Q: The NFL uses the 'combine' as a way of testing athletes, this involves a vertical jump, bench of 225 for reps and a 40-yard dash. Many believe this does not give an adequate interpretation of an athletes 'capabilities', what is your view? What tests do you use for your athletes?
As far as the accuracy in predicting player ability the best thing to do would have players suit up and play full out under game type conditions but you won't see this happen because of the risk of injury. The tests are necessary because some form of evaluation is necessary and performance in these tests allow the guys responsible for making million dollar decisisions to extrapolate abstract into concrete. You see, the best test is to simply sit down and watch the athlete in action and watch some game film but it takes a trained eye to know what to look for regarding potential. - And in the minds of lots of coaches, performance on a test enable one to narrow ability down to something concrete, however, there's definitely not always a good correlation between what one does in a test and what a person can do on a playing field.
If coach or scout "so and so" says athlete A has the potential to be a better player then athlete B there will always be a question in the eyes of many because evaluating talent is an art and people will disagree. People like to see concrete examples. If you put both athletes against a clock and athlete A is faster then athlete B then this gives more of a concrete observation that nobody can argue with. Athlete A is faster then athlete B and many will automatically assume that all things being equal he has the "potential" to be a better player then athlete B as well.
When I do testing I'm more interested in what I see in the performance of the test rather then what he absolute numbers say. Regardless of whether someone runs a 4.3 40 yard dash or a 5.0 40 yard dash if they're going into a situation where the numbers have something to do with their worth as a player they will always want to get better so I really don't care what they're doing now I just want to get them better both on the field and at testing time. To give you an idea what I'm talking about the 40 yard dash is a good test but the difference between the first 20 yards and the 2nd 20 yards tell me more about what to do to improve the entire 40 then does the current times. According to data from the NFL, the vertical jump is the only test that really correlates with playing ability and I do a variety of vertical jump assessments....from a static start, runup, depth jumps. Also one overlooked evaluation is the psychology of the player. Intelligence, dedication, motivation, and how one responds to stress are just as if not more important then physical evaluations.
There are many other assessments that can be used. Say we have 2 athletes that are the same in ability and play the same position. One guy comes from a top 10 college program and has been exposed to 5 years of excellent strength and conditioning with a good training table, good coaching etc. The 2nd guy comes from a small school out in the sticks with a dirt practice field, no weight room, and no cafeteria - They may grade out exactly the same on everything but the 2nd guy probably has more potential to increase his athletic traits while the first guy will already have the advantage of playing under a high pressure environment and will likely have a mental edge - so you have to weigh out the good vs the bad and this often requires lots of evaluating, intuition, and plain old guessing.
Q: What is your view of the new fads such as kettlebells, club bells, swiss balls and the like? What part in an athletes training do you see bodyweight exercises playing?
They can be fun and useful in the right circumstances. If something provides a change of pace or provides extra motivation to train, then it's better then nothing at all. If a kettlebell is going to refresh your enthusiasm and get you looking forward to training then there's nothing wrong with that - just use these methods as tools in conjunction with everything else and don't expect them to replace basic hard and heavy training.
I think bodyweight exercises are highly valuable. To supplement what I do in a standard weight room I also like to use a lot of gymnastics type movements in my training for upper body and all sorts of bodyweight drills for lower body. Give me a motivated athlete and, regardless of equipment available, I'll find a way to get a full body workout in. Here is a link to some effective bodyweight strength training movements:
Q: For strength, power, or speed training how long should I be resting in between sets?
The stronger, more powerful, and faster you are, the more rest you'll need to take. A top sprinter might need to rest 10-20 minutes between sets, same for a top lifter. An average athlete needs far less rest because they're not capable of draining the nervous system as much as a more advanced athlete per rep or set.
You will want to rest long enough in between sets to give the muscles enough recovery so they can function at near maximum effort and it generally takes around 1 minute for muscle recovery in between bouts of speed, power and strength training. However, the nerves that fire your muscles take up to 5 times longer to recover so resting long enough for muscle recovery isn't enough. You need to rest long enough to allow some neural recovery between sets but not so long that you lose the neural activation, or enhanced arousal, that you get from the previous sets. This means that generally 3 to 5 minutes between sets will be sufficient for most people. You neither can or should try to obtain complete recoveries between sets. You do need to recover, but the longer you wait the more your CNS activation begins to drop. For example, if you do a max single and rest one hour, you'll get a nearly complete recovery, but your CNS activation falls right off the map leaving you unprepared for the following set.