Using the Kosmin Test to Determine Middle Distance Athlete Fitness

Posted by Scott Christensen



Athletes and coaches need easy ways to predict race performances and adjust their training without running the full race distance at maximum effort.  A coach can predict their middle distance runners 800 meter and 1500 meter times with the Kosmin Test in as little as ten minutes. 

The Kosmin test is one of the most widely used tests for determining middle distance runner fitness. It is a nice way to get a very solid effort from middle distance athletes without topping out at such a high speed to risk injury. Additionally, because it is so widely used, it is likely that coaches will both be able to find colleagues to compare athlete test data with, and also build historical test records within the program. 

As with any test, athletes will need to acquire the ability to understand how it feels to run the effort.  Like any important training unit, as in any race effort, athletes continually improve the process of how to run more efficiently in order to improve their performance through experience.

An athlete performing the Kosmin test on a somewhat regular basis will learn through experience how to run the test effort more efficiently.  All that is needed to administer the Kosmin test is a 400 meter track, a stopwatch, an assistant, cones, and a willing middle distance runner.

 

* Coaching Resource: 800M: Successful Coaching Strategies

 

Specific timed track sessions can predict subsequent race performances with up to 95% accuracy in experienced runners, but somewhat less so in novice and emerging runners. The Kosmin test requires the athlete to run for specific distances as fast as possible, stop, and then resume.  Originally designed in the early 1970s by Soviets, R. Kosmin and W. Ovitschinnokov, this test was created to help accurately determine an athletes current potential over 800 or 1500 meters among elite runners at the Munich Pre-Olympic Training Camp.

Over the years, two versions of the Kosmin test have emerged to try to predict race performance for a wide range of middle distance racing ability. The first involves running 4 x 60 seconds all-out, with rest intervals of 3 minutes, 2 minutes, and one minute between the efforts.  The second is only 2 x 60 seconds, with a 3 minute rest between. In both versions, the athlete attempts to cover the maximum amount of distance, which is then totaled and added into the formula that predicts an athletes time at 800 or 1500 meters. These protocols are summarized below:

 

800 Meter Test

  • The athlete actively warms up for 10 minutes.
  • The assistant gives the command “GO” and starts the stopwatch.
  • The athlete runs as fast as possible for 1 minute.
  • The assistant marks the point with a cone where the athlete reached after 1 minute and records the total distance run.
  • The athlete then has a 3 minute active recovery interval.
  • The athlete lines up at the cone marking where the first run finished.
  • The assistant gives the command “GO” and starts the stopwatch.
  • The athlete runs as fast as possible for 1 minute.
  • The assistant again marks the point where the athlete reached after 1 minute and records the total distance run of the combined efforts.

      The assistant uses the final total distance to assess the athletes 800 performance by using the formulas in Table 1.

 

1500 Meter Test

  • The athlete actively warms up for 10 minutes.
  • The assistant gives the command “GO” and starts the stopwatch.
  • The athlete runs as fast as possible for 1 minute.
  • The assistant marks the point with a cone where the athlete reached after 1 minute of all out running and records the total distance.
  • The athlete then has a 3 minute active recovery interval.
  • The athlete lines up at the cone where the first run finished.
  • The assistant gives the command “GO” and starts the stopwatch.
  • The athlete again runs as fast as possible for 1 minute.
  • The assistant marks the point with a cone where the athlete reached after 1 minute and records the total distance run.
  • The athlete then has a 2 minute active recovery.
  • The athlete lines up at the cone where the second run finished.
  • The assistant gives the command “GO” and starts the stopwatch.
  • The athlete again runs as fast as possible for 1 minute.
  • The assistant marks the point with a cone where the athlete reached after 1 minute and records the total distance run.
  • The athlete has another active 1 minute recovery interval.
  • The athlete lines up at the cone where the third run finished.
  • The assistant gives the command “GO” and starts the stopwatch
  • The athlete runs as fast as possible for 1 minute for the fourth time.
  • The assistant marks the point with a cone where the athlete reached after 1 minute and records the total distance run of the combined efforts.

      The assistant uses this final total distance to assess the athlete’s current 1500 meter performance by using the formulas in Table 1.

 

The Kosmin tests reliability and validity is directly linked to the effort of the runner and the conditions under which it is administered.  The test is also influenced by the characteristics of the middle distance runner being tested.  For instance, is the runner highly anaerobiaclly trained?  Is the runner highly aerobically trained?  Is there a good mix of aerobic and anaerobic development (highly desired)? 

 

* Additional Teaching Resource:  The Training Model for High School Middle Distance

 

As with any test, it is a good starting point data for a runners profile within a training group, who will remain in the group for a few years, and with the same coach.  A one time Kosmin test has little value but a test that is administered  a couple of times during each year of training age can be valuable in assessing present day fitness and development without the rigors of another race. 

 

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Scott Christensen - Scott Christensen’s teams have been ranked in the national top 10 eight times. He won the 1997 High School National Championship and his squads have captured multiple Minnesota State Championships. Scott has coached 13 Minnesota State Championship-winning teams and 27 individual Minnesota State Champions. He was the USTFCCCA Endurance Specialist School junior team leader for the World Cross Country Team in 2003 and the senior team leader in 2008. Scott is a 14-year USATF Level II endurance lead instructor.

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