Many programs do not max on the pull – up or any type of pulling exercise other than the clean dead lift. However, if the shoulder is not developed fully and equally, then the front side musculature tends to dominate and anterior dislocations and/or posterior labrum injuries can occur. Maxing on the pull – up can be somewhat controversial as is the athlete allowed to kip and if so, how much? Are they required to pause at the bottom? Is the grip over or under hand? How wide is the grip? In my experience, the grip is overhand and slightly wider than shoulder grip or analogous to the bench press grip. Now, for the key concept that makes the pull – up work as a part of the max testing battery for the athlete.
Just as in estimating a max in any lift, the formula will apply. The formula is as follows:
Max reps – 1 (multiplied by .03) = X. Then, (X is multiplied by the body weight of the athlete + any additional load such as a weight vest or plates hung off of a belt) = Y. Y is the amount of load represented by each rep above one executed by the athlete. Y is then added back to the body weight of the athlete.
A 200 pound athlete does 4 reps in the pull – up test. 4 – 3 = 3. 3 x .03 = 9%. .09 x 200 equals 18. 200 + 18 equals 218. Round up and the max is 220.
This max should be near the bench press max. If it is more than 10% off, then more emphasis should be placed on the pulling exercises.
Tactical athletes in the military, law enforcement and fire/rescue communities can range from part time SWAT officers and volunteer fire rescue personnel up to elite operators in Hazmat teams, full – time SWAT Officers and our military’s finest operators in Special Forces. Testing is a part of this culture. The higher the level of the individual in terms of his/her expertise or the team they are a part of, the greater importance testing takes in the optimal readiness and efficiency of the individual. The lower the level of the team, the more often testing is viewed as a necessary evil of the job, something to be tolerated and passed rather than an opportunity to compete and excel.
Testing for the tactical athlete is challenging to say the least. In the military world, testing is expected and accepted. In law enforcement and fire/rescue testing ranges from accepted, tolerated to even resisted. Regardless, once testing has occurred, what has been measured and how does this relate to the ability of the individual to do the job? In the Olympic sport of weightlifting, the web has been used for many years to compare contrasting physical abilities in order to determine physical abilities and progress between competitions. The web is a spider web configuration with the tests percentiles arrayed along each vector of the web from the center (zero) out to the edge (99th Percentile). The vectors of the web are configured so similar measured parameters are aligned together. When this web is configured for each individual, the optimal web should be circular in shape and above the cutoff percentile for each individual. If the web is not circular, then the “dent” should reflect a lack of ability in a certain area of fitness. It could be strength endurance, aerobic fitness, anaerobic power, even body composition and assessment scores. The individual can then create a training plan in which the emphasis becomes pushing the dent out and raising the score in the deficient area in order to create a more circular web in terms of fitness scores.
Here is an example of a web using the Cooper Age and Gender Base Standards for Law Enforcement as our basis for the percentile rankings. Lets assume our individuals being tested both mid 30’s males and the test battery scores were:
Officer Blue Officer Red
Test Score Percentile Score Percentile
1.5 Mile Run 10:14 85th 11:49 60
300 Meter Run 51 80 54 65
Vertical Jump 19.5 50 26 95
1:00 Push-ups 34 70th 71 95
1:00 Sit-ups 62 100 55 100
Generally, tactical athletes fall into three categories – lifters, runners and those that do just enough to pass the test as fitness is not a part of their lifestyle. As can be inferred from the example, Officer Blue is a runner and Officer Red is a lifter. Both are in good to excellent shape in terms of fitness. However, if body composition is introduced, Officer Blue is 15% body fat at 170 pounds while Officer Red is 22% fat at 200 pounds. Neither is unfit, however, at 22% body fat and in his mid-thirties, Officer Red could be on track to be over fat and under fit by his mid-forties. The mitigating factor is genetics. If Officer Red is a thick, heavy-set football lineman type of build, then maybe he is optimizing his fitness potential.
Regardless, in terms of overall fitness for the job, the recommendations for Officer Blue would be to increase his lower body elastic strength training minutes (plyometrics, jump rope, ladder drills, dot drills, etc.) and his anaerobic power training minutes (intense circuits such as Tabata style (20 seconds work bouts – 20 second recovery bouts for multiple sets), crossfit type training focusing on the 45 – 60 second work bouts, as well as speed endurance training such as 200’s up to 400’s with quality being the guide to volume).
Officer Red is a big, strong lifter that uses weights as his main source of fitness. He does some running, but most of it is moderately, short interval sprints such as repeat 50’s up to repeat 200’s on occasion. His overall ability to utilize oxygen is compromised either by his body composition, choice of fitness training or a combination of both. The idea for Officer Red is to incorporate some longer sessions of fitness either jogging, biking, swimming, elliptical workouts or moderate circuits that go for several stations with multiple rounds keeping the heart rate up in the 140’s for the entire training session. Using heart rate training, the 5 zones of training for both officers are 220 minus their age + or – up to 10 beats per minute either way. The range is due to genetics, body composition and fitness level. A fit officer that spends a great deal of time on a well rounded fitness program who is a lean person with low body fat will be in the lower ranges while the heavier, less fit officer would be in the higher ranges for the same workload or workout. So, the zones for each officer would look like this:
HR Zone Percentage +10 Average -10
Competition – Testing – Arrest Gone Bad
Intense 85-95% 177 167 157
Quality Intervals – Tabata / Crossfit Circuits
Moderate 75-85% 159 149 139
Long Slow Distance – Giant Set Weight Training – Some Circuits
Light 65 – 75% 141 131 121
Warm-up, social weight training
Recovered 55-65% 123 113 103
Daily Activity 50% – Under Under 93 beats per minute
Resting Heart Rate upon waking without moving
Resting heart rate could be as low as in the low to mid 40’s with elite level fitness athletes. With sedentary, unfit people, resting heart rate can be in the 60’s and even 70’s. Anything above 84 is generally regarded as dangerous and should be immediately referred to a physician for examination. The lowest heart rates recorded are in the Tour de France athletes with Indurain at 28 and Armstrong at 32 at peak condition. If we assume max is 30 and illness begins at 85, then average would be 57.5 for fit individuals with a range of 55 – 60 for high fit.
Testing ranges from a necessary evil that is tolerated to an opportunity to compete and excel. Regardless, the key is what is being tested and what is to be taken from the test battery. What can be done to relate testing back to the everyday choices the tactical athlete makes in terms of fitness training. The web is a tool that can be used to track and compare disparate tests and relate them back to the individual tactical athlete in order to coach them to optimal status for the team, themselves, their health and operational status.
With the NFL Combine rapidly approaching, many test times and scores will be stated as gospel by various people such as announcers, trainers and coaches. For years I was unsure of actual numbers other than scores from the NFL Combine results sheets I was able to obtain. When looking at those I (like everyone else) focused on the fastest, highest, most or the scores posted by those that had the greatest media profile. What I became interested in was what was the average number an athlete could score in the tests. So, I took the results sheets from several years and ran the numbers looking for averages. Below is what I found. True enough, these numbers are not from the last 3-4 years, but represent what an athlete can expect to score or shoot for on the big day.
Also remember, many athletes that score the fastest, highest, most in terms of numbers just cannot play the game at the level the NFL expects. See how many big time names you see in the best scores of all time.
Position E10 H20 H40 5-10-5 L DRILL VJ BPRS
NT 1.85 2.98 5.32 4.86 8.22 27.5 21
DT 1.81 2.95 5.12 4.64 7.83 29.5 29
DE 1.71 2.79 4.82 4.35 7.33 33.5 24
ILB 1.66 2.73 4.73 4.05 7.1 34.5 25
OLB 1.65 2.68 4.63 4.15 7.14 35.5 23
DB – CB 1.59 2.61 4.49 4.11 7.03 36.5 13
DB – SAF 1.62 2.67 4.59 4.08 6.92 36.5 17
CENTER 1.82 3.01 5.28 4.6 7.83 28.5 26
GUARD 1.88 3.10 5.42 4.75 7.99 27.5 25
TACKLE 1.83 3.02 5.23 4.72 7.94 29.5 26
TE 1.73 2.84 4.88 4.34 7.37 31.5 26
FB 1.71 2.80 4.82 4.28 7.43 32 24
TB 1.64 2.67 4.6 4.23 7.3 34 19
WR 1.62 2.66 4.58 4.18 7.08 35 18
QB 1.71 2.82 4.88 4.36 7.39 30.5 N/A
Also remember, many athletes that score the fastest, highest, most in terms of numbers just cannot play the game at the level the NFL expects. See how many of the athletes below went forward from an outstanding score at the NFL Combine to a solid, let alone great NFL career.
All Time Top Ten Scores 1999 – 2009
40 Yard Dash 10 Yard Burst
1999 4.24 Rondel Melendez 1999 1.47 Jay Hinton
2000 4.32 Antwan Harris 2000 1.48 Antwan Harris
2001 4.31 Santana Moss 2001 1.50 Deuce McAllister
2002 4.31 Aaron Lockett 2002 1.50 Brian Allen
2003 4.32 Kevin Garrett 2003 1.46 Bob Sanders
2004 4.33 Carlos Francis 2004 1.50 Rufus Brown
2005 4.28 Jerome Mathis 2005 1.50 Fabian Washington
2006 4.31 Johnathan Joseph 2006 1.48 Tim Jennings
2007 4.30 Yamon Figurs 2007 1.43 Allison, McCauley, Weddle
2008 4.24 Chris Johnson 2008 1.40 Chris Johnson
2009 4.30 Darrius Heyward-Bey 2009 1.40 Cedric Peerman
225 Bench Press Reps Vertical Jump (No Step Approach)
1999 51 Justin Earnest 1999 43.5 Jay Hinton
2000 45 Leif Larsen 2000 41.5 Curtis Keaton
2001 37 Roberto Garza 2001 45 Chris Chambers
2002 36 Scott Peters 2002 42 William Green
2003 38 Tony Pashos 2003 42.5 Nate Burleson
2004 42 Isaac Sopoaga 2004 41.5 Bob Sanders
2005 43 Scott Young 2005 46 Gerald Sensabaugh
2006 45 Mike Kudla 2006 42 Vernon Davis
2007 42 Tank Tyler 2007 41.5 Quincy Black
2008 37 Vernon Gholston 2008 39 Carl Stewart
2009 39 Louis Vasquez 2009 45 Donald Washington
20 yd Shuttle (5-10-5) Three Cone Test (L Drill)
1999 3.79 Champ Bailey 1999 ?? Unknown
2000 3.82 Dante Hall 2000 6.45 Sedrick Curry
2001 3.73 Kevin Kasper 2001 6.56 Kevin Casper
2002 3.76 Deion Branch 2002 6.50 Jon McGraw
2003 3.83 Terence Newman 2003 6.72 Ryan Hoag
2004 3.78 Dunta Robinson 2004 6.68 Schweigert, Stuart
2005 3.84 Beriault, Rogers 2005 6.49 Carlos Rogers
2006 3.83 Jason Allen 2006 6.64 Tye Hill
2007 3.90 Sabby Piscitelli 2007 6.50 Leon Hall
2008 3.96 Arman Shields 2008 6.57 Harry Douglas
2009 3.96 Kevin Barnes 2009 6.59 Malcolm Jenkins
Standing Long Jump
1999 ?? Unknown
2000 10’11” Curtis Keaton
2001 11’02” Cedric James, Chris Chambers, Jonathan Carter
2002 10’10” Terreal Bierria, Caldwell Reche
2003 11’05” Justin Fargas
2004 10’11” D J Hackett
2005 11’05” Scott Starks
2006 11’01” Will Blackmon, Pat Watkins
2007 11’0” Daren Stone
2008 11’04” Jerome Simpson
2009 11’3” Donald Washington
The NFL Combine was originally founded as a medical event. With the advent of keeping athletes for long-term contracts, the franchises wanted each prospect to be given a full physical. The top prospects were flown to as many as a dozen clubs for medical evaluations. Imagine getting a full set of X-Rays by 6 – 12 different teams. The franchises didn’t like the expense and the athletes did not like the health risk. So, Gene “Duke” Babb founded the NFL Combine, which is run by National Football Scouting. The first combine was held in 1982 in Tampa. After moving to New Orleans, then Arizona, the National Invitational Camp was moved to its current home in Indianapolis in 1987.
How do you test athletes for camp? How do you hold them accountable in todays culture in which they want it all? Jobs, social life, family time, hobbies and sports all vie for their limited attention spans and quality time. Larry Smith, the head coach at Arizona, Southern Cal and Missouri first introduced this to me as my boss at USC. After spring testing, the scores are set and the goals for the fall are determined for the fall. I have used this system very successfully with men and women’s basketball, volleyball, soccer, baseball and football at the collegiate level. IF the head coach buys in, it is very easy to get athlete buy-in. I have had various head coaches put their own spin on the test so that it better reflects their culture and system. For example, in soccer, the 110’s were 1:00 minute turnovers in which after running the distance, the athletes had the balance of the minute to return to the starting line. We did not max basketball athletes in the clean at times so we did a trap bar pull off of boxes (like a dead lift but more centered with the trap bar and from a higher starting point than the floor).
I feel this system works very well as the lifters need to run and the runners need to lift. Everyone needs to be aware of their body weight and body composition. Great performance is rewarded and laziness is penalized. In case of injury, the test that is not allowed will be thrown out and the scale will reflect the change in total points possible as well as the passing score. In the spring, we encouraged our athletes to test for max effort lifts. In the summer, we counseled them to max for points. Once you max out on points – why go higher? It is time to play ball. We squatted all summer, but on Fridays we did leg circuits as well as some type of total body circuits (dumbbells, kettlebells, bar, body weight and mixed methods circuits). With camp approaching, I was not as concerned with how much weight an athlete could lift in the squat as how much work the legs could handle and recover in a short time bout and hit it again.
PRE-SEASON REPORTING POINT SYSTEM
1. BODY WEIGHT – IF YOU ARE WITHIN 2% OF YOUR GOAL WEIGHT WHEN YOU REPORT YOU GET 1 POINT.
2. BODYFAT PERCENTAGE – IF YOU ARE ON OR BELOW YOUR ASSIGNED BODYFAT PERCENTAGE YOU GET 1 POINT.
3. STRENGTH TESTS – IF YOU ACHIEVE YOUR STRENGTH GOALS YOU WILL GET 3 POINTS. IF YOU ARE 5 POUNDS ABOVE YOUR GOAL YOU WILL GET 4 POINTS, 10 POUNDS ABOVE YOUR GOAL YOU RECEIVE 5 POINTS. IF YOU ARE 5 – 10 POUNDS BELOW YOU ONLY GET 2 POINTS, 15 – 20 POUNDS BELOW IS 1 POINT.
PTS. POWER CLEAN BENCH PRESS *LEG CIRCUIT
5 +10 POUNDS +10 POUNDS 5 SETS IN 90 SEC.
4 +5 POUNDS +5 POUNDS 4 SETS IN 90 SEC.
3 GOAL WEIGHT GOAL WEIGHT 3 SETS IN 90 SEC.
2 -5 POUNDS -5 POUNDS 2 SETS IN 90 SEC.
1 -15 POUNDS -15 POUNDS 1 SET IN 90 SEC.
*YOU WILL BE EXPECTED TO PASS ALL 5 LEG CIRCUITS IN 90 SECONDS W/2:00 REST!
4. CONDITIONING TEST – 16 TIMES MODIFIED 110 TEST IN 15 SECONDS. LINEMEN RUN 90 YARDS; QB, LB, TE, FB, K, RUN 100 YARDS; SKILL RUN 110 YARDS. EVERYONE FINISHES @ GOAL LINE IN 15 SECONDS WITH 45 SECONDS RECOVERY TIME.
5. YOU GET A FREE POINT IF YOU HAVE NO MISSES FOR THE ENTIRE SPRING. IN HIGH SCHOOL YOU COULD REWARD SUMMER TRAINING. IN COLLEGE, SUMMER REWARDS AND/OR PUNISHMENT IS FORBIDDEN.
YOU MUST SCORE 23 POINTS OUT OF A POSSIBLE 33.
THAT IS A SCORE OF 70% IN ORDER TO PASS.
IF YOU FAIL TO PASS, EACH POINT YOU FAIL BY WILL BE AN EXTRA DAY OF RUNNING AFTER PRACTICE.
FOR EXAMPLE, IF YOU SCORE 20 POINTS YOU WILL RUN EXTRA THE FIRST 3 DAYS AFTER PRACTICE.
THE HIGH POINT ATHLETE WILL RECEIVE THE BEST CONDITIONED ATHLETE AWARD ! !
I hope this sparks you to create your own system of testing prior to camp. Over the course of almost 15 years of collegiate coaching after I was taught this system, it worked for us. Good luck! Robb
It is important in prescribing exercise programs to be aware of several variables and the impact the exercise prescription can have on a person that is not ready to execute certain drills, movements, loads and intensities due to lack of training age, poor general fitness and/or inadequate movement patterns due to lack of mobility and/or stability. Some popular exercise programs assign exceedingly large loads of volume and/or intensities (resistance, speed and/or range of motion) with little regard to the ability and state of preparation of the end user. The human body is a superb machine, able to compensate for many inadequacies and still execute some form of the movement, even though the pattern is less than ideal. Over time, especially with increasingly larger loads/volumes, the body will begin to exhibit symptoms that relate back to these less than ideal patterns of movements. Poor compensation patterns of movement may ask muscles to do jobs they were not designed to do, in a sequence and order that is not optimal for the pattern, or put joints in poor positions in terms of their designed function. These symptoms include low back tightness; hamstring tightness and pulls; tendonitis and bursitis in various areas; stiffness in joints; and over time, the inability to execute certain movements due to pain and restrictions in muscles and/or immobility in the joints themselves.
Let me explain. If a person is unable to squat in a normal squat pattern because they tend to load the front side by bending the knees first (rather than hinging at the hip), collapse forward at the trunk due a weak core or tend to shift onto one leg due to a lack of flexibility in a muscle group or lack of mobility in a joint, is it wise to load them with 40-50 reps, added resistance, speed as in jumps or large range of motion movements? They may be able to execute the prescribed workload (4-5 x 10 with a 20 pound vest and squat below parallel) and not immediately have any noticeable ill effects. However, over time, the cumulative effect of repeated poor movement patterns will cause training adaptations that may not be ideal and could contribute to muscle, tendon, ligament, joint and disc problems.
If the professional tasked with prescribing exercise programming is aware of some simple parameters when implementing the exercise prescription, then the program designed for the athlete will not only prepare them for the rigors of their occupation and hobbies, but can also enhance the athlete’s ability to stay fit, healthy and active at an exceedingly high level for as long as they choose.
Observing the athlete moving in any skill or pattern begs the question, is the pattern optimal and clean in its execution. If the answer is yes, it is ok to execute that pattern. However, if load is added in terms of speed, additional ROM, volume, TUT (Time the muscle is Under Tension – i.e. heavy and slow, light and fast or medium loads with pauses or stops in the range of motion) or some other variation and the pattern changes for the worse, then the athlete is not prepared adequately. This compensation is due to a weakness, imbalance, lack of mobility or stability and negatively impacts the ability to execute that exercise prescribed. At this point, a decision must be made to either restrict the load/intensity or regress in the progression and periodization of the exercise prescription.
However, in some instances, the movement improves, providing a clue as to the cause of the poor pattern. If the athlete is unable to perform a decent squat pattern, i.e. collapses forward in the trunk region, but when load is added in the form of a medicine ball or weight held at bent arms length which subsequently improves the movement pattern, this tell us something. The front of the core (abs) is a spring built for resistance to collapse. With the addition of external load at bent arm’s length, many times the body will compensate by engaging the core and resisting the collapse, thus causing improvement in the squat pattern in terms of the anterior core no longer collapsing.
As a professional tasked with assigning exercise, if optimal pattern awareness is made a part of the exercise prescription process, then managing the physical ailments by our athletes as they age will be made easier by the type and quality of training the end user does in their younger years. No pain – no gain is no way to prepare the people we are entrusted with improving their fitness abilities. No train – no gain combined with train for stability/mobility for enhanced physical ability to bend, rotate and extend with strength, power and fitness is a way to approach program design and exercise prescription for the diverse population that presents itself each and every day. Pattern, progression and periodization pave the way to optimal movements, continued progress and few injuries.