Metrics that matter

We all love and crave data. There is an insatiable thirst to have numbers to back us up and put our money on. A desire for information that can guide and enhance our decision making.  The million dollar question is: which metrics really matter?

We all love and crave data. There is an insatiable thirst to have numbers to back us up and put our money on. A desire for information that can guide and enhance our decision making. 

The million dollar question is: which metrics really matter?

What can we reliably test and re-test to ascertain if we are making desirable progress?

As clinicians and coaches, how do we truly assess changes over time? How do we hold ourselves and our methods accountable?

Without question, subjective reports and confidence are a huge contributing factor to overall success. However, how do we best test within the realm of the physical and the physiological to ensure progress and mitigate natural biases?

How can we bind ourselves as closely as possible to an unbiased reality? The better we do this, the more useful our outcomes become. If things are not trending in a positive direction, it is safe to say something needs to change. Lack of change can be as useful as the presence of change — it allows for course correction and more readily highlights when things are not going as planned. For instance, if a client is not demonstrating desirable or expected changes in outcomes, it should help draw your attention and lead to further questioning.


What gets measured gets managed

The first priority is that we must collect data at numerous points during this process. Consistent data points are more likely to show useful trends. The caveat here is that we do not always know which measures or data points are most relevant. This is where we must navigate the seas of uncertainty.

What is most relevant?

Data in and of itself is not useful. Clinicians have to be able to narrow down the field of seemingly infinite information to determine, “what does this individual need most?” 

Does this person require increased force production? Do they need improvements in work capacity? Do they lack range of motion? Can they perform the desired task with desirable biomechanical efficiency? 

Is it Reproducible?

How easy and accurate can the measure be taken? If you take a data point today, what is the likelihood you can take it again reliably at a later date? Consistency of measurement is key — everything from joint range, dynamometer testing, and return to sport testing is only as good as the reproducibility of the findings. 

Validity: Are we measuring what we think we are measuring?

The Golden question: does this specific measurement provide useful information for the desired outcome? 

If the answer is no, or there is a poor association between cause and effect, perhaps another metric is needed. A handful of numbers that are of high validity will always beat an army of ambiguous ones.

Is it Realistic within my scope?

Given the parameters of our environment and professional capacities, can I acquire the desired measure? 

Things like blood lactate and VO2 maxes could be highly beneficial, but the ability to acquire within the clinic is highly unlikely. Identifying which measurements are logistically feasible and timely to measure goes a long way in enhancing the odds of attaining such measures. A lower barrier of entry often increases the likelihood of consistent measurement and management of any given metric.

My intent is not to offer all the answers (if only it were that easy!), but rather my hope is that this discussion spurs self-reflection as to what information we as clinicians and coaches value most. Asking ourselves which information we can hang our hat on provides us invaluable insight into our own thought processes and clinical reasoning. 

In our practice, we rely heavily on an assortment of metrics. To name a few: 

  • Joint ranges of motion: Goniometric measurements, Y-Balance testing (ROM under body weight loading)
  • Strength metrics: Sets and reps of a given load lifted with a specific movements, repetition maximums with a given load, baseline MMT testing (dynamometer, force plates are ideal, but not necessarily readily available)
  • Power metrics: Vertical/horizontal jump testing, hop testing, reps performed within a given period of time, speed of ambulation/sprinting)
  • Endurance: shuttle runs, isometric hold times, bike testing, run times)
  • Elasticity: pogo hop testing, line hop testing, triple hop


So I pose the question to you: What metrics matter most in your practice?

– Dr. Michael Reinhardt



BookEndure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance – Alex Hutchinson

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Article: “20 Tips for Young Coaches” – Mike Robertson

  • Summary: The title speaks for itself. This transcribed podcast should be a must read for all young coaches and clinicians looking to better themselves and their practice. Mike is a master of speaking hard truths with the ultimate intention of making us all better humans.

Follow: Andy Galpin

  • @drandygalpin
  • Dr. Galpin has a PhD in Human Bioenergetics, human physiology, is an author, and overall an incredible source of cutting edge research in human physiology and performance. His no-nonsense presentation of high quality and relevant information is a breath of fresh air that we all have come to appreciate. 
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