The effects of handheld load on horizontal jump performance in female athletes
McKenzie, Chloe Renee
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There is evidence to show that approximately 3000 years ago, handheld load was used to enhance human athletic performance. A primitive form of dumbbell (“halteres”) was held in each hand during long jump events at the ancient Olympic Games, supposedly to increase jump performance. This thesis has sought to gain knowledge on the effects of handheld load on horizontal jumping biomechanics and performance in female athletes. On the basis of the literature review, jump distance was found to increase with handheld load in all reviewed studies; however, methodological concerns and a lack of studies investigating female athletes made it clear further research was needed on this topic. As horizontal motion is a common component in court sport movements, and the review of literature highlighted the scarcity of research in female athletes, this thesis focused on female netball players. The aim of the thesis was to investigate the effects of handheld load in horizontal jump performance in female netball players. Findings in Chapter 3 suggest handheld load increases horizontal jump performance. In a group of 12 female netball players, jump performance significantly increased from 170.7 ±15.3 cm to 176.7 ±15.4 cm (Effect size [ES] =0.39, p=0.04) with a handheld load of 4 kilograms (kg). An average optimal load (relative to body mass [BM]) based on curve fitting, where the greatest enhancement of jump distance occurred, was determined to be 6.4 ±4.0 % BM, eliciting an increase in jump distance of 9.5 ±6.8 cm (ES=0.61). Chapter 4 presents findings from 13 female netball players performing standing horizontal jumps with and without an individualised optimal handheld load, as determined by the curve fitting method from Chapter 3. Jump distance was found to significantly increase with optimal handheld load (ES=0.39, p<0.05), as was concentric ground reaction forces (ES=0.43-0.72) and the technical ability of force application (i.e. the ratio of horizontal to resultant ground reaction force) (ES=0.55). Underlying mechanisms involving arm swing motion and the ratio of force application were applied to the finding. It was concluded that handheld load could help improve the production and technical application of horizontal forces in female athletes during sports movements requiring horizontal force production; thus, achieving a successful sporting performance. Further research focusing on the chronic adaptations of horizontal jumping with handheld load is needed to determine appropriate training protocols.