Strength and conditioning programs have been a vital ingredient in the physical developments of athletes for so many years. It is vital and prudent to examine the effects of such strength and conditioning programs in order to examine the changes which of occurred as a result. (Stodden & Galitski, 2010).Testing helps athletes and coaches assess athletic talent and identify physical abilities and areas in need of improvement. In addition, test scores can be used in goal setting. Baseline measurements can be used to establish starting points against achievable goals can be set and testing at regular intervals can track an athlete’s progress in reaching those goals (Baechle & Earle, 2008)
There are many different variables when conducting strength assessment especially in a team sport setting. For example if strength assessment become too time consuming, coaches are likely to eliminate testing from anything that detracts from the skill related intrusion and practice for competition. Because the development of strength and conditioning is vital for physiological development, improvement in performance and accommodation of the stress of performance to prevent injury, it is imperative that coaches and teachers have a sound protocol on which to base their decision and evaluate their athletes strength capabilities (Horvat et al, 2007).
When examining the literature on strength testing it becomes apparent that there are several different methods and protocols used in the strength testing of athletes. As mentioned there is a variety of ways to determine upper body strength including, Chin ups (Stodden & Galitski), Handgrip dynamometer (Kraemer et al, 2003) and isometric peak torque of elbow (Roemmich & sinning, 1997). There is also a variety of measures used to determine lower extremity strength some of which include, Squat 1RM (Hoffman & Kang, 2003), Half squat (Gorostiaga et al, 2005), Isokinetic peak torque (Roemmich & Sinning, 1997) and isometric peak torque
Mayhew et al (2008) suggested the most feasible way to determine upper body strength, in terms of time efficiency and predictive accuracy is the use of muscular endurance to predict 1RM maximum. However because of the variability that has been shown to be associated with predictive equations the use of actual 1RM testing is used and recommended (Hetzler, 2010). Determining maximal strength to estimate the 1RM by using repetition performed to the point of temporary muscle failure is termed repetition to failure. Using this method a participant selects a load that is believed to be less than his or her 1RM and performs as many consecutive repetitions as possible. The load or repetition to failure score is then applied to any number of available prediction equations to estimate a 1RM value (Mayhew et al, 2008). Although many of these equations are reasonably accurate and precise, most of them do not provide information on the population from which they were developed. This is a concern for the use of these prediction equations because the age, gender and training status of the individuals may affect the accuracy and precision of one rep max estimation (Mayhew et al, 2008).
Strength and conditioning coaches and other practitioners with access to a contrex machine can consider using a isometric muscle strength test as a potential alternative to traditional 1RM testing as it appears to correlate extremely well with the 1RM squat (McGuigan et al, 2010). The Con-Trex MJ isokinetic machine has been recently to the rehabilitation-sports training community. Several scientific studies have used this device to assess static (isometric) and dynamic (eccentric & concentric) function of both the knee extensor and flexor muscles (Maffiuletti et al, 2007). In a study carried out by Maffiuletti et al (2007) the reliability of isokinetic and isometric measurements using the con-trex machine was established, showing it as an accurate measure of isometric strength. Isometric testing has been preferred by some coaches and scientists because it is not confounded by issues of movement velocity and changing joint angle (McGuigan et al, 2010). Also athletes not familiar with a back squat technique may run the risk of injury by incorrect technique which may but extreme loads on the lower back. Isometric maximum voluntary contraction has been shown as a valid and highly reliable measure in vivo force production (test-retest reliability >.94) (Bamman, 1999)
Changes over season
Despite the important contribution of strength and power to the success of a Inter county Hurler, there are no published studies to my knowledge examining the effects of an in season strength and conditioning program on strength performance in Inter-county Hurlers. Strength and conditioning programs have been a vital ingredient in the physical development of athletes for many years. Because the responsibility of strength and conditioning coaches is to assist in the physical development of athletes, it seems prudent to examine the effects of a comprehensive, year-round strength and conditioning program implemented over a number of years. The in-season resistance-training program (RTP) for team sports is a maintenance phase of the athlete’s annual periodized training program, in which the primary focus is on maintaining the strength gains made during the earlier phases of training but research indicates that in season strength training can ultimately lead to improvements in performance variables such as power, strength, and speed. Therefore, designing a training regimen simply to maintain strength and power during the in-season may not be as advantageous for physical performance. However, a delicate balance must be achieved as practice and competition demands place great stress on athletes.
If adaptations in power, strength, and speed are program objectives, a strength coach should be able to determine if their program is producing progressive adaptations in these variables. Perhaps the most appropriate way to determine the efficacy of a strength training program is by incorporating a testing regimen. Longitudinal test data can provide a strength and conditioning coach valuable information regarding their program including (a) assessing an athlete’s ability, (b) identifying athletes’ strengths and weaknesses, (c) identifying potential injury risks, (d) program adherence, and (e) evaluating the strength and conditioning program itself (7). Unfortunately, there are limited published data documenting athletes and adaptations in power, strength, and speed that occur over more than 1 year. The majority of studies that have examined adaptations to resistance training in athletes have been of a short term, generally within 1 year. In each case, resistance training led to improvements in performance measures:
In a study carried out by Gorostiaga et al (2006) the effects of an entire season on physical fitness changes (including strength measure by 1RM bench press) and physical characteristics in elite male handball were measured. The 15 subjects include in the study were assessed four times during a 45 week, 50 game season. The study reported slight but significant increases in the subject’s 1RM bench press at each testing session. These results would suggest through an elite athlete’s competitive season increases and improvement in several physical parameters may be obtained.
In a study carried out by Hoffman & Kang (2003) 53 American college football athletes underwent a variety of physical parameter tests both preseason and post season (12 week later). The physical fitness tests included, speed (40-yd sprint), agility (T-drill), vertical jump height, 1RM bench press and 1RM squat. Looking at the strength test results this study showed strength improvements were seen only in the lower body (1RM squat), whereas strength was maintained in the upper body (1RM bench press). This suggests that strength increases can occur during an in-season resistance training program in American college football players.
In a study carried out by Marques et al (2008) 10 professional volley ball players were monitored over 12 weeks to observe changes in strength and power performance Muscular strength and power were assessed before and after the 12-week training program using 4 repetition maximum bench press and parallel squat tests, an overhead medicine ball throw, as well as unloaded and loaded countermovement jumps. Strength improved by 15% and 11.5% in the bench press and parallel squat, respectively (p , 0.0001). The results show that improvements in upper and lower body strength as well as jumping and throwing are possible during the competitive phase of the training cycle by using a combination of resistance exercises with moderate loads and explosive drills. The changes for upper and lower body performance ranged from 11.8 to 15.0% and 3.8 to 11.5%, respectively.
These studies have provided valuable insight into the influence that resistance training may have on the physical performance measures needed to excel in a given sport such as hurling. However, because of the limited scope of the research, longitudinal tracking was not conducted in these studies. In addition, previous studies may have included different types of training protocols, which suggests a more diligent examination of strength and conditioning programs may be required to monitor the neuromuscular adaptations that occur as a result of long-term progressive resistance training.
It would be interesting to determine if and what magnitude components of physical fitness change during the course of a collegiate hurling season, throughout pre season conditioning, in season competition and post season recuperation. This is important because the primary goal of preseason conditioning is to optimise performance during in season competition (Astorino et al, 2004)
(Stodden & Galitski, 2010)