Improving training through testing context appropriate muscle function assessment techniques to support effective coaching practice and athletic performance.
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Cumbria
Unit of AssessmentSport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Medical and Health Sciences: Human Movement and Sports Science, Public Health and Health Services
Economics: Applied Economics
Summary of the impact
The applied research generated has targeted practitioners and athletes at
all levels, and by combining expertise and knowledge from different areas
(primarily Biomechanics and Physiology), aimed to directly influence the
way in which muscle function is assessed in competitive sports. The
studies in the area of muscle conditioning and function has generated a
body of work that has the potential to be useful to coaches both in
competition as well as in training, but to date has not been fully
realised. By examining how the muscle responds to certain stimuli,
training suggestions have been provided that can acutely increase the
performance of an athlete, for example conditioning stimuli prior to
athletics performance (reference 4 in section 3). These suggestions can
assist both in improving the competitive performance as well as in
improving the quality of the content and experience of training sessions.
Further, evaluating a range of tests and assessment tools, such as by
examining their validity and reliability, monitoring and assessment
becomes much more accurate and sport-specific, enabling high-quality
training (such as in reference 2, section 3). In addition, as these
assessments allow testing to take place within the training and
performance environment the performer is accustomed to (such as in
reference 6, section 3), they also result in minimal disruption of the
training programme, which cannot be achieved using traditional assessment
techniques which require a visit to a laboratory for the assessment to
The range of applicability of the research to support uptake of the
recommendations and resultant training and performance benefits has been
maximised by ensuring the suggestions and equipment used are low cost and
easily accessible, enabling coaches and athletes from a wide range of
performance levels to utilise them, such as functional tests (such as in
reference 5, section 3). The work has highlighted that coaches and
athletes need to reassess their approaches to measuring performance and
specific measurement techniques used, and that doing so can improve
training techniques and athletic performance.
The research undertaken relates to muscle function and assessment within
competitive sport. Existing standard practice primarily focuses on
assessment of muscle function in a controlled laboratory environment, with
little transfer into sport-specific situations and contexts in which sport
practice (including competition) normally occur, such as water polo, team
games, running and functional activities. A gap was therefore identified;
however before this could be fully explored the assessment methods needed
to be evaluated and verified. Once these assessments had been evaluated,
further questions arose in that some of the assessments currently used
were not specific to the sport or environment and therefore lacked
reliability and validity.
Most of the research conducted is applied in nature, as it derives from
established and acknowledged gaps, identified through engagement with
coaches or through relevant literature. The practical need driving the
studies undertaken came from the lead researcher's own practice experience
as a UK national water polo coach, and was explored through research in
academic posts. The wider need for contextual performance analysis was
further identified through discussions with coaching and academic
colleagues from different disciplines: confirming widespread issues in
assessment and training to the ones faced in water polo. For example, with
Paul Jones, a Biomechanist working with UK Athletics, a need was
identified for more information on functional imbalance tests when
assessing athletes, leading to a study on functional tests (reference 4,
section 3). Similarly, with Joseph Esformes, a Strength and Conditioning
specialist working with athletes from various sports, we identified an
opportunity to enhance athletic training, which led to projects utilising
post-activation potentiation (references 3 and 4, section 3).
The studies outlined below, led by Theodoros Bampouras, give an overview
of the body of work and the collaborations with a number of key
colleagues, both internally and externally:
University of Cumbria:
- Theodoros Bampouras, Senior Lecturer in Sport Mechanics and
Performance Analysis, 2007 onwards.
- Nicola Relph, Teaching Research Assistant 2006 to 2010, Lecturer in
Biomechanics 2010 onwards.
External colleagues in other HEIs:
- Dr Joseph Esformes, Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Physiology,
Cardiff Metropolitan University.
- Dr Kelly Marrin, Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Physiology,
Edge Hill University. • Dr Paul Jones, Lecturer in Sport Biomechanics
and Strength and Conditioning, University of Salford.
Key research projects:
References to the research
1. Esformes, J.I., Bampouras, T.M. (2013) Effect of back
squat depth on lower body post- activation potentiation. Journal of
Strength and Conditioning Research 27 (11): 2997-3000 doi:
2. Bampouras, T.M., Relph, N., Orme, D., Esformes, J.I. (2013).
Validity and reliability of the Myotest Pro wireless accelerometer. Isokinetics
and Exercise Science. 21, 101-105.
3. Esformes, J.I., Keenan, M., Moody, J., Bampouras, T.M. (2011).
Effect of different types of conditioning contraction on upper body
postactivation potentiation. Journal of Strength and Conditioning
Research, 25, 143-148.
4. Esformes, J.I., Cameron, N., Bampouras, T.M. (2010).
Post-activation potentiation following different modes of exercise. Journal
of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24, 1911-1916.
5. Jones, P., Bampouras, T.M. (2010). A comparison of isokinetic
and functional methods of assessing bilateral strength imbalance. Journal
of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24, 1553-1558.
6. Bampouras, T.M., Marrin, K. (2009). Comparison of two water
polo specific tests to the Wingate anaerobic power test. Journal of
Strength and Conditioning Research, 23, 336-340.
The quality of the research is verified by the rigorous peer-review
process all papers have undergone before publication. Additionally, it can
be seen in the increasing number of citations of the work, as well as the
interest it generates to coaches (i.e. the intended audience; see Section
4) implementing training programmes. The studies have served as impetus
for further work by practitioners, directly (e.g the Tunisian Research
Laboratory "Sports Performance Optimisation" National Center of Medicine
and Science in Sports (CNMSS), Tunis, Tunisia; and the Sport Science
Department, ASPIRE, Academy for Sports Excellence, Doha, Qatar). Both of
these athlete training facilities have utilised the Esformes et al (2010)
and Jones et al (2009) papers, as well as indirectly (e.g. Narducci et al
the Department of Physical Therapy, Walsh University, Ohio using the Jones
and Bampouras (2010) paper as a quality paper in their systematic review).
Details of the impact
As outlined in section 2, the research is intrinsically designed to
generate impact for coaches and athletes, which is also reflected in the
route for dissemination of the academic articles through
practitioner-focussed journals. The uptake of the research by end users is
predominantly shown through these channels. The most recent article
(Esformes and Bampouras, November 2013), accepted for publication by the Journal
of Strength and Conditioning Research on 25th February
and available to view online ahead of print, features in the Journal's
most e-mailed articles (i.e. peer practitioner sharing through social
media), and has already been cited a number of times on fitness interest
websites (such as T Nation and CrossFit-APx). The Esformes et al (2010)
article is one of the journal's most popular, according to their Twitter
feed (which has over 10,000 followers, the majority of whom will be
athletes or coaches). The Journal of Strength and Conditioning
Research is a key route to reaching practitioners, as it
specifically targets practitioners as "a unique aspect [of this journal]
is that it includes recommendations for the practical use of research
findings". The Journal is affiliated to the National Strength and
Conditioning Association (30,000 members in 72 countries), whose aim is to
``bridge the gap'' from the scientific laboratory to the field
practitioner. In addition, the Esformes et al (2010) paper is one of the
`Most recommended' papers in BioInfoBank Library, an open access, free
online resource promoting science.
Secondly, the research features on various athletic websites providing
advice to athletes. For example, the Australian Fitness Network (10,000
fitness instructors as members) utilised the Jones and Bampouras (2010)
paper to make assessment suggestions on leg strength assessment based on
the finding of this study. Similarly, the Center for Optimal Recovery, a
website designed for athletes and offering advice on training and avoiding
injury, has used the recent Esformes and Bampouras (2013) study to make
training suggestions. The research is also picked up in a number of other
blogs and websites around coaching and reflection on practice, indicating
that it stimulates debate around designing training programmes and
assessment of performance.
The articles on post-activation potentiation have created interest from
academics (e.g. Esformes et al, 2010 cited 15 times; Esformes et al, 2011
cited 4 times) as well as practitioners, due to the simple and applied
suggestions they make. As post-activation potentiation is a relatively new
area of research, much of the literature revolved around laboratory-based
conditions, with little transfer to the field. However, the articles on
post-activation potentiation have clear application to the athletes by
making suggestions on how to improve power performance acutely with
simple, low- resource exercises. An early indicator of the applicability
of this work in shaping training is through citation of research findings
by a company who design training aids, specifically Freq ReflexTM,
a product which the company are working directly with trainers.
In addition, Bampouras is an invited contributor to practitioner
education through delivery of sessions on Muscle and Tendon Conditioning
on the MSc Strength and Conditioning degree at the University of Bolton,
since the course began in 2008, the context of which is based on the
research insights. Further, Bampouras and other colleagues were invited by
Active Cumbria, an organisation dedicated to delivering Sport and Physical
Activity in Cumbria, to deliver workshops to coaches working with athletes
from different sports and of various performance levels. These workshops
for part of the organisation's Coaching Plus Development programme and the
workshops Bampouras delivered were on Periodisation and Introduction
to Strength and Conditioning. Evaluation from coaches attending
revealed that the most useful information was "Practical ideas you can
incorporate into training really easily with minimum cost involved";
"Training info"; "How simple it can be"; "Assessment
bits"; and "Conditioning exercises", suggesting that the
information provided was perceived as useful and easy to implement in
Bampouras' work on muscle conditioning and assessment has informed
scientific support services provided to various athletes, with the prime
example being support provided to an athletics sprinter (U23 England
Championships finalist). Assessment of muscle function and subsequent
advice on training and improving performance was based on the research on
muscle imbalance assessment, power improvement and periodization.
Staff within the unit have also undertaken work with the Team GB diving
squad to assess and improve performance. This work was undertaken by
Nicola Relph and a former colleague from the unit, and provided mechanical
analysis of some of the most difficult dives, used to inform the focus of
training programmes. This resulted in improved performance for
synchronised divers in 2012 in relation to 2008 results. Relph and
Bampouras have co-authored papers on testing techniques (such as reference
2 in section 3), and the research followed the principles of the body of
work in relevant in situ testing for performance assessment.
Finally, research that has been undertaken on water polo training (e.g.
Bampouras and Marrin, 2009) has resulted in altering training and
assessment practices of the National Scottish Women's water polo team, in
light of the findings and suggestions of the body of work around the
sport. For example, the previously used 30 seconds cross bar jumps as a
measurement of lower leg power in water polo players, was abandoned due to
findings by Bampouras and Marrin (2010). Training loads and monitoring was
compared and designed around Marrin and Bampouras (2009) and Marrin and
Bampouras (2008), which informed the training process, assisted in player
selection as well as educated the players. The engagement with the team,
including both individual and team performance analysis, has contributed
to the promotion of the team to the top division.
Sources to corroborate the impact
The following has provided a statement, available on request:
- Sports Science / Sports Medicine coordinator, British Diving, to
corroborate impact on Team GB diving coaching, training programmes and
The following organisations and individuals can corroborate the adoption
of the research into practice:
- Scotland Water Polo Development Officer, Scottish Swimming, to
corroborate impact on training programmes and performance with the
National Scottish women's team.
- Athlete working with Bampouras, to corroborate impact on training
programmes and performance through work with an athlete and coaches.
- Development Officer-Coaching, Cumbria County Council, to corroborate
impact on coach education and development with Active Cumbria.