Using an approach to Strength and conditioning to provide public benefit in elite athletes.
Submitting InstitutionSouthampton Solent University
Unit of AssessmentSport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Medical and Health Sciences: Public Health and Health Services
Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services: Business and Management
Psychology and Cognitive Sciences: Psychology
Summary of the impact
Sport and exercise research at Southampton Solent University commenced in
2007 and comprises a young research team focussed on strength and
conditioning within sport. The overarching methodological approach is
defined in the work of Fisher et al (2011) as momentary muscular fatigue
(MMF) whereby training is undertaken to maximal exertion. Using MMF the
research team have published findings and their conclusions for public
benefit, thus improving performance with a range of client groups in
sport. The impact of this methodological approach is far reaching,
improving performance in elite performers, whether they are able or
disabled. The beneficiary groups include; two Paralympic squads in the
build up to, and including, the London 2012 Paralympic Games and a
premiership football team.
During the past thirty or so years, the popularity of strength training
has increased enormously. Simultaneously, the number of popular books and
articles devoted to this topic has increased, many containing
contradictory and inconsistent advice. Such concerns as the appropriate
number of sets and repetitions individuals should perform, the movement
cadence individuals should adopt, frequency of training, and how to
specifically target increased power or muscular endurance are discussed
regularly in popular weight training magazines and books, with little
authority, (Smith and Bruce-Low, 2004). The research team through their
scholarly activity have attempted to address the issue of confusion
through quality research and develop a strategic approach to training in
Momentary Muscular Failure (MMF)
The paper by Fisher et al (2012) challenges many of the approaches to
conventional strength training building on previous work undertaken by
Smith and Bruce-Low in 2004. The use of training to momentary muscular
fatigue enhances training efficiency as well as strength gains and is the
salient point covered in this article. It shows clearly that this form of
training is a fundamental aspect of preparation for the development of
strength and power with the work of Bruce-Low et al (2012) showing it can
be used in a time-efficient method to optimise muscular development and
also prehabilitation (training to prevent injury). The paper by Mola et al
(2013) successfully identifies methods (including MMF) by which training
in professional soccer can be enhanced by undertaking post activation
potentiation and improving power output to enhance soccer performance.
Therefore, this research on the training intervention of MMF shows impact
for helping to improve performance in elite athletes. It is the claim of
this research group that this research has both reach and significant
Positions held during research period
Mola — Research Assistant Southampton Solent University
Bruce-Low — Associate Professor Southampton Solent University
Fisher — Senior Lecturer Southampton Solent University
Steele — Associate Lecturer Southampton Solent University
Smith — Senior Lecturer Manchester Metropolitan University
References to the research
1. Fisher J, Steele J, Bruce-Low S, and Smith D (2011). Evidence-based
resistance training recommendations. Medicina Sportiva: 15 (3):
2. Fisher J, Bruce-Low S, Smith D. (2012). A Randomized Trial to consider
the effect of Romanian deadlift exercise on the development of lumbar
extension strength. Physical Therapy in Sport, August, 1-7.
3. Bruce-Low S, Smith D, Burnet S, Fisher J, Bissell G, Webster L.
(2012). One lumbar extension training session per week is sufficient for
optimal strength gains and reductions in low back pain in chronic
participants. Ergonomics: 55 (4), 500-7.
4. Mola J, Bruce-Low S, Burnet S. (2013). Optimal Recovery Time for
Postactivation Potentiation in Professional Soccer Players. Journal of
Strength and Conditioning Research.
5. Smith D & Bruce-Low S. (2004) Strength training methods and the
work of Arthur Jones.
Journal of Exercise Physiology online. 7 (6): 52-68.
6. Smith D, Bissell G, Bruce-Low S, Wright C (2011). The effect of lumbar
extension training with and without pelvic stabilization on lumbar
strength and low back pain. Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal
Rehabilitation, 24, 1-9.
Articles 1, 2 and 5 are well cited in the literature suggesting impact
within the academic field.
Articles 3 and 4 are published in well-respected journals known for their
rigorous peer review process suggesting the quality of the articles is
Details of the impact
The manner in which the MMF strength training is undertaken is key and
the research from this group has shown that our work has high impact.
Using this strength training approach, we believe this research has
interim impact for those practitioners within the field of sport, exercise
and fitness working with recreation and elite performers across the world.
High Performance Sport and Strength Training
This line of strength research has allowed the team to work with high
profile clients during high profile events such as GB Wheelchair rugby
(GBWR) and GB ladies wheelchair basketball at the Paralympics in the
summer of 2012. During the preparation of the GBWR squad the group's
published MMF research (references above) was adopted nationally to all
the club teams, thus to all wheelchair rugby players in the country. This
impact for the sport was nationally recognised and is clearly supported by
the reference sent by the head coach of the squad for the 2012 Paralympics
clearly stating the success of the interventions created the fittest team
for the last 3 Paralympics, which he places firmly as a result of the work
undertaken by Dr Bruce-Low. The team's involvement in GBWR resulted in
extensive media coverage with regards to the training undertaken. For
example, Dr Bruce-Low was filmed by Channel 4 undertaking multiple filming
sessions (Paralympic breakfast show; Best of British). In addition, his
work now spans to premiership football where he is a sport science
consultant to Southampton football club. James Fisher was able to apply
his research in conjunction with the GB Wheelchair ladies basketball in
their preparation for the 2012 Paralympics. His 2011 publication clearly
challenges the current approaches to strength training, suggesting that
training to MMF instead of non-fatigued states, has had impact for many
strength coach practitioners around the world in ensuring their training
methods are evidenced based and successful. This is clearly evidenced by
the emails sent to James Fisher in response to his publications but also
from the emails from the assistant coach detailing James' role in the
preparation of the Women's Wheelchair Basketball squad for the London 2012
Sources to corroborate the impact
The application of SSU research to Paralympians received wide media
Paralympic coverage — Channel 4 - 07-09-12
three live broadcasts (five minutes each) from Southampton Solent
University talking about the
strength and conditioning training under taken by Paralympian Aaron Phipps
with Dr Stewart
Bruce-Low at the university's BASES accredited physiology labs.
7.40am, 8.15am and 8.45am
The Guardian — 18-11-11Interview with paralympian Aaron Phillips
referring to his relationship with SSU
Use of SSU techniques with professional football clubs has received local
coverage, particularly given Southampton's current success:
Sport Science — Southern Daily Echo 09-10-13: Saints, who have soared
into the top four of the Premier League, also have the use of Southampton
Solent University's state-of-the-art physiology sports laboratory that has
now been recognised as one of the top centres in the UK.
Researcher User Testimonials:
Head of Sports Science, Southampton Football Club corroborates the claim
the SSU research has been used to improve the strength and conditioning of
their premiership level players.
Head Coach, Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby corroborates the claim that SSU
research was used to create previously unprecedented levels of fitness.