Strength and conditioning primarily focuses on the physical development of athletes as well as preventing injury and providing rehabilitation in order to improve sporting performance. The strength and conditioning coach plays an integral role in an athletes training regime. It is well recognised that strength and power are critical components of athletic performance and can have a great impact on the individualisation of training programmes and the reduction of injury risk. The design and implementation of strength and power programmes is a central aspect of the strength and conditioning coaches’ role. There are a number of ways in which strength and power levels can be assessed, such as quantifying an athletes maximal force generating capacity (peak force) and the slope of the force-time curve (rate of force development), which are indicative of an athletes strength qualities. For example, peak force is indicative of “maximum strength” and rate of force development is indicative of “explosive strength”. Results from tests allow coaches to plan and tailor programmes to suit the athlete’s individual needs.
Sport Ireland Institute is my Irish Research Council Enterprise Partner. My research centres on the development of a bespoke diagnostic system for Sport Ireland Institute to help enhance our understanding of the techniques involved in strength and power diagnostics and of strength and power training. The research will help to identify the strengths and weaknesses of athletes, build a database of Olympic athlete’s athletic profiles and evaluate the correlation between strength and power variables and key sports performance indicators. A Sorinex isometric testing system with an integrated Kistler force plate was installed in the new training facility. Initial research involved testing the reliability of the isometric mid-thigh pull and isometric squat performed at the same knee and hip angle across a mixed group of athletes. Future research plans to develop a database of athlete’s strength and power profiles and compare the strength and power capabilities of athletes from various population groups, such as speed based and endurance based athletes. In addition, I will evaluate the correlation between athletes’ strength and power profile and sprint performance among track and field sprinters and team based athletes and also key performance indicators for endurance athletes. The results will provide research based direction on the use of the system to enhance athletic performance of Irish athletes. This diagnostic system will be used to assess an athlete’s strength and power profile, to help plan interventions to target athletes’ individual needs and improve athletes’ performance and thus enhance the quality and precision of strength and conditioning programming for Irish athletes.
The research has involved collaboration with Dr. Greg Haff of Edith Cowen University. Dr. Haff and Prof. Mike Stone conceptualised the isometric mid-thigh pull in 1993 based upon observations made of the German Weightlifting team testing by Dr. Mike Stone in 1992. Later this year I will spend a couple of weeks in Edith Cowen University working with on a research project with his team which will help me generate ideas and undertake research in a new environment and help with bringing evidence into practice hopefully creating a wider impact for strength and conditioning coaches.
Claire Brady is a postgraduate student in the PESS Department. View Claire’s Profile here.
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