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Scope Series 4 RTÉ Two, Thursday, 7.00pm

The Lab Pentathlon

Lab PentathlonIn an effort to study the science behind fitness, Danann and Kathriona each has a team of athletes pitted against each other.

In a series of laboratory tests, they will evaluate each person’s performance under a variety of headings.

1. Muscle power and endurance. This is assessed using the Biodex system medical device into which the athlete sits. They then perform some maximal effort pushes and pulls while their muscle torque is measured with a computer driven dynometer.

2. Flexibility.
In this fun test the athlete sits on a flexibility board and pushes a dial in front of them as far as they can. Generally women perform better than men in this test which can expose extreme inflexibility in some athletes.

Lab Pentathlon3. Anaerobic power.  This is a 60 seconds maximal effort cycling test in which the athlete pedals as hard and fast as they can against a set resistance (0.075/0.085 of body mass for women/men). The number of revolutions completed are counted which reveals the anaerobic power and endurance of the athlete. This extremely tough test leaves the athletes with jelly legs for a few minutes afterwards! This is a very good test for sports that involve sustained periods of intense activity like rugby.

4. Dynamic balance. 
The Star Excursion Balance Test which is used to measure dynamic balance is a comical looking exercise which provides a significant challenge to an athlete’s postural control system. The athlete stands on one leg in the centre of a star-like grid and tries to reach in each of 3 directions with their unsupported leg.  Balance and spatial awareness are crucial for nearly every sport particularly team or ball sports and problems in this area can lead to reduced performance and greatly increased risk of sustaining injuries.

5. Step test to predict aerobic capacity
This test is designed to measure the athlete’s aerobic capacity. Using a 12 inch high bench, the athlete steps on and off for three minutes. When the test is completed the athlete’s heart rate is measured and using a calculation involving the length of the test aerobic capacity is calculated.

Overall, these tests will explore many aspects of the athletes’ fitness and will highlight areas not always considered by most teenagers involved in sport. For example an athlete could have problems if they have excellent ability to generate power but do not have sufficient balance ability or have poor flexibility.

Let the games begin!


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