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Testing Fitness for Sevens

Accurate reckoning -- the entrance into the knowledge of all existing things and all obscure secrets.

-- Ahmes the Scribe, 17th century B.C.

Measured behavior is a dreadful evil.

--Hasidic saying

Standard US Fitness Testing Procedure

Ron Artingstall first became involved with USA Rugby in 1987, when he conducted fitness testing for the East sevens team.

Since that time, tests have come and gone, and protocols have been revised, with the result that fitness testing for rugby, and rugby sevens, has continued to improve. Still, however, because practicality constrains us to simple tests with simple protocols, we need to settle for gross approximations in most areas.

What follows represents a procedure for fitness testing developed by Artingstall. The six tests that currently exist as part of the US testing protocol are relevant to both sevens and fifteens, with the 110-yard sprint particularly valuable for sevens.

The 330-yard sprint, which is being added to the sevens testing protocol as an estimator of speed endurance, is also described.

Most of these tests have been conducted at the select-side level in the US during the last few years, and results for elite players will be given for the average player to compare.

Note: It is important that players realize that these tests are measurements of different aspects of fitness, not training methods. Training for fitness should follow the lines outlined in the previous chapter.

The Artingstall testing protocol incorporates the following tests in the following order:

  1. Vertical jump

  2. Seated press

  3. Squats

  4. Sprint (110-yard, timed at 40-yard mark as well

  5. Alternative a: 4-minute jingle jangles

  6. Alternative b: Loughborough "bleep" test

  7. Clappers

These tests are described in detail below:

Vertical jump

Attributes: This test measures two vital attributes applicable to the game: 1) power generating capacity of the legs, and 2) absolute jumping ability.

Relevance: Leg-generated power is relevant to scrummaging and driving through tackles and tacklers. Absolute jumping ability is relevant to jumpers at lineouts and kickoffs as well as other situations in the game when ball must be won in the air.

Procedure: Measure standing reach, feet flat on floor. Jump with both feet. One step is allowed. Measure jumping reach.

Scoring: Vertical jump, in inches, = jumping reach minus standing reach. Power generated by the player can be calculated by the following formula:

P = 4 w īJ/12

where P = power in ft-pounds per second,

w = player's weight in pounds, and

J = vertical jump, in inches

Seated Press

Attributes: Measures strength in shoulders, triceps, and upper body stabilizers.

Relevance: Relevant to tackling and most upper body skills. Helps to assure balance between upper and lower body strength.

Procedure: Player has two attempts to find maximum weight that can be lifted for three repetitions. One rep is achieved, sitting, by lifting barbell from resting on trapezius to arms fully locked out and under control.

Scoring: Maximum weight that can be lifted for 3 repetitions.


Attributes: Measures overall driving strength in legs, hips, gluteals (butt), and back.

Relevance: Relevant to tackling, rucking and mauling, scrummaging, and driving through tackles and tacklers.

Procedure: Player has two attempts to find maximum weight that can be lifted for three repetitions. Squat until hamstrings are parallel to floor.

Scoring: Maximum weight that can be lifted for 3 repetitions.

40-Yard Sprint

Attributes: Measures speed off the mark and over the short distances common to rugby.

Relevance: On attack, a quicker player will get to and through gaps sooner than a slower player. Quicker reacting players will have a head start to wherever it is that they're going.

Procedure: Tested as part of 110-yard sprint. At least two timers stand at 40-yard mark of course. Timers begin on runner's movement. One attempt. If runner wants to repeat, this will usually be allowed if testing time exists.

Scoring: Average of all timers, to hundredth of a second. In the case of two runs, the faster average will be used.

110-Yard Sprint

Attributes: Measures ability to sustain speeds over the length of the rugby pitch.

Relevance: Relevant in assessing chances of being run down by, or catching, another player after a break is made. Particularly relevant to the length-of-the-field runs common to sevens.

Procedure: At least two timers at end of course. Timers begin on runner's movement. One attempt. If runner wants to repeat, this will usually be allowed if testing time exists.

Scoring: Average of all timers, to hundredth of a second. In the case of two runs, the faster average will be used.

Jingle Jangles

Attributes: Measures player's ability to sustain maximum running intensity over period of time. Combines aerobic and anaerobic endurance. Brings out "mental toughness" in player.

Relevance: Relevant in showing a player's ability to maintain the running intensity needed in rugby.

Procedure: Mark a 40-yard course with markers every 10 yards. Sprinting continuously from one end to the other and returning, run as far as possible in the time allotted (4 minutes).

Scoring: Number of jingle jangles, to nearest eighth (each round trip = 1 jingle jangle; each 10 yards = 1/8).

"Bleep test"

Attributes: Measures aerobic fitness and can be used to predict maximum oxygen uptake (vO2 max); as opposed to tests like the 2-mile run, however, the protocol of this test forces the final component to be totally anaerobic.

Relevance: Aerobic capacity provides the basis for the fitness required to play sevens.

Procedure: Requires audio tape; see Appendix D2-1 to this chapter for information. Mark out a 20-meter (65 feet 7 1/2 inches) course. Play the tape and run 20 meters at each bleep, waiting for the next bleep for the return trip. (Bleeps start out 9 seconds apart, and the interval decreases every minute so that eventually this run will force the athlete to run continuously just to keep up with the bleeps). Stop when runner can no longer keep up with the bleep frequency.

Scoring: The level and length (e.g. level 12 length 4) on which the runner was stopped. Documentation accompanying the tape gives correlation with maximum oxygen uptake.

Comparison of Jingle Jangles with Bleep Test. Jingle jangles have been used as part of the US Eagle testing procedure since 1988. Currently both jingle jangle and bleep testing is being conducted concurrently. Ron Artingstall's comparison of the two tests follow.

The bleep test is very similar to jingle jangles except for the following differences that all favor the bleep test:

He adds that it appears that the bleep test will eventually be used instead of the jingle jangle testing. Nevertheless, jingle jangles remain an excellent training tool for rugby, and if used, as in the jingle jangle plateau routine explained in the previous chapter, will equip the player to fare well in the bleep test.

Caution. Bill Hayward, a former Loughborough student who now lives in Albuquerque and is a member of the US World Cup squad, has taken the bleep test on numerous occasions. He has noted that the accuracy of the tape player speed (or the possible stretching of the tape itself) significantly affects the results.

There are two bleeps at the beginning of the tape that have been calibrated to be 60 seconds apart. As long as this interval is accurately replicated during testing, there is no problem. Hayward noted, however, that as the actual time between bleeps decreased from 60 to 57 seconds, the number of levels achieved decreased by approximately one entire level per second (a significant amount).

As it is not uncommon for playback speed of tape recorders to vary this much, or for tape to stretch, it behooves testers to be sure the playback speed matches the calibration.

It may well be that until the bleep test is distributed in a better controlled medium such as a compact disc, jingle jangles will produce more reproducible results.


Attributes: Measures anaerobic endurance -- players' ability to sustain high-intensity exercise over a short period of time.

Relevance: The quick, start/stop, down/up nature of the test simulates typical situations in the game.

Procedure: A 6-yard course is measured and marked. Athlete begins drill lying face down on the ground just outside one line. At the signal to start, athlete claps hand behind back, then sprints as fast as possible across both lines, assumes a face down position, and repeats. (Accent exploding off ground as quickly as possible.)

Scoring: Number of clappers completed in 90 seconds (each six-yard length = 1)

Rest between tests

When tested in a camp format, the sheer number of players often ensures that there will be adequate time between tests. If doing this on your own, however, make sure to rest at least 5 minutes between tests, and at least 10 minutes after the jingle jangle, bleep, and clapper tests. Wait at least 30 minutes before conducting the 330 yard run.

Speed Endurance: A New Test

Now in the experimental stages of implementation, we expect that a 330-yard (or 300-meter) run will be incorporated into the testing regimen in order to measure speed endurance. As discussed in the sample protocol discussed below, the run is to be conducted at 100% speed for as long as possible (i.e. runners should not "pace" themselves). Speed endurance will then be determined by how close the runner can maintain maximum speed in the latter stages of the run. It is felt that this will correlate with players' ability to repeat length-of-the-field runs several times in the course of a game.

As noted in the previous chapter, the body's primary energy source, A.T.P., lasts no longer than 30 seconds. By making athletes exceed 30 seconds, this test will bring them into another stage of anaerobic energy generation, and bring them to approximately their "anaerobic threshold."

Initially, we see this as a stand-alone test, separate from the 110-yard sprint. It seems probable, however, that speed over 40 yards, over 110 yards, and speed endurance as measured in a 330-yard run, can be combined into a single test: in all cases we are asking the athletes to run at 100% effort from start to finish.

The experimental protocol follows.

Flat out 330-yard run, with intermediate 110- and 220-yard times

Attributes: Measures the ability to sustain maximum anaerobic output over 330 yards.

Relevance: Combined with aerobic capacity as measured by the bleep test, this test will be indicative of a player's ability to repeat several length-of-the-field runs at maximum or near maximum anaerobic output.

Procedure: Player is instructed to run 330 yards at 100% effort (no "pacing"). Timers (preferably two at each distance) are located at 110 yards, at 220 yards and at 330 yards. Timers begin on runner's movement. Record times elapsed to each marker.

Scoring: Endurance over 330 yards will be estimated by the following formula:

E330 = 300 * (110-yard time) / (330-yard time)

Endurance over 220 yards will be estimated by the following formula:

E220 = 200 * (110-yard time) / (220-yard time)

These scores represent the percentage of the athlete's 110-yard speed that is maintained over 330 and 220 yards, respectively.

(Note: now that many American tracks have gone metric, it may well be easier to find 100, 200 and 300 meter markers than 110, 220 and 330 yard markers. Note the following conversions: add 23 inches to 100 meters to get 110 yards, 46 inches to 200 meters to get 220 yards, and 69 inches to 300 meters to get 330 yards.

In fact, if 100, 200, and 300 meters are substituted for 110, 220, and 330 yards, the speed endurance results will be identical; we have maintained the U.S. measures here for consistency with other tests. When all Americans have metric tape measures, we may be able to eliminate the word yard from our testing vocabulary.)

Test Results of Elite Sevens Players


The data below summarizes data obtained at national sevens camps during the last three years (because not all tests were conducted at all camps, data is from more than one event.)

The data is given in terms of camp average and standard deviation. The standard deviation is a statistical measure that represents the spread in the data; 95% of players at this level are expected to fall in a range represented by + or - 2 standard deviations, and this range is given in the table as well.

There is not enough data for either the bleep or clapper tests to present data at this time.

Test Average Std. Dev. best worst
Vertical Jump (inches) 24.5 3.0 30.5 18.5
Seated Press (pounds) 134 16 168 102
Squat (pounds) 278 32 342 214
40-Y Dash (seconds) 4.87 0.18 4.51 5.23
110-Y Dash (seconds) 12.24 0.59 11.06 13.42
J/Jangles (number) 14.20 0.58 15.36 13.04
Bleep test ***** NOT ENOUGH DATA *****
Clappers ***** NOT ENOUGH DATA *****


With a Women's World Cup (15s) in 1991, can international sevens be far behind?

The results below are based on a sample of 16 players (the 1991 East team (15s), minus the front five). Although small, this population of players should be representative of the top women sevens players in the U.S.

Only vertical jump, sprint, and jingle jangle data was available.

Test Average Std. Dev. 95% in this range:

best worst

Vertical Jump (inches) 19.3 2.6 24.4 14.1

40-Y Dash (seconds) 5.43 0.23 4.98 5.88

J/Jangles (number) 12.68 0.66 14.00 11.37

Sevens vs. Fifteens

The following data supports the "common wisdom" that sevens teams on the average will be faster, fitter, but smaller and not as strong as, fifteens' teams.

The data is based on comparison of national sevens camp results with national fifteens' camp results:

Test Sevens Fifteens

Camp Averages

Height (ft, in) 6'0" 6'0"

Weight (pounds) 188 201

Vertical Jump (inches) 24.5 23.8

Seated Press (pounds) 134 144

Squat (pounds) 278 305

40-Y Dash (seconds) 4.87 5.00

110-Y Dash (seconds) 12.24 12.59

J/Jangles (number) 14.20 13.60


The fitness tests described in this chapter provide procedures to measure a player's fitness for sevens.

Any player or group of players can go through this battery of tests and compare themselves to the US elite.

Consistent with other chapters in this book, which describe evolution, rather than a static state, the battery of tests is not fixed but continues to evolve, and our experience with these tests will be related in future issues of Rugby.

The next step, at the elite level, is to compare the top US players to those of other nations. This is an ongoing project that has only just begun; the results of the comparisons, however, will be of immense value in comparing the physical attributes of our athletes with those in other countries.

Reminder: It is important that players realize that these tests are measurements of different aspects of fitness, not training methods. Training for fitness should follow the lines outlined in the previous chapter.


Appendix R2-1

The Bleep Test: Information

The "bleep test" is officially known as the "Multistage Fitness Test: A Progressive Shuttle-run Test for the Prediction of Maximum Oxygen Uptake." The tape and accompanying booklet, which includes instructions and timing indicators for the test, are available from:

National Coaching Foundation
4 College Close
Beckett Park
Leeds LS6 3QH

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