The Scientific Approach to Sport

Many factors influence an athlete’s performance in the field. Some are easier to measure than others, and some are best evaluated in the field. However, it has been established that many laboratory tests and parameters that can be measured, are accurate predictors of performance in the field.

Why conduct physiological testing?

Physiological testing of athletes is conducted for three important reasons:

  • To assess the current physical and physiological attributes of the athlete.
  • To obtain information for individualized and sport-specific training regimes.
  • To give athletes proper scientific support to achieve optimal performance.

What tests are involved?

Tests and measurements are the means of collecting information upon which subsequent performance evaluations and decisions are made. The Sport Physiology Laboratory at Stellenbosch University is equipped with state-of-the-art exercise testing instruments to accurately and consistently monitor athletic performance through proven scientific methods and protocols.

The benefits of testing

Results from the laboratory tests can be used to:

  • Assess the training status of the athlete
  • Predict future performance
  • Identify weaknesses
  • Quantify improvement in fitness and performance by comparing results from previous test
  • Enable the coach to assess the success of his/her training program
  • Place the athlete in an appropriate training group
  • Monitor the health of the athlete and prevent injury and overtraining
  • Motivate the athlete

Tests additionally break up, and add variety to, the training program. They can be used to satisfy the athlete’s competitive urge out of season. As some of the tests demand maximum effort of the athlete, they are useful at times as a training unit in their own right.

What tests are involved?

  • Body composition (i.e. % body fat, height, body mass, hydration status, BMI etc)
  • Maximal exercise capacity and lactate threshold. Both the physiological fitness of the athlete and accurate heart rate zones can be determined for training purposes.
  • Wingate Test to measure anaerobic capacity (maximum watts, average watts, fatigue index).
  • Time trials (cyclists [20/30/40km] and canoeists). Analysis of peak power, average power, peak heart rate, average heart rate, time of test, peak cadence, average cadence, lactate values.
  • Lung function tests to assess possible lung conditions or diseases; to measure respiratory muscle strength and respiratory muscle endurance.
  • Cycling efficiency – to assess leg muscle efficiency and the distribution of power between the legs.

The Exercise Laboratory is equipped with the following equipment:

  • H/P Cosmos Treadmill for runners, cyclists, and wheelchair athletes.
  • Velotron standing bicycle with Coaching software, Wingate software (anaerobic testing) and 3D rider software.
  • 2x Computrainers
  • Cosmed CPET metabolic system
  • Lung function testing equipment
    (to assess forced vital capacity, peak expiratory flow, lung volumes, respiratory muscle strength and respiratory muscle endurance)
  • Akray Lactate pro 2 meter
  • Bodystat Impedence meter (body composition)
  • BodyMetrix Adipose meter
  • Skinfold caliper to measure body composition
  • Blood glucose-, Cholesterol-, Haemoglobin
  • Vasa swim ergometer
  • Sphygmomanometer (blood pressure)
  • 24 hour blood pressure monitoring device.
    – Picopress pressure sensor
    – Hamamutsu Niro-200NX NIRS (near-infrared spectroscopy)