Exercise Physiology


Anthropometry is the process of measuring physical dimensions of the human body. Anthropometry is used in sports science for evaluating the athletes' size, shape, body proportions, body composition and degree of asymmetry between the dominant and non-dominant limbs. The measurements such as stature, body mass, skinfold thickness, girth measurements which are assessed help to derive at body fat %, lean muscle mass and somatotype. This information can be used to customise training programmes and nutritional intervention. Anthropometry has the potential to be a valuable tool in evaluating and monitoring the athlete.

A high body fat percentage is seen as a negative, and indicates that an individual has a low lean muscle mass, which would not only directly affect strength and power output, but also recovery from high intensity bouts of exercise. The ability to shuttle metabolites (such as lactate) post-training is largely affected by the amount of lean muscle mass, therefore if an athlete has a relatively low lean muscle mass it would delay recovery post high intensity training sessions.

Aerobic Capacity

Aerobic capacity is scientifically measured in terms of the Maximal Oxygen Uptake or VO2max. It is defined as an individual’s maximum capacity to consume oxygen and further, to utilize this oxygen at a cellular level by the body. Traditionally VO2max has been considered the “Gold Standard” for endurance performance assessment with Maximum oxygen uptake values, in healthy individuals, ranging from 25 to 80 ml. per kg per min. This is influenced by a number of variables, including, age, gender and level of aerobic fitness.

However, VO2max is not the only determinant of endurance performance, with other factors, predominantly those at the local tissue level, playing a role in endurance capabilities.

Depending on the nature of the sport there are different ways to measure aerobic capacity. Endurance sports such as track running, road running, cycling will typically use a treadmill or cycle VO2max test. The lactate threshold, peak power output and VO2 are among the important parameters assessed.

Field sports such as hockey or football use aerobic capacity tests like the shuttle run (Bleep Test, Yo-yo intermittent recovery test) to suit the nature of the sport, where athletes start and stop.

Anaerobic Capacity

Operating within the body are four distinct energy systems. Two of these energy systems are anaerobic (oxygen independent), and two are aerobic (oxygen dependent). Testing manuals traditionally categorise exercise test as being either aerobic or anaerobic. In certain sporting codes such as sprint cycling and rowing the athlete is more dependent on their anaerobic capacity. For these sports we use tests such as the Wingate Anaerobic Power test.

For field sports where there may be an anaerobic component we would use a test such as the Repeat Sprint Ability Test to determine if an athlete can cope with the sports anaerobic requirements.


Agility is the ability to accelerate, decelerate and change direction at maximal speed.

This is an important component of most field and court ball sports as players need to be able to be mobile on the field and court of play. Speed and agility are distinct physical qualities that require specific training and testing.

Scientific tests that look at an athlete agility include the T-Test and the Illinois Agility Test which are the best practice assessments for high performance testing.

Maximum Running Speed and Acceleration

The purpose of these tests is to determine the athlete's maximum sprint speed and their ability to accelerate from a stationary position. For these tests, an electronic sprint timer with photo-electric sensors, is set at chest height and placed at 10, 20, 30 and 40 m intervals from the start line. The instantaneous times at 10, 20, 30 and 40 m for each run are recorded and the fastest split and total time attained during each run determined.


The term flexibility is the range of motion around a joint, or series of joints. The purpose of the assessment is to determine an athlete’s range of motion around all major joints . This information is used as a predictor of injury and at times be used in the prediction of sports performance as there has been research that shows a relationship between flexibility and sports performance.

Muscle Strength

This is a test of maximal muscle strength. This gives an indication of an athlete’s ability to produce maximal force. The greater the force production, the greater the power output which translates to faster sprinting, higher jumping and throwing greater distances. Strength tests that give a general picture of the athletes strength include the bench press one repetition maximum (1RM) test and the squat 1RM test.


The purpose of this test is to assess explosive power. Jumping ability plays a role in many sports and thus is important to test of lower body explosive power. Equipment used to assess explosive power include the Vertec Jump Tester and the Fusion Sports Smart Jump System.

Fusion Sports Smart Jump system uses a contact mat to measure flight time and contact time during jumping protocols. For each jump the system reports the following data:

  • Flight time
  • Contact time
  • Height jumped
  • Peak power
  • Reactive Strength Index, which is an excellent indicator of plyometric ability.

Upper body explosive power is assessed by overhead medicine ball throws and rotary explosive movements.

Strength Endurance

Strength endurance is assessed to determine an athlete’s ability to perform an exercise repeatedly. This might be using their own body weight or using a weight that can be lifted continuously for as many repetitions as possible. This component of fitness assesses upper body strength endurance in the form of pushups and pull ups. For the mid-section the curl up test is done and the plank is done to assess core stability.

Isokinetic Testing

Isokinetic dynamometers allow athletes to exert as much force and angular movement as they can generate - be that large or small - at a predetermined and controlled velocity or speed of contraction. When a limb’s angular rate of movement equals or exceeds the velocity limit set for the dynamometer, the isokinetic dynamometer produces an equal counter force to ensure a constant movement rate. Isokinetic testing can be used as an assessment for injury prevention and also for rehabilitation. Assessment for injury prevention is made through assessing the difference in strength ratios between agonist and antagonist muscles. In rehabilitation the isokinetic testing can give information as to whether the athlete has sufficient strength to resume competition.

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