We had a chat with MSc Lorenz Leuthold, exercise physiologist and a Head of Performance Diagnostics in Training & Diagnostics, Zürich, and discussed what happens when science meets sport, and how athletes put scientific data to practice.
In this article, you’ll learn how various fitness tests can help you achieve your athletic goals in the most efficient way.
Facilitating weight loss
Sometimes, when people try to lose weight, they don’t seem to get any results from their training, even with the proper diet. The reason is that weight loss can be influenced by many individual factors, and generic approaches simply don’t work the same for everyone.
That’s why knowing your personal body information is key for achieving your fitness goals – and there are certain tests that can help you with that.
For example, the DXA scan – one of the golden standards for body composition measurement. It’s a painless scan that uses very low-dose X-rays to get the most accurate measurements of your lean mass, fat mass, and bone mass.
There are other devices that you can use to find out your body composition values (such as bioelectrical impedance scales and caliper), but they don’t come any close to the accuracy and reliability of the data that you get from the DXA scan.
For example, the bioimpedance scale can’t measure the body fat directly, and instead calculates it out of body weight and fat-free mass, which doesn’t give you an accurate result. The same goes for a caliper which just measures the thickness of the tissue, your subcutaneous fat, but it has nothing to do with proper body fat mass measurements.
After the DXA scan, you can do various physical tests that will check your power data and heart rate to determine training zones that you should target – that’s a set intensity at which you should be working out to get the most out of your training and lose weight efficiently.
Together, these and other fitness tests will help you follow your progress with exact measurements and correct your training and diet, when needed, for achieving the desired body goals.
Fixing asymmetry & disbalance
DXA scan can also help you correct asymmetry in the body, as you can see differences in values for different body parts in the test result. When you know this data, you can adjust your training and fix any physical asymmetries.
Disbalance is another important issue that professional athletes face. For example, if you went through a leg injury recovery and want to check whether you have strength disbalances in your legs and fix them, a force plate is a great tool to use. It helps determine if you have the same power and force development in your both legs when you jump, and then plan your training accordingly.
Improving athletic performance
Performance diagnostics - particularly, spiroergometric test - can help you significantly improve your athletic performance.
Spiroergometric test assesses how your lungs, heart, and metabolic system react when you are at your maximum physical activity level and have your maximum heart rate. This test helps determine your maximum oxygen uptake (VO2 max), fat oxidation, and other important parameters for defining the right training zones and improving your endurance.
There are other tests you can take, such as Lactate and Conconi – but similar to the DXA scan, the spiroergometric test is the golden standard in performance diagnostics that gives you exact and complete data on your oxygen consumption and caloric output on each performance level.
Equipped with this information, your coach or diagnostics professional will be able to design a personalized high-intensity interval training plan for you for increasing your maximum oxygen uptake and enhancing your athletic performance.
Knowing their spiroergometric parameters, powerlifters can perform on a higher level in strength training, runners can improve their aerobic capacity, and people who are just getting fit can improve their cardio performance among other benefits.
Getting rid of dangerous visceral fat
Unlike our subcutaneous fat – which is the visible fat our bodies have – our visceral fat is invisible as it wrapped around our abdominal organs. When there’s too much visceral fat, it becomes dangerous for the body – the risk of diabetes type 2, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular diseases increases.
To reduce visceral fat, you have to detect it first, and again, the DXA scan comes to the rescue. It helps measure visceral fat in your body with maximum accuracy.
Spiroergometry, in its turn, will help you determine the maximum fat oxidation zones and train properly to decrease the amount of visceral fat.
Besides the proper training, getting a healthy diet is extremely important too. Most likely, you already know the rules – avoid refined sugar, fructose, trans-fatty acids, and alcohol. Talk to your coach or dietitian who can help you develop a nutrition and training plan for reducing visceral fat.
Overcoming training plateau
One of the goals of the training diagnostics is to see if your current training and nutrition program helps you reach your fitness goals. If it doesn’t help, and you’ve hit a training plateau – you need to make changes to your program based on your test parameters. The tests tell you exactly where you have your potential, and why you are stuck on the same level, not making the gains you'd like or lose any fat.
One of the ways used to overcome the training plateau is blood flow restriction training (BFR), which helps increase your oxygen capacity.
During the training, you use pneumatic cuffs on your arms or legs for restricting the blood flow while exercising. As the blood flow reduces, that leads to strength and endurance adaptation as well as increased oxygen uptake.
That improves fatigue resistance, performance, endurance, and strength – so you can achieve more and get to the next level.
Note that you shouldn’t ever do BFR alone without supervision of a professional fitness coach or a medical expert. Consult with your doctor before you start doing this training.