United States Sports Academy
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The Sport Digest - ISSN: 1558-6448

Developing an Athletic Profile - Phase I


The following will provide a broad overview of key factors involved in developing an Athletic Profile for athletes, including some of the tests utilized to assess athletes’ strengths, weaknesses, and needs relative to their sports. In developing an Athletic Profile, you need to utilize a three-phase testing protocol approach.

The first phase of testing consists of assessing the health and fitness-related parameters of sport fitness, which build the foundation for high intensity training. The second phase focuses on assessing the athletic-related parameters of sport fitness including explosive power, agility, reaction time, balance, and anaerobic power. The third phase consists of a sport-specific evaluation, i.e., specific to the individual’s sport and position. Ultimately, the extent and type of testing done in phases two and three will depend on the sport and needs of the athlete being tested.

The following is an outline of Phase I Testing, which is the foundation for further testing.

Phase I Testing:

Although athletic performance is a composite of many different factors, it is clear that high level athletic performance in any sport is founded on a critical threshold level of health, fitness, and physiological function consistent with optimum performance in that sport. Phase I Testing involves a series of tests directed at determining the health, fitness, and performance capacity of the athletes’ heart, lungs, and muscles by assessing body composition, evaluating blood chemistry profiles, analyzing range of motion, musculoskeletal strengths and weaknesses, evaluating nutritional status, and assessing the athletes injury risk potential.

Results of these tests should be viewed as the means to an end as well as an end in themselves. They provide a picture of their current functional health, fitness, and performance status and can be motivators for improvement and reinforcement for fitness maintenance. Additionally, they will make the athlete aware of factors that influence overall performance, health, and well-being and, therefore, double as an important educational tool. Most importantly, monitoring these results over time will help to identify each athlete’s biological individuality. Phase I Testing sets the foundation for the more advanced sport specific testing. It represents the first step in meeting ultimate goals: enhanced health, optimum fitness, and peak performance … being the best they can be.

Phase I Testing Protocol:

The Cardio-Pulmonary Exercise Test (CPX)

A critical component of enhancing performance is to determine precisely how well the athlete’s body responds to the stress of physical activity. The cardiopulmonary exercise test is utilized to assess the health, fitness, and performance capacity of the athlete’s heart, lungs, and muscles. By monitoring cardiovascular, pulmonary, and metabolic responses at rest and during exercise, this test provides a comprehensive means of evaluating the health and fitness of the heart and lungs and their ability to supply oxygen to the muscles - VO2max - considered one of the key biomarkers of sustained muscular performance. Using state-of-the-art technology, this test produces a tremendous amount of information in a short period including aerobic power, fatigue threshold, cardiac status, and pulmonary function. It provides the foundation for advanced, high-intensity testing such as the Wingate Anaerobic Power Test.

Body Composition

The measurement of body composition has become widely recognized as one of the primary components of health-related fitness and performance. Perhaps the most important uses of body composition analysis is in identifying the ‘overfat’ and ‘underweight’ (too low, lean body mass) athlete and in determining a target body weight based on lean body mass and sport. An overweight athlete has a greater risk of musculoskeletal injuries and compromises performance, particularly in activities requiring speed, endurance, balance, agility, and jumping.

Accurate body composition measurement will establish baseline levels of fat and muscle, ideal body weight, and feedback on the effectiveness of training and nutrition programs. Reaching and maintaining an optimal body composition is critical to achieving the Ideal Performance State for the elite athlete. The body plethysmography (‘Bod Pod’) is utilized to accurately assess body composition. This technique employs computerized pressure sensors to determine the amount of air displaced by the body and, ultimately, body density.

Integrated Muscular Fitness

Muscular fitness is a key component of the Athletic Profile. The term ‘integrated muscular fitness’ describes the static, dynamic integrity of the body and indicates the four important characteristics of muscle function - muscle balance, muscle strength, muscle endurance, and flexibility. While each of these characteristics is at least in part functionally interdependent, they are also vital entities with significant implications for optimal health, fitness, and performance. Inadequate muscle balance, muscle strength, endurance, and flexibility contribute to poor performance and serious musculoskeletal problems which, in turn, can lead to considerable pain and discomfort, loss of playing time, increased disability, and premature retirement. Musculoskeletal fitness is essential to optimal health, athletic fitness, and performance. Utilizing tests that assess the musculoskeletal system for static and dynamic integrity will assess the overall posture of the body and the functional movement of the body responsible for optimal health, fitness, and performance.

Nutritional Analysis

Nutrition has a dramatic impact on body composition and energy level. It is one of the cornerstones of optimal performance. A comprehensive nutritional analysis of the athlete’s diet should be performed based on a three-day dietary record which includes an evaluation of the following: total calories, carbohydrate, protein, fat, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. While nutritional analysis is not an actual physical test, it is an important component of a preliminary assessment, helping to determine exactly what the athlete’s strengths, weaknesses, and needs are relative to the sport and helping to screen for eating disorders common to many athletes. Specific recommendations are made based on this analysis, the athlete’s age, gender, sport, and body composition profile. Sample nutrition plans based on daily calorie, carbohydrate, protein, and fat needs should be provided as needed.

Blood Chemistry Profile

The blood chemistry component of the fitness assessment provides a comprehensive hormone and blood chemistry panel including measurement of anabolic/catabolic hormones, blood lipids, glucose levels, electrolytes, liver and kidney enzymes, minerals, and a complete blood count. This information is used to profile overtraining index of the athlete (e.g., testosterone/cortisol ratios), total health status and risks, and nutritional needs. For example, blood glucose can give an index of the risk for sugar intolerance and insulin resistance while other tests look at kidney and liver function, fluid balance, nutritional status, and immune function. If any values are out of range, appropriate steps should be taken to bring these levels back into ideal range. Athletes must have an optimal blood chemistry profile to achieve and maintain peak performance. This can normally be accomplished with a well-designed training and a sound nutrition program.

Bone Mineral Density

With age and eating disorders, bones become more fragile, and serious, often debilitating fractures are common. After reaching a peak, bone mass declines throughout life and may ultimately lead to osteopenia and/or osteoporosis, a disease in which there is both bone loss and a breakdown in the microarchitecture of the bone. Proper prevention, recognition, and treatment of disease is imperative to optimal health and athletic performance. Measuring bone mineral density and bone mineral content can help to prevent and decrease the risk factors affecting bone health.


The performance of any athlete is a composite of many different factors. Attaining ideal performance for an athlete is largely a personal choice. An athlete’s decisions regarding training, eating, smoking, drugs, and even attitude have a tremendous impact on performance. Phase I Testing Protocol weighs the most important measures of health-related fitness and risk for developing injuries, health problems, and overtraining. Developing an Athletic Profile helps to evaluate the athletes’ current lifestyle habits that affect performance positively and negatively, and can indicate changes that need to be made.

What do all these numbers mean? At the completion of testing, the athlete should receive an individualized Athletic Profile: all the results, a detailed explanation of what the numbers mean, how the athlete stands (percentile ranking) relative to someone of the same age and sex, and specific sports. Specific recommendations for a nutritional plan and an exercise program should be considered to help meet goals and needs. This is only the first phase of a true Athletic Profile - but it is considered the foundation for the Athletic Profile.