Reliability of power in physical performance tests

Sports Med. 2001;31(3):211-34. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200131030-00005.


The reliability of power in tests of physical performance affects the precision of assessment of athletes, patients, clients and study participants. In this meta-analytic review we identify the most reliable measures of power and the factors affecting reliability. Our measures of reliability were the typical (standard) error of measurement expressed as a coefficient of variation (CV) and the percent change in the mean between trials. We meta-analysed these measures for power or work from 101 studies of healthy adults. Measures and tests with the smallest CV in exercise of a given duration include field tests of sprint running (approximately 0.9%), peak power in an incremental test on a treadmill or cycle ergometer (approximately 0.9%), equivalent mean power in a constant-power test lasting 1 minute to 3 hours on a treadmill or cycle ergometer (0.9 to 2.0%), lactate-threshold power (approximately 1.5%), and jump height or distance (approximately 2.0%). The CV for mean power on isokinetic ergometers was relatively large (> 4%). CV were larger for nonathletes versus athletes (1.3 x), female versus male nonathletes (1.4 x), shorter (approximately 1-second) and longer (approximately 1-hour) versus 1-minute tests (< or = 1.6 x), and respiratory- versus ergometer-based measures of power (1.4 to 1.6 x). There was no clear-cut effect of time between trials. The importance of a practice trial was evident in studies with > 2 trials: the CV between the first 2 trials was 1.3 times the CV between subsequent trials; performance also improved by 1.2% between the first 2 trials but by only 0.2% between subsequent trials. These findings should help exercise practitioners and researchers select or design good measures and protocols for tests of physical performance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ergometry / standards
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Endurance / physiology*
  • Reproducibility of Results