Department for Health

Sports performance

Why do we research this area?


Athlete practicing a start

— Athlete's muscle functions, force production and movement patters are measured in the laboratory to understand the fundamental issues in sprint start.


Research on sports performance and consequent knowledge transfer by improving coaches' and athletes’ understanding of performance is one way to boost the athletes’ chances of success in competition.

Research in this area requires consideration of the intrinsic and extrinsic factors, which influence performance. Inevitably, sports performance is influenced by physiological, psychological and mechanical factors. These range from understanding the fundamental principles underlying the technical performance in order to improve an individual athlete’s technique and efficiency to measuring and managing the psychological stress that performers encounter when training and competing in sport. Developing a clearer understanding of these considerations will aid attempts to improve elite performance.

Athletes are also important role models in society and an increase in participation as a result of their success can be strongly linked to wider social and economic benefits - for example, there has been a 25 per cent surge in athletic participation in England in a year since the London 2012 Olympic Games (Sport England Active People Survey 7, June 2013).

Sport retailers have also reported increased turnover and profits since the London 2012 Olympics. For example, the Chief Executive of a leading sports retailer stated: “There is no doubt that Team GB’s outstanding performance has helped increase the awareness and popularity of sport across the UK” (Sports Direct International Plc. company statement, 13 December 2012).

What do we do?

Our research aims to identify the independent factors that limit human function and investigate interventions to improve or optimise performance.

Our research methodology includes:

  • biomechanical assessments of technique
  • in vivo assessments of muscle function
  • modelling performance
  • studies designed to understand the physiological and nutritional mechanisms underpinning acute changes in performance
  • testing of performance improvements from training and/or other interventions
  • psychometric development and validation
  • mixed-method examinations, such as qualitative and quantitative.

Examples of our research

Project title Aim/findings People and Partners Funder
The Biomechanics of Elite Sprinting To analyse sprinter’s technique to understand what characterises elite performance UK Athletics
University of Bath
Nutrition and Performance To determine whether nutritional interventions improve performance and function during and after exercise GSK
Saudi Arabia HE Authority
University of Bath
Enhancing training and performance in elite sport To improve performance in elite athletes UK Sport
English Institute of Sport
Skeleton start project To enhance bob skeleton start and loading phases UK Sport
Bob Skeleton Association
Motor variability in sport To analyse the nature of movement variability and neuromuscular control  
Organizational stress in sport To measure and manage the organizational stress process in sport