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Why Gap Analysis is Crucial to Setting Solid Sport-Specific Training Program Goals

Posted: Oct 09 2015

Setting Sport Goals With Fitness Gap Analysis


Now as we discussed in a recent post, using periodization, or the approach where by you change or vary your training in order to achieve peak seasonal athletic performance at particular points in the year, allows you to achieve quicker fitness gains than if your training regimen was much more standardized.  However, in order to design a training program which allows you to peak for certain times of the year, it is essential that you not only know what areas you need to improve on, but also have specific set targets in order to know how far you need to progress in a specific time to keep your training on track.  

Analyzing where you are relative to where you need to be in terms of your fitness measurable is referred to do as conducting a gap analysis.  The results of this fitness gap analysis helps construct a training program that enables you to set targets that correspond to your desired fitness levels at any point in time.  This of course is contingent on knowing one’s background, current fitness levels and the sport one is training for, among an assortment of factors. 

To understand just how you might use gap analysis in order to create your own periodized training plan,  consider this hypothetical example of a 17 year old nationally ranked male junior tennis player.  His goal is to become a nationally ranked ATP tour player.  He has some weight training foundation, and regularly does challenging cycling and treadmill workouts in order to improve his VO2 Max uptake.

These are the results of his initial round of fitness tests.

Multistage fit test

30 m sprint
broad jump
medicine ball throw 
20 m Shuttle run

Are of Fitness Focus

Linear speed

Leg power

Arm power


Current Results
VO2 max = 52
4.2 s 2.3 m

16.1 m
4.7 s

Target Result

3.9 s

2.8 m

16 m
< 4.5


Gap analysis:  When we look at his test results and consider the requirements of a competitive tennis player, we would conclude that his cardiovascular fitness is definitely on point, and one might say, not far off from ideal.  However, given the importance of base/leg strength in tennis, one would have to conclude that his leg power output is lacking, especially when you consider that his sprint, agility (which is indicative of one’s ability to quickly move in opposing directions), and leg force test results rate as being below average.

 In light of these conclusions , one might suggest that he incorporate certain training aspects into his fitness regimen for 6 weeks.  The following program might provide a good program for this athlete.




Frappier drills
Squat jumps, standing long jumps, hexagon drill, lateral hops.
Resisted sprints, 10 x T drill, 2 mins rest.
Power cleans,squats, leg curls, power lunges, medicine ball for upper body and trunk
As Monday
Easy aerobic session plus medicine ball work
As Monday

The suggestion for him would be to increase the intensity of plyometric drills and the weight he is lifting, particularly for lower body exercises.  One way to do this would be to replace squat jumps with drop jumps that lead into a lateral sprint.  At the end of the 6 week program, the athlete in question would be re-tested in order to evaluate his progession, particularly with respect to the targets that were set.

Now the preceding example is just an illustration, of course.  However, it demonstrates the principles by which you can use gap analysis to continuously work on the weak points of your fitness.  However, in order to know which areas you need to focus on, you would be well served to know what tests are used to evaluate different areas of fitness.  That is something we will cover in our next post.

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