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This review article discusses previous literature that has examined the influence of muscular strength on various factors associated with athletic performance and the benefits of achieving greater muscular strength. Greater muscular strength is strongly associated with improved force-time characteristics that contribute to an athlete’s overall performance. Much research supports the notion that greater muscular strength can enhance the ability to perform general sport skills such as jumping, sprinting, and change of direction tasks. Further research indicates that stronger athletes produce superior performances during sport specific tasks. Greater muscular strength allows an individual to potentiate earlier and to a greater extent, but also decreases the risk of injury. Sport scientists and practitioners may monitor an individual’s strength characteristics using isometric, dynamic, and reactive strength tests and variables. Relative strength may be classified into strength deficit, strength association, or strength reserve phases. The phase an individual falls into may directly affect their level of performance or training emphasis. Based on the extant literature, it appears that there may be no substitute for greater muscular strength when it comes to improving an individual’s performance across a wide range of both general and sport specific skills while simultaneously reducing their risk of injury when performing these skills. Therefore, sport scientists and practitioners should implement long-term training strategies that promote the greatest muscular strength within the required context of each sport/event. Future research should examine how force-time characteristics, general and specific sport skills, potentiation ability, and injury rates change as individuals transition from certain standards or the suggested phases of strength to another.
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REVIEW ARTICLE
The Importance of Muscular Strength in Athletic Performance
Timothy J. Suchomel
1
Sophia Nimphius
2
Michael H. Stone
3
Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016
Abstract This review discusses previous literature that
has examined the influence of muscular strength on various
factors associated with athletic performance and the ben-
efits of achieving greater muscular strength. Greater mus-
cular strength is strongly associated with improved force-
time characteristics that contribute to an athlete’s overall
performance. Much research supports the notion that
greater muscular strength can enhance the ability to per-
form general sport skills such as jumping, sprinting, and
change of direction tasks. Further research indicates that
stronger athletes produce superior performances during
sport specific tasks. Greater muscular strength allows an
individual to potentiate earlier and to a greater extent, but
also decreases the risk of injury. Sport scientists and
practitioners may monitor an individual’s strength charac-
teristics using isometric, dynamic, and reactive strength
tests and variables. Relative strength may be classified into
strength deficit, strength association, or strength reserve
phases. The phase an individual falls into may directly
affect their level of performance or training emphasis.
Based on the extant literature, it appears that there may be
no substitute for greater muscular strength when it comes
to improving an individual’s performance across a wide
range of both general and sport specific skills while
simultaneously reducing their risk of injury when per-
forming these skills. Therefore, sport scientists and prac-
titioners should implement long-term training strategies
that promote the greatest muscular strength within the
required context of each sport/event. Future research
should examine how force-time characteristics, general and
specific sport skills, potentiation ability, and injury rates
change as individuals transition from certain standards or
the suggested phases of strength to another.
Key Points
This review discusses previous literature that
examined the influence of muscular strength on
various factors associated with athletic performance
and the benefits of achieving greater muscular
strength.
Greater muscular strength is associated with
enhanced force-time characteristics (e.g. rate of force
development and external mechanical power),
general sport skill performance (e.g. jumping,
sprinting, and change of direction), and specific sport
skill performance, but is also associated with
enhanced potentiation effects and decreased injury
rates.
The extant literature suggests that greater muscular
strength underpins many physical and performance
attributes and can be vastly influential in improving
an individual’s overall performance.
&Timothy J. Suchomel
timothy.suchomel@gmail.com
1
Department of Exercise Science, East Stroudsburg
University, East Stroudsburg, PA 18301, USA
2
Centre for Exercise and Sports Science Research, Edith
Cowan University, Joondalup, WA, Australia
3
Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences, Center of
Excellence for Sport Science and Coach Education, East
Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN 37614, USA
123
Sports Med
DOI 10.1007/s40279-016-0486-0
1 Introduction
A number of underlying factors may contribute to an ath-
lete’s performance. While sport scientists and practitioners
cannot manipulate an athlete’s genetic characteristics, an
athlete’s absolute and relative muscular strength can be
enhanced with regular strength training. Muscular strength
has been defined as the ability to exert force on an external
object or resistance [1,2]. Given the demands of an indi-
vidual’s sport or event, he or she may have to exert large
forces against gravity in order to manipulate their own
body mass (e.g., sprinting, gymnastics, diving, etc.),
manipulate their own body mass plus an opponent’s body
mass (e.g., American football, rugby, wrestling, etc.), or
manipulate an implement or projectile (e.g., baseball,
weightlifting, shotput, etc.). The constant within all of the
previous examples that may be considered a limiting factor
of performance is the individual’s muscular strength. The
purpose of this review is to discuss previous literature that
has examined the influence of muscular strength on various
factors associated with athletic performance and to discuss
the benefits of achieving greater muscular strength.
2 Literature Search Methodology
Original and review journal articles were retrieved from
electronic searches of PubMed and Medline (EBSCO)
databases. Additional searches of Google Scholar and rele-
vant bibliographic hand searches with no limits of language
of publication were also completed. The search strategy
included the search terms ‘maximum strength and jumping’,
‘maximum strength and sprinting’, ‘maximum strength and
change of direction’, ‘maximum strength and power’,
‘strength and rate of force development’, ‘muscular strength
and injury rate’, ‘strength level and postactivation potenti-
ation’, and ‘strength level and athletic performance’. The last
month of the search was January 2016.
The authors acknowledge that there are other methods of
assessing muscular strength (e.g., isokinetic, dynamic
strength index, etc.); however, this article focuses primarily
on isometric and dynamic measures of strength. Further-
more, the authors acknowledge the disparity between lower
and upper extremity strength literature as more scientific
literature has examined lower extremity strength. This
review uses a descriptive summary of research based on
correlational analyses performed in each study. The mag-
nitude of the relationships were defined as 0 to 0.3, or 0 to
-0.3, was considered small; 0.31 to 0.49, or -0.31 to
-0.49, moderate; 0.5 to 0.69, or -0.5 to -0.69, large; 0.7
to 0.89, or -0.7 to -0.89, very large; and 0.9 to 1.0, or -0.9
to -1.0, near perfect [3].
3 Influence of Strength on Force-Time
Characteristics
High rates of force development (RFD) and subsequent
high external mechanical power are considered to be two of
the most important performance characteristics with regard
to sport performance [46]. Previous research has indicated
that RFD and power differs between starters and non-
starters [712] and between different levels of athletes [8
11,1318]. Due to the importance of RFD and external
mechanical power to an athlete’s performance, trainable
factors that may enhance these variables would be con-
sidered of utmost importance.
3.1 Rate of Force Development
Previous research has defined RFD as the rate of rise in
force over the change in time, and has also been termed
‘explosive strength’’ [19]. The rate at which force can be
produced is considered a primary factor to success in a
large variety of sporting events [5]. The rationale behind
this hypothesis is that a range of sports require the per-
formance of rapid movements (e.g., jumping, sprinting,
etc.) where there is a limited time to produce force (*50 to
250 ms) [20]. Similarly associated with force-time vari-
ables, impulse is defined as the product of force and the
period of time in which the force is expressed. While
impulse may ultimately determine vertical jump and
weightlifting performance [21], the importance of RFD
cannot be overlooked because a longer period of time
([300 ms) may be needed to reach maximum muscular
force [19,2225]. Thus, the emphasis of training may be to
increase RFD to allow a greater force to be produced over a
given time period. This in turn would lead to an increase in
the generated impulse or decrease in the time needed to
obtain an equal impulse and subsequent acceleration of a
person or implement.
Several studies have indicated that gaining strength
through resistance training positively influences the RFD
characteristics of an individual [19,2628]. Another study
indicated that maximal muscular strength may account for
as much as 80 % of the variance in voluntary RFD
(150–250 ms) [20]. In support of these findings, a number
of studies have examined the relationships between mus-
cular strength and RFD (Table 1).
Fifty-nine Pearson correlation magnitudes were reported
in Table 1with all of the relationships being positive.
Fifty-seven of the reported relationships (97 %) displayed a
correlation magnitude of greater than or equal to 0.3,
indicating a moderate relationship. Furthermore, 44 (75 %)
of the reported correlation magnitudes displayed a large
relationship with values of 0.5 or greater. Limited research
T. J. Suchomel et al.
123
Table 1 Summary of studies correlating maximal strength and rate of force development variables
Study Subjects (n) Strength measure RFD measure Correlation results
Andersen et al.
[26]
Healthy, sedentary males (n=15) MVC of knee extensors Slope of torque–time curve in
incrementing periods of 0–10, 0–20,
0–30,0–250 ms
r=0.69 (0–250 ms)
Bazyler et al.
[29]
Recreationally-trained college-age
males (n=17)
1RM BS, 1RM partial squat, IS
90knee angle, IS 120knee
angle
IRFD 0–250 ms with IS at 90and 120IS at 90IRFD: r= 0.55 (1RM BS), r= 0.32 (1RM
partial squat), r= 0.68 (IS 90), r= 0.39 (IS 120)
IS at 120IRFD: r= 0.43 (1RM BS), r= 0.42 (1RM
partial squat), r= 0.45 (IS 90), r= 0.64 (IS 120)
Beckham et al.
[30]
Male and female intermediate to
advanced weightlifters (n=12)
IMTP IRFD (0–100, 0–150, 0–200, 0–250 ms) r= 0.34 (0–100 ms), r= 0.42 (0–150 ms), r= 0.56
(0–200 ms), r= 0.73 (0–200 ms)
Haff et al. [31] Elite female weightlifters (n=6) 1RM snatch and clean and jerk Peak IRFD r= 0.79 (Snatch)
r= 0.69 (Clean and Jerk)
Kawamori et al.
[32]
Collegiate male athletes (n=15) 1RM HPC, Rel 1RM HPC CMJ and SJ peak RFD 1RM HPC: r= 0.53 (CMJ), r= 0.68 (SJ)
Rel 1RM HPC: r= 0.56 (CMJ), r= 0.64 (SJ)
Kawamori et al.
[33]
Collegiate male weightlifters
(n=8)
IMTP CMJ peak RFD, SJ peak RFD r= 0.85 (CMJ), r= 0.43 (SJ)
Kraska et al.
[34]
Male and female NCAA division I
athletes (n=81)
IMTP IRFD (not specified) r= 0.88
McGuigan et al.
[35]
NCAA division III male wrestlers
(n=8)
IMTP IRFD (not specified) Not specified
McGuigan and
Winchester
[36]
NCAA division I male football
players (n=22)
1RM BS, IMTP IRFD (not specified) Not specified
Stone et al. [37] International and local-level male
cyclists (n=30)
IMTP, Rel IMTP, IMTPa Peak IRFD IMTP: r= 0.46
Rel IMTP: r= 0.23
IMTPa: r= 0.34
Stone et al. [37] National-level male and female
cyclists (n=20)
IMTP, Rel IMTP, IMTPa Peak IRFD IMTP: r= 0.68
Rel IMTP: r= 0.20
IMTPa: r= 0.58
Thomas et al.
[38]
Male collegiate cricket, judo,
rugby, and soccerathletes
(n=22)
Rel IMTP Rel IRFD r= 0.70
Strength and Athletic Performance
123
has compared RFD values between stronger and weaker
individuals. However, two of the previous studies indicated
that stronger individuals produce greater RFD compared to
those who are weaker [34,38], while one study indicated
that there was no statistical difference between the stron-
gest and weakest individuals tested [37]. However, mag-
nitude-based inferences from the latter study would
indicate that there was a very large practical difference in
RFD (Cohen’s d=23.5). Possible explanations for the
lack of statistical differences between stronger and weaker
groups in the latter study may be the small sample size in
each group (n=6) and the range in subject abilities within
each group (e.g. Olympic training site cyclists and local
cyclists).
3.2 External Mechanical Power
Previous research has indicated that external mechanical
power may be the determining factor that differentiates the
performance between athletes in sports [4,4051]. Exter-
nal mechanical power of the system reflects the sum of
joint powers and may represent the coordinated effort of
the lower body [52]. Therefore, instead of the sum of joint
powers, system external mechanical power is often mea-
sured and has been related to a number of different sport
performance characteristics such as sprinting [53,54],
jumping [5558], change of direction [42,59,60], and
throwing velocity [61,62]. As a result, many have sug-
gested that external mechanical power is one of the most
important characteristics with regard to performance [46].
In fact, previous research has indicated that there were
performance differences in external mechanical power
between the playing level of athletes [10,15,18] and
between starters and non-starters [7,912]. As a result, it is
not surprising that practitioners often seek to develop and
improve external mechanical power in an effort to translate
to improved sport performance.
Partly based on the concepts of Minetti [63] and
Zamparo et al. [64], a periodization model has been
developed termed phase potentiation [65,66]. The idea
behind this model is that the previous phase of training
will potentiate or enhance the ability to realize specific
physiological characteristics in a subsequent phase of
training [67,68]. For example, the completion of a
strength-endurance phase, where the primary goals are to
increase muscle cross-sectional area and work capacity,
would enhance the ability to realize muscular strength
characteristics in a maximal strength phase and a maximal
strength phase would enhance the ability to realize mus-
cular power characteristics in a subsequent strength-power
or explosive speed phase of training. Taking the above
into account, it would be logical that greater muscular
strength would ultimately contribute to the ability to
Table 1 continued
Study Subjects (n) Strength measure RFD measure Correlation results
Zaras et al. [39] Young male and female track and
field throwers (n=12)
1RM BS, 1RM HPC, isometric leg
press
Slope of force–time curve during 0–50,
0–100, 0–150, 0–200, and 0–250 ms
1RM BS and RFD 0–50 ms: r= 0.63 (Pre), r= 0.44
(Post); 0–100 ms: r= 0.70 (Pre), r= 0.65 (Post);
0–150 ms: r= 0.71 (Pre), r= 0.70 (Post);
0–200 ms: r= 0.59 (Pre), r= 0.69 (Post);
0–250 ms: r= 0.58 (Pre), r= 0.69 (Post)
1RM HPC and RFD 0–50 ms: r= 0.76 (Pre),
r=0.62 (Post); 0–100 ms: r= 0.77 (Pre), r= 0.77
(Post); 0–150 ms: r= 0.76 (Pre), r= 0.73 (Post);
0–200 ms: r= 0.64 (Pre), r= 0.71 (Post);
0–250 ms: r= 0.58 (Pre), r= 0.62 (Post)
Isometric leg press and RFD 0–50 ms: r= 0.34
(Pre), r= 0.38 (Post); 0–100 ms: r= 0.59 (Pre),
r= 0.72 (Post); 0–150 ms: r= 0.72 (Pre), r= 0.83
(Post); 0–200 ms: r= 0.73 (Pre), r= 0.86 (Post);
0–250 ms: r= 0.74 (Pre), r= 0.90 (Post)
1RM one repetition maximum, BS back squat, CMJ countermovement jump, HPC hang power clean, IMTP isometric mid-thigh clean pull, IMTPa allometrically-scaled isometric mid-thigh
clean pull, IRFD isometric rate of force development, IS isometric squat, MVC maximal voluntary contraction, Rel relative, per kilogram of body mass, RFD rate of force development, SJ squat
jump
T. J. Suchomel et al.
123
realize greater net joint power characteristics. A number
of studies have indicated that the completion of strength
training programs leads to an increase in absolute or
relative external mechanical power [27,51,6979]. The
effectiveness of strength training programs may be
explained by Newton’s second law of motion (Rforces
acting on an object =object’s mass Object’s accelera-
tion). Within this law, the change in motion of an object
(i.e. acceleration) is directly proportional to the forces
impressed upon it. If greater forces are produced over a
given period of time, a greater acceleration is produced,
resulting in a greater velocity. Thus, increases in both
force and velocity will ultimately result in an increase in
power. Given that muscular strength has been defined as
the ability to exert force on an external object or resis-
tance [1,2], practitioners must consider the importance of
enhancing maximal strength when it comes to the
development and improvement of external mechanical
power. Previous research has examined the relationships
between an individual’s strength levels and external
mechanical power (Table 2).
Collectively, the studies displayed in Table 2reported
177 Pearson correlation coefficients. 134 of the reported
correlation magnitudes (76 %) displayed moderate or
greater relationship with strength, while 116 (65 %)
displayed a correlation magnitude of greater than or
equal to 0.5, indicating a large relationship. In support of
these findings, several studies have examined external
mechanical power performance differences between
stronger and weaker subjects. Many of the studies indi-
cated that the stronger subjects produced statistically
greater external mechanical power characteristics as
compared to their weaker counterparts [12,14,15,37,
48,55,56,85,8795], while only one study noted that
no statistical differences existed between strong and
weak subjects [38]. However, the authors of the latter
article noted that the lack of statistical differences
between strong and weak subjects may have been due to
the lack of task homogeneity of the examined subjects
which included cricket, judo, rugby, and soccer athletes.
A second potential explanation may be the use of an
isometric strength test compared to a dynamic strength
test. The authors of the latter study indicated that
dynamicstrengthtestsmaybemorepracticalwhen
assessing relationships between relative strength and
dynamic performance. For a more detailed comparison,
readers are directed to a review by Cormie and col-
leagues [96]. Taken collectively, the scientific literature
suggests that muscular strength is highly correlated to
external mechanical power and may be considered the
foundation upon which external mechanical power can
be built [25,97,98].
4 Influence of Strength on General Sport Skills
Some of the most common movements in sports are
jumping, sprinting, and rapid change of direction (COD)
tasks. The ability to perform these movements effectively
may ultimately determine the outcome of certain events.
As discussed previously, muscular strength can have a
significant influence on important force-time characteris-
tics related to performance. In theory, enhanced force-time
characteristics should transfer to the ability to perform
general sport skills. Therefore, the influence of muscular
strength on jumping, sprinting, and COD cannot be
overlooked.
4.1 Jumping
Jumping tasks, whether they are vertical or horizontal, are
regularly performed and are often part of a larger skill set
needed to be successful in sport competitions. In some
instances, the ability to jump higher or farther than another
competitor will determine who wins the competition (e.g.,
high jump, long jump, triple jump), while the repetitive
nature of jumping tasks in other sports does not determine
the winner. In team sports, jumping tasks may be used
during rebounding in basketball, spiking/blocking in vol-
leyball, diving in baseball, etc. While impulse may ulti-
mately determine the jumping performance of an
individual [21], distinct force-time characteristics may
determine the shape and magnitude of the impulse created
[99,100]. As noted above, greater muscular strength may
modify the force-time characteristics of an individual.
Specifically, increases in muscular strength achieved
through resistance training can alter both peak performance
variables as well as the shape of the force-time curve [77,
89,101]. Further research has indicated that stronger
individuals may possess distinct force-time curve charac-
teristics compared to weaker individuals (e.g., unweighted
phase duration, relative shape of the jump phases, net
impulse forces) [55,77,99]. Specifically, stronger subjects
produced a shorter unweighted phase [99] and greater
forces in the area of the force-time curve corresponding to
net impulse compared to weaker subjects [55]. Moreover,
increases in maximal strength following 10 weeks of
strength training produced positive force adaptations dur-
ing the late eccentric/early concentric phase of jump squats
[77]. In support of previous research, a number of other
studies examined the relationships between maximal
strength and jumping performance (Table 3).
Collectively, the studies displayed in Table 3reported
116 Pearson correlation magnitudes. Ninety-one of the
reported correlation magnitudes (78 %) displayed a mod-
erate or greater relationship with strength. Furthermore, 69
Strength and Athletic Performance
123
Table 2 Summary of studies correlating maximal strength and peak power variables
Study Subjects (n) Strength measure PP measure Correlation results
Baker and
Nance
[49]
Professional male rugby league players
(n=20)
3RM BS, 3RM BP, 3RM HPC JS, incline BP
throw
JS: r= 0.81 (3RM BS), r= 0.79 (3RM HPC)
Incline BP throw: r= 0.89 (3RM BP), r= 0.55 (3RM HPC)
Baker [15] National Rugby League and city-league
college-aged rugby league males
(n=49)
1RM BP BP throw at PP load r= 0.82 (All), r= 0.58 (National Rugby League players), r= 0.85
(City-league players)
Baker
et al. [80]
Professional and semiprofessionals male
rugby league players (n=31)
1RM BP BP throw at PP load r= 0.66 (Professional), r= 0.85 (Semiprofessional)
Carlock
et al. [44]
National-level male and female junior and
senior weightlifters (n=64)
1RM BS, 1RM snatch, 1RM CandJ,
Rel 1RM BS, Rel 1RM snatch,
Rel 1RM CandJ
CMJ and SJ PP, Rel
PP
1RM BS and CMJ PP: r= 0.91 (Men), 0.82 (Women), 0.92 (All); Rel
CMJ PP: r=-0.17 (Men), 0.23 (Women), 0.39 (All); SJ PP:
r= 0.91 (Men), 0.82 (Women), 0.93 (All); Rel SJ PP: r= 0.42
(Men), 0.33 (Women), 0.42 (All)
1RM Snatch and CMJ PP: r= 0.93 (Men), 0.76 (Women), 0.93 (All);
Rel CMJ PP: r=-0.10 (Men), 0.15 (Women), 0.47 (All); SJ PP:
r= 0.93 (Men), 0.76 (Women), 0.92 (All); Rel SJ PP: r= 0.23
(Men), 0.28 (Women), 0.60 (All)
1RM C&J and CMJ PP: r= 0.90 (Men), 0.76 (Women), 0.91 (All); Rel
CMJ PP: r=-0.19 (Men), 0.17 (Women), 0.45 (All); SJ PP:
r= 0.90 (Men), 0.76 (Women), 0.90 (All); Rel SJ PP: r= 0.34
(Men), 0.26 (Women), 0.59 (All)
Rel 1RM BS: r= 0.29 (CMJ PP), r= 0.49 (Rel CMJ PP), r= 0.24 (SJ
PP), r= 0.72 (Rel SJ PP)
Rel 1RM Snatch: r= 0.25 (CMJ PP), r= 0.53 (Rel CMJ PP), r= 0.20
(SJ PP), r= 0.74 (Rel SJ PP)
Rel 1RM C&J: r= 0.19 (CMJ PP), r= 0.71 (Rel CMJ PP), r= 0.14 (SJ
PP), r= 0.71 (Rel SJ PP)
Cronin and
Hansen
[81]
Professional male rugby league players
(n=16)
3RM BS 30 kg JS average
power, Rel 30 kg
JS average power
r= 0.42 (JS average power), r= 0.15 (Rel 30 kg JS average power)
Haff et al.
[31]
Elite female weightlifters (n=6) IMTP CMJ, SJ PP r= 0.88 (CMJ)
r= 0.92 (SJ)
Jones et al.
[82]
Recreationally-trained males (n=29) 1RM BS CMJ PP, average
power
r= 0.70 (PP), r= 0.67 (Average power)
Kawamori
et al. [32]
Collegiate male athletes (n=15) 1RM HPC, Rel 1RM HPC CMJ and SJ PP 1RM HPC: r= 0.68 (CMJ), r= 0.71 (SJ)
Rel 1RM HPC: r= 0.45 (CMJ), r= 0.46 (SJ)
Kawamori
et al. [33]
Collegiate male weightlifters (n=8) IMTP CMJ, SJ PP r= 0.95 (CMJ), r= 0.70 (SJ)
Moss et al.
[51]
Well-trained male physical education
students (n=30)
1RM Elbow flexion Elbow flexion PP,
elbow flexion
with 2.5 kg PP
r= 0.93 (Elbow flexion PP), r= 0.73 (Elbow flexion with 2.5 kg)
T. J. Suchomel et al.
123
Table 2 continued
Study Subjects (n) Strength measure PP measure Correlation results
Nuzzo
et al. [46]
Male NCAA division I AA football and
track and field athletes (n=12)
1RM BS, 1RM PC, IS (140knee
angle), IMTP, Rel 1RM BS, Rel
1RM PC, Rel IS, Rel IMTP
CMJ PP, Rel CMJ
PP
PP: r= 0.84 (1RM BS), r= 0.86 (1RM PC), r= 0.71 (IS), r= 0.75
(IMTP)
Rel PP: r= 0.68 (Rel 1RM BS), r= 0.71 (Rel 1RM PC), r= 0.27 (Rel
IS), r= 0.51 (Rel IMTP)
Peterson
et al. [83]
First-year male and female collegiate
athletes (n=55)
1RM BS, Rel 1RM BS CMJ PP 1RM BS: r= 0.92 (All), r= 0.66 (Males), r= 0.72 (Females)
Rel 1RM BS: r= 0.69 (All), r= 0.39 (Males), r=-0.06 (Females)
Requena
et al. [84]
Professional male soccer players (n=21) 1RM COHS, knee extensor MVC,
plantar flexor MVC
COHS PP with 50,
75, 100, and
125 % of BM
loads
50 % BM PP: r= 0.59 (1RM COHS), r= 0.60 (Knee Extensor MVC),
r= 0.61 (Plantar Flexor MVC)
75 % BM PP: r= 0.66 (1RM COHS), r= 0.65 (Knee Extensor MVC),
r= 0.49 (Plantar Flexor MVC)
100 % BM PP: r= 0.83 (1RM COHS), r= 0.67 (Knee Extensor
MVC), r= 0.57 (Plantar Flexor MVC)
125 % BM PP: r= 0.75 (1RM COHS), r= 0.58 (Knee Extensor
MVC), r= 0.39 (Plantar Flexor MVC)
Sheppard
et al. [85]
International-level male volleyball players
(n=21)
Rel 1RM BS, Rel 1RM PC CMJ Rel PP, CMJ
?50 % body mass
Rel PP
CMJ Rel PP: r= 0.52 (Rel 1RM BS), r= 0.50 (Rel 1RM PC)
CMJ ?50 % body mass Rel PP: r= 0.59 (Rel 1RM BS), r= 0.51 (Rel
1RM PC)
Speranza
et al. [86]
Male first grade (n=10), second grade
(n=12), and under 20 s (n=14) semi-
professional rugby league players
3RM BS, Rel 3RM BS CMJ PP 3RM BS: r= 0.44 (All), r= 0.57 (First grade), r= 0.35 (Second
grade), r= 0.36 (Under 20 s)
Rel 3RM BS: r= 0.11 (All), r= 0.38 (First grade), r= 0.10 (Second
grade), r=-0.02 (Under 20 s)
Speranza
et al. [86]
Male first grade (n=10), second grade
(n=12), and under 20 s (n=14) semi-
professional rugby league players
3RM BP, Rel 3RM BP Plyometric push-up
PP
3RM BP: r= 0.43 (All), r= 0.79 (First grade), r= 0.07 (Second
grade), r= 0.55 (Under 20 s)
Rel 3RM BP: r= 0.09 (All), r= 0.02 (First grade), r= 0.30 (Second
grade), r=-0.18 (Under 20 s)
Stone et al.
[48]
Males with BS experience ranging 7 weeks
–15?years (n=22)
1RM BS CMJ, SJ at
10–100 % 1RM
BS
CMJ: r= 0.78 (10 %), r= 0.84 (20 %), r= 0.85 (30 %), r= 0.88
(40 %), r= 0.88 (50 %), r= 0.85 (60 %), r= 0.84 (70 %), r= 0.80
(80 %), r= 0.73 (90 %), r= 0.60 (100 %)
SJ: r= 0.84 (10 %), r= 0.87 (20 %), r= 0.90 (30 %), r= 0.94 (40 %),
r= 0.94 (50 %), r= 0.93 (60 %), r= 0.90 (70 %), r= 0.91 (80 %),
r= 0.86 (90 %), r= 0.75 (100 %)
Stone et al.
[37]
International and local-level male cyclists
(n=30)
IMTP, Rel IMTP, IMTPa CMJ and SJ PP, Rel
PP, PPa
IMTP: r= 0.79 (CMJ PP), r= 0.49 (CMJ Rel PP), r= 0.67 (CMJ PPa),
r= 0.78 (SJ PP), r= 0.42 (SJ Rel PP), r= 0.62 (SJ PPa)
Rel IMTP: r= 0.40 (CMJ PP), r= 0.43 (CMJ Rel PP), r= 0.44 (CMJ
PPa), r= 0.39 (SJ PP), r= 0.40 (SJ Rel PP), r= 0.42 (SJ PPa)
IMTPa: r= 0.60 (CMJ PP), r= 0.48 (CMJ Rel PP), r= 0.57 (CMJ
PPa), r= 0.59 (SJ PP), r= 0.43 (SJ Rel PP), r= 0.54 (SJ PPa)
Strength and Athletic Performance
123
correlation magnitudes (59 %) were greater than or equal
to 0.5, indicating a large relationship. In support of these
findings, several studies indicated that stronger individuals
jumped higher compared to weaker individuals [12,34,50,
56,85]. In contrast, one study indicated that there was no
difference in jump height between strong and weak sub-
jects [38]. A potential explanation for the latter findings
may include the lack of task homogeneity of the subjects
and the use of an isometric strength test compared to a
dynamic strength test to compare dynamic performance.
4.2 Sprinting
The ability to accelerate rapidly and reach high sprinting
speeds is a vital component of many sports or events.
While peak sprinting speeds may dictate the winner of
certain track events (e.g., 100, 200 m, etc.), athletes play-
ing field sports such as soccer, rugby, lacrosse, and field
hockey may not necessarily reach their maximum velocity
regularly [113]. In fact, the average sprint time in soccer
[114] and rugby union [115] is approximately 2 s covering
distances of about 14 m [116] and 20 m [117,118],
respectively. Further research indicated that rugby union
players may only reach approximately 70 % of their
maximum sprinting speed after sprinting for 2 s [119].
Thus, it would appear that the ability to accelerate over
short distances may be paramount for field athletes.
Previous research indicated that elite athletes produced
greater speeds over short distances compared to non-elite
athletes [120]. Faster runners possess several characteris-
tics such as greater force application, shorter ground con-
tact times, and greater stride lengths [54]. Further research
indicated that sprint performance may be limited by the
ability to produce a high RFD over the brief contacts
instead of the ability to apply force [53]. In fact, better
sprinters are able to generate greater vertical forces within
the first half of their stance phase [16]. As displayed above,
maximal strength is strongly correlated with RFD and thus,
it is logical that sprinting performance would also be
related to the strength level of individuals. Previous
research has indicated that increases in strength coincide
with increases in short sprint performance [121125]. In
support of these findings, a number of studies have
examined the relationships between maximal strength and
sprinting performance (Table 4).
Better sprinting performances are indicated by faster
sprint times and higher speeds. Collectively, 67 correlation
magnitudes between strength and sprinting performance
were reported in Table 4. Of those within the table, 57
reported a moderate or greater relationship with strength
(85 %), while 44 (66 %) displayed substantial relationships
with strength. The correlation results presented in Table 4
are supported by a recent meta-analysis that indicated that
Table 2 continued
Study Subjects (n) Strength measure PP measure Correlation results
Stone et al.
[37]
National-level male and female cyclists
(n=20)
IMTP, Rel IMTP, IMTPa CMJ and SJ PP, Rel
PP, PPa
IMTP: r= 0.85 (CMJ PP), r= 0.68 (CMJ Rel PP), r= 0.78 (CMJ PPa),
r= 0.86 (SJ PP), r= 0.69 (SJ Rel PP), r= 0.78 (SJ PPa)
Rel IMTP: r= 0.41 (CMJ PP), r= 0.56 (CMJ Rel PP), r= 0.52 (CMJ
PPa), r= 0.42 (SJ PP), r= 0.62 (SJ Rel PP), r= 0.56 (SJ PPa)
IMTPa: r= 0.64 (CMJ PP), r= 0.68 (CMJ Rel PP), r= 0.73 (CMJ
PPa), r= 0.61 (SJ PP), r= 0.72 (SJ Rel PP), r= 0.76 (SJ PPa)
Thomas
et al. [38]
Male collegiate cricket, judo, rugby, and
soccer athletes (n=22)
IMTP, Rel IMTP CMJ, SJ PP IMTP: r= 0.34 (CMJ), r= 0.46 (SJ)
Rel IMTP: r= 0.01, r= 0.15 (SJ)
1RM one repetition maximum, 3RM three repetition maximum, BP bench press, BS back squat, C&J clean and jerk, CMJ countermovement jump, COHS concentric-only half-squat, HPC hang
power clean, IMTP isometric mid-thigh clean pull, IMTPa allometrically-scaled isometric mid-thigh clean pull, IS isometric squat, JS jump squat, MVC maximal voluntary contraction, PC
power clean, PP peak power, PPa allometrically-scaled peak power, Rel relative, per kilogram of body mass, SJ squat jump
T. J. Suchomel et al.
123
Table 3 Summary of studies correlating maximal strength and jump height/distance
Study Subjects (n) Strength measure Jump type Correlation results
Augustsson
and
Thomee
´
[102]
Recreationally-trained males
(n=16)
3RM BS CMJ r= 0.51
Blackburn
et al. [45]
Healthy female college
students (n=20)
1RM BS, 1RM knee extension CMJ, broad jump 1RM BS: r= 0.65 (CMJ), r= 0.72 (Broad jump)
1RM Knee extension: r= 0.10 (CMJ), 0.07 (Broad jump)
Carlock et al.
[44]
National-level male and
female junior and senior
weightlifters (n=64)
1RM BS, 1RM snatch, 1RM CandJ, Rel
1RM BS, Rel 1RM snatch, Rel 1RM
CandJ
CMJ, SJ CMJ: r= 0.52 (1RM BS), r=0.60 (1RM Snatch), r=0.59 (1RM
CandJ), r=0.69 (Rel 1RM BS), r=0.76 (Rel 1RM Snatch),
r=0.72 (Rel 1RM CandJ)
SJ: r=0.58 (1RM BS), r=0.64 (1RM Snatch), r=0.64 (1RM C&J),
r=0.72 (Rel 1RM BS), r=0.75 (Rel 1RM Snatch), r=0.72 (Rel
1RM C&J)
Comfort et al.
[103]
Well-trained youth male
soccer players (n=34)
1RM BS, Rel 1RM BS CMJ, SJ 1RM BS: r=0.76 (CMJ), r=0.76 (SJ)
Rel 1RM BS: r=0.62 (CMJ), r=0.64 (SJ)
Cronin and
Hansen [81]
Professional male rugby
league players (n=16)
3RM BS CMJ, 30 kg JS r=0.14 (CMJ), r=0.16 (30 kg JS)
Jones et al.
[82]
Recreationally-trained males
(n=29)
1RM BS CMJ, broad jump r=0.22 (CMJ), r=0.17 (Broad jump)
Kawamori
et al. [32]
Collegiate male athletes
(n=15)
1RM HPC, Rel 1RM HPC CMJ, SJ 1RM HPC: r=0.13 (CMJ), r=0.09 (SJ)
Rel 1RM HPC: r=0.56 (CMJ), r=0.47 (SJ)
Kawamori
et al. [33]
Collegiate male weightlifters
(n=8)
IMTP CMJ, SJ r=0.82 (CMJ), r=0.87 (SJ)
Koch et al.
[104]
Male and female track and
field athletes (n=11)
Untrained male and female
subjects (n=21)
1RM BS Broad jump r=0.81
Kraska et al.
[34]
Male and female NCAA
division I athletes (n=81)
IMTP, IMTPa CMJ, SJ
LCMJ, LSJ
IMTP: r=0.36 (CMJ) r=0.40 (SJ), r=0.55 (LCMJ), r=0.55 (LSJ)
IMTPa: r=0.41 (CMJ) r=0.41 (SJ), r=0.52 (LCMJ), r=0.52
(LSJ)
Loturco et al.
[105]
Male and female Brazilian
national team boxers
(n=15)
IS (90knee angle) CMJ, SJ r=0.79 (CMJ), r=0.79 (SJ)
McGuigan
et al. [35]
NCAA division III male
wrestlers (n=8)
IMTP CMJ r=Not specified
McGuigan
and
Winchester
[36]
NCAA division I male football
players (n=22)
1RM BS, IMTP CMJ, broad jump CMJ: r=0.54 (1RM BS), Not specified for IMTP
Broad jump: Not specified for 1RM BS or IMTP
McGuigan
et al. [106]
Recreationally-trained males
(n=26)
1RM BS, IMTP, 1RM BP CMJ r=0.69 (1RM BS), r=0.72 (IMTP), r=0.70 (1RM BP)
Strength and Athletic Performance
123
Table 3 continued
Study Subjects (n) Strength measure Jump type Correlation results
Nimphius
et al. [42]
Female Australian Institute of
Sport state softball players
(n=10)
Rel 1RM BS CMJ r=0.36 (Pre-season), r=0.38 (Mid-season), r=0.16 (Post-season)
Nuzzo et al.
[46]
Male NCAA division I AA
football and track and field
athletes (n=12)
1RM BS, 1RM PC, IS (140knee angle),
IMTP, Rel 1RM BS, Rel 1RM PC, Rel
IS, Rel IMTP
CMJ r=0.22 (1RM BS), r=0.06 (1RM PC), r=-0.07 (IS), r=0.28
(IMTP), r=0.69 (Rel 1RM BS), r=0.64 (Rel 1RM PC), r=0.28
(Rel IS), r=0.59 (Rel IMTP)
Peterson
et al. [83]
First-year male and female
collegiate athletes (n=55)
1RM BS, Rel 1RM BS CMJ, broad jump 1RM BS and CMJ: r=0.86 (All), r=0.54 (Males), r=0.37
(Females); Broad jump: r=0.77 (All), r=0.45 (Males), r=0.31
(Females)
Rel 1RM BS and CMJ: r=0.85 (All), r=0.67 (Males), r=0.55
(Females); Broad jump: r=0.81 (All), r=0.53 (Males), r=0.64
(Females)
Requena
et al. [84]
Professional male soccer
players (n=21)
1RM COHS, knee extensor MVC,
plantar flexor MVC
CMJ, SJ CMJ: r=0.50 (1RM COHS), r=0.57 (Knee Extensor MVC),
r=0.14 (Plantar Flexor MVC)
SJ: r=0.50 (1RM COHS), r=0.55 (Knee Extensor MVC), r=0.30
(Plantar Flexor MVC)
Secomb et al.
[107]
International-level male
surfers (n=15)
IMTP CMJ, SJ r=0.65 (CMJ), r=0.58 (SJ)
Secomb et al.
[108]
Junior male and female
competitive surfers (n=30)
IMTP, Rel IMTP CMJ, SJ IMTP: r=0.48 (CMJ), r=0.48 (SJ)
Rel IMTP: r=0.46, r=0.40 (SJ)
Sheppard
et al. [85]
International-level male
volleyball players (n=21)
Rel 1RM BS, Rel 1RM PC CMJ, Rel CMJ, spike
jump, Rel spike jump,
DJ, Rel DJ
CMJ: r=-0.44 (Rel 1RM BS), r=-0.40 (Rel 1RM PC)
Rel CMJ: r=0.54 (Rel 1RM BS), r=0.53 (Rel 1RM PC)
Spike jump: r=-0.06 (Rel 1RM BS), r=-0.01 (Rel 1RM PC)
Rel Spike jump: r=0.64 (Rel 1RM BS), r=0.65 (Rel 1RM PC)
DJ: r=-0.35 (Rel 1RM BS), r=-0.29 (Rel 1RM PC)
Rel DJ: r=0.55 (Rel 1RM BS), r=0.55 (Rel 1RM PC)
Stone et al.
[37]
International and local-level
male cyclists (n=30)
IMTP, Rel IMTP, IMTPa CMJ, SJ IMTP: r=0.59 (CMJ), r=0.51 (SJ)
Rel IMTP: r=0.45 (CMJ), r=0.42 (SJ)
IMTPa: r=0.54 (CMJ), r=0.48 (SJ)
Stone et al.
[37]
National-level male and
female cyclists (n=20)
IMTP, Rel IMTP, IMTPa CMJ, SJ IMTP: r=0.67 (CMJ), r=0.66 (SJ)
Rel IMTP: r=0.59 (CMJ), r=0.61 (SJ)
IMTPa: r=0.67 (CMJ), r=0.68 (SJ)
Thomas et al.
[38]
Male collegiate cricket, judo,
rugby, and soccer athletes
(n=22)
IMTP, Rel IMTP CMJ, SJ IMTP: r=-0.02 (CMJ), r=-0.04 (SJ)
Rel IMTP: r=-0.09, r=-0.10 (SJ)
Ugarkovic
et al. [109]
Junior male basketball players
(n=33)
Rel hip extensor MVC, Rel knee
extensor MVC
CMJ r=0.38 (Rel hip extensor MVC), r=0.52 (Rel knee extensor MVC)
Wisløff et al.
[110]
Norwegion elite male soccer
players (n=29)
1RM BS CMJ r=0.61
T. J. Suchomel et al.
123
increases in lower body strength positively transfer to
sprinting performance [134]. Further research indicated
that stronger individuals produced faster sprinting perfor-
mances compared to those who were weaker [50,56,81,
130,131,135], while some research indicated that there
was no difference between strong and weak subjects [14,
81]. A potential explanation for the conflicting findings was
the use of only absolute strength measures in both inves-
tigations [14,81] without a report or analysis of relative
strength and sprinting performance.
4.3 Change of Direction
For the purposesof this review, relationships between strength
and COD performance were evaluated strictly on pre-planned
COD tests because the neuromuscular strategies associated
with agility (reactive) performance are unique and highly
dependent on a combination of cognitive processing strategies
[136]. Thus, this review focused on the relationship between
the physical capacity of COD and the physical attribute of
strength. However, future research should seek to understand
the interaction between perceptual-cognitive strategies and
the ability to use physical attributes such as strength during
agility tasks as the most recent research indicates that direct
relationships between strength and agility are only small in
magnitude or do not differ between stronger and weaker
athletes [137,138]. Similar to sprinting, RFD is critical for
COD tasks that occur in periods that preclude athletes from
producingtheir maximal force capacity. Specifically, the plant
phase, which is when the actual COD occurs, can range from
0.23–0.77 s dependent on the entry velocity and severity of
the COD angle required [137,139141]. All ground contact
lengths during a COD exceed the typical ground contact time
of both the acceleration phase of sprinting (0.17–0.2 s) [142]
and the maximal velocity phase of sprinting (0.09–0.11 s)
[143]. Therefore a strong relationship between maximal
strength and COD performance would be expected, asthere is
greater amount of time available to utilize one’s maximal
strength. However, similar to sprinting, COD performance
requires not only having the strength to change one’s
momentum, but also the ability to use this strength through
coordinated body movements within the constraints of the
activity [136,137,139,144,145].
Based upon mathematical principles, those that can
apply greater force over a given time (greater impulse)
should be able to accelerate or change momentum with the
fastest velocity. However, the disparity in the expected
magnitude of the relationship between strength and COD
may have more to do with the tests used to measure ‘‘COD
ability’’ and ‘‘strength’’ rather than the lack of association
between strength and COD ability. This hypothesis is
supported by research questioning the validity of ‘‘total
time’’ in the assessment of COD ability and that smaller
Table 3 continued
Study Subjects (n) Strength measure Jump type Correlation results
Wisløff et al.
[50]
International male soccer
players (n=17)
1RM HS CMJ r=0.78
Yamauchi
and Ishii
[111]
Untrained men and women
(n=67)
Isometric knee-hip extension peak force
on servo-controlled dynamometer, Rel
peak force
CMJ r=0.48 (Peak force), r=0.24 (Rel Peak force)
Young et al.
[112]
Males with at least 1 year of
jumping experience (n=29)
Rel IS (120knee angle) CMJ, run-up jump r=0.33 (CMJ), r=0.33 (Run-up jump)
1RM one repetition maximum; 3RM three repetition maximum; BP bench press; BS back squat; C&J clean and jerk; CMJ countermovement jump; COHS concentric-only half-squat; DJ depth,
drop jump; HPC hang power clean; HS half-squat; IMTP isometric mid-thigh clean pull; IMTPa allometrically-scaled isometric mid-thigh clean pull; IS isometric squat; JS jump squat; PC
power clean; Rel relative, per kilogram of body mass; SJ squat jump
Strength and Athletic Performance
123
Table 4 Summary of studies correlating maximal strength and sprinting performance variables
Study Subjects (n) Strength measure Sprint measure Correlation results
Baker and
Nance
[126]
Professional male rugby league players (n=20) 3RM BS, 3RM HPC, Rel
3RM BS, Rel 3RM HPC
10, 40 m times 10 m: r=-0.06 (3RM BS), r=-0.36 (3RM HPC), r=-
0.39 (Rel 3RM BS), r=-0.56 (Rel 3RM PC)
40 m: r=-0.19 (3RM BS), r=-0.24 (3RM HPC), r=-
0.66 (Rel 3RM BS), r=-0.72 (Rel 3RM PC)
Chaouachi
et al. [127]
Tunisian national team male basketball players
(n=14)
1RM HS 5, 10, 30 m times r=-0.63 (5 m), r=-0.68 (10 m), r=-0.65 (30 m)
Comfort
et al. [103]
Well-trained youth male soccer players (n=34) 1RM BS, Rel 1RM BS 5, 20 m times 1RM BS: r=-0.60 (5 m), r=-0.65 (20 m)
Rel 1RM BS: r=-0.52 (5 m), r=-0.67 (20 m)
Cronin and
Hansen
[81]
Professional male rugby league players (n=16) 3RM BS 5, 10, 30 m times r=-0.05 (5 m), r=-0.01 (10 m), r=-0.29 (30 m)
Harris et al.
[128]
Male national-level rugby training squad and national
rugby league premier squad members (n=30)
1RM machine hack squat,
Rel 1RM machine hack
squat
10, 30/40 m times 10 m: r=0.20 (1RM), r=-0.10 (Rel 1RM)
30/40 m: r=-0.14 (1RM), r=-0.33 (Rel 1RM)
Lockie et al.
[129]
Male field sport athletes (n=20) 3RM BS, Rel 3RM BS 0–5, 5–10, and 0–10 m
velocity
3RM BS: r=0.43 (0–5 m), r=0.60 (5–10 m), r=0.47
(0–10 m)
Rel 3RM BS: r=0.50 (0–5 m), r=0.66 (5–10 m), r=0.56
(0–10 m)
McBride
et al. [130]
NCAA division I AA football players
(n=17)
Rel 1RM BS 5, 10, 40 m times r=-0.45 (5 m), r=-0.54 (10 m), r=-0.60 (40 m)
Meckel
et al. [131]
NCAA division I female track field sprinters
(n=30)
Rel 1RM BS 100 m r=-0.89
Nimphius
et al. [42]
Female Australian Institute of Sport state softball
players (n=10)
Rel 1RM BS 10 m split to first base,
first base, Second base
times
10 m split: r=-0.87 (Pre-season), r=-0.85 (Mid-season),
r=-0.75 (Post-season)
First base: r=-0.84 (Pre-season), r=-0.84 (Mid-season),
r=-0.80 (Post-season)
Second base: r=-0.84 (Pre-season), r=-0.79 (Mid-
season), r=-0.83 (Post-season)
Peterson
et al. [83]
First-year male and female collegiate athletes
(n=55)
1RM BS, Rel 1RM BS 20, 40 y velocities 1RM BS and 20y: r=0.82 (All), r=0.39 (Males), r=0.38
(Females); 40y: r=0.85 (All), r=0.43 (Males), r=0.40
(Females)
Rel 1RM BS and 20y: r=0.88 (All), r=0.65 (Males),
r=0.72 (Females); 40y: r=0.88 (All), r=0.72 (Males),
r=0.71 (Females)
Requena
et al. [84]
Professional male soccer players (n=21) 1RM COHS, knee
extensor MVC, plantar
flexor MVC
15 m time r=-0.47 (1RM COHS), r=-0.42 (Knee Extensor MVC),
r=-0.35 (Plantar Flexor MVC)
Seitz et al.
[132]
Male junior rugby league players (n=13) 1RM BS, Rel 1RM BS,
1RM PC, Rel 1RM PC
20 m time r=-0.60 (1RM BS), r=-0.57 (Rel 1RM BS), r=-0.62
(1RM PC), r=-0.64 (Rel 1RM PC)
T. J. Suchomel et al.
123
time intervals [146148] or direct measures of center of
mass velocity [144,149] provide more valid assessments of
COD ability that may ultimately assist in better under-
standing the underpinning relationship between strength
and COD ability. With respect to the measurement of
strength, recent research has shown that measures of
eccentric, concentric, dynamic, and isometric strength all
contribute to COD performance [150]; however, a majority
of research simply measures one ‘‘type’’ of strength. When
assessing COD performance by the 505 and T-test which
require demanding COD (greater than 75), eccentric
strength contributed the most to COD performance [150].
Therefore, our understanding of the association between
strength and COD ability are ever-expanding as we
examine more specific or valid measures of each under-
pinning physical quality. Table 5displays studies that have
examined the relationships between maximal strength and
COD performance.
Collectively, the studies displayed in Table 5reported
45 Pearson correlation coefficients between COD perfor-
mances (examined by a variety of running based tests) and
maximal strength (using a variety of multi-joint assess-
ments). Thirty-five of the correlation magnitudes (78 %)
indicated a moderate or greater relationship with strength
while 27 (60 %) displayed a large or greater relationship
with strength. Previous research that has examined the
differences in COD time between stronger and weaker
subjects has been mixed [56,137,138,144]. Some studies
indicated that individuals who are faster during a COD test
possess greater strength compared to those who are slower
[137,138]. Other research indicated that there was no
difference between stronger and weaker subjects when
total time was assessed [56,144]. The difference in find-
ings may be attributed to the sensitivity of the measure
used to assess COD performance. For example, when COD
performance was evaluated by total time to complete a
COD task and the exit velocity out of a COD task (a
measure specifically evaluating the change of direction
step), only exit velocity was significantly faster in the
stronger subjects [144]. Overall, a majority of the evidence
supports a moderate to very large relationship between
maximal strength and COD performance, but the limita-
tions or variety of testing methodologies may primarily
explain the various magnitudes of the relationships.
5 Influence of Strength on Specific Sport Skills
and Performance
While the transfer of strength to the improvement of force-
time characteristics is viewed as a positive adaptation from
a theoretical standpoint, the transfer of strength to the
actual sport skills and performance of athletes is
Table 4 continued
Study Subjects (n) Strength measure Sprint measure Correlation results
Thomas
et al. [133]
Collegiate male soccer and rugby league players
(n=14)
IMTP 5, 20 m times r=-0.57 (5 m), r=-0.69 (20 m)
Wisløff
et al. [50]
International male soccer players (n=17) 1RM HS 10, 30 m times r=-0.94 (10 m), r=-0.71 (30 m)
Young et al.
[113]
Australian junior national track and field hurdlers,
jumpers, and multi-event athletes (n=7)
IS (120knee angle) 2.5, 10 m at max speed
times
r=-0.72 (2.5 m), r=-0.79 (10 m at max speed)
1RM one repetition maximum, 3RM three repetition maximum, BP bench press, BS back squat, COHS concentric-only half-squat, HPC hang power clean, HS half-squat, IMTP isometric mid-
thigh clean pull, IS isometric squat, MVC maximal voluntary contraction, PC power clean, Rel relative, per kilogram of body mass
Strength and Athletic Performance
123
Table 5 Summary of studies correlating maximal strength and change of direction variables
Study Subjects (n) Strength test COD test Correlation results
Chaouachi et al.
[127]
Tunisian national team male basketball
players (n=14)
1RM HS T-test r=0.18
Delaney et al. [151] Professional rugby league players
(n=31)
3RM BS, Rel 3RM
BS
505-D time,
505-ND time,
3RM BS: r=-0.28 (505-D), r=-0.21 (505-ND)
Rel 3RM BS: r=-0.52 (505-D), r=-0.56 (505-ND)
Hori et al. [56] Semiprofessional male Australian rules
football players (n=29)
1RM FS, Rel 1RM
FS
modified 505 time 1RM FS: r=-0.37
Rel 1RM FS: r=-0.51
Jones et al. [152] University students (mixed gender)
with various recreational sporting
backgrounds (n=38)
Rel 1RM leg press 505 time r=-0.45
Markovic [153] Male physical education students
(n=76)
1RM BS, IS (120
knee angle)
20-yard shuttle run
time, slalom run
time
1RM BS: r=-0.31 (20-yard shuttle run), r=-0.21 (Slalom run)
IS: r=0.03 (20-yard shuttle run), r=0.08 (Slalom run)
Nimphius et al. [42] Female West Australian Institute of
Sport softball players (n=10)
Rel 1RM BS 505-D time,
505-ND time
505-D: r=-0.50 (Pre-season), r=-0.75 (Mid-season), r=-0.60 (Post-
season)
505-ND: r=-0.75 (Pre-season), r=-0.73 (Mid-season), r=-0.85
(Post-season)
Peterson et al. [83] First-year male and female collegiate
athletes (n=55)
1RM BS, Rel 1RM
BS
T-test time 1RM BS & T-test: r=-0.78 (All), r=-0.17 (Males), r=-0.41
(Females)
Rel 1RM BS & T-test: r=-0.81 (All), r=-0.33 (Males), r=-0.63
(Females)
Spiteri et al. [150] Female professional basketball players
(n=12)
Rel 1RM BS, Rel
Con BS, Rel Ecc
BS, Rel IMTP
505 time, T-test
time
Rel 1RM BS: r=-0.80 (505), r=-0.80 (T-test), Rel Con BS: r=-0.79
(505), r=-0.79 (T-test)
Rel Ecc BS: r=-0.89 (505), r=-0.88 (T-test)
Rel IMTP: r=-0.79 (505), r=-0.85 (T-test)
Spiteri et al. [149] Stronger (n=12) and weaker
(n=12) recreational athletes; mixed
gender
IS (unilateral) 45COD task exit
velocity, 45COD
task time
Exit Velocity - Stronger: r=0.89 (force application during COD); r=0.95
(impulse during COD); Weaker: r=0.52 (force application during COD);
r=0.13 (impulse during COD)
(Time) Stronger: r=-0.37 (force application during COD); r=- 0.48
(impulse during COD); Weaker: r=-0.32 (force application during COD);
r=0.17 (impulse during COD)
Swinton et al. [154] Scottish Premier League
nonprofessional male rugby union
players (n=30)
ALLO 1RM BS,
ALLO 1RM
deadlift
505 time ALLO 1RM BS: r=-0.70
ALLO 1RM Deadlift: r=-0.72
Thomas et al. [133] Collegiate male soccer and rugby
league players (n=14)
IMTP Modified 505 time r=-0.57
Wisløff et al. [50] International male soccer players
(n=17)
1RM HS 10 m shuttle run r=-0.68
T. J. Suchomel et al.
123
paramount. If the strength characteristics of an athlete did
not transfer to the performance of the athletes in their
sports or events, sport coaches may be less inclined to
incorporate resistance training as a method of preparing
their athletes to perform. However, previous literature
supports the notion that muscular strength is one of the
underlying determinants of strength-power performance [5,
25,96,97], but is also associated with enhanced endurance
performance [155158]. Further research has examined the
relationships between an athlete’s strength and their per-
formance in a variety of sports (Table 6).
The examined studies in Table 6indicate that stronger
athletes outperform their weaker counterparts with regard
to both strength-power- and endurance-based sports or
events. Collectively, 107 correlation magnitudes were
reported with 101 (94 %) displaying a relationship with
strength that was moderate or greater and 89 (83 %) dis-
playing a large or greater relationship with strength. In
support of these findings, several studies have examined
sport performance differences between stronger and
weaker subjects. These studies indicated that stronger
cyclists had a faster 25-m track cycling time compared to
weaker cyclists [37], stronger handball players had a
greater standing and 3-step running throwing velocity
compared to weaker handball players [93], and that
stronger sprinters had a faster 100-m time compared to
weaker sprinters [131]. The combined evidence of the
comparisons between stronger and weaker athletes pro-
vides substantial support that stronger athletes within a
relatively homogenous level of skill perform better in
comparison to weaker athletes.
6 Influence of Strength on Additional Abilities
In addition to influencing an athlete’s force-time charac-
teristics, general sport skills, and specific sport skills,
muscular strength may also influence several other training
and performance characteristics. Some of the training and
performance characteristics that may be influenced by
muscular strength are the ability to potentiate when using
strength-power potentiation complexes, the magnitude of
potentiation that an athlete may achieve, and the reduction
of injury risk.
6.1 Potentiation
Much research has investigated the acute effects of
strength-power potentiation complexes on an individual’s
explosive performance. While a number of factors may
influence one’s ability to realize potentiation [167169],
one factor that may be modified through regular strength
training is the individual’s strength. In fact, previous
Table 5 continued
Study Subjects (n) Strength test COD test Correlation results
Young et al. [138] Community-level male Australian rules
football players (n=24)
Rel 3RM HS 45cut COD task
time
r=-0.20
1RM one repetition maximum, 3RM three repetition maximum, 505-D 505 agility test performed with dominant leg, 505-ND 505 agility test performed with non-dominant leg, ALLO
allometrically-scaled, BP bench press, BS back squat, COD change of direction, Con concentric-only movement, Ecc eccentric-only movement, FS front squat, HS half-squat, IMTP isometric
mid-thigh clean pull, IS isometric squat, Rel relative, per kilogram of body mass
Strength and Athletic Performance
123
Table 6 Summary of studies correlating maximal strength and specific sport skill performance
Study Subjects (n) Strength measure Performance measure Correlation results
Beckham
et al.
[30]
Male and female intermediate to advanced
weightlifters (n=12)
IMTP, IMTPa Snatch, C&J, total IMTP: r=0.83 (Snatch), r=0.84 (C&J), r=0.84
(Total)
IMTPa: r=0.62 (Snatch), r=0.60 (C&J), r=0.61
(Total)
Behm
et al.
[159]
Secondary school and current/former
junior level hockey players (n=30)
Dominant leg 1RM leg
press dominant leg
Rel 1RM leg press
On-ice skating time r=-0.30 (1RM leg press), r=-0.31 (Rel 1RM
leg press)
Carlock
et al.
[44]
National-level male and female junior and
senior weightlifters (n=64)
1RM BS, Rel 1RM BS Snatch, C&J, Rel snatch, Rel C&J 1RM BS & Snatch: r=0.93 (Men), r=0.79
(Women), r=0.94 (All)
1RM BS & C&J: r=0.95 (Men), r=0.86 (Women),
r=0.95 (All)
1RM BS: r=0.94 (Snatch), r=0.95 (C&J),
r=0.38 (Rel Snatch), r=0.36 (Rel C&J)
Rel 1RM BS: r=0.46 (Snatch), r=0.50 (C&J),
r=0.80 (Rel Snatch), r=0.85 (Rel C&J)
Dumke
et al.
[160]
Well-trained male runners (n=12) IS (140knee angle) VO
2
at stages 1–6 r=0.57 (Stage 4), No other data reported
Judge
et al.
2011
[161]
Elite and NCAA division I male and
female track and field throwers (n=57)
1RM BS Weight throw personal best r=0.64 (Males), r=0.80 (Females)
Judge and
Bellar
[162]
Male and female track and field throwers
coached by USA Track and Field level
III certified coach (n=53)
1RM BS, 1RM PC,
1RM BP
Shot put season best r=0.77 (1RM BS), r=0.87 (1RM PC), r=0.77
(1RM BP)
Loturco
et al.
[105]
Male and female Brazilian national team
boxers (n=15)
IHS Punch impact r=0.68 (Fixed jab), r=0.83 (Fixed cross), r=0.69
(Self-selected jab), r=0.73 (Self-selected cross)
Reyes
et al.
[163]
NCAA division III baseball players
(n=19)
3RM BP Bat speed r=0.51
Speranza
et al.
[86]
Male first grade (n=10), second grade
(n=12), and under 20 s (n=14) semi-
professional rugby league players
3RM BS, Rel 3RM BS,
3RM BP, Rel 3RM
BP
Rugby tackle ability 3RM BS: r=0.67 (All), r=0.72 (First grade),
r=0.55 (Second grade), r=0.77 (Under 20 s)
Rel 3RM BS: r=0.41 (All), r=0.86 (First grade),
r=0.60 (Second grade), r=0.38 (Under 20 s)
3RM BP: r=0.58 (All), r=0.72 (First grade),
r=0.18 (Second grade), r=0.70 (Under 20 s)
Rel 3RM BP: r=0.23 (All), r=0.27 (First grade),
r=0.26 (Second grade), r=0.08 (Under 20 s)
T. J. Suchomel et al.
123
Table 6 continued
Study Subjects (n) Strength measure Performance measure Correlation results
Speranza
et al.
[164]
Male semi-professional rugby league
players (n=16)
1RM BS Rugby tackle performance r=0.71 (Tackling ability), r=0.63 (Dominant
tackles)
Stone
et al.
[165]
Male and female NCAA division I
throwers (n=11)
IMTP Shot put, weight throw Shot put: r=0.67 (Pre), r=0.71 (Mid), r=0.75
(Post)
Weight throw: r=0.70 (Pre), r=0.76 (Mid),
r=0.79 (Post)
Stone
et al.
[37]
National-level male and female cyclists
(n=20)
IMTP, Rel IMTP,
IMTPa
Low gear (25 m, curve 1, back stretch, curve 2,
finish split times), high gear (25 m, curve 1,
back stretch, curve 2, finish split times)
IMTP & Low gear splits: r=-0.49 (25 m), r=-
0.54 (Curve 1), r=-0.52 (Back stretch), r=-
0.50 (Curve 2), r=-0.50 (Finish)
Rel IMTP & Low gear splits: r=-0.45 (25 m),
r=-0.50 (Curve 1), r=-0.53 (Back stretch),
r=-0.54 (Curve 2), r=-0.53 (Finish)
IMTPa & Low gear splits: r=-0.45 (25 m), r=-
0.50 (Curve 1), r=-0.51 (Back stretch), r=-
0.52 (Curve 2), r=-0.51 (Finish)
IMTP & High gear splits: r=-0.50 (25 m), r=-
0.51 (Curve 1), r=-0.54 (Back stretch), r=-
0.55 (Curve 2), r=-0.54 (Finish)
Rel IMTP & High gear splits: r=-0.58 (25 m),
r=-0.60 (Curve 1), r=-0.61 (Back stretch),
r=-0.60 (Curve 2), r=-0.58 (Finish)
IMTPa & High gear splits: r=-0.54 (25 m),
r=-0.56 (Curve 1), r=-0.58 (Back stretch),
r=-0.57 (Curve 2), r=-0.55 (Finish)
Stone
et al.
[166]
Male and female national and international
level weightlifters (n=65)
1RM BS
Rel 1RM BS
Snatch, clean, Rel snatch, Rel clean 1RM BS & Snatch : r=0.94 (All), r=0.94 (Men),
r=0.79 (Women)
1RM BS & Clean: r=0.95 (All), r=0.95 (Men),
r=0.86 (Women)
Rel 1RM BS & Rel Snatch: r=0.80 (All), r=0.68
(Men), r=0.71 (Women)
Rel 1RM BS & Rel Clean: r=0.85 (All), r=0.73
(Men), r=0.81 (Women)
Stone
et al.
[166]
Male and female elite-level American
weightlifters (n=16)
IMTP, Rel IMTP,
IMTPa
Snatch, C&J, Rel snatch, Rel C&J, SnatchA,
C&Ja
IMTP: r=0.83 (Snatch), r=0.84 (C&J)
Rel IMTP: r=0.37 (Rel Snatch), r=0.24 (Rel C&J)
IMTPa: r=0.50 (SnatchA), r=0.50 (C&Ja)
1RM one repetition maximum, 3RM three repetition maximum, BP bench press, BS back squat, C&J clean and jerk, C&Ja allometrically-scaled clean and jerk, IMTP isometric mid-thigh clean
pull, IMTPa allometrically-scaled isometric mid-thigh clean pull, IS isometric squat, IHS isometric half-squat, PC power clean, Rel relative, per kilogram of body mass, SnatchA allometrically-
scaled snatch
Strength and Athletic Performance
123
research indicated that greater magnitudes of potentiation
can be achieved following strength training [170]. This
may be attributed to the ability of stronger subjects to
develop fatigue resistance to high loads as an adaptation to
repeated high load training [171174]. Additional research
examined the relationships between the absolute and rela-
tive strength characteristics of subjects and the changes in
performance following a potentiation protocol (Table 7).
Collectively, the studies displayed in Table 7reported 67
Pearson correlation coefficients. Of those reported, 39
(58 %) displayed a moderate or greater relationship with
strength, while 33 (49 %) displayed a correlation magnitude
that was large or greater. In support of these findings, a
number of studies have indicated that stronger subjects
potentiate earlier [172,185,187] and to a greater extent
[172,178,184187,192195] compared to their weaker
counterparts. However, other studies noted no statistical
differences in the potentiation displayed between strong and
weak subjects [196198]. A possible explanation for the
results of the latter studies may be the design of the
examined strength-power potentiation complexes. Two of
the studies [196,197] did not report any statistical increases
in vertical jump performance following the examined
potentiation protocols, making comparisons between
stronger and weaker subjects challenging. The remaining
study [198] did not find any statistical differences within the
stronger and weaker groups following the implemented
potentiation protocols compared to the performances fol-
lowing the control protocol used. While relative strength is
a major contributing factor to the timing and magnitude of
potentiation, the design of the strength-power potentiation
complex cannot be overlooked as it ultimately produces a
state of preparedness for subsequent activity [168]. A sec-
ond explanation for the lack of statistical differences
between stronger and weaker subjects may be the range of
the subjects’ abilities within each group. For example,
males and females were grouped together in one study when
comparing potentiation differences between stronger and
weaker subjects [197], while large standard deviations
within groups may have prevented statistical differences
from being found in another study [196].
Collectively, the previous literature indicates that by
achieving greater strength, an individual may be able to
realize potentiation effects at an earlier rest interval and to
a greater extent. From a practical standpoint, some authors
have noted that those with the ability to back squat at least
twice their body mass to either parallel depth [184,185,
187]orto90of knee flexion [199] may have a greater
potential to potentiate their performance as compared to
their weaker counterparts. Similarly, Berning et al. [193]
indicated that a level of strength required to achieve greater
magnitudes of potentiation is the ability to back squat at
least 1.7 times one’s body mass to parallel depth.
6.2 Injury Rate
Previous research has indicated that muscular strength may
be as important as anaerobic power for performance as well
as injury prevention in soccer players [200]. Along with
winning, the rate of injuries in sports and training is one of
the primary concerns of athletes, coaches, and practition-
ers. If athletes are injured in some capacity, they cannot
contribute to the overall performance of the team on the
field or court. From a coaching perspective, the introduc-
tion of new training modalities may not be well received
because certain exercises are viewed as injurious. How-
ever, an appropriate and progressive prescription, using a
variety of methods that focus on improving strength, may
decrease the overall occurrence of injuries. Previous
research has indicated that there was a decrease in the
injury rate per 1,000 exposure hours in collegiate soccer
players following the addition of a strength training pro-
gram [201]. In addition, Sole et al. [202] indicated that the
greatest value of team isometric mid-thigh pull strength
coincided with the lowest annual injury rate experienced in
female volleyball players. This evidence lends support to
the idea that increases in strength may play an important
role in reducing the occurrence of injuries. Several other
studies [200,203,204] and reviews [205208] support this
concept. In fact, a meta-analysis indicated that the exam-
ined strength training protocols reduced sports injuries to
less than one-third and that overuse injuries could be
almost halved [207]. Resistance training may reduce the
number of injuries due to increases in the structural
strength of ligaments, tendons, tendon to bone and liga-
ment to bone junctions, joint cartilage, and connective
tissue sheaths within muscles [205]. Moreover, positive
changes in bone mineral content as a result of resistance
training may aid in the reduction of skeletal injuries. Col-
lectively, the previous literature indicates that resistance
training is a modality that may decrease injury rates and
that stronger athletes are less likely to get injured. There-
fore, a primary focus of strength and conditioning practi-
tioners may be to increase the overall strength of their
athletes in order to not only increase performance, but to
also decrease the likelihood of an injury occurring.
7 Testing and Monitoring Strength
Characteristics
Regular testing and monitoring of an athlete’s performance
may be the most effective way to provide useful informa-
tion to the sport or event coaches about the athlete’s
training state [209,210]. Moreover, this information can be
used to prescribe and adapt training programs to provide an
optimal training stimulus for athletes. With regard to
T. J. Suchomel et al.
123
Table 7 Summary of studies correlating maximal strength and potentiation effects
Study Subjects (n) Strength
measure
Potentiation test Correlation results
Bellar et al. [175] NCAA division I male and female track and
field throwers (n=17)
1RM PC
1RM BS
Weight throw distance r=0.54 (1RM PC), r=0.22 (1RM BS)—Overweight 1
r=0.55 (1RM PC), r=0.23 (1RM BS)—Overweight 2
Bevan et al. [176] Professional rugby players (n=26) 3RM BP BP throw r=0.52 (8 min)
Chaouachi et al. [177] Elite male volleyball players (n=12) 1RM HS CMJ height, PP, PF, PV,
PPave
r=-0.02–0.12 (Time to max JH, PP, PF, PV, PPave)
r=-0.07–0.12 (Potentiation response of JH, PP, PF, PV, PPave)
Duthie et al. [178] Female hockey and softball players (n=11) 1RM HS Jump squat PP, PF r=0.66 (PP), r=0.76 (PF)
Jo et al. [172] Recreationally-trained men (n=12) Rel 1RM BS Wingate time to PPmax r=-0.77
Judge et al. [179] NCAA division I male and female track and
field throwers (n=41)
1RM PC
1RM BS
1RM BP
Overhead back shot put
throw
r=0.34 (1RM PC), r=0.30 (1RM BS), r=0.27 (1RM BP)—
heavy condition
r\0.16 (1RM PC, BS, BP)—light condition
r\0.16 (1RM PC, BS, BP)—control condition
Kilduff et al. [180] Professional rugby players (n=23) 3RM BS
Rel 3RM BS
CMJ PP 3RM BS: r=0.56 (8 min), 0.63 (12 min)
Rel 3RM BS: r=0.63 (12 min)
Kilduff et al. [180] Professional rugby players (n=23) 3RM BP
Rel 3RM BP
BP throw PP 3RM BP: r=0.59 (12 min)
Rel 3RM BP: r=0.21 (12 min)
Kilduff et al. [181] Professional rugby players (n=20) 3RM BS CMJ height r=0.49 (8 min)
Mangus et al. [182] Male weightlifters (n=11) Rel HS
Rel QS
CMJ height r=-0.14 (Rel HS), r=-0.17 (Rel QS)
Okuno et al. [183] Male handball players (n=12) 1RM HS RSAbest, RSAave,
RSAindex
r=0.03 (RSAbest), r=0.50 (RSAave), r=0.56 (RSAindex)
Ruben et al. [184] Resistance-trained men (n=12) 1RM BS Horizontal plyometric
hurdle hops
r=0.82 (PPave), r=0.53 (PFave), r=0.70 (PVave), r=0.81
(PPmax), r=0.30 (PFmax), r=0.77 (PVmax)
Seitz et al. [185] Male junior rugby league players (n=18) Rel 1RM BS CMJ PP, time to PPmax,
JH, time to JHmax
r=0.78 (PP), r=-0.69 (Time to PPmax)
r=0.74 (JH), r=-0.69 (Time to JHmax)
Seitz et al. [132] Male junior rugby league players (n=13) Rel 1RM BS
Rel 1RM PC
20 m sprint potentiation
response
r=0.56 (Rel 1RM BS), r=0.63 (Rel 1RM PC)
Suchomel et al. [186] Resistance-trained men (n=15) Rel 1RM BS
Rel 1RM
COHS
SJ height potentiation
response
Rel 1RM BS: r=0.52 (Ballistic), r=0.63 (Non-ballistic)
Rel 1RM COHS: r=0.57 (Ballistic), r=0.48 (Non-ballistic)
Suchomel et al. [187] Resistance-trained men (n=16) Rel 1RM BS
Rel 1RM
COHS
SJ height maximum
potentiation response
Rel 1RM BS: r=0.64 (Ballistic), r=0.54 (Non-ballistic)
Rel 1RM COHS: r=0.74 (Ballistic), r=0.47 (Non-ballistic)
Terzis et al. [188] Male and female physical education students
(n=16)
6RM leg
press
Underhand shot throw r=0.50
Strength and Athletic Performance
123
testing and monitoring an athlete’s strength, sport scientists
and practitioners may use various tests to examine an
athlete’s isometric, dynamic, and reactive strength char-
acteristics. The subsequent paragraphs briefly discuss pre-
vious research that has used isometric, dynamic, and
reactive strength testing to examine the strength charac-
teristics of individuals. For a thorough review on different
methodologies of strength assessment, readers are directed
to McMaster and colleagues [211].
Regular monitoring can also assist in better under-
standing the aforementioned relationships between maxi-
mal strength and performances, as the required motor
learning strategies to manifest improvements in overall
strength into skilled performance must be recognized. The
delay between increased physical capacity and ability to
actualize increased strength into improved performance is
termed lag time [48,212]. The concept of lag time, or the
length of time it takes for an athlete to ‘‘learn to utilize their
new found strength,’’ is important to consider when trying
to determine the transfer of training effect from one
underlying physical attribute to an athletic skill such as
sprinting and jumping. Thus, regular testing and assess-
ment of the data is critical in order to assess or determine
the lag within various activities.
7.1 Isometric Strength
As displayed in the tables above, many studies have
assessed the maximum strength of subjects by using an
isometric strength test such as the isometric mid-thigh pull,
isometric squat, or isometric half-squat. While these tests
do not provide a maximum load lifted, previous research
has displayed notable relationships between the isometric
strength tests and dynamic strength performance [29,36,
106]. In addition to examining relationships between
maximal isometric strength and various performance
characteristics (Tables 1,2,3,4,5,6,7), isometric strength
tests have been used to examine different phases of an
exercise [213], the effect of a training program on muscular
strength characteristics [29,214], and determine force
production differences among athletic teams [215]. The
versatility of an isometric strength test should not be
overlooked. Isometric strength tests are time efficient,
particularly with large groups, and may provide a truer
measure of ‘‘maximum’’ strength compared to dynamic
strength testing in which the final load attempted may be
overestimated. However, as with any maximal strength
test, isometric strength tests should be used sparingly as
they can be taxing for the individual and may require the
need to slightly modify training during the day of testing.
Sport scientists and practitioners must keep in mind the
sport specificity of the athlete when using isometric testing.
In other words, the athlete must be tested in a position that
Table 7 continued
Study Subjects (n) Strength
measure
Potentiation test Correlation results
Tsolakis et al. [189] Male and female international level fencers
(n=23)
1RM leg
press
CMJ PP r=-0.55 (12 min)
West et al. [190] Professional rugby players (n=20) 1RM BP BP throw PP r=0.63 (Ballistic), r=0.68 (Heavy resistance training)
Witmer et al. [191] Male and female collegiate athletes and
recreationally-trained athletes (n=24)
1RM BS CMJ height, vertical
stiffness
CMJ height: r=-0.54 (Men), 0.10 (Women)
CMJ vertical stiffness: r=-0.43 (Men), -0.36 (Women)
Young et al. [192] Recreationally-trained men (n=10) 5RM HS Loaded CMJ height r=0.73
RM repetition maximum, BP bench press, BS back squat, CMJ countermovement jump, COHS concentric-only half-squat, HS half-squat, IS isometric squat, PC power clean, PF peak force, PP
peak power, PV peak velocity, QS quarter-squat, Rel relative, per kilogram of body mass, RSA repeated sprint ability, SJ squat jump
T. J. Suchomel et al.
123
is related to the success of their sport. For example, pre-
vious research has indicated that the greatest amount of
force and power is produced during the second pull of
weightlifting movements [216]. Thus, it would be logical
to test weightlifters in a position that is specific to the
second pull, as demonstrated by previous research [30,166,
217]. Another example may be testing sprinters or bob-
sledders at hip and knee angles that correspond to different
phases of speed development (i.e., acceleration, transition,
velocity, competition speed) [218]. By testing the indi-
vidual during each phase, the sport scientist and coach will
receive information about the strengths and weaknesses of
an athlete’s overall sprinting performance. From here,
modifications to the individual’s training program can be
made to eliminate any potential weaknesses. However,
sport scientists and practitioners should keep in mind that
performing such tests should not hinder athletes from
completing their planned training program.
7.2 Dynamic Strength
While isometric strength testing has its advantages, so too
does dynamic strength testing. Dynamic strength testing
may be the most common method of measuring an indi-
vidual’s strength. This is typically accomplished by having
the individual perform a repetition maximum (RM) test,
where the individual lifts as much weight as possible for a
specific number of repetitions. Examples listed in the
Tables 1,2,3,4,5,6,7include RM tests ranging from
1RM–6RM tests of either the back squat, front squat, half-
squat, power clean, hang clean, leg press, or bench press.
While the previous exercises have both eccentric and
concentric muscle actions, additional studies have used
concentric-only movements [186,187,219] or eccentric-
only movements [150] to assess maximal strength charac-
teristics within each of the muscle actions individually that
comprise overall dynamic strength.
Dynamic strength tests may be viewed as more relevant
to an athlete’s abilities due to their similarities to move-
ments completed in various sports or events. Previous
research has used dynamic strength tests to examine the
effect of specific training programs [124,220], the effect
that a competitive season had on muscular strength [221
224], and contributing factors that affect COD performance
[150]. Similar to isometric strength testing, dynamic
strength testing should be completed sparingly due to its
taxing nature. While some practitioners use dynamic
strength 1RM tests to prescribe training loads, others may
discourage the practice of ‘‘maxing out.’’ An alternative
option for the latter practitioners would be to estimate an
individual’s 1RM using the set-rep best method described
by Stone and O’Bryant [225]. The set-rep best method uses
loads performed in training for a specific repetition
scheme and estimates training loads for other repetitions
schemes, but also a 1RM. This approach may be applied to
any exercise, but may be the most useful for exercises that
do not have specific criteria for a successful 1RM attempt,
such as weightlifting pulling derivatives [226236].
7.3 Reactive Strength
Reactive strength can be described as the ability of an
athlete to change quickly from an eccentric to concentric
muscular contraction [237]. The two primary methods of
assessing reactive strength are through performing either
drop jumps or countermovement jumps to calculate the
variables reactive strength index (RSI; drop jump
height 9ground contact time
-1
) or reactive strength
index-modified (RSImod; countermovement jump
height 9time to takeoff
-1
), respectively. Although dif-
ferent from maximal isometric and dynamic strength test-
ing, previous research has indicated that there are strong
relationships between maximal isometric strength and
RSImod [238]. In addition, reactive strength testing can
provide further information to the practitioners regarding
how an individual achieves a certain standard of dynamic
performance. For example, previous research examining
RSI has determined that it is a reliable performance vari-
able [239], can differentiate between field athletes with
higher or lower acceleration abilities [129], can be used to
monitor neuromuscular fatigue [240], and can be used as an
indicator of the current training conditions [241]. Addi-
tional research has determined that RSImod is a reliable
performance variable that can be used to monitor explosive
performance acutely [242,243], but also over the course of
a competitive season [244]. Furthermore, RSImod can
distinguish performance differences between teams [245],
within teams [246], and can be used to assess an athlete’s
ability to effectively use the stretch-shortening cycle to
achieve a specific jump height [247]. While scientific
equipment is needed to assess RSI and RSImod [247],
more information can be gathered that will provide prac-
titioners with greater understanding of an individual’s
current performance capacity.
8 Absolute and Relative Standards of Strength
While absolute strength may be the deciding factor of
which athlete is victorious in some sports (e.g. linemen in
American football), the relative strength of an individual
may be more important in certain sports where one must
move their own body mass (e.g., track and field sprinting
and jumping) or is competing in a sport that has weight
class divisions (e.g., weightlifting). At present, no scales
exist that recommend certain standards of relative strength
Strength and Athletic Performance
123
for individuals in different sports; however, general rec-
ommendations can be made based on existing literature.
Previous research has suggested that individuals who back
squatted at least twice their body mass produced greater
external mechanical power during a vertical jump [5,12],
sprinted faster and jumped higher [50], and potentiated
earlier [185,187] and to a greater extent [184,185,187]
compared to individuals who did not. Figure 1illustrates
the theoretical relationship between relative back squat
strength (per kilogram of body mass) and performance
capabilities. It should be noted that this model is specific to
the back squat based on the findings of the research pre-
sented earlier in this paragraph and the regular use of the
back squat as a standard measure of strength. Moreover,
the theoretical nature of the presented model should be
emphasized. While a number of studies indicate that the
ability to back squat at least twice one’s body mass is
indicative of a greater performance, information regarding
specific standards of required strength is still lacking. The
presented model indicates that there are three primary
strength phases including strength deficit, strength associ-
ation, and strength reserve. Previous work by Keiner et al.
[248] provides a timeline for the presented model by sug-
gesting that with 4–5 years of structured strength training,
relative strength levels with the back squat should be at a
minimum 2.0 for late adolescents (16–19 years old), 1.5 for
adolescents (13–15 years old), and 0.7 for children
(11–12 years old) (Fig. 2).
8.1 Strength Deficit Phase
The strength deficit phase may be the shortest phase based
on the motor learning capacity of the individual. This phase
suggests that although an individual is improving their
Fig. 1 Theoretical relationship between back squat relative strength
and performance capability
Fig. 2 Relative front squat (a) and back squat strength (b) comparison
between control subjects (2 years of soccer training only; mean and
standard deviation [SD]), strength-trained subjects (2 years soccer
and strength training; mean and SD), and young elite weightlifters
(mean only). Values for the weightlifters represent predicted one-
repetition maximum (1RM) of the front squat and back squat based on
their 5RM strength testing of the weight classes closest to that of the
soccer players in each age group [281]. Notes: Weightlifters were
tested with full depth squats and all soccer players (control- and
strength-trained) were tested with parallel depth squats. Lines are
drawn at the recommended standards of strength for young elite
athletes with long-term training (a training age commensurate with
appropriate resistance training from 7 or 8 years of age). Figure cre-
ated by the authors from data in Keiner et al. [248]
T. J. Suchomel et al.
123
strength (i.e., their ability to generate force), they may not
be able to exploit their levels of strength and translate them
into positive performance benefits in their respective sport.
This is supported by the phasic progression concepts from
previous literature [25,63,64] that indicates that central
and local factors (i.e., motor unit recruitment, fiber type,
and co-contraction) enhance the ability to increase maxi-
mum strength. Novice athletes within this phase are often
going through stages of physical literacy, especially if they
have not been previously exposed to strength training [249,
250]. The strength deficit phase will ultimately continue
until the individual becomes competent with the strength
training exercise.
8.2 Strength Association Phase
As the athlete gets stronger, he or she enters the strength
association phase where increases in strength often directly
translate to an improved performance. As indicated in the
model, this phase is characterized by a nearly linear rela-
tionship between relative strength and performance capa-
bility. Specifically, further increases in maximum strength
combined with central factors, the specificity of the task,
and the coordination of multiple joints enhance an indi-
vidual’s ability to increase muscular performance [25,63,
64]. The duration of this phase may be based primarily on
two physiological mechanisms including muscle cross-
sectional area or architectural changes and supraspinal/
spinal neuromuscular adaptations that occur as a result of
regular strength training. Specifically, the cross-sectional
area or architectural changes that are characteristic of
strength training are greater Type II/I functional cross-
sectional area [251253] and pennation angle changes
[254256]. The supraspinal/spinal neuromuscular adapta-
tions include increases in motor unit rate coding [28,257],
neural drive [71,258260], inter- and possibly intra-mus-
cular coordination [261267], motor unit synchronization
[268,269], and the ability to use the stretch-shortening
cycle, while decreasing neural inhibitory processes [63,
270]. Previous studies that have examined training for
maximal strength have reported changes in muscle archi-
tecture after 4–5 weeks [271,272] and increased tendon
stiffness after 9–10 weeks [273,274]. As changes in
muscle architecture [20,254] and tendon stiffness [275,
276] may affect the electromechanical delay and rate of
force development during stretch-shortening cycle tasks, it
is important to note the time needed for positive training
adaptations to occur.
8.3 Strength Reserve Phase
The final phase of the proposed model is the strength
reserve phase. Athletes who reach this phase have
dramatically improved their ability to produce force pri-
marily due to local and central adaptations and alterations
in task specificity [25,277,278]. During the strength
reserve phase, athletes may continue to gain relative
strength; however, the direct benefits to performance may
not be as substantial. In fact, a previous review indicated
that while strength is a basic quality that influences an
athlete’s performance, the degree of this influence may
diminish when athletes maintain a very high level of
strength [279]. Thus, the window of adaptation for further
strength enhancement is reduced as an individual increases
their maximal strength. This may be why other literature
has suggested that the emphasis of training may be shifted
towards ‘‘power’’ or RFD training after a specific standard
of strength has been achieved [25,68,279,280]. That is
not to say that individuals should not seek to continue
improving their strength, rather stronger individuals can
focus more on maintaining their strength, while placing
more emphasis on RFD and speed adaptations. It should be
noted, however, that limited research has examined the
differences in performance between individuals that can
squat greater than or equal to 2.59their body mass versus
2.09and 1.59. Moreover, no research has discussed the
changes in performance after transitioning from a 2.09to a
2.59body mass squat.
9 Limitations
The current review was primarily descriptive to provide a
comprehensive description with as much of the literature
represented as possible. The benefit of such a comprehen-
sive description results in the limitation that a full meta-
analytical review could come to stronger conclusions.
However, each area of the current review would require a
separate meta-analysis and therefore would suffer from not
being able to draw on the multi-factorial discussion pre-
sented in the current review. Furthermore, it should be
noted that much of the interpretation of existing studies
came from correlational analyses and the readers should
consider that correlation does not necessarily indicate
causation.
10 Conclusions
While certain underlying factors of an athlete’s perfor-
mance cannot be manipulated (e.g., genetics), sport scien-
tists and practitioners can manipulate an athlete’s absolute
and relative strength with regular strength training. Greater
muscular strength can enhance the force-time characteris-
tics (e.g., RFD and external mechanical power) of an
individual that can then translate to their athletic
Strength and Athletic Performance
123
performance. Muscular strength is strongly correlated to
superior jumping, sprinting, COD, and sport-specific per-
formance. Additional benefits of stronger individuals
include the ability to take advantage of postactivation
potentiation and a decreased injury rate. Sport scientists
and practitioners may monitor the isometric, dynamic, and
reactive strength of individuals in order to provide optimal
training stimuli to enhance specific strength characteristics
that translate to performance. It is recommended that ath-
letes should strive to become as strong as possible within
the context of their sport or event. Regarding relative lower
body strength, it appears that the ability to back squat at
least twice one’s body mass may lead to greater athletic
performance compared to those who possess lower relative
strength. The vast majority of the literature supports the
notion that stronger athletes demonstrate superior RFD and
external mechanical power, and subsequently jump higher,
run faster, perform COD tasks faster, potentiate earlier and
to a greater extent, and are less likely to get injured.
Therefore, sport scientists and practitioners could conclude
that there may be no substitute for greater muscular
strength as it underpins a vast number of attributes that are
related to improving an individual’s performance across a
wide range of both general and sport specific skills while
simultaneously reducing their risk of injury when per-
forming these skills.
Despite the information described in this review, a
number of research questions regarding the influence of
strength on an athlete’s overall performance still exist.
Information regarding specific standards of required
strength is still lacking. While a number of studies indicate
that the ability to back squat at least twice one’s body mass
is indicative of a greater performance, no research has
established standards for greater performance using iso-
metric strength measurements. Furthermore, no levels of
relative upper body strength that display a superior per-
formance compared to lower relative strength have been
reported. While general conclusions can be made with
regard to the influence of strength on an athlete’s perfor-
mance, more research is needed with female athletes with
regard to how their relative strength levels relate to their
performance. Additional research with female athletes
would allow for more specific recommendations to be
made. The studies discussed within this review focused on
bilateral strength measures, primarily because it may not be
practical to perform a 1RM test with a single limb. How-
ever, due to the unilateral nature of certain sports and
events (e.g., sprint events, hockey, etc.), further research
examining the transfer of bilateral strength to single leg
force-time characteristics and the transfer of single-leg
strength training to bilateral force-time characteristics,
strength, and overall performance is needed. Finally, future
research should examine the effect of longitudinal resis-
tance training, particularly with respect to long-term athlete
development over several years to gain a better under-
standing of the influence of strength on the development
and performance of an athlete.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Funding No sources of funding were used to assist in the prepa-
ration of this article.
Conflict of interest Timothy Suchomel, Sophia Nimphius, and
Michael Stone declare that they have no conflicts of interest relevant
to the content of this review.
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