What happens during pre-season testing?

Tom Henson (left) monitors players during their sprint tests

Tom Henson (left) monitors players during their sprint tests

LESS than six weeks after the end of last season, many players are already back at their training grounds preparing for another campaign.

The first thing they do is pre-season testing. The aim is to find out players’ fitness levels after the summer break and get data to base their training programmes on.

In days gone by, the first pre-season training session often caused trepidation. Testing involved stepping on the scales and going on a long run to see who lagged behind wheezing. Now it’s an altogether more scientific process, while most players will have maintained their fitness levels throughout the summer.

VO2 max test measures maximum rate of oxygen consumption during incremental exerciseEven during holidays abroad, players are expected to stick to training programmes, because suddenly stopping can lead to fitness falling off a cliff and massively increasing the risk of injury. Southampton's first-team and Academy players returned to the Staplewood Centre yesterday.

Defender Ollie Cook, 19, said there had been nothing to fear.

“It was pretty tough coming straight back in, but the group did really well and we maintained ourselves really well over the summer," he told Southampton's website. "We have a good holiday and come back fresh to meet this kind of challenge.

“We all got very detailed programmes over the summer, which it looks like everyone stuck to pretty well. We know we’ve got to keep ticking over otherwise we’re going to come back and will be shot.”

Alek Gross, Head of Sports Science, oversees pre-season testing and explained what happens.

“On the first day we’ll do medical screening - so movement testing with the physios, psychometric tests, bloods will be taken, and they’ll see the dentist and optician," he said. "We’re looking at overall health.

“Then on the second day they will do performance-based testing. That’s on field - VO2 max testing for general fitness, body composition and body fat - and off-field - speed tests, agility and vertical jump for power. We have the same tests throughout the age groups so we can benchmark.”

Tom Henson, the Lead Academy Strength and Conditioning Coach at the club, added: "The players all get new kit. We started with the strength and power tests and then did an aerobic assessment. It let us see how well they followed their off-season programmes and gave us something to go from to help prescribe exercises throughout the year.

“It gives us an idea of where they’re at fitness wise, what we need to do to condition them, what their max heart rate is, what speeds they’re running at and whether we need to develop them from a strength and power point of view.

“We do the Yo-Yo test. The idea of this is they push to the max - we get a max heart rate and from that we prescribe heart rate zones for conditioning sessions. We also get an idea of what speeds they’re running at.

“Again, it lets us prescribe based off what they’ve done in testing. Then at the end of pre-season we can run them through it again and see how they’ve got on.

“As a club, we use technology as much as we can. We’ve given them an app in the Professional Development Phase (ages 17-21). Programmes from me pop up to tell them when they’ve got to do a session. They fill them in, so I’m able to see who's done it who hasn't.

“Everyone looks very much in the same shape as when they went, so at least they’ve had a good crack at the programme."

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