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Supporting athletes’ need for autonomy, by allowing them to make choices concerning one or more training variables, can be used as an effective coaching strategy by strength and conditioning (S&C) professionals. However, this coaching strategy has received little attention in the S&C field, despite being extensively studied in the fields of sport psychology and motor learning. Autonomy support has been shown to improve motor learning, performance, and adherence. In this review, the positive effects of providing choices are discussed as they apply to athletes and S&C professionals. Moreover, possible mechanisms for these effects are described and practical recommendations are provided.
Background: It has been reported that boys’ and girls’ physical activity (PA) levels decline throughout adolescence. Boys are at risk of physical inactivity during adolescence however, in intervention research they are an under-represented group relative to girls. It is suggested that the school environment may be central to developing interventions that support adolescents in meeting the current PA guidelines. The aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to investigate the efficacy of school-based physical activity interventions for improving muscular fitness (MF) in adolescent males.
Methods: This systematic review and meta-analysis followed the preferred reporting systems for meta-analyses guidelines and was registered on PROSPERO (Registration number: CRD42018091023). Eligible studies were published in English within peer-reviewed articles. Searches were conducted in three databases, with an additional grey literature search in Google Scholar. Studies investigating MF outcomes were included.
Results: There were 43 data sets identified across 11 studies, from seven countries. Overall methodological quality of the studies was moderate to strong. Interventions targeting MF evidenced a small to medium effect (g = 0.32, CI 0.17, 0.48, P = <.001). Sub-group analyses of MF delivery method resulted in small to medium effects: Upper limb MF measures (g = 0.28, 95% CI -0.02, 0.58, p = 0.07), lower limb MF measures (g = 0.28, 95% CI 0.09, 0.68, p 0.03), combined MF activities (g = 0.24, 95% CI -0.04 – 0.49, p = 0.05), plyometric activities (g = 0.39, 95% CI 0.09, 0.68, p = 0.01), body weight (g = 0.27, 95% CI -0.10, 0.65, p = 0.15), and traditional MF methods (g = 0.43, 95% CI 0.09, 0.78, p = 0.01).
Conclusions: School-based interventions which aimed to increase MF outcomes in adolescent boys demonstrated small to moderate effects. Traditional and plyometric methods of resistance training appear to be the most effective form of PA delivery in adolescent males. More quality research is required to assess the impact of MF delivered in the school environment in order to inform future intervention design.
Auto-regulated exercise selection training regimen ABSTRACT: The purpose of this investigation was to compare the effects of auto-regulatory exercise selection (AES) vs. fixed exercise selection (FES) on muscular adaptations in strength-trained individuals. Seventeen males (Mean ± SD; age = 24 ± 5.45 years; height = 180.3 ± 7.54cm, lean body mass [LBM] 66.44 ± 6.59kg; squat and bench press 1RM: body mass ratio 1.87, 1.38 respectively) were randomly assigned into either AES or FES. Both groups trained three times a week for 9 weeks. AES self-selected the exercises for each session, whereas FES was required to perform exercises in a fixed order. LBM was assessed via DEXA and maximum strength via 1RM testing, pre and post training intervention. Total volume load was significantly higher for AES than for FES (AES: 573,288kg ± 67,505, FES: 464,600 ± 95,595, p=0.0240). For LBM, there was a significant main time effect (p=0.009). However, confidence interval analysis (95%CI diff) suggested that only AES significantly increased LBM (AES: 2.47%, ES: 0.35, 95% CI diff [0.030kg: 3.197kg], FES: 1.37 %, ES: 0.21, 95% CI diff [-0.500kg: 2.475kg]). There was a significant main time effect for maximum strength (p≤0.0001). However, 95% CI diff suggested that only AES significantly improved Bench-press 1RM (AES: 6.48%, ES: 0.50, 95% CIdiff [0.312kg: 11.42kg; FES: 5.14%, ES: 0.43 95%CIdiff [-0.311kg: 11.42kg]. On the other hand for back squat 1RM similar responses were observed between groups, (AES: 9.55%, ES: 0.76 95% CIdiff [0.04kg: 28.37kg], FES: 11.54%, ES: 0.80, 95%CIdiff [1.8kg: 28.5kg]. Our findings, suggest AES may provide a small advantage in LBM and upper body maximal strength in strength-trained individuals.
The authors examined several issues related to the motor learning benefits resulting from giving learners choices. In 2 experiments, participants practiced a novel task, throwing a lasso. In Experiment 1, giving learners a choice ostensibly irrelevant to performance (color of mat under target) resulted in enhanced learning relative to a control group. The choice group also reported more positive affect. Experiment 2 compared the effectiveness of task-irrelevant (mat color) versus task-relevant (video demonstrations of the skill) choices. In both choice groups, each participant was yoked to a participant in the other group, and each received the same mat color or saw the video demonstration, respectively, as chosen by their counterpart in the other group. In the control group, participants were yoked to their respective counterparts in each of the choice groups. On a retention test, the 2 choice groups did not differ from each other, but both outperformed the control group. The affective and learning effects seen when learners are given choices, and the fact that task-relevant and task-irrelevant choices resulted in similar learning benefits, are consistent with a content-neutral mechanism for the effects of choice on learning, as described in the OPTIMAL theory of motor learning (Wulf & Lewthwaite, 2016).
To investigate the effect of autonomy support (through the provision of choice) in exercise - relative to a no-choice condition with matched energy expenditure - on appetite and subsequent energy intake.
Fifty-eight men and women (body mass index: 22.9 ± 2.3 kg.m, peak oxygen consumption: 52.7 ± 6.4 ml.kg.min) completed one familiarization session and one experimental trial, in which they were randomized to either a choice or no choice exercise condition using a between-subjects yoked design. Ad libitum energy intake from a laboratory test meal was assessed after exercise, together with perceptions of mood, perceived choice, enjoyment, and value.
Despite similar ratings of perceived appetite across conditions (P > 0.05), energy intake was significantly higher following exercise performed under the no choice condition (2456 ± 1410 kJ) compared with the choice condition (1668 ± 1215 kJ; P = 0.026; d = 0.60). In particular, the proportion of energy intake from unhealthy foods was significantly greater following exercise in the no choice condition (1412 ± 1304 kJ) compared with the choice condition (790 ± 861 kJ; P = 0.037, d = 0.56). Participants in the choice condition also reported higher perceptions of choice (P < 0.001), enjoyment (P = 0.008), and value (P = 0.009) relating to the exercise session, while there were no between-condition differences in mood (P > 0.05).
A lack of choice in exercise is associated with greater energy intake from 'unhealthy' foods in recovery. This finding highlights the importance of facilitating an autonomy supportive environment during exercise prescription and instruction.
The present study explored the relationship between motor-preparatory electroencephalographic (EEG) activity, motivation, and motor performance (specifically premotor reaction time [RT]). Participants performed a RT task by squeezing a hand dynamometer in response to an auditory “go” signal. We recorded EEG and electromyography to index beta-suppression and premotor RT, respectively. Participants’ motivation on each trial was modulated by offering monetary incentives at different magnitudes. Mixed-effect linear regression models showed that monetary incentive predicted premotor RT when controlling for beta-suppression, and beta-suppression independently predicted premotor RT. Thus, it appears motivation and beta-suppression can facilitate motor performance independent of one another. A plausible explanation of this effect is that motivation can affect motor performance independent of motor cortex by influencing subcortical motor circuitry.
While self-controlled practice has been shown to enhance motor learning with various populations and novel tasks, it remains unclear if such effects would be found with athletes completing familiar tasks. Study 1 used a single case-study design with a world-champion kickboxer. We investigated whether giving the athlete a choice over the order of punches would affect punching velocity and impact force. Separated by 1 minute of rest, the athlete completed 2 rounds of 12 single, maximal effort punches (lead straight, rear straight, lead hook & rear hook) delivered to a punching integrator in a counterbalanced order over 6 testing days. In one round the punches were delivered in a predetermined order while in the second round the order was self-selected by the athlete. In the choice condition, the world-champion punched with greater velocities (6-11%) and impact forces (5-10%). In Study 2, the same testing procedures were repeated with 13 amateur male kickboxers over 2 testing days. Similar to Study 1, the athletes punched with significantly greater velocities (6%, p< 0.05) and normalized impact forces (2%, p< 0.05) in the choice condition. These findings complement research on autonomy support in motor learning by demonstrating immediate advantages in force production and velocity with experienced athletes.
Daily undulating periodization (DUP) is a growing trend, both in practice and in the scientific literature. A new form of DUP, flexible daily undulating periodization (FDUP), allows for athletes to have some autonomy by choosing the order of their training. The purpose of this study was to compare an FDUP model to a traditional model of DUP on powerlifting performance in resistance-trained men. Twenty-five resistance-trained men were randomly assigned to one of 2 groups: FDUP (N = 14) or DUP (N = 11). All participants possessed a minimum of 6 months of resistance training experience and were required to squat, bench press, and deadlift 125, 100, and 150% of their body mass, respectively. Dependent variables assessed at baseline and after the 9-week training program included bench press 1 repetition maximum (1RM), squat 1RM, deadlift 1RM, powerlifting total, Wilks Coefficient, fat mass, and fat-free mass (FFM). Dependent variables assessed during each individual training session were motivation to train, Session Rating of Perceived Exertion (Session RPE), and satisfaction with training session. After the 9-week training program, no significant differences in intensity or volume were found between groups. Both groups significantly improved bench press 1RM (FDUP: +6.5 kg; DUP: +8.8 kg), squat 1RM (FDUP: +15.6 kg; DUP: +18.0 kg), deadlift 1RM (FDUP: +14.8 kg; DUP: +13.6 kg), powerlifting total (FDUP: +36.8 kg; DUP: +40.4 kg), and Wilks Coefficient (FDUP: +24.8; DUP: +26.0) over the course of study (p = <0.001 for each variable). There was also a significant increase in FFM (FDUP: +0.8 kg; DUP: +0.8 kg) for both groups (p = 0.003). There were no differences in motivation to train, session RPE, or satisfaction with training session measurements between groups (p = 0.369-0.702, respectively). In conclusion, FDUP seems to offer similar resistance training adaptations when compared with a traditional DUP in resistance-trained men.
Recent studies have documented that self-determined choice does indeed enhance performance. However, the precise neural mechanisms underlying this effect are not well understood. We examined the neural correlates of the facilitative effects of self-determined choice using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Participants played a game-like task involving a stopwatch with either a stopwatch they selected (self-determined-choice condition) or one they were assigned without choice (forced-choice condition). Our results showed that self-determined choice enhanced performance on the stopwatch task, despite the fact that the choices were clearly irrelevant to task difficulty. Neuroimaging results showed that failure feedback, compared with success feedback, elicited a drop in the vmPFC activation in the forced-choice condition, but not in the self-determined-choice condition, indicating that negative reward value associated with the failure feedback vanished in the self-determined-choice condition. Moreover, the vmPFC resilience to failure in the self-determined-choice condition was significantly correlated with the increased performance. Striatal responses to failure and success feedback were not modulated by the choice condition, indicating the dissociation between the vmPFC and striatal activation pattern. These findings suggest that the vmPFC plays a unique and critical role in the facilitative effects of self-determined choice on performance.
Feedback is commonly employed to enhance motor learning and performance. While numerous studies have investigated the causal effects of feedback on motor learning, an analysis of real-time feedback provided during training and competitive sporting environments is lacking. Therefore, the feedback provided by 12 boxing coaches to athletes between rounds of the 2015 Australian Boxing Championships was recorded and transcribed. The feedback statements were then analyzed according to three feedback variables that have been shown to be critical for optimizing performance: Attentional focus (external, internal, neutral), autonomy support (autonomy-supportive, controlling, neutral), and feedback valence (positive, negative, neutral). Collectively, 445 feedback statements provided during 25 bouts, of which 14 were won and 11 were lost, were analysed for each of the three categories. Coaches provided on average 8 feedback statements per round. Excluding neutral statements, coaches delivered more internal (15%) compared with external focus feedback (6%), more controlling (53%) compared with autonomy-supportive feedback (6%), and more positive (29%) relative to negative feedback (12%). Furthermore, during winning bouts coaches delivered less internal (12% vs. 19%), less controlling (48% vs. 58%), and more positive (36% vs. 18%) feedback, when compared with losing bouts. These results demonstrate for the first time the type and frequency of feedback delivered during amateur boxing bouts. While these findings may or may not reflect causal relationships, it is interesting that feedback that has been found to enhance motor performance was more often used during winning rather than losing bouts.