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The Combine, what I like and a really stupid test.

Admittedly, I like the NFL combine. Not as much as I used to but I still think it’s kinda cool to watch. These guys are absolute freaks of nature and even a “poor” performance by them is an outstanding performance by 99% of people.

Plus it’s nice to see what these guys can actually do. Too often during college football games we hear that kid A squats 500lbs and kid B benches 450…Do these numbers happen?

YES!

They just don’t happen for 3-5 players on every team…Let’s face it, coaches lie to media. Ever seen a media guide with accurate heights and weights? ……Neither have I. Many strength coaches are notourious for lax standards on testing and report inflated numbers CONSISTENTLY….remember this board.

4 guys ran 4.2’s….WTF?

4.2’s don’t come along all that often at the combine WHERE THE BEST UPPERCLASS DRAFT PROSPECTS ARE….But at UF they do this with consistency? (yes I know Florida has AWESOME talent, but really guys?) Oh and the whole it’s a slow track at Indy stuff is trash, it’s not slow, it’s electronically timed….yeah, no I punch the clock a little late on the start and early on the finish so it looks good for the coaches/ fans/ scouts/ recruiters/ media favoritism..so sorry….

According to NFL.com there have been 3…yep a big 3…. 4.2’s run in the combine since 2006 and NONE this year. More about fake 40’s  here. Point is, coaches lie exaggerate and then the guys on TV, Radio and in the print, who don’t really know what they’re talking about, in this regard, recite this trash without question and it becomes commonplace for 18,19,20,21 year olds to run 4.2’s (4.4’s if he’s slow) and bench 500lbs….none of which actually happens in real life very much.

How do I know this? Powerlifting Watch ALL TIME WORLD RECORDS

You think kids, 20 year olds, are almost as strong as some of the strongest powerlifters ever? I doubt that.

Mike Boyle in Advances in Functional Training makes this point:

When I was a college football strength coach, I’d tell our football coaches when they were recruiting a kid to divide his squat by two. A high school kid who claimed to squat  500 pounds would usually get a little more than half that on test day.

Like most things, don’t believe the hype.

That’s why I like the 40rd dash at the combine. It gives real insight into the speed these guys can produce which, quite frankly, is amazing even if it’s not a strength coach lie exaggerated 4.2.

If you want to see what the normal desk jockey would run the 40 in click on this: Rich-Eisen-runs-the-40

The test I really hate is the 225lbs bench test. This thing needs to go, it’s useless. Football is a sport of all out efforts separated by 40 seconds. It has nothing to do with a continuous repeated upper body effort.

Yeah, it looks cool and it’s impressive as hell…but he’s a receiver….does this really matter in his sport at that position?

Me thinks not.

Let’s use some logic here….and some inferences which I know are not 1 to 1 correlations but work for this example: in other words you’ll get the picture.

If player A can bench press 400lbs and he pushes against player B who can bench press 300lbs.

Who wins in a pushing contest? (assuming all other variable to be equal….obviously).

RIGHT! Player A. In fact he’ll probably (all things being equal again) maul player B.

He gets to rest 40 seconds and go at it again. Let’s assume a 10% drop-off in force output per play (this would be a lot of a drop but whatever).

Player A: 400lbs force   Player B: 300lbs force
Play 1:      400lbs                                  300lbs
Play 2:      360lbs                                  270lbs
Play 3:      324lbs                                  243lbs
Play 4:      292lbs                                  219lbs
Play 5:      263lbs                                  197lbs

So obviously the stronger guy would win in force output for every contest and most likely the battle on the field….every down.

When the combine was actually looked at in this article. Here’s what they found:

Performance test with a low correlation in comparison with other tests shows that the skill being measured is unique. The 225-lb bench press test, the 3-cone drill, and the 60-yd shuttle are not as highly correlated with the other tests in the testing battery of the combine. This signifies that these tests measure different components of performance; however, it does not signify that these tests are valuable in determining whether an athlete could be successful playing in the next level.

 For example, the vertical jump was the most important test to determine draft success in the RB position, whereas the 225-lb bench press test had little to no effect.

The 225lbs test was also studied here, here and here.

Here is the long and short of their findings:

 muscular endurance repetitions with an absolute load of 225 lb can be used to predict 1 RM bench press strength in college football players, although the error in prediction increases when endurance performance exceeds 10 repetitions.

So yeah, when you perform more than 10 reps the accuracy of the test (in predicting 1RM ie. maximal strength) diminishes as the reps performed increases and the test results have no impact on where a player gets drafted for some positions.

Why do we do this test again?

My alternative is to replace it with a max test….a 1RM or 3RM. It would be closer to the actual maximal force production of the athletes and it would be more protective.

Just about anyone who is not a beginner to the whole weight lifting game will tell you that a 1RM test is “easier” than a high rep RM set to failure, especially in this type of environment where every rep could mean money on the line for an athlete especially a lineman. 1RM tests tend to be difficult but don’t result in the types of injuries seen with these “all out” high rep sets. The potential for muscle strains, tendon strains and ligament injuries are high because as the athlete tires they look for any way possible to squeeze out another rep. The athletes are so strong and the weight is such a low percentage of what they are capable of that they can use poor technique and still complete reps.

Where as with a maximal attempt technique must be maintained to complete the rep….and good technique is what keeps us safe

Poor technique is what leads to injury…NOT WEIGHT!….this test lends itself to poor technique.

Now it looks like agents are questioning this test (and the guy who administers it). If this happens enough players will start to opt out more often and eventually the NFL we either drop of alter the test to something that would actually tell us some information about the player and their physical abilities relative to NFL football.

And with at least one torn pec being suffered this year during the event (by Iowa tackle Markus Zusevics), agents have been complaining about the effort to get the players to squeeze out a final rep that could blow out a muscle or a tendon.

Who cares if my guy gets 24 instead of 27 reps?” one agent told PFT.  “No one has ever won a football game because of how many times a guy can lift 225 pounds with his arms.”

Agreed….