Saturday, April 19, 2014

Power Testing

A key element to any program of development, whether it's strength training or technical skill, is periodic assessment. Ideally the test should be as objective as possible. With strength and power measures that's fairly easy to do - we measure weight or distance/height.

The next question is what should we test. What test's should we carry out. This is a topic of reasonable discussion. And I am not certain that the set of tests I currently use are the best choices.

My bias is towards those test which are already well-used within the exercise science. Assessments that have well known applicability towards a variety of sports. The downside to these is that they have lower specificity to our particular activity. Tests specifically for combat sports are not well studied.

Here are the Tests

Vertical Jump - Basic test of lower body speed-power. Well correlated to performance in a variety of sports.

Broad Jump - Horizontal jump from a standing start. A second measure of lower body power, except here the direction of motion is more consistent with combat sports applications. Less commonly used in sports testing it cannot be as strongly correlated to performance. I conduct both tests so that I can eventually determine which is the best for our purposes.

Sean Franklin of Blood & Iron has proposed a variant of this test using a passing step mechanic and other variants. I think this idea has merit but I have not explored it further yet.

Standing Triple Jump - A test of reactive strength and power. Basically it tests how much power you can produce on the second step. A variety of pieces of HEMA footwork are dependent this power mechanic.

Sandbag Throw - From a seated position, to isolate the upper body power, a 10 lbs sandbag is thrown. There are two version of this.
     Front Pass - Push throw straight from the chest.
     Side Throw - With extended arms the sandbag is thrown with a torso twist
Tests like this are fairly new to sports testing and so a clear standard on the best practices are still developing.

Hexagon Agility Test - This is the only agility test which uses tight quick movements (most agility tests involve running on a field). The test is describe here.

Test Results

Nathan Weston and I recently finished a cycle of strength training peaking for Brass Frog Assault of Arms. Afterwards we did the above tests. Here are our results:

TestNathan IGXNathan BFSteven BF
10# Sandbell15' 9"16' 4"17' 10"
Right14' 4"26' 7"24' 9"
Left16' 8"28' 8"23' 9"
Broad Jump82"76"71"
Vertical Jump14"17"16"
Triple Jump16' 4"17' 4"18' 2"
Hexagon Agility13.4 sec12.1 sec15.1 sec

For comparison I've included Nathan's results from his last round of testing before Iron Gate Exhibition (IGX) in September 2013.


Strength training worked. Given the wins that both Nathan I have at Brass Frog, I feel confident asserting that our strength training contributed to our success. I'm not for a moment advocating attribute fencing, but even without relying on strength it is possible to use strength to improve one's fencing.

But there is still much to be studies and investigated as to what tests best suit Historical European Martial Arts.

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