My Recent Research – Longitudinal Tracking of Anthropometric and Fitness Characteristics

Over the last few months I have had three research papers accepted in peer reviewed journals. These research papers were from the last study of my PhD and advance on previous research in talent identification and development, anthropometric and fitness characteristics in youth athletes and junior rugby league by providing a longitudinal evaluation. This research has practical implications for coaches, sport scientists, players and parents and this blog aims to provide a brief overview of the findings of the research and what it means for practice.

My early research demonstrated that within talent identified junior rugby league squads that relatively older (i.e., those players born near the September selection cut off date – See figure below) and earlier maturing (i.e., those players that matured earlier) players were advantaged in selection to these squads (Till et al., 2010a). Further, there were clear physical differences in anthropometric and fitness characteristics between players of differing playing positions and selection levels (i.e., Regional and National players; Till et al., 2010b; 2011). However, to progress on this research and  research within other sports it was important to understand the longitudinal changes that occur over time in the development of junior rugby league players.









My first longitudinal study (Till et al., 2012) evaluated the changes in anthropometric and fitness characteristics in 81 junior rugby players aged (13-15 years) and examined these  changes by playing position and selection level. Findings identified significant improvement in characteristics between Under 13 and 15 age categories as would be expected with back positions demonstrating greater improvements than forwards over this two year period. This study provided some evidence for tracking the progression of characteristics longitudinally during adolescence, instead of at one-off time points, and considered whether this approach may assist selection and/or performance assessments within rugby league and other youth sport contexts.

My next study (Till et al., 2013a) took a similar approach but evaluated the longitudinal changes of players according to their relative age and maturation status. After complex repeated measures analysis the findings demonstrated that the earlier maturing players outperformed the other players at the under 13s age category but over the two years the later maturing players actually increased their anthropometric (e.g., height) and fitness (e.g., 60m sprint) characteristics more than the other groups. These findings question the early (de)selection policies currently applied in talent identification and development programs  when performance-related variables are tracked longitudinally as later maturing players have more chance to improve during the teenage years. Further, during adolescence, maturation status alongside relative age should be considered and controlled for when assessing athlete potential for future progression. Basically, players should be monitored over time and their maturation status should be known.

As these studies had looked at groups of players it was important to understand individual improvements in performance over time. Therefore, my most recent paper (Till et al., 2013) monitored the individual changes in growth and fitness in three case study players of differing maturation status (late, average, early maturer). To do this a performance profile (see figure below) was created using mean data from my previous research (0 represents the mean and +/- 1 represents a standard deviation). Three players anthropometric and fitness testing results were then plotted on this profile at the Under 13s, 14s and 15s age categories to allow comparisons between players.









Findings demonstrated the early maturing player was the best performer at the under 13s age category but when performance was tracked over the two years very different improvements occurred. For example the late maturing player increased height by 9.2% and 60m sprint by -14.9% compared to the early maturing player who demonstrated a 2.0% increase in height and -0.7% in 60m sprint. At the Under 13s age category the early maturing player was 11cm taller and significantly quicker than the late maturing player. However, over the two year period performance significantly changed meaning the late maturing player was now taller and a lot faster than the early maturing player!

This study demonstrated the large variation in the development of anthropometric and fitness characteristics between the three adolescent rugby league players highlighting the importance of longitudinally monitoring individual characteristics during adolescence to assess dynamic changes in growth, maturation and fitness. The findings showcase the limitations of short-term performance assessments at one-off time points within annual-age categories; instead advocating individual development and progression tracking without de-selection. Coaches should consider using an individual approach, comparing data with population averages, to assist in the prescription of appropriate training and lifestyle interventions to aid the development of junior athletes.

The key message from this research is that players should be assessed and monitored over time to track their development instead of using short term, one-off approaches to compare and select players. A performance profile, using existing data or club specific standards is an excellent way of presenting and monitoring player development. Also, the adolescent period, when key maturational changes are occurring, can have significant impact on performance and it is important that coaches, parents and players themselves understand that changes are occurring and this varies from player to player. Again, remember players can always improve and get better and without training to do this then other players will catch up. The later maturing player should never give up as they will catch up in time.

I hope you find this overview of my work interesting and check out the articles for a more in depth read. If you’d like to discuss this further with me then please don’t hesitate to contact me with your questions or comments



Till, K. Cobley, S. O’Hara, J. Chapman, C. & Cooke, C. (2013b) The dynamics of growth and development in junior athletes: An individualised long-term monitoring approach. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 

Till, K. Cobley, S. O’Hara, J. Chapman, C. & Cooke, C. (2013a) Considering maturation and relative age in the longitudinal evaluation of junior rugby league players. Scandinavian Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. 

Till, K. Cobley, S. O’Hara, J. Chapman, C. & Cooke, C. (2012) A Longitudinal Evaluation of Anthropometric and Fitness Characteristics in Junior Rugby League Players. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. 

Till, K. Cobley, S. O’Hara, J. Brightmore, A. Chapman, C. & Cooke, C. (2011) Using Anthropometric and Performance Characteristics to Predict Selection in Junior UK Rugby League Players. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. 14, pp. 264-269.

Till, K. Cobley, S. O’Hara, J. Chapman, C. & Cooke, C. (2010b) Anthropometric, physiological and selection characteristics in high performance UK junior Rugby League players. Talent Development and Excellence (special issue). 2(2), pp. 193-207.

Till, K. Cobley, S. Wattie, N. O’Hara, J. Cooke, C. & Chapman, C. (2010a) The prevalence, influential factors and mechanisms of relative age effects in UK Rugby League. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. 20. 320-329.

An Example Days Nutrition to Optimise Body Composition and Improve Performance

I’m sure everyone is well underway with their new training and nutrition plans since the New Year. Well, I thought I would share a detailed example day of one of my clients nutritional intake to optimise their body composition (increase lean mass and reduce body fat) and improve their performance (by intaking meals in and around training). I use to provide a detailed summary of the intake of their calories, carbohydrates, protein, etc. Based on the clients BMR and activity levels I aim to provide approx 2800 calories per day to achieve these goals. Getting 2,800 of good quality calories is not an easy job so see below for an example day

Breakfast – 7.30am
Wetabix x3 biscuits – 201 calories
Boiled Egg – 68 calories

ASN Diet Whey Protein – 98 calories
Banana (200g) – 178 calories
Omega 3, 6 and 9 supplement
Multivitamin supplement

Mid Morning Snack – 10.30am
50g Blueberries – 22 calories
Mass Matrix Supplement – 450 calories

Lunch – 1pm
100g Chicken Breast – 165 calories
150g Sweet Potato – 135 calories
Cherry Tomatoes – 16 calories

40g Spinach – 9 calories
40g Mangetout - 14 calories
50g Brocolli – 19 calories
14g Virgin Coconut Oil – 130 calories
154g Braeburn Apple – 80 calories

Mid Afternoon Snack – 3.30pm
50g Almonds – 289 calories
50g Blackberries – 22 calories

Pre Weights Training – 5.30pm
BCAAs and L-Glutamine

Post Weights Training – 6.30pm

Mass Matrix Supplement – 450 calories
BCAAs, L-Glutamine and Creatine during cycle

Dinner – 7.30pm
Grilled Chicken Breast – 188 calories
100g Brown Rice – 111 calories
10 spears Asparagus - 52 calories
Tomatoes – 24 calories

Supper – 9.30pm
30g breaded Ham – 27 calories
80g Low fat natural cottage cheese – 57 calories

TOTAL = 2,805 Calories

So there you go, 8 meals every 2-3 hours throughout the day with some source of protein with each meal. Carbohydrates are reduced throughout the day with supplements pre and post training to aid performance and recovery. There are over 10 sources of fruit and veg throughout the day with sources of good fats also included. This ticks a number of boxes this client needs for a thorough nutritional intake.

Remember this is an example day with example meals but all training days follow a similar pattern. If you would like more details on nutrition for improving performance and optimising body composition please do not hesitate to Contact Us


Sports Nutrition

I know I haven’t posted a BLOG for a while but I have been very busy with my new jobs as a Lecturer in Sports Coaching at Leeds Metropolitan University and Strength and Conditioning Coach with Bradford Bulls RLFC academy. I promise to provide more BLOGs shortly and keep you all up to date on new training methods, research and information in the strength and conditioning and coaching world.

Today, I thought I’d provide you with a video / presentation from two specialists (Jamie Carruthers and Danny Martin) in Sports Nutrition who work with athletes and teach in Higher Education. The presentation provides an overview of Nutrition for Sport detailing its importance for performance, the current diet of the Western world, how we can utilise the diet to improve health and performance and uses research studies to support their key messages.

The authors also use a very easy to understand approach to help explain these scientific principles and there are some key messages that athletes at all ages and levels can take away from the presentation to help improve their performance!

I hope you all enjoy the video and can use this to improve your sporting performance. As promised I’ll be back shortly with more interesting and informative BLOGs.


This weeks Group Fitness Sessions

KT Conditioning and Rob Burrow ( launched the first of their group fitness and conditioning sessions today. The session was successful and all participants enjoyed and were challenged by the expert coaching and training methods used. Based on the success of the session the pair will be holding 2 sessions in the coming week – Wednesday 5th September @ 6.30pm and Saturday 8th September @ 10am. The venue will again be Pasture Way, Whitwood, Castleford (WF10 5TP, the former Smawthorne fields approx 800m from the M62).

For all those who are interested in taking part but who feel like they do not have good enough fitness levels it is important to know that these sessions are designed for EVERYONE! Although the training will be challenging (training is meant to be!) everyone can train at their own individual intensity within a group environment with the encouragement and help of the coaches and other participants.

Conditioning is also a scary word! Conditioning is actually defined as developing the body’s ability to adapt to stress. What this means is that the Group Conditioning sessions are designed to condition your body to perform and adapt to a number of fitness related activities including endurance, strength, movement and core stability. So please don’t be put off the word conditioning – it is a positive thing!

If that has eased your fears then hopefully we will see you at one of the sessions this week. To book your place or for more information please email Prior to commencing training all individuals must complete a Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q) and Personal Information Sheet so please make sure you email in advance. Sessions are £5 per person.

See you this week

KT and RB

Push Up Alternatives for Your Training Programmes

The Push Up is another exercise I use regularly in my Strength & Conditioning and Youth Athletic Development sessions. The Push Up is a basic exercise that should be performed by everyone to not only develop horizontal pushing strength but also develop shoulder and core stability. There are a number of variations of the Push Up exercise that can be used to add variety and difficulty to your training programmes and this BLOG provides 6 exercises to start using now.

1. Elevated Push Ups – This exercise is a normal Push Up but involves performing the Push Up on an elevation – like weight plates as shown in the video. This allows greater depth to be attained if you aim to perform the exercise with the chest to the floor. This therefore allows greater recruitment of the pectoral and shoulder stabiliser muscles.

2. Elevated Spiderman Push Up - This is similar to the elevated push up but involves movement from the hip as well. As the descent of the push up is performed the knee of one hip is raised towards the same elbow as far as possible. As you perform the ascent of the push up the foot is returned to the floor and the opposite leg is used on the next repetition. This exercise therefore involves hip mobility and core stability development as well as the horizontal pushing strength.

3. Med Ball Push Ups - This is again a similar exercise to the elevated push up, however involves performing the push up on two med balls. This allows the elevated push up to be performed but involves greater stabilisation of the shoulder as the exercise is performed on the unstable surface of the med ball.

4. Swiss Ball Push Up - This exercise involves performing the push up exercise with the hands on a swiss ball and feet on the floor. Although the depth of the push up is not as low as on the elevated push up this creates a great deal of shoulder stability and core stability throughout the exercise. The chest should be lowered to the swiss ball and the hips should remain stable throughout. The softer surface of the swiss ball also makes pushing element of this exercise more difficult.

5. Swiss Ball Push Up with Feet Elevated - This exercise is the same as the exercise above but involves raising the feet – on a bar as shown in the video or on a box or another swiss ball for an even more difficult exercise. The raising of the feet creates a greater load for the push up and greater core stability with it essential that you keep the hips stable throughout.

6. Push Up with Swiss Ball Crunch - This exercise involves performing the push up with the hands on the floor and feet on the swiss ball. After each push up repetition (with chest to the floor) a reverse crunch is then performed bringing the feet and knees towards the elbows with the swiss ball. This exercise therefore incorporates a full body approach using the upper, core and lower body.

So there you go, 6 push up alternatives to add to your training programmes. Remember performing an effective and controlled push up is an excellent exercise for developing more than just the pecs! I hope you enjoy these exercises and they add some variety to your programmes and don’t forget to leave your comments or for more information please Contact Us.