How to Build Better Athletes Through Physiological Profiling and Testing

12/5/2022 4 min. reading

Physiological Profiling and Testing is something that every athlete goes through several times a year, especially at the elite/pro level. 

Physiological testing is often seen as a very long warm up, with the final 10 minutes or so of an athlete being pushed to the outer limit of their endurance. 

Discomfort, shortness of breath, and your heart going to its maximum is what most athletes remember when they think about physiological profiling and testing. Despite the pain and endurance, physiological profiling is vital for coaches wanting to see how well their athletes perform under pressure, and can benefit from a vast amount of data this testing generates. 


What is Physiological Profiling and Testing? 

Physiological profiling and testing monitors and measures an athletes’ response to training under peak conditions. 

Physiological profiling is usually the outcome of one or more physical tests of measured endurance that provide crucial data on the following: 

  • An athlete’s unique conditioning profile; 
  • Defines an athlete’s thresholds; 
  • Intensity domains; 
  • Training zones; 
  • Respiratory capacity; 
  • Respiratory coordination; 
  • Oxygen consumed at different intensities (domains, zones, etc.); 
  • Ultimately, how metabolically efficient is an athlete? 


Testing is done under lab conditions. It’s intense, but the data a coach collects from this is one of the most effective ways to optimize, individualize, and orient the conditioning training athletes receive. 

Every athlete will have their own intensity profile. Some athletes are fitter, stronger, and faster than others. The trick is, to understand these intensity profiles, find out where the thresholds are for each athlete, and then tailor training so that every athlete is playing to his or her strengths. 


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How Do Coaches Benefit From Physiological Profiling and Testing of Athletes? 

Physiological profiling isn’t the only measure of an athlete’s abilities. Regardless of the sport and level an athlete and team is at, this is one tool amongst many for coaches and strength and performance staff. 

The results of physiological profiling need to be combined with data-backed measurements of an athlete’s performance (e.g. that season, and over recent months), along with knowing what an athlete needs (competitive and training sports calendar, strengths, weaknesses, any recent injuries, etc.). 

With this information, a coach and the relevant coaching staff and consultants can put together a more carefully tailored and adjusted package of training routines to improve performance, help overcome injuries, weaknesses, and make suitable adaptations. 

On its own, conditioning training isn’t enough, especially when this is calculated on the basis of maximum heart rate, or maximum oxygen intake levels. This is why it’s so important to understand an athlete’s specific intensity profile. 

Without knowing individual intensity profiles, coaches and training staff could be prescribing the wrong sort of training. Over time, the results could be that an athlete doesn’t progress; that their intensity profile doesn’t change, and this isn’t what a coach or a player needs. Intensity profiles should change and improve over time, given the right approach to training. 


How Can Coaches Use Physiological Profiling to Build Better Athletes? 

Building better athletes, fitter, stronger, faster sporting professionals is the aim of every coach. 

Physiological profiling isn’t a silver bullet, of course. Everything a coach and strength and conditioning professionals do for athletes needs to be tailored around the competition calendar and seasonal demands. 

However, the data from physiological testing should provide the context a coach needs to know what to do next. Such as, what to change with training, what to improve, the interventions to make, and other ways to adapt to what a player needs. 

It doesn’t always reflect what happens in training sessions either. Coaches need to take a completely holistic view, such as reviewing an athletes diet, sleep patterns, stress levels, and other information. There are numerous ways that a coach and the training staff can improve performance, and that doesn’t always come down to what happens in the gym and during training sessions.

There are numerous ways to implement, measure, and then interpret physiological testing and profiling results. So many that we can’t cover them all in this article. Most coaches have their own methods and tools, partly dependent on the needs of the sport. It’s also important that coaches don’t get bogged down in the details and the data. 

The end result should be an actionable plan that a coach can implement to achieve the following: 


  • Improve performance; 
  • Improve how metabolically efficient an athlete is; 
  • Measure adaptations and interventions 
  • Plan the adaptation and interventions needed more efficiently 
  • Adjust training and non-training efforts to produce the results an athlete and the team needs. 


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