Blog: Physical Analysis - Shell to Remove

Category: Sport

A Review of Physical Analysis from Shell into Remove:
Two Steps Forward One Step Back?

What is Physical Analysis?

As part of the upgraded athletic development approach within the Exercise Sports Science programme, all Shell and Remove pupils go through physical analysis at the start and end of the academic year. The role of physical analysis is to take the pupils through a range of tests that assess different physical qualities, namely speed, power, aerobic endurance and coordination. Analysing these qualities allows us to identify potential trends for injury risk within the year group and flag at-risk individuals. It also allows us to evaluate the impact of sport, Strength & Conditioning and ESS on the pupil’s physical development.

Overview of this year’s testing...
This analysis looks at the progress of the 2016 Shell cohort from their initial start in September 2016, through to their most recent round of testing in September 2017. The average scores for each test and the percentage change between the testing points are shown in the image attached.

Key Point 1: There were across the board improvements for both boys & girls in their first year. Improvements for the boys ranged from a 5% increase in aerobic fitness to a 24% increase in peak power output. Improvements for the girls ranged from a 3% increase in 30m sprint speed to a 12% increase in peak power output.

Key Point 2: For the boys, 4 of 7 tests dropped after two months off in the summer. They retained and improved their aerobic fitness by 3% and peak power by 6%. For the girls, 6 out of 7 tests decreased from before the summer, only retaining peak power output.

Take Home Points:
Overall, the message from this testing report is that youths around the ages of Shell respond very well to the combination of sport, S&C and ESS programme, but without the same opportunities and support in the summer, athleticism drops off. This data is an early indication that maturation alone does not translate to increases in athleticism.

This highlights the importance of sport and athletic development within sport sessions. With the amount of sport these pupils can do there is a huge opportunity to develop movement proficiencies through these years of growth and maturation, and take advantage of their responsiveness to training. A recent RFU research study, showed that if performed three or more times a week, a 20-minute movement preparation programme implemented before training and matches, can reduce match injury outcomes in schoolboy rugby (aged 14-18 years) by 72% [1]. This shows the value in repeated exposures to quality athletic development that can be implemented within a warm-up before training.

The other area of focus is on the detrimental effects of de-training over the summer months. At the elite level, decreases in strength of around 15% are seen after 7 weeks off whereas the average decay at Marlborough was 5% [2]. This potentially shows the interaction between pupils’ maturation and detraining, but pressingly it is also the sudden increase in workload when pupils do come back to school. Research shows that sudden spikes in training load drastically increases the likelihood of injury. A pupil with a change in training load of 50% increases the likelihood of injury to ~40%, but more realistically the change in training load is more likely to be >100% as pupils are not in competitive sport during summer. This increases the likelihood of injury over 50% [3]. The answer to this problem lies in the pupil’s ownership and understanding of their physical development. As such this is a prominent focus of the S&C and ESS programmes.

James Davies
Lead Strength and Conditioning Coach

Ruth Taylor and Joshua Wall
Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coaches


[1] Hislop MD, Stokes KA, Williams S, et al. (2017). Reducing musculoskeletal injury and concussion risk in schoolboy rugby players with a pre-activity movement control exercise programme: a cluster randomised controlled trial. British Journal of Sports Medicine.

[2] McMaster DT, Gill N, Cronin J & McGuigan (2013). The development, retention and decay rates of strength and power in elite rugby union, rugby league and American football. Journal of Sports Medicine.

[3] Gabbett TJ. (2016). The training-injury prevention paradox: should athletes be training smarter and harder? British Journal of Sports Medicine.

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