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Examine upper body tests for power

This is an excerpt from NSCA's Guide to Tests and Assessments by NSCA -National Strength & Conditioning Association & Todd Miller.

Upper Body Tests for Power

The majority of tests and training protocols emphasize lower extremity muscular power. However, upper extremity power production and performance are also exceedingly important for most sports and activities. Two primary tests to examine maximal upper extremity anaerobic capacity and power are the Upper Body Wingate Anaerobic Test and the Medicine Ball Put. Each of these tests has been validated numerous times and has proven reliable across multiple populations.

Upper Body Wingate Anaerobic Test

Similar to the traditional WAnT for the lower body, the Upper Body Wingate Anaerobic Test is generally performed in a laboratory setting and has the advantage of providing several outcomes related to upper body anaerobic capacity. This test occurs with a 30-second time course using a modified cycle ergometer with an arm crank. The calculation of peak power is typically acquired within the first three to five seconds of work, and is expressed in total watts (W), or relative to body mass (W/kg). Further, using the entire 30 seconds of arm cranking, anaerobic capacity (AC) may be calculated as the total external work performed, and is expressed in kilojoules (kJ). Lastly, anaerobic fatigue is often reported, which allows for the calculation of the percentage of power output reduction throughout the test (i.e., fatigue index).


  • Mechanically braked cycle ergometer with additional adjustment for an arm crank (i.e., a cycle ergometer with handles where the pedals normally are)
  • Table for mounting the ergometer for testing. This should be higher than 70 centimeters (27.6 in.) and have room for legs underneath.
  • Additional weight (80 to 100 kg, or 176 to 220 lb) to load the ergometer to prevent movement during the test
  • Optical sensor to detect and count reflective markers on the flywheel
  • Computer and interface with appropriate software (e.g., Sports Medicine Industries, Inc.)


1. The subject should be seated comfortably in a chair placed behind the cycle ergometer so that the feet are flat on the floor. This allows the subject to pedal with no restrictions.

2. Warm-up: After initial familiarization with and individual adjustment of the upper body ergometer, the subject performs three to five minutes of light arm cranking, with no load or a load that is less than 20% of the load used for the actual test. At the end of each minute of the warm-up, the subject should perform approximately five seconds of maximal arm cranking.

3. Following the specific warm-up, the subject should participate in light dynamic stretching of the entire shoulder joint, pectoral musculature, and muscles of the biceps, triceps, and forearms. This time may also be used to further explain testing instructions.

4. The test is initiated with the subject cranking at maximal cadence against no load. A verbal command of “Go” provides the auditory cue to begin arm cranking. Once the subject is at maximal cadence (usually in the first one to three seconds), apply the external load for the 30-second all-out test. Load = 0.050 kilogram per kilogram of body mass (Monark cycle ergometer) (Nindl et al. 1995).

5. Following the application of the appropriate resistance, the 30-second test is started, and data collection commences. The subject must remain seated throughout the entire 30 seconds.

6. Flywheel revolutions per minute (rpm) are counted (preferably by photocell and computer interface), and peak power is calculated based on maximal rpm (usually over the first five seconds of work) and angular distance. Each revolution is equal to 1.615 meters.

7. The test is terminated after 30 seconds of all-out work. Following the test, a two- to five-minute cool-down period is recommended.

Outcome Measures

See the section Wingate Anaerobic Test. Table 9.9 provides typical values for peak mean power in males and females for the Upper Body Wingate Anaerobic Test.

Medicine Ball Put

The field test most frequently used to measure power of the upper body is the seated medicine ball put (Clemons, Campbell, and Jeansonne 2010).The widespread popularity of this test is due not only to the ease of administration, but also to the direct specificity of this movement to a functional task such as the chest pass in basketball, or even the rapid punching of combat athletes. Moreover, because this exercise is commonly used in training, test data may easily be extrapolated to training prescription.


  • 45° incline bench
  • High-durability medicine ball: 6 kilograms (13.2 lb) for females, 9 kilograms (19.8 lb) for males (Clemons, Campbell, and Jeansonne 2010)
  • Gymnastics chalk (i.e., carbonate of magnesium)
  • Measuring tape
  • Room or gymnasium with at least 8 meters (26 feet) of clearance


1. The measuring tape is placed on the floor with the end positioned under the front frame of the bench, to anchor it.

2. The tip of the tape should be positioned so it is aligned with the outside of the medicine ball while it rests on the subject's chest (i.e., in the ready position, prior to putting the ball) (Clemons, Campbell, and Jeansonne 2010; see figure 9.6).

3. The tape should be extended outward from the bench for at least 8 meters (26 feet), and secured to the floor.

4. Warm-up: After initial familiarization with the bench orientation and putting procedure, the subject performs five minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, followed by several dynamic range of motion exercises for the shoulder and elbow joint (e.g., modified or regular push-ups or hand walk-outs). The subject is then allowed several submaximal trials with the appropriate medicine ball.

5. For the test, the subject should be seated comfortably on the incline bench with feet flat on the floor and the medicine ball against the chest.

6. The subject grasps the medicine ball with both hands, one on each side.

7. Without any additional bodily movement (e.g., trunk or neck flexion, arm countermovement), the subject attempts to propel (i.e., “put”) the medicine ball at an optimal trajectory of 45°, for maximal horizontal distance.

8. Every attempt should be made to propel the ball in a straight line, to yield valid data.

9. Three to five attempts are permitted, with a minimum of two minutes of rest between attempts.

Outcome Measures

Each test attempt should be measured by the closest chalk mark (i.e., in the direction of the bench) and recorded to the nearest centimeter or inch.


This test has been used extensively with various loading parameters and across populations. Further, many studies have reported the use of upright benches (i.e., seated upright at 90°) instead of 45° incline benches. To maintain test quality, examiners should use the same protocol each time a given subject is tested.

Read more from NSCA's Guide to Tests and Assessments by NSCA -National Strength & Conditioning Association and Todd Miller.

More Excerpts From NSCA's Guide to Tests and Assessments