Archived project

Sensitive periods to train basic motor properties and motor skills in children and adolescents: Do they really exist? A critical review

Goal: This review will provide an updated evaluation of the sensitive periods proposed in several athlete development models (e.g., the LTAD model) based on the findings from recent studies.

Date: 1 January 2017 - 20 March 2020

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Bas Van Hooren
added a research item
Some long-term athlete development models have proposed generic sensitive periods or “windows of opportunity” during childhood and adolescence that are optimal for training general motor abilities such as strength or speed. However, it remains unclear whether these periods exist. This review will therefore critically appraise the rationale behind generic sensitive periods. We discuss several issues with generic sensitive periods and argue that general motor abilities and the associated sensitive periods do not exist. The identified issues with generic sensitive periods question their validity and we therefore suggest that they should not be used to train youth athletes.
Bas Van Hooren
added an update
Bas Van Hooren
added an update
Received feedback from reviewers and the revised version is now submitted
 
Bas Van Hooren
added an update
Abstract:
Several researchers and practitioners have hypothesized that there are sensitive periods in the development of children and adolescent during which training of a specific basic motor property such as strength or speed is extra effective. However, it remains unclear whether these sensitive periods really exist. This review will evaluate the evidence for the sensitive periods of strength, speed and endurance as proposed in the long-term athlete development (LTAD) model. It is concluded that an accelerated natural development of sub-systems, basic motor properties or motor skills as a result of growth and maturation does not necessarily correspond to a greater sensitivity to training. Furthermore, there is currently no high-quality scientific evidence that supports the existence of generic sensitive periods for strength, speed and endurance training. Moreover, each basic motor property and motor skill can be trained by many different methods, and each method is potentially most effective at another age. Therefore, a generic sensitive period at a specific biological or chronological age during which all training methods are extra effective to train a specific basic motor property or motor skill does likely not exist. All motor skills and basic motor properties can and should therefore always be trained.
 
Bas Van Hooren
added an update
The paper has been submitted about 2 months ago. Now waiting for peer-review.
 
Bas Van Hooren
added a project goal
This review will provide an updated evaluation of the sensitive periods proposed in several athlete development models (e.g., the LTAD model) based on the findings from recent studies.