Underground beneath a busy Covent Garden street, the ultimate fantasy land for anyone into functional fitness is hidden away. Power racks lined up with bumper plates neatly stacked, the créme de la créme of gym toys with all premium names like Wattbike and Keiser, along with some other fancy-looking equipment that even I don’t know what it is – but I’m about to find out!
I was invited along to Performance Ground London to try out their performance assessment service – being someone who likes to seek out their weaknesses to work on them I jumped at the chance to go along. I was in London for work anyway, however this ‘work’ thing was a rather boozy event the night before my assessment, so I probably wasn’t quite as switched on for the assessment as I should’ve been.
Adding in my sprained ankle I felt like a withered version of myself – nevertheless I gave the assessment a good go in order to review it for you, dear reader! Read on to find out what happens in the assessment, how it’s applied to programming, and also how you can get yourself a place on an upcoming Performance Ground workshop.
As CrossFitters, we’re constantly told that mobility is key and it’s something we need to work hard on, but it can be difficult to properly pinpoint what’s a red herring and what really does need the work. After a short warmup, there’s a movement competency screen within the Performance Ground assessment, which not only includes visual checks but checks using strict measurements, allowing the coaches to give targeted mobility recommendations.
For the overhead squat, I’m used to dumping in my knees and rotating my shoulders inward to reach depth, but this test required me to have my hands much closer together, armpits facing forward and feet parallel to each other in order to truly assess where it was at. No ego lifts here. This showed that I wasn’t mobile enough to keep the PVC pipe directly above my head, so of course you assume shoulder mobility is the defining factor here. Actually, using the specific shoulder mobility test, we found that it they were pretty mobile and it was my thoracic spine that needed more work. Always investigate further!
Next, we moved on to a range of jump tests, which assessed my explosivity – not the easiest thing with a sprained ankle and sadly this was the most intriguing to me! These tests used one of the scientific-looking objects I spotted when I arrived, which is called a Optajump, similar to the equipment that’s used in NFL testing. This uses light beams to work out how long you’re in the air for which then converts into vertical height.
The first was a Counter Movement Jump (CMJ), where you’d dip a little then jump as high as you could, then there was a Squat Jump – you’d squat down, then coach would tell you when to jump straight from there. Unfortunately I couldn’t do the last jump due to my ankle, but that was to jump off the plyo box behind me in the above photo, straight into a jump.
The difference between the jump heights are indicative of where you’re stronger or weaker. Typically people’s CMJ is higher than their squat jump – but of course, mine just had to be the wrong way round! This indicates my explosivity needs working on, although I do love a box jump (my PB is 36″, but I haven’t tested it for a while) so I think it might’ve been because of my ankle. I think this test relates well to something like a snatch – if your snatch wasn’t increasing you could do this test, and if you found your normal jump was higher, you could work on building strength through heavy squats; the other way round and you could work on your explosivity.
The final part of the assessment surrounded speed and agility, and used a speed trap timer. This was the hardest part for me by far not only because of my ankle, but also because I’m not used to doing anything like this at all! On the rare occasions I do sprint, I always feel like I take at least 20 metres to accelerate – and this test was over just 10 metres.
As you can imagine I didn’t do too well in this test, nor in the 5-0-5 agility assessment, which is a 5 metre sprint, turn, then 5 metre sprint back. Admittedly turning isn’t a skill we use very much in CrossFit, but I can see how a weakness here for rugby and football players would be a massive disadvantage.
So here we have it – my full assessment feedback report. If I were training with Performance Ground they’d use this to build my programming and also as a benchmark to go back and re-assess, but for me I’m going to use it as a springboard for further mobility and explosivity work. Some things I knew already about myself, although some was new information – I didn’t realise explosiveness was a weakness of mine, and feel like working on this will help with my Olympic lifting no end.
If you’d like to learn more about the performance assessment and sign up to the Performance Ground workshops, check them out here: The Big 3: Squat, Bench, Deadlift and Flexibility and Movement, both on September 16th, plus Injury Prevention Warm-up and Metabolic Conditioning, both September 30th. If you sign up drop me a note on social media to let me know how it was!