate or a switch mat. None-
theless, the test results correlate well
with a modied 60-second WanT and
60 m run while also reecting the ability
to use stored elastic energy during the
jumping movements (5).
Figure 3. Wingate anaerobic cycling
test.
Figure 4. Margaria-Kalamen stair climb
test.
Figure 5. Bosco power test.
Figure 2. Standing long jump test.
Strength and Conditioning Journal | www.nsca-scj.com
27
POWER CLEAN/POWER SNATCH 1
REPETITION MAXIMUM
It is well known that weightlifters are
among the most powerful athletes in
the world (1,7,11,13). It comes as no
surprise, then, that the exercises con-
tested in the sport of weightlifting, the
snatch and clean and jerk, as well as
their variations, are widely used by
coaches and athletes wishing to
increase power. In addition to being
used as training exercises, these exer-
cises are also used as measures of
power (high speed strength) (2)
through the determination of a one
repetition maximum (1RM) (Figure 6;
see Video, Supplemental Digital Con-
tent 6, http://links.lww.com/SCJ/A71,
which demonstrates the power clean
and power snatch 1RM). It should be
emphasized, however, that the power
clean and power snatch exercises
are technique intensive movements.
Therefore, the athlete should be able
to demonstrate procient technique
before being tested for 1RM on
one or both of the exercises. Testing
the 1RM of an athlete who has
not developed appropriate technique
will not likely yield a true measure
of power.
CONCLUSIONS
A number of tests for anaerobic power
have been presented. These tests have
proven to be valid, reliable, and objec-
tive. In addition, norms are available
for each test so that the strength and
conditioning professional can compare
the results of their athletes with others.
When possible, coaches should select
tests that are biomechanically similar
to the movement patterns common
in their sport.
Jared W.
Coburn is a pro-
fessor of Kinesi-
ology at
California State
University,
Fullerton.
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Figure 6. Power clean/power snatch 1
repetition maximum.
Measuring Power
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