Power development and movement ability in junior athletes

  • Ian McKeown

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

    Abstract

    The ability to express power is considered one of the main determinants between successful elite athletes and sub-elite athletes. Information regarding the nature and magnitude of strength and power adaptations in pre-elite athletes is less comprehensive than the information available on elite athletes. In addition to power, practitioners reasonably assume that movement ability is strongly linked to performance, but this quality has been largely overlooked in the performance research. The overall aim of this thesis is to provide a basis of research to examine the influence of movement ability on performance outcomes into the future. To achieve this longer-term aim, a series of studies were conducted, beginning with an information gathering study that was designed to provide context to the thesis by investigating the current practices for strength and conditioning coaches and sport scientists working with junior athletes (Chapter 3). The survey responses highlighted the need in high performance sport for more investigation into training methods for junior, pre-elite athletes and to ensure the research outcomes provide practical coaching application.
    Based on this need, an examination of the typical response to strength and power training as junior athletes enter a high performance sport program was conducted (Chapters 4 and 5). Substantial improvements in power were observed within 10 weeks in three separate athlete cohorts. These improvements are similar or greater in magnitude to improvements seen in elite athletes over years of training. A recommendation arising from the time course analysis in these studies is that in order to provide comprehensive training analysis, frequent assessments (weekly or fortnightly) of a range of strength and power characteristics should be performed.
    The results of the survey (Chapter 3) also suggested that movement assessment tools presented in the scientific literature do not meet their needs since most rely on modified versions of these tools. A lack of standardisation within this realm limits the potential for examining and understanding how movement ability impacts performance. To understand this relationship of movement ability and performance, it was therefore considered important to develop a movement assessment tool which meets the needs of practitioners. The Athletic Ability Assessment (AAA) was designed as a potential solution to this problem and the first step in investigating its utility was to ensure good reliability which is supported by the results presented in Chapter 6. It is hoped that further scientific validation of the AAA or other movement assessments tools may prompt much needed investigations where movement ability is considered alongside the appraisal of physical fitness and performance characteristics. The study in Chapter 7 provides preliminary evidence for a relationship existing between improvements in movement ability and physical performance, however much more evidence to confirm this relationship in the wider sporting context is required. The research conducted in this thesis is part of the initial steps toward validating the importance placed on movement ability in junior athletes and indeed, senior athletes. This body of work addresses the need for more scientific evidence for the conjecture placed on movement assessment and training at present. Although it is acknowledged the research does not answer all the questions it is the vital first step towards this. Future research can be based off this initial work and shows the importance of this thesis in the context of providing a worthwhile contribution to the field of strength and conditioning, as it attempts to consolidate its footing in applied sports performance science.
    Date of Award2013
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorGordon Waddington (Supervisor) & Nick Ball (Supervisor)

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