In the previous two posts we discussed assessments for range of movement and body composition. We will now discuss some basic assessments of muscular power.
Obviously in all combat sports there needs to be an element of power development, either to deliver strikes with adequate speed/impact to achieve the desired goal of either breaking the opponent’s defence or causing necessary impact, or, and less commonly considered, to perform footwork to move the body through space into an optimal position to deliver or receive an attack. Power development is a combination of force (which we will test later in our strength assessments) and velocity. Our assessments, therefore, need to test force development using rapid contractions.
Power assessments may be compared to other athletes (if normative data for the sport are available), as well as to the individual athlete’s strength assessments to establish the extent to which power training is a priority for the specific athlete. If the athlete is very explosive but lacks basic strength then perhaps strength development may be more of a priority for the athlete.
Power assessments should also be utilised as a tracking tool. If we are entering a power phase, then we should see measures of power increase as a result. If we are entering a hypertrophy phase, which will likely involve a high volume of training and muscular fatigue, we will likely expect a temporary decrease in power output. However we can use our power assessments to ensure that this decrease in power is not excessive.
Power assessments should be performed at the start of a testing battery to ensure that the athlete is fresh and relatively free of fatigue, and should ideally not be performed at the end of a fatiguing training block. Athletes performing power assessments should be cued and encouraged to perform the movements as rapidly and as explosively as possible thus that they reflect an accurate measure of the athlete’s explosive power.
Direct Measures of Striking Power
Equipment designed specifically for the direct measurement of punching power has become more widely used in research settings. The most commonly used set-up for this is a linear force transducer mounted on a wall. Such a device has been shown to have solid validity and reliability63. I envision that over the next few years, such equipment will become more widely available to fight teams and gyms, and eventually the consumer. If you are lucky enough to have access to this technology, it should be used as a method of assessment and reassessment. However, the data from these direct measurements should also be combined with the measurements described below to gauge a better understanding of how an athlete is producing this power, and to also track correlation in training progress (i.e. to what degree a change in an athlete’s vertical jump contributes to changes in punching power).
There are testing tools coming onto the market now that are more widely available at a consumer level. An example of this is the UFC force tracker, which uses a sensor attached to the under-surface of a heavy bag to measure the speed and impact of punches and kicks while providing real-time feedback to users. Here is our brief review of the product.
Whilst I think this tool can be very useful as a training tool, providing athletes with instant feedback regarding their striking force, I feel that the tool is likely not accurate enough to provide a valid measure of single-strike power for reassessment purposes. The swing of the bag and the possible variation in striking angle would make this difficult. However, over the course of 10 one-two combinations I think it is reasonable to assume we would get a reasonable measure of average punching force.
In part 2 of this post we will discuss common assessments of upper body and lower body power.
- Lambert, C., Beck, B. R. & Weeks, B. K. Concurrent Validity and Reliability of a Linear Positional Transducer and an Accelerometer to Measure Punch Characteristics. J. Strength Cond. Res. (2017).
A detailed discussion of power assessments is featured in the science of striking, available in both hard-copy and kindle formats (https://www.amazon.com/Science-Striking-Comprehensive-Physical-Preparation/dp/1729586821/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1543575646&sr=8-2&keywords=The+Science+of+Striking+Sam+Gilbert)
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