Training Without A Road Map?


Author: Darien Pyka CSCS Pn1

How can you get to your destination without a map? Training without establishing a set plan and not tracking along the way is just like planning a road trip with no direction and checkpoints. In our industry, it is important to set tangible goals to grow towards and track progress in order to know when athletes have hit their mark. In this article I will explain the importance of testing and tracking progress and the steps to take to implement with your athletes.

From my experiences as an athlete at Loyola Marymount University, a strength and conditioning intern at the University of Southern California and Velocity, and now a sports performance coach, I have learned the importance of setting goals and consistently tracking progress. Setting goals and tracking results is a crucial part of helping athletes reach their potential. Results are important. Whether the athlete looks better, feels better, or moves better, we need to track where they started and where they end up. Coaches need tangible numbers from valid, relevant, and consistent tests to indicate athletes’ current level, measure success along the way, and track the effectiveness of the program.


Here are the steps to take with athletes:

#1 Set Goals

  • Example: In 3 months I want to improve 2 inches on my vertical jump.
  • Have a timeline: Tasks are completed when there is a deadline.
  • Tangible and specific: You need to know where you are going to know when you have reached it. Tracking results has more meaning if there is a number you’re reaching for. Being broad and vague does not cut it.

    #2 Testing

  • Valid and relevant tests: Choose tests that make sense for the athlete, for their purpose, and for what they want to accomplish.
  • Example: testing a soccer player in the vertical jump because they want to be more explosive versus a max push-up test. Here are some examples of valid tests:
    • Static Jump= non counter-movement jump to test lower body (LB) relative power

    • Vertical Jump= test LB relative power

    • 4 jump= reactive strength index (RSI) testing power expression (determine if they are predominantly an elastic or contractile athlete; how well can they utilize the stretch shortening cycle)

    • 3RM Squat: LB strength

    • 3RM Bench: upper body (UB) strength

    • Max push-up: UB muscular endurance

    • Max pull-up: UB muscular strength

    • 10yd/20yd/40yd sprint: linear speed

    • 5-10-5/short shuttle: change of direction speed


  • Consistent: Perform all post-tests exactly how the pre-tests were performed. If hands had to touch the line in a short shuttle (5-10-5), then make sure they are instructed to do so again.
  • Be smart: Choose tests that are safe to perform pre and post-training program. If an athlete comes in and hasn’t lifted in 6 months, do not choose a max squat as a test. Weigh the risks versus rewards when choosing tests.



The two tests you need to perform when you evaluate an athlete: static squat jump (non-counter) and a counter movement jump. And why it's obvious I'm a strength athlete! ________________________________________________________Most athletes want to get faster and jump higher. Vertical jump has been a common way to test lower body relative power. But what about using more jump related tests to create a power profile in order to know what kind of athlete you are starting with? ________________________________________________________The first is a static squat jump. Hands akimbo (on the hips), pause in a quarter squat for about 3-4 seconds to diminish the stretch shortening cycle, and then jump (cue not to dip at the bottom before they jump). This measures contractile strength. ________________________________________________________The second is a counter movement squat jump. Just like a vertical jump but with hands akimbo. This one measures elasticity without the help/syncing of the upper body. ________________________________________________________If the numbers are close to each other, that means the athlete is strong and contractile. To get them to their goals, they need to work on expressing power quicker while not losing their strength. If their counter movement is a lot higher than the non-counter then they are more of an elastic athlete. Getting them stronger while keeping their elasticity will benefit them greatly. Seeing me perform the tests, you can tell I am more of a contractile athlete #trainwithapurpose

A post shared by Darien Pyka- M.S. | C.S.C.S. (@coachpyka) on

#3 Tracking

  • Sporadically test your athletes throughout a program. This indicates whether your program is producing the adaptations you wanted to see or if you need to make adjustments.
  • When choosing a time to check your athletes, be aware of mental or physical fatigue. Typically, the beginning of the week after a rest day on Sunday is better than the end of a training week.
  • Make adjustments using your experience as needed. If they have become slower, maybe more plyometrics or quick reaction drills need to be programmed.

    #4 Celebrate success

  • Update your athletes on their improvements.
  • If they know they are improving, they’ll buy in to you and your program and work harder.



Here is a final thought if there is one thing to take away from this article: Set goals, track results, and use a system that’s reliable and relevant to the athlete.


Instagram: @coachpyka



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