The offseason is a great opportunity to get started with a training program to help improve your performance on the field or the course. People will start working out for a variety of reasons. Often times it involves getting in shape, looking better, feeling better and improving overall quality of life. In addition to these benefits many of the athletes I work with also have improved performance in their sport as an additional goal. Golfers would like to improve club head speed/ball speed and hit the ball farther. Baseball players often times are trying to improve exit velocity, throwing velocity and sprinting speed.
While performance in each of these sports goes beyond these metrics, the reality is that performance in these areas does have a significant impact on your performance in your respective sport. On the golf course there is a very strong correlation between driving distance and handicap as well as money earnings on the professional tours. Of course there are occasional outliers to these stats and you need to possess other skills beyond this, but there is no denying the importance of speed and distance in the modern game. Baseball has followed a similar trend with pitching velocity and exit velocity trending upwards. Your performance in these areas can also limit your ceiling/level of the sport you are able to play at. While there are of course certain outliers and there is much more to the sport than simply throwing or hitting a ball hard, if you cannot achieve a certain level of performance in these areas it will limit your ability to play high school varsity, collegiate or professional baseball.
Since we have indicated the importance of these metrics it is also important to consider how your training contributes to these areas. While there are other important benefits to training beyond this, your training should also be moving the needle upwards in these areas. A simple starting point would be to periodically track your performance in these areas at different intervals throughout the training cycle for improvement. However, I also think tracking certain metrics in the gym, or Key Performance Indicators, alongside this is an even better solution to making sure your training is transferring to your sport and also in being able to make necessary modifications.
What are examples of Key Performance Indicators (KPI) for golf or baseball?:
As mentioned above sport specific indicators are metrics such as club head speed/ball speed, exit velocity and throwing velocity. A key performance indicator in the gym could involve a wide range of exercises and movements that you test periodically throughout the training cycle. The KPI's you select should closely match the speeds, muscle groups and types of movement found in your sport. Every sport has unique needs and demands. For example, the KPIs for baseball or golf will greatly differ from that of a powerlifter. Powerlifting requires lifting very heavy weights. In contrast, golf and baseball involve swinging or throwing relatively light implements at a very fast speed. The demands for these two sports are vastly different and as such the KPI's will also differ significantly. For powerlifting looking at max strength testing in powerlifting moves such as bench, deadlift or squat would be good KPIs. In contrast, more appropriate KPI's for golf or baseball would be movements such as medicine ball throws, jumping and Proteus motion testing. This isn't to say that some form of strength testing wouldn't be indicated for these sports, just that this would be neglecting other important physical attributes needed for the sport. The bottom line is that they should be used to show that your training is pushing you in the right direction and better understand what is producing results so you are spending your time training on the right things.
What are some of my favorite Key Performance Indicators?
While I will utilize a variety of measurements when training or evaluation athletes there are a couple of common tests I utilize:
1.Proteus Motion: The unique 3D resistance of Proteus allows you to train and assess
power and speed in all planes of motion. This makes it extremely beneficial for assessing rotational movements which are very important to rotational athletes. If offers a variety of sports specific tests. These tests are a great way to monitor and track athletes performance over time. They also have very large sample sizes of thousands of athletes to compare yourself against other athletes in your age group, sport, position, etc. Besides this it is also one of the few/only pieces of technology that also allows you to assess acceleration in addition to power which is also very important for sport. In the video on the right Bryson is demonstrating a rotational shot put test on Proteus which has a strong relationship to club head speed.
2. Medicine ball testing: The Titleist performance institute has developed a power testing protocol consisting of three med ball tests and a vertical jump test that has been utilized with thousands of golfers. This large sample size makes it a useful measure to compare against other golfers and the results on these tests also line up pretty well with a golfer's estimated ball speed. The tests are also easy and cost effective to perform
3. Jump Testing: Various jumping/bounding tests have been shown to have really good correlations to ball speed in golf, exit velocity in baseball and throwing velocity in baseball. They are also quick tests to perform and require relatively little equipment.
4. Strength Testing: Various forms of strength testing are also beneficial to monitor and track. In recent years I have favored forms of isometric testing and sub max testing compared to the traditional 1 RM measurements.
Testing vs Training
An important concept in this discussion is to consider that these KPIs are tests that you are monitoring and tracking. Your training should improve your KPI's, but this does not mean your training only has to consist of these movements. Let's use the example of a vertical jump. An athlete may need to improve their vertical jumping power. However, in order to improve their jumping they may need to first improve their lower body strength and force production as your power is a combination of your strength and speed. Doing lower body strength exercises such as squats may be indicated in the training to get the desired result of more lower body power. The same concept applies to other parts of the body. However, often times athletes get too caught up in the pursuit of certain metrics such as max strength and muscle mass and lose sight of the end goal of becoming more powerful in their sport. Strength and mass play a role in this, but it's not the end all be all.
Does performance in these KPI's translate to improved performance in your sport?
Based on this information it could be natural to assume that if you reach a certain level of performance or hit a certain number on one of these KPIs, then you will be able to hit a certain club head speed/ball speed, exit velocity or throwing velocity. Unfortunately while there can there are strong correlations between certain movements and club speed, throwing velocity and other metrics this doesn't guarantee speed in your sport.
There can be a couple of reasons to explain this:
One reason is that movements such as a golf swing, baseball swing or pitching delivery are very skilled movements. Technique and proper sequencing can play a significant role in your ability to transfer your physical speed and power to your sport specific movement. You can possess a lot of physical speed and power, but have very poor mechanics and the ability to convert it to your sport specific movement.
Another possible reason for this imbalance is that sometimes lack the intent to produce speed in their sport specific movement. Some athletes have a tendency of cruising/going through the motions when swinging a golf club, pitching or other athletic activities and have difficulty being able to move with the intent of speed.
Another interesting finding since having Proteus Motion is the ability to assess acceleration. Acceleration relates to your ability to reach peak speed and power quickly. This is crucial for baseball players and golfers as these movements occur in a relatively short period of time. If you can not apply the strength and power quickly enough or at the right time you will not get maximal transfer to sport. This is why acceleration is one of the key performance indicators I look at.
On the opposite end of the spectrum I have evaluated many athletes looking for more speed who when assessed do not possess the the physical speed, power and athleticism necessary for their desired speed. They lack the physical horsepower. It's important to understand where you stand in this relationship to better understand what you need to prioritize to reach your goals.
If increasing speed/velocity in your sport is a goal of yours then you need to be tracking and monitoring it. You need to be tracking sport specific metrics such as club head speed, ball speed, throwing velocity, exit velocity, etc. However, you should also be tracking your body's physical metrics of strength, speed and power alongside this to help assess for progress and also make sure your training is transferring to your sports performance related goals. There are a variety of movements and metrics to choose from, however they should be reflective of the demands of your sport. It's also beneficial to periodically retest these movements throughout the training year to assess progress as well and adjust the training program.