Why we do what we do

Sure, the title might sound like a loaded statement and you might just think that our facility serves simply as a means to an end for people’s fitness goals; after all, we are but one business that exists within arguably one of the most competitive industries this side of hospitality. However, we strongly believe that within this industry, the means are as important as the end and with that in mind I am going to try to explain, not only to Hammer clients but to the industry at large, why we do what we do and why we are set up the way we are.

While a considerable number of our clients just want to look better (it’s all about the aesthetics after all, am I right? *insert sarcasm here*), we believe that it is our job to give them what they ‘need’ first and foremost, with the ultimate result being that they receive what they ‘want’.

Incidentally, providing our clients with what they need usually gets them what they want anyway; we believe that it is just as important to educate our clients about attaining higher performance across all aspects of strength and fitness and not focusing on just high reps and conditioning.

Our testing batteries

At Hammer, we test our guys every 6 weeks through a testing battery that covers all aspects of the Force-Velocity curve (illustrated below), client aerobic capacity and the big one – body fat.

While our clients might question the utility of the testing batteries, this is where we differentiate from your run of the mill training facility. Our testing covers the whole gamut of applicable factors – Strength, Strength – Speed, Speed – Strength, Power, Aerobic Capacity, Body fat and CNS fatigue. Again, it might seem inconsequential for our clients to concern themselves with the results of their strength – speed values or maximum velocity results and while some may care about their max strength results, it might seem like we are gilding the lily when a client simply wants to be leaner and healthier.

Notwithstanding the desire of those clients who may want to just train and leave, it is against my nature and a matter of personal and professional pride to ensure that our facility does not devolve into a hands-off training experience. Honestly, it’s a lot of extra work on our behalf and while it might not always be appreciated, in order for me to sleep at night I need to be improving our clients across the board and not just training clients in order for them to look good on Instagram. I have set up Hammer this way in order to promote the ethos of ‘consistency’ and to ensure clients are progressing safely and effectively, in turn justifying the importance of testing.

What we are testing when we test

Hammer operates differently from many others in that I periodise each 6 month mesocycle (training block) for the upcoming calendar year which allows for consistency across the year. While there are exceptions to this method (e.g. training for a season of rugby union), the majority of Hammer clients will follow the mesocycle, which are developed around the specialised clinics that we hold throughout the year.  Our clinics are concentrated blocks of training where the clients commit to that little bit more than the usual weekly training weeks; for example, at the start of the year we always do a version of German Volume Training to start the year with some good general preparation. We then build to the next clinic some three months thereafter, our Athletic Development Program, which encompasses training for an NFL inspired combine day in which the best team wins. The ADP clinic is the last phase before we reset and tackle the next 6 months – for further information on our clinics please head to our clinics page to get information when it becomes available.

In order to train for all facets of strength and conditioning and not just fat loss, this carefully periodised training method ensures that loads aren’t too high for too long keeps in order to prevent injury to clients, allowing more time on the gym floor to burn calories.

While the types of exercises we perform will change throughout the year, what is consistent across the year is the testing and why we do it. You can read about the changes we made to Hammer when we purchased a couple of PUSH Bands and the PUSH Portal software in order to completely revamp our approach to testing.

Body Composition

We kept the staple which is skinfolds, performed across 7 sites like previous years. However, we have changed the calculation methodology this year, moving from the Jackson – Pollock prediction percentage fat calculator (a predictive calculation) and instead will now simply measure total millimetres. This basically means we add up all the millimetres of fat we have pinched and compare those measurements regularly instead of using a predictive equation. The catalyst for the change was that when using a predictive calculation, there would be some inconsistencies based on averages and the particular logarithm and the constant used in the equation; when comparing millimetres the difference is easier to identify and reduces the error associated with predictive equations.

Central Nervous System Fatigue Testing

What is it?

The 5 dowel-rod squat jumps performed prior to every session in which the clients’ peak velocities are recorded using the Push Band.

Why are we performing this test?

There is no discounting the impact that the Central Nervous System (CNS) has on everyday life and it is not immune to adverse external factors like lifestyle and environmental stressors. The corollary of external stressors on the CNS is the impact on training performance, as the CNS is heavily involved in every lift performed in the gym. While sleeping is the best mechanism for recovery, the same factors that affect everyday functions and performance (e.g. work, relationship stress) also impact sleep patterns, which impedes the full recovery of the CNS, ultimately affecting training performance.

How does poor CNS involvement affect performance?

When the CNS is under fatigue, neural transmission to the working muscle is compromised which impedes performance. Under fatigue, neural transmission is impeded and at the point when a complex movement is required, the synchronicity of the transmission between nerve tissues, muscles and limbs aren’t in unison, creating a higher risk of injury. Injury impacts consistency, which is the sole aim of our facility as results are gained through consistency, not one off efforts.

How does jumping find this out for me?

As a jump is a complex movement, measuring the velocities for each client provides relative information on CNS fatigue for each client prior to a workout. We endeavour to perform this test before every session for a month, allowing us to gather a rolling average for each individual. Taking into account variances in velocities through concurrent physiological adaptation (that is to say, expected changes based on the program being performed), decreases in performance as a comparison to a client’s rolling average will allow us to consider external factors that may be hindering a client’s performance; e.g. are there issues with sleep, work or relationship stressors that may be impacting CNS recovery and ultimately, training performance.

Fixed arm vertical jump (Velocity)

What is it?

A static jump without the use of the arms, with the height measured using the Push Band.

We have changed this test from the traditional counter-movement Vertec test (jumping next to a measuring pole using the arms to indicate relative height of the jump) based on the fact that variance in skill and technique in performing that test does not always accurately reflect the leg power of the client, which is what we are seeking to test. By simplifying the test and nullifying the impact of technique, a truer representation of leg power is accounted for.

Why are we performing this test?

This test is a pretty good measure of lower body power. Power is the ability to move load quickly and poor lower body power effects not only training performance but more relevantly, real life functionality, the everyday movements which are performed outside of a controlled training environment (for example, playing competitive/social sport, recreational activities or playing with children). Decreased lower body power will also create a susceptibility to injury; poor power means poor synchronicity between muscles (impacting co-ordination and movement efficiency) resulting in poor motor patterns and a higher risk of injury.

Strength – Speed and Speed – Strength tests

What is it?

There are two variations, the 1RM Clean (testing Strength – Speed) or the 40% 1RM Jump Squat (testing Speed-Strength), with velocities measured using the Push Band.

Why are we performing this test?

Only clients competent in Olympic lifting techniques perform the 1RM Clean. The 1RM Clean provides an efficient test for the Strength-Speed aspect of the force-velocity curve. Alternatively, those who are not competent in Olympic lifts or have mobility restrictions, the 40% 1RM squat jump effectively measures peak force.

Strength Testing

What is it?

Predictive 1RM bench press and squat using the Push Band protocol.

Why are we performing this test?

PUSH Band predictive strength tests (Bench Press and Squat) – the PUSH Band has the ability to perform a predictive 1RM test by using average velocities in an algorithm to accurately predict our true 1RM. This is a great tool, as it is safer than doing a 1RM and also reduces the fluctuations that are observed when performing 1RM’s from phase to phase. For true 1RM lifting, the subject has to be mentally ‘ON’ and when we have a regular client fronting up at 5.30am, after having a hell of a week, they might not always be ready for that max effort. This new protocol allows clients to build to submaximal loads, without the stress of always seeking that 1RM. While I maintain that 1RM testing is still important testing protocol, we will simply adapt the timing of that protocol to ensure that is safer and performed after establishing a proper strength foundation.

Aerobic Capacity

What is it?

O’Neil Rowing Test (4 minutes, maximum distance).

Why are we performing this test?

This is a simple yet effective, low impact test for aerobic capacity. Each client performs 4 minutes on the rowing ergometer, set to level 4 resistance (to emulate the effect of water) for a period of 4 minutes with the distance recorded at its conclusion. This test is based off a longer, 12 minute running test and shares comparative VO2 max values without the severity on the joints that other submaximal tests may produce. There is some error in this test through the impact of poor technique on performance, however, as it is comparative to the individual only, it does not render the test ineffective.

Digest the Science

While there has been some slight disruption in the testing protocol this year, it is important to remember that as a facility, we pride ourselves on being as accurate as possible, as this accuracy will ultimately provide the results that our clients wish to see. The implementation of the Push Band technology has given us the ability to provide clear, real time monitoring that is as accurate as possible and allows us to concentrate more fully on client wellbeing and performance. While it may be scientific jargon and murkier than an international trade agreement to many, we cover all this ground to make sure the physiological characteristics of our clients are improving, providing them with what they need in order for them to achieve what they want.

As an example, here are the results from the last phase of testing – pre and post GVT.

A 13.3mm average drop, or a 11.68% reduction in millimetres of body fat, across 30 subjects. Not bad for four weeks work.

A 6.7m average increase, or a 1% increase, across 30 subjects.




Comments (6)
  1. Amanda Nutt Reply

    Dear Matt and Team Hammer..
    thank you for this most informative article.. this is awesome and I think I even understood it all, thank you so much for all your dedication and hard work in assisting us to achieve our goals and provide a safe and welcoming environment in which to train – what a truly amazing family to be a part of in the way I am!
    Best,
    Amanda

    1. Hammer Athletic Reply

      Thanks Amanda!

  2. Bernd Reply

    thanks for this overview of your test batterie. this is a good way to cover all aspects of the v curve. i think i’m gonna try some tests with my clients. so far i’ve used the push band for testing strength and vertical jump. regards, bernd

    1. Hammer Athletic Reply

      Thanks for the comment Bernd, glad we could help. All the best with it!

  3. sean van staden Reply

    Great article thank you!

    Would be great if you had a video version of this article for each of your test protocols

    Kind Regards
    Sean
    Adanced Sports Performance South Africa
    http://Www.advancedsp.Co.za

    1. Hammer Athletic Reply

      That’s a great idea Sean, we will put it on the to do list and let you know when we’ve released it.


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