Aerobic performance testing

An important part of working with any athlete is testing. It is necessary to set a baseline against which you can compare to mark the progress of your athletes. Sometimes, it is not possible to perform the test you want to, usually because of equipment/funding issues. To get in the lab and take measurements of VO2max and/or lactate threshold is the ideal scenario for endurance athletes. It enables a coach to give very accurate prescription of training zones as well as being a valid and reliable test to repeat further down the line to test progress.

Today I made use of the cooper test in order to give a prediction of VO2max, the test can be done either measuring distance completed in 12 minutes or measuring the time it takes to complete a 1.5 mile run with different prediction equations for each. It went well and athlete being tested worked hard but it did raise a couple of issues for me.

The test is fairly dependant upon the pacing strategy of the athlete meaning that the more times the test is run the better the athlete is likely to do, purely as they become more adept at performing the test. On this occasion the athlete was used to the distance and associated pacing. The second issue was the prediction value, error scores can be anything up to 10% which is a huge amount providing big issues with the retest score.

Despite the issues, the test gave a ball park score for VO2max which the athlete was happy with and it is still a useful test to monitor performance. The difference in time to completion will give a measure of progress that will provide data on the effectiveness of the training program. It would be good to hear any other views on prediction tests or other tests people have have used for aerobic performance…

Neil Welch

One Comment

  1. Hi Neil,

    I agree with your thoughts. For the middle distance or long distance runner I don’t think the cooper test will tell the coach or athlete anything that they don’t already know.

    However, for the team sport athlete I think these prediction tests are more than adequate (and have the advantage of being able to test a whole team at once!).

    As you said, there is the issue of pacing strategies with the cooper test. For this reason I would probably go for the multi stage fitness test instead (if the required equipment is available).

    There is the issue of turning ability affecting the score of the multi stage fitness test, but I would not expect it to have a major influence.



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