Whenever a test is used to assess performance, we should question its reliability. The popular NFL-225 test, which consists of doing max bench press reps with 225lbs, is no exception. Researchers performed a study published this month in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research to make sure the test was dependable.
The NFL-225 correlates to strength and endurance in sport, which should come as no surprise. What was missing before this new study was science regarding the reliability of this test. There are different kinds of reliability that are important for coaches who use testing procedures like this one, and before now these were not known for the NFL-225. The researchers tested the following types of reliability:
- Absolute Reliability: This is the ability for an athlete to repeat a performance, given adequate rest. In this study the researchers used a week-long period to assess absolute reliability.
- Relative Reliability: In groups of test takers, relative reliability is the likelihood that any given participant will maintain their rank over time.
- Smallest Worthwhile Difference: This is probably the most interesting reliability test. This value is related to absolute reliability and reflects typical test-to-test variations. What it means in more practical terms is how much an athlete needs improve on the test in order to make to expect a meaningful increase in performance that can’t be attributed to other factors.
In the study, the researchers enlisted 72 Division I football players to perform the 225lb bench press test. Each athlete performed the test three times during a three-week period. Each player was assigned a group based on their position, their performance on the test, and their size.
The researchers discovered a high degree of absolute and relative reliability for this test. They found the test is generally reproducible and has minimal variation. The smallest worthwhile difference on the 225lb bench press test was three repetitions. This means a change in performance of three repetitions or more can be attributed to training, whereas smaller improvements might be the result of some other influence.
For larger players, 225lbs was only about half of their one rep max on the bench press, which means the test was actually more of an endurance assessment. However, when the researchers controlled for body size, the correlation between max strength and the NFL-225 didn’t diminish much. For this reason, they recommended focusing on maximum overall strength to improve on the NFL-225, rather than simply working with the test weight.
Ultimately, the NFL-225 is a valid and reliable test for strength and endurance. Getting bigger is one way to improve performance in this test, but if that’s not an option, working on your one rep max is critical as well. Of course, a combination of the two would be ideal.
1. Bryan Mann, et. al., “Reliability and Smallest Worthwhile Difference of the NFL-225 Test in NCAA Division I Football Players,” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000411
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