Saturday, 25 July 2015

The Interval Shuttle Paddle Test

It has been a very long time since I've written something over here. I'm giving it another go to get some writing experience, so any feedback is welcome!
Some subjects that will get their own post soon are:

- Training methods to improve your throwing velocity
- Trends in goals scored across different levels in the Dutch national league
- Possibilities to program your (assisted/resisted) sprints

But first, lets talk about the interval shuttle paddle test (ISPT), how we developed it and why it should be used.

This is an endurance test similar to the more well known BEEP test and is adapted specifically for canoe polo. Links to the full protocol and sound file can be found at the end of this post.
We developed the ISPT to have a canoe specific test that would measure endurance capacity while also taking into account the intermittent character of canoe polo. A similar intermittent test for football was shown to have more discriminative power for playing level in football than a non-intermittent version. (Lemmink et al., 2004) This test developed by Lemmink et al. is where our ISPT is based on.
During the ISPT an athlete paddles back and forth between two lines, which are 16 meters apart, with the goal of paddling as many shuttles as possible. Shuttles are synchronized to a sound signal to determine the speed the athlete has to paddle at and are subdivided in stages. Each stage the speed is increased, making it harder to reach the opposite line before the sound signal. To simulate the intermittent character of canoe polo while still testing endurance there is a 15 second rest period after approximately 30 seconds of paddling. Each stage has two of these periods.
The decision to use 16 meters was made based on several factors. We first tried modifying the protocol by Lemmink et al. by dividing the distance between the lines by two, effectively making the speed half of what is used in football. After a trial we came to the conclusion turning was too much of a limiting factor, therefore needing to increase the distance. As we also used a 16 meter sprint test, based on the distance needed for your body to reach the ball at the starting sprint, we decided to test that distance next. During trial this distance felt like keeping the turning, stopping and accelerating character of canoe polo while decreasing the limiting factor of these. Using the same distance for multiple tests decreased the set-up time greatly, which made us decide not to trial longer distances.
During this last trial it was noticed by several athletes that the speed increased too much each stage, making athletes drop out before they felt they were getting tired. To counter this we decreased the speed increment. Feedback on this adaptation was positive and most athletes now dropped out because their arms/torso became too tired or they were completely out of breath. This was our last trial. During the first official ISPT measurement the heart-rate of all athletes participating rose steadily to an average of 194±11, suggesting speed increments were low enough to not lead to disproportional increases in effort and making it possible to reach maximum effort based on the theoretical maximum heart-rate of the athletes.

So why would you want to test endurance capacity? Unfortunately not much research has been done on the relation between endurance tests, or even performance tests in general, and their relation with on-field performance. By experience one would say having a good endurance capacity is important to sustain effort during a match and a tournament, with bad endurance leading to exorbitant tiredness, not being able to put in effort, decreased accuracy and (more) muscle soreness after the tournament. To my knowledge Rampinini et al (2007) have one of the few articles looking at the relation between performance tests and on-field performance, while being the only one looking at an incremental endurance test. They found significant correlations between performance on their incremental endurance test and the following on-field measurements: total running distance, high-intensity running distance run and very high-intensity running distance.  This suggests having a good endurance capacity and performing well on an endurance test would translate to an athlete being able to put more effort into a match and possibly tournament.
Testing is also important to measure the effectiveness of one's training program, if someone's over-training or if one has reached an endurance level where it is more effective to put the extra time in working on different aspects.

ISPT protocol
ISPT sound file

What would be a good score to achieve? Unfortunately we don't have much data to go on, but a rough guideline for international men standard would be:
- Average = 92 shuttles (complete stage 15)
- Good = 100 shuttles (complete stage 16)
- Excellent = 110+ shuttles (complete stage 17)


Lemmink, K. A., Verheijen, R., & Visscher, C. (2004). The discriminative power of the interval shuttle run test and the maximal multistage shuttle run test for playing level of soccer. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 44(3), 233-239.

Rampinini, E., Bishop, D., Marcora, S. M., Ferrari Bravo, D., Sassi, R., & Impellizzeri, F. M. (2007). Validity of simple field tests as indicators of match-related physical performance in top-level professional soccer players. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 28(3), 228-235. doi:10.1055/s-2006-924340 [doi]