Quick Thoughts: 004 – Embedded Testing

Embedded testing is something that has been getting a bit more attention in the previous years, but sometimes seems like it’s misconstrued a bit. Or at least it seems that way to me.

Embedded testing does not mean performing a test over and over and over again every week or every session.

Embedded testing is a strategy that allows the coach to continue to plan and direct training as they normal would, but simultaneously gather useful information on individual performances and training along the way.

I few things that I strongly believe embedded testing should not do:

  1. Disrupt the flow of the athlete’s training session.
  2. Distract the coach from coaching and teaching.
  3. Decrease confidence in the athlete. This can happen rather quickly if there is weekly testing with weeks in a row with no improvement.
  4. Primarily act as a catch all for potential PRs.

Many times, the best way to improve at a test is not to continually perform the test itself. Rather than training the test, improve the underlying qualities that allow an individual to perform a test well. Not only should test scores improve at a more consistent rate, this approach will typically transfer better to actual performance and competition as well. Testing is not an end to itself.

A test is usually a display of many underpinning qualities. Performing a test over and over again, week after week, hoping to get better is a surefire way to slow progress. Improvements may come in the first couple sessions from familiarity, but after that, probably few and far between unless other underpinning development is happening in conjunction. This is akin to max back squatting or max sprinting every session with hopes to see if your squat or speed has improved. Chances are you will be disappointed far more than you will be elated.

Quantifiable embedded testing should leave data clues as to how one will perform in future testing or competition. It should also improve a coach’s decision to alter future training. Whether that be future weeks or months or a bit longer term such as at the same time next year.

Embedded testing does not always have to be quantifiable either. It can help if it is, but it certainly doesn’t have to be.

I’m not going to sit here and say that I can see the difference of .035m/s velocity in a lift because I probably can’t. But, I can see confidence, or lack of, when athletes are approaching a lift. I can eyeball within one or two reps how many reps in reserve someone has at a given load without VBT… all coaches should. I can see qualitative improvements in lifting technique and consistency in technique over time.

All of these things can leave clues as to how someone will perform when we actually do test. These things can give a coach the confidence to tell an athlete what they realistically can and can not do. You have to have a very good coaching eye here and decent experience seeing similar scenarios play out over and over again to guide the athlete with realistic improvements. Growing lack of trust is possible if you’re wrong frequently.

Embedded testing can be done many ways, but when it comes to quantitative embedded testing, think about the end goal of what you want it to achieve or how you want it to help your process rather than it just being another test that takes time and coaching resources away from athletes.

Published by John Grace

John is a performance coach, specializing in the development of speed, power, and strength, with experience coaching in professional soccer at the national and international level and in weightlifting at the junior, university, and senior national level and masters international level. Along with this professional and national level coaching, he has coached athlete's in a variety of semi-professional sports as well as Division I, II, and III athletics. With more than a decade of extensive coaching experience, he aims to provide an unparalleled training experience.

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