Many performance coaches pride themselves on being able to provide instant technical modification or cueing to an athlete that will result in an immediate improvement in a performance measure such as sprinting or jumping. Perhaps the athlete has a poor first step or shoots his/her hips too high off the start. Simply teaching the proper technique to this individual will likely yield an immediate improvement. Technique in certain movements takes time to refine and therefore it’s important for athletes to be evaluated by a critical eye that can provide important biomechanical feedback. However, when technique is sound, what are some other ways in which coaches can get the most out of our athletes and turn transient increases in performance into chronic adaptations?
In a recent study published in the Journal of Sports Sciences, a group of researchers tested the effects of different feedback/cueing on repeated countermovement jump performance. A random sample of 19 active college students (11 male, 8 female) were recruited for this study. Each subject performed 12 sets of 8 countermovement jumps on a force plate. Of the 12 sets and in random order, 4 were completed with the subject being given internal feedback which was the instruction to “extend the legs as fast as possible for each jump”. Another 4 series were completed with external feedback where a tennis ball was hung 5 cm above each subjects best pre-recorded jump height and they were told to try and reach the ball. The remaining 4 series were completed with augmented feedback which was simply a visual display of their jump height on a screen in front of them where they would try and beat their score each time. Muscle activity of the lower extremity was evaluated during each jump for all subjects.
After comparing the mean jump height for each condition, the results showed that the augmented feedback condition ended up with the highest jump height, being significantly greater than both other conditions. The external cueing condition (tennis ball reach) was significantly better than the internal feedback group. No difference in muscle activity between groups was observed. The authors speculate that the augmented feedback provided the best results because the subjects were able to learn and improve upon their technique by constantly seeing their jump height. Essentially, seeing their jump height served as a guide to let them improve upon their technique by positively reinforcing a movement pattern that yielded higher jump heights with each successive jump. Thus it appears that a simple but effective way to get your athletes to optimize acute performance may simply be to provide performance feedback. Weather its guiding and improving their technique or just getting the competitive juices flowing it certainly deserves consideration.
Keller, M., Lauber, B., Gottschalk, M., & Taube, W. (2015). Enhanced jump performance when providing augmented feedback compared to an external or internal focus of attention. Journal of sports sciences, 33(10), 1067-1075.