3.2 Factors affecting optimal performance in physical activity and sport

Exercise physiology

Students should understand the adaptations to the body systems through training or lifestyle, and how these changes affect the efficiency of those systems.

Diet and nutrition and their effect on physical activity and performance


Additional information

Understand the exercise-related function of food classes.



Fat (saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol), protein, vitamins (C,D, B-12, B-complex), minerals (sodium, iron, calcium), water (hydration before, during and after physical activity).

Positive and negative effects of dietary supplements/manipulation on the performer.

Creatine, sodium bicarbonate, caffeine, Glycogen loading.

Preparation and training methods in relation to maintaining physical activity and performance

Students should understand quantitative methods, the types and use of data for planning, monitoring and evaluating physical training, and to optimise performance.


Additional information

Understanding of the key terms relating to laboratory conditions and field tests.

Quantitative and qualitative.

Objective and subjective.

Validity and reliability.

Physiological effects and benefits of a warm-up and cool down.

Stretching for different types of physical activity (static and ballistic).

Principles of training.

Specificity, progressive overload, reversibility, recovery, Frequency Intensity Time Type of Training (FITT) principles.

Application of principles of periodisation.

Macro cycle, Meso cycle, Micro cycle.

Preparation, competition, transition.

Tapering, peaking.

Training methods to improve physical fitness and health.

HIIT/interval training (anaerobic power).

Continuous training (aerobic power).

Fartlek (aerobic power).

Circuit training (muscular endurance).

Weight training (strength).

Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) (flexibility).

Injury prevention and the rehabilitation of injury


Additional information

Types of injury.

Acute (fractures, dislocations, strains, sprains).

Chronic (achilles tendonitis, stress fracture, ‘tennis elbow’).

Understanding different methods used in injury prevention, rehabilitation and recovery.

Injury prevention methods: Screening.

Protective equipment.

Warm up, flexibility training (active, passive, static and ballistic), taping and bracing.

Injury rehabilitation methods (proprioceptive training, strength training, hyperbaric chambers, cryotherapy, hydrotherapy).

Recovery from exercise (compression garments, massage/foam rollers, cold therapy, ice bath, cryotherapy).

Physiological reasons for methods used in injury rehabilitation.

Hyperbaric chambers, cryotherapy.

Importance of sleep and nutrition for improved recovery.


Biomechanical movement

Students should develop knowledge and understanding of motion and forces, and their relevance to performance in physical activity and sport.

Students should have a knowledge and use of biomechanical definitions, equations, formulae and units of measurement and demonstrate the ability to plot, label and interpret biomechanical graphs and diagrams.

Biomechanical principles


Additional information

Newton’s Three Laws of linear motion applied to sporting movements.

First law (inertia), second law (acceleration), third law (action/reaction). Force.

Definitions, equations and units of example scalars.

Speed, distance.

Centre of mass.


Factors affecting stability.

Height of centre of mass, area of base of support, position of line of gravity and body mass.



Additional information

Three classes of lever and examples of their use in the body during physical activity and sport.


Mechanical advantage and mechanical disadvantage of each class of lever.


Linear motion


Additional information

An understanding of the forces acting on a performer during linear motion.

Gravity, frictional force, air resistance, internal-muscular force, weight.

Definitions, equations and units of vectors.

Weight, velocity, displacement, acceleration and momentum.

Definitions, equations and units of scalars.

Mass, speed and distance.

The relationship between impulse and increasing and decreasing momentum in sprinting through the interpretation of force/time graphs.


Angular motion


Additional information

Application of Newton’s laws to angular motion.


Definitions and units for angular motion.

Angular displacement, angular velocity, angular acceleration.

Conservation of angular momentum during flight, moment of inertia and its relationship with angular velocity.


Projectile motion


Additional information

Factors affecting horizontal displacement of projectiles.


Factors affecting flight paths of different projectiles.

Shot put, badminton shuttle.

Vector components of parabolic flight.


Fluid mechanics


Additional information

Dynamic fluid force.

Drag and lift.

Factors that reduce and increase drag and their application to sporting situations.


The Bernoulli principle applied to sporting situations.

Upward lift force (discus).

Downward lift force (speed skiers, cyclists, racing cars).

Sport psychology

In this section students will develop knowledge and understanding of the role of sport psychology in optimising performance in physical activity and sport.

Students should be able to understand and interpret graphical representations associated with sport psychology theories.

Psychological factors that can influence an individual in physical activities

Aspects of personality


Additional information

Understanding of the nature vs nurture debate in the development of personality.

Trait, social learning.

Interactionist perspective.

Hollander, Lewin.

How knowledge of interactionist perspective can improve performance.




Additional information

Triadic model.

Components of an attitude.

Formation of attitudes.

Changing attitudes through cognitive dissonance and persuasive communication.



Additional information

Theories of arousal.

Drive theory, inverted U theory, catastrophe theory and zone of optimal functioning theory.

Practical applications of theories of arousal and their impact on performance.


Characteristics of peak flow experience.




Additional information

Types of anxiety.

Somatic, cognitive, competitive trait and competitive state.

Advantages and disadvantages of using observations, questionnaires and physiological measures to measure anxiety.




Additional information

Difference between aggression and assertive behaviour.


Theories of aggression.

Instinct theory, frustration-aggression hypothesis, social learning theory and aggressive cue theory.

Strategies to control aggression.




Additional information


Intrinsic, extrinsic, tangible and intangible.

Achievement motivation theory


Additional information

Atkinson’s Model of achievement motivation.


Characteristics of personality components of achievement motivation.

Need to achieve (Nach) and Need to avoid failure (Naf).

Impact of situational component of achievement motivation.

Incentive value and probability of success.

Achievement goal theory.

Impact of outcome orientated goals and task orientated goals.

Strategies to develop approach behaviours leading to improvements in performance.


Social facilitation


Additional information

Social facilitation and inhibition.

Zajonc’s model.

Evaluation apprehension.


Strategies to eliminate the adverse effects of social facilitation and social inhibition.


Group dynamics

Students should understand how group dynamics can influence the performance of an individual and/or team.


Additional information

Group formation.

Tuckman’s model.


Task and social.

Steiner’s model of potential and actual productivity, faulty group processes.

Including cooperation and coordination.

Ringelmann effect and social loafing.


Strategies to improve cohesion, group productivity and overcome social loafing to enhance team performance.


Importance of goal setting


Additional information

Benefits of types of goal setting.

Outcome goals, performance related goals, process goals.

Principles of effective goal setting.

SMARTER (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time bound, evaluate, re-do).

Attribution theory


Additional information

Attribution process.


Weiner’s Model and its application to sporting situations.


Link between attribution, task persistence and motivation.


Self-serving bias.


Attribution retraining.


Learned helplessness.

General and specific.

Strategies to avoid learned helplessness leading to improvements in performance.


Self-efficacy and confidence


Additional information

Characteristics of self-efficacy, self-confidence and self-esteem.


Bandura’s Model of self-efficacy.

Performance accomplishments, vicarious experiences, verbal persuasion and emotional arousal.

Vealey’s Model of self-confidence.

Relationship between trait sport confidence, competitive orientation, the sport situation and state sport confidence.

Effects of home field advantage.


Strategies to develop high levels of self-efficacy leading to improvements in performance.




Additional information

Characteristics of effective leaders.


Styles of leadership.

Autocratic, democratic, laissez-faire.

Leadership styles for different sporting situations.


Prescribed and emergent leaders.


Theories of leadership in different sporting situations.

Fiedler’s contingency theory and Chelladurai’s multi-dimensional model.

Stress management


Additional information

Explanation of the terms ‘stress’ and ‘stressor’.


Use of warm up for stress management.


Effects of cognitive and somatic techniques on the performer.


Explanation of cognitive techniques.

Mental rehearsal.



Attentional control and cue utilisation.

Thought stopping.

Positive self-talk.

Explanation of somatic techniques.

Biofeedback, centering, breathing control, progressive muscle relaxation.

Sport and society and the role of technology in physical activity and sport

Students should develop knowledge and understanding of the interaction between, and the evolution of, sport and society and the technological developments in physical activity and sport.

Concepts of physical activity and sport


Additional information

The characteristics and functions of key concepts and how they create the base of the sporting development continuum.

Physical recreation.


Physical education.

School sport.

The similarities and the differences between these key concepts.


Development of elite performers in sport


Additional information

The factors required to support progression from talent identification to elite performance.


The generic roles, purpose and the relationship between organisations in providing support and progression from talent identification through to elite performance.

National Governing Bodies.

National Institutes of Sport.

UK Sport.

The support services provided by National Institutes of Sports for talent development.


The key features of UK Sport’s World Class Performance Programme, Gold Event Series and Talent Identification and Development.

Or equivalent current named programmes.

Ethics in sport


Additional information

Understanding of the key terms relating to ethics in sport.

Amateurism, the Olympic Oath, sportsmanship, gamesmanship, win ethic.

Positive and negative forms of deviance in relation to the performer.


Violence in sport


Additional information

The causes and implications of violence in sport.




Strategies for preventing violence within sport to the performer and spectator.


Drugs in sport


Additional information

The social and psychological reasons behind elite performers using illegal drugs and doping methods to aid performance.


The physiological effects of drugs on the performer and their performance.

Erythropoietin (EPO).

Anabolic steroids.

Beta blockers.

The positive and negative implications to the sport and the performer of drug taking.

Physiological adaptations.

Social and psychological rewards (for the sport and the performer).

Negative impact on current and future health.

Social and psychological repercussions (for the sport and the performer).

Strategies for elimination of performance enhancing drugs in sport.


Arguments for and against drug taking and testing.

Testing procedures will not be examined.

Sport and the law


Additional information

The uses of sports legislation.

Performers (contracts, injury, loss of earnings).

Officials (negligence).

Coaches (duty of care).

Spectators (safety, hooliganism).

Impact of commercialisation on physical activity and sport and the relationship between sport and the media


Additional information

The positive and negative impact of commercialisation, sponsorship and the media.






The role of technology in physical activity and sport

Students should understand the types of and use of data analysis to optimise performance.

In this section, students should be able to select and justify their selection of technology for analysis of physical activity and sport to optimise performance by:


Additional information

Understanding of technology for sports analytics.

Use of technology in data collection (quantitative and qualitative, objective and subjective, validity and reliability of data).

Video and analysis programmes.

Testing and recording equipment (metabolic cart for indirect calorimetry).

Use of GPS and motion tracking software and hardware.

Maintaining data integrity.

Functions of sports analytics.

Monitor fitness for performance.

Skill and technique development.

Injury prevention.

Game analysis.

Talent ID/scouting.

The development of equipment and facilities in physical activity and sport, and their impact on participation and performance.

Impact of material technology on equipment – adapted (disability, age).

Facilities – Olympic legacy, (surfaces, multi-use).

The role of technology in sport and its positive and negative impacts.