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Northumbria scientists help pave the way for Team GB success in Tokyo

21st July 2021

Experts in sports science at Northumbria University have been working with Great Britain’s Olympic athletes to support their pursuit of Olympic medal success at this year’s Games in Tokyo.

Academics within the University’s Department of Sport, Exercise &Rehabilitation have collaborated with the English Institute of Sport to implement new effective, safe training practices and recovery strategies into the routines of Team GB athletes.

These techniques - based on Northumbria’s own research - will not only help athletes recover, but also help with injury management or cooling down from training and competing during Tokyo’s current heatwave.

Professor Glyn Howatson, who leads the Optimising Human Performance research group at Northumbria, has been working closely with colleagues to find new ways to help improve the performance of athletes in both the British Sailing and British Cycling teams.

Historically, training interventions to improve performance among Britain’s elite cyclists have focussed on heavy strength training exercises, such as back squats and deadlifts, however this places huge stress on musculoskeletal structures, particularly the spine.

Through extensive research, Professor Howatson’s team has established unique training methods that have been adopted by the EIS to provide new, safer ways to improve performance in some of our Olympic athletes.

“We developed novel strength-training methods for Britain’s cyclists, stepping away from the standardised barbell resistance exercise,” said Professor Howatson. “The team developed an ‘on bike’ resistance training session that can help improve strength and power output but with fewer of the complications that might be present when lifting very heavy weights.

“This different thinking has enabled us to provide coaches and athletes with different options for training to improve performance, but with lower risk of injury and greater specificity to the activity.

“For British Sailing we developed off-water training methods to support athletes when water conditions were not suitable for training. This was conducted by Alex Anastasiou, who specialised in this area as a PhD student at Northumbria. He has now completed his PhD and works full-time at British Sailing and is currently at the Olympic Games in Tokyo with the sailing team.”

Through supporting science and medicine teams within the EIS, Northumbria’s research findings contributed to Team GB’s performance success at the Rio 2016 Olympics. 

Northumbria’s researchers have continued to collaborate with the EIS in the preparation of Team GB athletes for the Tokyo Olympics, which has enabled improvement in athletes’ performance and increased their potential for medal success.

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