RESEARCH SUMMARY: Can field based strength tests assess running ability in youth football athletes? (Jones et al., 2021)

Research SummaryLast Updated:

Original research title: ‘Field based lower limb strength tests provide insight into sprint and change of direction ability in academy footballers’ (Jones et al., 2021)

Authors: Jones, S; Mullen, R; Clair, Z; Wrigley, R; Andersen, T.E; Williams, M 

Year: 2021


The ability of football athletes to cover short distances and change direction quickly is a vital component of on–field performance, often used for talent identification and development. However, there is a limited understanding of how hip and groin strength assessments relate to essential game-based tasks such as sprinting and change of direction for talented youth football athletes. 


The purpose of this study was to investigate field-based strength assessments and their relationships with both sprinting and change of direction (COD) performance in male academy football athletes.   


The research by Jones et al., (2021) suggests that a suite of strength tests are effective in guiding decisions to improve change of direction and sprint performance in youth football athletes. These include:

  • Countermovement Jump (CMJ)
  • Nordic Hamstring Strength (NHS)
  • Isometric Hip Adduction (Hip-ADD)

Key findings

  • Age, CMJ-impulse, NHS and Hip-ADD were significant contributors in predicting ‘running ability’ in male academy football athletes.
  • CMJ-impulse was suggested to be the biggest contributor of ‘running ability’. However, when combined with the Hip-ADD strength and NHS, these increased the ability of CMJ-impulse to account for COD performance.
  • Age and CMJ-impulse predicted a 5m sprint time, with the addition of Hip-ADD predicting 10m and 20m sprint times.
  • Age, CMJ-impulse, Hip-ADD and NHS predicted COD performance (n=505 times).

*Please note: All data was scaled for this research project. Please refer to the full journal article on how it was scaled. 

Practical applications

  • A suite of field-based tests may be useful to offer more information on thresholds to discern between faster and slower athletes.
  • Moving beyond traditional field-based testing and offering a suite of field-based tests is recommended, with some key tests including CMJ, NHS, and hip-ADD and ABD to provide more information on COD ability.
  • The age-specific thresholds suggested can be used, albeit with some caution, to frame the development of suitable strength programs for talented young football athletes, taking into consideration differences in training programs.

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